Poop Diamond and a Tiny Open P.S.

An old friend of mine said something to me a few months ago that really resonated with me. Hard. She’s good about that sort of thing. She can see truths right through to their heart. I don’t think she would be friends with me if I was constantly delusional about everything, but once in a while she can give me a really good, loving shove that I need.

Sometimes I feel sorry for my friend (in a weird way), because I think 99% of the time she sees the truth of her own life so fricking clearly. Harsh-light-of-day clearly. I’ve never seen her let a bad relationship go on, or carry on lying to herself. She is her own Cassandra. Ok, maybe that’s a bad analogy, because she listens to herself. It’s better to have self-insight, I know, than the alternative.

Anyway, I’ve been wanting to tell you what she said, but I had to shove that piece of coal up my ass for a while and see what came out. I was telling her about an unpleasant run-in I’d had with someone I used to know (I didn’t write about it–too much going on really). I was lamenting that I had let myself get into relationships in my twenties with a lot of people who were not so good for me, which, if I am being honest with myself, was a nice way of saying, “Were huge assholes who didn’t really respect or understand me.” I knew this was a pattern, and I’d had a nagging feeling there was a code I was not quite cracking there.

Some of the people I was attracted to were just not nice–one-sided relationships all the way. They would make me happy for a while. “Wow,” I’d tell myself. “They certainly have an interesting take on the world. Maybe I can learn how to be more assertive (or decisive, or less worried about what other people thought about me, or whatever) from them.” Oh, Narcissus, I could watch you watch yourself for hours! You really are the grooviest. I’d take in what they’d say and feel the little pings of red flags pop up. Then things would not go so well. That strong trait or traits they exhibited that I thought I could learn from would be turned on me once. Ouch. And then several more times. Well, we’re going to have to call it a day, then.

It made me nervous because I had seen my mother run through people like mad over the years–husbands, fiances, friends. Umm…her children. I thought maybe I didn’t really know how to be friends with people. Something was certainly wrong with me. Hadn’t I been told that over and over again growing up? And then again for years by my husband? I was “not funny.” I was “weird.” When I got up the courage to actually show my ex my writing it “did not make sense.” (Okay, that is certainly true sometimes.) Lucky for me I made some friends with people who were nice and not broken. These were also people I decided to pattern my grown-up self on as I moved through my twenties and beyond. And wow, I am still friends with most of them, in a pretty normal, mutually-accepting way.

So to get back to my friend and what she said–I was kind of lamenting the fact that this creep ex-friend had made a little pecking intrusion back into my life via an email, and why was I always so bad at relationships (present company I was moaning to excepted). Then she said it. “You know, SJ, I don’t want to pathologize you, but you really didn’t have the best examples for normal relationships growing up.”

Saying that this was a light bulb moment would be greatly oversimplifying things, but it rung, like a clear little bell, and then kept ringing and resonating. I’ve heard similar from other people, and I’ve told myself that, but that sentence was exactly what I needed to hear from that friend on that day. I kept getting into relationships with people who were like my mother: self-involved, mean, unaccepting. I tried to pull away from her multiple times in my teens and twenties only to have my ex really disapprove of that choice, because he was a mirror of her.

Reader, I married my mother.

For a long time I thought my ex was a sociopath, because of the lack of empathy and some of his interesting life and moral choices, but lately, after following one disjointed thought and coincidence and conversation scrap after another–you know that feeling where you are kind of chaining along to some kind of conclusion? Just me? I hope not. Anyway, I’ve been reading about narcissists and I think I may have a bingo there. Or the closest I’l get to a bingo, anyway. I could tell you dozens of anecdotes and how they relate to each symptom, and at some point I might, for my own entertainment.

Anyway, I tell you this because I like to say when I have realized things, even if I think I might reevaluate things later. But these feels pretty right; it feels like some information I was missing, or at least a label on things. The good news is that on my own over the years I’ve developed coping techniques that are pretty similar to what’s recommended for dealing with a narcissist. Keeping things very brief, like our last exchange before school let out, when he had to scold me one more time and I basically gave him no reaction.

His wife is now opening calling him a lazy asshole in front of the children. Girl, I am breaking the fourth wall, okay? If you can read this a) you are driving too close and b) you should probably read this. All of it. Good fuck’n luck comrade.

