When I Am Old I Shall Wear Safety Orange; OR Cancel Christmas

A. Deconstruction

I’ve got the day off today, involuntarily. It’s slow at the shop still. I got very few hours this fall, and then I realized I was about to lose my health insurance in January regardless of how much I worked in December, so I decided to take the week of Xmas off. My vacation started on the 21st since the shop was closed that Thursday and Friday anyway.

This was the longest vacation I’ve had since I was indentured. Just an observation, not a complaint: my butt literally hurt from sitting on it (I am a pretty terrible sitter now). I have enough hours banked that I still got my regular, scheduled apprentice raise on the first, which is pretty awesome. It’s taken three years and some change since I quit my full-time, salaried tech job, but I am up to that 2014 money again. And now I can party like it’s 2014? *

I could have done this faster if I’d taken the admission test for my trade immediately, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I’m glad I took some time to figure it out along with a couple of detours, many of them paying ones.

There’s been mad layoffs at the shop, which is what happens when work is slow. Some days we were running out of work and getting cut at 9:30 in the morning, driving home in normal rush hour. My boss gathered us in the breakroom yesterday and said there would be no more layoffs unless journeymen wanted them. She said we are the “A Team,” which is nice. This way you know there will be no more layoffs…unless there are. I worked last winter consistently, but I’m with a company that has less work right now. As an apprentice I am not allowed to quit a job but I’m sure we could get voluntarily laid off for lack of work too.

I am weirdly (and probably somehow wrong to be, do @ me) proud to be the lowest-level apprentice left there. Some of the higher-year apprentices who prefer field work opted to be sent out “on field assignment” so they can get more hours.

One of my drinking comrades, a drummer who reminds me of a long-lost Van Halen brother, said to me: “Attitude and attendance.” Notice he did not say “skill and ability.” I am very privileged to be able to stay in a situation right now where I am learning a shit-ton but not making normal paychecks, since they want to keep me and I have a two-paycheck household to lean on.

Some of the ladies I work with who have made a career out of the shop are pretty down on working in the field. Mostly they hate other trades, who are not nearly as nice and ungross as most sheet metal workers. I get it. I also kind of don’t care when I’m out there. It’s a coin toss for me. I’m much healthier in the field because the air quality is way better and my guns look sick because I’m not all histamine-puffy. I love building shit! Yeah! But in the shop I’m not tripping over 7,000 cords in poor/no lighting, freezing cold or boiling hot, and using portajohns that have been sawed in half and reassembled to get them up the lift. I have gotten to know people better because I’m not in Machismo Zone. In the field they warned me there can be high school drama in the shop, but guess what, there are human beings everywhere, and a crew of roughy toughy guys can be just as gossipy and backbiting as anyone.

B. Get up on his lap/ don’t let him touch you

I don’t know how to write this section so let’s have an interview and I’ll be glib until I can be real and then I’ll probably delete all of this.

Q: What is it like when your kid splits abruptly and then it’s the first Christmas without her?

A: Well Skip, it’s challenging. As you know, I’m very, very blessed to be surrounded by so many talented family. It’s been a real gift to me and my craft as a human being. There’s been a lot of personal growth this year. But hard times too. Overall I gave it 112% and at the end of the day sometimes that isn’t enough.

There is no way for me to say this without sounding like a complete asshole. Just get ready to slam the internet shut and throw it across the room. How was Xmas: it was a relief to not have her here. A real, profound relief. ~MY THERAPIST~ (who earns every cent listening to the ramblings of an insane person) is reminding me that a thing (some) teenagers do is push you away and reject you and go off and form their own identities and all that healthy stuff that can look like a slow-motion trainwreck at the time. Intellectually I understand that, but it’s still very hard.

Living with someone for the past couple of years who said “NO!” to almost any kind of family activity or just one-on-one time unless it involved buying her something was exhausting. Living with someone who thinks you’re a stupid hypocrite is exhausting. Being lied to often is exhausting. Taking care of someone whose rebellion is, in part, harming her own health, is exhausting and heartbreaking.

I am wracked with guilt over this relief, of course, because I’m not just the president of being Wracked with Guilt, I’m also a client. I did not text her on xmas because I remember when she’d get any kind of text from her dad like “Happy birthday” in the past couple of years her blood would boil and she wouldn’t reply. I felt bad about that, but I also feel like she needs some space right now.

Aside: I remember being in the car with my mother after she’d moved to back to Seattle with us and her saying, “Are you ever not feeling guilty about something? You’re like a closet Catholic!” (I think she was dating a recovering Catholic at the time.) In hindsight I don’t think she recognized what having a conscience looked like.

Anyway, I’m not trying to vilify Franny in any way now that she’s living with her dad. We weren’t any kind of victims, just a family with a teenager. She is being held hostage to her own need to grow up and figure out what the hell is going on. I tried my hardest and will try again in time. I’m not trying to flip the script and say good riddance. It’s just gotten easier around here and less serious. Strudel seems to be feeling better and her aunt and a family friend have commented that she seems to have more of a sense of ease. I didn’t realize how strained her relationship with her sister was as well, but Strudel opens up about it now.

We need to be careful with her now, too, I know. Now the laser beams are TARGET: STRUDEL, ONLY CHILD so I need to balance supporting her where it’s appropriate and letting her live her life and try things. Check back in three years when I’ve messed that up.

Positive: I have a lot more energy now. This sounds terrible. “My house is so clean now, and all I had to do was kill and eat my entire family!” But I do. My memory is better. Grief and worry gnawing at you can take its toll. I can both love and care with my whole self and still say, yes, and that shit is really hard sometimes.

The whole house is kind of in recovery now and we’re playing house shuffle. Strudel eagerly moved into Franny’s larger room, and I’m going to turn her old room into an office. We moved the bed into the basement finally and our old upstairs room will be a guest room. Right now it’s gutted and looks terrible because it contains nothing but our clothes and some odds and ends. This mess is waiting for the walk-in closet downstairs (getting bids this month). There is half of a bedframe in my kitchen right now. Oh god. I have this long term fantasy/goal that everything in my house will someday have a place and then I can just lay down and die.

So things are getting better. I’m going to stop picking at this Franny scab for now unless something really shifts. Now I’m at that point where each day moving forward isn’t acutely painful and full of regret. To quote Spike (yes I did), “It’s just living.” We’re doing ok.

C. Mantra: A Lack of Planning on Your Part Never Constitutes an Emergency on My Part

In related news, I had a funny little SeaFed hiccup that I’m probably going to get a call about today. Apparently he tried to schedule an appointment with our allergist and told them we have shared custody (no comment. Wait: “LOL.”). This threw the brakes on things when a person they’d never heard of before called to take a minor patient in and he was all “NEW DAD, WHO DIS?”

The allergist’s office sent me a letter saying that since they have discovered we have “shared custody” (“LOL”) both parents must be present at any subsequent appointments. It was crickets after this. No one called me and asked me to come with or for help. Sooo. *whistles*

This is pretty typical half-assed SeaFedry. I am not even trying to be mean. He’s just never been able to manage his time or have the executive functioning to navigate through systems like this. I predict: he did not get the letter, because he did not provide his address when he called; OR, he did not read the letter; OR, he read the letter and forgot about it, and so will show up at the appointment today and call me once he’s there and they turn him away; OR, they will ghost on the appointment.

This is making me think of when she was small and I took her to the dentist and sent him a copy of the bill and asked for half and he sent me a check for $14 (I think) because he “calculated” what the copay would have been if either of us had insurance at the time, which we didn’t. Insane.

D. Subject Change

So we had some fun times on vacation together. On NYE we went to the Ballard house where they’ve done everything Diagon Alley in their driveway. It was for Halloween, but they’ve kept it up through this month and are raising money for charity.

Strudel and I went to the mall and got some makeup at MAC, and I had her choose some clothes as pre-xmas fun. She’s just teetering on that age where I can’t reliably choose clothes for her anymore. This holiday was smaller than the usual ones because she’s not really into toys anymore, is not outgrowing things like mad, and because my work hours/paychecks have been so limited.

I took menu suggestions for xmas on the chalkboard and they basically looked like this: fried squid, pho, ham, satay, pickled Korean beef, sandwiches, spaghetti. What do you do with this? I split it up.

On xmas eve we had Asian food: satay, pickled beef, sesame chicken.

Pete went out and grilled satay in the snow and he and I were both impressed with him.

If the food photography on this blog ever improves, call the police because I’ve been killed. *blinks SOS slowly*

Then we did jolabokaflod, which was fun as fuck.

Strudel said, “I don’t have any money!” I asked if she’d be open to going to the library, and she was. She got me an Isabel Allende. I have never read her, because I am not super into sad, serious literature, this is a thing I know about myself. “I am expanding my horizons,” I said. By chapter two there had been meditations on loneliness, the displacement of being alone in a foreign land, dismay over the physical aging process, a cat drinking antifreeze and growing staggeringly, foamingly ill, and I knew someone was about to get hit by a car (book flap). I quietly put it down. Whoa.

Pete played it very safe and got me Salt. I am a sucker for food plus history obviously. I got him The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole age 13 and 3/4 which is one of my favorite books of all time and he read the first page, laughed really loudly and put it down (?). Pete got Strudel some really compelling YA vs A Short Sharp Shock by Kim Stanley Robinson (mine) so he won that round too. Next year I will pander!

On xmas we voted for a cheese day had Monte Cristos for breakfast and pizza for dinner. I got kind of poofy and a little joint pain but it was actually worth it. Gluten and corn never tempt me (recovery is too horrendo and unpredictable), but twice a year or so we have cheese.

Two days after xmas we saw the new Nutcracker. It is VERY interesting now with the new set pieces and costume designs. Usually I think ballet is a little boring unless some shit is coming out of Natalie Portman’s arm.



