The Lessons of a Legacy

What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others. ~Pericles

One week ago, I received the message I’d been anticipating and dreading for months.  Dad passed away, peacefully and quietly, on August 3.

funeralbig

As you’d expect, we’ve spent the last several days with family and friends, making preparations and reminiscing over old photos.  While there were certainly tears, it truly was a time of remembering and honoring the man my Dad was.

I am what survives of me. ~Erik Erikson

“Legacy” is a pretty hefty word, isn’t it?

It outlines your responsibility to pass on something of value to the next generation.

My dad was a hard-working, down-to-earth guy.  Stable and solid.  He led by example, not by force.

As a child – and later as a rebellious, moody teenager – I certainly didn’t appreciate much of what my parents did, nor who they were. But Dad just kept on being exactly who he was, because that was all he knew how to be.

And as it turns out, he ended up teaching us many, many lessons just by living his life.  As the mourners came to the viewing, one by one they shared with us how much they appreciated Dad – his honesty, his spirit, his loyalty, his skill, his sense of fairness, and his willingness to help everyone.

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Dad left us an admirable legacy.  And as a tribute to my dad, I’d like to share this legacy with you.

Things My Dad Taught Me

1. Use the talents you have. You may be differently talented than the person next to you, but if you use your skills and work hard, you’ll be OK.

Dad was always working.  He had a full-time job as an HVAC supervisor at a local hospital, and he had a lawn and garden tractor business at home.  Mom ran the shop during the day, and Dad fixed mowers and weed whackers during the evenings and on weekends.

When he’d finished a repair, Dad would drive to customers’ houses to deliver the fixed tractors, and he’d often take me along (probably to give Mom a break from the frequent sibling spats.)

Once the restored equipment was off the trailer, he’d hang out for a while for some chit-chat.  And often, he’d want to show off my skills:  I learned to read at a really young age, so he’d hand me something to read aloud – a newspaper, an instruction manual – and stand there proudly as his four-year-old explained how to start the trimmer and revealed the day’s horoscope.

Dad didn’t read well, so he was especially proud of the grades his kids earned.  I strongly suspect he was dyslexic to some degree, but back in the day, no one checked for that – they just whacked your knuckles with a ruler and told you to sit up straight.  (Catholic school flashback, anyone?)

I distinctly remember one time where he went to get ice cream for us, and came back with a large tub:

Dad:  <covering the flavor with his hand> Guess what kind I bought? 

Kids:  Chocolate?  Rocky Road?

Dad:  Peanut Butter!  <reveals flavor>

Kids:  Um…Dad…that says “Butter Pecan.” 

Not wanting Dad to feel bad, we enthusiastically dug in to the Butter Pecan ice cream.  (It WAS ice cream, after all.) But this memory still hurts my heart.  Dad loved us and wanted to provide for us, and he worked incredibly hard to do so, despite these struggles.

How?  Dad was an ace mechanic.  He spoke the secret language of engines – if it had a motor, he could get it running.

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I suspect I get my verbosity from Dad, too.

As a teenager, I didn’t really appreciate this talent.  I had a conversation with my mom about this once:  I noted that she was really intelligent, had graduated second in her class, after all, so why didn’t she marry someone smart, like a doctor?  Couldn’t she have done…better?  (Yeah, ouch.)

But Mom responded – undoubtedly more gracefully than I deserved – that Dad works really hard, he’s really handy around the house, and he faithfully comes home every night to spend time with his family.  In other words, he possessed the qualities that mattered, and was a real catch that most women would be thrilled to have.

Dad worked two jobs for most of his life, and he raised three (mostly) decent human beings in a huge house.  We had enough to wear, plenty to eat, and we were safe and loved.

I get it now, Mom.  I truly do.

2. Not everything can be fixed. But most things can be if you take them apart and really look at them.

Like I said, Dad was a champion mechanic.  There wasn’t a trimmer or tractor that could outsmart him.  And this talent expanded to household appliances, too.  Broken record player?  (Kids, ask your grandparents.)  Dad to the rescue!  Fridge starting to sound like it’s attempting to contact an alien species?  Drag it away from the wall and let Dad work his magic.

Because he could bring discarded, abandoned devices back to life, we had some unique appliances in the household.  We were the first kids on the block to have a paper shredder, and the only ones I knew of who had a trash compactor.  (And how much fun is that?  Who needs cable TV when you can squish several takeout boxes into a cardboard pancake?)

Dad was the Engine Whisperer who revived many a mechanical Lazarus.  Ya gotta respect those mad skills.  Heck, he kept his own ticker going for over a year and a half, despite the puzzled wonder of several cardiologists.

note1

There can be a lot of life left in things you think are broken.  I’m trying to remember that with my marriage right now.  We’re taking it apart, replacing the gaskets, and cleaning the little pieces in an attempt to put it all back together.  Once we flush all the gunk out, it just might work.

It’s worth a shot.

3. It’s OK to cry if you’re sad.

Dad came from a family that didn’t talk much about feelings.  But when we left home – for boot camp or college – he’d stand at the window, quietly watching the car pull away, a tear or two silently falling.

We’d witness this scene every time we came home for a visit.  As soon as we packed up the car and left, we’d see him standing there, at the window or in the driveway, showing us without words how much we were loved.

4. Let your inner child come out and play once in a while. (Even in church sometimes.)

Dad had a bit of a mischievous streak.  (I suppose I come by mine honestly.)

My cousin’s kids called Dad The Tickle Man, because at family gatherings, no child could walk past him without being grabbed for a tickle.

At Mass, we’d often be standing silently in prayer, hands folded serenely in front of us…when, without warning, he’d unclasp his hands, pull back his left arm, and gently shove his right fist backwards – smack into the elbow or ribs of whichever child was standing next to him.  This inevitably resulted in a giggle, which snowballed into chuckles (from everyone except Mom, who shot us The Look.  Lord help you if you dropped a hymnal.)

So, in Dad’s honor, here’s some wildly inappropriate funeral humor.  (You’ve been warned.)  

As we traveled to the funeral, my siblings and I were trying to make arrangements via text, picking out songs, Bible verses, flowers, and what shirt to bury Dad in.

Me:  Oh, your uncle says that the grandkids need to provide a bouquet for the viewing.

Daughter:  A bouquet?  Like you do at weddings?  Do we toss it at the end to see who’s next?

(She’s my kid, alright.) 

Later, at the viewing:

Neighbor:  <speaking to Mom>  Dick was a great man with a great business.  Now you should take his place.

Me:  <eyeing casket, horrified>  Uh…not right now!

We laughed until we cried.  (The neighbor man was slightly mortified.)

And at the funeral service:

Priest:  God loves us and wants us to be closer to Him.  He wants us to be with Him.  He wants you.  <dramatic pause> And right now, God wants Dick.

<insert two beats of stunned silence>

My daughter snorted.  Audibly.  And the shoulder-shaking that followed was surely captured as an abnormality on the global seismic monitor.

Dad would heartily approve. :)

And, most importantly…last, but not least:

5. There’s always room for ice cream. (And you don’t always have to tell your mother.)

This one hardly needs explanation. Because ice cream. 

I can’t stop for ice cream without thinking about Dad.  Frequently, when we were out on a service call for the tractor shop, we’d sneak off to the local Quickie Mart for a small treat – a Scooter Crunch, Strawberry or Chocolate Eclair:

Are you a Strawberry Shortcake fan or Chocolate Éclair junkie? Whatever the…:

And, some evenings, the whole family would pile in the car and head to the ice cream shop just up the road.  Dad would invariably get a soft-serve vanilla cone dipped in a chocolate concoction that hardened the instant it hit the ice cream.  (This was back before Magic Shell was a thing you could buy in the store and have any time you wanted, like for breakfast or something.)

Dad ordered this primarily so he could tease the wait staff while they dipped the cone – the ice cream had to be turned upside-down in order to be dipped, and once in a while, the entire wad would schplop right off into the vat of chocolate topping.  This proved so tremendously amusing (even though it only actually happened twice that I can remember) that he ordered this – and we watched for the ice-cream avalanche – every single time.

Sadly, that shop closed long ago – but there are plenty of mom-and-pop ice cream stands between my childhood home and the airport where I could honor my dad appropriately.

icecream1

My pick as a kid.  Couldn’t take a picture until I had a lick.

And when I got home, I tried a new place here in the Midwest – you know, for Dad.  Check out the size of this bad boy.

icecream2

Nelson’s did not disappoint.  Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl on top; Monster on the bottom, jam-packed tightly into the cup.

I indulged without guilt, self-judgment, or fretting about how many marathons I’d have to run to burn that off.   I ate enthusiastically, heartily, and with joy.  And I almost finished it all.  Even though I did leave just a little, I think Dad would be proud of my efforts:

icecream3

I didn’t bother taking the rest home. <burp>

I love you, daddy, and I miss you already.  Get some rest.  Give Grandma a hug for me and save me a seat next to you on the organ bench.  I’ll be ready to sing with you when I get there.

You can’t change your fingerprints. You have only ten of them. And you leave them on everything you touch; they are definitely not a secret. ~Al Franken

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Analyzing the Angry

Dear Family, Friends, Coworkers, and Random Drivers Going 58 in the F*(#!&@ Fast Lane:

I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge my state of mind this past week.

You’ve noticed that I’ve been on edge.  Stressed out.  Tense.  I’ve given curt, overly blunt responses to innocent, honest questions.  My personal volume’s been elevated by at least two clicks, and if I had this ability, there’s be a ton of ashes to scatter right now:

As much as I try to be an easygoing, stretch your wings and fly type, I just can't stop trying to burst people into flames with my mind:

I’ve been…prickly?  No.  More like…stabby.  Yeah.  Slightly stabby.  And while you may be feeling a bit put out by my abrasiveness, all the $#!ts I give about that are right here in this basket I’m not holding:

emptyhands

Side note:  It’s not easy to take a picture of your own hands.  Seriously – try it.

After much analysis – you know, dissecting those feelings, sitting with ’em, letting the thoughts marinate while I take long-distance bike rides and rip the life out of unwelcome weeds in my garden – I’ve identified what’s going on.

I’m angry.

So I’ve been working to understand WHY I’m feeling this way.  Because if I have a REASON, I can FIX it, and subsequently feel better, right?

Generally, life has been good to me, I know.  But there are a couple of things lately that are making me feel like a cat you’ve pet backwards from tail to head.  And it’s not for things like Words with Friends disqualifying PERFECTLY LEGIT words (though admittedly, that’s mildly irritating):

yesitis aword

George Lucas begs to differ.

No, there’s some marginally less superficial shiz going down here.

