Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Computer Issues

My computer is down and blogging from my phone is a little like slamming my fingers in a drawer... so, until it's back up, I'm on hiatus from both blogs.

Should only be a couple of days. in the meantime, I'll practice holding a pen and notebook. Just to see if I remember how...

Monday, January 27, 2014

Burn It Down

It's one of those days. One of those crowded, claustrophobic, can't breathe or think around people days. One of those days when I look around the mess and clutter of the house and property, consider my complete fatigue and think we should burn it down and start over.

This picture is entirely too warm and fuzzy for the mood.
It looked good at first but doesn't fit.

Yes. This.
Rationally, it's easy to  look at the various things contributing to the mood and keep it under control (by that, I mean not eating someone's face off or throwing things) but knowing the why doesn't diffuse it.

Unfortunately, diffusion usually requires physical space which can be in short supply... especially on days when moving takes more spoons* than I have on hand.

But I'm writing again, so let's give that a try, shall we?

*cue brain lock*

Sleep deprivation combined with the special hell of both PMDD and Peri-menopausal chaos is evil. Plus, these days wake the Big Scary Anger Monster.

You know what, pretend this post is a broken link.

You could pretend I'm a broken link. That would be okay too.

I'm going to make a Sonic Screwdriver then spend the rest of the day unlocking doors in my Mind Palace.

*For the Spoon explanation, see the link up in the pages

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Peanut Man

There's been more than enough writing about people who can mar life's journey. It's time to share about the people who make it better.

The kind of people who, whether for a moment or for a significant measure of time, just brighten things. Sometimes they are familiar faces we are always happy to see, other times they become a part of our family's story forever.

Brent, AKA The Peanut Man is one such person.

The Peanut Man's Stand

Until this past summer, the flea market was an occasional weekend thing. We usually only ventured out if we were looking for something specific... second hand tools, refurbished appliances, cheap imported trinkets, the like. In the mid-90's, I'm sad to admit, I was very much a part of the flea market's hotbed of Beanie Baby trading but we're not going there.

Usually though, what brought us to the flea market was a craving for Boiled Peanuts. 

Boiled peanuts. As southern as sweet tea (which is rumored to have its origins in our own hometown) and just as easy to find... if you aren't picky. Roadside stands are as common in the south as farm fresh produce stands in the summer or Sweetgrass Basket weavers along US Hwy 17. But the true peanut connoisseur knows who uses fresh green peanuts, who uses the less tender mature ones and who just reheats gallon cans from the Piggly Wiggly. Charlie's Daddy was a Peanut Man back when Charlie was not much more than a green peanut himself. He grew up learning the ways of the "true" boiled peanut (much like the family's secret moonshine recipe) and can be a tad picky.

Until a little over a year ago, we sought out "Mama" whose trailer shack was a regular sight at the flea market. When Mama retired, we had to start shopping around.

It was over the summer that Elena began to have a regular Friday sleepover at Pawpaw and Damma's house. Then, as Charlie recovered from his illness, hospitalizations and ICD surgery... he was ready to get the heck out of the house for more than doctor visits and errands.

He wasn't ready for a lot of walking but the flea market is set up so you can almost as easily cruise the outside areas in a car as you can walk. It was ideal for all of us as he didn't have to walk more than he could handle and Elena and I could wander until we wore ourselves out.

Plus, peanuts.

That's when we met The Peanut Man.

Probably just a few years older than Charlie, he has the look people often associate with a Harley riding, long-haired, veteran... which of course, he is. Elena was instantly charmed by his easy smile and friendly nature. Somewhere in her mind, I'm sure the idea his German Shepherd shares a name with her Pawpaw's dog only adds to the bond.

Before we knew it, Elena, would wake up on Saturdays impatient for us to be ready to go to the "fee martet to get peanuts from The Peanut Man". By his turn, it wasn't long until, when The Peanut Man heard the distinctive knock of our Jeep's engine, he'd look up and wait to see "his girl". It became their routine for him to ask for a smile then give her a little bag of peanuts all her own, complete with a red sharpie smiley face.

Then came September and Elena's run in with boiling Ramen noodles. A tale it still hurts to tell, despite her determined positivity and unflinching bravery.

The first weekend after her burn, Elena couldn't get out of the Jeep as she was still on no walking orders and I was suffering the effects of carrying a 3 year-old several hours a day.

When Brent asked about his girl, I told him what happened and he immediately went over to the Jeep to talk to Elena through the window.

Each week, he asked how she was doing and rejoiced with us at each stage of her recovery. When she was back on her feet and bandage free, he encouraged her to come over behind the stand and visit with Buddy (who is still a ginormous puppy and expects a treat from her each week). I noticed the weekend after her final skin graft, he'd started setting aside Elena's personal bag of peanuts so they would be cool when we came driving up to the stand... A simple act of kindness and consideration for a kid who only shows the emotional effects of her accident when around steam.

The fact she's not afraid of the giant heated pots tells me a lot about the level of security she feels with Brent and our Saturday ritual... and it is kind of a ritual. It would make the whole trip to the flea market somehow off balance if we didn't stop to see Brent first. The first weekend we missed him, he was doing a charity bike run and it left the day feeling a little deflated.

Now, I'm not going to lie or even exaggerate here... Elena is a charming child... so charming in fact, she borders on con artist. I can't remember a Saturday in the last two months that she hasn't batted her big brown eyes into receiving at least one gift from a vendor. It's almost comical to watch her gently pick up small items of interest, smile her smile, speak in her miniature grown-up with a lisp way and receive gifts of affection from nearly every vendor my age or older (you know, grandparent territory).

The more we visit, the more people we've come to know, the more we get to see into a world that has a language and culture all its own... and the more it feels like home to us.

But it's Brent who keeps us coming every week. Brent is why, when Becka had her first opportunity for a Saturday morning off, she joined us so she could meet her daughter's Peanut Man. It was our Saturday trips to see him that marked off Elena's recovery... more than her trips to the doctors. It's Brent who will hold a fond place in Elena's childhood for her entire life. As far as she's concerned, he's why there is a flea market at all. I can almost see her with a child on her knees, shelling peanuts to share while she tells her own preschooler about her Peanut Man.

Elena and Brent The Peanut Man
I couldn't go this morning and asked Becka to get a photo of Elena and Brent for this post. In a moment of embarrassment, I asked if she'd told him why I wanted a picture. She told me he mentioned he'd wanted to get a picture last weekend but had been hesitant to ask. He'll have this one in a frame next time we see him.

We all have in us the capacity to change a life for the better. We all have moments when we cross another person's path and leave a mark of permanence in their lives. All too often, because of the transience or simplicity of these moments, people can make a huge difference and never know it.

Which is why, in our particular story, Brent gets his own chapter. If nothing else, I can share this with him in print and thank him in a way I'd never be able to verbally articulate.

And maybe, it can be more... A chance to remind anyone who comes across this post that even the smallest acts of human kindness make a ripple, even if we don't see or feel it ourselves. It's those acts more than any others that show our true nature, our capacity to love and inspire the same in others.

Brent, you gave a little girl a handful of a favorite treat and found a place in the collective heart of our family. Thank you for being you and reminding a cynical, battle scarred lady it's not the ugly things in our lives that define us... but the beautiful ones.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Mid-day Panic Attack

Maybe, sorta. I dunno... AM I?
These are the moments I hear my Imaginary Sassy Gay Friend* in my head.