E. Meditations on Fruity Crap

A couple of summers ago, there was a stack of books on my buffet and a ZZ plant innocently thriving on the floor next to the buffet. Of course, along came a fat Mère the cat (motto: “I don’t understand physics!”) and knocked the books down, crushing the ZZ plant in the process. I let it limp along for a while and hoped it would recover. It pretty much stopped growing, like “WTF fuck you people. I was doing good work here.” I downsized the root ball into a smaller pot, hoping it would force growth, and saved the few remaining green leaves. I set it in my dark bathroom window, since it’s a low-light plant.

Finally, there was only one leaf. I kept watering it and then pulled it down on New Year’s day.

This is how we get emotionally attached to plucky plants. Thank you, plant. Happy new year to you!!

* 2014: Go out to dinner, get ill, blame self for eating too much. Go out in public, breathe air, get ill, call self “melodramatic and probably anti-social.” Have drinks, get ill…eh, you get the picture. |back|

Thank you

Hi, a quick post to say THANK YOU to everyone who has commented, emailed me, texted me, twitter messaged me or said anything irl about what I’m going through griefwise. Someone I met ten (?) years ago at BlogHer texted me yesterday, when I was in a velvet painting-filled bar in Tukwilla with sheet metal ruffians and I almost started crying at the table. I am really sorry that some of you have said that you understand because this has happened to you as well.

I think I’ve chosen a weird and somewhat stupid life for myself by writing online for 16 years. I don’t know why I’ve chosen to record my life in this way. I started it in late summer 2001 when I lost a close friend and was feeling lonely, depressed, nostalgic. Realizing that my life had a hollow core of loneliness, and then finding people online who I liked to read and who thought I was funny back was probably the first step towards me having anything resembling self-esteem and having fun writing. I don’t think I’d be the person I am now without this site.

Some of you probably know this story, but in the infancy of this website I tried to get involved with the early blog organizations and webrings (kids ask your parents), and was usually rejected because I was filed in so many directories as pornography. That made me mad, of course, and I rejected them right back. Then personal blogging became very popular and normal, and it didn’t really matter anymore that there was a swear word in my url. I don’t know why I didn’t sell out ten years ago and make this my vocation (again with the theme of blind stubbornness), but I think not doing that has saved my life and sanity. It’s wonderful that people read about my life, and I know some of you have for most of this blog’s life. I appreciate you.

I don’t think I will stop now. You’re stuck with watching your own boring Samuel Pepys grow old and die if you want it. Again, thanks.

I’m No Longer Watching Her

My sister was driving me to IKEA on a day that we both had off. Work’s been really slow and I often get cut just in time to get stuck in normal rush hour, before the northbound express lanes open. But not this day–it was a small field trip mostly to gawk at the store’s remodel and an excuse to hang out.

The freeway was lit with that strange Seattle late fall light that looks yellow and cuts through the clouds at an angle so you feel like someone’s holding a giant filtered spotlight on part of the city. There was a good blow on too so on stretches of the freeway the leaves were tumbling along with us at 60 mph before destroying themselves on retaining walls and under truck wheels.

Morgan looked beautiful in silhouette, in the sepia light. I could see the fine lines that are forming on her delicate skin that are making a record of her life. I imagined her drawing on a cigarette, as I had seen many times before. I imagined her eating. I imagined her crying. I imagined her mouth wrapped around a child’s pacifier as I had seen many times.

She turned her head toward me briefly and I saw the vertical scar on her upper lip perfectly illuminated for a second. I forget about it for months and years at a time until it pops out. I see it even less now that she quit smoking three years ago.

Morgan was small when it happened, just beginning to pull up. I remember her creeping around our living room one day and my mother hissing at me where I sat on our massive sectional, reading the TV Guide cover-to-cover as I did every week: “Watch her!” My mother was on the phone, wandering around the dining room and out of sight. I got sucked back in to reading about what Tony Danza was up to in his spare time.

I saw Morgan fall out of the corner of my eye, followed by the blunt smack of flesh meeting a hard surface and then a wail. My mother swore, put the phone down, and came back into the room. I rushed over to pull Morgan up and there was blood all over her mouth. She had cracked her face on the sharp wooden corner of our giant television. I wondered if she would go to the hospital like I did when the dart machine fell on me and split my head open.

By this time my mother was off the phone. “I TOLD YOU TO WATCH HER!” This was my fault. Every time I saw the bandage and then the angry red scar for the next few years, I felt a twinge of guilt. I should have been watching her.

In grad school Franny was small and I was burning the candle. Now was the time to make a big push, I reckoned. I was still so young so it was okay to work and take too many classes and spend time with Franny whenever I could. I had a night class and I would come home and work on papers or reading and then I had the day off home to continue the unending slog through books and papers. In the morning SeaFed was gone, pretending to drive his taxi but becoming increasingly disinterested in working again.

I remember always getting sleepy around ten o’clock, just in time for Sesame Street. I would twiddle the bunny ears on our 19″ teevee to make PBS as clear as possible. I poured a cup of Cheerios for Franny and would lie down on the couch, bending my knees and locking her in behind them. I would doze but would snap awake if she tried to move out of her little fort. If I was lucky I could steal a 15 minute nap in this way.

It always made me think of Morgan, too. She liked being trapped behind my legs like this. We would play “prisoner” over and over when I was 12. My legs would swing shut, locking her onto the couch and say, “You’re my prisoner!” She would scream “PRITNER!” and laugh. Or she would pretend she was driving a car and my legs were the door and then the dashboard.

The phone rang, snapping me out of my short nap. It was red and a cord attached it to the wall, and no one could get through if I had the dial up internet on. Franny was where I’d put her, in a trance, watching Elmo, methodically eating one Cheerio after another. It was my mother. I’m sure I sounded groggy when I answered.

“I’m just hanging out with the kid,” I said. She sounded a little odd, but I was disinterested in unpacking her mood. I don’t remember what she wanted.

Later my sister, who was 15 then, told me that my mother rang off and immediately said, “I think she was asleep!”

“And?” my sister said, or some variation on that. Due to a combination of Stockholm Syndrome and decent experiences, my sister trusted my parenting.

“She should be watching her!”

A few months later, my sister was spending most of her spare time at my house, even though we were in the middle of unending reno hell and there was only a couch for her to sleep on. SeaFed didn’t really notice or care; at times his obliviousness was advantageous. I think I needed my sister around as much as she needed me then.

She’s been a great source of support for me lately, which still surprises me. Now she’s watching over me. She reads between the lines on my texts: “Everything ok?”

No, not really. This is hard to say and I’ve been trying to say it for almost a month: Franny moved out before Thanksgiving and in with her dad.

I have to pull away from this sentence before my melt onto my dining room floor and ugly cry until I die of dehydration. So.

I’ve been experiencing waves of anger over the last few weeks that I think are kind of protecting me and keeping me functional so I’m not just a big wound constantly, and I can do things like go to work and buy groceries. The things that feel so stupid and pointless but are kind of reassuring because you know that life is going to go on.

I also don’t like this feeling, though. It’s like a death in that every meal you make that the missing person liked but is not eating with you, or every little change you make to your house, or every passing day is a brick in the path that takes you away from that person you miss, leaving them in the blurry past.

I am crying again, I need to pull away from this again, so I will be shitty and angry: SeaFed, who has relinquished himself to his father’s care, has been gifted some kind of large property on his island with multiple mother-in-law cottages. It sounds like their previous house was kind of melting due to age, neglect, and poor DIY repair work. His father used to attempt to set him up in business, either at an office or working for himself. Now I think he’s just resigned himself to being his carer. I think there will probably be a trust set up after his father dies.

It’s like the movie The Truman Show. I think everyone around him is invested in the appearance of SeaFed being a functional adult, and this is how it works for them. I was not ever good at participating in this charade, although I realize I could be a lady of leisure on an island in my own compound if I could have played along.

I had another realization recently that SeaFed is a high-functioning autistic. I think his mother was autistic, and it sounds like his grandfather was too. (Leslie you know it’s true and it’s too late now. Get you-know-who tested.)

I spoke with Franny about these thoughts a few months ago and she seemed somewhat reassured that there could be a reason that her father wasn’t very engaged with her life nor did he remember what her health conditions were, so couldn’t accommodate her. What I was saying made sense to her. At the same time, I feel like this possibility made her angry. I think it was hard for her to reframe the narrative of her situation with her father and see him as someone who had a reason for being limited beyond just thoughtlessness. I remember her being ten or so and saying out of the blue, “I think there’s something wrong with my dad.” She was right that he’s not typical.

In the first couple of years we were married, I remember SeaFed’s father expressed relief a couple of times that I’d come into his life and seemed to be steering the ship. They had reached their wit’s end with him as a teenager when he really dialed into his dual talents of wasting someone else’s hard-earned money and his penchant for petty criminality. Here was someone who could take them off his hands. Maybe he would get his act together now.

My increase in responsibility happened bit by bit. When I met SeaFed, I had no idea how to adult beyond knowing that I had to have a job and write a rent check every month. He would take me out places and not pay parking. I didn’t have a car and I came from a village where you could pretty much park on a cow or a corn or in the middle of the road if you felt like it, but I was fairly certain the signs reading “PAY HERE” hanging in the lots with numbered spots had an implied “This means you, buddy” ring to them.

“Don’t you need to pay to park?” I asked. What a rube I was then.

He would shrug. “Nah it’s fine.”

After we were married he got a collections notice for hundreds of dollars of unpaid parking tickets in Oregon from when he was 18, plus fees, plus bonus threats of credit ruination. He was spending a lot of time in Portland and parking willy-nilly as he did in Seattle.

“Why didn’t you pay these?” I asked.

Same shrug. “It’s a different state so I just thought I wouldn’t go back there so whatever.” He didn’t care, since he was all-cash druglord lifestyle at the time.

I think I married an idiot, I thought. I started paying the bills and doing the taxes. Later I thought I’d married a sociopath, due to his lack of interest in me and cavalier care of Franny. You know how that came out.

