Sunday, November 30, 2008

DB Cooper and textured ceiling tape

I’ve had a dream, a dream that feels so real it has woke me up crying, but also so silly and nonsensical that it shouldn’t have me in such a knot.

There’s a man in my dream, a man who mysteriously disappeared years ago and whom everyone seems keen to find. I have clues about this man’s identity and whereabouts, and I have a partner helping me search him out. Like DB Cooper, there is intrigue surrounding the man in my dream.

I’m near an excavation pit, and I have charts and maps and diagrams; it’s like an excavation pit in World of Warcraft, though, all gnomes with pick-axes and objects half-buried in the dirt and shining at me.

The partner I’m with, the man helping me search out the mystery of the one who disappeared, is strangely quiet. He doesn’t talk, focuses on the maps and charts I have, and on conferring with me in low tones. We work like this, going about here and there with our clues and serious ideas about being wealthy and famous after our capture. Then my partner tells me he is the man, the mysteriously missing man. He’s had surgery to disguise himself but he looks like Robert Downey Jr. to me. He is fascinated by my dedication to find him and over the time we've worked together on this project he's fallen in love with me.

I feel betrayed in the dream, displeased to have been so duped and not at all taken with this man. I abandon my project and move on. Next I know, I’m interviewing a suitor. Another man interested in dating me, and the interview is taking place in a hotel bathroom. He is in the bath, warm and bubbly and very fat, and I am judging his ability to take a proper bath before I’ll agree to date him. He plays WoW, and I’m interested in him until I find out that he also plays Final Fantasy 63 (or whatever they are up to now) and Zelda. I make him leave my bath.

I carry on like this, interviewing potential boyfriends, and then I meet Mr. J. I adore him right away (really, it's impossible not to). I decide to take him home, and my mom likes him too.

Some time later, what feels like years in the dream, I get a phone call. My parents have died at their home, and I must come right away. By the time I arrive, which doesn’t feel like terribly long, they have been removed and buried. I am told an improbable account of my father consuming some poisonous substance and dying, and my mom dying a few hours later from the same substance. I believed that my mom didn’t accidentally die from the poison, that she consumed it after my father died because she didn’t want to live without him. In the dream I remembered feeling that way after Colin died, remembered the nearly overwhelming urge to pick up his gun and shoot myself, and I became angry at her for doing this.

I am in the bathroom at my mom’s house; it has become important to me to change it, to make it stop looking so much like something she would have chosen. She painted it this awful green and I desperately want it to be a different colour. The bathroom reminds me of her, of her eclectic style and her sense of comfortable spaces. The room smells of her –of her clothing and her face cream and her shampoo. I want to cry, but I am bravely holding it in.

Mr. J comes in with a roll of some substance my mom had wanted him to put on the ceiling. It’s white texturing, a big roll of it. You roll it out onto the ceiling and it gives the appearance of pebbling (I don’t know, it doesn’t make sense). He looks at it in his hands, looks around at the green paint, looks at me, and says, “this is really awful, let’s not do this at all.”

We laugh, because we think my mom was so weird. We’re not going to change the house the way she wanted, and that feels sort of wrong. We want to honour what she wanted done, but we both think her plans were hideous, so we won’t.

The laughter turns to crying, and I am filled with every regret I’ve ever had. And then her voice is there, and an image of her in front of me, blurry and faded like every ghost I've ever imagined. She is speaking to me, telling me that she'll help me and that I'll have to be prepared for her friends to come over. She tells me that her friends will expect me to be like her, to be loving and sentimental, and that it's okay if I'm not. She knows I won't be like that, won't want a lot of sympathy and hand-holding and crying. Her voice echoes in the bathroom, and Mr. J can hear it too. It feels normal that my mother, in death, has visited me and is whispering instructions at me.

She fades slowly, until I can't see her anymore. I want her to stay, to keep her with me and I feel a desperate urge to fetch a jar from the kitchen and scoop her soul into it. I can feel her hovering in the air around me, her presence filling me up and I’m reminded of what people sometimes say when a person dies. “They’re always with you” and, “She’ll never be gone as long as you keep memories close”. And I think that must be true, because I can feel her good-natured indignation at my plans to paint over her green bathroom walls.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Being alone is not the same as being lonely

Holidays are a little weird for me, but not for any particular reason. In my adult life, holidays have been stressful and challenging and this has always struck me as entirely opposite of what holidays are supposed to be like. My mom and I had a small falling out a few years ago, and while there is no underlying anger between us, I haven't wanted to do much in the way of family celebrating since. Well, that's not entirely true ... I have never really wanted big celebrations around the holidays.

When I was growing up holidays were always a little sad for my mom, who always wanted to be part of a big, loving family but was instead part of a mean, angry, judgmental family. We often spent holidays at home, just the two of us. My mom made them fun, with all-day cooking and spending time together. My memories are so fuzzy, but when I think of holidays at home with my mom they seemed to be filled with games and laughing and fun, and an awful, tart home-made apple sauce that I made all by myself (or so the story goes) when I was small.

But they were also sad. My mom was sad most of the time when I was growing up, and it was worse during the holidays. She was really good at smiling convincingly through her sadness, but I don't think she's ever been able to put that sadness away.

I find that I'm the opposite of my mom; I like small, quiet holidays. I have many people in my life that I could visit and spend the day with. I have loving parents; Mr. J's family, who have loved and accepted me from the start. I am fortunate in that there is no ill-will or contention between me and my stepdaughter's mother; I am close to them as well, and often enjoy time with their family during the holidays. And I have friends.

Despite this eclectic and loving family that I have pieced together over the years, I generally desire to stay home. Not because I don't love the people in my life, not because I'm ungrateful for them. But because Thanksgiving doesn't feel like a special day for me. I am thankful for these people every day, not just on Thanksgiving. I don't ever visit them just because it's Thursday, and the obligation to visit them because it's Thanksgiving sets my teeth on edge. I don't care much for tradition for tradition's sake.