I do wonder how Franny’s doing over there for her month! P. sent her a care package and I’ve texted but it is silent. I’m hoping she’s tired and happy.

In Other News

“If you come in to this room without knocking I will make meatballs out of you.”

Have you been to small claims court? Advice?

Okay, two things. I was wrong about who the killer was in my Miss Marple book. I peeped ahead because I was trying to see the strings. Next time I will peep ahead harder. Or maybe just read a summary. I am moving on to The Magician’s Wife now, a lesser James M. Cain. Still feels like him though. I would like to punch people with words like that. I feel like I can see grime on people in his stories.

Thing two is, have you been to small claims court? Do you know someone who has? I know every district and judge differs somewhat, but I am looking for any experience I can take away. I know it’s supposed to be “layperson-friendly” but I don’t want to step in anything.

Weekend at Fogcon

This weekend was a cavalcade of contradictions. I was really, really excited to be out of town and with geeks and in a terrible hotel (terrible in the way that all national chains that hold conferences can be) and yet I was feeling very shy and introverted. Other than my one friend who invited me down, I didn’t know anyone there. The theme was “law, order, and crime,” and it featured panels like “Charismatic Criminals — Why We Love Them ” and “Anarchists! Innnn! Spaaaaace!” As I said this morning I think the best thing that happened is that it resuscitated my love of writing and for that it was worth all the costs of the trip, both financial and social.

I mostly went to panels and talked to people on occasion, and spent a lot of time by myself reading, or people watching at the bar at night, which I love. I met some new people I really liked and found out about cons in Seattle that I didn’t know about. On Friday night the bar was full of middle-aged people, mostly white, with a sick cover band composed of older gentlemen (always a good sign for quality). They started with mellower jazz covers and as the bar got drunker they started to crank it up and cover Barry White and so on. There was grinding in the Marriott. I slept well (unground).

On Sunday night the conference was over, but due to circumstances beyond my control I didn’t have a place to stay, so I stayed over in the hotel again.

“Old-fashioned?” the bartender said as I sat down.

“Yep.”

I was reading the book of an author I was lucky enough to meet over the weekend at the con on my phone when the bar erupted in applause. I turned to see a crowd of people dressed formally. A bride walked in holding a baby in one of those baby bucket things. An older gentleman raised a glass and announced, “I’ve gained a grandson and a daughter-in-law all at once!” Everyone applauded again. Did she have the baby as soon as she was married? DURING? Was it not his son’s baby? Was the baby not acknowledged until the wedding? It is a mystery.

In other news

Strudel is 8!!!!

“Music and woman I cannot but give way to, whatever my business is.”

“I hate writing, I love having written.”
― Dorothy Parker

Sometimes, not very often (I hope), I am in denial about something pretty major. This is typically when I am in some kind of holding pattern, waiting for something to change. I think that’s somewhat normal–do you want to spend a bunch of time really chewing at something if you know it will go away in a month or two? You have to decide how to aim yourself, how to prioritize.

I think that’s what happened with this court thing. It all flared up, like the worst case of roids ever, in the fall of 2011, when SeaFed arbitrarily decided it would be marvy to have Franny half of the time again. Then I had a date dangled in front of me: October 2012. That would be the trial–the final, drop dead, leave no forwarding address because this would be OVER. And then we got probably the world’s worst GAL in the history of them. I am not talking about any kind of judgement or decision against me, since I see that on legal bulletin boards around: “How do I get rid of my GAL (who is finding against me).” No. There were no findings at all. Poof! She vanished.

Felling the apple tree

So we continued, and continued…got passed to another commissioner. Franny is now so old she needs to sign the court paperwork as well, at least some of it. My lawyer, Lady Jesse Pinkman, has found a new GAL, who is also a lawyer and who I hope understands professional integrity and shit. “Yo this new GAL totally has her shit together BITCH.” I have not met with her just yet because I found out SeaFed is holding things up.

The emails that are flying around tell kind of an interesting story. Last week I get a forward from my lawyer and it’s a conciliatory communication between her and the court, apologizing that deadlines have not been met, and asking if we’ve done everything we needed to, and no, she has not heard anything at all from Mr. SeaFed. He’s missing deadlines and ignoring emails. The new trial date is set for June, but he fuffed a deadline last month for signing off and any GAL, our pick or otherwise. He did not suggest his own, as far as I know.

