Friday, April 29, 2016


Tales from a past life: volume 1

I was ready to go on the annual family camping trip. I liked to get an early start because who wouldn't want to start vacation early? He (let's call him Justin) was a procrastinator and every year it was the same, I'd be antsy to leave, get frustrated that he had left a litany of things to the last minute and he'd get pissed that I was rushing him. We finally got going around maybe 3:30pm. I'd hoped to leave by 11. We'd fight in the car.

As we were leaving my dad called. He was already there, and I figured it was the expected message from my family of why aren't you here yet. Cue "we're running behind" speech. Pretty sure everyone knew it wasn't me. But it wasn't that. Dad was hoping we hadn't left yet so we could pick up a bottle of tequila for him. Justin was happy to make the stop and got a bottle of Johnny Walker for himself, too.

Tents were set up, dinner was eaten, the campfire was lit. Stars started to come out and the bottle of tequila was cracked open. It was only Thursday so the real party hadn't started yet, that's usually Friday and Saturday nights. The bottle was passed around, usually staying in my dad's hands for a few swigs each round. I passed it and stuck to my own cocktail. My dad waxed about how proud of me he was.. and called me a quarter horse. If you didn't catch that, my dad compared me to a show animal. I raised my eyebrows in what I wish I could say was surprise and said "Just call me Seabiscuit." Other topics of conversation included the two small handguns my dad had tucked into he sweatshirt pockets, because, you know, you never know what could happen.

Finally, the only people left around the fire were my dad, myself, Justin and my dad's not-to-be-trusted cousin... we'll call her Tiffany. The rest had gone to bed and with only the thin nylon between them and the loud and boisterous conversation, I suggested we move to one of the other campsites that out family had reserved so they could sleep. Everyone says sure, and we decided to light a new fire in the other campsite. Tiffany's honest to god sincere plan was to light a large branch on fire as a torch and carry it through the forest to the other camp site. 23 year old me had to explain to 40something year old Tiffany that it was not a good idea, and actually I took the torch from her and placed it back in the fire pit. Let's not burn down the campground, thanks.

The new fire was lit in a relatively sane manner. More loud conversation continued, until our people in this site were almost certainly annoyed. Not keen on getting the side-eye over morning coffee for keeping people awake, I audible announced that I'd be heading to bed, goodnight everyone. Justin elected to stay up. He and my dad had a good drunk going. In an effort to not be disruptive, they went down to the lake to finish the bottle of Johnny Walker and watch for UFOs. Dad has seen one before, he'll tell you all about it.

I awoke in darkness to a loud thud, which was my dad tripping on a stump in the dark and falling down. "Fuck." Crunch crunch, snap, crack; they traipsed through the rough area of the campsite, of course without a flashlight. Who needs those, or paths. I listened... do I need to get up or can I avoid the level 12 out of 10 drunk that Justin and my dad are both known to achieve? It became clear from their conversation that one of the small handguns that lived in my dad's pocket was missing. In a campground full of children. Wonderful. Well shit. I guess I have to get up.

Confusion and minor alarm... Tiffany was insisting that it was in his car, Dad was insisting that it wasn't possible and was muttering that she'd probably taken it. Meanwhile, Justin crawled halfway into our tent and passed out, sticking out of the tent from his knees down and his shoes still on. Doing my best to keep everyone calm I suggested we just take a look and see if it was in the car. What could it hurt? Sure enough, there it was. Tossed hapzardly on the floorboard. My personal belief is that it fell out of the sweatshirt, Tiffany found it and put it in the car. Whatever. It was found.

Standing by the car, my dad began to cry and apologize. I patted him on the shoulder and told him it was okay, that we found the gun and lets just all go to bed. He tearfully looked down at his sandal clad feet, covered in dirt and blood from the scrapes he'd acquired tromping through the forest without a light, and asked if I could help him clean up his feet. I walked him to my tent and wiped him off with babywipes. Like a child. I did the same for Justin, who then found has way entirely into the tent.

I crawled back into my sleeping bag.. still half drunk and groggy, my ears ringing. I wasn't sure what time it was but my guess was 3ish. How is this real life, I wondered.