ISGF: What are you doing? What, what, what are you doing?
M: Um... not sure.
ISGF: Who do you think you are with the writing and the goals and the going out in public and are you really going to wear that?
M: They're my pajamas. I write in my pajamas.
ISGF: You've been wearing those pajamas for 63 hours. And what's with all the holes in those things?
M: They're my Eeyore pants. *puts on Stitch voice* They're old and they're worn but they're still good. Yeah, still good.
ISGF: First of all, no. Second, those aren't pants anymore and third, you need to shower, fix that wild woman hair, put real clothes on, close these browser tabs and make those boys do chores before electronics. What kind of mother are you anyway?
M: Um, I don't know?
ISGF: Thinks she's going to be a writer, singer and a social butterfly and can't even put on pants. What a bitch. *nods and finger snaps* Yeah, she's a stupid bitch.

Yes. This is an actual example of what goes on in my head.

Really, what am I doing? Ego stroking? Attention whoring? Prancing around the interwebs thinking I'm witty and charming? Baring my soul to the masses (ISGF: 25 people aren't "the Masses", Sweetie.) and figuratively gutting myself? Thinking I'm Special?

No, I do not have the energy for the Church Lady so go back to your corner and SHUT UP!

As previously mentioned in Instant Gratification, I'm hoping there's something worth saying... Something people can relate to. Maybe encourage, entertain or enlighten as I use writing for therapy and a creative outlet. Maybe receive a little validation of my own. Also, it wouldn't hurt if this went viral at some point and got a book deal and a small but award winning indie film producer bought the movie rights to my story* so I can somehow financially contribute to the family and never again worry about how we'll pay for food by the last week of every month.

I'd settle for growing enough as a writer to do the occasional guest post on other blogs or sell an essay or two.

I'd also settle for not feeling nauseous each time I open a new post.


To be perfectly honest, writing again is every bit as emotionally draining as therapy was... especially the first couple of years when I replayed every moment of a session I could remember to over-analyze just how crazy and hopeless I was.

At least blogging is free. I could be paying to feel this terrified and overwhelmed.

So, there is that.


Incidentally, while writing this, I had the following real conversation with Charlie...
M: *sigh*
C: You okay?
M: Yeah. Just having my mid-day panic attack*.
C: Oh, okay.

I don't know if it's comforting or disturbing we're so casual about it.

*Sassy Gay Friend & Imaginary Sassy Gay Friend should not be confused with The Fabulous who is my real life SGF.
*Ellen Page could totally do The Crew. Wait, that sounds wrong... You know what I mean.
*I'm not minimizing panic attacks here. *sigh* reads better than *flails and hyperventilates*.

Open Mic Night

So, I've been asked about Open Mic Night at the local cafe.

Now anyone on Facebook or Twitter will have heard I got swept up in madness and decided to take the stage with no preparation at all and reaped the reward for it. But we'll get to that...

In the heart of my little town's historic district is a little coffee shop. I fell in love with the place when they first opened. They carry the kinds of tea and tea accessories that would make my Mum drool. They've got the perfect mixture of high and low tables, over stuffed chairs and odd little couches. Every corner of the place is stuffed with books, showy tea sets, antiques and Chinese luck cats. Due in part to abomininal wifi, it's a perfect knitting alone, just me and my thoughts, don't talk to me place. I can't get there as often as I'd like but when I do, it's always like an island of peace in a stormy sea.

They started doing Open Mic about 2 years ago as a way to bring together local musicians. I've talked myself out of going because I can't be trusted with an opportunity to sing in public and honestly didn't think I had much to offer. Not a lot of people really care to hear acapella (without instrumental accompaniment), especially the ballads for which I have a special love.

Yes, I've done it in the past. Once for a crowd of 3,000 when the mixer went belly-up and they couldn't play the accompaniment. For a long time, it was the only way to share my original songs. But just one voice is generally not a popular thing and I've learned from decades of experience you can't make the right moment happen.

When we stopped going to our church, much of the regular, daily singing stopped too. Sure, there's singing along with something on Pandora or whatever Disney movie the grands are addicted to, but I haven't practiced or stood on a stage in a few years. When you go from leading worship on a weekly basis and practicing every day to trying to reach your goal of perpetual shut in, things like singing songs that induce positive emotions fall by the wayside.

Also, I've conveniently had an excuse not to leave the house for nearly 2 years of Tuesday evenings. This is a useful gift of chronic depression... you grow skilled in the art of avoiding things you might enjoy.


In the madness of making resolutions for the first time in my life, it seemed a good idea to take up a friend on his regular invitations to come out to Open Mic Night. Can't very well convince the boys they need to socialize more if I spend every day huddled in a corner mumbling and cackling at my phone. It might also help my general attitude if there is some getting out of the house that doesn't involve running errands.

I love my family. I'm with them 24/7. That is not always a healthy thing. One of the things I learned from Cameron is that having someone attached to your hip everywhere you go makes you grateful for the kind of migraine that shuts you in a dark, silent room because it's the only way to get time to yourself. Everyone needs their own interests and their own friends. As there is no longer anyone in my life with the need to pee on everything and declare it her own, a little friendship building in face to face life could be a good thing.

Open Mic is from 6:00-8:45 every Tuesday night. They have other events during the week but a long history of jumping in with both feet and nearly drowning in the deep end suggested I should take this slow.

Which is why I announced all over social media I was going as a spectator only.


I was there right on time and found a corner chair by what I realized too late was the instrument case corner. Hard to hide out of the way when every person has to walk by you to get their stuff. I curled up in my corner chair, nursed my salted caramel latte and started working on a hat for Dora. I looked around for my friend but knew he might not be there due to a recent loss in his family.

For the first 45 minutes or so, it was enough to listen to the musicians, the banter and watch the nicely eclectic group engage. The genres included soft rock, Bach, folk, bluegrass and a little Gospel. Guitarists, songwriters, pianists, classical guitarists (one of whom is Autistic and John's age), violinists, an adorable young woman with a ukelele and one couple who take their show to the local VA and other veteran's organizations.

I don't remember their names but loved hearing
a bucket bass for the first time.

The couple in the picture did a song called "Yard Sale Queen" that had me snort laughing latte from my nose.

By the time they had gone through the sign up sheet once, I was dying to jump up there and do my thing.

My brain had completely disengaged from my ego and the desire to participate overrode any rational thought. Had my brain been functioning at all, I'd have heard the alarm bells  and kept my happy ass in my comfy, overstuffed chair. But noooo... I had to show off.

I was introduced, walked the five or so feet to the little stage with all confidence and took the mic just like I've done for most of the last 22ish years, told them the name of the song and went right into it.

Precisely one verse into it.

I not only forgot the chorus, the entire melody escaped me like an unexpected wet fart. Even worse, the lyrics on my phone on the music stand were suddenly microscopic.

I laughed it off and tried again. Same result.

"Tonight must not be my night. That's okay. It's enough to try. I'll practice for next time." Handed off the mic to sympathetic applause and went back to my chair and my knitting like nothing had happened.

Part of me wants an Oscar for pulling off what would ordinarily have been a public snot-crying humiliation with grace. Part of me wants to say "Look how far you've come because you stuck around and didn't run". Still another part of me is grateful the ability to stuff emotions into a box and bury them at lightening speed is still part of my skill set.