I think something else is going on, besides his attention span waning. I keep hearing sad reports from the other house about empty refrigerator and her stepmother sleeping until noon, which, I know at one point she held down a nine to five. I am obviously projecting so hard that hang up a sheet, I can show Life of Pi out my ass, but it sounds like 2003 at my old house over there. How can I describe to you the feeling of having a body next to you who acts human but isn’t really there? Like some kind of meat golem who can, when prompted, carpool children and make easy dinners (assuming there is more than one potato and a couple of backyard eggs in the fridge), but who you can’t really connect with. Is something missing? What could be wrong when you have everything? Is it your fault? Do you really need that intimacy with someone (A: yes).

Chickens peck the wreckage

“They talk about money, money, not enough money, I spent the money, oldest daughter over there [name redacted], money…and that’s about it,” Franny told me one night in the car when I gently suggested that maybe her stepmother was not “lazy” but sad instead. “I think my stepmom doesn’t cry ever because she knows it won’t help anything and my dad won’t do anything about it. Well, she cried when her dad died, but that’s about all I’ve seen.” I bet she cries.

Anyway, here it is 2013, and I am still in that holding pattern. I killed my cookbook in 2011 when court came up, prioritizing Franny’s happiness over creative endeavors. My heart broke over that a little, but my heart was breaking over all kinds of things, so I let it go. You know, I have not done a fucking thing since then. Um, okay, bought a house and that has sucked up some time. But I’ve had a million ideas for terrible short stories, blogs, projects, etc. And here I stew in my own juices.

So, out of denial I guess. There is a part of me that is tiny depressed because I have nothing outside of work and the girls. Getting out of denial is kind of an extra pain, like scraping yourself while shoving through a hole in a fence. I am practically a hermit this winter, which I am enjoying fussing with my house, yet, where did that extroverted asshole go who can accept social engagements and meet new people? I am very quiet and my shadow is very light. I am having nightmares about not creating anything. I think about painting, like I used to do one million years ago. I got a book on home taxidermy. My consolation right now is that I am tearing through books like a fiend, which tells me something may turn around soon. At my nadir last fall I was not even reading anything of substance. At least I am getting interested in the world again. I think I am operating at about 40% of my capacity. My businesslike self that can deal with children and bills and work and my core friendships is doing pretty well…it’s just the creative side of me that’s depressed.

Recently I steeled myself and finally walked into Book Larder, which, yes, is a very Seattle bookstore that sells mostly cookbooks. I dreamed of having my cookbook in the front window as they were opening. I walked in and I immediately encountered someone’s books who had broken out chapters of Beeton’s book in an small and easily-digestible format. Beeton’s Book of Desserts, Beeton’s Book of Meats, etc. It was okay to see that. I found a terrible update of the book of household management that was Frankensteined into something 1920sish well after her death. It was very expensive as it was a collectible and irritated me, as if someone was selling paintings done in shit that were supposed to be reinterpretations of Sketches of Spain. SIT DOWN, syphilitic Samuel Beeton.

But something good happened there at the Book Larder, and it was this painful week that I was crawling out of denial that my creativity, at least, was depressed, when my eye lit on a book about beekeeping for beginners, which is something I have been thinking about since I lived in Fremont. I think this is the year. I have energy to give to bees, and in a couple of years, they will have honey to give to me. And someday this whole court thing will be over and I will be on fire again.

The apple tree’s rot went through to the middle. But I am resilient as ever.

Love,
SJ

Coda

The mystery which binds me still

MAN I am so low right now: trial continuance. This is an unholy marathon. I really thought October 1 was going to be the drop dead date, the end, like it or not. Due to some joukery-pawkery, proceedings march on. I’m trying to stay positive. The house closed properly, and that is ace. It’s been paint chips ahoy around here. Life keeps happening; it’s never one serving at a time. Of course Franny is having the hardest time deciding on colors for her room. This is a nice problem to have, but this is also a kid who can spend five minutes in front of a juice case trying to decide what to drink.