Thursday, April 28, 2016


Finally a very delayed halfway point.

Those that have known me more than 2 years have probably observed that in terms of making changes in my life, I don't stick to slow, steady incremental changes. I tend to err on the side of huge life-shaking change all at once. I'm wrapping up the second of these in as many years. It's kind of like molting. I shed my skin entirely and start fresh. Somewhere you might be able to find vestiges of a shell worn by a stressed out codependent woman watching her drunk husband fail to pay taxes for the third year in a row and withholding comment to avoid a new hole in the drywall. Just leave it, its refuse for a reason.

I like change. I find it to be exhilarating and rarely does it leave me worse off than I started. Stagnation is something that's impaired me, but when I step out of a rut and open up to change and just let it flow, wonderful things usually happen. I have heard that this kind of thing is scary and hard for lots of people. I wish I could figure out how to bottle the sense of liberation that comes with a fearlessness of change.

It may sound odd, but sometimes there are little omens that present themselves. Kind of like the symbols in dreams but in waking life. The last time I turned my life upside-down (left my husband, moved and got a new job within the span of a month), I found beetles in my home. Come to think of it, I think there were three over the course of a week. Ten days ago there was a beetle in my kitchen window. I remembered them as ambassadors of change, so I scooped it up and gently deposited it outside as I'd done with the others a year and change prior, and said aloud "I see you. Bring the change, I'm ready!" Today, I received and signed a contract for a new job, which will allow me to work from home and do something I believe in. Tip o' the hat to my beetle friend.

If there's any advice I can give anyone its that nothing will change if you don't. Adaptation is hard but it gets easier with practice. Trust me.

Saturday, April 23, 2016


My counselor has rescheduled on me twice, after waiting over a month to even be able to schedule an appointment. I am feeling a lot better... fine really, and am losing the desire to bother with it. I could have really used it that first week. The first three weeks, even. I don't know. I know I should go, and that I should take some time to examine all the shit I've been through and how it all adds up. Between a schizophrenic mother, and alcoholic father, an alcoholic and abusive ex husband and a heroin addict ex boyfriend, by all rights I should be totally fucking nuts. 

But I feel good. And I JUST lived through all that shit, and I don't really know if I want to spend my time right now going over all of it AGAIN. I think I'd prefer to focus on how astronomically my life has improved and how much fun I'm having. Instead of ruminating on the nuances of my upbringing and my patterns of picking toxic people, perhaps I can spend my mental energy picking out what swimsuits I'm taking on my impromptu trip to Hawaii or enjoying evenings out with normal nice men. Live the change instead of just talking about it. 

One such fellow, upon learning of some of the aforementioned 'should make me crazy' items marveled at how not crazy I seem. "Are you like closet crazy and really good at hiding it? Because.. that's a lot of stuff to have lived through." Yeah dude, tell me about it. The truth is that when people really get a taste of my family, specifically my parents in all their flawed glory in no-so-rare moments of peak nutso time, it becomes an oddity that I am not insane. 

Funnily enough, my mom, the diagnosed, medicated, unable to work member of the family is outshined by my attention seeking, overly-gregarious and often drunk father. Nobody assumes she's the oddball, but the middle aged guy running across the street barefoot in camo print pajama pants on Christmas Eve to jump on the trampoline in the not-yet-met neighbor's front yard on a whim... well that gets the reactions. 

These appointments keep getting pushed out and I think I'm out of motivation to actually go. I desperately need a break from magnifying the crazy, and that's all talking to a therapist about all this shit it going to do. I'll go eventually. When things slow down and I actually consider having a committed relationship to be not an abhorrent notion. But for now maybe I'll just let my garden be my zen space and the sunshine assuage my concerns. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016


Its really interesting how different types of people react to unpleasant circumstances. Specifically, being dumped.

I feared that my ex husband would find my little apartment downtown some night in a drunken rage and try to kick my door in. He's kicked doors in before.. and put holes in walls and slashed tires and dented street signs. I wouldn't put it past him. But he never did. His apathy towards life in general, I'm guessing, was the reason he never put forth the effort. Once he found out I was seeing someone new, he cussed me out via google chat and then didn't contact me again (other than a couple random one-off things.. but those were much later).

