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.

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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.

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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.

Stay-cation Rejuvenation

A couple of weeks ago, my sister came to visit.

I know for most families, this sort of thing happens all the time – on weekends, holidays, or any random day of the week ending in the letter “Y.” But I don’t live anywhere near my family, so this is more of an event.  My parents are halfway across the country, and they’ve only come to visit once in the ten years I’ve lived here – they really don’t care for the hassles of travel (can ya blame ’em?) The only thing that enticed them to visit was my wedding.  Barring any additional marriages, and factoring in my dad’s health, I don’t think it’s likely they’ll visit again.

My brother’s never visited, either. His wife…well, she likes to be near her parents. I’m told she dropped out of college (twice, if I’m not mistaken) because being away from Mom and Dad all week was asking a bit too much. (I don’t mean to be unkind with that statement. It’s just fact. And my brother literally lives across the street from my parents, so there’s a lid for every pot, I suppose.) Also, she’s kind of a germaphobe, despite having three boys, so hotels and gas station rest rooms really stress her out. (Also not being cruel. Being grossed out by public bathrooms is totally legit. With the amount of travel I do, I have to ignore the reports on how nasty these places are, lest I contract into an immobile, inconsolable twitch ball.

My sister is the more adventurous one. She and her spouse have actually been out to visit twice – once for my aforementioned wedding, and once for our annual State Fair, where you can see top-billing performers like Weird Al and REO Speedwagon* perform, AND you can get pretty much any food deep-fried and served on a stick.

*Side note: I didn’t get tickets to REO Speedwagon. To date, this is my life’s biggest regret.

This time, though, it was just my sister making the trip. She’s been going through some life-decision personal-type stuff, so she needed a break from reality. Plus, she had some vacation time to burn, so out she came.

I should mention that I actually haven’t had a bona-fide vacation in years. I use all of my paid time off for my kids’ stuff, and to visit family. Sure, I take time off – the week between Christmas and New Years is sacred rest-and-recharge-at-home time – but the last time I had a stay-overnight-in-a-non-family-member-town was our brief two-night honeymoon in 2007.

Suffice it to say I’m long overdue.

So when I heard my sister was coming, I decided to make it as close to a vacation as possible. I scheduled a day and a half off, and started making plans.

During the six days she was here, we:

Worked a volunteer shift at Feed My Starving Children, packing food for hungry people. This is a really cool organization; they’re tremendously well-organized and they help groups do a lot of good in a short time. If you’re looking for an opportunity to chuck some positive energy into the world, check them out. They make it stupid easy to make a huge impact:  They set groups up assembly-line style, allowing you to pack hundreds of meals in just under two hours.  You can volunteer at one of their facilities, or with a MobilePack event where the work comes to you!

(The food they pack tastes kind of like Rice-a-Roni, in case you’re wondering.  They’ll usually let you sample it when you’re done.  Incidentally, it’s vegetarian, and they beef** it up with some proprietary superfood vitamin-enhanced nutrient powder.  Here’s the science.)

** Haha.  See what I did there…

And speaking of food….

Tried a couple new restaurants. Well, new to ME, anyway. When you have food issues, you tend to stick with the tried-and-true…or at least the places where you have some hope of accurately tracking the calories in what you’re eating. But while my sister was here, I was able to give myself a break.  I enjoyed pizza, a diner omelet, a MetaBoost Bowl***, AND a concrete mixer from our local Culver’s. (Because there is no Culver’s where she lives. Tragic. Simply tragic.) And I ate all of these things without beating myself up with the empty dish afterwards. (OK, I beat myself up a little, especially after Culver’s. But I did my best to forgive myself – and that alone is progress.)

***Kale, edamame, and unicorn sweat or something. It was really good, but I still can’t leap tall buildings or see through people, so I kinda feel like I should get a refund. #falseadvertising

Got coordinating tattoos. LOOK HOW CUTE THEY ARE:

tattooos

It kills me dead how horrified poor Cookie Monster looks.