Last weekend we picked about twenty pounds of blackberries. I’ll try to get pictures up soon. This is really a matter of me not wanting to cross the room, honestly. I’m just going to meld into my couch and become a fungus. I always tell Franny that things will look better in the morning and now I am trying to tell myself that. I don’t really believe that being embroiled deeply in a struggle with someone else can ruin you. I don’t think this hate will warp me into a ringwraith or some shit. If it wasn’t this, I would spend my time hating something else. JUST SAYING. Life will go on. I do ask myself, though: why this struggle? I ask myself a lot how much of this is for her and how much is about me. I cannot say.

How do you know when you’ve paid enough for your crimes? Is there some kind of crime/retribution break-even point? Is that something you feel? I remember almost to the day when I stopped feeling afraid of Franny’s dad. It was in 2008 and it was a nice spring evening. I only feel a little sick now if I have to speak to him. I know that is partly him and partly my own deep shame. I can’t figure out if what I did to get to where I am currently is paid up or not. I also have kind of a surreal feeling of “how did I get here” and “I shouldn’t be here.” How did a bum like me get a family and a house and a dumb dog? I will tell you the truth and that is when I was younger I was certain I would be dead by now. I shed that feeling a long time ago, but I could not fathom what me at 35 was going to be like. I guess I’ll find out next month.

A cry for help in more ways than one

Hiii so I’ve been dreaming about an object I did not buy in a flea market in Cheyenne, Wyoming. They won’t ship and I can’t imagine anyone else will want it. If you know anyone insane enough to do business with me, I will pay for the item, shipping, and a fee for trouble. sj @ this blog. Thanks.

“It says on your chart that you’re fucked up”

I’m leaving tomorrow to drive to Wyoming with Halo. I’ve never seen Montana before! And I will be working from the University of Wyoming for a couple of days, which is funny. Corporate librarian squats on uni wifi. Film at 11. I will miss my dog. SNIF.

Franny left behind a bunch of chrysalises, pardon me, chrysalides (from the dead civilization that brought you lead birth control and “octopodes,” natch) when she went off with her father for two weeks of vacation.


I am setting them free as they hatch. They have such short lives anyway. Maybe there will be one or two left by the time Franny gets back.

Franny told me she was going to Colorado and the San Juans. I think it’s funny that her father lives on an island and vacations on a different one. I think it’s funny that he’s vacationing at all, Mr. “I should only have to pay $91 a month in child support because I am broke and because electrolytes.” COUGH.

Franny called me while she was on her first trip. “I’m in Chicago!” she announced. Um.

“You mean, Colorado?” I asked.

“Uhhh, yes.” Pretty similar, I see the confusion there.

There’s probably some message here between me about to leave for vacation and these butterflies being freed. Have some metaphor anvils or something.

I got my hair done today (“Oh so you can look nice for the trees,” sarcassed Halo.). It was supposed to be more of a floral lavender, says me, but the way it took is more like a Crayola lavender. My stylist does amazing blowouts, but I’m going to Yellowstone, so I asked her to pass on the effort. I’m to be all desert and sweaty and eh anyway, and will probably slap it into a ponytail. She let me walk out wet but insisted on putting in smoothing stuff and curl cream and from the back I now look like a spaghetti poodle. There is no pleasing some people.

After this picture was done I lightened my Novakian eyebrows since they were way harsh Tai with my new hair. It is fun to go around the house with giant bleach caterpillars on your face. So I don’t even look like this anymore! Transformation. You would not even recognize me.

P.S. I need a pink spaghetti poodle. You better believe we are going to be flea marketing on our way out west.

Aligned Nuts, and, Things I Learned from My Mother Part 1,338

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to see my family with fresh eyes, as you do. Especially if there’s some distance involved. There’s currently a lot of distance, since I’ve recently learned that my mother moved to Texas a couple of months ago. Of course, there’s been distance for years, ever since I did my final breaking off with my mother in 2005 or so. But I knew she was lurking around in town waiting to be unpleasantly discovered, like a mustard stain on your white pants.

I will confess to you I once saw her at the market when I was with Strudel and looked through her. What to say to her, anyway? Oh, hello, here’s your grandchild you don’t know, with that guy you called weird and whose hand you drunkenly slammed in a minivan door and then laughed about it. Oh yes, this is the same man you said I should look off because my “bar was way too low” after SeaFed to make any good relationship decisions. Er. And how have you been?