Last boyfriend was not an angry person. He never yelled, he never did anything violent. In hindsight this may have been the result of frequent opiate use, but in any case, my perception was that he was a gentle person. I had a quicker temper than he did, and thought it a good thing that he never escalated  when I'd get upset. I did not think he would be the type to make for an unpleasant break-up.

This last Monday I was shown all the electronic avenues via which I'd forgotten to block him, since he sent me pleading messages on every single one. I even recevied a message via the fitbit app. Tuesday was much the same, with multiple messages and phone calls. I made clear that I would not be in contact on the first of the month, so despite many "if you want me to stop just say so" lines I refrained. I am not a fish, you can't bait me. Tuesday on my way home from work I received an email with the header "I have pictures you probably want" and a photo attached of myself, that I'd taken for him partially undressed but with my face omitted. I was never totally comfortable taking those kinds of pictures because of just such a possibility, but I played along and made sure to never have my face in them.

To me, this is a threat of blackmail. Not a very good one, but a threat nonetheless. I called his father to let him know what his son was doing to a lady, and asked him to try and talk some sense into him. I received a few more defensive messages after that, and then he stopped. I arrive at home each day with the possibility in the back (okay, the front) of my mind that he might be there waiting for me. I wake up each morning and look out my front windows to see if he's on my street, waiting for me to leave for work. I have actively and consciously been thankful that my office is badge-secure with a doorman. I have considered how I would handle him approaching me while I'm on a date. I have to think of all scenarios that could result from his apparent instability. It is exhausting.

It's been quiet for a couple days. I hope it stays that way.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


My wedding was beautiful. I put a lot of work into planning it (notice I didn't say we). I had lots of little details and finishing touches. I made and canned blackberry port jam for the favors with port from the winery at which the wedding was held. I stamped programs with a handmade custom stamp. Most of the vendors were dear friends, including the baker of the cake, the photographer, florist, stamp-maker and the hand-letterer of custom signage. The ceremony procession was carefully orchestrated and timed so the seven bridesmaids and groomsmen would be where they needed to be at the right moment. I'd arranged a group rate at a local hotel and a shuttle service so nobody had to worry about driving. I had multiple pinterest boards for various aspects. I included time cushions into the day-of itinerary so even though there were delays, everything happened on time. No stone was left unturned (except that whole "do you really want to spend your life with this person" thought). 

Anyway, I'm proud of how it turned out. It was a large event that I single-handedly arranged and it went flawlessly. I can't really talk about it or enjoy the pictures though. I suppose in time the sting of having made such an obvious error will fade and I can enjoy the documentation of my efforts.

My dad's toast was absurdly long. Like probably at least ten minutes long. Maybe fifteen. My dad really likes the spotlight. He'd handwritten the outline to his speech on white printer paper. At one point he said "after today I'm not going to drink any more.....

[insert audible crowd murmur and maybe even a gasp or two. Picture me with a raised eyebrow waiting for the punchline because I know that's not true]

....or less than I do already." two beats and then the laughs kicked in. A groan from my mother. Halfway through he said "Squirrel!" He told a story about how when I was little, about 3 years old, he duped me into thinking I could ride on a kite. He thought it was the cutest thing because I trusted him implicitly to fly me into air on the back of the kite. As he tells it, I sat down cross legged on this kite and gripped the sides and clenched my jaw, intent to not fall off. Of course he then had to confess that he was a big phony and that I could not, in fact, soar into the air on a plastic sheet suspended by straws and string. He ended his toast with the Star Trek hand thing, telling us to live long and prosper. 

Side note: my dad always shined me on like that when I was a kid. He made up strange things and told them to me with a straight face. For instance, once when he took me fishing, he caught a catfish and told me that it was a California Whisker Shark, that's why it's smooth. Or one time he explained the origin of chicken drummettes (in the form of hot wings) by telling me that chickens are in fact born with 3 legs, but they have to cut one off so they can walk properly. I learned early on to take anything he said with a grain of salt and to this day, I credit him with my critical thinking skills. If it weren't for him I might not assume that anything you hear might just be bullshit. 

