Wednesday, May 11, 2016


I'm a bit late to the Mother's Day thing. Actually, I was a week early. I had my mom over for tea and croissants in the garden the Sunday prior because I knew I'd be out of town on the real holiday. 

Anyone who has ever met my mom says the same thing: She's so sweet. My mother is one of the most accommodating, hospitable and selfless people I've ever known. She'll ask you if you want a glass of Tejava or a Coke Classic.. and when you say no thank you, she'll ask you again in about 7 minutes. When I was a kid she'd pop her head into my room after a quick and gentle knock on the door to ask if my friend and I would like some bagel bites or pizza rolls. She'd deliver them, dutifully, with a couple napkins and tell us they were hot, and then when we were finished, she'd collect the empty plate. 

My mom hasn't worked since just before I was born. She had a rather menial job as a janitor for the offices of the US Marines, but was put on medical rest while pregnant with me, and has not worked since. She vacuums the house every single day, though, and has a very rigid cleaning routine. The bathroom on Thursday, and she hates it. I didn't have chores as a kid.. so I asked for some. I was a industrious only child and there was a period of time, I think I might have been about eleven, when I went through all the closets and cupboards and organized everything. The apple doesn't fall far I guess. Anyway the only chore she ever assigned me was to make my twin bed, which was wedged in a corner. It was the only thing I didn't want to do. To this day I don't put beds in corners because they're too irritating to dress. If I tried to do anything else she'd just re-do it behind me. 

Naive but ambitious as a child, I held some disdain for my mom for her apparent lack of ambition or backbone. She existed in a fairly subservient role to my dad, who was not abusive but not always respectful either, when impatiently demanding a fifth cold beer that he could just as easily get for himself. She would of course provide it immediately, and then clear the rest of the empty cans after he elbowed them, irritated by his own clutter. Observing their dynamic lit a fire in me and for a really long time, maybe even still, it has served as my motivation to be self-sustaining. I seethed at the thought of a life partner barking drink orders at me under the pretense that my expenses are covered. A tiny precocious feminist, I chastised them both regularly. Him for not being more polite or not getting his own damn beer, and her for putting up with being talked to that way. Both of them for smoking in the house, constantly. I was a nagging child. Really, I just felt it was my only way to lobby for a decent living environment. It never worked though, they are not the sort of people that change so I just resolved to move out as soon as I could.  

It wasn't until I was almost 18 and my mom sat down with me and asked if I ever heard voices in my head telling me things, or telling me to do things, that I came to understand what she might be struggling with. She's been medicated for paranoid schizophrenia since she was that age. In hindsight, a lot of things made a lot more sense after learning that. The general sense of knowing my family was different, her lack of friends and assumption that the neighbors harbored ill will towards her, the time she thought the stranger in the drugstore called her a bitch from two aisles over so I had to go in alone at about 8 years old to pick up whatever it was on her list that was on special there, with the coupon she'd carefully snipped out of the weekly ad. Her inability, or perceived inability, to work, and her franticly demanding the turning off of certain triggering songs that she claimed we're inspired by drugs. Her condition made smoking weed as a teenager a far more hallucinogenic and traumatic experience than it is for most.

I couldn't really talk to her about most things, as I'm made to understand a daughter is supposed to feel about her mother. Any struggle of mine was a stressor for her, so I learned to deal with things on my own. Thus blossomed my emotional resilience. I don't mean that she waved off my problems, it was actually quite the opposite. She would ruminate on them and try to coddle me even if I was just informing  her that something had happened and I was fine. If I'd gotten hurt on the playground, even it it was an accident, the offending child was a permanent enemy, and their name could never be said without a sneer from then on out. It was just easier to not mention it. Only good news. 

There was a time that my patience with my mother was far shorter than it is today. I was frustrated with her shortcomings, her tendency to repeat herself, her fixation on what I considered to be trivial things. Hearing my end of a phone call with her resulted in raised eyebrows and an inquiry as to whether everything was okay. I have not always been nice or respectful to her, and despite chastising my dad for it, I'd taken his lead on how to treat her. It was shameful, really. I have since lifted the bar for my own behavior. While I still may find myself grasping for patience, most of the time it's not a big deal. I've let go of my resentment that I once felt resulting from her not being what I felt she should be, parentally. She is only who she is and she does her very best. Remembering that gives me tons of patience, and I am much gentler with her than I once was. 

