Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Moving is over

Mr. J and I moved in together in March 2002, after dating for just over one year. We rented a smallish house at the east end of town, in a creepy Edward-Scissorhands sort of neighbourhood. We lived in a rental community of homes with only three floor-plans. The first couple times I drove home after moving in, I missed my turn and ended up lost among the look-alike houses, not sure which one was mine. The community feels rather temporary, a place young families live until they buy a home, or are waiting for something to be built. People don't make this community their long-term "home", but it was nice. Rather quiet, but somewhat new, so the trees weren't very big and everyone had the same empty lawns. Few flowers or personal touches existed anywhere, but also no garbage piled up next to houses, no cars on the lawn, and no broken things visible --this is a personal dislike of mine that only those who have seen my mother's yard will really appreciate.

We lived there for six years; we made a lot of plans in that house, did a lot of talking and arguing and loving there. We got our cats, Emma and Zoe, in that house, the first cats we got together. We took vacations together and planned our future, and watched movies and cuddled in the dark and put puzzles together there. We got married while we lived in that house, really got to know each other in that house.

I have spent so much of the last six months completely focused on leaving Vancouver, on being close to my job, on planning for the future, that I forgot my favourite lesson (the one I always forget): savour each moment in life. This is a recurring theme in my life, one that I strive so hard to remember, and one that kicks my ass every time I turn around. I spent a lot of time savouring my life in that house, but recently I failed to enjoy the library branch just a few blocks away, the quiet little park just to the north, the way the house smelled in the spring when I opened all the windows and our neighbours grilled yummy meats.

We went out to breakfast after everything was finished, to our favourite spot where the pancakes are heavenly and the staff is so polite, and we were talking about how often we have each moved in our lives. It occurred to me that I have never really attached to any house as my "home", as an effect of having moved house so many times as a child, except for the house we just left. The house itself was rather unremarkable, but we made it a home and I really did love it there. And I think I will miss it in a very small way.

Unwritten Letters

I came across an old book today while unpacking my desk items. It's called Unwritten Letters, one of those finish-the-sentence types only it's an entire letter with just the first sentence started. You know, "Dear ex-boyfriend, I really hate the way you ran off with the captain of the football team". The idea is you write out the problems or regrets or frustrations in a letter format to whomever you feel did you wrong but since you're never giving it you can be completely honest. Perhaps that part doesn't need to be explained...

I have had it for years, purchased in my late teens when I first realized that my hatred and bitterness were making my life unhappy; I embarked on a mission to fix myself and purchased books to learn how to deal with some of the deeper anger that therapy didn't help me process. Unwritten Letters was one of those books and I filled up many of the "letters".

Every time in the past that I have opened the book to re-read those letters I get somewhat overwhelmed; reading what I wrote so many years ago -- and I haven't written in it in years -- takes me right back to those moments, feeling all that old pain, remembering the bitterness and even some of the rare happiness I wrote about back then. I usually enjoy re-reading my old letters, enjoy thinking about how differently I view things now, how I have grown and changed. Something that has never changed, though, is how fast I sink right back into the old emotions. All the old negativity usually pours over me, bringing me to tears more often than not.

Today, I opened the book and read some of those letters I wrote and I didn't feel anything about it. Not sadness, not anger at the person I was addressing, not joy or bitterness or rage. In some cases I didn't even recognize the words or emotions being described. I wanted to smash that book into the window, to throw it as hard as I could down to the ground to make it die on the sidewalk. I didn't know where that particular disgust came from, but I was so bloody sick of that book I threw it out (properly, in the dustbin, and not out the window).

I wonder if this is true growth; I don't need that book now, have grown beyond writing silly letters I will never give to silly people who don't remember me nor care that they broke my heart. It feels like growth, like progress, but in a red, angry way that is very much unlike the quiet, peaceful way my own growth feels like normally.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I has a desk!