Mr. J worked a half-day yesterday. I pretended to clean and prepare for dinner; I avoided the work I brought home from the office, despite my internal promises that I'd get it all done.

We'd gone shopping earlier in the week and brought home a yummy, pre-cooked ham. So yesterday afternoon we made mashed potatoes -using mom's method of mashed potatoes, involving lots of butter and milk and a hand-mixer- green bean casserole, stuffing from a box, and jellied cranberry sauce. And pie. Pumpkin pie, without any whipped cream or ice cream. Just plain, yummy pumpkin pie.

While I don't have big, warm feelings about Thanksgiving, I love the food. We piled all this food (minus the pie) on top of sliced, room-temperature ham and poured turkey gravy over the whole lot, and watched The Shield on DVD.

I think this is the first Thanksgiving we've celebrated on our own, just the two of us, and I enjoyed it very much.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Here, have mine

Last night I dreamt that I was some sort of super-secret spy. I was in a different country, someplace I didn’t recognize. Everything was very dirty and run-down looking; buildings were leaky and crumbled and houses were small and brown. Everywhere I went, though, people had state of the art technology. Laptop computers, hand-held mobile devices, blue-tooth this and that.

I was in a classroom, in a dirty, broken looking building, learning a different language from an Asian teacher. We were crammed into the classroom practically touching bodies with our class mates, but we all had laptops open in front of us, and the instructor was using an overhead projector to project images onto the crumbling wall.

A man came into the room then, whispered to the instructor and pointed at me. As I stepped around everyone to leave the room, I saw that the teacher had tears in her eyes and had her face cast down. She looked up at me as I passed her, and her eyes were gone. I was staring into gaping black holes with tears pouring out, and the man who came for me said, “Do you see the problem?” before leading me out of the room.

In the hallway, I met another man. In the dream he was familiar, but I can’t recall him now. He was someone I think I knew, though, someone with whom I had been intimate. He grabbed my hand and started leading me down the hall while the first man began giving us instructions.

We were a team, and we were after some hidden objects. We were given lists of items to collect and approximate coordinates where the items were believed to be held. We were to memorize the items and coordinates, then burn the papers. We were not to be seen or overheard. We were to be stealthy in collecting the items.

The man drove my partner and I to a remote part of town and dropped us off. We’d been given dark clothing and tactical gear. We were well-armed and had wireless devices to speak with each other should we get separated. We had been given a bag to carry the items in, and my partner expected me to carry the bag. I dropped the bag into a mud puddle first chance I got, and we got to skulking.

It was the middle of the day, the sun high and bright, as we made our way to our first objective. It was a house, and there were supposedly rare diamonds inside. We tumbled and sneaked and jumped cleverly over fences and dodged the eyes of small children and house dogs on our way to the diamonds.

We found them and were on our way out when I noticed a woman sitting in a room. Her back was to the doorway, and she was sitting in a straight-backed chair. She appeared to be naked from what I could see. I went to her, thinking she needed help; when I walked around the chair to face her, I saw it was the teacher I’d been in class with. Her eye sockets were still empty, and her mouth was wide open.

I tried to leave, but couldn’t move. I sank down onto my knees in front of her and quietly clawed my own eyes out, dropping them into her lap with a wet sound. I sat back on my heels and opened my mouth wide in a silent scream.

Thanksgiving list

  • Roller skating (I can fit into skinny pants again!)
  • Pumpkin pie
  • All the time I don't have to commute
  • The library
  • WoW
  • Friends who love me
  • My job
  • Mr. J (even if he does fail at blogging - he's really good at everything else)
  • Books on disc
  • Charles Bukowksi

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Fuck off"

Yesterday my assistant told me that a co-worker, who I'll call Myrtle, told her to fuck off. For no apparent reason and completely unprovoked, just "fuck off".

I'm terribly biased, of course. My assistant is a little abrasive and has a tendency to exaggerate the way others treat her; when she's not exaggerating about their behaviour, she's being confrontational and aggressive in her own behaviour. So, I was a little skeptical about the exchange as it was being described to me.

So I'm a good manager (if immodest) and I try to be fair, so I follow up with Myrtle to get her side of things. As soon as she enters my office she's very sheepish. I tell her I want to talk about the exchange from yesterday and she turns a very deep shade of red.

Okay, maybe there wasn't any exaggeration. Hmmm. She admits to using the disrespectful language, and knows that she behaved inappropriately. She's deeply sorry, embarrassed to be called out for her behaviour and ashamed that she let my assistant's attitude affect her so much. It's a little surprising to me; this woman is very even-tempered, very sweet, and generally quite pleasant to be around. She hardly seems the sort to use naughty language, let alone to be so rude to a co-worker (even if said co-worker makes it easy to be rude).

It turns out, my assistant seems to have a large chip on her shoulder; she's insecure about her place and seems to spend quite a bit of time marking her proverbial territory. I have seen a small display of this, but hadn't realized it was as common as it apparently is. She's a little hard to get along with, especially once any sort of disagreement happens.

The truth is, while I'll have to give a conduct warning to Myrtle, I often want to tell my assistant to fuck off too.

Save me from this God

I dreamed I met God last night. Not the god I truly believe in, but a different god ... a sentient, male, all seeing, all knowing, powerful god.

He told me things that frightened me. He told me that I was on the right path in life, that I was doing what He planned for me and that he was pleased with me. He told me that I would always struggle though, that I would feel pain and torment even as I did the "right" thing. He confirmed my worst fear, that just as I settled into what I thought was my forever life -leaving that other painful, pain-filled life behind- I would have it shattered before me.

