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Thursday, February 08, 2018

Standing My Ground

I recently read an article about relationships wherein the author reminds the reader that one cannot correct what one is not willing to confront.  That really resonated with me with regard to some really difficult changes I've made in the past year.  In 12-Step programs, one of the steps is taking a fearless and moral inventory of yourself.  Followed closely by being willing to change any defects in character.  There's a higher power in there somewhere, but for the sake of this particular post, I'm going to say that the power in these changes has been me.  I decided to make changes.  I decided that it was time.  I decided to begin to hear the voice of my soul that would be the catalyst for change.  I decided to stop being an apologist for bad behavior, whether it was my own, or someone else's. I decided that I was worthy of respect.  I decided to stand up for myself if I felt I was being disrespected or if someone hurt my feelings. I decided to listen to the experiences of those who had gone before me in any given situation. Really listen. 
Hearing is different from listening.  Hearing involves the ears, which are sometimes deaf.  Listening involves the heart.  This can be a problem for people who have a wall around that vessel of feelings.  This wall may have been built purposefully for self-protection after having been hurt too many times, or perhaps, it just grew organically on it's own.  These poor people who are afflicted by the latter are the ones we've come into contact with in our lives that make us utter under our breaths that they must be heartless.  We know this to be biologically untrue, but they do seem to function quite well without putting any feelings into anything.  However, for someone like me, empathic to the core, accused regularly of being too sensitive, this hearing thing is something I feel like I've had a Ph.D. in my whole life.  If there can be a problem with that, it is being too vulnerable to taking on other people's pain.  Which brings us right back, full circle, to standing your ground if someone hurts you, whether they know they are doing it or not.
It's easier said than done.  There is great risk involved.  You may stand your ground, but you may end up standing alone when all is said and done.  You have to be willing to lose that person in your life.  No one wants to lose friends.  Life is hard, and when it's hard, you want to have someone to walk through it with you and share the load when it's heavy.  Life is also joyful, and when it's joyful, you want to have your friends there to celebrate that part of the journey.  It's funny that when you consider the relationships in your life, if you say that you think you may be in a toxic relationship, people instantly think it's something to do with your significant other.  They don't think about friendships.  But I can tell you that a long time ago, I was in a relationship with someone I considered a trusted, lifelong friend, that was so completely textbook mentally abusive, that it took many, many years to recover.  During recovery, I had built a wall around my heart that for years after, was impenetrable.  I didn't let my guard down with people.  It took me a long time to trust in friendship again.  I did learn to let go and realize that not everyone was out to take advantage of me, and that I could take chances in the good.  But I became very picky about who I let in my sphere of influence, and trust is something that must be earned. 
There's another side to being a victim/survivor.  It's where that moral and fearless inventory comes in.  You have to come to terms that somewhere, at sometime in your life, YOU yourself may have been a perpetrator of some sort.  You may have caused someone pain.  It could have been without malice or intent.  If brought to your attention, they may have seemed insignificant or small to you.  But to the person who was hurt, it isn't small.  If they're like me, they were quiet, they let it pass, they made excuses for you because they loved you or cared about you.  They told themselves that you cared about them too and they would never do anything to cause you pain on purpose.  
Unfortunately, over time, those situations happen again and again.  A casual, "playful" jab.  A remark made "in jest".  They build up.  Stronger, more emotionally healthy people would easily stand up for themselves and say; "No, that's not how that went.  It happened like this."  But, if someone who is less equipped to stand up to an artful bully, points out a hiccup on the part of the bully, and that bully does what that bully does best and turns it around to make it that person's "lack of comprehension" to the situation at hand...well guess what?  The person takes it.  They take it again, and again, and again.  Until one day, after years go by, someone much wiser and much stronger says to them; "Why do you take that from them?  Why do you not stand up for yourself?  I SAW what happened.  I HEARD what happened.  Don't take that from them.  Don't let them do that to you!"  So, one day you gird your loins, you gather your courage, and after they do that thing they do, you speak up for yourself.  No surprise to you, they get angry and hostile, vilify you, make themselves the pious sacrificial lamb, and when all is said and done, leave you standing in the rubble, quite happy with their handiwork. 
One day you woke up and you said; "I'm going to stop smoking." And you did.  One day you woke up and you said; "I'm going to stop eating animals." And you did.  One day you woke up and you realized you had hurt people, so you went to them and you came clean and you apologized for ever having hurt them and you promised that you would never do that again.  One day you woke up and you said; "I'm going to lose weight."  And you did.  Okay, you gained it back, but that is entirely on you and you own it as part of that inventory.  One day, quite recently, you woke up and said; "I am NOT going to let anyone bully me ever again."  And I won't.  If they never take a fearless and moral inventory themselves and take responsibility for their own failings, that's on them.  Not me.
For anyone in a situation where they aren't sure whether a relationship they may be in could have the earmarks of an emotionally abusive relationship, here are some things to consider.  Please remember even friendships can be emotionally abusive.
Be brave.  You deserve respect.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Lucky 13 - For Jojo Smith

