AUB: Always Up Betimes

The only way to start again is to just start, right?

It’s been a while since I’ve written to you. It’s hard for me to write about my life with granularity right now like I used to. I’m just either shoving aside the mundane things that happen or barfing them out on twitter and then moving on.

I spent a long time being depressed after Franny moved out a year ago, and then what followed was dealing with CPS which sucked hairy ballsacks. The case is over now and it’s behind us but I still feel like I’m in a holding pattern of not knowing what to do regarding her. Do I reach out to her and contact her? I’ll be really honest with you and tell you there’s this really bad part of me that thinks that she’s just going through a thing where she’s becoming or has become like her dad. I kept touching that thought like a sore tooth and then backing away again, but every day I think about it less and the tooth hurts less. My relationship with her is becoming part of The Past, like a death, but unlike with her dad I am not closed off to the future.


Getty, October

Sometimes when I’m thinking about SeaFed and his genetic contribution, I think about one of the worst arguments Franny and I ever had, where I really think I hurt her. When she was 16 she went through a phase where she seemed completely convinced ghosts were real, and was obsessed with seeing them everywhere and watching videos or movies about them. She was talking about them constantly. She did this with fairies too, but she was six then. Our entire house lost patience for ghosts after a while, but I also wondered what was at the root of it. What need did it fulfill in her to believe in the supernatural? Or was she just finding a button and trolling all of us?

It did push a button in me. It reminded me of all the idiotic, illogical beliefs that SeaFed had and how it affected his world view. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how they interface with the world similarly and I have to wonder if it’s in part because they have similar barriers. They both struggle with dyslexia and dyscalculia, which is a pretty concrete barrier to knowledge, beyond any other fantastic ideas.

There’s a famous story about younger, 90s-flavor SeaFed that his friends would tell when we were first dating. He smoked American Spirits because he read the front of the package as “non-addictive” rather than “no additives.” I cannot understand what it’s like to live in a world where you personally have found the one brand of non-addictive cigarettes. Talk about beating the system.

I could see this kind of naiveté in Franny as well and it scared me. She got really pissed at me when I stopped humoring her ghost nonsense and asked her not to bring it up anymore. In the end there were a lot of topics like this that were outside of what I consider to be reality. I’ll be honest, when I first got together with SeaFed I found his weird system of beliefs quirky and charming, but over time I saw the obstacles and punishments he encountered because he was not really in step with the rest of the world. It made things hard on both of us.

One more: when he first learned to drive he spent time in Portland and amassed hundreds of dollars of parking tickets, because he didn’t really believe in paying for parking. I saw this behavior when we were dating, too. His solution to deal with the tickets was to shove them in his glove box and simply never set foot in Portland again. Seven years later, after we were already married, Oregon found him, and there were massive fines and credit dings to go along with the original fees.

Eventually I responded to these behaviors by trying to work around him. I always drove and/or paid for parking. I attempted to avert these “penny wise, pound foolish” disasters and was pretty successful until he became a cabbie and started doing things like driving on sidewalks.

SeaFed’s attempts at cheating systems and getting dinged did not really teach him the life lesson I was hoping for, which was hey, ACK RIGHT. It’s easier. He still lived in his fantasy world but got quieter about it over time.

I think his sister le Jaguar also tried to snap him out of this back in high school when he was stealing car stereos and hood ornaments. She tried to bust him to her parents by pulling all of his loot out and leaving it on his bed. It was unsuccessful as he came home first. It was striking to me that he was still pissed about the betrayal as he told me the story years later as an adult. I’m sure part of her was just being a bitchy older sister, but she did get the responsibility gene so what she saw probably worried her, too.

I wanted to cut this fantasyland behavior in Franny and encourage her to face reality when necessary. I sat her down at the beginning of her senior year last fall and drew a flow chart of what her life was going to look like in the next two years. What it boiled down to was, graduate somehow. Diploma or GED, either way. If not, get a job and pay some rent here. Go to school, your grandpa is paying. I asked her to think about it and what she wanted to do. I told her I would help her every step of the way as long as she was making some progress and real efforts. She did not like any of this.

She is repeating her senior year this year. There is a very harsh, cynical part of me that believes the CPS invocation was a hail Mary to get her over the graduation line last year. Why are you struggling in school? My mother is abusing me by telling me I’m sick and overmedicating me. I suspect stories about my parenting were first put out to garner sympathy and claim hardship, but they escalated to the point where the school was compelled to report it.

Anyway. I struggle with the lack of responsibility and escape into fantasy. It’s bizarre to me that a very specific set of behaviors seem to be a family trait, at least back to her shiftless great-grandfather. Her grandmother was lost in this world too (eventually permanently with her early descent into dementia and death), but she found someone in college to take care of her like she was a child: Franny’s grandfather. And he continues to care for SeaFed and now Franny.

As a VERY close second of what gives me pause about Franny, I think about what Strudel went through with the CPS thing. I don’t want to overstate this or make it more dramatic than it was, because while it was stressful, it didn’t seem like a huge threat to her from my eyes, on a practical level. I did not believe Strudel would be taken out of our home. As I’ve said before she had friends who have dealt with CPS and she knows what the possible outcomes are, so she worried and was pissed. That’s a level of betrayal for her from her sister that was hard to get over. And I think she’s still not over it.


Huntington, October

******************

In June I tumbled into a work situation that was kind of out of the frying pan into the spilled milk. I was moved out of a good shop I was in where I was getting maybe 25 hours a week, which sucked, to a small company that would work me 40.

Putting it simply, the department I worked in consisted of one person who did not like people who are not like them. For the first time in my life I really felt the effects of nasty, condescending sexual discrimination on a daily basis. I didn’t really know what it was like before. I’ve dealt with a lot of assholes. I’ve dealt with a lot of one-off comments that were either disgusting or depressing. I’ve dealt with ongoing sexual harassment situations, but this was different.

This was my first experience with somebody who, on a daily basis, was trying to just grind me down into little bits. He was convinced I was incompetent in almost every way, in spite of the fact I was producing work and showing up on time ready to rumble every day. I felt like he was trying to run me off the trade, or at the very least, the jobsite. The only bright side to it (which is not a real bright side at all) was the fact that this boss was pretty equally awful to another apprentice who had come from Mexico originally. He mocked the other apprentice’s accent to his face. The boss told me I was going to have to be the one to issue orders to him, since he didn’t understand him, which is inappropriate. I found the apprentice to be easily intelligible and very fluent. He used American slang, metaphors, and cracked jokes.

In the end the situation disintegrated to the point where I literally couldn’t even speak to my boss. Any time I would try to talk to him let him know why I was doing something or ask him a question he would talk loudly at me and over me until I would be quiet. He told the other apprentices not to talk to me or ask me any questions.

There’s a lot more to this story and what I experienced (“So…are you going to quit sheet metal when you get pregnant?”) but not being able to even participate in two-way communication was the last straw for me. I did everything I could to get out of there, which is really my last resort in any situation while I’m an apprentice. There is a very real risk in any situation that you will be labeled as a complainer, as someone who cries wolf, or as a woman who is not fit to work in the trade. So I considered very carefully what I was doing before I did it and it took me about 3 months to arrive at the decision and get to the point where I couldn’t take anymore.