My computer desk is finally set up! My PC has been on a folding card table (which I hate, by the way, and cannot convince Jeff to get rid of no matter how persuasive my arguments) in the living room. We spent today sorting out the home office and getting things situated. We chose the smaller bedroom as our room and have computers and our futon in the master bedroom. It's a little tight in here, but this way we can relax in the same room and not necessarily have to be doing the same thing. It's got a great vibe in here for me, a place where I can work on knitting projects while Jeff does something geeky, or he can sit and read while I do something geeky. We have a bookcase and an end-table in here also, so it could conceivably be comfortable for an overnight guest.

I am pleased with the way things are coming together nicely, but boy am I tired.

Moving, day seventeen

I have reached a new level of realization that I need to reduce the amount of objects in my life. We have been in the new apartment since the twelfth; we slowly move stuff over and set it up, taking time to clean regularly and cook (I have been cooking!). We have been functioning in our lives without television, living room furniture, and a proper home office; some things we both miss, like having all the computers set up and having a place to relax in the evenings --I have this wonderful sectional couch that is like sitting in a cloud --but for the most part I have really become accustomed to having far fewer items in my living space and I have rather enjoyed it.

We are progressing nicely in the move, which means we have all the wonderful and oddly shaped things that make our home familiar now packed into less than half the space of our old place, and I'm getting rather claustrophobic about it all. I have always been the pack rat of the two of us. I save all manner of things, attaching silly importance and sentimental value to everything that enters my life. Partly I think because I grew up in poverty and rarely had anything "extra", and partly I think I'm just stupid.

Unfortunately, I go back to work May 1st and won't have much time to sort out the things we have and continue reducing. I don't do well with long-term projects when I have to split my energy among other tasks. If I could stay home for two months and focus on reducing, I could manage it very well. As it is, I have to return to the office and once again start devoting my energy to that function. There are so many daily habits that I want to change that I don't know how well I'll manage everything.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Moving resolutions, part three

  • I will scrub the bathroom
  • I will use steel wool
  • I will not let soap scum build up in my shower
  • I will wash the windows

I spent this afternoon cleaning the old house. I'm sore, I'm tired, and I'm covered with a film of dusty by-product after scraping two showers with a razor blade. I swear, I'll clean every weekend if it kills me.

Okay, I swear I'll clean at least twice a month.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Moving, day twelve

I have entirely too much stuff. Does anyone want some of my stuff? My husband and I had what essentially amounts to three households of stuff: mine, Colin's, and his. I have only recently begun getting rid of Colin's stuff, and I'm still getting rid of stuff. Jeff has been the model husband lately, getting up early and doing unpleasant stuff like loading his truck up and making runs to the city dump and local donation spots at 5am. I totally don't have the disposition for that, so I am grateful to him for taking care of these things.

I have been playing around with a new idea for ways to keep 'keepsake' or special items without actually keeping the item. I take a photograph of the thing, then get rid of the thing. The photo then goes in my keepsake box. I have considered making a sort of scrapbook of the photos, writing the memory down that goes with the photograph. That way, I still have an image of the special thing but don't have something sitting around collecting dust and taking up space. I am really frustrated with looking at an item and saying, "oh, but I couldn't possibly get rid of this thing, my first ever blah blah thing that I've had for a hundred years", and so on. When I think of the utter uselessness of some of my stuff, it is much easier for me to discard the bits of my life.

One of the biggest problems I have always had is cleaning around all my stuff. As I'm sure I've mentioned, I am awful at the cleaning. The more stuff I have, the dirtier it all gets. Today I bought a vacuum cleaner. Sexiest vacuum cleaner ever. I have been wanting a new vacuum since I was eighteen years old and was regularly pulling my arm out of its socket by pushing around Colin's 1960s monstrosity of a vacuum cleaner that was probably designed by some sadistic bastard who had an extreme hatred of women. We never did purchase a proper vacuum, always going for the cheapest, lowest-grade version of whatever Dirt Devil upright was available. They suck, by the way.