I mentioned a while back that my sis and I have grown pretty close, after basically not speaking for several years. So when she suggested we get tattoos, I was all over the idea. Once she found the basic design, I put our fates in the hands of an artist named…wait for it… Bleach Methane.  (I mean…with a name like that, he has GOT to know what he is doing. Right? And check out his work – the dude’s got wicked talent.)

If you look closely, you’ll see that the tattoos are slightly different.  We each got an eighth note – hers is an A#; mine’s a Bb. If you know anything about music, you know they’re the same pitch, written differently. How freaking poetic for sisters is THAT? We are geniuses, both of us.

Shopped like it was our job, yo. I live dangerously close to one of the biggest shopping malls in the country. I can’t quite hit it with a rock (because my aim is atrocious, and throwing rocks at buildings will generally get you arrested, even if you miss) but if I go for a run outside, I can literally SEE the mall from some of my paths. It’s a huge tourist attraction, and we spent the better part of three days there.

You read that right.  THREE FULL DAYS. When they finally recognize shopping as an Olympic sport, you NEED us on your team. We’ll make the US proud. Feel free to contact me directly for the endorsement deals.

Took a yoga class. Because ice cream.  And pizza. And because it feels good to stretch and bend. I really need to remember how much I like yoga – not the getting up early and sweating part (duh. Have we met?) but how accomplished, energized, and centered I feel when it’s done. I’m more serene, more confident in my ability to…well, to adult. It helps me shift my overactive, anxious brain from marathon-sprint speed to engaged stroll mode. And afterwards, I’m a little bit kinder to my physical self, having a refreshed appreciation for all the cool stuff my body can actually DO.

So yeah, I need to get that shiz on the agenda more than twice a year.

Visited a tarot card reader. I’ve mentioned that I’ve dabbled in the occasional psychic reading/aura photo dealio before.  To be clear, I’m not one of those people who needs to IM a mystic in order to determine what side dishes to serve at dinner or anything.  I understand that it’s more like reading a horoscope – if you WANT it to apply, your brain will find a way to make it appear so.

That said, my experiences have been really positive. I’ve received fairly consistent messages with my readings – specifically, I need to take better care of myself mentally and not be so hard on myself. Since I’m fairly self-aware, none of this is exactly talk-show-interrupting news.

But these readings often give me validation for things I’m feeling or experiencing. They motivate me to challenge myself, to make changes…or, at the very least, think over some of the things I need to think about. (Like promising myself to spend more time writing, and when I fail to do that, not beating myself up quite so much.)

Ultimately, after a “good” reading, I almost feel like the universe has granted me permission to be exactly who I am.  And if that helps me be a better ME, that’s not a bad thing at all.

Everyone has a different view on this sort of thing, and I wasn’t exactly sure where my sister sat on this spectrum. But, at the very least, it’d be entertaining, right? And maybe she’d get some direction for what she was trying to work through.

I made appointments for us to see Jeff Tyler. I’d seen him a few months earlier at some kind of holistic enlightenment fair, and had a mini-reading with him. At the time, I was pretty impressed. I totally dug his approach – he’s direct, doesn’t BS you, and drops the F-bomb a lot.

PERFECT.

So we had our readings, and we each heard a lot of things…

…which I’ll share in a future post.  🙂

My sister flew back on a Wednesday evening. Her suitcase, packed with some of her new treasures, was just one pound shy of the weight limit. (Skillz, we haz ’em.)  I’m hoping she was able to leave behind some of the soul-sucking stress she was carrying.

I know you can’t fill the pit of anxiety and depression with material things. New clothes and good food only give you a temporary feel-good boost; they do nothing to actually clean out the pre-existing clutter in your head.

But the exercise of unplugging from the daily thought patterns can help you disconnect from the stress that surrounds you.  It’s a ray of light breaking through the fog to give you a view of the mountains you’d forgotten were just outside the window.

I had no idea how badly I needed the break until I took one.

Aaaaahhhhhhh.

Hey, sis?  Same time next year?

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? 

 

Ordinary Folks, Powerful Feels (Part 2 of 2)

In my last post, I talked about one of the dynamic speakers we had at our safety conference.  As I mentioned, he left an impression, and gave me lots to think about.