I guess lately I’ve been thinking about what you do about the hash that is how you were raised. I think I went through the Solemn Oaths Never to Do Certain Things Ever Ever phase in my twenties, especially with my children appearing on the scene. Some of those solemn oaths will stick. I promise never to get high with my girls in college and tell them in front of their roommates that they were almost aborted. I promise never to describe some hella monster cock that you would never even guess this married HR guy had, I mean, look at him. I promise not to spend their college money on a teal Pontiac Sunfire. These are just random examples of terrible things someone’s mother could possibly do (COUGH) that do not even scratch the surface really, and how much time do you have anyway?

Something good happened recently, though. Maybe. My mother has been appropriately, and by her own hand, medicated. I think this has allowed a tiny window of self-awareness to open up. My sister and I suspect that she may have been unbalanced since possibly her early 20s, maybe longer. I moved in with her when I was about 6 and she was 23.

How does it feel, I keep asking myself, to know that history could have been rewritten and my entire childhood could have had a different tone? It kind of feels like…nothing. Big deal, I think to myself. Everyone has some kind of childhood. Really, and I am not kidding, it makes for very amusing stories now. I want to amuse my girls with them when I’m older but I don’t want them to feel sorry for me. Franny cried once when she realized I have almost no family and then I was all, ” I have you, ya lolo.”

I had a glimpse into a loving childhood with my grandparents and this sounds very self-flagellating but I really think that early love and that stable environment that they provided–it was a liferaft for what came later. There was a part of me that knew what it was like to be loved correctly and without conditions and to feel safe and I kind of knew I was biding my time. I assumed that mothers were crazy and fathers were sadists. I saw a lot of that at my friends’ houses as well.

The really evil thing was that my theory about mothers and fathers kind of held out. My mother made certain to tear down my relationship with my grandmother by telling me stories about when she was young–about watching her stepsiblings get whacked with pots and pans, about sexual abuse, about her stepsister being possessed by the Devil and a priest coming to the house (go team Baptist). What happened between then and when they became my grandparents? Why was I being spared all this trouble?

I also wondered when my life was going to change. I became a mother eleven years ago…I held my breath for a long time. When would I start burning my children with cigarettes? My mother painted my father as all the bad things I was turning out to be in high school–gay, depressive, an atheist, into Monty Python. Cripes, when would my fatal flaw blow up and leave a big smoking crater in my life and everyone elses’?

So my sister got an email apology from my mother on her birthday, which was Sunday. Big one: 25. We ran into a yoga teacher that day I have known for many years who has been working with Morgan recently and had lovely things to say about her. “She’s very bright,” she said. I know that. I used to change her diapers. I’ve seen a lot.

The email was a long one about my mother’s life now in Texas. She’s with family and is seeing something like parallel lives down there–her stepbrother’s children describe him as abusive, and some of them are estranged from him. Perhaps that was food for thought now that her head is clearer. I wasn’t sure my mother would ever have a moment of clarity, since I didn’t know she could or would be “fixed.” No one is ever completely fixed–you are still yourself and your experiences shape you. I don’t begrudge my sister that apology, nor do I feel really happy about it. I think my mother has tried to apologize to me over the years, but she didn’t really understand or remember what for. These things don’t stick.

My mother, when we spent time together, used to call me a “closet Catholic” and was always telling me I took things too seriously. I remember her dismissing my college application letter as “pretentious” (to be fair, it was). Later I realized that it was me having a conscience and trying to find a sense of purpose. You can learn a lot from sociopaths and sociopathic tendencies and how people like this navigate through the world. You can learn how to charm people without turning it on them when they are weak. You can learn what motivates people without using their desires against them, or to rip what you want out of them. You can see people as vulnerable and flawed and love them anyway, instead of feeling superior. And you can get tested regularly for her very treatable condition, like she could have been years ago (I’m negative).

Namaste, bitches.

“I couldn’t wait to get home last night and wash the jail outta my hair”

Poor Dirt McGert. She got picked up by the popo! I got a call after they closed last night so I couldn’t pick her up til after noon. There wasn’t a name attached to her microchip so the description on the message was just “brown tabby.” Thanks, I have three of those. Now her name is on her microchip so that’s good. At first I wasn’t sure if it was her or Matilda missing since they were both AWOL until this morning.