That was my doom: to experience emotional pain of such a severe degree that I thought it would kill me, only to come out better. I'd use the skills I'd learned in the getting better to make a newer, happier life with a loving partner and fulfilling hobbies, and then something would break it all open again. My partner would be taken from me, my happiness destroyed. And then I'd start all over.

My reward for all this is that each time the happiness would get happier. The partner would be more loving and the life more fulfilling -before it was ruined.

In the dream I was at the ocean; that's where I had to go to meet God. He was so large, a big shining ball of bright, and I had these fabulous Jackie O. sunglasses on. His voice breezed through my head, a soft whisper telling me of my horrible life ahead. It was powerful, that soft voice. It filled my insides up, like I had been puffed up with air, and that voice made me want to fall down on my knees and cry all my tears into the sea until I had none left.

I rejected the concept of a sentient, creator-god many years ago. I don't accept an omnipotent god, a god who loves me and has a plan for me, a god who is self-aware and knows just what will happen for us all. Even so, I woke with that filled-up feeling and that awful whispering voice in my head.

Monday, November 24, 2008

My addiction

I've been playing World of Warcraft with renewed interest lately; you see, an expansion for the game came out a couple weeks ago and I can think of nothing else. I'm avoiding my knitting projects (I have a half-finished mitten that needs a mate and a gazillion animal toys that need to be made still), and only working forty hours each week. I'd say that I've also let the house cleaning go, but that's not remarkable at all since I totally fail at being a real wife who cooks and cleans.

I remember when Mr. J and I first purchased and loaded World of Warcraft in November of 2004. The install was painfully long, but it was exciting. By the time we'd loaded the entire game we didn't have much time for anything but we were out of our brains with anticipation. My first character was a Night Elf Rogue named Jaide.

Back then I was working 5am to 1pm, and I was pretty useless anytime after 8pm. But I stayed up late every night because it was exciting. Every evening we wolfed down our dinners so we could rush off to play and it was fun. There was so much to see and do, and it was all new. I loved it, adored the game, thought Blizzard was God. It was so much fun playing the game with my husband and exploring the world and stabbing stuff in the back.

During the Burning Crusade release last year it was snowing. I left work at 9am and it took me four hours to get home. Mr. J had gone in the snow to get our games, and we installed them and again went through the painfully long, four-disc install all the while chatting and excited. The game had lost that first blush by then; it was still loads of fun, but the experience of first-time newness never really comes back. We still loved it though, and were excited all over again. We looked forward to new content, new quests, new terrain, and new stories.

I've been burnt out with the game for a long time, haven't raided in months and have been generally disinterested. I have been focusing on work, and on my crafting, and yoga. But now ... now that I have a shiny new expansion pack to play, with new content, new quests, new terrain, and new stories I'm excited all over again. I can't wait to play, can't wait to learn and see and fight and skin and cook and die. The anticipation of all that newness comes back to me and makes my heart speed up a little bit, makes my brain throb, and it's not at all unlike an anticipation high after a long clean period.

Being sad makes me hungry

I was going through our bills this evening, doing some maintenance and filing, and I came across the file we keep on our pets. We keep everything (it’s a problem) so we have all the paperwork from every office visit and medical procedure our animals have undergone.

Looking through that file and seeing the paperwork from when we adopted our first two kittens made a funny, lumpy spot rise in my throat.

In March of this year we gave one of those kittens away to the pound. She was a bad kitty and had begun doing very naughty kitty things. She wasn’t always bad, and I think I forgot how much a part of my life Emma was.

I don’t miss her doing her business all over the house. I don’t miss her fighting with the other kitties and making a ruckus. I don’t miss her screeching yowls when the other kitties would look at her wrong. I don’t miss the way she claimed any territory around me as hers and hissed and spit and screamed if others came too close.

It’s sort of funny how I’d forgotten all the good stuff about Emma and only remembered how bad she was. I had forgotten that bringing Emma and Zoe into our lives felt like one of the first few steps out of my grief over Colin; those silly kittens were life-affirming for me, and they were part of my new life with Mr. J. They were like our kids, the first cats we got together and we brought them home to the first house we had together. I love the kitties I have now, Zoe and Paper who hardly ever do bad things; I like the way there isn’t Emma-pee all over everything. But sometimes I really miss the way she was when she was a kitten, before I ruined everything by bringing Paper home. Sometimes thinking about her triggers stupid feelings of loss and emptiness.

And sometimes it feels a little silly to grieve so much over such a thing. You'd think after burying a husband that giving away a cat who pees on my stuff would be easy.

As soon as I can swallow past the lumpy spot in my throat, I'm eating something fattening and unhealthy.

Where have I been?

World of Warcraft.

That is all.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sunglasses

I dreamt that I was at the office trying to give work direction to subordinates with sunglasses on. Corey Hart was playing over the PA system, and my sunglasses were pinching my face. They'd grown somehow smaller, tighter, and they were cutting off oxygen to my brain. I tried and tried to keep my wits about me but my concentration kept slipping.

They weren't taking me seriously, my subordinates, as I surreptitiously tugged and pulled and adjusted my sunglasses; I was trying so hard to make those silly sunglasses comfortable while carrying on a discussion about the proper procedure for coding invoices, all without calling attention to myself.

It's very sunny out today, unusually so. I woke up with a headache, and now I'm a little afraid to put my sunglasses on (silly me).

Friday, November 14, 2008

The way of the sandwich

My mother makes the best sandwiches. She was always very deliberate and detailed about how she put a sandwich together. Some things related to food I am indifferent to, but I am quite particular about how my sandwiches are made. I have a list of rules that Mr. J often forgets.
  • I hate mayonaisse, but I need it on both sides of the bread. Very lightly.
  • Mustard goes on one side only
  • Cheese must not touch mayonaisse
  • Meat should be folded or layered somehow, not just placed flat in a stack on the bread
  • Lettuce should be shredded or one large leaf, not several small leaves
  • Tomatoes should be sliced thinly, with not too many seeds
  • Avocado should be mashed up into a paste and spread either on the bread or the meat
  • Cheese should not be on the same side as the meat
  • Pepperoncini peppers should be diced up small with the seeds removed
  • Deli meat sandwiches get salt and pepper at the end
It sounds more complicated than it is. If it sounds complicated, that's because it is.