It's truly a surprise the idea of leaving in an embarrassed rush was little more than a twitchy little thought that buggered off as fast as it came.

Within another few minutes, my friend came in to warm greetings of love and surprise from everyone in the cafe. He immediately found me in my corner and joined me in the now empty chair beside me. We chatted a bit, I offered condolences and asked how he was doing then told him he'd missed seeing me choke on a microphone.

He laughed, tossed out a couple of suggestions for songs we could do and I asked if we could do an old favorite from church. (If you've known me any real length of time, you have heard mention of Crazy Guitar Guy on the worship team. They are one and the same person) Not sure I can even remember a time when seeing a familiar face was such a gift.

We ended up performing "Amazing Grace" to the tune of "House of the Rising Sun". There was a hiccup but we covered it.

At the end of the evening, people came over to introduce themselves and welcome me to the group. One woman, hand over her heart in that distinctly southern lady way, asked me to please try the song again next week. She's certain someone needs to hear it.

I'll take that invitation.

But you can bet, I've already run through the song 67 times since Wednesday morning.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Not Doing Things

Today there will be no writing. There is no brain doing the words putting together thing. I'm having trouble with the standing up straight and putting one foot in front of the other thing too.

I think my brain and body hit a wall at the same time.

I know this because my brain and body forgot how to work together to knit last night. That doesn't happen.

So instead of words and thoughts and making sense things, here's a picture from the flea market.

The Peanut Man's stand
It's important because when the brain is working, there is a story to tell about The Peanut Man and our Saturdays.

In the meantime, I'll be over here, not moving or writing or doing the thinking things.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I've stared at this empty entry box trying to figure out exactly what I want to say to you then came to a realization.
There isn't anything to say to you.
It's not worth the time or the effort.
Along with that is the knowledge I can talk freely about your effect on my family.
I can write about the things you did, the way you tried to take my family and even my husband. The way you tried to buy off my kids. The way you used whispered words to others to create discord. The way you tried to convince my husband to have me committed so you could be free to have my family to yourself. The way you denied John's Autism and petitioned for the right to "handle" him your way... and how you then proceeded to treat him like a dog you were training. The way you forced my eldest child from home by repeatedly telling her she didn't belong and you were her replacement. The way you aren't above destroying another person's reputation by claiming abuse that never occurred. About how you knew how to hurt people in their most vulnerable areas and how you did it each time you didn't get what you wanted. How the entire household stopped functioning when you were in "crisis" and how conveniently timed it was in order to deny anyone their own needs.
I can talk about the not a joke that you are always right and if you aren't, you'll cry abuse until you get what you want. I can talk about how controlling those around you is all you ever did.
I can talk about making you a part of our family, despite warnings from my parents and every other person I trusted, only to have you spit it back in my face. How you never wanted family... only control over others.
I can talk about how Lyn gave me an ultimatum that we either get your toxicity out of our house and away from our family or she couldn't continue to see me and how I chose instead to stop seeing the person who did more for me than anything you could ever imagine you did for our family.
I can talk about how you held our family hostage until you got what you wanted.
I can talk about babysitting an adult woman based on lies.
I can talk about your psychopathy and your ability to morph into whomever you need to be to get what you want and how very skilled you are at this.
I can talk about the other families you've torn apart for your own wants.
I can talk about how I gave up the best part of me, my compassion, just to survive living with you.
I can talk about the day you deciding to move out being one of the greatest moments of freedom I experienced from the first time we talked.
But I don't need to say it to you.
I'll say it here for me. So I can let go. So, as a family, we can stop using the phrase "sounds like a Cameron move" to describe hopelessly manipulative acts.
I'm choosing to forgive you because you are who you are and what is done is done.
I can let go with the peace that you'll never darken the doorstep of my life again because I finally learned to say hell no to users.
I can let go knowing the last few times you tried contacting Charlie, you didn't get what you were seeking.
I can let go knowing you have finally figured out you sucked the tit dry and there is nothing left for you here.
I can let go knowing you can't hurt my family anymore.
But I don't need to say it to you.
I wouldn't give you the time, ever again.

Thanks, Steven for letting me quote you here.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

To relearn for next week.

This one acapella and another as a duet with a guitarist friend whose been nagging me to show up for 2 years now.

I am Nothing

by: Ginny Owens

I could travel over oceans
Cross the deserts
Climb the mountains
Just to share Your story
Bring You glory
Win souls to you

I could sing like an angel
Songs so humble and so thankful
Full of drama and emotion
So the world will know Your truth
I could give away my money
And my clothes and my food
To restore those people
Who are poor
And lost and down and out

Oh I could succeed at all these things
Find favor with peasants and kings
But if I do not love
I am nothing

I could live a flawless life
Never cheat or steal or lie
And always speak so kindly
Smile so warmly
And go about doing good

I could dedicate myself to do
What everyone else wants me to
Listen to them
Compliment them
Say the things I should

I could show up every Sunday
Lead the choir and bible study
And they all might come to know me
As a leader and a friend

Oh I could achieve success on earth
But success cannot define my worth
And all these actions
All these works
They will not matter in the end

'Cuz songs will fade to silence
Stories they will cease
The dust will settle
Covering all my selfless deeds

So as I strive to serve You
Won't you make it clear to me
That if I do not love
I am nothing

For if I cannot live my life
Loving my brother then
How can I love the One
Who lived His life for me

Sent to earth from heaven
Humble Servant Holy King
Come to share a story
Get no glory
Save my searching soul

You knew that I'd deny You
Crucify You
But nothing could stop You
From living for me
Dying for me
So that I would know

That songs will fade to silence
Stories they will cease
The dust will settle
Covering all my selfless deeds
By Your life You have made it clear enough
For me to see
That if I do not love
I am nothing I am nothing

This song has been sort of my personal anthem. This is, behind the snark and sarcasm, is the person I want to be remembered as... Someone who loves... not for the reward of loving but because it's who I am.

Also need to relearn this one. Walls

Some walls are made of stone
sometimes we build our own
some walls stand for years
and some wash away with tears

Some walls are lined with gold where
some hearts stay safe and cold
some walls are made from doubt
holding in and keeping out

If there's any hope for love at all...
some walls must fall
If there's any hope for love at all...
some walls must fall

Some walls are built on pride
some keep the child inside
some walls are built in fear that
love let go will disappear

If there's any hope for love at all...
some walls must fall
If there's any hope for love at all...
some walls must fall

How will you ever know what might be found
until you let the walls come tumbling down

If there's any hope for love at all...
some walls must fall
If there's any hope for love at all...
some walls must fall

As usual, art imitates life. Seems the music comes when I personally need it the most.


In Which She Babbles in a Post Crisis Haze

Reading over the recently posted entries at The Crew, I'm struck by how my present writing style has changed. Comparing Reese and Stephanie entries from then to my recent writing here, I see them both in my words here. With regards to Stephanie, maybe not so much the language but that's what Twitter is for.

With the recent stresses, there is a comfort in the reminder they are all still part of who I am now. Stephanie's parting words of "You got this now" don't always feel true... but the evidence is there.

As hard as the last 2 days were... I was able to feel and express anger. There were the bad moments, of course but later, I was able to talk about being angry without the rage part. The fear of acknowledging it was present but it was possible to state the anger and the reason in a way that made sense to those who needed to hear it.