I took an inventory.  It turns out I've written about the Smith family, or mentioned them, no less than 13 times on this blog.  I'm surprised....that it's not more.  This family has been a huge part of our world since we moved into this neighborhood in 1992.  I'm pretty sure I survived motherhood because of my friend Nancy.  I took notes.  They lived.  All six of them.  Her three and my three.  We're on the other side.  But....there was a support system in place.  And the Smiths know better than anyone how a support system works.

                             (Tim Smith, Averie, Kyle Smith, Branden Smith, Jojo Smith, Caris)

We've witnessed street hockey stories, BB guns on roofs stories, Mexico adventures, broken bones, blood, bruises, boys, boys, boys, crying girls, dummies in the street, dog jerky pranks, puppy delivered rat butts, koolaid hair, river camping, snipe hunting, watermelon floating, skimboard surfing, panaderia shopping, slingshot confiscation, ferris wheel death defying, Santa Johnny gift tosses, For Pete's Sake eye-rolling, Lookie-loo house tours, and the list goes on and on.  The fact is, no one outside our world, unfamiliar with Smithdom will understand any of this.  Nor would I expect them to.  I write this solely for me.  If someone else comes along and wants to fall into this world temporarily, so be it.

A dear one in our sphere, Joe Smith, or Jojo as he is affectionately known by the family, is teetering on the border between this earth, and whatever non-earthly realm he and his family believe in.  Jojo is, for lack of a better term, a one man lesson in "Whatever".  He never hesitated to roll with the flow, but he is also quick to roll his eyes at whatever might be going on in the ever-unpredictable Smith universe, and follow that eye-roll with an under-the-breath; "What a dumbass."  He is an on-call uncle.  Always there.  Always.  Beloved. 

When learning that Joe might be leaving us, The Grommet relays to me a story of the days when Joe lived across the street; "He would watch me play hockey in the street by myself, and he'd always tell me that I was going to make it to the NHL.  He said I was that good.  I love Joe.  He always made me feel like I could do anything I wanted to do, and he never let a time go by when I had my skates on, that he didn't tell me how good he thought I was."  I know there are many more stories with Bry and the Smith boys.  But, there's an understanding that is akin to Fight Club.  So I venture no further.  The stories will come, as they do, when the family gathers.

My favorite Joe story is one where I look at him as a glowing beacon in a seemingly unending dark tunnel.  It was almost 20 years ago.  We were trying desperately to make some improvements to our long-neglected home.  Charlie, Bryson, and I had spent days digging trenches, laying pvc sprinkler lines, grading, rolling, tamping down, and basically sweating blood in our front yard.  We were behind, and the very expensive sod that we ordered and had delivered was basically sitting on a pallet, dying.  We had been at it all through a long day, and we were losing daylight.  Suddenly, headlights from a vehicle was blinding us in the darkness, then another set of headlights.  Joe, my friend Nancy, their brother-in-law Kenny, their nephew Peter, and our other neighbor Ed, all standing in our driveway.  Joe called out; "Let's lay some sod!", and they made a bucket chain and began throwing squares of sod, one to another.  Within the hour, all of us had done what I would have considered the impossible, and we finished that lawn.  Nancy tells me Joe had been watching us, and wondering why Charlie didn't come over and ask for help.  Finally, in frustration, Joe decided that he wasn't going to wait to be asked, and formed a committee all on his own.  "That", says Joe, "is how it's done."