Anyway. The groom's mother gave a toast next. She wasn't clutching a heavily creased stack of printer papers as my father had been, and confessed that she didn't have anything prepared. She did say that my dad's story about me riding the kite reminded her of a poem she'd written when her son was just a little boy, in which she'd "compared him to a bright shining kite, and now Jenny you get to ride that kite, and we're all right behind you!" She said it with heartfelt conviction and it was clear that she was really trying to drive home a sentimental gem. Her puzzled look gave way to embarrassment as her daughter, amid gasps, guffaws and looks of horror shouted "Mom! This is a family event!" From that point on, kites were the playful symbol of our relationship. 

I had a talk with the best man on the shuttle ride back into town. He said that having met and seen my father, it made so much more sense that I'd chosen that man to marry. He understood why I was willing to put up with drunken absurdity. I explained that yes, everyone has problems but this is one I know how to deal with. "Better the devil you know," I said. I think I was trying to convince myself more than him. 

It was a fun night, everyone had a good time. I don't regret throwing that party one bit. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


There are not enough hours in the day or days in the week to do all the things I want to do. This has always been a struggle for me. I want to do all the things and hang out with all the friends and have all the fun. And also, make all the money. I keep a planner because the only way to make all that happen is to carefully structure my days and weeks in a tetris-like arrangement of meals, workouts, car repairs, book club, gardening, family obligations and activities around and in between work. Only 7 days! Family obligations have been plentiful lately, eating up my Saturdays. Saturdays are prime stuff-doing days. Family is great, but man. Can't we schedule something on, oh I don't know, a Monday night? After my circuit class, please. I can pencil it in between 7 and 9. Also, car repairs and furniture deliveries that should have taken one day have extended themselves into several day ordeals. I've about had it with that. 

I don't really have a point to make with all this. It's just where my head is at. Busy bee, buzzing around. 

Buzz buzz. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


I realized that I was a couple days late in making a credit card payment today. That's pretty unheard of for me.. I am usually very on top of things. It sort of sent me in a tailspin of self doubt and mental flagellation. Stress. I imagine someone asking me "what do you have to stress about?" Work. Money. The aftermath of deleting someone from my life. Being good enough.

Being good enough. That's probably the realest, most encompassing of them all. Being prepared and responsible enough, financially. Being thin enough. Smart enough. Pretty enough. Articulate enough. Charming enough and adept enough to handle whatever comes my way. Being productive and skilled enough to get all my garden tasks done. Being accomplished enough.

I sometimes feel like it doesn't matter how much I achieve, that the scars of my past will always be a black mark on my record. My decision to stay with an abuser for the time that I did will always be an indication of poor judgement. My divorce, legal documentation of my failure to recognize a bad situation when I should have. Every mistake, every miscalculation, every failure is a permanent indication of my shortcomings.

The out I usually give myself is "better late than never," but only because there's nothing I can do to change it now. Deep down, I still believe I should have done better. Should have known better, been sharp enough to get it then. Better than my environment would lead me to be.

Anyway. Back to work. I'm not getting enough done there, either.

Friday, April 8, 2016


Sometimes I feel a restlessness that can't be abided or assuaged by a glass of wine or a cup of tea at home and a magazine. Sometimes I feel the need to get out of the house and talk to someone. And because my friends are busy, dynamic individuals,  sometimes they are not available, and that's okay.

I have, since I reached adolescence, been comfortable speaking with strangers. I was raised by a very gregarious man and a socially anxious woman. My observation of them led me to the understanding that while you may think so, basically nobody is out to get you, and most people are open to a little small talk, and if neither of those is true, fuck 'em.

People are, for the most part, the same. We're just bags of flesh and bone and feelings and insecurities and we all seem to think other people pay an inordinate amount of attention to our shortcomings. They don't. But we do. And I can see that and it's so liberating.


I go out by myself because sometimes I don't feel like sitting and listening to my thoughts. I am an extrovert. I need to talk to people, human interaction is a big deal. Also it's a nice distraction. I take comfort in the cacophonous din, a blend of enthusiastic conversations, piped in tunes, the clink of glasses and ice beating the sides of cocktail shakers.