So Franny left in the middle of the night (11 is the middle of the night when you wake up before 4 a.m.). We had been fighting that night and the tension had been increasing between us for the past few months. Franny hits walls when she doesn’t want to do something. She may tell you she’ll do it, or that she’s doing it to get you off her back, but in the end, she does what she wants.

A friend used to watch her for me while I was at school. Franny was about to turn three. If Franny didn’t like something, she would stop short, not move, and stare you down impassively. My friend, who had extremely verbal children who could tell you off six ways from Sunday, and were no strangers to the well-timed tantrum, was amazed by this Ghandi act. They nicknamed her The Mountain.

I’d been getting Mountains of bullshit from Franny for the past year.

Are you going to start going to class again?
-Yes of course

Are you going to take the SAT this time?
-I would have but the bus had an accident

How about this time?
-Well this time the bus didn’t come

What about that make up work that you need to do before June?
-I’ll do it

You didn’t do your make up work. How are you going to graduate?
-I can make it up my senior year

What’s your senior project going to be?
shrug

Are you going to apply for the library again like you said you would?
shrug

Finally, near the end, some honesty. She told me she didn’t want to take the SAT. She didn’t want to go to university, which her grandfather would pay for. She didn’t want to get a job. She wanted to attend community college and live at home. I remembered her father going to community college several times in fits and starts and always flunking out after the withdrawal period was over. I knew she would dwindle down to one class and just kind of turn into a directionless fungus on the wifi all day.

Oh no, I thought. You are becoming your father and it is like the cold knife of the past is going through me. Did I want to take the role of SeaFed’s father, his carer forever, regardless of wives, children, the appearance of productivity and normalcy? This was hard.

A reliable witness saw her smoking and told me. Now the knife was twisting. Her, with the breathing problems and doctor visits and asthma inhalers and lung pain. When this sort of thing happens, every cell in a parent’s body screams out: I TOLD YOU NOT TO MAKE THE SAME STUPID MISTAKES I DID! That was kind of the last straw.

“You cannot live with me if you’re going to do nothing,” I told her. “I can help you move in with your dad and you can do nothing at his house.” I may have said that louder and with more fuck-bombs than I’ve represented here. Then I went downstairs to my bathroom and cried on the bathmat for about three hours and went to bed. Then she packed a bag and left. I know I am a terrible person (see title).

She is living in one of the mother-in-laws in SeaFed’s Retirement Villa and Jazz Ranch.

(Pete said, “I want to do nothing and get a house!” Amen brother.)

I was getting text and email updates from SeaFed that were cheery in tone, like a Christmas newsletter from your neighbor that leaves a sour taste in your mouth because you know how many times the cops came out. SJ, everything is under control. It’s handled. I’ve got this parenting thing in the bag. Girl you crazy and now it’s SeaFed’s time to shine.

He was telling me how great everything was, and how he was in communication with Franny’s advisor and she only has a little bit of makeup work, and she’s feeling great and doesn’t even seem sick! She’s super on track to graduation! She’s making her own meals! This sounded familiar. “Of course we are in the honeymoon period,” he conceded.

SeaFed has this paradoxical tendency to try to scam people (passing off lemon cars, stealing from past employers, etc) while imputing the best motives in other people, like Franny who has turned up on his doorstep after not speaking to him for over a year and now is being the perfect angel baby. It’s probably good he claims to have quit doing crime, because I had never known a more credulous criminal.

I face-palmed after realizing that I’d chased her off to a situation where she had been rewarded with her own apartment, instead of living with a family who she’d be accountable to. On the other hand, me being straight with her about SeaFed has probably made her realize she cannot really rely on anything but her father’s access to money.

I finally replied to him and included her on the email as well, since she’s almost an adult and I wanted her to hear what I had to say. I told him I was in the same position a year ago. That she only had a little makeup work to do and she was reassuring me she would finish everything, but didn’t. Now she’s behind from junior year and her absences this year. I told him that she has up periods where she seems fine and then has a huge energy crash and misses school, and that she’s probably going to need to learn to balance her disabilities and self-care herself, since my advice and interventions didn’t seem to help.

I put her on blast and said that I had been contacting her about arranging to pick up her stuff and she was ignoring me, and that I was hoping she would get it out of here before xmas. SeaFed immediately made arrangements to pick up her boxes.

He said “thanks for the input” about the school and lying stuff and was probably too tired from patting himself on the back for his gold star parenting to say more. He asked me for her medical records (she needs to request them herself at her age anyway), and I told him this was the last time I was going to deal with him as her go-between, and that she knows how to get in touch with me if she needs anything, and muted the email.

She’s blocked me on Instagram and told Strudel we are Nazis and that we’re reading their texts (false, I’m just good at guessing the obvious). Also that she is never going to speak to me again.

Somewhere my terrible mother sat bolt upright in bed next to her 14th fiance and said, “AHA VENGEANCE IS MINE!”


In Other News

Let’s have something cheerier, like an update on my impending hysterectomy. I had to have something called a urodynamics test. This is to see what’s what with your bladder and how much urine you’re leaking if everything is normal (meaning uterus UP!), if any.

You come into a room with a fake toilet in it and you have to pee in the middle of a room into this fake toilet, which gives you a weird unhousebroken feeling.

Then they weigh that and see if there’s any pee left in your bladder via ultrasound. Then, Lidocane goes in your urethra, so you know something bad’s going to happen to that guy: camera catheter!

I saw the inside of my bladder.

“Oh god, gross,” I said. The nurse laughed.

“It’s not gross!” my doctor said. “It’s a great bladder. We’re going to turn to the left and see that hole?” Oh no ugh please stop “That’s where the pee comes in from your kidneys.” The hole opened and sphinctered itself shut again. “See, some pee just came in.”

Then we drove upwards (north??) and I saw the bulge of where my uterus was just chilling on my bladder, making a big-ass dent in it. It was like, enough already, lady. No wonder I never feel like I’m quite finished peeing.

Then I got a pessary jammed up to hold up my uterus to see how my bladder would function under normal conditions. This involved more catheters and a bunch of sensors. My bladder was filled slowly with mystery liquid that I forgot to ask about and was probably corny. I had to cough at points.

“Let me know when you first feel your bladder filling up. Ok, can you relax a little and not hold yourself up on the edge like that?”

“Sorry, I am trying not to run away,” I said. Her nurse thought I was hilarious at this point.

“Now I want you to tell me two more things: when you first feel like you have to go, and then, when you have to go SO BAD that if there were bears outside your tent you would still run out and pee.”

“Ok.”

There was more coughing. “Are you leaking?” I wasn’t. Everything seems to behave when my bladder isn’t involved. She was trying to distract me by asking about Ehlers-Danlos in my family and who had a normal uterus and who had other problems.

“Um I think I’m at bears,” I interrupted.

“You’re at a gas station and it’s all dark and no one’s around! Do you get out of the car?”

“I GO TO THE MURDERERS.”

WAS MY BLADDER GOING TO POP? I felt like she was Willy Wonka and we were on that hellboat. “There’s no earthly way of knowing/when I’m going to rupture one of your major organs…”

Finally she stopped, there was more coughing, and then she wanted me to pee to see how much would come out. I could not make myself pee into the catheter, so she took it out, and I went again, in the middle of a room as if that’s normal.

“Oh good, more volume than what I put it. It’s all working great.”

As I dressed I stared at this painting.

I went home and degranulated and felt very ill for the rest of the night. I’m guessing there was dextrose in the saline? I managed to look up the antibiotic she gave me and saw that it’s corny so I declined to take it.

She left the pessary in because it was a great relief to have my uterus in place for the first time in years, but it started dislodging at work the next day (of course). I was using a welding machine when I felt like I was going into labor. So much fucking pain. I pulled it out in the loo, wrapped it up, and threw it away since it obviously doesn’t fit right. It was a nice twelve-hour break.

Next I get to research which pain meds and antibiotics I can use if any. They won’t operate on me without preventive antibiotics, of course. Luckily I have Corn Allergy Girl’s great guides. They are willing to operate without installing meshes, which is good.

So I Can Look at You From Inside as Well

A short post to say I bought a lamp.

I knew it had my favorite thing: potential. I liked the way it crouched there like an awkward bug or a reject from the Deetz house. What it did not have was a good light bulb.


(In the background, Nightmere sleeps on the dogs’ wee kitchen bed with extreme prejudice. Lo she has staked her claim to her winter vent.)

To quote our president: SAD! I asked the nice man at my neighborhood junk shop if we could take it into the bathroom to see if it looked any better in the dark. Not really!

“This is not making full use of the jute,” he tsked. I like him–he reminds me of John Waters.

Previously, Pete had been looking for a rocking chair for years and found one last summer.

“There’s no room for it anywhere,” he said.

“CHUH!” I chuhed.

I told him that if he wanted it, I could rearrange the living room to make it fit. So I shuffled the living room around this summer and kicked out a sad Ikea table and some other clutter. (Winnowing down your collection of Ikea furniture: crossing the final Rubicon into stolid adulthood.) Recently I bought a permanent rug for the chair to perch on, instead of an old backless runner (also Ikea) I folded up a little.

I moved the AK-47 lamp over to the other side of the room, and took away another little vintage lamp that was in the living room since we moved in. It was a nice arrangement for summer–plenty of sun streaming in all day long. Now that it’s November, one Kalashnikov and another weird arty pendant thing in the other corner felt dim and gloomy.

I wondered how you change a bulb in a lamp like this. It has a long rod down the middle that can be pulled up or all the way out.

Then you go to the hardware store and buy one of those adapters that turns a lamp receptacle into a plug receptacle.

While you’re there, get a couple of strings of patio lights, and turn them into a crazy jumble using black duct tape and zip ties.

Jam the whole mess into the lamp and realize that you made the lights come out a wee bit too far, but it worked out.