The fact we made it through without anyone doing physical harm to him or herself is a big one. The hardest part (for me) of all the anger and fear consuming me those 2 days was not impulsively tossing the overwhelming emotions into an act of self-injury just for the momentary relief.

No, that wasn't the hardest part.

The hardest part was hearing John's words and realizing he's very much like I was at his age. Were it not for all the electronics he hides in, he could easily be dealing with the things he refuses to talk about in the same ways I did then. And if he's me 30 years ago, then Charlie and I are my parents. The relationship and gender roles are reversed. Where Mum and I couldn't be in the same room without an argument, so it is with Charlie and John these days.

And that's all I have the energy to say on that.

However, I do have a post Resolutions update.

I haven't made progress on everything but here's what I have worked on.

- look at myself through eyes of grace. After the last couple of days, it felt like I'd taken a blow here... but there is less mental beating up of myself than there was when I wrote the resolutions.
- write Clearly, sticking to this one.
- begin attending open mic night each Tuesday It's the first time, but I am going tonight and have my alarm set to remind me each Tuesday.
- get the boys to more young ASD meetings and generally teach them to socialize This past weekend aside, this has become our Sunday routine and the boys are enjoying it and doing well. They've also gone out on other occasions and had friends over yesterday.
- sell whatever, do whatever is necessary to have the necessary exams to find out of my euterus is trying to kill me. Saw the doctor and no, my uterus is not trying to kill me. She's just a cranky old witch making my life difficult for a few more years.
- make something, ridiculous, extrodinary or beautiful from found junk at least once a month. Working on a shadow box with lace and vintage keys. Also working on a project with denim coils. I've constructed the denim part... now brainstorming how to embellish it for a wall hanging.

Denim Thing, before embellishment and with pins still holding it together.
- learn welding. We haven't done this yet but now have a working torch, the braising (sp) rods and the rebar so I can make my own Bottle Tree. Thanks to Topper's Rhum, I have plenty of blue and pink bottles for the tree.
- finish weaning myself off SSRI's. 3 steps over the course of 6 months to go. I'm down from 200mgs to 100. I'll step down to 50 in February then probably stay there for 3 months before dropping to 25. I hope to be anti-depressant free by end of summer.

Progress is being made. That's something to celebrate.

Now, Open Mic night. If I don't hurry, I'll be late.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Now You Can Schedule the Intervention... Please

I know people who love their Snuggies.

I couldn't do it but respect the cuddly warmth provided by this sleeved blanket. I've tried wearing my robe backwards... but once you get past the screams of the children (who wears clothes under a robe?) it's not the same. Robes have high collars that obstruct your face when worn backwards. What's the point if you can't see the TV or have to rebreathe your own morning breath?

So I get the convenience of a Snuggie, especially in a climate not so near tropical as ours. But there are products sold on television that usually inspire me to wonder what idiot would buy such a ridiculous product?

Then I had a really bad day. Followed by a really bad night. Followed by a family meeting which might have been less painful and anxious if we'd poked each other with sharp sticks. Followed by the semi-annual snot-cry fest that's been over due by weeks.

I'm wiped. I don't want to be vertical, much less functioning.

The post-apocalyptic-cry hangover is worse than any alcohol induced hangover I've ever experienced. All the same wonderful symptoms without the fun stories, like when I tried to do a tequila fueled back flip in a friend's front yard. (That was EPIC)

If you're going to feel this lousy and beaten up, you should at least have a cool story to look back on.

So here I am, lying in bed, pajama clad and wallowing in freakish misery... Okay, just feeling crappy, when I thought "The boys have friends over. I might have to make an appearance. I should wear clothes but then I'd have to change back into jammie pants to go back to bed."

And suddenly, Pajama Jeans made sense.
Yes, these gawd awful things

And that's when I realized... the edge has been found and I've apparently taken the leap without a rope.

I want pajama jeans so I can wear jeans and still stay in bed if the day calls for it.

The good news is, we're broke so there will be no impulse buy.

But the thought is there.

I just want you to know, if you do call 911, I'll thank you for it one day. I promise.


Remember the mention that life with people on the Autism Spectrum isn't always a grand adventure?


Sometimes it's so hard, you want to throw up your hands and cry "Uncle".

Sundays are our Young Adults with ASD group. Last week, the young woman who leads the group let us know she'd be out of town today. She asked for a volunteer to unlock the church where we meet and make sure the alarm was deactivated and reset.

You could hear a pin drop. And for a group like ours, that's saying something. Everyone giggled into the silence, I looked around at the other parents in the room and caved. Sure. We can do it. No problem.

Fast forward to yesterday.

John is hard to get moving on the best of days. Whether a bed, a couch or the floor, he's achy in the morning and it's hard to get started. I get that. I also get that when he's made to wake up before he wants to, the lack of motivation on his part drags things out.

It's one of the reasons he's had attendance problems and mornings just basically suck.

It's not all on him. We've got 3 (if not 4) on the spectrum at home and not one of us is a morning person. Dan likes to play video games to the wee hours of the morning so is slow too, though not to the extent John is. Charlie has to get his medicine and wait half an hour before he can even really sit up. I don't want anyone breathing near me before coffee... so we're a happy morning bunch around here.

There was no problem for John getting up yesterday. He had been invited to spend the day with a friend and we were meeting at 10 am. He was up, dressed and ready in time for us to leave. He and his friend then spent the day playing with airsoft guns and generally running around like maniacs.

I knew it was more outside time than John has had in awhile. Getting him and, well, any of us, out of the house has been hard the last several months. So, of course he was going to be sore this morning.

When I woke him to feed the animals, we still had almost 3 hours to leave for our meeting. I gave him some Advil and waited for him to move.

2 1/2 hours later he had dragged himself, with moans and groans to wake the dead, to a chair. He still hadn't fed the animals.

There's more to it... but by 15 minutes to leave, he hadn't moved and tensions were high. So he snapped... and then Charlie snapped... and then I snapped... and Daniel, despite doing his best to keep the peace, snapped.

Everyone screwed up. No question.

Had I not felt the pressure to be a certain place because I'm determined not to be the person who breaks her word to others anymore, I might have been able to keep it together... but that particular pressure had me at the point of near panic before things went all to hell.

Long story short, Dan and John are staying the night with a neighbor. I'm still trying to deal with thinking for the first time, we wouldn't have a choice but to call the police. (I don't want Charleston County officers anywhere near my son in full meltdown. The idea terrifies me beyond words) Charlie feels letting them stay away from home rewards John for his meltdown... I'm to the point, I just needed a few drama free hours and welcomed the space and quiet.

I made it to the church to let everyone in, made my apologies and tried to explain without explaining... enough detail so they could understand it was simply a bad Autism day, without saying "Oh, yeah, my kid lost it and we're dealing with it is the worst possible way." because it isn't that simple.

But it is.

Not knowing how to help John and also Dan right now makes me long for teenage daughters... mostly because the passage of time helps you forget how intense those days were. They weren't easier... but they were different.

Things were said that can't be taken back. Statements made that reveal how far back he's managed to slide and how fully he blames us.

I'm lost. How to teach them to be responsible for themselves and take positive action for themselves without reinforcing their idea they are useless screw ups. How to recognize what's part of the problem and what's a convenient thing to blame. How to hold my shit together when all I want to do is lie on the floor and scream until I'm hoarse. How to get everyone to acknowledge they are responsible for their own triggers but that doesn't make it okay to go jumping on someone else's.