My relationship with my mother has taught me acceptance. I have no choice but to accept her for who she is. Everyone is doing the best that they can, loving you the best they know how, even if it's not how you prefer or need to be loved. I can and must appreciate what she has to offer, even if it's not quite what I need. It's all she has, and she gives it freely. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016


This time tomorrow, I'll be wiggling my toes in the sand of some beach on Kauai. Because why not sell some diamonds I'll never wear again anyway and put the cash towards airfare? If that's not the most symbolic thing I've done lately, I don't know what is.

I remember being 15 and proclaiming that my intent was to own a piece of property and have my dream house built on it with a big garden and a small orchard. I decided I would be successful enough to fund this on my own, and if there was someone there to enjoy it with me, fine, but it wasn't a necessity. I wasn't the little girl that had all the details of my wedding planned out. I was the girl that sat at my desk as an office assistant looking up blueprints of houses with wraparound porches, roughly mapping on binder paper the hypothetical juxtaposition of chickens, a greenhouse, a garden and entertaining space. And where would the aquaponics fit in? Tilapia or something else?

To be fair and paint a truly complete picture, I was also researching natural childbirth options and crunchy parenting avenues like cloth diapering and making my own baby food. I was by no means eager to have a kid, but I felt like, as a woman, it was best to be mentally prepared for such a possibility should I be faced with making that decision. Now arguably a reasonable age to embark on such an adventure, if it were to happen without considerable planning I would not rule out any measures necessary to avoid it. I don't believe in "oops" babies, at least not in my life. Nope, no thank you.

I have, at times, been susceptible to the social conditioning that specifies that I, as a woman in my 20s, should want to be married, have a shiny rock adorning my hand, and keep up with the Joneses. In a sense I'm kind of glad I got that out of my system. Granted, while we were engaged and I was planning the wedding, my fiance would occasionally call me out and tell me that I only wanted this stuff because I was conditioned to. I usually replied with 'be that as it may, I still want it." He also sneered that I only cared about "my princess party" any time we had an argument. Go ahead and file that under "red flags." I got my princess party. It was a blast and I don't regret it at all. I had the diamonds, I had the whole shebang, albeit a very flawed shebang. My point is that I indulged in the conditioned picture of what I'm supposed to want.

This is a bit of a ramble, but I guess what I'm getting at is I'll take a semi-spontaneous* flight to Hawaii over a pair of diamond stud earrings. I'll take my vegetable garden over a lawn. I'll take a career and autonomous home-ownership over being a wife and parent. Having indulged in those stereotypical ideals and having renounced them has liberated me to define what I want my life to be. That includes the freedom to come back to those things, too, if someday they feel like a better fit. And if I do, I'll be able to approach that from a place of honesty with myself rather than a place of succumbing to social pressures.

And with a magnet on my fridge from that time I went to Kauai on a whim.

*two weeks in advance is pretty spontaneous for a vacation, at least for me.

Monday, May 2, 2016


Earlier this evening I sat down to write about how all the things I need to get done in the next month have me feeling a little overwhelmed, financially and temporally. But then, my computer needed to restart and if that's not a sign to get off my ass and do something about it, I don't know what is. So, off I went in my smelly gym clothes to Home Depot. There were paint colors to over-analyze and desk lighting options to peruse. 

Overall I didn't actually get much done. I arrived back at home with a small stack of paint chips and took them into my future office and immediately found that most of them would be way too dark. That bright flourescent lighting in the paint aisle is rather misleading. I'll need to see them again during daylight, I suppose. 

I also need to figure out exactly how I'm going to furnish the space. This is how the whole stress began, really. Right now all I really need is a desk. But, I have a plan for the room as a whole, including an updated color scheme, so in terms of doing things with minimal effort, it only makes sense to paint before getting the desk set up. So basically I kind of want to plan the entire room before I even start on one part of it. Classic me. 

Alas, upon measuring the usable wall space, the desk/cabinet combo on the far wall is not a realistic option. This kind of fucks up my entire vision for the room. Damn. The echoing rattle of the tape measure in the mostly empty room reminds me of how I felt when I first got the keys to this place almost a year ago. I could kind of still smell new paint and sawdust. I allowed myself to well up with the sense of exhilaration that came with what seemed like boundless potential. Until I did the math and found that the potential is not boundless. It is bound, in fact, by 88 inches of usable wall space. 