Replace chair, and done.

Now Pete’s corner is a bit brighter.



Mistakes were made

I ran out of quercetin a few days ago. I thought my shipment was coming just a wee bit sooner than it was.

“Oh well,” I thought. “What’s a couple of days? This probably isn’t doing much anyhow.” So I missed my morning and lunchtime dose a few days ago.

My shit was ON FIRE. It felt like I had a sunburn. Even my eyes hurt and were irritated. Right before I ran out the door for my appointment, I saw the package on the porch. I gobbled a dose down and felt better. This is me three hours later.

My usual spider veins from years of painful flushing previously, but much paler. And feeling better.

Narcolepsian Candidate, Asshole Digest v. 1

A For Effort

Last month I was at school for my first welding week, which I was super jazzed about. I couldn’t wait to learn welding! I liked brazing last summer, so I thought I would like welding too. Oh man, I really did. We welded all morning. I was terrible, but I looked around and most of my classmates were too. My favorite person in class, who is my homework buddy, had perfect welds since he was an underwater welder for years.

At lunch I ate in my car like I usually do, to take a break from being indoors with fragrances and the smells in the lunchroom. I don’t eat heavy on school weeks, since I’m not burning as many calories. We reconvened in the classroom for some PowerPoints on welding and I started to feel really unnaturally sleepy. My ears were ringing and I felt drunk–anaphylaxis. I knew my brain was shutting down.

I wasn’t thinking clearly and couldn’t decide what to do. School is very strict about being there and participation, which I get. I thought if I could lay down for an hour and sleep I would be ok again, but I knew that wasn’t compatible with getting through the afternoon. I was kind of propping my head up with my elbow and my teacher was giving me shit about falling asleep (“SJ do you know you snore?”).

I decided to wake myself up a little (this never works) by going to the bathroom and splashing cold water on my face. I would only be gone for a minute–perfect. I staggered out of the classroom and to the loo. I looked shitfaced–red cheeks, red eyes, couldn’t focus my gaze. As I threw the paper towel away I decided to sit down on floor for just a second. The tiles looked so cool…

I woke up to my classmate and a third year asking me questions.

“The EMTs are on the way, SJ. What’s going on? What are your symptoms?” Get this–my classmate is a former nurse and was completely collected.

The EMTs came and asked me a ton of questions. They got some kind of heart monitor on me and saw that my blood pressure was skipping from the 80s to the 100s rapidly. They checked my oxygen levels and they were normal. I was relieved about this–I’ve always wondered if there’s a component of airway blockage happening that I don’t know about when I go to sleep. I was slurring a little as I was answering their questions.

So, long story long, school doesn’t want me welding anymore. And now my classmates know to check on me if I look too sleepy, because I’m probably mast cell drunk out of my mind. I can recover from almost anything if I can sleep for an hour in a safe space. There are masks that are kind of like SCUBA for welding that may help, but they start around $1500. It’s a big investment to make in something that might not work.

I talked to my homework buddy about this because he was worried about me. He said, “It’s too bad we started with stick welding, because that’s the dirtiest kind of welding and makes me sick too.” He has a special respirator that fits under his welding mask. My respirator does not.

For now I’m in welding limbo. I think I’m going to have to find a way to weld on my own so I can come back to school and prove I can do it safely if I want to do it there.

Relevant Experience

Not too long ago, I would scoff at the old tradies I worked with who would sleep through every movie. There was a lot of “Yeah, I saw the first fifteen minutes of that, it was pretty good.” Right now I’m doing the same. I have seen the opening shot of The Orville for the last three weeks in a row. We call it The Slipper Show because the spaceship is silly looking. I see the space slipper and it’s Queen of Hearts time for me on the rug. Good night.

I kind of have an excuse right now–I’ve been transferred to the shop. It’s basically like Eminem’s job in 8 Mile, except Seattle strip club lighting levels instead of Portland, and no wall jobs or brooding.


Time to make the fuckin doughnuts

It’s making me somewhat to seriously ill most days. I leave with a headache that lasts until I go to sleep. Some nights I crawl into bed before dinner, shaking and feverish from welding fumes, and then I get up and do it again. I blow black metal dust and smoke out of my nose all the way home. I know I’m not the only one who gets sick, but it’s not a good place for me. I cannot believe people make careers out of it in my trade.

It’s kind of good news/bad news that I hustle so hard in the field. It’s really slow right now, and my work style has kept me from being laid off (yay) but my reward now is being sick most days. I’ve been told I might go to week on/week off, which means I can collect unemployment when I’m not working. I’ve been noodling around with crochet again now that I have more time.

D for Effort

I went out twice in one week last week, holy shit! I finally saw Morrissey live, and it was everything I expected and more. He didn’t cancel, which I know he is notorious for because of his health and his whatnot. I got gassed out by the fog machine and felt pretty drunk by the time I got home.

A couple of days later I saw John Hodgeman on his book tour. I was excited that he was “in conversation” with John Roderick. The website said something about him doing readings and answering questions. I was dragged along to see him about nine years ago, and thought Hodgeman was pretty terrible live, and I was completely uninterested in his books because I’m not into fake humorous facts. His supporting players–incredible. Sean Nelson and John Roderick were rocking out on some hardcore early-80s Billy Joel, which set me off on a five-year Billy Joel jag.

I thought the Hodge would be better live after nine years, and I also am a fan of advice, so I like his podcast now a lot. I like that he’s written a midlife contemplative-y memoir, so I was into this. Well, he was jumping up and down and jamming his hand down the back pocket of his terrible pants like a ADHD kid giving a book report.

Roderick was gently trying to get him to sit down and put his mic on–it was kind of cringy. They did one song, and it was terrible, and Hodge was just not focused. I bought two books so I could get the silly badge they were giving away and in the end I didn’t want to wait in line to get it. I don’t have enough time to appreciate things as Kaufman-esque anymore. In summary: I’m glad there was no fog machine, and I probably should just find a way to see John Roderick live.

Somehow it Makes Sense to Juxtapose Autumnal Pictures of Things Being Ripped Out of the Ground with This News

THIS WAS THE SUMMER I took over the front bed. I promised Pete I would last winter. 2017, baby. It was going to be my year. We would make the front yard more attractive and lower maintenance in terms of weeds (read: wood chips and flowering shrubs ahoy). We’re trying to divide church and state a little more because I have a bad habit of seeing an open space and needing to fill it with flowers, and Pete says “HAY THAT WAS GOING TO BE PUMPKINS.”

YOU KNOW WHAT? FUCK YOUR PUMPKINS. COSMOS, BITCHES. Just kidding. I like pumpkins, I just don’t want to wait three years for them. Then he comes through and pulls or steps on a bunch of sunflower seedlings I’ve stealth planted by announcing loudly that I am planting sunflowers and marking the space.

So the front yard is supposed to be flower and fruit tree town. Typical me typical me I’m doing black/purple, white, and dark green–goth garden. I had to leave the original roses even though they are off-scheme because they’re nice and tolerate the front yard and neglect very well. I think other than the clematis, they may be all that’s left of the original front yard.

I solemnly swear I will leave the vegetable garden alone and stop sneaking in four o’clocks, which are fucking magical. I am killing part of the grass next to it to make a dedicated herb bed. In five years I hope there will be no grass left in the backyard or front! I am taking home sheet metal trash to create underground grass barriers.

These pictures are from about a month ago before the leaves started to turn, but when it was getting cool and rainy. Perfect transplanting weather.


Digging up blueberries and razzleberries

Part of making the front yard flowery involved transplanting the berry bushes, which were overcrowded and overwhelming the now-toddler persimmon tree we planted a while ago.


Long shot of how order segues inelegantly into chaos


Raspberry bare rooted

I decided to move the blueberries into some of the remaining open space in the back, for ease of picking. Plus this spot gets some really nice light from about ten to four.

The raspberries in the former chicken pen.

A thing I have not told you is that after ten-plus years of keeping chickens, I rehomed them all in the late spring. They went to a tinner friend who has a compound in the middle of nowhere (his shop has about the same square footage as my house). His wife was excited about gently used, free, grown chickens and just likes eggs and the hobby like I did. I felt very good about letting go of this extra demand on our time and energy, especially as we are making the yard nicer and want to use all the space without the rampaging claws and beaks.

Since this picture was taken, Pete has demo’d the coops as well.


A naked space ready for smaller shrubs and flowers, and a persimmon that can breathe now.

Also I transitioned my summer pots into fall pots. This year I decided to only buy things that I will transfer into the front yard, including the pansies, which last all summer and beyond, and appear on salads all summer. Some of the grasses will make a little skirt around the persimmon tree.

And here I come to the end without telling you my hard news. How do I say this? My uterus is falling out. It’s been on the drop for a while now, like since high school. Slow and low/this situation blows. It’s really uncomfortable now. I am in consults this month to get a hysterectomy. They are considering some kind of mesh to hold my urethra in place as well if needed, which I’m probably going to have to pass on, since historically I don’t seem to do well with plastic in my body. (See: IUD dramz and temporary crown. Also I used to stick pens in my mouth until about ten years ago, gross, I know, until I realized the plastic was making my tongue and mouth tingle. Eep.) My ovaries will be left in, which is good. I’m going to try to schedule surgery for around Xmas this year. I am scared that the surgery will make me massively degranulate, and sad that there are no pain meds I can take, much like with carpal tunnel surgery.

Early uterine prolapse can be one of the indicators for Ehlers-Danlos, which is interesting. I don’t have circus trick joints like other members of my family, but the baby box is falling out. Cool times. As a plumber I met recently said, after volunteering that she had a hysterectomy: “They took out the nursery, but left the playpen. Best decision I ever made! Ha!”

I got drunk the other night and bought this shirt. I am still figuring out my feelings. The end.