Everyone wants someone else to be the bad guy. We're the parents and they have got to respect our authroity in their lives while they still live at home. We need to respect them as the young men they are and not dismiss them as boys or play the "because I said so" card... because that flips a switch in both of them.

There's so much we need to change and do, I don't even know where to start. Everyone is so raw.

Where do we even start to pick up the pieces?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Tomboy Identity

I'm not your stereotypical girl. Pretty sure we've established that...

Mum and Dad tried. (Mum handmade my favoritest dress ever when I was 6. I kept wearing it long after hems could be let down.) My older sister tried. They really did. Reminders about ladylike behavior were frequent and almost as frequently uttered with exasperated tones.

But I had 5 older brothers and the stuff they did was simply more fun and interesting. I had my girly moments, particularly when dressed in a leotard and tutu, but I was never a girly girl. There may not be a single picture, outside of ballet and gymnastics portraits, where you'd find me in a hair bow. Mum was lucky if she could hold me still long enough to rake out the snarls in my pixie cut. The fact my daughters are the same is another one of those things that suggests it's as much a case of being wired that way as it is environment. If Charlie'd has his way, his girls would have been all ribbons and lace until marriage.

I was the kid who loved being mistaken for a boy, had no issues getting dirty and played with my brothers' GI Joe dolls (M*A*S*H) long before I ever played with Barbie. I even got offended when they played with me and I was only ever allowed to be the nurse. Dammit, I wanted to shoot people too.

*Incidentally, the first Barbie I did play with was a Growing Up Skipper belonging to my neighbor. We were 5. It grew boobs. We spun that arm so much, I'm surprised the doll survived at all.*

By the time I was 11 or so, I wouldn't wear a dress for church unless it had shorts underneath. You can't show off on the monkey bars or do flips in the grass to a chorus of "I see London, I see France".

I wore shoes purchased from a cobbler on the Quantico Marine Base. My Brothers, Buster Browns, me, the Mother Goose shoes.

Yes, shoes again. But just this once.

According to this box, a few more kids and Mum & Dad
would have to move us into a shoe.
Loved the box. Resented the shoes. I wanted BOY shoes. I never stopped to think about them being school and church shoes or that my old pair could now be my stomping around, climbing the crab apple tree, use the toes as brakes on the Big Wheel shoes. All I cared about was they were for girls. Not fair.

It was around the age of 5 I was allowed to participate in my brother's scout meetings. Dad was the Scout Master so I could worm my way in by virtue of cute (or possible whining and begging, not really sure) and, at the very least, sing John Jacob Jingle Heimmer Schmidt with the GUYS. Later, when I was old enough for Girl Scouting, I was disappointed to find they didn't do half the cool stuff the boys did. (Probably why I was occasionally sent home from meetings by Scout Leader Mum) Boys tied more than square knots. They fished, built fires, went camping and played with knives. I made Sit Upons (bleacher seats made with newspaper and nightmare inducing, patterned oil cloth) and planted marigolds.

I expected Scouting to teach me to wield this.

Instead, Scouting taught me to sit on this.
My brothers were also into wrestling, so it's a good thing my circle of friends had as many boys as girls. Most of my girl friends weren't too keen on the idea of flailing around in a battle of strength and speed.

Just for the record... at 5, I could pin any boy my age. That tiny fact still brings great pride. In sixth grade, I could still pin boys my age and debated trying to force the school to let me try out for the team.

When we moved to Alabama in '76 or '77, my best friend was our next door neighbor, Philip. We spent our days building "forts" in the hedges between our yards, having sword fights with the centers of the yucca plants which grew in my yard (years later Mum understood that's why she never saw the plants bloom) and hunting frogs and toads.

I remember taking every chance I could to walk the long way to school. The long way involved walking along a busy country highway. I preferred it because I was both defying my parent's rule to stick to sidewalks and because the route I was supposed to walk included passing a yard with a German Shepherd that terrified me. If I couldn't walk with another kid for safety, (I didn't have to be faster than the dog, just faster than my walking partner) I took the highway by the 7 Eleven and the grocery store.

One torrential day, while walking through the grocery store parking lot, I accidentally stepped in what locals called a "chuck hole". I know I wasn't a big kid, but this particular hole was filled waist high with muddy rain water.

I played, jumped and tried to swim in that puddle (without taking off my raincoat) well past the point where Mum would have worried why I wasn't home. When it finally occurred to me she might be worried, I was covered head to toe in mud and asphalt grit.

Knowing this couldn't end well, I dragged my feet the rest of the walk home. Fervently hoping Mum was in another room, I tried sneaking in the front door.

Here's where you have to stop for a minute and consider kid logic.

I knew I'd been gone too long. Knew Mum was waiting for me. Knew I'd walked the forbidden path home. Knew I was likely in trouble already. Knew I was too fully soaked to blame on the rain, heavy though it was. Yet somehow I still thought I could sneak in the FRONT door of the house, cross a hardwood floor and sneak into my room without leaving evidence, as long as I was quiet when I opened the door.

Before I was through the door, I saw Mum in her chair, making what we now call plarn for a doormat (too late). She looked up and I was caught.

To her credit, she took one look, burst into laughter and jumped up to help me out of my wet clothes. Looking like a drowned rat caught her by surprise and we ended up having a good laugh over it while she helped me dry off and change. This was one of those days when I was rewarded with a story about a time my older sister had gone past the limit of acceptable kid stuff and broken a window doing headstands in the house.

The point of all that was I didn't know any other 8 year old girls who would have gone swimming in nasty street water. The other girls I knew were afraid to run barefoot in the run-off by the curb for fear of worms. I was convinced until I was old enough to read anatomy texts that these dreaded worms somehow burrowed into your skin. I was also curious to see it happen.

When we moved back to Virginia, my days outside were spent in the woods across from the house more than anywhere else. I collected frog eggs to watch them hatch in a bucket, waded in the little streams, made an underwater viewer from a milk carton and cellophane to watch the bugs and other things swimming around and, the year of the cicadas, caught over a hundred and tried to have a cicada circus. I also learned to gut and scale a fish, get the meat from a hickory nut, forage for wild edibles and became convinced I could live on acorns if I were ever accidentally left in the wild to fend for myself. (I wouldn't have minded if that happened. It was second only to the "I'll be struck blind one day and then they'll be sorry" fantasy)

It really wasn't until puberty (and after I'd read every Judy Blume book she'd written to that point) that acting like a girl became a concern. The year I was determined to wear eyeliner borrowed at school was also the year I tried to show off my immunity to poison ivy by smearing it all over my face and neck. We made the long trek back to Alabama for my sister's college graduation with me in the backseat of the station wagon squirming and looking like I'd been hit in the face with a bag of red hot BBs.

I'll forever be grateful my parents had the grace not to take a single close up photo of me that next week. Everyone else had embarrassing  pictures taken of their case of chicken pox but I was spared the poison ivy portrait.

Despite a late middle school mini-skirt phase, I've long preferred denim to any other fabric. In high school, jeans were paired with my brothers' cast off flannel shirts. I went grunge then later emo a full decade before either "style" was a term.

It wasn't until anti-psychotics caused a sudden weight gain that my size ever mattered. Numbers were an inconvenient measurement but didn't determine my sense of value.