Dyson, however, is enough to actually make me look forward to cleaning out my house this weekend. I already vacuumed a room with it and almost had an orgasm at how well the carpets came clean. I'll be a true domestic goddess in no time, just you wait. Next week I'm going to try ironing.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Greenling changes

I've been checking about Sabrina's posts over at Adventures of a mommy trying to go green and it got me thinking about my own lifestyle. I try to be conscientious about consuming, recycling, and reusing, but the truth is I take a lot of short-cuts for the sake of convenience. My life has been through a pretty significant upheaval with the recent move, and I feel like now is an excellent time to make some of those changes that I've thought about for so long but never got around to actually making.

I have done little bits of research off and on over the years, and I'm finding that there are more and more websites and personal blogs devoted to green alternatives and lifestyles. A lot of the non-toxic cleaning alternatives are rather easy: baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice. There are also a bevy of commercial products available; I learned today that Shaklee is not only still around but has a huge line of green products. The more I learn the more I realize how much I have to learn. It's embarrassing how much I don't know about the chemicals that are in the products I buy.

As with all the other changes I force on myself, I expect this one to be a big, messy challenge.

Friday, April 18, 2008

More resolutions

  • I will throw away socks that have no mates
  • I will dust
  • I will do laundry regularly

It's hard being a girl. I don't care about laundry or dusting or mopping. I like things to be clean, but I'm missing that whole wife-devoting-her-time-to-taking-care-of-the-house gene. I'd rather just earn a paycheck. There are lots of other things I like to devote my time to besides cleaning. But it really, really, really sucks to move a bunch of dusty things into a relatively clean environment.

Change is also hard, especially when the changing requires me to regularly do stuff I hate doing.

There's a new shoppe in town!

I've done some shopping over at Foxchild's Shades of Midnight. I purchased a pendulum for Tanya. She is a fire sign and has been drawn to carnelian for a while now. We've been shopping for gemstones together and comparing knowledge and notes about certain stones. We are in similar emotional and spiritual places right now, and have enjoyed sharing some our exploration of paganism together. We're both rather personal about our spirituality and tend to keep others at a distance in that regard. It has been nice to have someone to share certain things with and discuss our progress. She'd been talking about trying to find a carnelian but wasn't having any luck. When I saw the pendulum on Fox's site, I couldn't resist getting it. The piece is beautiful and simply radiates strong energy.

Jeff bought me this bracelet as a surprise. I was mildly shocked that he even remembered me yammering on about it. I am, and have been, looking for personal balance for a long time. The chakra bracelet is helping align my energy and generally just makes me feel good. Foxchild does lovely work; I'll be giving her more money.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Moving, day five

  • I will not shove things in drawers
  • I will not save things "just because"
  • I will throw away garbage
  • I will sort thing that are not garbage
  • I will no longer save buttons
  • I will no longer bring rocks home from every beach I visit

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Moving, day four

I cannot remember the last time I was this bone-weary. I don't have a part that does not hurt, and it feels really good. We drove around some last night and scouted out some local businesses ... library, market, liquor store, strip club. Oh, and we found an excellent pho restaurant, where we will likely be eating on a regular basis. I also found a gemstone and jewelry store that I'm excited to check out once we're settled and I have time to shop.

So far we have the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen mostly functional. We are a little short on food at the moment, but only because we don't slow down enough to eat anything more elaborate than fast food or something frozen-gross. Tonight is our fourth night in the new apartment, and the first night it really feels like "home". Having the kitchen put together is really nice, even for someone like me who doesn't do any cooking. There's just something about knowing you can put the kettle on or cook some pasta that feels comfortable. Next I'll actually do some cooking, now that I'm two minutes away from home when I leave the office ...

Now I'm going to take a cup of peppermint tea and lay on the floor in my empty living room in front of the fire and thaw out.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


We started moving today. We bought a terrific new bed and bed-side tables from IKEA and spent the day putting them together. We didn't get much else accomplished, but that's okay. Tomorrow we'll move more stuff over and start sleeping there; next week I have to work but after that I'm off for the rest of the month and will be able to focus on packing and getting stuff moved over.