Ruminant butts/black and white butts

Yesterday Strudel and my sister and I all had the day off and we went to Northwest Trek, which was pretty awesome. It’s like a mini zoo/habitat that you can take a tram tour through. We saw mountain goats, elk, moose, bison, small cats, wolves, and otters munching on fish, beavers scratching themselves, and more.


I spy a lady moose butt

We saw the allergist and Strudel has just started Ketotifen, which I am SO EXCITED ABOUT. It’s pretty much the gold standard for mast cell stabilizers as well as being an H1 blocker, and works for a lot of people. Naturally it needs to be compounded…we can’t just go get it at a normal pharmacy and it has to be $200 a bottle. I am looking forward to the letter from my insurance companies telling me why they can’t pay for it. The allergist advised us to keep her on Zyrtec, Zantac, and quercetin as well.

Strudel’s knee is out again so we rented a wheelchair and rolled her around all day. It was still good to get out of the house. I thought back to when I was in tech and I would take their school holidays off and we would do something fun. It’s nice to do some of that again, even though I was given the day off due to slowdowns. Gotta make the best of it.

Crown Royale (wit cheese)

Hey look Dorothea Lange and Mary Ellen Mark had a baby and it started taking selfies. ACK!

BUT I AM SHOWING YOU MY NEW ROBOT TOOTH THOUGH. Uh, maybe skip this one if you don’t like the inside of people’s mouths. But this is me, post-dog walking and on a pretty nice day here. Also my showers are way too hot, always. I give myself the red face.

Anyway, my poor old six-year molar that had an ancient filling in it finally gave up the ghost and started cracking around the filling. My dentist has been nagging me about changing it out for a crown for years. I was in a contest with myself to see how long it could last for. Answer: thirty-three years.

That brave molar, when it was brand new and still with new-tooth smell and those little rubber nubbins still on the tires, was declared to be rotting away. This declaration was made by a dentist in the new neighborhood we moved to after I came to live with my mother again when I was six. I presume my mother found him by opening the Yellow Pages, closing her eyes, and plunking her finger down on the page somewhere.

My mother had very bad teeth. She blamed them on busy working parents and indifferent babysitters. Parts of her teeth also had been knocked out by some kind of brother/basketball incident and replaced with a bridge. I remember her teeth looking uneven, yellow, and speckled with silver in the back. There were also weird flossing doodads in her bathroom drawers. From a young age, I assumed I would also have parts of my teeth knocked in and that they would go all cattywampus like hers.

I have very good teeth, for the most part, and have very little trouble. This may be in part because my mother was gone a lot, and maybe not able to pass her bad teeth on to me. Also I was raised in that special time when adults chainsmoked around you until you could barely make out what was happening on Guiding Light, but GOD FORBID you were not given a perfectly sterilized bottle full of science milk instead of having to fight the dogs for a half-chewed floor turkey leg or whatever.

So we rolled up to this new dentist, who told my mother I had a tooth that needed a filling. Later, he told my mother she would need four root canals in one afternoon. I suspect he had a boat that needed marina payments. I remember him calling my mother in and talking to her about it. He asked me, “Why do you think you have a cavity?” “Too much dessert,” I shot back. This got a big laugh.

We returned a few days later and I was terrified. I didn’t know what to expect from the Novocain, I just knew a needle was going into my mouth. That was the first and last time my mouth had been numbed up until a few days ago.

The dentist got everything ready on a silver tray. I remember he didn’t have any kind of assistant, or front desk person. These were the days when you would spit bloody gobs into a nearby sink. Every time I go to the dentist I still yearn for that sink–there is something so much better about spitting everything out that’s bothering you. I know the sucky straws are much more hygienic but I hate them.

He prepared the shot. I felt the prick on my gums and I was scared. My good, current dentist paused as he was numbing me up, letting the liquid seep in slowly. The terrible, ancient dentist said, “Hold this for me, will you, I have to get something.” I was made to hold the needle in my mouth perfectly still while he left the room for what seemed like ages. I heard my heart in my ears and saw my little hand holding the needle as it stuck out of my mouth. I heard the clock tick. He was gone for a long time. I was scared of being alone. I was scared he would come back.

I don’t remember being drilled out. I do remember pain later, when the numbness wore off. I’ve always had this silver patch in the back, like most people over a certain age.

And then the poor beleaguered tooth, carrying its wide load of oral asphalt, finally quit. I’ve been grinding my teeth in my sleep a lot lately, which is not helping. I’ve been waiting for it to crack open, or fall apart on me someplace inconvenient and with many unwilling witnesses. I’m relieved it was just some cracks, which gave me time to schedule the crown appointments and come back, as well as let the office bill it to my insurance.

A crown with a live root means that you chip out the old filling, and grind away part of the tooth. Then what you you have left is a little tooth doot that they can glue something (circus peanut, real peanut, tiny beret) onto shaped like your old tooth.

My sad short tooth, which I should not have a picture of. I’m getting there….

If you are like me and the inside of your head looks like Jayne Mansfield’s mansion, you get a gold tooth, which they have to send away for I guess, and you have to wait 2-3 weeks.

“We’ll put a temporary on,” they told me.

No problem! I thought. I can roll with this. A temporary tooth hat. I told the dental assistant the temp crown she was fitting me with was too high, and she told me if she shaved it down any more, it would probably break. I kind of shrugged and decided to get on with my day, because she didn’t seem to believe my bite was off. Oh well, I thought. I have to chew on the right side anyway.

What a fucking mistake that was! I had no idea.

Tooth hat #1. If you squint you can kind of see the little brown spot and that it’s kind of already shattering about a day in.

Pain was holding steady through the week, and then at the one week mark my tiny hat popped off as I was watching TV. I had already made an appointment to have it adjusted so I thought I could just cruise through overnight and get there. I ended up calling off work and sleeping most of the day. I had gotten a little cold right after the initial day of drilling, which is my body’s angry response to any trauma, like stress or sleep deficits. I was starting to get Messed Up.

I went back and had a second one put on. That dental assistant was competent and patient, and found the right fit.

By this point my face (especially my chin) was starting to break out, which never happens anymore, and I was developing ulcers in my mouth, including an inflamed salivary gland. It was getting a little weird.

Finally, yesterday, I had the crown glued on. I was straight up with my dentist about how my three weeks had been, and how much pain I was still in. He was straight up with me and told me he knew a guy who took six months before his dentin calmed down after his crown was placed, but the nerve didn’t die.

I had the wretched assistant #1 and I thought, shit, she is going to make a dog’s breakfast out of this awesome gold tooth. Sure enough she couldn’t get it right with the grinders and my dentist helped her fit it. He numbed me up a little for the fitting but it was still intensely painful and sensitive.

I lay back in the chair, biting the cotton roll as the cement set for five minutes. Tears ran down the side of my face. I think that’s the only time I’ve cried at the dentist. At the end the assistant tried to fetch a mirror for me and I was like, “THAT’S OK. I’M OUT.” I just made sure I didn’t need to do anything else at the front counter and then fled. I could feel sleep overtaking me but I had to get home first.

So I am wicked sore today in all my joints and muscles, probably from tensing up. My mouth feels a little better though–mouth ulcers have calmed down, and my face hasn’t had any new eruptions.

Hard-earned!

Sparks Fly

A Couple of Weeks Ago

In the trades you can make two divisions: one side is trades who do the first phase of work, much of which is buried behind walls or ceilings, like electrical and HVAC. The second is “finishing” work, which is the stuff you see in a building. Wooden shelves, painted walls, etc. As an early-phase person I work side by side with the sparkies a lot.

I was leveling out a unit and enjoying one of the 12,000 podcasts I listen to when a nearby sparky asked me something I didn’t quite catch. He was another one of those guys solidly in his career, probably mid-fifties. His face was twisted into its usual scowl, and I had the feeling he was engaging with me just because I was in his vicinity and he needed someone to work out on. I knew this guy, and I wasn’t crazy about him. He was kind of a yeller and a grump. I tried to reply somewhat politely to him, even though there was this part of me that didn’t care what the fuck he wanted or was saying.

“I don’t know,” I responded, because for a minute I thought I knew what he was saying. “Wait…what?” Not great, but whatever. Someone was running a chop saw through metal studs, which is possibly one of the worst noises ever invented.

Framer I can never resist a nice shower of sparks.

A post shared by Taibas Jones (@asstagramme) on

Dude started to fully dress me down. I was faintly aware that none of my personal gang of burly dudes, ye olde sheet metale guyes, was in evidence on the floor I was on. I thought these two things might be related.

“That’s not a very PROFESSIONAL attitude.” I heard that through my earplugs, which I pulled out of my ear. “What year are you?”

“Second,” I said, flatly.

“If you want people to take you SERIOUSLY, you’re going to need to start acting like a JOURNEYMAN.” I said nothing. “DUNCAN is an apprentice and we take him SERIOUSLY and treat him like a JOURNEYMAN because he acts like a PROFESSIONAL.” Poor skinny, acned Duncan was several feet away from us and attempting to both bend conduit and remain invisible at the same time.

I continued to give the grumpy journeyman the blank stare I’d perfected during my many dressings-down as a child for being inadequate in some way. I thought about all the things I could say to him with no consequence. I could swear at him. I could tell him his mother was a professional…at being the town bicycle. I could threaten to report him to someone.

Instead I decided to be my definition of a professional: I put my earplugs back in, turned my back on the asshole, and climbed back up my ladder. I got back to work.

MEANWHILE

We’re doing punch list in the building we’re in now, which means inspectors come and pick all the nits and we have to fix whatever they say is the problem. This means more interaction with finished work. Walls are painted or tiled, carpet is installed. Laborers run around making sure the building stays clean. I do my part; I do a ton of vacuuming and sweeping my own mess because Your Mom Doesn’t Work Here. Laborers notice this and sigh with relief and are nicer to us.