Sometimes I make friends. Sometimes I just tell myself stories abut the people I see. It's always a good time.

Monday, April 4, 2016


My month of chaos finally caught up with me. In the last 30 or so hours I was hit with a freight train-esque headcold. Complete with sinus pressure induced teeth and eyeball pain.

I lay half catatonic from nyquil, tea in hand, flanked by cats. I have stuff to write about but not the capacity to write it. Hoping tomorrow is better.

Sunday, April 3, 2016


Last two songs Pandora has played were titled "Sleeping Diagonally" and "Never Going Back Again"

Random and appropriate.

I spent the weekend feeding my soul.

Friday night I hosted an April Fools/Don't Suffer a Fool Slumber party to rechristen my home as a Fool Free bachelorette pad. I thought the idea was a little far fetched and that a lot of people wouldn't be into it, since we're all adults with responsibilities, many have kids and who has time for a slumber party past the age of 16? Well... apparently everyone. I did kind of use the "breakup duty" card, but the general consensus was that we need to have these more regularly. There was an over-abundance of food, drink and laughter; we sat around the fire pit out back having unspeakably raunchy no-holds-barred conversations, we counseled and cajoled each other for all of our varied life crises, it was everything I was picturing. When I and the handful of gals that stayed the night finally dozed off I think the clock was approaching 4AM..

The rest of the weekend has been a patchwork of gardening, catching up with friends, meeting a brand new tiny family member, and just general feel-good awesomeness. This morning I lived what I have long imagined for myself: tea on the back porch overlooking my garden, still in pajamas, entertained by my cats as they sniff around the yard, destroy a catnip plant and watch the squirrels run along the fence.

I'm settling into my space here. Part of why I love gardening is that it's something to do while spending time outside. I frequently don't prefer to just sit.. I like to keep busy, but I also like to get to know the land I'm living on. I like to become acquainted with the scrub jay that stabs at sunflower seeds on the fence and the inquisitive hummingbird, who appears to be perplexed by the inconsistency of the solar powered fountain bubbler when it drifts into dappled shade. I want to learn the audible patterns of my neighbors and how the light hits things at different times of the day. My first peach tree has set it's first little peach. I don't have my hopes up for it, but it's a thrill to see nonetheless.

I'm carving out my personal oasis and honing the fine details, day by day. I am happy.

Friday, April 1, 2016


"I've been through some shit" is how I casually and summarily refer to all the ugliness I've endured in my life in conversation. Abuse, absurdity, loss and insufficiency. Sometimes I think of all of it as a cumulative mass of struggle, something that I can stick a flag in and own as an obstacle I've triumphantly defeated. Other times I think of it as a gob of muck that tarnishes my otherwise unblemished and carefully planned life. Usually an open book, it gives me pause to think how I might be perceived if someone knew all the ugliness I've carried. I'm trying on for size the practice of withholding potentially alarming information about my experiences.
I vacillate on whether I allow it to define me, whether I allow it to make me jaded, bitter, cynical or otherwise "ruined." This is part decision and part observation. I like to think we have some say over the way our consciousness, as a collection of experiences and our mind, the funnel through which those experiences are sifted and fit into our understanding of our world, work together to make up our outlook. I am not simply a receiver of experience, I am a participant. On one hand, experiences should make us wiser and alter the way we relate to the world if it means we will be better off. On the other, I feel indignantly stubborn when faced with the idea that someone who abused me could have the power of changing who I am and how I exist. Fuck that, and fuck them.
With that said, we can't always control how something affects us. Soldiers are not deficient for their inability to avoid PTSD. The human ability to be resilient has it's limits. And so.. I try to observe and if I can't control it, at least be aware of the shape I take coming out on the other side of difficulty. See whether and how making it through the asteroid belt has left me dented. Lick my wounds and tend to my scars.
This is all not to say that my life has been difficult as a whole. I have a wonderful life and I've surrounded myself with extraordinary people. There have just also been a multitude of exceptionally difficult moments. Character shaping, moral defining, lesson teaching moments. And so far, I've survived each and every one.