On my way out the owner of the company told me I was not used to the culture and working with men, since I had only been in the trades for three years. I told him I came from tech and mostly worked with men then, and that it wasn’t a men problem, it was an asshole problem.

It was taking a toll on me physically as well. When I’m unhappy I don’t have much of an appetite so I was definitely losing weight, including muscle mass since the shop work was easier overall than what I’d been doing in the field. I couldn’t sleep well, and I was losing more hair than my typical shedding, which I notice when I’m stressed out. I just felt very alone because I didn’t want to come home and tell stories about what was happening to me every night. The kid would politely ask me how work went and I would usually just be honest with her and say it was terrible again but it’s over and then we would move on quickly and talk about something else. Now I am back to telling her stories about a dumb thing I saw or did myself, or good things that happened.


Luke’s Diner and some rando tourists, October

So I had a crack in all of this gloominess and crap in July when I went out of town for the Twin Peaks festival. It was good as always to be surrounded by some like-minded friends who understand me and to be able to take a little mini vacation. When you’re in the middle of situational depression it’s nice to have a reminder what life feels like again. It’s like diving into a icy cold lake but maybe one that you can breathe in….or maybe it’s like getting out of a big ball of goo for the first time and having fresh air. I don’t know.

I’m thankful when things go right in these shit work situations. People above me in the union investigated was going on in my workplace. Eventually the boss I had was sentenced to 8 hours of sensitivity training. Eight hours for my four months of crap, but I think it’s a good thing. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately in the wake of the #metoo movement–this kind of general discussion and culture that’s bubbling up where white men (especially older ones) feel like they sort of don’t know what to do or how to act anymore. I appreciate the ones that are questioning their actions or having conversations with people and not just waving their hands and saying the world’s gone crazy.

When I was younger I think what I wanted was everyone to do the right thing for the right reasons but now that I’m older I just think if this bad boss gets this slap on the wrist, a mark on his record with the union, and sensitivity training and what he gets out of it is that he needs to just SHUT HIS FUCKING MOUTH AND DO HIS JOB I’m okay with that being the outcome.

So as I look back on 2018 it’s been another hard year emotionally. I feel like I’m more resilient now, though. I went through a lot of shit this year dealing with Franny’s absence and what that means for me and what it means for Strudel who still misses her sister even though they got along terribly most of the time.

Every year I keep thinking as I’m on the eve of a new year that it’s going to be MY YEAR, meaning it’s going to be a really good year and a lot of good things are going to happen. Like an idiot I keep trying to kick the football because what else can we do? I think I’ve been approaching life with some kind of weird lottery mentality that eventually I’m going to hit some kind of jackpot and have just an amazing year.

I know the rest of this year is just going to blink by and suddenly it’ll be 2019. I guess I’m making kind of a pre-resolution to say that I do want to write more next year. I miss recording the mundane details of my life. I miss recording the weird encounters that I have with other people. When I look back at them later I do they do trigger a memory for me, which is sometimes enjoyable, but I also feel like I learn something eventually. I can see patterns from a distance like flying over farm fields.

What I need to do is remember that every year that I work on some of my goals, that I’m nice to myself and keep my mother’s voice out of my head, that I surround myself with positive people who are in the struggle with me, I am making it my year, my life. And there’s going to be speedbumps constantly. Am I happier than I was before I got sick? Yes. Happier than I was a year ago? Certainly. Really bad things can happen and eventually you start living again.


No excuses cheeseball tourist selfie, October

Schrodinger’s Asshole

In May I got some unwelcome parental news, to say the least. It was pretty darn high up on the list of unwelcome parental news, and threw me into a state of shock, then panic, then depression. Depression’s been my good pal for most of the summer.

Let me make a disclaimer first: I am not in possession of all of the facts. I don’t know what the other major players in the story actually did, or said, or thought. Or are thinking now.

So: I had a week of school in May. I was nervous, and felt really unprepared. I had made a dog’s breakfast out of my final project during the previous week of school (about 3 weeks out from surgery, SO TIRED) and had been given a D grade. I knew that would be the first project we did when we returned. I meant to go back to the school shop and practice fabricating it, but life and continuing to recover from surgery took priority.

“Oh, well, I’ll do my best,” I said, and meant it. My grades are good overall and I’m in good standing as an apprentice. As it turned out, the day was not terrible. I did better on my project this time, and didn’t miss any questions on my written exam. Maybe this week wouldn’t be so bad. 2:30 and the end of school came quickly. I said goodbye to my classmates and then headed to my car.

I checked my phone and there was a message from Pete: Child Protective Services had been by the house to see us, and would be returning around 4 p.m. when we were all home together. I felt that familiar panic whoosh: my muscles went slack and my vision got a little sparkly. Take deep breaths, I told myself. Respond, don’t react. Then the next thought: gather information.

I called my sister to see if she’d heard anything or had seen anything odd since she has inroads in social media that I do not. “No!” she said. “NO! I don’t know anything! WHAT. THE. FUCK.” She was as baffled as I was. “Keep me posted!”

We regrouped at home. Strudel didn’t know anything. Pete said the CPS agent told him a complaint had been registered via Franny’s high school. I had noticed a couple of days before Franny had accessed a health record I’d kept for her on a cloud drive. I’d pull it up if I couldn’t remember something when we were at appointments. I’d recorded dates for her nasal ablation to slow her massive nosebleeds, as well as things she had told me about having heart palpitations and chest pain, dates she’d had joint dislocations (and which joints), other appointments we’d had, and a general list of her many symptoms.

I was a little puzzled that this was happening now, because she’d moved out months ago. However, I have heard law enforcement say that abuse victims often don’t report until they’re somewhere they feel safe, so a delayed report isn’t uncommon. I knew in the infrequent and brief communications Franny and Strudel had since November, Franny had expressed a desire to get her sister out of the apparent shitshow that is our house and parenting.

Then we waited for the agent to return to meet with us. I looked around the house as if to find incriminating things, things that I knew weren’t there. Our opium den corner? The slavering wolf hybrids we keep in the bathroom? Our collection of rusty switchblades? Nothing. The house was fairly tidy but the rug was a little furry. Like many dog owners, my living room rug serves as animal napkin, bath towel, brush, bed, race track, you name it. It was deliberately affordable.

“Should we vacuum? Should we NOT vacuum?” I asked. Do you set out snacks for the person who is going to help decide the disposition of your younger child? Coffee?

While we waited, I did something that was really tough, and probably mental, but I was feeling like it was absolutely the right thing to do. I knew I had to say one of the hardest things I’d ever said to Strudel. I touched her shoulder to make sure I had her focus and looked into her eyes. I felt tears coming.

“If you feel like we’re abusing you–” she shook her head. “You should tell someone, and they can get you someplace safe, ok? We can work on this.”

“I’m fine!” she said. This wasn’t out of the blue for her since Franny had spent some time in the past few months telling her sister she was being abused and how she should get away from us. Strudel had spoken to us about this since it upset and annoyed her.

“You tell him the truth, and whatever you need to tell him about, ok?”

The doorbell rang.

The agent seemed nice, and a little nervous, which was kind of a relief to see that he was just a human. He gave us his card and he explained he was with an offshoot program of CPS that does “pre-investigations” before they open an official case. He said their aim was to keep families together and provide in-home counseling or other services as needed. We nodded, dumbly. This didn’t sound too bad so far.