There’s quite a few women laborers, and it doesn’t escape me that they get relegated to a lot of cleaning duties. Whenever I see a woman ANYTHING I go out of my way to say “hi” and maybe make one small speck of chit chat with them. It’s kind of Lady Builder Code. I see you. Your life is both hard and rewarding like mine. Hi.

So there’s a younger woman laborer who is kind of snappy and I was feeling her out, because some people don’t want to talk to me and it’s cool. On Friday morning I saw her pushing a giant floor polisher and this dick walked by and said, “Are you sure you know how to use that?” HASHTAG MICROAGRESSION

She said, “Oh I don’t know, I’m just a helpless female! Can you show my how to use this thing??” He had fucking NOTHING.

I was all

because she’s my new hero. I ran into her a few hours later waiting for the lifts and I said, “Hey, you cracked me up earlier.” There was another sparky near us waiting and holding a ladder who swiveled his head around. He is like the good twin of the guy who dressed me down a few days before, and at first I mixed them up. It was telling he was still there and Yelly wasn’t.

“What?” she said.

I felt a little silly for speaking. “When you were pushing that floor polisher? And that guy asked you if you knew how to use it?”

‘OH YEAH. TPPPBT,” she raspberried. Seriously, did this woman have a newsletter?

“Every time I get on a fucking scissor lift,” I said, “I get, ‘LOOK OUT, WOMAN DRIVER!!’ as if I haven’t heard THAT shit 7,000 times.”

“RIGHT?” she said.

Then the sparky interrupted. “That reminds me when I was a volunteer for the Kelso fire department, and they hired the first female fire fighter…”

There commenced a story about this brave woman who used to deal with peanut butter being put in her headphones for the whole shift. Sucks. But: Ladies, Interrupted.

I saw the laborer the next day running a lift. I was with my boss, who seems pretty feminist and is really chill, and a cool coworker who’s not offensive either.

“Can you believe that sparky yesterday?” I said. “We were trying to talk about lady stuff and…”

“I KNOW!” she said.

“He had to get his oar in. Could he be more un-self aware?”

She laughed so hard. “Right! (dude voice) ‘Ladies let me tell you about my experience with sexism.”

The guys on the lift had a little moment of “uh oh a thing is happening.”

I love her.

To all my people that be drug gobblin just to get by

To all my people that be drug gobblin just to get by
Stack your copays till they get sky hiiiigh

Okay, that’s enough, Kan-NAY. How do I summarize a summer in one post? Let’s find out.

A. is for being Motorboated by the Universe’s Anus

I’m just going to say this: I had a terrible summer. I had an awesome summer. There were high highs and then I was crying in the shower again. I am a cat with internal injuries. I say I’m going to walk it off and then crawl under the porch. I have designed my life so that no one can help me. My children will be surprised when I die at 109 because I am nigh invincible.

How did I get back? Why now? I had a tipping point. If I’m working alone, I am usually listening to podcasts, which is a very magical thing about my job. Hand use hammer; brain use ideas. I was enjoying my weekly injection of my NPR boyfriend, Shankar Vidantam, when this episode came up about getting unstuck. I was stuck. I’ve known I’ve been stuck for a few months now. Nothing creative was happening. I had never been to me.

As an aside, work often reminds me of when my girls were small and I would try to have a conversation with an adult, particularly one who had little kids with them as well. The conversations could never progress past the basics because we were constantly interrupted by something else that demanded most of our attention, it was loud, and we were sleep deprived. Work is like this, and as a result there is primarily a lot of Dude Culture happening.

At first I walked onto job sites with a bias. My logical brain told me, “Well, not all construction workers…” but I still thought I would be working with right-wing, unevolved cavemen, who are there because they didn’t know what their other options were. It’s more and less subtle than this. There are some guys, like people everywhere, who are constantly crude, and are not deep thinkers. But for a lot of people it’s a veneer. I work with guys who have college degrees, who have traveled the world, and who are screaming atheist liberals.

There’s just not much time to talk to anyone about anything interesting, and there’s Dude Culture, so the bar is low and it’s mostly dick jokes. Sometimes they talk to me about real stuff if we’re alone, and then explain to me they have to do performative masculinity in groups, or they won’t fit in. Some of them encourage me to act this way as well, but I know I won’t fit in, so I’m just myself, though I keep my mouth shut a lot. It’s complicated. I also keep an earbud in one ear and an earplug in another, so I don’t have to hear a lot of what passes for conversation. *

Anyway. I’d been feeling really antsy and stuck in life myself. Usually I have a bunch of projects and interests going, but I’ve been hyperfocused on the girls and their health for about a year now. I had the multiple whammies of probably 80% feeling depressed about what the girls were going through, which led to the other 20% being about neglecting myself and my interests. And then I had bonus depression because I felt selfish about being sad about neglecting myself. It’s fun in my head, which I have dubbed The Abattoir of Joy. I am a robot who makes medical appointments and does research and panics privately and says out loud: “HOW ARE YOU FEELING TODAY? ANY BETTER? CAN I MAKE YOU A SNACK?”

Long story long, I stepped back on blogging for a while because my personal project was my most personal things on the planet. In April Franny had a huge “mast attack” (I think of them this way now because of the amazing site Mast Attack) and health crack up and spent all of early April in bed. She was missing school and feeling so bad she was pretty checked out on life. I can relate to this feeling after my big break in Maui, and unfortunately it’s not uncommon with mast cell problems. Strudel was generally lagging along and getting worse after turning 12 last spring, which redoubled my resolve to make things better.

So I vowed to read the entire internet, summaries of studies on mast cell disorders (or the papers to the best of my limited abilities), talk to people, email people, march around to specialists until I found some who weren’t assholes, and try things as long as they weren’t magnets or diets involving one color group. You get the picture.

What is happening now? Some improvements and a change in attitude. I kept thinking about unsticking myself and I have a little reserve for that right now. I will drop it like it’s hot if there’s relapses when school starts next week though. It’s my job to launch them into the universe as legal adults running and screaming towards the first day of the rest of oblivion and not just let them go out with a little whimper like I limped out of my mother’s house.

After many years of thought, reflection, talking, therapy, vodka, ad marzipan the killer in the relationship with my mother wasn’t necessarily the mean, or the crazy, or the (later) blackout drinking/memory lapses. It was the lack of care. The universe dealt her a sick kid, and ignoring that didn’t make any of my problems go away, but it did make me go away. I’ve said this before but I will repeat it: I care about my girls, and more than that, I want them to feel cared for and believe their lives are worth improving and saving. And I want them to emerge into adulthood with the feeling that I tried my hardest for them.

What does all this yammery hand-waving mean on a practical level? I got Franny into physical therapy, with a recommendation in hand for Strudel. I’m just waiting to find out what her school schedule is like this year, and then I can start taking her. Franny was diagnosed with scoliosis for a second time, which can be a secondary effect of Ehlers-Danlos (connective tissue disorder). Her carriage has already improved and she’s feeling a lot better overall. Nutritional support via the ND is working out really well for both girls, with an emphasis on things that axe histamine in the system, like vitamin C and B-5. We’re still doing antihistamines, rescue inhalers, and histamine blockers.

Here is the attitude adjustment. Our NP left to join another institution after many years. She was always nice and well-meaning, but I was relieved to see her go in the end. She saw me through some of the hardest times and did very little for me except the same basic blood panels and puzzled shrugging. I had a visit with the NP who replaced her, because I still need quarterly follow ups to get my tired, narcoleptic mitts on Adderall. I don’t know what to do without something artificial to keep me awake and get me through a day.

For a while I was kind of dithery, like, “I think? This might be mast cell problems?” Now I’ve had the tests and enough confirmations to know. I’ve made the decision that we just go into places now like “WHAT? WHAT WHAT? We have mast cell disorder so that’s a thing you need to know.” So I did that with the new NP and she was like uhhh ok. If anyone’s ever again like, “that’s made up” I am walking out mid-appointment. I told the girls I am dealing with their medical stuff this way as well.

Okay I need to stop or I never will stop. I’ll be back to this, I know.

B. is for food that will make your teeth all grey

As always, I went to Twin Peaks with Franny and Morgan. I have a friend deficit right now, some of which is my fault, and some of which is drifting due to life and sickness. I remembered last summer that I also miss volunteering for things. So Franny and I volunteered at the Twin Peaks Festival. We worked the merch table and the banquet (since we can’t eat there), and I handled a celebrity.

I thought I would meet some people and talk with some people and just generally be in the world, and I was. I think I made beginning friends with one of the other volunteers. I’ve been kind of a ghost everywhere. A long time attendee introduced himself to me and asked me if it was my first festival, and I was like, “no, fifth.” He was amazed. Ha! Even Kimmy Robertson talked to me this year, and she doesn’t talk to many people overall. So I think I was being there.


Franny and Pete with camera obscura

Late one night in the Airbnb at Twin Peaks I told my sister all my stress and cried, it was just cracking open out of me. I try not to do this because I was raised to be a martyr and the family hero and she’s the baby, but she was very supportive and encouraged me to get back to myself and things I like. I feel like a gong went off when she turned 30 in July and now I don’t have to worry about her anymore. I threw her a surprise party in my backyard.

THEN, CHRIST, shortly after that, I saw her father (my stepfather) and his wife who I haven’t seen in 12 years. We spent about a day and a half hanging out and they met the girls and saw the house. Things ended so, so badly with my, well, childhood, and I just didn’t think I would see him again. Morgan had been telling me for years that he’d mellowed out a lot from the days of the epic fights he’d have with my mother, and that he felt terrible about what had happened. She kept telling me that she thought it would be good for me to see him.

To be brave I told myself a story, which was that my sister wanted me to see him, and I could do anything if it was important to her and I wouldn’t be scared. I think that was partly true, but that she was thinking about me as well. And it was a nice time and they thanked me for taking care of Morgan so much after our mother left her third husband and lived with me for a while. It was a little heartbreaking to leave home when she was six, and have her arrive at eleven, and see how messed up she was. For some high school summers Morgan was at my house every day and even spending the night on the couch.