As much as I hate moving I am really looking forward to this. The new apartment is not perfect, but we'll adjust. I am so happy to have this change, so happy not to have such a long commute, so happy not to be driving in rush hour traffic with everyone else in Portland. Did you know that Portlanders are the shittiest drivers? People joke about how badly Californians drive, but put one at the wheel of a car and they know how to make a fucking decision then follow through with it.

Oh yeah, and IKEA gives me orgasms.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Red-haired beauty

I see a woman every morning in the Hollywood district. She has red, red hair and she wears a long red woolen coat. She's always dressed so nicely, what I can see of her. I've never seen her face but I'm sure she's beautiful. She reminds me of RHG, with her lovely hair and long red coat and aura of terrific-ness. I want to chase her down and hug the breath out of her and make her tell me her secrets. I want to find out why she glows, where her radiance comes from. I want to reach inside her and find her spark.

Why do some people carry their happiness around on the outside of them? How do you get that? Some people, and I think I'm one of them, keep all that trapped inside, locked up and guarded jealously where others cannot see it and take it away; we shelter it from people who would break it, or leak their bad, bad energy all over it. Because it's always kept hidden away, we don't ever really take it out and play with it, just keep it forever tucked away until we forget it's there. One day I'm going to go look for it and it will be gone. I want to learn how to keep my happiness outside me, want to wrap it around the outside of my body like a shield.

And I want to have amazingly sexy red hair.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Goodbye, Library!

Fort Vancouver Regional Library is the first place that made Vancouver feel like "home" to me. It sits at the corner of Mill Plain Blvd and Fort Vancouver Way. The high school I sort-of attended is a half-mile down the street to the east; the community college where I take courses is a couple blocks to the north. South of the library, on Evergreen Blvd, is the Fort Vancouver barracks and Officer's Row. I don't know much about our military fort and I've never really cared, but I've always loved the area between the Fort and Clark College. Officer's Row is the old officer's housing, of course; the homes have been remodeled now and are monuments of a sort. Turned into shoppes, restaurants, and flats, they rent for outrageous amounts and cater to very snooty people.

The street is long and narrow, lined with large, old trees. Officer's Row is in perpetual shade. A large park runs the length of the barracks, so that the park is a buffer between the barracks and the road. People jog with their dogs, or push babies in strollers and have picnics at the park.

Colin and I lived in an apartment just down the street from the barracks. The fire-works show at the Fort every July Fourth was visible from our balcony. A couple blocks to the west is a Mexican food restaurant where my family celebrated all our birthdays and special events when I was young.

In 1996 this area had a severe wind storm. School let us out early so we could go home and be all safe, but I walked down Officer's Row instead, hoping one of those big, big trees would be blown over and crush me, but that never happened.

I was a little troubled as a kid, angry and withdrawn and stupid. I wanted to be left alone and I only ever got that freedom at the library. You don't get into trouble there for loitering; you can plop down on a couch and read all damn day and nobody hassled you. So I spent a lot of time there. The library was my haven from an angry mother, from a mean step-father, from my drug-addicted father, from my boyfriend who pressured me into sex, and my girlfriend who didn't understand my moodiness and need for alone-time, from my shallow class-mates, from my creepy math teacher who wanted me to stay after school. The library didn't judge me or hate me or put its hand up my skirt. The library didn't make demands on me; it loved me, sheltered me, and swallowed me whole when everyone else wanted to eat away pieces of me.

There are large rose-bushes planted out front. A long ramp leads to the main level; administrative offices are in the basement. There's also an auditorium in the basement where guest speakers come to talk to the community, and where computer classes are held by volunteer professors for impoverished people.

The main room is very large, and is separated into areas by the stacks. There is only one hard-wall on the main floor, separating the children's section from the rest of the building. Most of the occult books are in the reference section and are not available for check-out. I can usually be found there.