All three of my girls went through a "screw girls clothes" phase too and they all put up with the teasing for it. It never stopped them though. They dressed how they wanted, colored and styled their hair how they wanted and spawned countless copy-cats throughout their middle and high school years. Krys was the reason the Chorus Handbook rules of hair were changed. (She habitually waited until the night before a concert to dye back to a natural looking color, thus ensuring maximum anxiety for the chorus teacher) Becka still holds the nickname "Smurf" for her petite size and middle school hair color. Even now, Rachel is still paving her own fashion roads at college.

Growing up, being a tomboy set me apart. It had its ups and downs and frustrated my loved ones who wanted a socially acceptable little girl. At times, it affected an already poor self-esteem for the worse. At others, it was an "It's MY life" kind of statement.

In a conservative church, a woman willing to climb ladders and change light bulbs is denying the men of the church an opportunity to step up and fulfill their role. The way I see it, if I sit around waiting, it's not going to get done so might as well get to it. It took me more than 20 years to grow grace enough to be okay with allowing a man to "take my hand" to descend 3 steps from a stage. It still annoys me.

My girls and I can all change a tire on our own. We can figure out basic car problems without help. We can do home repair on our own and, in some cases, better than our spouses. We can put together the furniture and in a lot of cases, carry that shit into the house on our own.

Even today, in a society that is slowly changing, we're considered butch. And when I say butch, I mean with all the negative implications with which it is still used.

I'm built like a tree stump. It's mostly muscle if you ignore the mommy pouch. I'm built in such a way that if I chose a certain haircut, people's assumptions about who I am would instantly change because "bull dyke" is a term and society has labeled it with an appearance and value of its own.

Because I am willing and able to do physical tasks some still like to associate as manly, my sexuality, my sense of femininity or womanhood, my place in my marriage are all called into question. Even my obedience to my God... because I won't back down from a task that needs done. Or because I find digging a huge hole and fixing a pipe more enjoyable than stitching samplers or scrubbing a floor.

I was the Mom with a child's wrist in each hand, a toddler on my hip, and a baby carrier hooked on my elbow who didn't wait for someone to come along to open a door for me if I could open it with my own damn foot. I was the mom with 2 kids in the shopping cart, 2 holding on to the outside and the oldest pushing another cart so we could buy our groceries for the week. And I'm the woman who learned to carry 12 bags in the house in one trip.

I'm a tough person. A physically strong person. I have calloused hands and a gravelly voice. I can split a log, gut a catfish, perform surgery on a rat (Yup, saved a pet rat with a gaping gut wound) and face down a pit viper.

I can also tat lace, which is a dying art. I can make the best brownies you've ever tasted, from memory. I can kiss away the sting of an owie and I can tell the man I love that I don't care what any doctor says, I'm not letting him die yet.

Over the summer, Elena was talking about her Mommy & Daddy's work. I asked her what my work was. Without a moment's hesitation, she said "Your job's cutting down trees!"

Part of me thought she'd say I made things or that taking care of her and others was my work... but she picked lumberjack. Anyone can cook a meal or apply a band aid or read a story but her Damma can cut down trees and clear land. It's taken since she said it for me to accept the compliment because she's not been tainted with perceptions about what girls do and what boys do. She looked at the most badass, impressive thing she's seen me do and decided that was my job.

She doesn't care I'll never fit into a single digit size again. Dora doesn't care that I can't apply make-up with any degree of skill. Caz won't care if I feel pretty in a dress. They don't care that I still have acne or embarrassing scars or don't fit into any kind of "girly" mold (Unless we're talking spiders but we won't).

They won't care because that's not what really matters. How I look or how traditionally ladylike I behave... what kinds of clothes I wear...


You know what defines me?


If it feels comfortable, I'll wear it. If it looks interesting, I'll try it. If it needs doing, I might procrastinate because I'm not a superhero but I will eventually get it done.

Take a look at the background collage. Take at look at these pictures.

Not one of these pictures can define who I am. Why should anyone else?
If what I do affects others in a positive way... or even if it only affects me in a positive way, then I'm doing what I should be doing.

Unless it's trying to fit into a box of expectations and narrow ideas.

Don't try it. I won't fit.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

These Boots Were Made for ... Something

I made a comment recently about having my Woman Card revoked because I have no particular love for shoes. Yeah, yeah, gender stereotyping and all that. Sorry, I was raised in a girls and boys are different generation and some of that stuff is ingrained. I know some guys who live for shoes and some other women who wouldn't bother with shoes if it weren't a societal/weather requirement... but if men can joke about having their Man Card revoked, then by equal rights standards, I can run the risk of losing my Woman Card.

Yeah. Let's go with that.

Anyway... shoes.

There was a time, many years ago, when I had close to a dozen pair... most of them shoes I wore only a couple of times a year. After awhile, I realized I didn't enjoy trying on and buying the things so settled on a few dress pair, sneakers, loafers and sandals. I'm comforted in this lack of typical girl thing by the knowledge Krys and Rachel are pretty much the same about shoes. (We won't go into Becka's unhealthy fascination with plaid canvas) It's enough to know I'm not alone.

It's simply never made sense... the idea of wearing shoes that are uncomfortable from the start for the sake of fashion. (In South Carolina, I can get away with wearing sandals 8-10 months of the year if I want and usually do) If my feet are pinched, everything is off balance. If I'm tottering around on 4 inch heels to look taller than my stumpy 5' 2" height, I run the risk of looking like an elephant on skates or worse, completely falling on my butt in public. Also, there are these enormous lumps on my legs (some people call them muscles) left over from my years as a gymnast and Badass Mommy. I've been teased for them and even asked if they were tumors, so wearing shoes that enhance those muscles seems like an invitation for practicing self-control in the face of people who need to be throttled. Practice may make perfection but we've never been in a position that posting bail wouldn't be a hardship. Simply avoiding the problem seemed easier.

I gave up entirely on anything more than a 1" heel a few years ago when I tore my right calf muscle during praise and worship at church. I'd been getting into the music, dancing and jumping around... then took an actual step and *pop*, the muscle sheared from the bone with what I can only describe as a feeling of being electrocuted.

Weeks of an air-cast, crutches and later, a cane, cured me of caring about feeling taller. A women's health article about how extreme high heels can cause the calf muscles to shorten, creating potential for injury only strengthened my resolve. ( I KNEW IT)

So here I am, a woman in a society which seems to have taken on the challenge of convincing women it's in the best interest of their self-esteem to wear shoes forcing them to walk tiptoe, and I couldn't give two shits about shoes.

I couldn't name a designer if my life depended on it. Okay, that's not entirely true. I know sketchers, Nike, Reebok, Birkenstock... and... um... Vitton? That last one is probably spelled wrong because I've only ever heard it mentioned on TV, where the shoes a woman is wearing comes up even in the grittiest of crime dramas. (Careful not to get blood on your Vera Wangs there, Detective) With the exception of my Sketchers sandals (and I promise you, they are anything but dainty shoes) I couldn't tell you who made any of my shoes.

The only reason I bring this up is because something slightly unsettling has happened.

Several years ago, I found an incredible pair of vintage leather boots at the local Goodwill. They fit beautifully, they were comfortable despite a bit of a heel. They had hooks and eyes and they reminded me of the granny boots I wore in the 80's when Charlie and I got married. That first pair of granny boots were so old-fashioned looking, when I met Charlie's parents the first time, Daddy took him aside to ask if I was in orthopedic shoes.