But the emotional pinata had only taken a few whacks at this point.  I had no idea it was about to be flogged until it hemorrhaged its contents all over me.


It was time for the next speaker.

A man by the name of Frank DeAngelis took the podium.

You might not recognize that name at first.  But it may ring a bell when I tell you that Frank DeAngelis was the principal of Columbine High School from 1996 – 2014.  And it was on April 20, 1999,  that two of his students carried out one of the largest school shootings in US history.

For the next hour and a half, we relive the terror of that day through Frank’s eyes.  We listen to his horrific account of watching students be shot and killed.  Of facing the gunman and hearing glass shatter around him.  Of seeing a fellow teacher distract the shooter long enough for him to hustle other students to safety, and of hearing the gunshots that would silence the voice of a dear friend.

We hear the anguish of the first responders, frustrated at their inability to do anything but wait outside, knowing what was taking place as they watched helplessly. (They were forbidden to enter the area until it was secure; that protocol has since changed.)  We can only imagine the tension – and relief – as the surviving students meet their parents at a nearby elementary school, and the unspeakable grief of those parents remaining when they are informed, by heartbroken officials, that no more students will be arriving.

Frank’s life was spared that day – but it was forever changed. It goes without saying that the trajectory of his life was knocked completely and permanently off its path.  And the nightmare didn’t stop when the shooters died.  There were students – and families – to support, and a school to run.  And there was additional fallout:  He was named in several lawsuits – when you’re grieving, you need a place to hang the hat of blame, and a lot of parents threw berets in his direction.  His marriage didn’t survive, and he is working to rebuild the relationship with his daughter, who stood aside as Frank poured his life into the needs of his students.

But then we began to hear a story of rebuilding, community, and hope.  We hear how,  through time, faith, support, and an unparalleled strength of character, Frank and the community began to heal.

I was fortunate to be able to talk with Frank later that evening.  A small group of us shared life stories and laughs over drinks later that night.  He’s a very congenial dude, really charming, friendly, and genuine.  Very Italian, by the way.  (He’ll tell you that in the first five minutes you speak to him.)

And human.  Very human.

I won’t begin to call Frank DeAngelis ordinary.  No one who positively impacted the lives of so many young adults – who genuinely CARED, and continues to care, about each and every person impacted by this horrific event – who helped rebuild a community – can be called “ordinary.”

But he was certainly a regular guy.  And one day, a terrible, terrible thing happened.  It would have been understandable if he’d left his job at Columbine.  But he stayed until every student who was enrolled in 1999 graduated.  (And a couple more years for good measure.)

Nowadays, in “retirement,” he advises on matters of school safety.

And he offers a message of hope.


I spent the next day of the conference involved in active-shooter training.

As you can imagine from the subject matter – it was a pretty intense day.  We analyzed case studies, listening to the 911 calls from the March 2009 Carthage, NC nursing home shooting.  We watched the video of the Bay District School Board shooting from December 2010.  (Yes, the entire thing is on video, because they routinely televised these meetings locally.)

And then we watched Run. Hide. Fight.

If you haven’t watched this video, you probably should.  (And spoiler alert – there are people with guns shooting down people without guns.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you; watch at your own risk.)

I’m severely disturbed that we live in a world where safety professionals are advising us to watch things like this, and to have “active shooter” drills in the workplace. But just since that training day, we’ve had two more incidents hit the headlines:  Kalamazoo, MI the day after I left, and a workplace shooting in Hesston, KS last Thursday.

It’s hard to deny that we need to prep employees for this, just like you might practice a fire drill or tornado watch.  But I can’t say that one can ever truly be prepared for anything like this.

We’re told to train our employees to run – get out – if they hear gunshots.  Study your workspace and think about where they’d hide if they couldn’t escape.  Plan for what you could use to barricade the door.  What you’d fight with if cornered.  Play dead if you have to.  Lie in a pool of someone else’s blood so they think they’ve already shot you.

Sometimes, the world is truly terrifying.


On my way home last Friday, I got the message that a dear friend’s husband passed away suddenly.  He leaves behind a young son, and the sweetest, dearest woman on the planet will now be faced with reconstructing her life without the husband she obviously loved very dearly.