I know there are endless stories.  I listened to many of them as I sat in a hospital waiting room with friends and family.  You talk about your loved one.  You share the things that make you smile.  The memories that are dear.  There will be many more to tell, and the telling of them will bring peace.  But for now, my heart is with our dear, dear friends the Smiths, who have included us as family from the beginning.  In this family, there has been an abundance of amazing characters.  Joseph Smith is a powerhouse among them.

We love you Jojo.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Soft Heart, Cruel World

It's not the first time I've noticed a pattern.  New years are not good for me.  January is when I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I don't know why.  The excitement of new days and fresh beginnings that some people experience is lost to me.  Again, I do not know why.  The end of a year simply morphs into another day with a different filing tab.

I had an amazing Christmas.  I had been looking forward to it for months and months, and it was the culmination of a lot of planning.  Many things had to fall into perfect place, and indeed, it did.  There were some blips along the way, but nothing that any family doesn't experience during holiday gatherings.  All in all, it was everything I hoped and dreamed it would be with just a few small exceptions.  I would have loved it if my sister-in-law, Beth was still here with her family.  I would have called our Christmas in Anacortes absolutely perfect if my sister Loke and my brother-in-law Phil were with us.  But, as they say, you can't have everything.

It did suck that we got sick, and that sickness followed us home.  It made the last week of Charlie and Caris' vacation pretty bad.  And perhaps, that is where my melancholy began to set in.  No new year celebration, none of the excitement of gathering with friends to see out the old and see in the new.  Just home, all of us, nursing illness. 

I tried to bask in the afterglow, and be very, very grateful for what I had been lucky to experience.  My family and dear friends around me in a place that I truly love.  I tried to remind myself to put on a smile and move into the world as if nothing was amiss.  This is always my intention.  But things don't always go according to plan, and the road to hell, so they say, is paved with good intentions.  Sometimes, despite how hard you fight, depression wins. 

Lately, I have done the work, and I have moved through the days.  I did the things I was supposed to do.  I got my mammogram done, and yes, even that dreaded lung CT.  I've done my bloodwork, I've had my spinning head diagnosed.  I've packed boxes for mailing, I've done the chores, and run the errands.  I'm going through the motions. 

Unfortunately, things that penetrate my soft heart in this cruel world make resistance difficult.  A dog that I don't know passing away guts me.  I linger on the thought of my sister-in-law, I cannot get the senseless killing of animals for no reason out of my head, a friend deciding to leave a circle over a passionate stand clips my wings, an unkind word excused as "a joke" leaves a scratch slow to heal, and then a perception of dismissiveness literally lays me out.  That was the last of it for me. 

At some point, you can take what the world throws at you while you hold up your Wonder Woman bracelets to fend off the slings and arrows.  Then, you reach your limit and you just can't hold it anymore.  You can't bite your tongue.  You can't stay silent.  You can't just sit there and pretend that you agree with offhanded cavalier remarks.  At least, I know I can't.  I think what is possibly worse, is the disappointment.  You don't always have to agree with people.  But you certainly shouldn't dismiss their passion, however unworthy that passion may be to you.  I always thought that with friendship came a bit of loyalty.  Sometimes, I guess, there are levels of loyalty.  I can't seem to find the loyalty level that prevents me from getting hurt.  You'd think after 57 years, I'd get the memo.