In passing ...

I found out the other day that a close friend's father had died recently. I did not know Tony well, but the few times I had seen him over the years he was very nice to me. He knew Colin, and he and his wife came to see me after he died. He said kind things about Colin, things that made me feel better. It's always nice when someone dies, and someone else has fond memories and nice things to say about them.

I'm sad that Tony is dead, sad that my friend lost his dad, sad that there's another widow mourning the death of her husband. Most days, the deaths of others don't hit me real deeply. Most days I have a different perspective, one that focuses more on the positive aspects of a person's life and on the necessity of change-in-the-form-of-death. But sometimes ... oh, sometimes it just triggers feelings of my own losses and I feel a great wrenching inside me as though something important is being pinched really hard.

I think it would have made Colin sad that Tony has passed away. Colin also had nice things to say about him. I hope they've managed to find each other, wherever they both are.

The Colin-thing

Sometimes the trouble with living through hellish events is that it's hard to tell where the nightmare ends and real life begins. I started having nightmares after Colin died; my mind would replay the events that had happened over and over in a loop. Sometimes I would dream that it hadn't happened, in the dream I'd "wake up" and Colin would be there asking me if I was okay. I dreamed, I would sob at him, that you were dead. And he would smile and tug my hair and tell me it wasn't ever going to happen. I would cry and tell him how awful it had been and that I hadn't known what to do with myself, couldn't figure out how to live my life without him. He would wrap me in his big arms and tell me I'd never have to find out how to live without him because he wasn't going anywhere.

And then I would be awake, truly awake, and those words would be echoing in my head. As though they'd just been said in a room and the essence of those words was still hovering in the air. And I would choke on thick hatred for him.

Last night's dream was new, one I hadn't had before. That doesn't happen very often anymore.

I woke up and Mr. J was there, just out of the shower but crawling back into bed. It was morning, time to get ready. We've done this before, many times, and we make each other late. So I smiled at him but didn't stay. I felt the world shift when I stepped into the hall. The colour was different somehow and out of the corner of my eye, I saw him. He had no clothes on, was just a blur. But I recognized his hair, knew the shape and scent and aura of him.

I stepped closer and he turned; and as he came to face me, he was Mr. J. I became confused, then frightened, then angry. I whirled around and stomped into the bathroom to take my shower.

That's when I noticed the blood in the shower. Like a red lake in the bottom of the bathtub, thick with particles and so dark it was almost black. I threw open the bathroom door and began screaming for Mr. J to get up and come in here, to clean up his mess. What was he thinking, leaving this for me to find? How can he be so insensitive, leaving his head wound lying around like this?

Mr. J was back in the bed, and irritated at my screaming. He didn't know what I was on about, but he grumbled and came into the bathroom. The lights would not go on, nor the fan; he couldn't see the mess in the shower. He thought I was making it up.

Standing in the doorway, listening to my husband tell me that I was sick and that I needed to stop playing these awful fantasies in my head, I saw him again out of the corner of my eye. Like the scary movie-monster that rises from shadow just outside your field of vision, he was there. Large and dark and dead, and only I could see him.

I backed away from the bathroom, from Mr. J and the dead Colin-thing in the hallway. That's when Mr. J saw him too, only he didn't see the Colin-thing. He saw himself, and it terrified him.

He ran towards it, towards himself, and chased it off. It was speaking to him, low words that were terrifying in the dream that I don't remember now. Words that had more impact because they were spoken so softly; it was telling him things, whispered secrets that frightened us both.

Inside the dream I wake up again, and feel flooded with relief to be out of the dream. Mr. J is sulking and won't talk to me; he thinks I have done something, am part of some inexplicable scenario wherein Colin is not dead but has abandoned his life with me because of how I am. Crazy, manipulative, un-hinged. Maybe I did cheat on him, Mr. J wonders out loud, maybe he made a mistake marrying me. We fight like this, me crying and trying to explain that it was just a dream, that it had not been real and Mr. J quietly blaming me for the death-or-mysterious-disappearance of his friend.

I awake, and Mr. J is there to comfort me. He is his normal self, kind and sweet and concerned. He is a rock when I am like this, immovable and strong, capable of soothing away my tears and my pain without words. I want to talk to him, try to tell him what happened. He backs into the bathroom, smiling at me, and slowly shuts the door on my pleas to talk to me.

He is eating an ice cream cone, and I am not awake at all. And that dark shape is forming again. At the end of the hallway. In my head. I'm not sure I'm sane, and the darkness that somehow represents Colin begins engulfing me until I can no longer see my hands in front of my face.

"I'm going to work, babe." Mr. J is leaving. It must be 6:30am. I open my eyes, my real eyes, really open. He's there, smiling and rushed, hugging me and feeling very solid. I see him off, heat up a cup of coffee, and try to shake off this dream. I'm sitting down at my computer, well and truly awake, to bang this all out when I hear a key in the lock.

I go out to the hallway, feeling un-hinged again. I'm afraid it's going to be the other Mr. J, the one who is angry and thinks I am crazy. It's not, he's just forgotten his phone.

He smiles at me as he heads back out, the smile that looks very real and very alive, then he is gone. I stood in the hallway for a moment, waiting for that dark shape to take form again. Waiting for the Colin-thing to make me crazy again.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'm not intentionally difficult, really

When Mr. J and I started dating I learned a particular personality trait of his: he is nearly incapable of making decisions for me. He flat refuses. He wants my input; he wants to make sure he does it right. This applied to everything from what we would spend our weekends doing to how much food he scooped onto my plate.