Not an entirely wasted evening. Better to know the plan is a bust and have the time and knowledge to come up with a better one. The the looming tasks remain with no defined plan to execute. I'll get there, I know. My graph paper map of the room might wear through with eraser holes before I do, but it'll be fine. At the very least, I'll have a desk upon which the next chapter of my career will be allowed to unfold. And if that's all that gets done, it'll do. 


Tales from a past life: volume 2

We decided to move in together after 6 months. I'd just turned 21 and we rented half a duplex that a friend had recently bought. We stayed there a little less than a year. He and his sister owned a house together. Rather, they'd inherited a house. Their dad passed away 2 years before I met him, but he was still riddled with debilitating grief. He was unemployed when we met, living through the life insurance money. Having recently split from a guy ten years my senior who was happy to have me support him, I was just glad he could pay his own bills.

After living in the duplex a while, he suggested that we move into the house he half owned. I was concerned that living in the house his dad died in might not be a good idea... his severe depression and resultant alcohol abuse were all tied to the death of his dad. But.. we did it anyway. We lived there almost 3 years. I have some fond memories of that time. Some terrible ones too, of course. I talk a lot about how shitty it was, and all the unspeakably unkind things I endured, but there were good times too. There were jam sessions and, until the one I have now, the garden I am most proud of. There was day-drinking white wine over ice in a blow up pool and eating garlic stuffed olives on a 108 degree day because the AC didn't work. How delightfully white trash that was.

That was the house at which the most drywall holes occurred. One year we threw a Halloween party and I bought a roll of cheesy haunted house wall decor sheeting to cover them up. Drywall patches are fine but you cant patch a hole in a door. It was the house at which I was chased into the garage and heard the hiss of all four of my tires slashed as I ran down the street at 2am, calling my friend to come pick me up. It was the house in which he learned that calling me a cunt got a rise out of me and then employed it any chance he got. It was then the house in which I learned to desensitize myself to name calling.

I don't recall exactly how the decision was made that we'd move out and that they'd sell the place, but that became the plan. He got the ball rolling, hired the real estate agent he thought his dad would have wanted... and then he checked out. We had a large waste pickup scheduled... the kind where you place a heap of junk on the street. We had a lot of things to clear out to get the house staged, and because he was hungover he elected to nap instead of help. He insisted that he'd help out later but I knew better. I did it all myself.

Eventually the process became too much to bear. He basically had a nervous breakdown and said he couldn't be in the house. There was still paperwork to be done with the agent, and all our stuff needed to be packed. But he just... couldn't be there. A friend's place was furnished but empty, because she'd begun staying with her new boyfriend. He stayed there for 2 and a half weeks, living like an invalid, while I ran around like a courier with real estate documents, packed the house on my own, shuttled the dogs across town at a moment's notice (not to mention coordinating where they could go) in case the house was going to be shown to a prospective buyer. Oh, and I was also responsible for finding a new place to live. And I had a full time job. I essentially managed the sale of a house I didn't own, while effectively homeless and taking care of an unstable adult.

I work well under pressure. I handled everything without cracking, somehow. I found us a place to live and I had high hopes for a more normal future, as I was attributing the chaos to his living in a high-trigger environment. The plan was that once the house sold, we'd use his payout as a down payment on our own house. Eventually the house did sell, and he received the payout about 2 weeks before he had a falling-out with his only client. He chose to live on the money from the house instead of trying to find a new job. I vacillated between a cocktail of anxiety and fury as I watched it trickle away over the next year, and a resolute acceptance because it was never my money to care about to begin with. I mean.. we were married so one would think that coming to a financial middle ground would be reasonable, but no. I've always maintained the stance that I don't need your money, so I refused to bring it up as a point of contention. In hindsight, not merging finances made the divorce much cleaner.

Can I just say, it feels SO. FUCKING. GOOD. to have bought my house on my own. I alone needed to be present to sign paperwork. I alone am responsible for paying the mortgage. I alone make decisions about what improvements to make, how to organize the cabinets, what color to paint a room, what to plant in the yard. I'm not waiting on anyone to get off his ass, because most of what needs doing I can happily do myself, and if I can't I'm sure I can find someone I can pay to do it for me. While I am accustomed to doing everything myself, even in partnerships, the absence of someone who ought to be helping makes the whole experience better. I don't need your money. I have my own, thanks.