He explained the claims that had been made. This is the part where it gets a little telephone and I’m not sure who actually said what, but here’s what I got out of it: Franny had told teachers that I had been overmedicating her and there wasn’t really anything wrong with her health. She allegedly said I was doing the same for Strudel and would punish them if they didn’t take giant handfuls of pills multiple times a day. She said Strudel was made to practice her violin for up to four hours in one day if she missed a practice day. The school’s nurse declared that I had munchausen by proxy and that physical illness and reactions due to fragrance sensitivity wasn’t a real thing. I can’t remember exactly what the agent said regarding the house, but Franny said something like our house was always cluttered and dirty like a hoarder house.

I flashed back to the day last year that the school had called me to tell me Franny had collapsed due to breathing problems, and should they send her to Children’s in the ambulance that had come? Yes, I said. Had I gaslit and confused her to the point that she was having an attack at school? Had I caused all of it somehow? I’m not blaming SeaFed for any of this, but I thought about her years of frustration and anger when he wouldn’t listen to her about her health problems, couldn’t remember them, or take them seriously. I always took them seriously. This was quite a turnabout.

I remember her saying she started having dislocations at his house in the summer when she was about 12 and how painful they were and how he basically told her to “walk them off” but she would have to remain on the couch resting for a few days. I didn’t understand what was happening at first…I couldn’t fathom that she was having dislocations at all. She talked about the pain and described the sensations, and I thought she was having sprains or strains from bouncing around being a kid. I didn’t become aware of Ehlers-Danlos for another 2-3 years after that. I was unsurprised about her dad’s reactions to her problems because I knew he had a history of ignoring stuff that didn’t have to do with him and wasn’t in his face like a gushing wound or compound fracture. I thought of his “parenting style” as whatever the opposite of hypochondria is.

I gave the CPS agent a brief rundown of what Ehlers-Danlos and Mast Cell Disorder is, and that medical providers and I had seen obvious signs of it in her. She was always open to talking about what was bothering her physically and would tell me when she had incidents at school or at a bus stop. He asked to call our GP and I gave him that number, and the number of the specialist in Corvallis who had diagnosed Strudel and me with MCD and prescribed asthma meds and said to keep doing what we’re doing, AND the number of the naturopath. The agent asked for two people we knew who knew Strudel, so I gave them my sister and a good and long-time family friend, a librarian I met in tech world. He said he would follow up with everyone and this would be outstanding for 45 days, at which point they move forward with an actual CPS case and work it, or close it.

Finally we stepped out in the backyard and left Strudel alone at the table with the agent so they could speak privately. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, nor did I want to. I wanted her to be able to speak with him freely. I was in the first stages of having my parenting scrutinized by the county but all I could think was, “This is a strange man, don’t let them out of your sight completely.” The contradiction chafed.

This has given me a lot of time to think. I HAVE BEEN DOING A LOT OF THINKING. I have been feeling oceans of shame over this. I was scared this would disrupt Strudel’s life, a life that she seems ok with and to even enjoy most of the time. I was upset by the allegations, since they weren’t true, but they weren’t out of nowhere either.

Last year, under the guidance of a naturopath, the girls and I were on a lot of supplements to see what worked and could improve our overall health. The plan was to bump up the stores of some vitamins we were deficient in, try to use some vitamins as levers to knock out histamine, and more. Then we would taper down to whatever seemed to work as a daily regimen. Strudel was shockingly low on vitamin D, for example, which is not uncommon in the PNW or with mast cell people.

Strudel and I have gotten down to that taper point of what we can live with and what we want to take every day. Her list is a lot shorter than mine–mostly just a multivitamin and sometimes magnesium. She complains about having breathing problems or other issues, and sometimes I remind her that she could be taking her prescribed asthma medication daily, or other things, and sometimes I don’t remind her. She doesn’t seem to be in that category of masties who have life-threatening airway closures, so I don’t chew at it much. On the other hand, I like to feel as good as I possibly can, so I’m staying up on antihistamines and whatnot.

The good news is that we’re feeling pretty good most of the time. I think this intense concentration on our health has paid off. We don’t think about it like we used to. We’re carefully eating in Asian restaurants again (we had stopped all together over a year ago because Franny felt it was not worth the chance of getting sick, and we didn’t want to leave her home alone while we gobbled pho). When we have a reaction we bounce back much faster than we used to. Life just feels kind of normal most of the time.

Point being, we were taking a lot of pills for a little while, then we stopped (the girls stopped earlier than I did, which was a bummer because I was hoping to stick with it for the short trial period the naturopath recommended). I liked that the naturopath was sensitive to the amount of pills and would check in with the girls to see if they were feeling burned out of if they wanted to keep trialing for a while.

As another example, if Strudel missed a day of violin practice (30 minutes), I usually would have her make it up the next day, with a break in between. Doubling the time the next day would be an incentive not to blow off practice regularly. But there would never be four hours or practice in a day.

I could go through everything point by point, but let me say there are differences in how I saw things and what Franny told her school and CPS.

What it comes down to is that Franny didn’t like what was happening here in our house. I did not understand the extent of how unhappy she was. Strudel told me recently that some days when she was home ill with something and Franny was here skipping school, she was sometimes crying all day in her room.

This broke my heart to hear and made me wish I’d done everything more, or less, or different. I made a lot of mistakes. I could hear that some of them were mistakes as they left my mouth. One thing I tried to always do was apologize for doing bad parenting, or being rude, or losing my temper, which is something I wish I’d had when adults around me fucked up. I want my girls to know that adults should admit when they fuck up and that they are both worthy of respect and consideration.

Franny didn’t want me standing over her while she took her meds, which was understandable at 16, but then I would discover she hadn’t taken her antidepressants for several days and was roller coastering moodwise, likely because of that. I was worried, and in hindsight I was probably too worried, but I didn’t know what else to do. What do you do when you have a kid who has health problems, executive functioning issues, and definitely some garden variety teen angst issues?

I just kept plugging away. Trying to spend time with her. Asking her to eat dinner with us. Reminding her that I’d appreciate it if she went to school, finished her coursework, consider taking the SATs and finishing her driver training course, and would try to be consistent with taking care of her health.

Lately I’ve been taking a really hard look at myself. My default mode is to try to hear people, and believe them and their experiences. I have had many experiences in my life where I’ve tried to talk to people who are close to me about how I feel, and have been dismissed or argued with. They thought I was being unreasonable, dramatic, incorrect, confused, or just wrong. I knew how I felt, and what had happened, and I knew their response felt bad.

I thought about separating myself from my own mother, and what a hard decision that was. It took me three tries to make it really stick, and I am still deeply in recovery over being raised by someone who has borderline personality disorder. It’s not an easy decision to cut a close relative out of your life, and I don’t think children do it frivolously. I also know from experience that once you make that decision, you don’t want that person badgering you to make up, to forget, to convince you that you’re just being dramatic and that your abuser meant the best for you.

I’ve concluded what I need to do right now to keep my eyes peeled open the hardest and to take accountability for myself is to accept that I was abusive to Franny. Getting CPS involved in her sister’s life is a very loud cry. No matter what my intentions were, she interpreted my actions and behavior as abusive and I need to accept that.