I wore these new-old boots constantly. They were spared only from yard work (Second hand sneakers and no name croc-offs were good enough for that) and were my go to pair. I could even wear them with most of my church clothes. Gradually, the few other pair I had collected dust.

Not long before we moved in February of last year, I slipped on my boots and noticed a tear in the leather right where it met the sole.

Yes, I cried. I wailed and covered myself in sack cloth and ashes.
Despite knowing I could take them to a local cobbler, money is tight and I couldn't justify it at the time. They've since been stored in a unit that has mold. I might have to start a boot restoration crowd funding page.

I dealt with my grief and moved on. Sort of.

By this time, we were working on the family property and a few bruised toes suggested I needed a pair of steel toed boots for the work. After pricing new ones, I gave up and went to the Goodwill Outlet.

Yes, a Goodwill Outlet store. What doesn't sell in a specific period of time is sent to this store where it is then sold by the pound. It's a very popular place for the resale crowd. People hunt through book bins for their Amazon stores, others fill their Ebay and Etsy shops from their purchases. It's so popular, there's a line at the door when it opens, every single day. It's where I get clothes for deconstructing, books and all kinds of other super cheap things for re-purposing.

It was there I struck gold. Well, maybe not gold... more like weathered aluminum... but I came away with a pair of steel-toed boots each for myself and both boys for less than I'd have paid for a pair of Walmart sneakers. Cool.

For the last year, they have been my go-to boots. I rarely wear them away from home or home improvement stores. For the kind of work we have to do on this land to make it remotely livable, they are ideal. So much so, they have become a part of my identity.

My preferred profile picture everywhere

That's me. Obviously it's me in the picture but what I mean is, that picture sums up how I see myself. Someone unafraid of hard, dirty work who knows when to sit back and kick up her feet. The brush pile in the background and tidy yard are testament to the work. The El Camino is an homage to the salvage yard history of the property. The plastic table and chairs show my ability to restore an old, crusty outside toy.  The slide speaks to my identity as Mom and Grandma. Even the small pile of pennies speak to my thrift and, for those in the gardening know, my knowledge of pennies as cheap slug repellant.

All in all, the picture suits me.

So do the boots.

But those boots have a problem. They're kinda crappy, clunky and not really suited to regular, daily wear. I certainly couldn't wear those under a skirt... unless it's a trip to Walmart.

At some point in the last few months, I have found myself drooling over combat boots and knee-high knock off Chucks, both of which can be found in abundance at our enormous local flea market. As we buy our vegetables from a vendor there, the flea market is a regular Saturday morning thing. As it turns out, yearning for these specific shoes has become a part of my personal Saturday routine.

In November, I went into a Burke's Outlet. Don't know if they're local but the store is much like Marshall's or TJ Maxx. Name brands. Nice stuff. The occasional seconds. Lower prices.

I had a mission. With the exception of undergarments, I hadn't purchased brand new anything for myself in a few years. I mostly wear t shirts and men's size 34-36 jeans. Given what I physically do, anything else is unnecessary. But it had been a rough year and I'd earned a treat just for me.

Armed with $60, I was going to buy brand spanking new clothes that made me feel pretty... or at least kind of feminine... or less lumberjacky (Elena is convinced it's my job to chop down trees).

That's when I saw these...

My heart actually skipped a beat.

They were $25. Almost half my budget. I tried them on anyway.


I imagine the sensation was the same feeling a woman has when the thousand dollar to-die-for shoes she wants are found for only a couple of hundred.

It was almost orgasmic. Almost. I do have my priorities.

Instantly, I wandered off to find a quiet corner of the store when I could look over my clothing choices and whittle them down to fit the boots because they were going home with me. For 10 minutes, it was madness as I discarded red-tagged denim capris, jeans, slacks, skirts, flouncy tops and played mix and match until I could find at least one practical outfit decent enough to wear away from home.

It was close but I managed to do better than one outfit and I still got the boots.

*songs of joy and praise*

I can wear them with anything but shorts, which is okay because if I'm wearing shorts I'm just as likely barefoot. Despite the heels, they are comfortable. They make me look taller. They are perfection. There's nothing else in the world I could ever again need in the way of footwear.

I was complete.

And then it happened. Rachel bought herself a pair of combat boots and from nowhere, jealousy overtook me. I couldn't look at her boots without my brain entirely wandering away from anything important to plot the acquisition of a pair of my very own.

Brain: Are you breathing?
Me: No. Boots.
Brain: You need to breathe.
Me: Boots
Brain: Try not to pass out or wet yourself.
Me: Booooooots

Last week I needed OUT OF THE HOUSE. For the benefit of loved ones, time away from the house doing something just for me was not simply important, it was a matter of life and death.

It had been months since I'd hit up the local Community Thrift Store (Run by the American Kidney Foundation). It's my other preferred book store and as we do not have a single spare inch for that particular hobby (addiction), I simply stopped going.

The entrance to the store sits directly between their four display racks of shoes.

I did try not to look. I took a quick, cursory glance while grabbing a cart then headed to the vinyl record bins. I have a 45 player and only two 45 records. What's the point of of having a record player if you don't have records to play on it, right? I mean, I don't know exactly where the player is in storage but it's there and will eventually be found and then I can blow grandchildren's minds by playing real records!

I was pawing through the records, getting lost in a complete collection of Jerry Lee Lewis, sidetracked by Charlie's family history and their relation to many of early rock's greats, and that's where I made the mistake.

I glanced to the shoe rack over my right shoulder.

Combat boots. New ones. Not a hint of wear on the soles or uppers.

I slipped off my right shoe, silently congratulating myself on thinking to choose shoes that require socks, and tried one on. There was a brief moment of panic, where it couldn't be determined if the laces were simply tied that tight or if they were too small, and then my foot slipped in.

I tried on the other one and stood there for what seemed like an eternity, trying not to start squealing and bouncing up and down. I even considered not taking them off but knew I'd never remember to do it before checking out so took them off and put them in the cart.

I then went to the t shirts. No one in the house particularly needs any more but it seemed a good idea to find something cheap to cover the boots.

It's not as if there's a problem with people taking things from carts at the thrift store but I couldn't take the chance. So I hid them, as much from myself as everyone else, until I was finished cruising the rest of the store.

When I got to the register, the cashier read off a price $10 higher than I'd read. Before my brain could stutter out "too much... can't justify", I shrugged and said "sounds good to me" and made an attempt to look casual while making sure I had that much cash in my wallet.

Just enough.


Yes, they're dirty. I only took them off for the picture.

I have boots. I have work boots, pretty boots and kick ass boots.

But as I sat down to write this post, I thought it would be cool to add a picture of the boots I owned almost 30 years ago and went on an image search. It was a bad idea.

Apparently work boots, pretty boots and kick ass boots are no longer enough, much less more than enough.

There are other boots out there.

Want boots.

It's taken to middle age, but it finally happened. That girl thing kicked in and now I can't turn it off.


And I still want those AlmostChucks.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Anger Part 3: The One Where Anger is the Actual Topic. Also Fear.

Part 1
Part 2

So, yeah. The Big Scary Anger Monster.

It's weird the connections you make as you grow older. It wasn't until I was vacillating between obsessing over these posts and avoiding them that I realized what that whole childhood nightmare meant.

"As you no doubt know, the concept of the suction pump is centuries old – well, basically, that’s all this is, except instead of water, I’m sucking life; I’ve just sucked away one year of your life."