First, I was angry because we were at my in-laws last weekend.  And while you should know that I love them dearly, visiting them is a challenge because of the massive amount of temptation everywhere.  And by “temptation,” I mean FOOD.  Cookies (three freshly-baked varieties) and rich desserts and meaty entrees.  Nuts and chocolate in little jars on the table, out in the open for the taking at any time you just want a bite (yeah, right, one bite) of something salty or sweet.  And, because the hubs and his entire family – his teenage boys and his mom and dad in their 70s – are tall and lean, they can all partake heartily in all of this delicious, glorious food, just because they want it.

And I was angry because EVERYONE GETS TO EAT ice cream cake and fried fish and buttered potatoes and I do not.  And it’s HARD sometimes – especially when they have a ginormous meal at noon, WITH dessert portions that contain at least half my daily caloric allowance, and then have another plate FULL OF FREAKING RIBS for a SNACK (a snack!!) at 3:00 and I have to pretend to be happy with a bowl of watermelon.

I was mad. Angry mad. Because life is unfair when it comes to food, and I’m never, ever going to be the kind of person who can walk past an ice cream store, think “hmm, sounds good,” and eat a simple cone and have that be the end of it – no drama, judgement, or guilt.  The scale is my probation officer who commands me to report in almost daily; dalliances are immediately evident and the punishment is severe.  Best not to tick her off.

So why else?

I’m angry because the hubs has been somewhat distant this week.  That’s partly because he’s trying to be respectful of me “needing my space,” and partly because my vibe this week’s been pretty much “touch me and die.”

But he’s also been working on writing me a letter.

What about?  His quest to explore his spirituality.  (Or lack thereof.)  He’s been crafting a letter to me explaining how he feels about the Bible in general.

And I have zero – ZERO – interest in reading this.

Why?  A number of reasons:

1. I already know how he feels about it.  He’s made it abundantly clear – in his choice of T-shirts, his bumper stickers, his inability to refrain from rude comments….I get it.  I know.  You’re not on Team Jesus.  Copy that, loud and clear, bro.

2. I’m not in a good place for this right now.  WE’RE not in a good place for this.  I still can’t hear your opinions on the subject without feeling personally attacked; you’re not in a headspace where you can communicate these issues without a ton of editorial emotion; and frankly, I’m still not over the whole Ashley Madison thing, so giving me more reason to feel like we can’t bond, to realize that we might not ever again be close….Let’s just say now is not the time.  I still feel like I’m being emotionally waterboarded over here.  I need time to breathe.  Our relationship needs time for the glue to stabilize and set a bit before you start using this newly repaired vessel as a cocktail shaker.

3.  It’s hella long.  It just feels like…work.  Like writing-your-Affirmative-Action-Plan work.  Which is somewhere between <snoooooooooooore> and PLEASE SHOOT ME.

In other words, I just don’t have the energy to bring this festering lump to a head and clean up the mess when it ruptures and oozes all over the place.

Not right now.

Because I’m also angry that my Dad started hospice care last week.

We’ve known it was coming.  He’s been slowly withering away for the last nineteen months, losing weight, eating less, getting out of bed less often.  If you haven’t lived through something like this, you likely underestimate the stressful state of limbo this puts you in.

Every morning, you check your phone for news:  Nope.  Not dead yet.  And you get on with your day.  Eventually, you get accustomed to this as the status quo, and you work with it.

But once you call in hospice, you know you’re racing the final lap.  No more pit stops; the checkered flag’s somewhere in front of you.  But the road’s all wavy and bendy, like the heat mirage on the highway in July, and you really don’t know how much further you need to go before the path ends and it’s finally over.  And every day you preface work, kid activities, and other commitments with “…unless something happens to Dad.”  And people nod somberly, and they understand.

And your heart breaks a little more each day.

And the light of your soul just isn’t quite as bright. 

And the steel of your armor rusts, bit by bit, until the things you’re shielding yourself from start to leak through. 

Mom called hospice two weeks ago. Dad isn’t getting out of bed any more.  And he isn’t eating, though he’s still taking fluids.

So it can’t be too much longer.

But, so far, it hasn’t been today.

Not yet.

Dad had a birthday on Friday.  Since I live 1000 miles away, I had to mail a card.  I already hate greeting cards, because most of them are either insipidly saccharine or blatantly insulting:

Syrupy Sentiment:  Cards that rhyme make me want to shove lit cigarettes into my eyeballs – there’s a reason Dr. Seuss isn’t required reading past the first grade, people:

My love for you is like a song

In my ears, where you belong

My heart will sing it night and day

I hope to marry you someday

<BARF>

Ridiculously Ridiculing:  Birthday cards no longer read “Let’s Celebrate” – they’re all about “ha ha, you’re old, and I find that funny.”  Here comes the fire department to put out your cake, isn’t that hilarious?  (No, but if you send me some shirtless firemen, I might forgive you, just a bit, especially if they bring cake.)

And just try to find a Father’s Day card that doesn’t refer to beer, farting, or both.  Unless it’s one from the cotton-candy sticky-sweet category, you won’t find it.  (I’d insert some examples, but yuck.)

So finding a decent card is tough.  Now find one for your Dad when he’s terminally ill.  Remember, this is probably the last card that you will ever buy for him.  So no pressure.

Dad likes funny pictures of animals, so I headed to that section first in an attempt to find something lighthearted that would make him smile.

Here was my first pick:

dogs1

This looks promising….

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Um…like Mother Theresa and Jesus?  Not yet, Dad.

I put it back and picked up this one:

cats1Seems appropriate – especially when I tell you that Dad had an orange tabby named Blondie before us kids were born.  And every time he sees an orange tabby ANYWHERE, he says, “Looks like Blondie!”  (Yeah…. Every.  Single.  Time.)  So, hey, here’s Blondie in his fifteen minutes of fame, great card, let’s send it!

And then I opened it.  And HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

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<snort> I AM TERRIBLE.

Laugh or cry, right?

OK, highly inappropriate.  If it were my mom, or ME, this might fly. But Dad’s more of a sentimental, emotional guy, so I settled on a fairly innocuous card with a smiling nun on it that simply said “Happy Birthday” inside.  (Because, since he was raised Catholic, nuns are also funny.  We get him the “Nuns Having Fun” calendar every year.)

And he lived long enough to get it.  So there’s that.

So that’s why I’m angry.

Because I’m really…sad.

And I can’t control feelings like sadness.  OK, full disclosure, I’m not really great with taming anger, either, but it feels more powerful to me.

And power means control.

And you know what I can control?

What I eat.

All this stress has been remarkably effective in helping me control my weight.  Today, I stepped on the scale, and saw a number I haven’t seen since high school.  A number lower than when I was unwell a few years ago and lost weight almost by accident.

Not much lower.

Not yet.

But the hubs actually noticed, as witnessed by this random text he sent this week:

text haha no

I can’t control what happens to Dad.  His itinerary is non-refundable; the only variable is the arrival time.

I can’t control how my spouse feels about things.  I can’t make him more accepting of other viewpoints.  I can’t force him into a mindset of “live and let live.”  I can’t make him see that he’s destroying us, comment by comment, shirt by shirt, letter by letter. He’s asked what he can do…but I already told him, and he’s no longer DOING it.  So what’s the point in adding to the bucket of unmet expectations?  It’ll just glop out onto the linoleum and be another mess for me to mop up.

I can’t control the overwhelming sadness.  This emotion is foreign to me; it feels like an unwelcome parasite, sapping my soul, draining my energy.  It trips me up at random times during the day, jumping out from dark corners, startling me into spilling hot coffee onto my hands.  It reminds me that it’s here.  That I can’t get away from it.

I can’t escape, but I can hide. I can duck behind something I know.  Something I can predict and control.

I’ve made myself a disguise:  hunger.

Hunger I expect.  Hunger I understand.

When you eat less, you feel hungry. 

It’s black and white.  Concrete.  Reliable.

Anticipated.

Welcome.

So I’ll wear the anger blanket instead of the sadness scarf.  It goes much better with the hunger hat that I’ve invested so much of myself into buying.

It’s a classic; I’ve worn it for years.  I don’t know what I’d look like if I had to replace it.

And when the temperature rises, and I’m no longer chilled by the icy emotions that threaten to overtake me – when they’ve been replaced by that gnawing, familiar, hollow, empty nothingness of hunger – I can take off the blanket for just a little while.

I can be a few pounds less angry.

I can remain in control.

Love in Limbo

A few months ago, this popped up in my reader, from Soul in Surreal’s blog:

“You can’t fall back in love with someone. Because you can’t love the same person twice. Because they’re not the same person. They were changed by the first time you loved them. And they were changed by the first time you left them too. So when you lean in close and whisper that you’re falling in love with me again, after all this time, make sure you’re in love with me, and not the memories.” – Danielle via Scribblingsanddust

(The post was here; it references this Facebook post.)

I had bookmarked the link back in January because with all the stuff going on with the hubs, it hit pretty close to the heart.

Fast forward to July, and I’ve been spinning my wheels in the mud, investing a lot of head energy to this whole mess, and getting nowhere.

evjb8

Source: Imgflip

So how’s that there marriage goin’, Katie? 

Well….

We’re certainly pleasant and courteous to each other.    He’s kind and attentive.  He’s as affectionate as I allow him to be, giving me hugs often, and respecting my space when I circle back into myself and withdraw.  He’s willing to do whatever it takes to rebuild my trust, and is completely open to my inquiries about where he’s been, who he’s seen, what his email is about, and where he’s off to next.  And I should add that he’s more than helpful around the house – he gasses up the mower and puts the dishes away without me having to ask him.

So…it’s quiet, for the most part…as long as neither religion nor politics comes up as a subject.  When they do, the water begins to seep out between the carefully mended cracks in the vase, highlighting its weaknesses through the imperfect repairs and uneven layer of glue.

And before I get into this, let me state again that I 100% support varying religious, spiritual, and secular belief systems. I’m all about Team Coexist.  What I’m not a fan of is dissing the sincerely held beliefs of others.  Express what YOU believe, and let’s talk about it over whiskey coffee respectfully, like grownups.  But let’s not use it as a platform from which to spew hate, okay Skippy?  I’m not playing if you want to sling mud at the heartfelt beliefs of others.  Tell me what YOU believe for YOU; don’t sully the landscape by flinging verbal flaming poo bags around highlighting why you think everybody else is wrong.  All that does is add big brown spots to your lawn. It doesn’t help anything good grow.

So the other day, I surprised the hubs by coming home early.  (Spoiler:  this never ends well, does it?) He was corralling his boys to drop them off somewhere, and as he saw me, his hands went to cover the front of his shirt.

He was wearing…this:

easter_bunny_jesus_santa_cl_tshirt

Source:  Cafepress

His rationale, which he threw at me while boys were flying out the door, was “I thought I wouldn’t see you today.”  I guess in his mind, that makes it okay.