No one in my life who I’m close to wants to hear this from me. I want to retreat into the comfort of the assurances of my sweet, well-meaning friends and relatives. Also in admitting that I was abusive, I am telling them they are friends with or related to a BAD PARENT and no one wants to hear that. People want to blame other factors, other people, other circumstances. What I keep coming back to is that she’s very upset with me. I may be an idiot parent, but I cannot be one of those particular idiot parents who just throws up their hands and says, “I did everything right and they turned on me anyway.”

I don’t think my friends or family are stupid, and that they don’t know what really happened. Strudel finds Franny’s behavior confusing and mysterious as well, and I don’t think she’s stupid either. But right now I need to keep my focus on my blind spots, what I did that didn’t work for her, and how I can be a better person. And how I can be better for Strudel, even though she’s a very different person, who seems to be experiencing a different childhood–both experiences are valid.

I made sure Strudel understood what CPS is after the agent left. She did know, unfortunately, because she had some school friends who had temporary relocations and other forms of interventions visited upon them. She was ANGRY.

“I’m so FUCKING ANGRY RIGHT NOW,” she said. I told her I was glad she was able to say how she was feeling, and that I thought that was a very valid emotion for this situation. “It’s not very nice, but I sent her a middle finger emoji,” she said.

The CPS agent closed the case a few days ago. He called my sister and my friend, as well as the medical people on the list. He told my friend there was no cause to move forward and none of the allegations seemed to be true.

But something happened regardless. So I’ve been doing The Work. Identifying the blind spots, seeing where they come from. Trying to break patterns. Letting myself just cry. Trying to question and smash my fleas. Walking up to my own Schrodinger’s box over and over again and asking myself the same question: “Was I abusive? Was I not abusive?” There is no answer. There are 12 answers.

The box has no lid and no writing. It doesn’t speak. So I have to assume the answer, without all the garbage justifications and qualification above, is “yes I was.”

“Shee, you guys are so unhip it’s a wonder your bums don’t fall off.”

1.

School happened again a couple of weeks ago, as it does five times a year. Three weeks post-surgery, but I knew there was no way I could make it up. It was the second part of the architectural unit, and now we’re done with that. I was super dreading it because the first part of architecture week was pretty hard, and also it’s miserable being indoors with a bunch of guys who smell like flowers and cigarette smoke.

We usually start with a classroom test, but this time we started in the shop, a refresher on what we’d done for the first part of architecture. I made another piece of coping (the cap that protects the top of a parapet) and it was frankly terrible. For my coping final last time, I got a D on it. This time I got a C. I can do better, but I didn’t. I knew the measurements were off, but the big machines that we use to cut and bend metal were kicking my ass. I showed my teacher my light duty/surgery letter, and he said, “You’re on your own with that one.”

Morale was feeling extra poop-scented, because one of our classmates left at the beginning of the week for a job at Boeing with a major pay cut. We attend classes with the same people every time. We have each other’s phone numbers. I’ve started a homework group at my house that involves, “let’s get this done together and then have some damn dinner and yak.”

I’m smart; those who can’t, network. I think I’ll have a new high of 4-5 people over next month. I like these people so much. Our teachers marvel at how well we all get along and help each other. I hear about their jobs, their babies, their dying relatives. I catch them up on my life. When we get stressed out in the shop we yell lines from Silence of the Lambs at each other. I play Clarice.

“CATHERINE MARTIN? FBI. YOU’RE SAFE!”

This is the time when people start getting weeded out who can’t make it through the apprenticeship for whatever reason. I heard a teacher make a comment that they don’t even tell us the “secrets” of the union and our trade until next year, the third year, for this reason. Please please don’t let there be Xenu at the end of this tunnel. I can’t take it.

Making coping was a new low for me. I was worried about how the week would go because I knew our next task was to take what little we knew about mitering and cover a small house in metal so it would, in theory, shed and repel water. We split up into groups and I jumped into flashing. We made the supports that held other people’s parts, as well as the finishing touches that would cover roof seams and corners. I did the math for our group since we had to calculate measurements and square feet of material used, as well as turn in sketches for the drafting test on Friday.

I lobbied for an all black house with a death star theme, but some people wanted silver. Adding silver turned out to be a great idea. In my head I was thinking about Disaster Area’s all-black ship from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, but I figured no one would know what that was. Developing burnout motifs to decorate the house with kept the teacher busy, so he was happy (he encouraged us to make use of the burn table).

We almost ran out of time on Friday, but finished it with about five minutes to spare. The teacher bumped our grade because we all rallied around the guy who did an extremely elaborate dormer and helped him finish. It was like the British Bake-off but probably more swearing and screws flying everywhere. Less ice cream cake chucked in the trash.

The week followed a sharp uphill trajectory after Monday. I aced a quiz, and then got near-perfect scores on my Friday math (missed one) and 100 on my drafting. I have been averaging Bs, respectable, but barely limping through, miserable with being cooped up indoors and struggling to remember basic math stuff.

What changed? Repetition with the math certainly helps. We’re at that phase now where we’re building on what we’re learning. First year was triangle basics–critical, but pretty easy. Now we’re expected to apply triangles to things like the house project and more complicated math.

The other piece that’s helping is pain reduction and medication. I’m already doing so much better with daily pain levels post-hysterectomy and leg vein procedure. Strudel and I went to see a mast cell specialist in Oregon in late March and he prescribed some asthma medication and a rescue inhaler for me. It’s helping at work and school. Moringa and other flavinoids seem to be helping a lot as well–I have fewer hives now.

The one thing that’s still hard and exhausting is work. They threw me on harder stuff last week and I hit the wall and left before lunch on Friday. I thought I could handle it but it was too fast paced and heavy, and I started feeling pain in my lower abdomen, and making a lot of dumb mistakes. My body’s been dumping the fluid I accumulated post-surgery as well (I gained ten pounds almost instantly after surgery and my body’s been “puffy,” not just in my stomach area). I woke up a couple of days last week with my face visibly swollen, which was weird, and now have been peeing a lot. I’ve been sleeping A LOT. But overall I’m glad to be back to work. I’m going to push to be back on true light duty next week.

2.

Around New Year’s I get reflective about what I’m doing and what I want to be doing. I’ve been thinking about starting a podcast for a long time, so I finally did. My friend Debbie and I are recapping the old TV show Roseanne. It’s called Queen for a Damn Day.

Kind of like when I was running the Victorian blog, it’s giving me a way to fuel one of my hobbies, as well as a closer collaboration with an old friend. I like that I’m more up on what she’s doing and thinking, rather than just peering through social media and talking too infrequently. She’s a very creative person who likes to develop ideas like I do. Our viewpoints are similar, but not identical, so while we are enjoying talking about feminism, class issues, sitcom history, the show, 80s fashions, and our dogs, we’re coming at things from different angles.

We’re mostly keeping politics out of it, even though I KNOW I KNOW there’s a LOT of issues with Roseanne Barr and politics. Debbie and I get a big heaping helping of that elsewhere so we’re trying to provide a respite from that for others to some extent.

It’s conversational and evolving over time. We’re discussing season 1 and season 10 concurrently, and will just keep going with it until we don’t want to anymore. Her husband pointed out that 10+ seasons could mean 4 years if we did them weekly, but right now we’re aiming for putting out three a week, which will go faster.