When I saw him walk in, I felt my cells popping. I went cold, my skin crawled, my ears rang, and I got dizzy and I was dizzy for the rest of the day. The second time I saw him I was fine, but the damage was done. I crawled past it though, and now we can be back in each other’s lives again. I was pretty sick the day they left, so work was murder. Even my boss commented on it. “You gonna push through this?” he said. He probably thought I was hung over or something, which in a way I was.

“Fuck yes I will,” I said. “Things will be better tomorrow.”

“We didn’t know how bad things were until later,” Morgan’s stepmom told me at dinner. Understandable, since Morgan kept it pretty quiet. For one, like me, she thought weirdness was normal, but also didn’t want to rock the boat and be forced back to Illinois. She was taking root in Seattle.

And it turned out! Morgan has a career she loves and meaningful relationships. I was so happy to spend a bunch of time with her friends and coworkers and her birthday weekend to see how much they love her and how they are like family after so many years. Morgan did most of the heavy lifting herself, and she is really good at Showing Up and Giving it 110%, which is like most of success, but it was really nice to be acknowledged for the part I played too. Literally no one else on the planet understood what that meant or what I was doing and could say that. Except Morgan, and she does sometimes, which is sweet.

Now that I can downshift on FIXING ALL THE THINGS for my own girls, I’m going to work on patching myself up some. I’ve got some cool medical stuff happening I’ve been tolerating, as usual, but I don’t have to. My dentist has been nagging me forever to get my one thirty-three year old silver filling removed and have a crown put on. I saw him a couple of weeks ago and he said, “Welp, your tooth cracked finally.” I wasn’t surprised, since I’ve been clenching my jaw like crazy. I AM READY. But sad. I don’t want a crown.

There’s something else too. Strudel had a very minor cavity (as in, literally a deep natural depression in her tooth, not decay) and my dentist wanted to clean it and fill it. She didn’t need numbing but felt pretty crap after, and has been been sick and sleeping almost constantly for the past couple of days–her mast cells degranulated. I’m worried I’m going to get sick too even though I don’t need a root canal. I may just have to suck it up and be out of work for a couple of days.

I’ve been wanting to pick up painting again (a practice that predates this blog), but I go blank every time I think about what to paint or even how to start. I decided to take a drawing class this fall at a community college, so I hope that’ll knock something loose. One thing I remembered from vacation this summer is that it’s worth it to take the time to focus on something else for a while.


Orcas Island score

* A few days ago I was up on a lift, way up near the ceiling working on duct. I could hear some mudders in the hallway. One, a white guy, was talking loudly. The other guy I could sort of see on his lift was Mexican. This is relevant because in my experience Mexican guys on a site are either SUPER polite and friendly to me or ignore me. Either way, they are very aware of me and move aside if I’m coming through (as I would for them) or say hello.

It starts: “SO THIS GIRL KEEPS TEXTING ME ALL THE TIME. I’M SO TIRED OF IT. (Stupid girl voice) ‘I STARTED SCHOOL TODAY!’ YOU KNOW WHAT, I DON’T FUCKING CARE.”

My break alarm went off and I lowered my lift and climbed down. The Mexican guy glanced into the room and saw me coming, and said nothing.

“YOU KNOW WHAT MAN, I JUST NEED TO GET INTO SOME NEW PUSSY. THIS ISN’T WORTH IT. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN? NEW. PUSSY.”

I stepped out into the hallway and snaked between their lifts to get to the stairs. I gave the Mexican guy a little nod, since he moved his lift to let me out of the room. I glanced at the white guy, who looked like a 50-something Sam Rockwell, but busted. Sam Elliot mustache. Grizzled.

“Uhhh sorry,” he said quietly. I pretended I didn’t hear, and I didn’t CARE. I know what NEW PUSSY is. I’m married. I have children. I have a PUSSY. Christ. Own your no manners or shut your mouth.
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May is Rare Disease Unawareness Month

Paralysis! I’ve been wanting to write, or to scream my thoughts into a bucket at least, but I’ve just been dealing with a lot of changes. Sometimes I miss audioblogging. Previously on I, Asshole: I’ve been living with assorted aches, pains, and fatigue for most of my life, which seemed to have evolved into extreme and mysterious “allergies” after I got sick and had the attack in Maui in 2014. I kind of hit the wall recently on just putting up with things.

This has all kicked off because I’ve been attempting to have OTC medications compounded, because many of the useful ones, like cold medication, are filled out with cornstarch. I can take a tiny pill, like a Benadryl, and get immediate allergy relief, but then have days of whatever grab bag of problems my body decides to shit on me.

This spring I hit the limit with what insurance will cover, because of FDA restrictions on compounding and whatnot. We’re looking at $135 for a bottle of Tylenol. I asked a well-respected allergy blogger if she knew anything about compounding and workarounds, and she told me that she didn’t know much, but that masto/mast cell disease people knew a lot about these things, and I should check out their forums.

Mast cells? Masto? I had never heard of any of this. I had a look to see if I had anything in common with them…uh oh. Oh shit. Ok. Something to look into.

I’d been in this limbo where I’ve been telling people I have allergies, or at least allergic reactions, and kind of muscling through. I was kind of frankenpatched together with amphetamines. If I didn’t take them I would probably be unable to stop myself from sleeping sixteen hours a day.

So I was interested that maybe there is this tribe of people who had the same weird problems we did, and maybe this explained what my grandmother had too. We could work with this.

Of course things got worse. Take me, universe, I say. I am already ruined. The universe is not content with this, and neither is the time bomb that is my family genes. Franny has been getting sicker, exhibiting weird symptoms that I’ve never had. She had an “attack” in April that was similar to my Maui attack, and spent most of spring break in bed with a fever. In the past year her cousin, who is the infamous Auntie Jaguar’s daughter, got very sick too, showing similar symptoms.

Strudel is also having aches, pains, and fatigue, in addition to the allergy problems. Both of the girls are challenged by the fact that they go to school with kids who are covered in perfumes, fabric softeners, carrying energy drinks, cafeteria smells, eating corn chips in class, whatever.

We’re working on diagnoses with the girls right now. I’m not quite ready to discuss what it looks like it is for Franny, and what her cousin has already been diagnosed with.

I also had another realization recently, finally, along the theme of me tolerating not-so-great situations for way too long but then being spurred into action when my children are affected (see also: my divorce). We are in the process of separating from my long time doctor as well. I realized I was spinning my wheels with her and she’s not really helping us move forward.

I’ve been complaining about fatigue and joint pain back to 2010 at least, and I get some variation on “Hmm, that’s weird,” from her, and then get a basic blood panel which shows everything is normal (hooray, but also not helpful). Recently she had me run through a blood panel again, as well as the tests for autoimmune disease, which where all negative/normal. I feel like we’ve already been down this road in 2014 when I was tested for lupus, etc, so I was unsurprised to see I don’t have markers for autoimmune. This is good that my body is not attacking itself, per se.

I asked for an additional test, which is a standard starting point for identifying mast cell problems. There was a lot of dithering from her office about how to bill for it and even if she should order it and that she couldn’t interpret it when it came back. Fine, I said. Finally I said I would pay for it out of pocket, and sure enough, the test result was high/abnormal.

I’m kind of glad I lived through the 90s, when no one I knew between the ages of 18 and 35 had health insurance. It makes me a lot more prone to just trying shit when doctors are unhelpful. I started taking antihistamines, and ramping up to pretty high doses, which are recommended for people with mast cell issues. Within a week I started feeling better. I encouraged the girls to up their doses as well. It is hard to overdose or harm yourself with OTC antihistamines.

Franny is connected with a good allergist and immunologist who has recommended the same for her. I’m now taking Zyrtec three times a day, and I notice if I miss a dose. I am taking Zantac twice a day, which has an offlabel use as an antihistamine. I am also taking a supplement called quercetin which is doing wonders for reducing the painful facial flushing I would get several times a day.

A thing I haven’t been writing about this winter and spring, because it’s been very disheartening, is the doctor-go-round I’ve been on with Franny. Our doctor did make referrals to a few different places, like a pediatric cardiologist for her palpitations and chest pain. He suggested the rare disease she appears to have, then dismissed it and told us it was anxiety. The good news was her heart has been declared normal. We did see a different allergist who did a scratch test that showed no “true” allergies to food and told her she should start eating dairy, wheat, and corn again and that her problem was anxiety. This “hey, it’s all in your head” stuff is kind of a theme with some specialists, I’ve heard.

At this point we’re waiting on some genetic testing for Franny, which I am told might indicate which levers we can pull medically to help. There’s some weird stuff in my family history, but it looks like the origin for this was SeaFed’s genes (considering Franny’s cousin is having similar problems) plus the cool genes of the people they got with. A nice thing is that it seems like SeaFed’s family doesn’t have mast cell problems, because my very rudimentary understanding of how this can work is that if mast cell people breed you can end up in the land of mastocytosis and not being able to breathe much.

As usual life is a combination of a turd burger with a really bomb side of sweet potato fries. I am finally getting to the bottom of the family curse, and based on testing it looks like I have wacky mast cells that sometimes keep it real…Harold Smith…around here, which I’ve passed on to the girls.

On the other hand, it looks like we’re probably not going to flip over to the cancer or anaphylaxis type of mast cell problems. Franny had a little epiphany recently that the sheep cheese we’ve been eating for over a year now was probably bothering her–her lips were swelling when we were having pizza night. I stopped eating it with her and lo, my joint pain that had come back and not gone away for three months cleared up in a couple of days. And this is after eating cheese and yogurt for over a year and tolerating it fine. So we’re all feeling better lately and I’ve been doing a ton of gardening, which is something I’ve missed.