In my mind…notsomuch.

And yesterday, we were outside lighting sparklers, when I noticed that his car was sporting a new bumper sticker:

religion_is_bunk_bumper_sticker-r692e2b5ac9a54586b39e5e568e1b5614_v9wht_8byvr_630

Source:  Zazzle

He was standing a little awkwardly behind his vehicle, blocking it with his body.  (Exactly how long did you think that plan would be effective?)  It’s like shielding the shirt design.  Why have it, then?  You want to tell the world something you don’t want your wife to know?

Why should that be okay?

And what do I do now?

I already don’t touch the shirts.  If they’re in the laundry, they stay there until he washes them himself.  It’s a bit passive-aggressive, to be sure.  But since he’s a grownup, I have zero obligation to do ANY of his laundry, so while I’ll happily chuck in boxers and socks if I’m doing a load anyway, I’m not enabling your hate for you.  (And yes, I could easily stage a horrific bleach accident.  I’ve considered it.  But destroying his property won’t resolve the issue; it’ll just escalate it.  I mean, I have a lot of really nice shoes.  Plus, he’ll just buy more shirts, right?  And the whole point isn’t the laundry, it’s why he feels the need to HAVE these shirts in the first place.  So.)

I don’t want to ride in his car any more.  He has a few other stickers on there that I don’t like.  In the past I’ve bitten my tongue for the sake of convenience.  And, admittedly, I’ll probably do that again.  But for now, I ain’t setting foot in it.  Because when I get out of that car, everyone will assume that the language on it represents me.  And while I shouldn’t care what others think, I’m just not okay being associated with that.

The hurtful part of this is that we already had this discussion fifteen months ago.  I told him that his need to rip apart the beliefs of others was spending a lot of my emotional currency…and I was going broke.

At the time, he cared enough to throw out the really offensive shirts.  Back then, I meant enough to him that my beliefs were worthy of some respect – at least in my own home.

Now, though, either he’s forgotten what I said, or his needs are screaming so loudly that mine can no longer be heard.  And I’m dangerously close to filing a mental Chapter 11 on it all.

He did suggest a couple of weeks ago that we try counseling again.  Would it help with this spiritual disconnect?  I can’t say until I try it, right?

It is a good sign…but these days, I’m not sure a sign is enough.

One of the questions we’re told to ask ourselves when questioning a relationship is “is your life better/easier with him or without him?”  And I’ll readily admit that he makes my life much easier.  He shares the household chores – and the bills.  It’s super handy to have someone around who can open stubborn jars of salsa and stop your bike pedal from making that weird noise, and it’s awesome to find that sometimes the Clean Dish Fairy has visited your kitchen AND put all the silverware away.

But are convenience and apathy a solid reason to stay married?

Or are they just enough reason to try?

The bottom line here is that the hubs and I are just very different people.  We’ve known that from the get-go, but it wasn’t challenging the relationship until about a year and a half ago, when he changed the dynamic; he changed the rules and started blowing whistles and I no longer understand who’s on my team or where the ball needs to go.

I no longer know who I married, exactly.  Was it this guy? The one I’m with now?  Because I would never marry a man who had this car and those shirts and this…hate.  Yet…I did marry him.  Was he just pretending before, suppressing who he is for the sake of winning my heart?   And if so, I don’t want to be with someone who has to pretend to be someone he is not, do I?

I’m still in love with the man I married.  Or the man I thought I married.  I’m just not sure I’m married to him anymore.  I don’t know if I ever was.

You can’t lose something you’ve never had, can you?

But…we had something great once.  We had that once-in-a-lifetime BOND.  The stuff of fairytales.

Didn’t we?

I’m hoping it’s like one of those times where you think you lost your car keys, and after looking frantically all over the house, emptying every purse, pocket, and hook searching for them, you look down to discover they’ve been in your hand the whole time.

Then again, the car keys I have didn’t ever go around trying to start other cars.  So there’s that, too.

A while ago, I bookmarked this quote from the book Full Circle by Tamra Price:

“We liked the idea of each other much more than the day-to-day reality of each other.” 

Maybe this relationship isn’t misplaced keys.  Maybe it’s more like a misguided art purchase – a bold sculpture in the center of the living area that we’re trying to decorate around in a way that makes it “work,” because we’ve invested a lot into not just the statue, but the furniture and the pets and the way we watch TV at night, and none of it really makes much sense together, but it’s a lot of work to disassemble it all and start over.

And then there’s the whole bit about…well, passion.

The other night, smack-dab in the middle of band rehearsal, we started working on this song:

I don’t sing lead on this one, so I got to sit back and listen.  And it gut-punched me right in the feels how much I miss being sung to.

See, when you make music with someone, you can really connect on a deep spiritual level.  There’s a fire fueled by the passion of doing what your soul is meant to do that spreads by doing it WITH someone.

This connection doesn’t have to come from music.  The hubs doesn’t sing – at all.  But there was fire at one time.  I know there was.  We had it.  We had it in spades, yo.  We had more passion than I had mint in the garden.  We were solidly, madly, and completely in love.

And now I’m looking at a pile of graying charcoal, poking it with a stick to see if there are any sparks left in the embers.  Because I’m just not attracted to the message of the shirts and the stickers.  Honestly, I’m completely turned off.  A campfire doused with an ice bucket.

But then rehearsal ran late, and I came home exhausted and spent, to find that the trash had been taken out, and the garbage cans were already out at the curb, ready for pickup.

Because he’s that kind of guy.

Crossroads, will you ever let him go?
Will you hide the dead man’s ghost,
Or will he lie, beneath the clay,
or will his spirit float away?

But I know that he won’t stay without Melissa.

Limbo, party of one, your table is waiting.

Save

There Oughta Be a Law…or Not.

I’ve mentioned a number of times that the hubs and I disagree on many major issues – religion and politics being the top two.

Lately, he’s been using his Facebook feed to promote some of his beliefs, largely in the form of petition requests and YouTube clips.  Which is fine, of course.  It’s his feed, after all.  Plus, to be fair, it’s really presenting as more information-sharing, not inflammatory faux-news articles with no substance.  (We all have THAT Facebook friend, don’t we?  The one who we have to hide or unfollow during politics season because all that’s on his feed is a sewage-filled waterfall of grammatically and factually incorrect drivel?)

So the other night, the hubs posts this:

Now, before we get rolling too deeply here, please understand that I like holidays.  A lot.   Because that’s when all the good sales happen.  Let’s have a look at the calendar:

January:  Happy New Year!  Go buy yourself a winter coat, at 50% off.

February:  Presidents’ Day.  Honor the dead guys printed on money by pulling out your cash, waving it around, and exchanging it for new bed sheets!  Not to mention, it’s the week after National Being Single Sucks Day Valentine’s Day, so you can stock up on an eight-pound box of loneliness truffles to christen your linens.

(Side note:  When I die, y’all best formally designate the day as something to do with buying new shoes.  If you fail to honor my passing in this HIGHLY appropriate manner, I will TOTALLY come back and haunt your sorry @$$ by belching in your ear at completely random and inopportune times, like at funerals, during work meetings, and intimate moments with your boo.   So.  Kate + Death = National New Shoes Day.  Got it?)

March/April: EASTER!  Resurrect your wardrobe with a new dress!  And if you truly love Jesus, you’ll honor His sacrifice by buying your toddler an insanely expensive, elaborate frock, complete with ruffles and bows, which will be worn for exactly sixty-five minutes while she squirms incessantly, whines about it being itchy, spills Communion juice down the front of it, and promptly proceeds to outgrow it as soon as you exit the pews.  (Depressed about this?  No worries, the candy’s all on sale tomorrow.  Stock up on chocolate-covered therapy and gnaw the shiz outta those bunny ears.)

May:  Memorial Day!  Time to honor those who died while they served by grilling processed meat tubes in your new summer duds!  Never mind that they were all made in China.  (The clothes.  Not the hot dogs.  Although I make no guarantees if you bought your pseudo-food at Discount Dollar Dump.)

July:  Independence Day!  The US emancipated itself from Mom and Dad and celebrated by throwing a kicka$$ party and lighting things on fire.  (Come on, when YOU were sixteen, you’d have treated newfound freedom exactly the same way.)  Oddly, this seems to be the time of year for appliance and mattress sales.  While I could insert a few too-easy-and-tasteless jokes about fireworks and mattresses, I’m still scratching my head over appliances.  So I Googled, and found a few examples of why one might need something like a new microwave after the holiday:

September:  Labor Day.  We celebrate working Americans by kicking the kids off the Xbox and shipping them back to school – in new clothes, of course, as well as new backpacks and new shoes (And you know how THAT goes.  One for you, two for me….)

Christmas:  Ah…the season of greed and debauchery, where we all get sucked into the annual quagmire of buffets, potlucks, stilettos, and family obligations.  We cram an entire year’s worth of guilt and unmet expectations into this six-week period, eating and buying pretty much everything that isn’t Gorilla Glued to the floor.  The shopping season used to start on the day after Thanksgiving; now it pretty much starts on Thanksgiving Day and runs through January 2, at which point we start the year over again.

But we were talking about voting, not shopping.

I can certainly agree that not enough people exercise their right to vote.  A pathetic 57.5% of eligible voters showed up for our last big election in 2012.

And one might sit and wonder why.

And that same person might think, “Hey!  I’ll bet it’s because people are too busy.  So let’s give everyone the day off so more people vote!”

And this right here is a prime example of one of those things that SOUNDS simple…but once you look at execution, is WAY more complicated than you’d think.

First, declaring a “national holiday” only means that banks and the government will be closed. And your mail won’t be delivered.  (Which is super annoying, because you’ll invariably forget that there’s no mail that day, and check anyway.  Even though there’s never anything you really WANT in the mail.  Unless it’s your birthday or something, 99% of mail goes right in the recycle bin.  Yet, most of us are still looking in there every day, regardless, as if one day the Mail Genie will appear and grant us three winning entries to Publisher’s Clearing House.) 

Think about it…who stays open on holidays?  Well, there’s nursing homes and hospitals, of course.   Then you’ve got the service industries, like restaurants.  Don’t think for a moment that Taco Bell and Mickey D’s will lose a day of revenue over this – I mean, you gotta eat more than ya gotta vote.  Transportation will be running, as well.  Cab drivers will work. Buses will run (they HAVE to, or how will people GET to the polling station?)  Planes won’t be grounded, either.  They fly every day, Christmas and Thanksgiving included.  And, because everyone gets along so well when discussing the merits of their candidates, I sure hope the police station stays open, too.