It was a little disconcerting. I'm not entirely sure why, but I wasn't used to it at all. I should not complain, because it really was like being treated as though I was a princess, but some decisions were just too hard for me. I didn't care how many peas he gave me or how much gravy he poured over my mashed potatoes. It was just food, and if I wanted more of something I'd get myself more. He made dinner because he liked cooking for me (and, let's face it, I am a terrible cook); he made my plates because he wanted to dote on me. I thought it was nice, but I just wanted him to make my plates like he made his own; if it was wrong, I would tell him.

This was a little source of weirdness between us, the doting on his part and the bluntness on mine, and I began to make stuff up just to give him an answer. When he asked me how many scoops of mashed potatoes, I told him I wanted one and three quarter scoops. When he asked me how many peas I wanted, I told him 42.

While I don't have much of a preference about how food is piled on my plate, there are things that I like just so, and this wobbling between extremes makes things infinitely more confusing for my husband. And out of all that, I started having preferences just about the time he stopped asking.

It's a wonder he puts up with me.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Placing blame

This post is part of a series of posts about Colin. __________________________________________________________________________________

“Let’s talk about your drug use.” The police detective was tall and thin, with very little hair, glasses, and a mustache. We were in a conference room at my lawyer’s office, and we were talking about Colin’s death. That’s how the police referred to it, as a death. Whenever I said “suicide”, they corrected me. It was still a death, not yet ruled a suicide, despite the medical examiner’s findings. The police were still investigating, and they were investigating me.

I shrugged, having already admitted to smoking the marijuana. I was a little worried they’d ask me where I got it, and I didn’t want to cause trouble for the guy who sold it to me. I would tell if they made me, but I really hoped they didn’t ask.

They didn’t; they were more interested in what happened before I bought the pot. I didn’t have a record, had never been into trouble with the law. I didn’t lie, but I didn’t go into my drug use. I told him I’d used drugs in high school, got clean after meeting Colin, and left it at that, until the recent marijuana use.

“Okay, let’s talk about the affairs.” Affairs? Did I hear that right? I didn’t have affairs, had never been unfaithful to Colin.

“I see. How about the abuse? Can we talk about the abuse?” There was no abuse. Colin never hit me, didn’t think men who hit women had a right to be alive. There was probably a lot wrong with Colin, but keeping his hands to himself wasn’t one of them. He broke things when he got drunk or angry, threw dishes or objects. We were both guilty of that. He certainly had a temper, but he took it out on his CD collection, or the walls, or himself, but never me, never physically.

“No, I mean your abuse against him,” the detective said to me. Wait. What?

“Your sister-in-law told us about the abuse. Let’s talk about it.” Ohhh, I get it. It’s a tactic, something cops say to confuse you and trip you up. I was supposed to blurt out that he never told her because he was embarrassed to be beat up by a girl, or some such. Only, there wasn’t any abuse and I had nothing to let slip.

I am less than five feet tall, weighed about eighty pounds at the time. I found it pretty funny that they were suggesting I was beating up on my six-foot-tall, 250 pound husband, and laughed in their faces. My lawyer called a halt to the interview, and we went our separate ways.

I found out later that it wasn’t a tactic. My sister-in-law really had told them those things. She was calling the detectives working on Colin’s case regularly, to tell them about affairs that she claimed I’d had, a spiraling drug addiction, physical abuse against him, and the horrible, horrible life I had dragged him into. Because of me he was drinking too much; because of me he’d had trouble holding down good jobs. Because of me he was deeply depressed.

Both Colin's mother and sister had been telling anyone who would listen that I had done something to him, something to make him die. Either I had pulled the trigger or I got someone else to do it and that's how he had died. Someone freakishly large and imposing to overpower him without a struggle and shoot him. I had convinced him he was without worth; had betrayed him, been unfaithful to him and that's why he would commit suicide.

Sometime between mid-August and late November Colin’s grandfather died. My mother-in-law invited me to the wake she was having at her home; that’s when I found out that she and Colin’s sister blamed me for his death.

My mom drove me, and when we arrived my sister-in-law was wrestling her four year old up the walk; my niece was struggling and throwing a world-class temper tantrum. When she saw me, she started screaming; piercing screams that wouldn’t stop. I reached for her, to pick her up and console her, and she jerked away from me and ran inside. She had always adored me, and now she wouldn’t come near me.

Inside the house was confusing. Kids were screaming and unhappy, my sister-in-law would not stop staring at me, and my mother-in-law would not make eye contact with me. It was Colin’s stepfather who pulled me aside and told me. The others didn’t want me there. I was no longer welcome. They felt I was responsible for Colin’s death, and they didn’t want me around them, or around Colin’s nieces.

My mom and I left immediately, and Colin's mother followed us home. She arrived at my mom's house shortly after we did. She told me later that it wasn’t true, that her husband had spoken without her permission. That she did still love me and want me in the family, but she had questions. Questions that she’d need answered sooner or later, but she didn’t have the energy to deal with them during her own father’s funeral. She made me feel as though I had brought the drama to her father's funeral, as though I had made the scene at the house and caused all the emotional upheaval.

I never spoke to her after that, never answered her questions.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday blues

The past two Sundays have been roller skating days for me and Mr. J. Surprisingly enough, he actually enjoyed himself. Something painful is happening to his knees lately, though, and we both woke up not feeling terrific, so today was not a roller skating day.

Instead we did lazy things around the house. I didn't feel right all day today; I have so many things I can (and really should) be working on: I've got another dog toy in the works, and I really want to make more kitties. I also have a couple hat ideas, plus a hat for Mr. J that I started months ago and haven't even come close to finishing. I have a hat I need to unravel, and some hats I need to design. The fact that I inadvertently just spelled "hates" instead of "hats" should tell you how I'm feeling about them right about now...