As soon as I saw her in her cage in the back I started crying and didn’t really stop until I paid my fees and left. Here is my blurry miscreant on the stairs. I’m keeping her in until she’s tagged so hopefully next time a neighbor will call me first. We’ll see.

I think I got a “weeping moron” discount. It could have been a lot more expensive. Plus I was nice and grateful. The lady in front of me was threatening to sue because she was from out of town, had lost her pet, and they were requiring her to license the pet in Seattle, which the man explained to her was a local law thing.

“If you are here with your animal you are bound to local laws and statutes, just like with moving violations and parking tickets,” he explained, sighing.

“I’m calling my LAWYER so we’ll see about THAT,” she retorted.

Maybe dealing with me and my hankie-wringing was easier after that. Gertie’s mother is hissing at her now. She stinks.

Dr. ChuckleNugget MD

Don’t you like to do certain things, like, once, and then leave it be and be done forever? I have been patronizing the same dentist since my graduate school dental insurance kicked in in 2002. I had a decent pediatrician for the girls and then she ZOOP up and moved to California a couple of years ago with no notice. I know they’re not required to send one, but a letter would have been nice. My experience with the girls’s doctor since then has been a little uneven, to say the least.

I like the clinic, because it’s a small practice in a small building, and you see the same people every time. The old place was GIANT MEDICAL CONGLOMERATE THING and felt pretty impersonal. The first year went pretty swimmingly, and then things got a little weird. Last Christmastime Strudel got really sick for a really long time, and her symptoms were a little weird. I took her to the doctor, who suggested a tuberculosis test, which, fine, because there is a small outside chance that was what it could be. I like non-risky, better-safe-than-sorry testing. We were supposed to read the results of the scratch test on her arm a couple of days after, which would have been a Saturday. The girls’ doctor offered to meet us at the office, though it was closed that day, and take a quick peek at her arm. We agreed upon ten a.m. and she was a no-show. I Dr. Googled the results and guessed it was negative, and we spoke on the phone later. Nothing came of it, but a TB test can make a person a wee bit panicky, and to have a no-show…I thought then about switching and then thought better of it–maybe I was being hasty.

I was given a vaccine printout a few months ago and I saw that our old address was on it. The PA had me look over their records for us. “We’ve got this terrible duplicate record thing happening, because the practice changed ownership recently,” she explained. Hmm.

I took Franny in for a vaccine in October and we were sent to our typical exam room to wait. It has a fish hanging from the ceiling made from an old CD that has had fish features markered onto it and fins taped on. I can always hear a radio turned to talk radio playing softly somewhere, but only from that room. The PA walked in abruptly, as she always does. Lately she has been covering her facial tattoos with foundation.

“Well. Where is it?” she asked. We were confused. If we found the vaccine syringe would we get a prize? Franny glanced at me for a clue.

“Where’s…what?” she said.

“The wart,” the PA said.

“We’re here for a vaccine,” I said.

“Oh dear,” she said, and went out again.

I got a call a couple of weeks ago asking us if we had changed our address since a piece of mail had bounced back to their office. It was my old address–the old duplex that we have not lived in since moving in July 2010.

Today I got a call about “Strudel’s appointment tomorrow,” which I found a little distressing, since Franny is the one who has the appointment tomorrow. I called them shortly after they left a message.

“Hello, this is SJ I am returning your call about–”

“Strudel’s appointment?”

“Yes, but Franny is the one with the appointment.”

“Ohhh.”

“I was wondering if she could be seen for an injury on her foot tomorrow? I know the doctor wasn’t supposed to see her,” I said.

“Sure, how about 11:30?”

“Great, can her vaccine she was supposed to have be rolled into that appointment?” I asked.

“She’s not supposed to get the HPV until she’s 12.”

“Well, here’s the thing, she already HAD the first one, and this appointment was for the SECOND one, and I was hoping she could have both her foot looked at as well as the vaccine.”

“Okay, we’ll see you at 11:30!”

I assume they will be seeing Strudel tomorrow at 3 for a burst appendix.