And let’s ask ourselves something:  If you find yourself with a day off mid-week, how many of you are really going to spend it voting?  In the US, we get so few days off from work – with no mandatory leave whatsoever – will we be motivated to spend those precious, cherished free hours waiting in line to cast a vote for one of two blowhards we’re not terrifically enthused about?  Oh, and remember, because it’s a holiday, daycare’s closed, so you’ve got your kids in tow.  But don’t worry, everyone else’s sticky, rambunctious offspring will be there, too.  THAT can only end well.  <eyeroll>  I suspect, though, if we’re completely honest with ourselves, many of us will use the day to recharge – we’ll sleep in, get a pedicure, have a late lunch, and yes, go shopping – instead of “wasting” half of it at the polling station.

Another thing to remember:   just because a day is a holiday doesn’t mean anyone has to be paid for that day.  No employer is obligated to pay for hours not worked.  There are some limited exceptions, of course, like jury duty pay in some states, paid leave for bone marrow donation in Minnesota , and the many states and cities providing for paid sick leave.  (Note that this shiz is pretty much changing daily, so if you’re trying to find the current law for your location, Google it.) 

Now, let’s say that you work for an employer who DOES decide add this new holiday to the list of paid holidays.  Even if an employer added this as a paid holiday, most of their part-time workers wouldn’t be eligible, because part-time employees usually don’t get benefits. So you lose a day of pay if you’re a part-time person and your employer closes, generally.  And who’s working part-time hours?  Well, a lot of people:

OK, full disclosure:  I have no clue what this graph means.  But it looks rather patriotic, dontcha think?  Anyway, as an example, Wal-Mart has a ton of part-time employees who theoretically wouldn’t be eligible for holiday pay…but they’re also not likely to be closed on Election Day, either.  Heck, they were open on Thanksgiving Day last year.  I know because I went.  (Yes, I recognize that this makes me part of the problem.)  They had cops there at the ready to break up the anticipated brawls over crappy TVs, but sadly, it was a complete snoozefest.  I was sorely disappointed at the general civility and lack of WWE antics.  Come ON, America.  HAVE WE LOST ALL SENSE OF TRADITION?

Ah, well.

Another thing to consider here is that many states already have laws in place allowing time off to vote. Some states even require that you get paid time off to vote.  So what happens to those laws if the President declares a national holiday?  I imagine they won’t be officially repealed, but they certainly could be.  At the least, they’d be largely redundant.  And it might be cheaper for an employer to close – and pay no one for the day, because they don’t have to – than to try to stay open and schedule everyone around their voting activities.

With all that said, employees DO need to understand their rights around voting, and pursue remedies if they’re discouraged from doing so.  A lot was sacrificed to GIVE you this right, and the best way to honor those efforts is to cast your ballot.

Source:  Truthdig

But if we DO get a holiday out of the deal, I promise I won’t judge you for exercising your rights in your new Dr. Martens.     (Because I only judge Crocs.  But don’t let that keep you from voting.)

boots

These boots were made for votin’….

Have a great 4th, peeps! <insert fireworks and sparklers>

June Was Blingin’ out All Over

Since you’re all quite figuratively dying for an update….

No.  The landscaping isn’t done yet.

But it’s not due to lack of effort…if by “effort” you mean I glance at the stack of edging rocks collecting pollen beside my driveway every day when I’m tooling into the garage after work wondering what’s for supper.

In my defense, there’s been a bunch of other shiz going on this past month, too.

First up – I had a birthday.  (Shout out to my fellow Gemini peeps.)  Now, normally, this would be largely a non-event.  I’m not one who needs a huge fuss on her birthday.  I mean, first of all, I’m probably dieting, so it’s not like I’m getting any actual cake, right?  For the most part, I’m happy just getting a few cards, and having one day with a steady stream of Facebook notifications from folks who but for the gift of technology would neither know (nor care) about your special day.

And if you remember, last year’s birthday was kind of a bust.  I didn’t get even a mention of the day from the hubs.

(Side note:  This year, he did remember to at least wish me a happy birthday.  Still waiting for that card.  So much for managing my own expectations, I guess.)

This year, I decided to proactively treat myself.  BY SHOPPING. Because obviously, I am worth it.

Without further ado, I bring you the 2016 Birthday Loot Review.

**NOTE:  Men and non-shoppers can scroll down to the next bold green words.**

Since I shop a lot (A hella lot.  Hello, my name is Kate, I have A Problem) I have quite a few store-branded credit cards.  Now, if you use these cards, you absolutely HAVE to pay them off in full every month, because they charge an astronomical interest rate that will make your $50 sweater purchase rival the national debt in a matter of months.  But, as a token of gratitude for your money patronage, many of them send you “Free Gift on Your Birthday” coupons.  Usually it’s $10-15 off any purchase – no minimum.  So, at that point, it’s Game On! to see how much you can bag for essentially free.

Here’s my $15 Free Loot from The Limited.  (Total for both:  $14.71.  Yes, I did leave 29 cents on the table.  I promise I’ll try harder next year.)

bdayshop2bdayshop3

I still have $15 at NY & Company and Ann Taylor to use before the end of the month.  CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.  Yay free stuff! 

I also spent a day at one of the regional art (read: jewelry) fairs.  We happened to have three local shows going on at the same time (because we hippies are into crafts, yo) so we opted for the slightly more rural locale in a nearby quaint river town.

And by “quaint,” I mean:

SWsign1

That’s…a little TOO quaint. DOWN WITH OVERAPOSTROPHICATION!

SWsign2

I didn’t eat here. But HAHAHAHA <snort>

Bonus:  It was cloudy and threatening rain, so it wasn’t too crowded.  Makes it MUCH easier to paw through everything when you’re not elbowing other shoppers out of the way and stroller-dodging the strapped-down rug rats.

SWart

With the weather on my side, it didn’t take me long to walk away with some new bling.

First score:  two necklaces.

On this one, the artist made all the beads by hand.  Some were forged, some were polished, some were hand-twisted, others were…uh…baked?  X-rayed?  Spelunked?  Anyway, it’s super cute and goes with everything:

SWshop2

This one was probably made in China, but I don’t give a rip because PRETTY (and goes with everything ELSE):SWshop3

This hand-drawn sketch is for my daughter’s room, because she has a thing for pie:

And this shawl was on the clearance rack in a tourist shop…not a bad $12 find, especially if your favorite color’s orange!

SWshop4

Wanna place bets on how long my cats take to demolish the fringe on this baby?

BUT WAIT!  THERE’S MORE!  (Guys, don’t come back yet.  Keep scrolling.)

I also treated myself to some new nose bling.  And I NEED to share this jeweler with you, because her stuff is FABULOUS.  I was hunting around Etsy looking for pieces that don’t look like every other boring, jewel-dot nose stud on the planet, and I stumbled upon a shop called RockYourNose.

And I am SO IN LOVE with this lady’s stuff.

I had previously acquired these:

bdayshop1

Clockwise, from top:  Sterling flower with garnet; lotus flower with amethyst; rose gold triangle; malachite stud in sterling

I was so pleased with them – the quality, the size, the service – everything – that I decided I needed some more:

bdayshop4

From left:  14k butterfly; Mexican fire opal in sterling; moonstone in antiqued silver daisy

If you need nose jewelry that makes a statement, go visit RockYourNose right this minute.  Seriously, her pieces are beautiful, bold, and comfortable to boot.   I WANT THEM ALL.  (Well, maybe not the rat, but I totally appreciate that there’s an audience for it.)

While I was scouring Etsy, I did find a couple other pieces that I JUST HAD TO HAVE.  This one arrived today:

bdayshop5

He sent it with a penny from his home country!  Etsy shop: PicoNosePiercing

And this one is waiting for my signature at the post office:

This one was a real find.  I collect frogs, so OF COURSE I should have a frog nose stud.  But do you think anyone actually MAKES one?  Well, apparently, only ONE person does, and they live in Israel, but thanks to the Interwebs, I CAN HAZ NOSE FROGGIE. 

**End shopping montage.  Men and non-shoppers can resume reading here.**

So…another thing I did this month:  I wrote my first article for xoJane.

Now, before I share the article, let me just state that I’m…not proud of the subject matter.  I’ve written about this subject before, and I’m not sure why I decided to bring it up again.  Perhaps it has to do with my attempts at healing.  Or maybe even though it was a long time ago, and I have no way to undo it, I haven’t completely forgiven myself.  Either way, it’s a very real part of my past from a very dark, confusing, overwhelming time.  While it certainly doesn’t mean I’m glad it happened, you can’t exactly unbake a cake, and I got several life lessons out of it.

So I put myself out there, and <deep breath> here it is:  Kate’s First xoJane Article

I’ll admit that the comments were pretty rough – but that’s to be expected.  I mean, you don’t go writing about that sort of thing and expect the internet to throw you a ticker-tape parade screaming your accolades, right?  It’s more self-righteous indignation and flaming torches (and not completely unjustified, either.)  People reacted pretty much how you’d expect, and I’m (mostly) OK with that.

What really DID sting, though, were the criticisms of my actual writing.  (And NOW I sound kind of narcissistic and whiny.)  But…I don’t think I’m an awful writer.  Juvenile?  Sure.  Immature?  DUH.  But…not terrible.  (And come ON – Sick of CAKE?! That is SO NOT A THING.)  I’m trying to console myself with chips and dip the realization that 1) sometimes, people on the Interwebz are randomly mean because they CAN be and 2) perhaps my writing isn’t a style they care for.  And that’s OK…but, like a hangnail that you’ve caught on an afghan, it pulls and smarts all the same.

(Side note:  xoJane was wonderful to work with.  They made it really easy by outlining the process thoroughly, patiently suggesting edits to this complete noob.  Despite the icky feelings I got in my gut from the Mean Girls (and, to be fair, the honest ones), I might actually be tempted to try again.  Besides…I made $50.  Which is TOTALLY AWESOME, because I have a lot of bling to finance, as referenced above.  So there’s that.)

Oddly, the article was published on the same night that my daughter graduated high school.  (Which is the OTHER Big Time Eater I had this month.)

I was scrolling through Facebook while I was waiting for commencement to start, and saw the article link just as the lights were dimming in the auditorium.  I skimmed a few of the comments, and shut off my phone to deal with the virtual wrath later.  I’m somewhat proud of myself for that one – normally, I’d be obsessively refreshing to see every last post the moment the user clicks “send.”

But this night was about my daughter, not me.

So off the phone went, and I stuffed it and the accompanying anxiety deep into my purse.

In addition to ordering invitations, sending announcements, and taking TONS of pictures, I also planned a party for her – meaning, I co-hosted a huge shindig with her dad.  Which is monumental because we had a pretty ugly divorce in 2006 (that started in 2003!) and it’s only been maybe the last 18 months where he and I could go beyond stiff politeness and overwhelming mistrust to being kinda cordial once in a while.