This is probably a small selection of the Venn diagram of people who still read this blog (hi!), like Roseanne still, and like podcasts, but I thought I’d let you know what I’m up to and that I’m not dead fro the neck up. There’s no ads (as usual I am a completely apathetic about monetizing myself outside of my, you know, actual job) and it’s available off our site to stream or DL or at almost any podcast spigot. We’re on twitter: @QFADDpod. I like to warn people that we are over-enthusiastic amateurs, so hopefully the production values will improve over time as we learn more.

I also like to tell people we’re the best Roseanne podcast out there. No matter that we are the only one out there. Happy spring.

Swedish finally found my food

I got a call from the hospital yesterday evening saying they finally found my food, and do I want these bowls or what. They didn’t say where they called FROM specifically so I just called the switchboard. I guess I wouldn’t want to identify myself if I worked for them either.

I got bounced to security after getting looped back to the switchboard four times because there was a “code grey.” I had to look this up: Combative Person. I’m guessing it was a patient, and I feel you, girl.

Security did not know where my bowls are. “Did you try registration? Try registration.” Click. Ok.

I was just thinking about The Olde Thymes when you would have to call a large institution using a list of numbers in a book, which you would keep open in front of you, because you knew your first few tries would be unsuccessful. Sometimes a nice person would give you a secret number that was not in the book. Now people just ring off because you can just incorrectly guess the next number yourself using the internet.

I tried registration. “Not here…what room were you in?”

“I have no idea, but it was the 11th floor.”

“Ok, I’ll transfer you.”

Well, there they were, sitting in a sink I guess. It was nice of them not to find my soup and then to pour it out.

“It did not look so fresh,” the lady said. I imagine not. So now I come get my bowls or they will get rid of them, like tomorrow.

My sister has gone back to work and I’m rolling solo today. Yesterday we went to see the cherry blossoms at UW, which I haven’t done in eons because I’ve been so wrapped up in working my way through my apprenticeship. She said she gets really rocked a few days after the drive ends and she was really feeling it. We’ve been hanging out watching movies and eating our weight in mochi and muscats, but I just wanted to lay in bed after walking around campus and so did she. So I sent her home at noon.

PEAK BLOSSOM. Citizens are advised to freak the fuck out.

A post shared by Taibas Jones (@asstagramme) on

I wanted to do a cute picture of the dogs among the trees but I couldn’t summon the energy to bend down, since they are short and the trees are tall. You’ll have to believe me that they were there. We met a couple of cute two-year-olds and one could say “Cavalier” as clear as day because she has one in her life named Simon. It was pretty impressive. Lots of people were pointing at the dogs and talking to us, as people in public do.

“I don’t think I could have a dog!” my sister said. “Too much attention!”

“You get used to it,” I said. “It’s mostly when they’re puppies.”

I worry about my sister, sometimes, because she reminds me of myself ten years ago. When she’s on, she’s social, and when she’s not working, she’s not interested. I thought it was a family trait because I got increasingly unsocial to the point of somewhat phobic as time went on. My grandmother was isolated because of her health and attitude about the world, and had no friends for years at a time. My mother seemed to be an extrovert, liked people and was attracted to them, but had some truly antisocial behaviors. She had severe misophonia, which would trigger behavior like mocking people in public, which was excruciating. Especially if you were trapped in a restaurant booth with her and the people she was mocking were across the way. And there were no other diners!

I’ve got a long way to go in general, both mentally and physically. I know I’m severely kneecapped in some areas of my life, and doing ok in others. I know I’ve said this so many times, but the thing that has helped about a billion percent is nutrition. All those little tics, the impatience, the anxiety, are almost down to nothing. Insomnia is over unless I truly do something stupid like take a massive nap or drink too much wine for restful sleep. I’m more mentally resilient–less of a hair-trigger temper (which usually didn’t come out, so the rage was just inside me bouncing around), less likely to take offense at anything anyone says offhandedly or not. I can tell myself that people mean well, and if they don’t, it doesn’t matter. I didn’t realize that muting all the little microaggressions that were mostly self-inflicted would positively impact my relationships.

I know when you have a hammer everything looks like a nail, but I wish I could time travel and find my grandparents in the 40s and say, “Hey, you know this better living through science shit? It’s not for us. Have some veggies and a multivitamin.” Ha ha, if only.

Today I hung my mason bee house on the back porch, facing the morning sun. It is very small and light. It felt great to swing a hammer! Sometimes I have a little disconnect between my actual skills now and what I can do at home. I looked at the nail and the porch post, and said, “Ok, self, don’t fuck this up.” I used to hammer nails in crookedly in all damn time.

I used to hit my thumb: OW OW OW fifteen minute break followed by a snack and a nap! Now I still hit myself, and give myself blood blisters, but I just tell myself it doesn’t bother me and I move on, because I realized it doesn’t actually hurt that bad if you think about pain in a certain way, as just a sensation or feedback from your body. If the feeling doesn’t come back in fifteen minutes or I feel blood pooling I will take my glove off and look. It turns out I was born to be an oaf, but you knew that already, didn’t you?

I took the cocoons out of my fridge where they’ve been residing for the past few weeks.


Bee cocoons come in a little box and look kind of like bees that have been wrapped up by a spider. You put them on top of the inside of the bee house in their box.


The kit also came with clay that you turn into mud and leave nearby so they can seal their tubes after laying eggs. I’m leaving it out now in case some native bees show up and want to get in on this hotel action. Now I just have to wait 2-4 weeks for the cocoons to open. THAT’S FOREVER.

I’ll post more pictures when they’re flying and when they make more cocoons midsummer. I read that ten mason bees can pollinate one fruit tree, and they like hazelnuts, which we have three of. Yeah!

A little health update: everything is feeling better daily. I’m six days out and sleeping on both of my sides. A weird thing is waking up with Death Flavor in my mouth, which I’m told is anesthesia working its way out, still. How about it works its way out of my elbows or something instead of my mouth? It is also making me want to eat what I want to eat, and not reasonable homecooked meals. So there’s a lot of juice and cheese happening, because nothing else tastes good.

Peeing is a magical experience now. I go, and then I have the sensation of not having to go anymore. I had the feeling of constantly low-grade (or high-grade) having to go for years. What is kind of odd now is how my bladder feels. I was at the blossoms yesterday and just sort of felt vaguely uncomfortable and off, and then I was like…you know what…I better see if I have to pee. I did. What? I don’t know either.

I took a shower yesterday and had another new feeling: a normal vulva instead of one with a uterus that was trying to later days out of it. Have you had a baby come out of your business? Do you remember that feeling of pressure? Every time I stood up I was basically crowning, ahaHAHAHAHAHA *uncontrollable sobbing*. There is so much less pressure on my pelvic floor I just feel light now. Next time someone takes me out, I’m going to get thank you cards and write my surgeons. I knew this would be life-changing, but I didn’t know it would be like, 96 pt font flashing LIFE-CHANGING.

I’m a little achy around where my uterus was (kind of like negative space menstrual cramps) and definitely super tired. Also sad that my medical glue is coming off my incisions already because it’s kind of this gross blue which is neat because I’m glued together! and I figure it’s good to have them covered. I had a dream that tea was coming out of my incision holes like I was a cartoon. My brain also keeps reminding me, “There’s nothing but a vagina now, ISN’T THAT A KICK IN THE HEAD?” Go be amazed somewhere else, brain.