I wanted to do none of that. I have that awful restless feeling I sometimes get. I want everything, and I want nothing.

I did manage to find some yoga poses for knee pain, though, so after dinner Mr. J and I did some light yoga.

So at least the day wasn't completely wasted feeling sorry for myself.

Rib City

3655 S.W. Hall Boulevard
Beaverton, Oregon 97005
(503) 643-7427
Mon - Thur 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
Fri & Sat 11:00 am – 10:00 pm
Sun 11:00 noon – 8:00pm

At the suggestion of one of Mr. J’s co-workers, we decided to eat dinner at Rib City Friday night.

Now, I have a funny relationship with ribs. I fancy myself as far too dignified to gnaw meat off bones. The image of eating ribs, with a bib tucked into the collar of my shirt, barbecue sauce smeared across my mouth, and fingers gooey and slippery as I hungrily chew rib-meat off a bone is something I don’t ever want to have to face. I am not generally dainty and girly, but I do have limits. Ribs are my limit.

We had driven past the restaurant many times (usually on our way to Wendy’s); Mr. J would gaze hungrily at the place (he loves ribs) and I would shudder at the prospect of all the gnawing and smearing.

Someone else’s endorsement was enough, and we took ourselves off for ribs.

We ordered a plate called A feast for Two, which could probably have fed three or four:

Half a rack of baby-back ribs
Half a chicken
Shaved pork
Shaved chicken
Baked beans
Baked potatoes
Cole Slaw

The entire meal cost us $32.99, which seemed rather reasonable for the amount of meat we got. The ribs were excellent; the meat was very tender and cooked in a spicy-tangy-sweet barbecue sauce. We were also given dispensers with three different types of barbecue sauce.

The service was also very good; each server had a hand-held wireless computer into which they entered our order. The order was transmitted directly to the kitchen. When the time came to pay, our waitress swiped our card right at our table and printed out a receipt on a small printer slung around her waist. I was transfixed, equally by the meat and by the devices.

There wasn't much of an atmosphere to speak of. It was busy when we were there, so it was a little noisy. The wait-staff all seemed hurried and energetic, busy but not grumpy, and generally very friendly. While a little light on the ambiance, the food and the service made the experience very good. And I ate it all without making a ghastly mess of myself. We’re definitely eating there again.

L & L Hawaiian Barbecue

Mr. J and I like to eat out. It's sort of a problem for us, one I don't see changing anytime soon, what with his love of food and my lack of cooking skills.

Some time ago we ate at a place called L & L Hawaiian Barbecue. I've been meaning to review it for months, but every time I thought about I had a visceral memory of the taste of the food in my mouth and had to fight down nausea.

I tried the Chicken Katsu, having never had it before. It was very greasy, leaving behind a film in my mouth (which I hardly ever enjoy). The chicken itself was unusual, unlike any chicken I've ever had; I can't quite find words to convey how awful it was, but things like "slimy" and "wobbly" come to mind.

I did not enjoy it overall, and Mr. J wasn't too impressed either.

If you're in the Beaverton area, try it and tell me what you think. It's located off Cedar Hills Blvd in the mall.

3205 S.W. Cedar Hills Blvd., Ste. 23
Beaverton, OR 97005
Phone: (503)726-0770/(503)726-0771
Fax: (503) 726-0772

Finding my father

This post is part of a series of posts about my father.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Things get a little blurry for me after we moved to Washington. We settled down, as much as we were able, and started our lives over. Mom met Reginald almost right away; they dated for a while and they got married.

I spent summers in Sacramento, staying alternately with my grandparents, my aunt Betty and my mom's previous husband, Forsythe, with whom we had remained close. One day, while driving in the car with Aunt Betty, she nearly hit a homeless man on a bicycle while backing up. That homeless man turned out to be my dad. I didn't recognize him, but Aunt Betty did. I've always wondered what would have happened if she hadn't recognized him either.

"Honey, that's your daddy," she said to me. She called out to him, shouted that she had his daughter in her car. I don't think I'll ever forget how he wobbled on his bicycle, how he turned around so suddenly and sharply that he almost fell down. Aunt Betty pulled over, and I saw my dad for the first time in what felt like a very long time.

As we were talking a man drove past very slowly, and my dad looked over and acknowledged him by pointing his index finger and saying, "I'll need to see you about a dog later."

And I knew. I was only twelve, but I knew what that meant. I knew my dad was still using drugs, still wrapped up in shady goings-on and partying in dark houses bad furniture and no food. It didn't matter; I was happy to see him.

My mom flew down to Sacramento, and we got together with my dad. He was in bad shape; he had walked out on his wife, and his life was upside-down. He was very thin, and he smelled of alcohol. Not like he'd been drunk the day before but like he'd been drunk for a hundred years; the kind of alcohol smell that comes from having so much of it inside your body for so long that the body's natural way of getting it out of its system doesn't work anymore, when it has to start coming out of your skin. My dad was pickled, and practically sloshed when he walked.

We never talked about the extent of his drug use, but I knew it was bad. I wanted to start over, wanted to put the hurtful past behind us and move on. It had only been a couple years since I'd seen him last but it felt like a lifetime.

It was the summer of 1991, and I was headed into the first of many difficult years.

Yoga studio

I found a yoga class I am really excited about. The studio is near my apartment and they offer the first class for free! I am signed up for next Saturday at 9am. The studio has a couple packages for students; I could sign up for 12 classes at $132, 24 classes for $240, or a three month membership for $324. I'd like to try some classes out to see if I like the style and instructors before making a commitment to a studio, and see if I can get an idea of what to expect for average pricing, but I'm really interested in this studio.