But all the families, on both sides, who hadn’t seen each other in over ten years, ACTUALLY GOT ALONG.  There was small talk, there was hand-shaking, there was the exchange of genuine “how have you beens”and “what are you up tos”.

Everyone set aside the old hurts and haunts and just…celebrated.

Together.  For her.

And we had a lot to celebrate – namely, the achievements of this terrific kid of mine who <shameless brag> graduated third in her class and earned a full scholarship to college.

And afterwards, this amazing young woman pulled me aside and thanked me profusely for making the day run so smoothly.

It was a beautiful celebration of a milestone – a marker in time. A crown on the ability of her parents to work together and co-parent, and, despite being a little too human, have it turn out FABULOUSLY.

gradcap

So, now that June is pretty much over, I’m hoping things settle down a bit and I can get back to the very hard, back-breaking, gritty work that is my marriage.

<sigh>

Or maybe I’ll address the landscaping first.  That might be easier.

 

 

No Escaping the Landscaping

Sorry for being AWOL for a bit.

I’ll offer up the sad, half-deflated balloon excuse “I’ve been busy,” which, although true, is kinda overdone. But it’s finally summer in the Midwest (well, for this week, anyway) and in addition to all the other things going on right now (which I’ll write about later), I’ve been trying to take advantage of the super-warm (read:  not snowing) weather by tackling a landscaping project:

mintfromhell

Obviously, this is the “before” picture.  I’d post a “during” but it’s downright depressing.  And looks pretty much the same.

Essentially, we have a 47′ X 3′ strip of land by the fence that has transmogrified* into a freakin’ mint colony.  And if you’re sitting there thinking, “hey, some mint would be nice to have” – please, for the love of all that is green and flowering, back away from the trowel. Mint is to gardens like fat is to thighs: Once it gets settled in there, all it does is expand, and it’s dang near impossible to get rid of, no matter how much time you spend attempting to whittle it out.  If you don’t believe me, believe the THREE JAM-PACKED yard waste bags I filled with the stuff.

*Side note:  “Transmogrified” is my favorite Calvin and Hobbes word ever. 

We declared war on the Mintvasion about a month ago, when we dug out every last mint plant (and much of the surrounding dirt, because guilt by association.)  We re-dug it out three weeks ago, and re-RE-dug it out AGAIN last weekend.  The next step in the Mint Massacre is to head out there with kerosene and a blow torch.

burntsienna

Site of most recently documented successful mint removal.

This is one seriously TENACIOUS herb, folks. Despite our sub-zero winters, it comes back stronger and fuller every year.  To say this crap is “hearty” is an understatement – it’s practically indestructible.  If Comcast or Verizon had this level of technology, your FIOS would stay connected well past the apocalypse.

As part of mint’s world domination plan, it sends out underground runners that are several feet long and majorly aggressive.  I actually unearthed one that had grown RIGHT THROUGH THE TUBER of one of my peonies. Pierced that puppy clean through like a perennial Prince Albert. (And if you don’t know what that is, I suggest you not click this link at work. I didn’t know plants were into body modification, but that’s some hard-core shiz right there, yo.) Seriously, when the next Ice Age or Nuclear Fallout or Misguided Social Media Laughingstock Presidency wipes out the human race, the cockroaches (and remaining politicians) will be channeling top-secret communications and creepy beetle pornography through mint-root cable systems long after the rest of us are worm (and cockroach/surviving politician) food.

Pro Tip: If you want mint, plant it in a container. Not in your garden, or in the neighbor’s yard (hey, they started it with their noisy dogs, I know. But despite the incessant barking, you truly do not hate your neighbors, your ex-husbands, or door-to-door solicitors nearly enough to plant this herbal hellion. Neither do you live far enough away from them to do so. Trust me, the mint will find you.)  Learn from my pain and keep that botanical bully on lockdown in a solid pot on a deck or stoop.

Anyway.

Once we’re sure the mint is gone, we’re planning to lay some contractor-grade landscaping fabric down to smother any zombie survivors. (Incidentally, did you know that “contractor grade” is higher than “professional grade”? Not entirely certain of the logic there – I’m guessing it was the brainchild of the same folks who created denim sizing.) We got a 20-pound roll of it, which is enough for a double layer barrier. (Mint insurance.) As we were buying this, I found these big honkin’ staples that help hold the fabric on the ground:

In case you’re in the market for these, you should be aware that these have a special name….

Fabric fasteners? Landstaples? Barrier Bonders?

Nope.

CRAMPONS. 

I sh!t you not.  Witness:

crampons1

Pardon my blur.  Hard to focus when giggling maniacally.

I bought these over a month ago, and I AM STILL LAUGHING. #perpetuallytwelve

crampons2

And no, I do not live near France.  Or Canada.

Because we think it wise to have backup protection beyond just a single box of industrial-strength crampons (you know, for unplanned mint overflow or minor weed leakage), we’re planning to secure the fabric further by tucking it under over 100 feet of stone edging. Because, while we’re at it, we’re replacing that, too.  We ripped out that black plastic edging strip that the previous owners installed – I just don’t care for the look of it; it mimics the vibe of pairing cheap flip-flops with a business suit.  Plus, I’m hoping that since the stone edgers are flat on top, mowing will be easier – we should be able to avoid whipping out the weed whacker and just run the mower wheel right over the edging to trim. (By the way, if you garden, and you KNOW this won’t work, please do NOT tell me. I desperately need to cling to this one last dream I still have. Thank you.)

Eventually, though, we’ll get the fabric down and the edging (50 pieces, 22 pounds apiece) set around the border. Then, we “just” have to cover it with some trap rock.

I did the calculations, and it turns out we need approximately…uh…

<head scratch>

<math>

Apparently, we’re back to that weird mystery sizing I don’t get.

I think I need roughly 1.5 metric cubits. Or tons. Or one whole effin’ sh!tload. Essentially, one ground-up failed planet’s worth. (Sorry, Pluto, you should’ve studied harder.)

I’m exhausted already.

Good thing I’ve continued to work these wicked guns of mine:

bicepsodeath

Fear the fierce, yo.

Fortunately, I do have a 16-year-old boy who 1) has no job (Xbox is NOT A JOB, kid) and 2) likes expensive electronic toys. I smell an epic deal…. I mean, this is why one HAS kids, right? To hold in front of yourself in pictures so no one sees your thighs, and to do yard work? Time to cash in on #2. <rubs hands together in glee>

Hey…you know that Grand Theft Undead Bloodbath Call of Halo Duty VII game you ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO HAVE? Here’s your crampons, kid, get to work.”

I’d offer to pay him in pizza, but seeing as he’s a teenage boy, video games are cheaper. Even though his fave is Papa John’s, which is super cheap, and…not delicious.  We have all these great wood-fired oven pizza joints around us, and my offspring prefers what the hubs not-so-affectionately calls “Republican Pizza.” I suppose I should be thankful that my son’s champagne tastes only extend to electronics, right?  I mean, he COULD be asking for crab legs and a car here.

I’ll share pics of the completed project, of course.  Someday.  We’re just waiting for the next weekend with the right weather – warm enough for me to be outside without gloves, yet not so warm that the hubs starts to wilt. In other words, the weekend where it is exactly 74.245 degrees. And cloudy, so it stays cool, but not raining, of course, because mud, and not sunny, because hot.

I think we had one of those days in May of 2008.

Suffice it to say that my pile of supplies might BE the landscaping for awhile.

Especially since it’s only recently been nice enough for me to get my bike out again. My apologies for the math here, but Biking < Landscaping.  (This formula was, in fact, in your high school algebra book.  You’ve just forgotten.) I took my first ride of the season last weekend, thinking, “hey, I’ll just zip around the lake.” Yeah…no. The hubs was done after one loop, but I needed to keep going. I clocked just over sixteen miles, baby. BOOYAH. I am a stud.  A stud with unfinished landscaping.

By the time we finish this project, it just might be covered in snow.

So, until next time, here’s some gratuitous pictures of what’s been blooming:

peony1

peony2

rose1

Fire hydrant photobomb.

 

rose2

Yeah, I totally need to mow.  Or gather the hay, or something.

How’s your garden growing this year?  Are you a horticultural hero?  Who’s your floral foe?  Gimme the agricultural gossip in the comments!

Assumptive Presentment Resentment

So how many of you thought the full moon was last Friday the 13th?

If you’re on Facebook, you might have – because, if you have more than three friends, you probably saw this:

internetlies

It was on the walls of several of my friends’ pages, and was spreading like virtual mono at band camp. (If you’ve been, you know.)

But if you’re reading this any time near May 21, and it happens to be dark, go look outside.

Yep, the full moon wasn’t last week. It’s actually Saturday.

Now, I already knew this because I work in HR, and…well…people are nuts.  And we know that the most disruptive, unpredictable, off-the-wall things happen right before and during the full moon.  We track it within our department so we can ensure we’re well-stocked with survival tools (chocolate and wine, obvs) in advance.

But last week, pretty much everyone was thinking the full moon was Friday the 13th.  If you’d looked outside to verify this, though, you’d have seen the First Quarter Moon instead. (Which looks like a half-moon.  Because geometry* is stupid.)

However, nobody actually goes outside anymore, especially when what you need can be obtained on the interwebs quickly, easily, and without needing to wear pants. So if you hopped on Google, you’d quickly come up with a most excellent – and reliable – link like the Farmers’ Almanac.  Or this handy site that has more information on the Moon’s phases than most of us will ever need.  (Trust me.  I’m over 40 35 and have never needed 98% of this, nor has it mattered whether Pluto was a planet, a dog, or…wait, what IS Pluto, anyway?  A pet rock?)

Anyway, the point here is that the moon phases are EASILY verified.  Yet it was super-simple for the social media Pied Piper to blow a tune and make us dance.  Even one of my team members questioned me when I reminded her that the full moon was coming up. “Wasn’t it last week?  Facebook said…”

<facepalm>

Why were we so quick to believe a cartoon?

Because…it was there.

This face-value acceptance happens with email, too.

Back story:  I actually have a very simple email address – my Gmail addy doesn’t have any funky letters after my name.  This is because I got on the Gmail train when there were only a couple hundred people trying it out.  See, years ago, I was networking with an HR professional at Google.  She was hitting up her peers looking for some folks to try this new beta email program they were testing called “Gmail.” So I got on THAT plane early, before all the aisle seats were taken.

It’s kind of cool. I’m, like, an email hipster, yo.  <dons dark glasses and on-point denim>

But now that there are over 900 million Gmail users, it’s become a lot harder to create a unique Gmail address.  Consequently, a lot of folks accidentally “forget” those extra letters when signing up for online offers, applying for jobs, and emailing long-lost relatives.  The result is that I get a lot of misdirected emails.  Like this one:

giraffe1

???