He was just a couple of years younger than me.

The following Monday morning, I was advised than an HR friend had lost her battle to cancer.

She was talented.  Witty.  Spunky.  She personified “scrappy.”  An animal lover.  A beautiful soul.

She’s my age.

Two young, strong, vibrant lights, extinguished forever.

Most of the time, we take living for granted.  Every day, we expect to wake up in the morning.  (Slowly, and reluctantly, but we do eventually reach the generally recognized state of “awake.”)  We go to work with the understanding that eight (OK, ten or twelve) hours later, we’ll be returned to our families in pretty much the same shape we started in, albeit a bit tired or cranky.  Later, we eat dinner and go to bed, with no doubt about repeating the routine tomorrow.

But sometimes, on a very ordinary day, a terrible, terrible thing happens.  On average, 550 people per year will be murdered at work.  Nearly 90 people per day will be killed in a motor vehicle accident.

And if that doesn’t get you, there’s always the Big C.  If you go to this page, you can pull some interesting stats:

In 1975, for ages 20-49, there were 137 cancer deaths per 100,000.  In 2012 there were 157. Is 157 a big number?  No.  But it is a 15% increase.

Let’s look at the under-20 set.  Thankfully, there aren’t a lot of children dying from cancer, but even one is far too many – especially if it’s YOUR kid.  During this same time period, the incidence rate per 100 went from 13 cases to 17 1/2 – a 35% increase.

Sonofabeach96 wrote a post the other day about this very thing.

Right now, I feel like I have things sorta figured out. That concerns me, as that’s when life tends to kick you in the nads….

That said, if life is all ebb and flow, yin and yang, and good times, bad times, then will, or when will, my other shoe drop?

Once in a while, life slaps you right in the face with the fact that it can be unfairly random.  You can do everything right – exercise, eat right, live peacefully, and take every safety precaution – and you still might draw the short stick.

I mentioned my friend died from cancer.  Lung cancer, to be specific.  I know what you’re wondering, but please, please don’t ask me if she smoked.  What the hell does it matter?  Will it bring her back if I say “no”?  Will it offer YOU some sort of comfort, knowing you’ve never smoked, and allow you to believe it can’t happen to you?

Because it can.

Or something else can.

Today was not my day.  If you’re reading this, it wasn’t your turn, either.


So what am I doing with my life?  Why, I’m weighing myself daily while measuring every bite I take and beating myself up when the food I dare to eat inevitably displays itself on my thighs. 

For what, exactly?  Am I hoping for a smaller coffin?  Do I want to be a slighter target for a gunman, or have the ability to hide in a smaller space? 

Do I really think that will make any difference?

Shouldn’t I be focusing on the business of living?

It’s certainly food for thought.

I’ll be sure to ponder this while counting calories burned on my treadmill.  And, ya know, I’ll be dreading getting on the thing…but I shouldn’t be taking it for granted.

For now, I’m doing my best to throw a little kindness out into the world, trying to chuck good vibes out where I can.  In the airport last week, a lady was a bit rude to me – her kid rammed my chair while I was eating, and I’ll admit I gave him the stinkeye.  She got a bit mouthy – and while I have no doubts about my ability to defeat most opponents in a verbal showdown, I opted to remember how frustrating it can be to have an energetic young son, and decided to pray for patience and peace for her.

Sure, I could have sparred with her, but what good would it do?  You’d just have two angry people instead of one – and there’s enough hostility in the world already.  Right?

And in the middle of the week, I had just started my 35-minute commute (OK, it’s more like 40, but I start the day as an optimist) when someone ran a stop sign.  I blared the horn and slammed on the brakes, leaving an enviable patch.  Thankfully, I missed solidly T-boning her – but not by much.

Quickly, I made the decision not to be angry.  It was clearly a mistake.  (She looked VERY surprised.  Stop signs are subtle, sneaky things, sprouting up randomly in places they’ve never been before.)  Haven’t I made mistakes before?  Abso-freakin-lutely.  And I’d want to be forgiven.  I prayed for focus and calm for her and went on my way.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m still capable of getting plenty angry – both at others and at myself.  I’m not some peace pioneer – not by any stretch.