Sorry, had to go Princess Bride there for a minute... But the idea is similar. To my 3 year old mind, anger was that Thing chasing me in my nightmares, seeking to suck the life from me. Anger was absolutely terrifying.

Until approaching this subject and why anger and fear go so completely hand in hand for me, The nightmare had been more of a reminder I was one really weird kid. The more the topic was considered, the more the memory of the dream kept knocking on my brain saying "hey, dumbass... take a look at this. it means something."

What happens every time I think about anger

Growing up in the 70's was being part of the last generation where kids could run the streets, neighbors all knew each other, watched out for each others kids and acted like small communities. It was also a time of "no matter what is going on in your life, your job is to put on a public smile and only lose your shit in the privacy of home."

My home was unique only in the number of kids... Parents yelled, they spanked, they didn't take any shit from their kids. They also worked hard in and out of the home, bore a  shit ton of stress and sometimes that stress showed itself in less than attractive ways. It was a part of the times. So, no pointed fingers or horrible stories of family moments we all prefer to forget.

Rather than give a detailed account of times when anger was frightening, it would make more sense to discuss the effect it had.

I just had a conversation with Elena where she said she didn't want to come to our house because she had cried and we laughed at her. I don't remember the incident. It may have happened, it may have been a misunderstanding... but I apologized to her and asked her forgiveness. I would never intentionally hurt her feelings. She needs to know we can say we're sorry if we make mistakes.

My kids were equally as sensitive at 3 and guess (hope?) that's the case for most kids of that age.

What I remember understanding at 3 was that being laughed at was humiliating, being yelled at was terrifying and being teased felt like my value was diminished.

Anger, in my 3 year old brain, was the same as hate. If you loved someone, you were happy "at" them. If you hated them, you were "mad" at them. No in between, no shades of grey, no sense of emotions as fleeting. If I felt it, it was. Simple as that.

Without the words to express it and without anyone knowing how things translated in my brain, no one had an idea I was learning anything more than cause and effect. "Do bad thing, get punished. Repeat until you get the idea not to do bad thing again." was the intended message. What was learned was "YOU are bad and my anger at the bad takes away my love for you".

What ended up happening were frequent attempts to please that came across as attention seeking. "Look at this good thing I can do and love me" translated to "LOOK AT ME ALL THE TIME" and in effort to help me not need to be the center of attention, attention (and with it affection) was denied.

Somewhere around the same time I understood that displaying or feeling anger didn't give me any particular power over anyone. As a matter of fact, being angry was the same as doing bad. So not only was trying to please backfiring, trying to retaliate with anger of my own backfired as well.

Didn't take long to figure out that Anger was something to fear. Both the anger of others and my own anger. Either one could end in punishment instead of reassurance.

What is a natural and, at times, appropriate emotion everyone feels became Big Scary Anger Monster. Anger was something that hurt, whether I felt or is was displayed in my direction. I didn't even have to be the target of anger. Anger was an entity... a Thing that would hurt me if were anywhere near it.

No one wants to look at their reflection and admit, gee, I may be chronologically an adult but I'm an emotional toddler. For a time, living with DID, I could say, I don't feel that, she does. There was a 3 year old in my head who saw the world as I did when my body matched the age and reacted to anger exactly as my long-ago, 3 year old self reacted. I didn't have to own up to anger being mine.

I've come a long way in 14 the years since diagnosis, learning to identify and own my emotions. I've learned it's okay to feel and it's okay to express. I've learned that emotions don't have any true control over me if I allow them to pass through instead of sticking around. But that message never fully translated to anger... In part because of events that occurred during the last year of treatment and in part because of the fear so tangled up in the anger.

That's not to say I made no progress. Progress was had... progress was had and it was celebrated. And then I fell down and slid far enough back that progress when poof.

I can remember telling Lyn and Crane that on the rare occasions I actually cry, I'll cry for hours. I've cried uncontrollably for weeks on end. When something is shut up for a long time, letting it go is like watching the levees break.

So it is with anger.

All these years of living as one... all these years of being kind of a grown up... all these years of trying to teach my kids the same healthy emotional stuff I've learned... and the Big Scary Anger Monster is still alive and well.

Only now, instead of taking the form of a vintage household appliance, it's more a Rage Monster

Credit for this drawing goes to Mingrune over at Deviant Art
This is how I see anger in my head and of course it's frightening. What happens if I Hulk out and can't rein it back in?

*Here's where I hope anyone reading can finally say, "THAT I can relate to"*

So, like the Eric Bana Hulk (Sorry man, it was truly awful), I imagine letting anger show will cause it to only get bigger and bigger until even CGI can't suspend disbelief and an otherwise reasonable feeling becomes an absolute train wreck of a film... I mean, emotion.

What if I say things I'll regret? That's happened. *mentally lists the hundreds of times* What if I hurt myself or someone else? *looks at arms* That's certainly happened. What if I make everyone I love hate me and go away? Okay, that hasn't actually happened but it has felt that way. What if, what if, what if? What if I let myself feel angry and instead of being angry about a specific, reasonable thing, all the anger I've been afraid to express comes out and I END UP A RAGE MONSTER FOR THE REST OF MY NATURAL LIFE?

It's not as unrealistic a fear as you might think. It happens. I've experienced times when anger was the only emotion I could really connect with... because there were times when even the Big Scary Anger Monster was the less frightening thing going on in my head. I've known people who cloak themselves in anger as a shield against all the things life can dish out. I don't want to be a bitter old woman looking for every opportunity to be pissed about something. I've seen such elderly people, and let me tell you, it's the ugliest ugly there is in a human. It's also horribly sad.

Crane used to tell me it was possible for pain to subside from flash flood to trickle. It's the same with anger... I've just always been too afraid to let it go enough to find out.

John and Dan have a similar problem with anger. It's like we go from cool to the verge of grotesque emotion explosion in 2 seconds flat...and once you're there, it's really hard to express yourself in a way that doesn't feed the *metaphor of your choice here* of anger in yourself or someone else, creating an endless loop of Fuck Yous and fist shaped wall holes.

Bottom line, anger scares me. I've admitted it. I've used great detail to explain its origins.

Now it is out in the open, maybe I can begin to address it. Like, walk into the kitchen and see a chore hasn't been done and instead of instantly becoming enraged about ALL THE TIMES CHORES HAVE HISTORICALLY BEEN IGNORED, I can acknowledge the past unexpressed anger without letting it make what I feel in that moment bigger than it should be.

Instead of holding a grudge, I can deal with the present. Instead of saying "Why do you IGNORE me all the time and REFUSE to do your chores?" I can say, "Hey, you didn't take care of this and I'm offended when chores are dismissed."

Maybe I can practice that while I gently peel back some layers of recent years and acknowledge the anger held over from a time in my adult life when anger made me "bad".

Maybe when I'm angry without really knowing why, I can pound some clay (NOT a metaphor) or break some old (but not valuable) bottles or clear away a tree or two or take an ax to an old television and release some of the physical energy so my brain can work its way around to the why.

I love the line in The Avengers when Dr. Banner (Mark Ruffalo, FTW!) says "That's my secret. I'm always angry."

For me, that's kind of the goal. To reach a place where I can recognize anger is a part of me, as it is a part of everyone, and that I can choose how and when to let it go... not the other way around.

Because, no matter how it seems now, there are only so many things around here I can justify smashing.