How to be an Asshole during your hysterectomy

On Wednesday morning I got up, double checked my hospital packing list and bags, and hung out with the kid for a while before she went to school. I had a cup of tea and tried to distract myself with reading. I think Horace picked up on my nerves and really didn’t like the looks of the suitcase since I had just gone to SF a couple of weeks ago.

I gave myself a pep talk. I was all set set! Everyone was on board with my health issues! This was going to be great. Okay, so I knew it wasn’t going to be great, but I felt ready and I thought they were ready for me.

I didn’t take any speed because I’d been on a liquid diet for two days at that point and it seemed unnecessarily harsh. I took my normal morning antihistamines and one kind of mast cell stabilizer (quercetin). I taxied to the hospital, checked in, and immediately got hit by the wave of hospital and people smells and got sleepy. I shut down and fell asleep the first time while I was waiting for them to call me for preop–just like the old pre-speed days!

I pulled one of my gowns out of my bag that I knew I wouldn’t react to/get hives from and that was immediately a fight–they wanted me to wear something that was some kind of paper. I brought stew I’d made the night before asked them to please get my food into the fridge. I know that time=rising histamine levels for warming food.

It made me feel better to cook a huge stew the night before, even though I couldn’t eat it. I was doing something normal that I was ok at. It had chicken, onions, mushrooms, carrots, garlic, potatoes, and chickpeas. I kitchen-sinked it because I was hoping there would be some when I got home, too. The nurse looked confused as I handed the bowls of stew to her. She said they would put it somewhere “if they could” and write down where it was.

I told both of the nurses that my surgeons had approved me to wear my own gowns. There was a lot of conferring at the nurses station that I couldn’t hear all of. I had a wild thought and made a pact with myself that if they were just assholes about everything I could bail on surgery all together. It was ok to change my mind on something this major even at the last minute. Finally, my gowns were allowed, but my sheets were not.

I wasn’t upset, really. I walk into a big institution like this and expect to have to try tell people what my deal is repeatedly and accept things quickly that won’t budge.

I got asked the same questions over and over as they do for everyone, I’m sure. The admissions nurse wanted to know what happens when I’m exposed to triggers. I told her the anaphylaxis symptoms I get as well as passing out. “That’s not anaphylaxis,” she said.

“Well, ok, that’s a thing that happens a lot, though, if I don’t take Adderall.”

We had spent about an hour talking about corn at that point. IV bags appeared and I asked her to make sure the bags were saline only and the line flush didn’t have dextrose in them and she said, “Oh are you allergic to that, too? What does that do to you?”

My eyes started dumping like I was crying, which is another thing that often happens, sometimes even if I smell popcorn. It has nothing to do with what mood I’m in. The admit nurse tried to be reassuring, “Oh this is a lot, isn’t it?” I tried to tell her it was just another side effect. My throat was getting phlegmy and my voice was getting hoarse. My head floated and it was hard to think of words.

I had a chat with the surgeons. My gyno surgeon asked if they could do anything for me now. They were trying to start an IV line on me and that nurse was completely failing, which is weird because usually my veins are really easy to find. I asked if maybe they could start the IV Benadryl now? She said they could and said the anesthesiologist was going to stop by in a few minutes.

“Is it a dude? They are always dudes.” I don’t know what made me say this. Filter drop.

“Actually, you’ll have a woman today, she’s great. There’s a lot of women here.”

“I know, that’s why I’m here!” I said. She and my urology surgeon laughed.

The anesthesiologist popped up, took over, and got my IV in so fast I barely noticed. She started the Benadryl right after that. It kicked in extremely quickly and I went from feeling congested, scratchy, crappy, weepy eyes to clearing up in a matter of minutes. Much better. I felt like I could think again, but I also felt kind of drunk.

I handed her my hand-written list of what I take every day (long, crazy-looking). She scanned over it. “Oh good. I saw your chart and was surprised you weren’t taking quercetin. Here it is.”

“Every time I say that to a nurse it gets entered as turmeric,” I said.

I’m taking three things right now that are supposed to have mast cell stabilizing effects: quercetin, luteolin, and moringa. I’ve noticed that since starting moringa I’m getting fewer hives on certain places in my body. I don’t get them on my stomach anymore but I still get them behind my ears and on my face. It seems like flavonoids inhibit mast cells really well.

Like my surgeons, she had read a ton about mast cell so it was nice to talk with her. She had figured out which painkillers and antibiotics did not have dextrose in them. I knew I would degranulate when they made incisions and whatnot, much like with my vein procedure the week before. After we were done she gave me the big shot and I was relieved–all that waiting and then I could go to sleep.

I remember being wheeled into the OR. There was some big fucking thingamaworks at the end of the room that my feet pointed at that made me think of Robocop.

“Is that the vagina robot?” I said.

“Yes,” a nurse said. Good night.


FUCK YOU, PROLAPSE!

I had a little worry that nagged at me all week, because I remember the first time waking up after childbirth when the endorphins were all gone. My vulva felt like roadkill and I was pretty sure my bones were scraping together. I felt like I’d been hit by a bus. I was ready for that feeling again.


IV attempt #2: Unsuccessful!

I didn’t have it though–I woke up three hours later confused, shaking violently, weeping. I sort of remember the recovery room but I was so in my body I don’t remember what anyone said to me. I think they did give me more IV pain meds. A nurse tried to hand me some extra-strength Tylenol and water and I said, “I can’t take these, I have a corn allergy.” My voice sounded like it was coming from far away.

I did not feel like I’d been hit by a truck. Surgery is funny in that you just lie there, whereas childbirth was a whole marathon that I was not ready for the first time since I was so out-of-shape.

They assigned me a room on the fly. I figured out really quickly that it wasn’t private, which I’d asked for and the pre-op nurse on the phone a few days before said would be no problem. “I don’t know why they’re still telling patients that, we remodeled two years ago,” a nurse said. “We only have like, two private rooms for people who actually need them.”

A couple of nurses who came in and out said, “Oh, I’m sorry you didn’t get your PRIVATE ROOM.” The way they said it sounded like it meant, not, “private room” but “YOU’RE THE REASON I HATE MY JOB.” Yikes. I had immediately made myself the most unpopular person on the floor, so it was a pretty typical experience compared to everywhere else I go. I had better get out of here, I thought.

I’d had a similar experience at Group Health with Strudel. I came in after laboring for 47 hours or whatever and no baby. I remember one of the nurses got way in my face, which is probably a good idea since your awareness “bubble” gets really small and people do need to get in close. She said: “I’M SORRY YOU CAN’T HAVE THE HOMEBIRTH YOU PLANNED.” I get the feeling through training and practice they have a script they follow but after saying it hundreds (millions?) of times it can sound kind of rote and hostile. I was thinking to myself, “I don’t care, I just want this baby out.” Home would have been easiest, but if the kid won’t come out, call a fucking plumber.


IV attempt #3: Success!

They hung up my signs that said “keep door closed” etc. but people were coming in and out of the room so much they were being ignored. They were still trying to push Tylenol on me, which was easy to refuse, of course, but it made me wish I had a sign on my forehead (besides the one that obviously said “crazy diva”). I asked someone where my food was and they said they didn’t know. I had brought some shelf-stable snacks with me and inhaled them. I knew as soon as my Benadryl wore off I would be sick again and would wake up at 2 a.m. all scratchy and swollen with my heart racing.