Now, the only Jason I know is the first guy I held hands with back in 8th grade, while we were watching one of the Hellraiser movies.

960

 A man who always makes a point.  Source

I was pretty sure it wasn’t him…so I decided to play along.

giraffe2

Keeping it surreal, folks.  Keeping.  It.  Surreal.

I don’t toy with all the misdirects – there are simply too many – so I usually just tell them they need to check their work.  Like this one from earlier this week:

email1

Do I LOOK like a Sr. Ortiz? (The answer is no.  Smarta$$.)

So I wrote back – politely, this time, sans zoo animals, informing her that she had the wrong email.

She wrote back:

email2

Okay.  Word’s clearly out that I’ve been visiting psychics…but sadly, I couldn’t pick Sr. Ortiz out of a crowd of two unless one was my daddy.

I try again:

email3

First day on the Internet, huh?

Time to shut this one down.

email4

She seems to be gone now.  But she was SO CERTAIN that this email address (which in zero way resembles anything that sounds like Ortiz whatsoever) belonged to Sr. Ortiz.  Nothing I said, or wrote, was gonna convince her otherwise.

Her mind was made up.

Speaking of which….this actually happened just a couple of nights ago:

I was sitting on the sofa, attempting a conversation with the hubs, when suddenly he changed the subject entirely to share this riveting news story:

Him:  So I hear there’s this sheriff in Tennessee who’s being sued – he was using his position as sheriff to push his religious beliefs on his department.

Me:  …oh?

Him:  He posted religious messages on social media, too…and actually SELECTIVELY DELETED messages from people who disagreed with him.  You can’t do that!

Me:  <furrows brow, waits for more>

Him:  And now he’s actually COUNTER-SUING, claiming he’s being persecuted.

Me:  <cocks head>

Him:  That’s just ridiculous.  You can’t use your job as sheriff to blast your religion!

Me:  Um…<thinking I missed something>  What…did he actually…do?

Him:  <looks at me for clarification>

Me:  What did he post?  What did he delete?  What actually…happened here?

Him:  <blink>

Him:  <pause>

Him:  I…don’t actually know.

Me:  <sigh>

The hubs had received a notice of this lawsuit via email from American Atheists.  The email, which he shared with me, listed the allegations, and was essentially asking for contributions to support the lawsuit.  And yes, there were links connecting to more information.  As one might expect, they weren’t exactly neutral.

The least slanted link is here, and it does provide examples of what the sheriff posted.  There are some definitively Christian posts.  Do I think these are appropriate for a public officer to make on what appears to be a public page?  Not all of them, no.  There’s a post about Easter that references Bible verses and the “He Is Risen”message – that does feel exclusionary to me.  (I celebrate the Christian Easter, but certainly recognize that it’s mostly candy and bunnies for a lot of folks.  And if candy didn’t make me fat, it would be SO about the candy up in my pie hole.  Mmm….candy….)

<ahem>

Anyway.  Some of the posts I’m cool with.  There are references to more generic prayer, and the phrase “God bless you.” I generally don’t take offense to stuff like this.  Even if you don’t believe in that particular entity, it’s a well-wish, like “Blessed Be” or “Shalom” – it’s not like he’s saying “God smite you.”  (I am totally gonna start using that, though.)  And if you tell a kid that you hope Santa is good to him this year, you’re not saying YOU believe in the fat man dropping down your chimney, right?  (Which, when I put it that way, sounds like one of those horrible IBS commercials, and now I have ruined the image of “leaving presents under the tree” for everybody.) On that note – is wishing someone a Merry Christmas exclusionary?  Not to a shopping mall. Sure, there CAN be a Christian component to it, but our credit card bills testify to the big sack o’secular in Christmas.

Note, though, that there’s a lot of information missing from these links.  While I do think the sheriff crossed a line, I haven’t seen what he felt he needed to delete from the page.  According to this link, the sheriff says he removed those posts that weren’t “family-friendly”.  What does that mean, exactly?  Were they posts simply pointing out the desire to see more diverse viewpoints represented?  Or were they filled with F-bombs?

Unfortunately, we don’t know, because neither team is serving up those posts for us to swing at.

We don’t have the whole story.

Now, I don’t want to get into a big religious debate here.  I’m all about Team Coexist, and I think that intelligent people can have VERY different beliefs and can make the best choices for THEM.

coexist

Then again, I have purple hair, a nose ring, and I drink wine and swear a lot.

purplereign

HR approved.

So I might not be the example you wanna follow. Or maybe I am.  I’m cool either way, bro.

I’m also cool if you disagree with some of my thoughts on the subject.  I respect that you’ve had different life experiences and will offer a different perspective.  I hope you share your thoughts with me so we can have some intelligent, respectful dialogue.

Bottom line:  We can’t coexist if we can’t listen to each other.  We can’t hear anything if our personal biases work like noise-cancelling headphones to filter out different opinions.

And, most importantly, we won’t learn anything if we don’t attempt to objectively approach information.  Especially opinions that are presented to us as – or in the absence of – facts.

And this is where the hubs took his bias bus and drove it solidly into the curb.

He got the email, saw “Christianity”, and reacted. 

The sheriff is Christian.  Therefore, the sheriff is WRONG.

There were some links included in the email. He didn’t even read them.

As far as he was concerned, that sheriff was tried, judged, and convicted.

The end.

And this – this right here – is why he and I cannot have an honest, intellectual conversation about religion.

Because as soon as you insert religion into the playlist, all he can hear is the familiar tune of his mental Pied Piper, who played the song “Christianity” and watched him pirouette.

To be completely fair, he recognized pretty quickly what he’d done.  He went back to his laptop, pulled up the email, and started to do some homework on the issue.

But once that conclusion cake’s in the oven, it’s really, really difficult to pull it back out and add more sugar or more chocolate.  It only takes a few minutes for batter to chemically transform, and it’s unbelievably messy to convert it back into batter again.

And today, I don’t like the smell of what he’s baking.

Cake makes me fat, anyway.

So, today, as you’re scrolling through your many social media sites, chatting with family, or watching the news, remember your bias.

And if your personal Pied Piper is blatting too loudly, shove some cake up his flute and tell him to choke on it while you rework your playlist.


*P.S.  I used the word “sheriff” TEN times in this post, and if it weren’t for spellcheck, it would’ve been wrong all ten times.  English spelling is also dumb.

The Clarity of the Crystal Ball

In my last post, I mentioned that my sister and I had tarot card and palm readings while she was out to visit.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve had various readings done from time to time.  I don’t use them as the final word in setting my life’s course or anything.  They’re more like those endless Facebook quizzes – entertaining (and fun to see how all your friends score), and they often validate your own insight into yourself.  When you get feedback that resonates, it feels a bit like you have permission to be exactly who you’re meant to be.

And with my issues, I’ll take all the permission I can get.

But sometimes, what they tell you is so spot-on accurate, it’s jarring.  That was my prior experience with Jeff Tyler:

When I met him before, he solidly nailed some things:

* He asked about my career. When I told him that I work in HR, he said, “Yes, but not the way most people are in HR. It’s different, and I like you there, because you can do HR the way you want to do it.” This is actually really accurate.  I’m not the stereotypical HR person; I like creating sense from the chaos at small companies, where I can roll up my sleeves and put in place just enough structure to function.  In contrast, I find large, well-organized companies completely suffocating.  (Plus, my company is privately owned…by a family – which adds a flavor of…uniqueness.  More on that brand of crazy later.)

* He asked if we had been doing construction or remodeling.   Again, spot on.  At the time, we’d spent much of the last two years fixing up the short sale property we’d purchased – in addition to remodeling the kitchen, we’d repainted nearly every room, redone two bathrooms, and put an addition on the back.  So yeah, I was all spackle-and-drywalled out by this point.  He suggested that I take a break from that particular chaos, and “take time to just enjoy what you’ve built.”  Although there was a bit more to be done, for now it was time to just be in our house – at least for a while.

* He then talked about creative energies.  He said he saw me active in “some kind of art – music, words, something….that’s the only time you’re all there and real. That’s where you can BE.”

At that time, my blog was six months old, and I was finding it to be quite therapeutic.  And I’m also a musician – I sing in a band, and while I’m no Sandi Patty, I don’t completely suck:

And he was right, again.  I’m totally absorbed in the moment when I’m singing.  Gone are the little gnats that cloud my happiness and nip at my joy and buzz distractions at me about my weight.  It’s just the music and me.

And when I write, I drop the cloak that shields my soul from the social crows who might otherwise pick at it.  I expose my jugular.  OK, yeah, sort of anonymously, but still. Emotional vampires aren’t picky eaters; it’s still a risk, and feels a bit like I’m dabbing steak sauce on my pulse points…but when writing, I throw caution to the wind, and get real.

So it was a great reading, and I really dug this guy’s direct, no-dancing-delicately-around-the-tulips approach – and I thought my sister would, as well.  She was receptive to give it a go, so off we went.

And once again, I got some solid insight.  Some of my highlights from this round:

* Your workplace is kind of a mess. Yep….as I mentioned before, it’s a privately-held, family-owned company.  And we have a new CEO, who is NOT family, so the resulting change in diet has given the drama llama more than a little intestinal distress…which alternates between noxious stink and hilarity.

* You’ve been working on spiritual growth, and you’re outgrowing who you were. But when you’re challenged, you revert back to who you used to be…and you don’t like that person very much. This was interesting to think about. Over the last year, I’ve been working on personal and spiritual healing, and trying to quiet the mental voices around my food issues. But prior to that, I worked myself out of a relationship that was mentally abusive. It took considerable strength to do that – leaving a marriage is hard, hard work; it’s even tougher if you’ve been mentally whittled down to nothing.

He had a point, though – in the struggles I’ve found in my current marriage, do I face them head-on? Not initially, no. I tend to revert to the same person I was in my prior marriage – timid, hesitant, reluctant to start conflict.

And he was correct in saying that I don’t like being that person. It isn’t me.  It’s like jamming your feet into shoes that don’t fit. You feel pinched and uncomfortable and can’t WAIT to kick them off, and they don’t really go with your whole spiritual outfit, anyway.

* You have some toxic older friends that you need to move away from to preserve your energy.

I scratched my head on that one for a bit.  I don’t really have close friends…sure, there are my Facebook connections, and my many “virtual” online buddies….but none of them are toxic energy leeches.

I shrugged it off as a “miss” in the reading.

My sister also got some interesting tidbits:

* You work really hard to hide your emotions.  But you shouldn’t.  You have really strong emotions, and you are a good person BECAUSE of those strong emotions – not because you hide them.