Right now I’m taking a ton of pills every day, some of which will probably be with me forever (antihistamines). There’s the turd burger. On the other hand, the lower my histamine level seems to be in my body, the sharper my brain and memory is. I’m also dropping about a pound a week without really trying. My appetite is lower and I feel full faster on a reasonable amount of food. Being inflamed seems to make me puffy and hang on to weight, even when counting calories. Ultimately, I’d love it if I could stop taking Adderall and have normal energy levels on my own, and a normal, non-fuzzy brain.

This spring has been a really big deal. After almost 40 years of being sick, I’m starting to get a clue and acknowledge the fact that I’m chronically ill and not going to get over it. I’m also thinking about what this means for my girls for the rest of their lives. But it’s starting to feel more manageable now that I know where most of the rakes in the grass are.

I have been emailing with SeaFed a little to keep him up to date on Franny and her symptoms, which I’ve being doing intermittently for a few years now. He hasn’t made much of a response to any of it, at least not to the extent Franny would like (meaning making more of an effort to prevent her from getting ill when she was visiting him and remembering or acknowledging what her issues were). He forwarded me an email from his sister after Franny’s cousin got her diagnosis at the Mayo Clinic. It included a list of what was going on with the girl and how they tied to her diagnoses. “This list made me think of Franny and her symptoms,” he wrote. “What a coincidence.”

It humored me to read that, as SeaFed used to say.

SeaFed Sightings &etc

1. I keep running into little reminders that the technology I’m using is out of date. Flickr no longer talks to my SD card from my camera. I noticed this happening about a year before with Photobucket. I know I can use a usb cable to transfer the pictures, but it’s an old habit. Now I transfer them to a folder on my machine and then to the cloud. I suspect this is all because people do it instantly with their phones now–who uses SD cards anymore??

Likewise, Franny’s flip phone died a few months ago and I offered to buy her another one, or let her pay for her own smartphone. I was actually relieved that she went for the smartphone option, because the remaining choices for flip phones have gotten pretty dire. Our ol’ reliable go-to MP3 players have gotten worse over the past ten years, cutting features and support to the bone because they can’t really compete with smartphones anyway.

At the same time, I’m trying to integrate smart home technology in my house. Ray Bradbury made me think at some point I would talk to a wall and then get some scrambled eggs, but then my house would probably try to kill me before crashing into the sun. Spoiler: it might try to kill me anyway (should probably get pianos off top of bookshelves). But no. I am trying to add smart outlets to a house with a manual pencil sharpener still screwed into the wall in the laundry room.

It’s not lost on me that I’m writing this on a BLOG. Who even in $YEAR etc. Is this retro yet?

2. And now, a montage.

I got a blood blister at work recently, on St. Pat’s Day. I pinched myself like a moron in the handles of my snips SO HARD my fingertip went numb. After the feeling didn’t return for a few minutes I paused. “I better take off my glove and have a skosh of a gander,” as my old boss used to say.

Wut-oh. They started as gross jellyfishes and got a callused feel. I see why people say not to lance them. If you don’t rip them, they do a marvelous job of healing on their own.

My first blood blister! They were so big and black that my classmates in school the next week noticed them and thought I had just gotten marker on my finger. A week after the pinchening, on the way home from the last day of class, it started flaking off in the car, revealing naked baby skin underneath!

As I was leaving work yesterday, which is a big, partly skinned skyscraper downtown, I let myself out of the main gate…and pinched my pinky in it! DAMMIT.

Here we go again. Much smaller this time, next to its predecessor.

3. I saw SeaFed in January. I’ve been meaning to write about it since then, but it’s Zod’s honest truth that I completely forgot to several times. A cool thing about medication is that people who used to stress me out really super don’t anymore. I almost feel like I used to have an allergic reaction to them…I just couldn’t avoid having emotional hives. I just think of them briefly, go BLECH a little, and move on. A thing that a lot of therapy couldn’t effect.

I don’t think I’m fearless now, but I really like being more resilient.

Anyway, I hadn’t seen him since Franny’s eighth grade graduation. That occasion was a little nerve-wracking because I knew Franny would be nervous about Worlds Colliding and I knew he would be awkward (he was). He’s always seemed completely unable to modulate himself based on his relationship with other people and is an incessant small talker. But not much else, so he’s not really going to blindside people like he used to, like when he would self-admittedly “fuck with” people I had invited to our house for parties.

Franny’s grandfather lost his wife of a few years to brain tumors in December. He and her family arranged for a memorial service to be held at Pike Place Market, where she owned a shop for many years, and where they met, and lived for a time. My biggest, and perhaps only, regret from my divorce was becoming more distant from him.

It seemed necessary for a while, of course. Life went on, and he lost Franny’s grandmother, met his new wife, and then remarried. They moved to an island here and he retired. From everything I heard and saw he was happy and settled.

Her grandfather invited me to the memorial and I went, with Franny. Franny texted her father immediately after the death announcement, and asked for information about the funeral. Her father didn’t get in touch with her about it until about three days before, asking if she was coming. In his world, someone else always takes care of communicating and arranging important things.

Franny also had some major folderol with her father before Xmas, which resulted in her leaving early one morning during a visit, and getting herself home via bus and ferry. She tells me that she told him she was leaving the night before, which I believe. He sent me a somewhat surprised text a couple of hours after she texted me she left when he finally noticed she was gone.

She hasn’t been back since. She kind of threw down the gauntlet at that time, telling him that he needed to remember her allergies and her health problems. She’s given him literature to read about auto-immune issues and diet, and he admitted he hadn’t. I just don’t think he gets it.

As I’ve written about before, visiting any house for an extended period of time is very difficult. The ambient fragrance of the fabrics and environment, coupled with the smells of food that can make her ill is difficult. Then there’s knowing even if you fix your own food that you brought, you’re probably going to pick up some kind of contamination somewhere on the dishes or cooking vessels.

I know she’s been communicating with him about this for a while now, and his memory is terrible. I’m not sure what kind of effect this is having on the interest level in her life–she says he doesn’t really ask about her hobbies or interests or how she’s managing her health. Again, nothing beyond small talk. She told me recently that he seems “in and out” with his focus, and is reminding her of his mother before she fell into full-fledged early dementia. There and then gone again.

I know from experience it’s easy to downplay a bad memory, and if it gets worse over time, it kind of creeps up imperceptibly. People learn to work around and with your memory, and you learn to fake remembering that your friend changed roles at work, or that they already told you they were moving. It does come back when you’re reminded. “Oh yeah. I guess I’m just tired/spacey/PMSing/hungover” whatever.

This is just stage setting, I suppose. The important thing to know is that Franny hadn’t seen her other family since around Thanksgiving, and this was a pretty major stressful event for many people, including people who had lost their mother, grandmother, sister, or friend.

SeaFed’s family is chockablock with girls. He has three girls with his wife. His sister, the infamous Auntie Jaguar, has two girls. We walked in and saw the clump of Franny’s sisters and cousins together. I said hello to most of the girls and introduced myself as Franny’s mother. Franny’s firstborn sister would not speak or make eye contact with me. She is the clone of her mother, and as the oldest daughter, is bound by that sense of duty and loyalty that we unknowingly crush our poor daughters with.

Jaguar strode up to me and I found myself hugging her. “It’s been too long!” I disagreed, but was externally polite about it. She’s fine, she’s just a person. She has become slightly more human to me lately (albeit from afar) since I’ve learned how insane she makes her oldest daughter, who is a teenager now as well. I got a chance to talk to Franny’s cousin, who is sweet, and to reassure her that her Jaguar mother was hell on wheels as a teenager.

Anyway, we chatted, and it was fine. I caught up with one of Seafed’s cousins, who was nursing her third child on a bench. My mental picture of her involves her still having braces, but she wasn’t much younger than I was when Seafed and I got married. Seafed came up and talk to Franny about her schedule of college visits, as if she was a distant niece. This gave me a chance to check out his gelled hair, which was cut and styled to hide a bald spot. It looks “hip” from some angles and sort of makes the bearer look like a surprised chicken from others.

Later her midget stepmother finally came clomping up to us in her clogs. From the few pictures I’ve seen of her post-children, she seems to have evolved into what I think of as that uniquely West Coast mom style that involves a million mix-n-match cotton layers, leggings, and sensible clogs. That day’s ensemble was black, of course. It’s a look that works really well and looks elegant on some people, and on others it sort of looks like someone covered a piece of furniture and that furniture had a baby with an overloaded laundry drying rack. Lumpy? Frumpy? I don’t know.

I was in my tallest heels and literally looked down on her stumpy ass as she talked, only to Franny, avoiding eye contact with me like her daughter did. I watched her and waited for a break in her stream of chatter so I could say something to her but it never came. Franny was pissed later that she didn’t acknowledge me. I wasn’t surprised.

“It’s cool, honey. I’m still that psycho who called the cops when they were on the way to the airport to go on their honeymoon.” I didn’t add, also that person who takes a whopping $400 out of her wallet every month for child support. Maybe someday she will have the unfortunate experience of encountering someone who will push her to the point of taking the very last ounce of shit from someone they will ever take. That can make a person desperate, vindictive, or calculating. But most of the time lately, at peace and indifferent.

The memorial was winding down and Franny brought her grandfather a glass of wine and we offered to make him dinner soon after that, which we did last month. We had a lovely visit with him and are hoping to do it again soon. On the way out of the memorial, I chucked SeaFed on the arm and said, “See you at graduation, buddy.” I hope that’s true.

I guess I’m thinking about this because Franny got a call from her oldest sister over there the other night, who apparently sounded a little angry and snarky (probably mostly sad) and not understanding why Franny is not visiting. She informed Franny that they are moving, to another house on their island. It was nice that she did the right thing and called; Franny is interested. Franny wondered to me where they would get money to buy a new, much larger house, since the old one sounds like it’s melting due to neglect and she said they still struggle to buy groceries every week. I guess his father feels he has no choice but to continue to support SeaFed.

No word on their impending move or new address from her father, of course.