There was a lady in the bed next to me who was in so much pain post-op she was just laying there moaning, poor thing. She said, “I’m not contagious,” which was kind of a three-word essay on how women are socialized to be accommodating at all times. “It’s ok, it’s not you, sorry,” I said. “I have a cellular disorder.” As if that explained anything.

I got super cranky and started unleashing the f-bombs as I normally do, not AT anyone, but just as my usual cavalcade of ignorant and vulgar adjectives. “I need to get out of this fucking place.” They said they would try to reach one of my surgeons to get permission for me to be discharged. I felt bad because it was the dinner hour but I knew my clock was ticking and my pain meds AND antihistamines were going to wear off. I had to use the push they were going to give me to get out of there.

The conditions came back–I had to wear/take my catheter home, and I had to prove that I could walk. “Ok!” I said. I had been assigned some other flavor of patient relations nurse because I’m sure my overworked floor nurse immediately threw her hands up like “this bitch.”

Special Nurse got me up and running with the IV pole/cool catheter combo and threw a robe on me as I ambled out of the room. I walked down the hall and watched the floor and walls spin up at me.

“How’re you doing, dear?”

“GREAT! I feel fine really.”

“Pain?”

“It’s at a one. Or a zero. Let’s say ‘zero.”

“Do you want to go further?” she asked.

“Oh, no, I’m good. I can turn around any time.” We had made it about halfway down the first hallway, or maybe an eighth of the way around the whole loop. I was amazed to see how not-far I’d come. It was like when you’re super, super baked and three minutes feels like three hours. I saw nurses and whatnot at their stations looking at me. I hoped it was “normal” looking. I hoped I was normal-looking.

I began the laborious process of dressing myself and getting out of my gown.

“Can I have some privacy while I get dressed?” I asked the nurse, pointing to the curtain on the other side. The moaning lady’s husband was over there and I was sure if I started to change he would suddenly pop his head around, because life always has to be as awkward as possible. She kicked him out!

“Thanks, sorry, I really just wanted my curtain closed, sorry,” I said as everyone left. Then it was just me and moaning lady on the other side. I struggled to get my gown untied and to get a shirt on.

“Sorry you had to put up with my shit,” moaning lady said. I loved her for swearing. I assumed I was offending her and her lovely adult children the whole time.

“Oh no no no no, sorry you had to put up with MY shit. I’ll be out of here soon. I really hope you feel much better tomorrow.”

“Me too,” she said.

Regular Nurse taped my catheter tube to my leg really tightly and helped me get my pants on. They brought a wheelchair and I told them I couldn’t leave until I had my stuff. I knew they would miss a bag if I let them out of my sight. They brought a utility cart for my bags. I still didn’t know where my food was and I didn’t mention it.

“Sorry I’m being a dick,” I said. I thought I was? But I was so doped up and am reflexively British/overapologetic so I couldn’t read the room.

“Did you walk?” Regular Nurse asked.

“Oh yes.”

“The WHOLE loop?”

“Oh yes, absolutely, it was great,” I oversold. “Thanks for everything!”

Then I was wheeled downstairs.

“Is your ride here?” the aide asked me.

“Yes…no…she will be soon.”

They conferred among themselves over my head about how they couldn’t wait here with me.

“I can just sit in a chair,” I said, pointing to the lobby. I wanted to be quit of them as much as they wanted to be through with me I guess.

“Can you leave the cart?” I asked.

“No.” They dropped my stuff next to me. “What is she going to do?” one asked the other.

“Ok I guess that’s my problem,” I said, but their backs were already to me.

“We wish you well in your recovery,” the chair pusher called over her shoulder, sounding like she was talking in her sleep.

Upstairs, right before I left, I noticed it was 7 o’clock, which I knew was important because my sister’s gig was ending then and she said she could pick me up. I had no idea where she was in the city or how long it would take her to get there. I just knew she would come. I texted her with my update. As it turned out, she was two blocks away! Whew.


Here is a text message from a desperate woman.

Then while I waited it was just me, sans the dinner and breakfast I arrived with, and my sidekick, a catheter.

Going home was the right decision. I was able to relax into my own bed without all the monitoring and beeping and fucking allergy-type triggers around. I slept intermittently and woke up at 1:30 and took some more safe Tylenol.

The last few days have been really good. I’ve felt and looked at my five small incisions. One surprise is that they are uneven on my torso; I thought they’d be arranged symmetrically, kind of like pips on a die. I have no idea why I assumed that. Two days after the hysto I went for my leg vein follow up, to make sure they’d killed the varicose vein good and dead and that everything looked all right. The nurse said, “Wow, look at your bruise! I’ve never seen so little bruising! This all looks great.”

I told my sister about this and she said, “Boom! Vitamins!”

Now I think I’m having kind of the dream hysto recovery. I don’t have pain unless I jab myself. I’m not bending over, lifting shit, stretching up high, cleaning, cooking. I’m doing a lot of resting, but I’m doing walking, too. I have had a couple of naps, but mostly because I had trouble sleeping the first night. I’m not even taking Tylenol continuously anymore. My sister just finished her fund drive at work so she’s vegetating with me and we’re watching Drunk History and Hitchhiker’s. She’s been fixing meals. We did a short walk with the dogs today also.

I was still a little on the fence my first day after, wondering if things were about to get much worse, and I hadn’t taken my catheter out yet, so that still hurt. A lovely twitter friend, @kang72, sent me this awesome article. Perfect timing.

The anesthesiologist explained that during surgery and recovery I would be given strong painkillers, but once I got home the pain would not require narcotics. To paraphrase him, he said: “Pain is a part of life. We cannot eliminate it nor do we want to. The pain will guide you. You will know when to rest more; you will know when you are healing. If I give you Vicodin, you will no longer feel the pain, yes, but you will no longer know what your body is telling you. You might overexert yourself because you are no longer feeling the pain signals. All you need is rest. And please be careful with ibuprofen. It’s not good for your kidneys. Only take it if you must. Your body will heal itself with rest.”

With my surgeon’s nurse’s over-the-phone instructions, I snipped the catheter line that would deflate the balloon and let it come out. Removal wasn’t too bad. Pulling the gauze packing out of my vagina was no picnic and resulted in some fresh blood that’s slowing down now. However–a miracle has occurred. I no longer feel the constant heaviness of my shit trying to fall out. I don’t have the feeling of having to pee constantly. It’s wonderful.

I’m resting! And I stand by my conviction that hospitals are for fleeing from.

You just popped in the Kanye West get right for summer workout tape

A. Nobody Wants a Little Tight Ass

WARNING: There’s going to be pictures of my sad leg down this post. Trigger warning for white, Northern hemisphere, middle-aged lady leg, and to a lesser degree surgical incisions and bruising.

I just had minor varicose vein surgery in my left leg on Thursday. It’s kind of unfortunate timing, because I’m set to have my uterus out on Pi Day (March 14th). My veins started blowing out in my legs a couple of years before I got really sick, which doesn’t surprise me. Everything got pretty flimsy and inflamed and messed up then, and I felt like I wanted to put out all the fires but more kept popping up.