My sister’s always been a “feeler.” When we were kids, she was convinced that inanimate objects, like stuffed animals, had feelings.

Which reminds me of the Cabbage Patch story:

Anyone else remember Cabbage Patch dolls? My sister really, really wanted one. She didn’t get one for Christmas, because Cabbage Patch Kids were the It Toy of the year, and since people were generally losing their collective minds in their efforts to get one, Mom wisely opted out of the public stampedes and fistfights. So sis saved up her own money, until FINALLY she had enough stashed away. Off to the mall we went, making a beeline for the toy store. (This was a few months after the holiday rush, so the shelves were sufficiently stocked at this point.  No taser required.)

My sister had her eye on a redheaded doll. She spotted one in the second row, behind a blond, curly-haired one. She moved the first doll to the side…

…and I said something to the effect of “aw, that doll’s going to be sad that you didn’t choose her.”

I made my sister buy this one.

Looks heartbroken, doesn’t she.

My sister felt so bad about hurting the toy’s feelings that she LITERALLY BOUGHT THE BLOND DOLL INSTEAD.

And my brother spent the next several years torturing her with it. He gave her a voice, and whenever the doll wasn’t sitting next to my sister, he’d make it call out, “MOMMA! MOMMA! COME GET ME! I’M LONELY!  She was prone to mischief, frequently body-slamming teddy bears and pinning dolls belonging to overnight guests too.  (And sometimes our cousins, if they dared nap at our house.  They’d wake up underneath a Cabbage Patch kid who you’d swear had a smug look on her face….)

“Antonia Larina”clearly had self-control issues.  (Ah, siblings.  Ain’t they great?)

Anyway.  One of the reasons I wanted to have my sister see this guy was because of this stressful life situation she’s dealing with.  Interestingly, he had some insight into that:

* You’re struggling with making a big decision.  Perhaps you need to make a decision NOT to make a decision right away.  Take this time to heal and fix YOU instead. 

(For the record, this is EXACTLY WHAT I TOLD HER.  Validation for my spiritual gift right there, folks.  But wisdom is wiser when it comes from a third party.  That’s why consultants are so expensive, right?)

* You need to stop beating yourself up.  You’re hearing your mother’s voice of disapproval in your head…you need to stop listening to that and do what’s right for YOU.

Hmm.  That didn’t feel quite right.  Mom was never one to be overbearing with an opinion.  Apparently (I found this out later) HER mother was pretty up front with how she felt about things, and was none too shy about making sure her offspring knew her stance.  On EVERYTHING.  And don’t we always swear to do EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of what our parents did?

So we grew up with a lot of this:

Me:  Mom, what do you think of my current boyfriend?

Mom:  It doesn’t matter. I’m not the one dating him.

Sis:  Mom, do you think I should cut my hair?

Mom:  It’s your hair.  Do what you want with it.

Afterwards, my sister and I debriefed about our readings a bit (yes, while we were shopping – at the outlet mall this time to mix it up a bit.)

And as we were searching for the best slip-on walking shoes and the perfect jeans, we realized something.

The damaging influences he had referenced – the toxic relationships, the disapproving parents – these weren’t playbacks of external experiences.

They were internal.

In my sister’s case, Mom never really frowned on her life choices.  But my sister is so adept at self-flagellation, she was creating her own voice of disapproval.  RIGHT INSIDE HER HEAD.

It wasn’t Mom’s voice she was hearing – it was her own.

And with me – the “toxic relationship” is, in reality, with…myself.  It’s with the person who has food issues.  It’s the condescending voice hissing insults at me while I walk around with a BMI of about 18, telling me I’m too fat to eat back the precious few calories I burned on my morning run.  It’s that internal judge that hands out the verdict of “unacceptable” every time I look in the mirror and catch sight of my thighs.

The challenge?  It’s really, really hard to divorce your brain.  It’s awfully tough to break old thought patterns – to jackhammer out the long-ago-set concrete and haul the heavy chunks to the garbage dump.

It’s exhausting.

But if I move one piece at a time, and keep at it, eventually I’ll get there.

I had a small taste of what that might look like just this week.  I was sporting some of my new stuff – a new top, and what I thought were decent jeans (I can never be sure – I get myself thinking they look OK in the dressing room, but once I get home and look at them in MY mirror…well, ugh.  Thighs again.)

And you know what?  I thought I actually looked pretty good.

IlookOK

Throughout the day, I reminded myself that I looked just fine.

(Even now, I’m hesitating to post this picture, because I’m still second-guessing those damn thighs.)

But some  of the time?  I think, maybe, I’m starting to believe it.

I’m OK.

I hereby give myself permission to BE. Just the way I am.  A work in progress.

I hope my sister does, too.

Your Fate in One Date

Last Friday, the hubs and I attempted to go on a date.

I don’t know how often married people are SUPPOSED to date…but what relationship experts and the interwebz dictate is that you should go on an actual date periodically.  You need to break away from the routine of work and cleaning and taxes and laundry and bills and kids and all the AAAAAAUUUUGGGHHHH in life and spend some time just existing as a couple.

Right?

I’ve mentioned before that I travel quite a bit; this takes me out of town a couple weekends a month.  Over the last few months, the hubs and I have been on opposite schedules – he’s been out of town when I’ve been back home, and vice versa.  The result is that we haven’t had a weekend together since January.

Finally, last weekend, the stars briefly realigned, and we found ourselves expecting a few days at home together.

All week, the hubs expressed how much he was looking forward to our weekend…to spending time together.  He texted me daily with his anticipation, and told me again when I arrived home from work in the evenings.

But the weekend got closer and closer, and although the hubs had thoroughly communicated how much he was looking forward to it…we hadn’t actually gotten around to planning anything.

When Thursday came around, I broached the subject.  My “so…what shall we do this weekend?” was met with “I don’t know.  What do YOU want to do?”

Gaaaaaah.

!@#($*#$!!

I haaaaaate that answer.

Because we ALL know that it means, “I don’t really want to come up with any suggestions or ideas, but if I don’t like what YOU pick, I don’t have to take any blame for not enjoying it all that much.”

I went through that on my birthday last summer.  And  I experienced this REPEATEDLY with my ex’s family….

<cue painful flashback>

Me: So where do you want to go for dinner?

Ex’s Family:  I don’t care.  Anywhere is fine.

Me:  Any suggestions?  Preferences? 

Them:  Nope, anything will be good.

Me:  Seriously.  What do you people feel like eating?

Them:  Whatever you want will be fine, I’m sure.

Me: OK.  How about Chinese food?

Them:  Eh.  I don’t really care for that.

Me:  Well, what about <insert local family restaurant that is mediocre at best, but I’m flipping STARRRRVING so I’ll take a sadness sandwich with flaccid fries at this point>

Them:  Well, that’d be OK, I guess…but we just ate there Tuesday.

Me:  Pizza, then. Everybody likes pizza!

Them:  Pizza gives us heartburn.  But if YOU want it….

Me:  <explodes into guttural caveman war cry; whips out machete and Lizzie Bordens them all into confetti and dances on their entrails>

(Side note:  Don’t eff with me when I’m hungry.)

Now, I know some spouses don’t “do” planning – perhaps you know a couple like this, or maybe you’ve lived this role.  No, it’s not fair, but that’s just the dynamic you get sometimes, and you can choose to be mad for a lifetime over something that will never, ever change, or you can accept your fate as the household travel agent and at least ensure you book the hotel chain that actually washes the blankets.

But for those weekends where I’ve been out of town, and he’s been home, the hubs has managed to fill his dance card to the brim with things to do, places to go, and people to see.

So it’s obvious he’s perfectly capable of planning something.

If it’s important.

So I started the weekend kind of dejected that I didn’t make the priority list.  And it was apparent that if we were going to have plans, I was going to have to be the one to come up with them.

So I figured I’d try to salvage the date a bit by picking something I’d enjoy. I decided to look at comedy clubs.  I live in a pretty large metro area, and we have several to choose from.  And we’d never been to one, and this might give us a chance to laugh together.  Plus… booze.  Comedy + alcohol HAS to be promising…right?

I poked around online and found that Pete Correale was performing at the club closest to us.  I’d never heard of the dude (because I don’t have cable, and I live in a cave), but the comedy club PROMISED it was a hot act, and the trailer looked OK.  So I bought tickets, put on something sexy a thick sweater and jeans, because even though it’s April, it’s freaking sleeting outside (come ON, Mother Nature, catch up here, my Christmas tree is finally put away so you can let Spring in now) and waited for the hubs to come home so we could start our date.

He came home a bit early, which was great.  The show wasn’t for another four hours, so he suggested we head over early to eat (the club is on the top floor of one of our local highbrow malls; there were plenty of great food options there), and then we could just browse around until the show started.

(In hindsight, this is where it started to go south.  A good writer would call this “foreshadowing.”  The hubs HATES the mall, generally.  He swiftly loses patience with the lollygaggers, aisle-hoggers, and aimless tourists who lack both general direction AND peripheral vision, and quickly bores with the sport of elbowing people out of his way. Yes, he was the one suggesting we go early, but dangit, I KNOW this song, and the ending is the same every time it plays.)

The hubs went to change out of his work clothes.  And he came out – for our date – for our first evening together in MONTHS – in one of THOSE shirts.  One of those shirts that states his beliefs boldly across his chest – right at eye-level for me.  One of the shirts that blasts like an LED-powered billboard how spiritually far apart we are.

The shirt looked something like this:

jerkshirt

Shirt from cafepress.com

On the surface, I know this isn’t that bad.  He has every right to state his beliefs publicly.  And it’s not in-your-face offensive, like a lot of the shirts he agreed to throw away.

But still.  It’s a public testimony to all the things not OK about this marriage.  It’s a reminder that he and I might not work this relationship out.

And he chose THAT to wear on our date.

And I chose to say nothing.

I mean, I don’t want to gut the mood, right?  I’ve been looking forward to this evening all week – no reason to start it on a sour note.

Shake it off, Kate. Put on your happy hat.

We head to the mall, and I lead him to a pizza place that I’d recently tried.  Dinner actually went well – pizza is kind that way.  Plus, I was absolutely ravenous – I hadn’t eaten all day, because, you know, dinner out has more calories than I normally get in a week day.

So.  Dinner.  Then we had three hours to kill before the show started.

We walked the mall, checking out the tchotchke shops.  Things were…pleasant, I guess.

It wasn’t overly romantic.  It wasn’t hostile or tense.

It was just…kinda flat.

About an hour into our strolling, he sneered.  Made a sound.

“What?”

“That guy down there.  The one selling pillows.  He had to pull his cross out of his shirt just now, so everybody could see it, I guess.  Look, the guy in the poster has it too.  I don’t know why he needs to do that.”