Unfortunately, I'll have to wait until after we get our tax return and that seems so far away today!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Something a little different

Tonight I shook my yoga routine up with some warrior lunges; this move starts with warrior two, but instead of the static lunge one lunges with the knee over the toe without holding, then straight again. Instead of the static lunge that is held for ten breaths, do ten lunges then switch.

It's a little hard on the knees, but I felt the workout in my quads where I don't generally feel the static lunge right away. Perhaps I'm not doing it right, but I like the repetitive lunges better.

I also threw in some chair poses for good measure. Also a little painful across the top of the knee and my ankles were starting to hurt after just a few breaths, but I like feeling the muscle tighten.

I've also been doing this ab workout. I'm sure I look a lot less graceful than the ladies in the video (especially the one in pink, I want her for my instructor) but I'm working on it.

I hate meetings, except sometimes

Meetings at work are not my strong suit. I am good at a lot of things in my job, but meetings just aren't one of them. My conference room is not large enough to hold everyone in my department comfortably, for one thing. I solved that particular problem by assigning everyone in my branch to a meeting "team", each one consisting of not more than six people, so that we could all sit comfortably at the table and have more valuable time together. This means more meetings (when I have them) but they feel more productive than before.

While that solves my size/space issue, I find I just don't have time for regular meetings. I meet with specific individuals regularly on issues, have one-on-one time when I feel like this or that employee needs some redirection or clarification on policies; I publish and distribute memos and changes to the operations manual when necessary but we generally seem to keep functioning well without regular meetings so I have gotten into the bad habit of not having them very often.

My group doesn't like meetings. They get restless, bored, don't pay attention, irritable, short-tempered, and grouchy. Some people are really engaged and others just stare at me like they want to claw my eyes out. They don't miss the meetings.

Except for one person in particular. Late last year I promoted a data entry operator to Reconciliation Specialist. She was especially challenging to train, and it took us a good long while before we could work well together. She is a passionate individual; she puts a lot of energy into her job and she works really hard not to disappoint me. The passion she brings to her job is simple: she has figured out that working hard allows her to stay at the company and make money, and a steady paycheck seems to be what she wants most of all. She enjoys challenges and new tasks, and giving her praise for a job well done seems to be more valuable than just about anything else I can give her.

The passion she brings to work also means she feels very strongly about her interactions with others. In the course of her work, she is often yelled at by the dealerships she works with. Rude people who are accustomed to bossing others around feel that it's okay to belittle her. They challenge her decisions and take their frustrations out on her.

She feels this all very deeply. I have worked with her to separate some of that feeling-ness, but the problem is that I don't relate to it. People yell at me too; sometimes they are downright abusive on the phone. About once a week I hit the "release" button on my phone to terminate a call because I can't get a word in edge-wise. It doesn't rile me up, doesn't hurt my feelings. It might hurt my ears but soon after the call is over, I'm past it.

Not so with my recon girl. She absorbs it all, and gets herself fantastically worked up over such things. In an effort to help her find a way to decompress and let some of these frustrations out, I have set up a weekly meeting with her to give her the opportunity to vent at me. She tells me about her week, the calls she takes, how she feels about the tasks she's doing, even things she sees other employees around the office doing that she feels I should be aware of. She thrives on regular feed-back and one of the biggest challenges I had with her was that I don't do well with people who are insecure and need me to tell them every day that I think they're doing a good job.

This is important though. Note to self: most people need regular feedback. They deal with negative feedback well so long as they get to regularly have their daily decisions reinforced. Tell them if they're doing well, and help them grow when they don't do so well.

I had wondered, privately, if the meetings were doing any good for her. She told me today that she loves our meetings. She said she feels so much better about her job and the shit she faces everyday because of them. That could have been the coffee talking, but I was pleased to know that she finds them useful and that I'm not just wasting my time and hers.

Free coffee

I got free coffee today. The coffee shoppe I frequent gets extraordinarily busy in the morning, and today the overworked coffee mistress made me a medium when I asked for a large. I got my large, and a free medium for my trouble.

It was delicious, the large, and made out of things that taste like gingerbread houses. I had a meeting first thing this morning, and I gave my free coffee away to someone who seems to have very little money for extra things like special coffee.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Getting fit

For the third day in a row I've managed to follow through with a goal: more yoga. It feels good today, better than it did yesterday. The catch in my hip is still there but feels less uncomfortable.

This is a small goal, but I'm happy with it. I found many good ab exercises that I am very keen to do. So far, these are the easiest for me to do and don't hurt other areas of my body that aren't supposed to be affected. I can feel the muscles working and I'm one of those types who feel that if I don't hurt afterward, I haven't done it right.

I feel good, but now I'm remembering why not to do some poses just before bed ...

It's the little things

One of my primary functions at work is the day-to-day management of an Accounts Payable department of a trucking company. This is my convoluted contract job that started years ago and has morphed into what it is today. This department is responsible, in part, for the processing and reporting of parts invoices and is appropriately called Operations. As the name suggests, it is a detailed, goal-oriented, fast-paced sort of place that works because I have an operations manual. In my manual are step-by-step instructions of how to do our jobs. From policy documents outlining the rules we have to follow in any given case, to instructions on how to distribute incoming facsimile transmissions. It is very serious business, and we do a lot of frowning while we’re there –just to demonstrate how serious it all is.

When procedures are broken, things do not work so well. Sometimes broken procedures are not reported to me because they are small, with very little impact, so people just do what needs to be done to get around a broken procedure.

My mind thrives on order and balance, and I am like a small, angry queen when people fail to follow directions. Broken or ineffective procedures are the bane of my existence. I view them as challenges, obstacles to be eliminated. Not as little inconveniences to be worked around. I like to sort out problems and fix them; as well as balance, I thrive on my ability to identify problems and fix them. It’s really what I live for.

So when I find out problems, broken procedures have been in place for years that others have been fixing for years I get a little frustrated.