But, while I can’t be the sun, I can certainly try to shine a flashlight into the dark, dusty corners in my quest to find the good things about this sometimes bleak, scary planet.

And if anyone comes out swinging,  I’ll whack ’em in the cranium with the blunt end and run like hell.

Run.  Hide.  Fight. 

Breathe.

Hope.

Peace. 

Ordinary Folks, Powerful Feels (Part 1 of 2)

I mentioned in my last post that I’d just returned from a safety conference, and mentioned how these things normally go.  (Hint:  Zzzzzzzzz)

This week’s conference, however, was decidedly different. And it, along with some events over the weekend, kicked me right in the feels.

The conference started with two dynamic speakers.  First up:  Tony Crow, founder of INJAM.

“Tony Crow worked for TXU for 20 plus years.  During this time he attended numerous safety meetings.  He heard and knew the list of safety rules.  THey were so ingrained that he instictively followed them….

“But on February 15, 2003…Tony was accidentally shot.  He was totally blinded for life.”

(You can read more about Tony’s story here.)

What the above doesn’t tell you, however, is that Tony was shot by his 17-year-old son.

On the way to the hunting spot, Tony and his son passed a truck with passengers who were obviously hunters.  Tony remarked to his son that, due to the amount of orange they were wearing, they were OBVIOUSLY not locals. He chuckled as he commented that they must be from the big city.

He regrets that comment to this day.

While they were out hunting, Tony told his son he was going back…and on the way, he saw one more quail.  He made a game-time decision to go after it, changing direction from where he told his son he would be.

His son, thinking his father was elsewhere, saw the dog point.  And he shot.

He didn’t get the quail.

He shot his father.

In the face.

Instantly and permanently blinding him.  Forever. 

Think about that for a minute.

  • You’re suddenly blind.  Permanently.
  • Your son – not even an adult yet – has to live with the knowledge that he pulled the trigger.
  • Your life has changed forever.  As did the lives of your wife and son and family and friends and coworkers.  In an instant.
  • You could have prevented it.

Tony was an ordinary guy.  And one day, a terrible, terrible thing happened.

Tony turned his tragedy into a non-profit, and now tells his story nationwide.  He reminds us all that safety is never off the clock….and that accidents hurt so many more than just the injured party.

INJAM – It’s Not Just About Me.

And you know what?  He’s right.  And I realized that this applies to so much more than safety – it applies to mental health issues, too.

Selfishly, I looked at myself first.  I stared down my food issues and disordered eating for a good, long while.

Can I really pretend that I’m only hurting myself? 

Do I really think my coworkers don’t know exactly what I’m doing?

How can I possibly believe that this doesn’t impact my children?  My husband?

While my daughter, thankfully, seems to be very well-adjusted, how can she NOT be impacted by having a mother who weighs and measures her food?  I’ve tried really hard, of course, to keep my issues from her…but let’s be real here – teenagers are not idiots.  True, they often appear to not be listening, but they have a well-honed radar that quickly targets the very things you hoped they’d gloss over, like how much you really spent on those boots, or how much you actually drank in college.

What is she actually hearing?  What am I teaching her? 

My son has, on occasion, called me “bony.”  That shouldn’t be a good thing.  Yet, I can’t help but feel flattered.  How twisted does one have to be to view this as a compliment?  (Not very.  I betcha $5 at least six of you reading this feel the exact same way.  Fess up, ladies.)

Side note:  I should add that my son is freakishly strong – like Bamm-Bamm.

When he first started kindergarten, he loved wrestling the upper-classmen.  It was nothing for him to take out a fourth grader.  I remember when he was seven, he was carrying around his 13-year-old cousin – who, at the time, weighed about 90 pounds or so. Now, he’s super helpful when his dad needs help moving a piano, or when my daughter is feeling lazy and wants Doritos, but doesn’t want to leave her room – she then gets a piggyback ride up the stairs.

Anyway.

Coworkers?  I don’t want to flatter myself by pretending anyone pays that much attention to me, but….