There is a PROCESS you go through to get a vein stripped. When I walked in to the clinic a few months ago, both of my legs hurt at the end of the day and sometimes all day, but I can’t see through my skin (YET!) so I didn’t know exactly what was happening. It turns out my right leg has a baby varicose vein going on but the left leg had a whole turnpike situation. Also it was leaking blood into my leg continuously (as they are wont to do) and so it hurt a lot and always looked like some gorilla had squeezed my calves for a minute or ten.

So, as we all know, the insurance companies do not want to pay for an actual existing condition that won’t get better. They want to say, “Here, bite this stick for three months, and in time you will be adjusted to biting the stick and you will love the stick so much you’ll forget you wanted us to pay for something in the system you pay for access to.”

The num-num stick was: support hose. I was supposed to undergo a trial of wearing them and hopefully at the end of three months I would forget all about my pain. That did not happen. In fact, most days the support hose on my left side felt worse, and I still had a lot of deep throbbing pain at the end of the day, even if I hadn’t worked a whole day. So when the nurse called me and asked if I was still having pain and did I want to proceed with the left leg I said YES.

To be fair, my right leg is improved. It doesn’t have pain at the end of the day. The bruising has greatly reduced. I will keep wearing a compression sleeve on that side.

Of course the only day my leg surgeon was available this month was six days before the hysterectomy. I thought about it for a bit because on one hand, I knew it would be hard to have two procedures done in one month, but on the other, I can only take so much time off work and they both involve some resting, so I might as well go for it.

Stripping is what it sounds like. They yank the vein out. For whatever reason they didn’t send me prescriptions for Xanax, an antibiotic, and numbing cream beforehand like they were supposed to, but I never let that hold me back from having a good time. The doctor had me check the ingredients in Versed and then dosed me up with a little of that. It was nice because I was nervous when I came in, and then in about five minutes I didn’t care about the tugging sensations and snapping noises I heard below my knee.

My heart rate went up really high for a few minutes (histamine dump?). I felt myself getting sleepy in the chair as they were working on me. My Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses were kicking in. I had to walk for 20 minutes post-procedure and then I was yawning and barely awake all the way home. I came home and shut the fuck down. My body went NOPE and I went to that really swift mast cell narcolepsy place where I’m asleep in 30 seconds. Minor trauma buys me a 20 minute trip to BuhByeport, but this had me out for an hour and a half. I did not get corned! No hives! Good job leg clinic! It was just regular old trauma that caused me to degranulate and knock out, ha ha.


Hole up and camp? Y

I have eight small incisions in my leg now. I had to wear bandages and thigh-high compression hose for 24 hours, and then I was allowed to take a shower last night. My nurse told me watery blood coming through the bandages was okay, because that was leakage from the saline solution they pump around the vein, but bright, original recipe blood was not. I did have some real deal breakthrough bleeding on one incision that came all the way through the gauze wrap, but it looked like it stopped pretty early. I’m guessing it happened the first afternoon/night when animals were jumping on me before I could stop them.

I’m already making it around okay, but I don’t want to overdo it. Just sitting here, or walking around the house, I’m not in any pain currently. I took the dogs for a short walk yesterday with my sister and it was fine. The nurse told me to “stay on top of pain” by taking pain killers 3x a day, because supposedly the pain peaks today or tomorrow. I am able to take Goody’s powders since they don’t seem to contain corn. Tonight is Strudel’s birthday dinner and I probably won’t be making sushi this year, but I’ll help with the menu.

This morning as I was waddling around like Danny Devito’s Penguin, I kept wondering why my left leg was messed up but not my right. What happened in there? Was it congenital? Did I stand and walk unevenly? Probably. It doesn’t matter. I go back in a week for a check in, then 60 days, then on 90 days they do laser cleanup with any bruising that’s still visible. So not only should I have way less pain, but it will also look like the gorilla stopped squeezing me.


After I took off the compression stocking and Coban. Ruh roh, blood.


Top of leg (duh)


Black line is a sharpie road map for the surgeon.

Don’t fight over me, boys and girls, there’s plenty to go around.

B. Give head, stop breathe, get up, check your weave

Surgery #2 rundown: it’s on like Donkey Kong. The plan is sutures, sutures, sutures instead of mesh, which is forever. They are dissolvable and probably made of corn, but it’s unavoidable I guess. So it could be a rocky 3-6 months. Or not. I have no idea! Basically my vagina and bladder are getting Croydon facelifts. They will make about five incisions and fish all the uterine and fallopian tube chunks out through those like a claw machine and the Operation game had a GD baby. My ovaries are staying put.

An amazing thing happened. They are going ahead with the mast cell surgical protocol, which involves Benadryl and Prednisone in the IV. I think we’ve found IV antibiotics without dextrose as well. They want to keep me overnight to observe my reactions to things. I’m bringing my own sheets, gowns, and food. I’m also bringing signs to remind people not to put dextrose in my IV. This is largely thanks to work Corn Allergy Girl has done.

I had my last pre-op call with a nurse and I asked her if I could have a private room to avoid other people’s fragrances, food, and whatnot. She said she would put a request in, but that most of the rooms were private. This of course triggered a nightmare that night where I was in a giant ward with 12 people, including a naked guy who was beating off in his bed when I came to. His dick was nightmarishly large, like an eggplant. WHAT. I tried to get back to sleep, but I realized my bed was covered in glittery powder that looked and smelled like LUSH bath bomb dust. The nurse was mean. Horace was there, but he was trying to stamp on my incisions. HELLO ANXIETY. I SEE YOU.

C. Cover your mouth up like you got SARS

Last weekend I went to California. I had a talk with myself and made a mini-bucket list before surgery. What do Asshole want to do?

1. Rice for dinner three nights in a row
2. Visit Shannon and see Jen if she’s not busy. I also saw Michael and we went to the Columbarium (as you do) and the Legion of Honor.

Tiny Bucket List Achieved!

Shan’s husband was giving Jen a ride home after dinner and I was riding along. She asked me why I showed up just then since I hadn’t visited anyone in, like, four years, and it’s hard (but not impossible) for me to stay with people.

“Uhh…you know, in case I die or something in surgery. It’s unlikely! But I wanted to see Shan.”

“So this is your End of the World Tour?”

“Yes!”

“Oh that’s so nice. I want to be someone’s End of the World Tour.”

“Well, you were on my list too,” I said.

California is my place I’m always happy even if I’m a wreck. Which I wasn’t. The plane and airport gave me hives coming and going, but I had a great time at her house.

So if you see me tweeting/gramming on or after March 15th you’ll know I made it. I will also try to blog again soon as I am recovering. I have to recover, because Krumpy and I are planning to do a podcast together (first record tomorrow I hope!) and I HAVE to see that through.

Being 40 is going pretty well so far and I am doing a lot of maintenance and rehab on my broken parts that diet and prayers to Our Dark Lord cannot fix. Dig it: 1. ancient filling replaced with tooth crown finally ; 2. uterus OUT; 3. Painful legs OUT; 4. I’ve been getting my painful face flushy veins zapped, which I don’t think I mentioned, so my face doesn’t hurt 5x a day; 5. therapy ongoing and necessary; 6. Flying to Corvallis to see mast cell specialist later this month.

I’m not going down without a fight.

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.