"I didn’t want to bother you", I heard. These words, like dirty water, swirl around in my brain. I keep hearing them over and over, like an insulting, annoying record stuck in a groove. I wanted to scream. It’s only my job, being bothered with details that need to be sorted out. It is why I do what I do. I’m good at it, I enjoy it, for fuck’s sake, just tell me.

"I had time to deal with it, I figured there was just a weird problem somewhere."

Yes, a weird problem that kept a function broken for three years. A weird problem that resulted in a relatively high-salary individual wasting hours each week printing invoices from the web when they are supposed to be generated automatically, but for one little coding error that I was able to have someone fix in minutes.

Those weird problems don’t fix themselves, sugar-butt. Next time, tell your god-damned manager, eh? I didn't get to say these words exactly, but I wanted to. Some days it takes all my effort not to lose all dignity and manifest evidence of my extreme frustration, right in front of everyone.

Phew

I won't be moving to Canada, after all. Words cannot express how relieved I am. Not because I don't love you Canadians, mind you ...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I looked back, and wasn't happy with what I saw

Looking back on this past year and taking stock of everything, there is one thing I am really not happy with: my lack of progression in yoga and meditation. It has been a busy year fraught with changes and instability; and even though the changes (and the instability) are things I pursued, truly things that are better for my life, I forgot to take stock of them when they were happening. That's the time when I most need something to ground me; I forgot to pay attention to my right now, and before I knew it a year had passed and my right now turned into back then.

I have been practising yoga for over ten years, but remain a beginner. I don’t have all the poses memorised, and I cannot move fluidly from one to the next; I often go months without any practise despite feeling horrible and flabby and out of shape and knowing all I have to do to feel better is exercise. I have lost all my fabulous flexibility and it is evident to me lately that I desperately need to get my balance back –both physical and metaphysical.

I’m phasey, as a rule. Tending toward flightiness, my hobbies and interests take circuitous paths and I don’t always stick with something once I’ve started it. Because I can go for so long with my eye on something else, it is easy for me to get fed up with myself and make huge lists of things I need and want to do, and huge overwhelming statements of commitment that I won’t follow through with, by nature of the fact that I burden myself with too much all at once.

So for today my goals are small, and my commitments are little. I’m baby-stepping my way to a more-fit-me with an easy and fun routine.

I’m using a leg lift variation of the boat pose for abs and legs. I have an annoying and uncomfortable catch in my hips that gets caught every time I lower my legs, but I’m working through that.

As usual, I feel like I’m starting over every time I do this to myself. I am equal parts thoroughly disgusted with me and totally enjoying my right now.

Writing letters

I attempted to write a letter today. With a pen. On paper. I spelt "course" wrong. Twice. As in, "of course I know how to spell"!

It was humiliating, and sort of made me want to never use a computer again. I used to be very good at letter writing. Once a month all the cousins and aunts and uncles in Mr. J's family to whom we are close would get a letter from me. I even wrote my grandmother regularly.

These days, I'm so busy I can barely remember things from one day to the next. I have not written a letter in months, probably years. My New York mom deserves a letter, because I'm terrible at keeping in touch (I'm sorry, and I really do love you!).

But I am a perfectionist, and my penmanship is so awful nowadays that I'm afraid Sister Mary might find out and put me in the coat closet, and I no longer know how to spell simple, short words. So anyone who doesn't have a blog or email won't be getting any letters from me. I've giving up on the writing, and will only communicate if I can fill in a bubble with blue or black ink.

Voting

The city I just moved from is part of a metropolis, inextricably bound, with a neighbouring city in a different state. This meant that all of our televisions stations, radio programmes, and media all pertain to the city just south. We never knew what was going on in our city, because the news only really reported what was going on in that other city. Ballot measures, local politicians, state issues, and the like were never about us but about that other state. We were used to it, but it was a little maddening to not know the name of our town's mayor or know what our state's governor looked like, but we could pick Tom Potter out of a crowd.

Now I live in that other state, and I was really excited to know all about what was going on. We Oregonians are crazy with the ballot measures and I was pleased to actually be in the loop this year, versus previous years where I had to research feverishly just to find out what the heck was going on in my own state.

I'm happy this election is finally coming to a close; I dislike all the frenetic energy surrounding election years. I dislike the ploys and manipulations and digging and slinging politicians do. I enjoy the insensitive jokes that crop up on the internet at their expense, because I'm just that snarky, but I dislike the mass self-delusion that I feel the entire country -on both sides- indulges in.

I'm glad I was able to vote, capable of exercising that right -for all the good it does- and I'm glad it's over.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Inline skating is scary

Back when I was fearless and stupid I bought inline skates for myself. Colin and I had seen sexy, skinny people roller-blading on the boardwalk at the Columbia River and we wanted to be skinny and sexy too. So we motored to our local sport shoppe and bought ourselves inline skates.

We lost all traces of dignity one afternoon in the parking lot of our apartment complex; with our feet stuffed into skates and pads on our elbows and knees, we slid and giggled and fell on our faces. We tore up our legs on gravel and asphalt, and gave up. Those skates went into a storage unit after he died and I've been planning to get rid of them for years now.

But I've recently taken up roller skating again. Granted, I skate on old-school skates, the kind that have the wheels side-by-side instead of all lined up in a row, but still. I can roller skate again. I should totally wear my inline skates.

So I send Mr. J down to the garage to get them for me, and suddenly I'm on those silly inline skates again. He had to hold my hand because I put the skates on before I went down the stairs (it was raining, okay? I wasn't going to sit in a puddle of water and put skates on!). I skated back and forth in a little five foot patch of parking lot that was covered by a roof and I didn't fall down at all.

I think I prefer side-by-side wheels versus lined-up-in-a-row wheels, but I'm keeping those inline skates, and one day I'll be good enough to actually skate on them without my husband holding my hand.

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