The card catalogue has been gone a long time, replaced by banks of computers with access to the web-hosted catalogue. It's much faster that way, but I really miss that old card catalogue. It was beautiful, stained a lovely chestnut colour, and it smelled like every book in the world. The cards would vibrate with the energy of the books imprinted on them, and with the energy of the generations of people who touched them before me, as if they had their own stories to tell.

I have access to a much bigger library in Portland, but I think I'll miss my old library. I love the old building, the small, high windows that let in the barest amount of light in the fiction section; the reference section with its dark wood shelves that absorb all sound and sight and taste, taking all distractions from the world around me; the old woman who works the information desk, who never grows impatient with my vague help requests and always calls me "darling child". I love the volunteers, the worn carpet, the faded chairs, and the transient men who smile big and toothless at me when I say 'hello'.

I'll miss the circle and the trees out front and the rose-bush path and that corner of the parking lot under the giant fir tree where I park my car and eat sandwiches and listen to C.J. Critt.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I want to go to the beach now, please

I walked into the storage room at work today and was hit with the scent of ocean. I smelled salt and wet sand and camp fires and dune grass. I experienced recall so vivid I was stopped dead in the centre of the room; the smell of beach was so strong I couldn't breathe past it.

I remembered Mom and Bill getting married at Rockaway Beach in 2000. I was Mom's matron of honour and Colin stood as best man for my dad. Colin and I had been married before my parents and we thought it was cute to give them marriage advice, as though they didn't know how to behave in a relationship.

A woman had been walking along the beach and stopped to watch the wedding. Later I found out that she and Colin had spoken after the ceremony, and Colin had spoken to her about me, talked about me as though I was a goddess and he was the luckiest man alive. My mom stayed in touch with that stranger-woman, and she cried when Mom told her that Colin had died less than a month after the wedding.

I remembered Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport; I went there with the guys and Steph a few weeks after Colin shot himself. They took such good care of me, those guys. They made sure I ate and slept and laughed, and that I wasn't alone when I cried. I think they worked out a schedule or something, because one of them was always with me, always knew when to come find me and talk to me. We ate dinner in the hotel restaurant and talked to Goody about her new book. The hotel is in a large, rambling monster of a building; each room is named after an author. Rooms are furnished with period pieces and the decorations are minimal and appropriately themed. There is a shared bathroom and no room service. There are also dormitory-style rooms, with bunks bolted to the wall on suspension chains. There is a library and sitting rooms and a terrific gift shoppe. The path leading to the main entrance is lined with flowers and trellises, and looks like a proper English garden.

I was numb on that trip, so tired and half-dead feeling, but I loved it, loved being there with Waltzer and Aslakson and Stephanie. I loved Goody and the way she asked me about Colin's death with clinical interest. She had no pity or sadness for me, just that curiosity and interest.

I remembered the day I scattered Colin's ashes at Haystack Rock. Mom drove down with me, just the two of us and Colin in his white box. We ate at the tracheotomy pig then drove down to the water. I walked out by myself, as far as I could go which wasn't really very far at all, and sent his ashes off into the tide. I only sent half of him off, really, but he was a big man so even split in half it really was quite a lot. I remember thinking that for such a large man he had been horribly reduced. Reduced by pain, by anger and fear and bitterness; reduced by a bullet and a furnace. My large, protective, obnoxious, delicious Colin, reduced to a couple pounds of ash in a white box because he couldn't live with his own broken-ness.

It was one of the first things he told me, where and how to spread his ashes. He told me knew straight off that I was the woman who would deal with his remains. I was eighteen when he told me that and I thought I'd never have to do it. But I memorized it anyway, because he wanted me to.

I remembered our beach trip in 2001. Ross and I had been dating for just a few weeks, RHG and Rudimentary for a month or so longer. The guys went down a day ahead of us and spent some time together, drinking scotch and being fools. Then RHG and I drove down to join them. We stayed in Manzanita, in a two bedroom house; we drank and played on the beach and hung out together. RHG called Rudimentary "Early" and I would collapse into giggles.

I remember Cannon Beach, and the Cannon Beach Hotel. RHG and Rudimentary had the room next to ours. We ate at a horrible sea-food restaurant and watched live glass-blowing.