I manage a small team at work, and it’s just common knowledge that I don’t really eat.  I don’t get invited out to lunch anymore, because I never go – I’ve turned down too many invitations for them to continue to bother.  When we have work meetings, I bring my own snacks – or just slug a bottle of water.  When our CEO was new, he held department meetings, providing lunch during the meet-and-greets.  I brought an apple.

“What, my food’s not good enough for you?”

“Nope.”  <crunch> 

(I’m still there a year later, so I guess it wasn’t complete career suicide.)

And then there’s my husband.

I know he and I have had our issues, but you know what?  He does a lot of stuff really, really right.  He’s working so hard at fixing “us.”  And my contribution?  I’ve been trying to silence the voices inside my head that cut me down – or at least, not give them a megaphone by repeating what they say out loud.

If a candy bar falls to the floor, and no one eats it, did it really fall?  And does it still have calories? 

<looks around innocently>

What candy bar?  <omnomnom>

So, we’re not talking about it.  Inwardly, I’ve decided to sweep it under the rug, at least at home.

My logic, as flawed as it may sound:  I’ve mentioned before that over the last year or so he’s been doing a lot of research and reading to shore up and quantify his beliefs. For awhile, he was pretty angry about the whole thing.  This came to a head about a year ago.  Since that time, he’s gradually begun to let go of the anger, and we’re starting to talk more.  Slowly, and carefully.  Gently pulling back the bandages to see if the wounds have started to heal.

But I still don’t like it very much.

So I figure that if he can explore spiritual stances I will never agree with, I am certainly free to diet, exercise, and lose as much weight as I want, regardless of how much he claims to not want me to.

Makes sense, right?  I perceive some of his anger as unhealthy and damaging.  He’d say the same about my eating habits.

We’re even.  Size invisible, here I come.

But since it’s not just about me…let’s talk about other stuff.  When you hear “mental illness,” what comes to mind?

Do you think about the recent workplace shooting in Kansas?

Do you connect this term with the random rambling, scraggly homeless person you see on the street?

Do you remember yourself, or a relative, struggling with postpartum depression?

Do you recall a relative or friend who self-medicated with alcohol, drugs, or food?

More importantly, did you TALK about any of this?   Or did you pretend that the issues – or the people themselves – were invisible?  If you did discuss it, was it in hushed tones?  Behind closed doors?  Was it…scandalous?  Embarrassing?  Humiliating?

Cherokee Doll wrote the other day about the stigma, shame, and guilt that mental illness can bring.

“The stigma surrounding mental illness is well known and remarked upon. Although there is a wider movement to de-stigmatize mental illness and other invisible illnesses, the fight is only beginning. Victim blaming of the mentally ill is widespread, casual, and accepted. Rarely do people bother to stop and put themselves in the shoes of the mentally ill….

“No one would speak to a cancer patient that way.”

Her post illustrates so well some of the challenges with mental illness, and highlights the hurdles we as a society haven’t been able to clear.

hurdlepile

Somehow, instead of mocking, shaming, and creating memes for social media, we need to find a way to help each other climb over the obstacles and clear the hurdles together.

“…I am VERY painfully aware every day of my life how much pain me and my illness have brought to those around me…just know that I already inflict enough of that guilt upon myself. You don’t need to throw it in my face too. I have spent a lifetime blaming myself. No need for you to jump on that bandwagon too. I hate me more than you ever could.”

How can we help each other heal?

Extend a hand.  Lend an ear.  Hug often.

You may not be able to pull someone out of the darkness – we’re not mental health professionals, obviously – but you’ll give them something to hold onto.

Hope.  Love.  Understanding. A reminder that they aren’t invisible, and you know that they still exist…and they matter.

It helps to heal.  And healing helps all of us.

Because mental health issues impact ALL of us.

It’s not just about me.


The next speaker was (spoiler alert) a man by the name of Frank DeAngelis.  But I’ll talk about him in my next post.

(to be continued)

Stressing About…Stuff. Part II of II

In my last post, I pretty much threw my ex under the proverbial clutter bus and mocked his collection of endless lotion, empty plastic containers, and pianos.

But if I’m being completely honest with myself, I’m not immune to the desire to hang on to stuff I don’t need, either.