Um.  Dude.  May I direct your attention to your shirt?

The one with HERETIC in bold letters?

Hello? 

The irony phone’s ringing, but his cell’s clearly on vibrate.

And I chose – again – to say nothing.

Because it’ll put a damper on the mood.  Because I don’t want to pick a fight.  Because I don’t have the energy to address the issue, not at the end of a busy week in a crowded shopping mall. Because I’m afraid the next straw will be the last one, and this delicate, fragile relationship we’re whispering and tiptoeing around will shatter into tiny splinters, irreparably and permanently broken.

We headed up to the show, and thankfully, it was good for some hearty laughs – and some yummy drinks.  I enjoyed the break from the tension, as well as my personal “sunset”:

IMG_4736

Alcohol saves the day.

But, despite the laughs…the evening left me disappointed.

Hollow.

Empty.

I reminisced about our early dates, where we’d talk and laugh over beer and nachos well into the wee hours; where we’d hold hands and just be content with each other’s company.

And I realized something.

If tonight had been our first date, it probably would have been our last.  I would have seen that, although the evening was pleasant enough, and he was a generally likeable guy, we just had differences too big to ignore.

How does a couple go from being so crazy in love, so absolutely CERTAIN of their insanely aligned compatibility, to “I don’t know if I can do this”?

How does the landscape shift so violently in such a short time?  And when it does, why is no one able to identify exactly where the volcano started or where the meteor fell?

And how does this happen to two intelligent, emotionally stable, experienced adults?

We could try to blame the whole Ashley Madison “incident.”  But…that’s a symptom.  Not a cause.

People change.  They’re constantly changing.  And they don’t always change together.

I feel like I’m on an island, watching him standing on a boat docked just out of my reach.

He’s drifting farther and farther away.

If I go to him – if I jump onto the boat – will it tip over, drowning us both?

If I don’t vault high enough, far enough…how long will I stay afloat in the icy water?

The boat sways.

Dips.

Lurches.

Do I have the faith to leap? 

 

A Jawful of Sweet Tooth

“Don’t you have a sweet tooth?”

This question was posed to me over dinner on Saturday.  I was at the in-laws with the hubs, and we were enjoying one of my mother-in-law’s delicious home-cooked meals.

Let me preface this a bit by explaining that when it came to in-law assignment, I hit the absolute jackpot.  Most in-laws, after all, are fodder for many a gripe, complaint, and vent. The very phrase “mother-in-law” is pretty much stand-alone comedy; no one has to actually SAY anything to quantify it, because, well….

Let’s try it:

Mother-in-law.

<group cringe>

Right?

After a lifetime of hearing horror stories from friends, relatives, and the internet, I know I am very blessed to be able to say that this is NOT the case with my mother-in-law.  The hubs is an only child, and when I married her son, she adopted me as her daughter.  And my kids get the same love, affection, and holiday presents as the blood grandchildren. On Mother’s Day, my mother-in-law actually sends ME a card – AND a gift.  (Which is kind of wrong.  But… I like presents.)

In addition to being an excellent cook, she’s also been gifted with the crafting gene.  She’s knitted me (and the kids, of course) many quality sweaters, hats, and scarves.  And to clarify, these are not your grandmother’s creations featured on the Goodwill rack of Ugly Christmas Sweaters.  These are things THAT PEOPLE ACTUALLY WANT TO WEAR IN PUBLIC.  Case in point:  A few months ago, I went to a local women’s art festival wearing a sweater and matching knit hat she had made me.  I received no fewer than a dozen unsolicited compliments on the set.  (And, incidentally, three phone numbers.  From women.  Hey, when ya got it, ya got it.  <strut strut> )  Seriously, though – is there a higher compliment in the knitting world than accolades from legit professional artists?

And she really, really outdoes herself at Christmas.  She doesn’t just include my kids – she incorporates them as equals.  When her grandsons were born, she made them each a very elaborate Christmas stocking.  I don’t speak craft-ese, but I believe they’re made from felt, cross-stitching,  wishes, and pixie dust.  Anyway, they are beautiful and look like they were a hella-tonna work.  And the Christmas after her son and I got engaged, there were two new stockings hanging on the deer antlers* over the fireplace for my little cherubs.

*Yes, they decorate the deer head.  Antlers are perfect for holding lights and stockings.  (And other things.)  Besides, the mantle was full of Christmas cards and the holiday letters that spell “LEON.”  They’re meant to say “NOEL,” but I visit too often for tradition to stand unblemished.  You’ve seen my Christmas tree angel.   And the manger scene?  Sometimes, if he’s really good, Baby Jesus gets a party hat or a stogie, or a visit from Batman, a giraffe, and some Disney celebs. 

(Side note:  I hope I didn’t offend anybody with that.  But I’m of the camp that thinks Jesus appreciates a good sense of humor.  I mean, platypus.  And how babies are made.  Followed by how they actually get OUT.  Come on, man, that’s stand up GOLD right there.)

(Side B note:  We just took down our Christmas tree earlier this week, after lighting it up one last time on April Fool’s Day.  Yeah…I’m THAT neighbor.)

Suffice it to say that meals at my mother-in-law’s house are the furthest thing from “everyday.”  When we’re up, she heartily takes on the challenge of feeding two carnivores, a very picky vegetarian, AND a gluten-free person.  She plans detailed menus AHEAD OF TIME.  She uses the oven AND the stove.  Not just in the same day, but FOR THE SAME MEAL.   And her meals have a main dish, several sides, fresh fruit, and a couple veggies.

And dessert.

There is always, always dessert.

Dessert is a treat, and since she’s a people-pleaser, she wants to ensure that everyone has a treat that they like.  You would imagine that having a homemade dessert present at EVERY lunch and dinner would be an amazing act of baking heroics.  But she knocks all expectation out of the park by offering two (or three!!!) homemade desserts.  It’s become standard operating procedure to have pumpkin pie, apple pie squares, AND chocolate pudding available.  Of course, there’s vanilla ice cream AND whipped cream.  And this doesn’t even count the two or three flavors of homemade cookies just sitting on the counter – because cookies aren’t dessert, silly, they’re a snack.

Oh, and guess what?  THAT ENTIRE FAMILY IS TALL AND THIN.  If they weren’t such sweethearts, I would really, really, hate this so hard I can’t even tell you.  But they’re all gazelles, willowy and lanky and lean as can be.  At their family get-togethers, I feel like the dumpy garden gnome who married into a clan of pink flamingos.

(WARNING:  I wanted to insert a picture here, but…. Let me just say you should NOT, for the love of all that is holy and good, Google image-search “gnome with pink flamingo.”  You canNOT unsee that.)

(You did it anyway, didn’t you.)

Having food issues can be tough:  you struggle with the dichotomy of wanting to be slender, but wanting, craving, NEEDING to eat the very foods that prevent you from getting there.  After years of alternating dieting/starvation with binges of Thanksgiving-meal proportions, you and the elusive concept of moderation are, as the Brits say, like chalk and cheese.  You’re just not coexisting in the same harmonious stew.

Now imagine marrying into a family where they serve you three full meals a day, with a small buffet of desserts at two of them, and in-between you’re surrounded by cookies and other snacks and (of course!) beer and wine, and EVERY PERSON IN THE ROOM EATS ALL THIS SCRUMPTIOUS, FATTENING FOOD AND NEVER GAINS A POUND.

Every person except you.

I’ve handled these meals much as you’d expect an OSFED eating-disordered person to handle them:  randomly and illogically.  My approach on any given visit is one or more of the following:

* I’ve eaten two big platefuls of food, followed by two desserts.  (Commonly known as the “F it” approach.)

* I’ve feigned a migraine and “slept” through dinner. (Avoidance.)

* I’ve eaten only vegetables and fruit for dinner. (Restriction.)

* I’ve eaten one small, sensible plate of mostly healthy food at the table, followed by an ENTIRE (!!) batch of chocolate chip cookies at 10PM when everyone else was asleep.  (Or peanut butter cookies.  Or snickerdoodles.  BECAUSE ALL OF THEM ARE AVAILABLE ALL THE TIME.)  (I believe this is called the “hot mess” method.)

* I’ve brought my bike and put in 15 miles on the road in the morning…and then polished off several servings of pie a la mode:  one slice at the table, one slice while pretending to clean the kitchen, and a third slice on the way home in the car while remembering I was SUPPOSED to be on a diet. (A permutation of “hot mess.”  There are several.)

But most of the time – at least in the last year or so – I don’t have dessert.  I’ve been learning that sugar is the gateway drug to a bigger binge; it flips my inner switch from “calm” to “anxious”, which has the domino effect of flinging my self-esteem into the virtual Port-o-Potty.  After all, as any dieter knows, once you’ve had dessert, you’ve FAILED, and further efforts at calorie regulation are moot.

And, as I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been on a roll with keeping my eating in check, and I’m seeing actual PROGRESS, reflected in a weight I haven’t seen since 2009 (and not since high school before THAT.)  So I don’t want to risk cracking the dam even a little bit, no matter how fabulous that ice cream cake looks.

(By the way?   It.  Was.  Beautiful. <sniff> )

So my mother-in-law hasn’t seen me eat dessert in awhile.  I typically munch on some fresh fruit while the rest of the family heartily digs in.

So last Saturday, as she’s spooning hot fudge sauce over the ice cream cake (half chocolate, half vanilla, just in case you have a preference) that I once again politely decline, she asks me the question:

“Don’t you have a sweet tooth?”

Do I have a sweet tooth?  Inside my head, an answer screams.

Yes.  As Godiva is my witness, dear Mother of Milkshakes, YESYESYESYES YES!  I want to rip the spatula out of your hand and shovel that delicious chocolatey goodness directly into my gaping pie hole.  I want to smother your home-baked cookies in both peanut butter AND that homemade fudge sauce and eat them until the snap from my jeans pops off at a velocity that takes out a window.  I want pancakes and cotton candy and deep-fried Oreos and doughnuts, all frosted with buttercream frosting and topped with coconut.

But I can’t.

I can’t have any of this, because my self-worth is tied up with my self-control.  Because every time I use the washroom, I look up at the mirror and judge my thighs.  Because no matter how good I feel about myself today, the scale will be there in the morning, just like she is EVERY morning, tapping her foot and waiting to issue me a failing grade.  And even on that rare day when even she can’t find anything negative to say, there’s always a store window or glass door to reflect my current valuation back at me.”

Sigh.

I don’t say any of this, of course.

I quietly shake my head and help myself to some watermelon (45 calories a cup.)   I bite my tongue, paste a serene smile on my face, and silence my wistful soul.

I pretend to be satisfied.

I pretend to be happy.

 

 

(Cover image source)