I remember another house in Manzanita, a big three story beach house we rented with RHG, Rudimentary, Waltzer, and his girlfriend at the time. We made a big dinner, all of us bringing something different and yummy. We stayed up late and drank and laughed and enjoyed each other. RHG got sick and vomited all over her room.

I remember day trips with Ross, long walks up to Cape Disappointment and around old military installations. We photographed lighthouses for my mom, because she loves lighthouses.

And I remember my wedding. His family came, from California and Seattle. They made a reunion out of it, and celebrated old Uncle Earl's 70th birthday. They gave me endless hugs and called me "Mrs. Ross" and welcomed me to the family. They gave me top notch advice and said it was okay if I didn't always remember about being nice.

Some of my family came too, my grandmother Claire from Sacramento and Sam, my former step-dad, who I was awful to as a child. I used to hide from Sam when he was to take me to school. I had a water-bed, you see, and was always small enough that I could pull the mattress away from the frame and roll my body into the cavity. I'd cover my face with the pillow and point my toes so they wouldn't stick out, and stifle giggles when he would run frantically from one room to the next afraid he'd lost me for good. I used to sneak up to him when he'd read the paper, real quiet and slow, then hit the paper into his face. I'd shout loud and scare him when I did it, so he screamed like a woman and tossed the paper into the air. Sam never got mad at me when I did stuff like that; he'd chase me around the house and tickle me until I would promise to never do it again, but he never got angry. I always broke my promise, and did it again the next day. In retrospect, I guess he enjoyed that game as much as I did.

And our friends, who have seen and shared so much pain and happiness with us both. Friends equally during bad times and good. The friends who don't hide from the pain or the negativity, but who pushed through it with me. They were there to help me through my pain after Colin's death, and they were there to celebrate my happiness with Jeff. They were there, smiling and joyous and loving as if they knew no other way to be.

These memories crowded around me in that void of time between the last heartbeat and the next, and I wanted to lie down on the floor in the storage room and never come out.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Books, books, and more books

I have more books than I really know what to do with. Ross and I spent most of Sunday going through our books and deciding, one by one, what we would keep and what we would trade-in or donate. We have a dozen boxes of books to get rid of. It was mind-boggling the amount of trashy books we both have. I have the added burden of having all the books Colin collected in his 32 years of life; not only did he also collect trashy books, he collected trashy books from the library that he never returned. So our local library got some books back they haven't seen since 1982. How embarrassing.

It felt really good to get rid of a lot of that stuff. I think I've talked about how I grow attached to objects and possessions; the same was true of Colin's books. I have kept them for years simply because I knew they were important to him, because I remember him telling me about how he felt when he read a particular book. We used to have silly conversations when we were first seeing each other, the sort of talk you have with the person you think you'll be with forever. He made me memorize his mother's maiden name, the place where he wanted his ashes spread; the names of his best friends, and where he went to school, and his worst experiences. We shared a love of books, of the written word; of the escape to be found in reading, especially fantasy novels. He turned me on to Heinlein and Philip K. Dick and George Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut. He had a whole collection of books about conspiracy theories, and government's abuse of the little guy, and the art of speaking in public. He loved history, the history of society and government and people; he adored Howard Zinn. He had books on the occult, and books on the power of positive thinking, and books on how to make silencers. He downloaded text files from the web about homemade explosives and bound them all nice in report covers. I've been keeping all those books for far too long; they reminded me of a time before we partied too much, before we had enough money to pay all our bills, a time when Saturday night found us sitting cross legged on the living room floor with a pile of books and a pot of coffee between us, talking about the things we found really important, and the things that had helped us through our respective childhoods.

I have finally reached a point where it's okay for me to give his books away. I no longer feel like I'm giving away his best secret piece with them. My memories of him are not physically tied to his possessions; the memories don't bleed if I get rid of the objects. It's cleansing to do this; it feels like a tiny, sad piece of me is being healed, right this minute.

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