Case in point:  Shoes.

Last weekend, I was traveling (again) and my flight was booked through Erie, PA.  My return flight was cancelled when the sky started hemorrhaging snow.

(Yeah, I know better than to book through Erie during winter.  And for the unschooled, “winter” in Erie runs from October through April – if spring comes early.  But I was suckered in by a less expensive fare – can’t pass up a bargain, ya know.  Sigh.  Some bargain when you have an extra hotel night and a bonus day of car rental.)

So I got rebooked the next day, leaving me away from home for an extra 24 hours.  And how did I kill time?  Guess.

airportshoes

OK, so before you judge me, know that I was REPLACING my “airport shoes” – the shoes that are comfortable enough to get me from gate A2 to Z164 with an 11-minute layover, are easy to slip off for security, and work with both jeans AND yoga pants (because travel is sooooo glam.)  On my last trip, I noticed that my current pair was making parts of my feet fall asleep the longer I wore them,  so I NEEDED new ones. It’s a health thing.  And COME ON, MAN!  Not only were they 50% off the CLEARANCE price, they SPARKLE!  My feet are WORTH $24 glitter pillows. (Thank you, DSW, for feeding my addiction in an economically responsible way. Happiness at $12 a foot.)

And yet…I’ve been home since Monday night, and I haven’t quite moved the trusty black clogs to the donation pile yet.  I’m not sure why, exactly.  Blue sparkle SHOULD go with everything, but I’m holding back on the slim chance that flat black might be a better option at some point.  If I ever have to attend a funeral in the middle of an airport, I suppose I’m set.

And then there’s this shirt.  I got it as a thin layer to wear under sweaters and stuff, because it was ONLY $8 at Aeropostle Outlet.  But the last time I put it on, I noticed this:

justfleshwound

Just a flesh wound…

The suspected culprit:

notguilty

Nothing about THAT face says “guilty.”

Anyway, the point here is that it was only $8, I’ve worn it a kajillion times, AND thanks to the aforementioned Kohl’s addiction, I have an entire drawer full of Cuddl Duds that I bought SPECIFICALLY FOR THE SAME PURPOSE.

But…this is the only one with THIS pattern, ya know?  The OTHER black-and-white one has flowers, so it’s TOTALLY DIFFERENT. And maybe I could sew it back up.  You wouldn’t see the hole because it’d be under a sweater….

IT’S A RAG.

YET I WON’T THROW IT AWAY.

Sigh.

This behavior’s got to be at least partially hereditary.  My ex clearly gets his from his parents; there’s certainly a family resemblance in the way they cram their closets.  In my case, my guilty relative was my dad’s mom.

To be fair, Grandma was a Child of the Depression – so she learned to use up and reuse.  However, her spouse did quite well for himself with some Ford stock back in the day, and she clung to those behaviors long after she was more than “financially comfortable.”

When she passed, she left a four-bedroom house chock full of “treasures” that needed to be sorted.  And we had to actually look through everything, too, because Grandma left the plot twist of hiding cash in random locations.  I had her bedroom dresser for YEARS before I discovered a $5 bill from 1963 tucked under the shelf paper.  Oh, and remember those squeeze coin purses that banks used to give out?

squeeze coin purse:

Photo from eBay

In one of those, we found one of these:

Indian head gold coin $5:

That sucker’s about the size of a nickel, and was worth about – wait for it – $400 at the time.

FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS.  Dayum.  So yeah, we looked through EVERYTHING.

Of course, we ended up pitching a lot of stuff.  The canned food in the basement, now a furry gray, was a culinary adventure none of us were willing to take.  And there was an entire bedroom of her house filled with just two things: shopping bags and clothespins.

Yes, clothespins.

THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF THEM.

clothespins:

Much like the rest of us, Grandma didn’t just hang on to the old things.  She liked new stuff too.  Especially shoes.  I clearly inherited my love of shoes from Grandma.  She was on a life quest for the Perfect White Sandal – one with a chunky 1″ heel and straps that didn’t pinch her little toe.  (Nowadays, you’d just have that inconvenient appendage cut off.)  Unfortunately, she never found them – by the time she passed, she had well over one hundred pairs of sandals in near-mint condition.  More unfortunately, Grandma wore a size 5 1/2, which I probably haven’t worn since I WAS 5 1/2, so sadly, they all had to be donated.

Grandpa passed away a few years before I was born, leaving Grandma fairly well-off.  She spent much of her time traveling the globe, bringing back dolls and spoons from every country she visited.

Why dolls and spoons?  I HAVE NO IDEA.

But she clearly loved them.  She had several spoon racks lining the walls, and boxes and boxes of dolls.  A little girl’s dream, right?  Well, not exactly.  See, these dolls weren’t toys – they were collector’s items.  And therefore, each doll was required to remain sealed in its individual hyperbolic chamber, feet firmly affixed to the plastic base.

We didn’t care.  My sister and I played with them anyway.  While they were still in the cases.  Hey, we didn’t have cable then; you had to use your IMAGINATION.  Our star-crossed lovers could never actually kiss, or hold hands.  <raises wrist to forehead> Tragic.  But they were each encased in these cool little pods that we pretended were flying transportation devices, like on The Jetsons.

The Jetsons!:

Photo from Places of Fancy

While the collector’s items* were to be handled with care, ironically, we were allowed to play with these fellas as much and as hard as we wanted.

antique metal soldier toys:

(Well, except chucking them down the dumbwaiter.  That was only allowed to happen once.)  Of course, these dudes have some actual street value now.  Ah well.

Anyway.  It’s clear that Grandma didn’t NEED all this stuff. She didn’t NEED to keep grocery bags and ill-fitting shoes; she could afford multiple globe-spannning trips and fancy-schmancy look-but-don’t-touch dolls* each year.

*Clearly, still somewhat bitter. 

But she kept all that clutter anyway.

Most of us do.

And, you know what?  Once in a while, something you’ve saved actually comes in handy.  Witness this latest conversation I had over text with my daughter while she was at her dad’s:

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Management dad = management FAD.  My phone hates me, remember?

Seriously, didn’t EVERYONE get one of these at one time or another?  Along with Good to Great and The Seven Highly Annoying Habits or Whatever?

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I knew I’d find this quickly at a used bookshop…but since I’m cheap, and want to save my dinero for important things, like shoes – and I was CERTAIN her dad MUST have a copy, because he has a ton of crap, and like I said, EVERYONE had one of these – I decided to do this:

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(It’s cool.  We flip each other the bird as tokens of affection.  We’re classy like that.)

So, as much as I’ve complained about my ex’s clutter, it did come in handy today.

And, from my grandmother’s house?  Well, my folks kept some of the pricier collectibles, of course.  (Which didn’t include any of the dolls.  GO FIGURE.)  And deep in my grandmother’s closet, I discovered three shoe boxes filled with…

Go on, guess.

Travel soap.

Yep.  Three boxes of those little tiny bars of soap.  This one from an Alaskan cruise, that one from a hotel in Australia, one from each country in Europe.

My mom was going to throw it away – let’s face it, soap is cheap, and those doll-sized bars are stupid annoying.

But I decided to take the soap.  And you know what?  I USED the soap.  For nearly three years, I dipped into the box to unwrap another memory with every bar.  Ivory from Germany. Dial from Alaska.  Irish Spring from Australia.

Generally, I think we could all use with a little less clutter in our lives, and a more diligent tossing of things we don’t need to cling to.  It makes you feel lighter, somehow, to come home to an uncluttered entryway and a well-organized coat closet.  It’s refreshing, relaxing…and helps us stay focused on what’s truly important instead of staying mired in things that weigh us down.

But sometimes, it’s good for the soul to relive a fond memory – perhaps one that you’d have forgotten if not for the ancient shopping bag with the long-gone local-five-and-dime logo printed on the front.

I couldn’t fill Grandma’s shoes, but I used every scrap of soap she saved. I used it up, reviving each memory one more time, and then I threw the wrapper away.  At that point, the soap was just soap – it did exactly what it was intended to do, and gradually washed away.

I think Grandma would have been OK with that.