Again, I find that the one constant in my life is the one I come home to.  The one who is always there, always faithful, always in my corner, always listening when the cruel world is just more than I can bear.  This soft heart he knows, and he doesn't make me feel bad because of it.  He doesn't dismiss me, or roll his eyes.  He simply opens his arms, holds me and says it is the very reason he loves me so much.  Now, if I could just lift myself out of the muck as skillfully as he does.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Want vs. Need

You don't always get the dog you want.  You get the dog you need."
~Cesar Milan
I was thinking about this yesterday as I spent most of the day on the couch with a spinning head. It's getting better, I promise. But my thoughts went to the big galumph of a dog lying across my lap, looking longingly into my soul with those big brown eyes. He's concerned.

Our routine has been disrupted this week, and if you know anything about herders, you know they live for routine. When his routine is off-kilter, his world spins backward. Spins. No pun intended. Back to that Milan quote...Kili has not been the overly exuberant love bug. He's not a cuddler. He doesn't "warm up" to people. He's stubborn and prickly and barky and a downright pain in the ass, and the hand, and the wardrobe.  Just ask The Grommet. Kili has left his teeth marks in more than a few of Bry's favorite items of clothing. Along with that, I'm sure there have been many instances where Charlie had the words; "It's me or the dog." swirling around on his tongue. But the fact is, my husband knew this dog came into our lives in a weird way, at a terrible time, that was utterly perfect for...me.

We've never really chosen our family dogs. They came to us. Someone was getting rid of, or someone had to let go, or someone needed to find a home for. Those kinds of situations. Ditto, Shanahan, and Ellie; the dogs that were a part of our family when the kids were growing up were picked FOR us. We had a say in the form of "Yea" or "Nay". But the "Nay" never passed our lips. Sometimes, we had no say. Ditto just appeared. Shanahan was a gift, and Ellie...well, we went to the shelter to find a dog, picked one, was told to come back after the dog was neutered, only to find that they had given "our" dog to someone else. Ellie was part of the same pack, so she came home with us. Of all of our dog stories, that one was serendipitous. She was perfect in every way. There will never be another sweet girl like Ellie. And now there is Kili.  Painful, difficult, gorgeous Kili.

Oh, he is difficult. Everyone who knows us know this. They've watched us go through the motions, the Emotions, the tears, the worry, and on and on these last four years. Nothing is easy.  There is not one easy thing about this boy.  He is cantankerous, he doesn't "need" your affection, he operates as if you are there at his bidding, he definitely fancies himself king of all he surveys.  Genuflect, peasant! Yet, as I sit here, with Kili lying under my desk, on top of my feet, none of that matters. This is MY dog. He is MINE. I am the center of his universe. Any and every twitch of one of my muscles triggers a head pop or a perked ear. I am the rising of his moon and the setting of his sun. He was definitely NOT the dog Charlie and I wanted. But he is most certainly the dog that I needed.   
Throughout this vertigo episode, he has been at my heel, across my lap, at my head as I sleep (with his paw on my forehead).  This isn't new, of course.  He always knows when I'm not myself.  I just can't help but wonder if during those very first days with us, those days when I washed the mats of dried poop and hairballs from his coat, and put warm compresses on his broken tail, and lay next to him on the dining room floor cooing to him that everything was going to be okay.  I can't help but wonder if this is his "return".  You don't always get the dog you want, but you always get the dog you need.  Our need was apparently mutual.  I needed to be needed again with my babies all grown.  He needed a mommy at a time when he was too young to be taken away from his, and he most certainly needed humans who knew how challenging this breed can be.  Especially if you don't have a sheep station. 
My head may be in a temporary spin cycle right now.  But right now, under my desk, and always next to my heart, is this weird, crazy, wonderful heart thief whose entire existence is to spin around me.  When you think about it, who doesn't need someone like that in their life?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Tribe You Build

I have a lot to be grateful for.  Not the least of which is an amazing circle of family and friends.  It's been, as I have mentioned, a bittersweet weekend.  I cannot begin to tell you the excitement I felt all last week in anticipation of my birthday weekend.  Wes and Kiva had arrived on Monday, my sister Loke and my brother-in-law Phil would be coming on Friday, and for weeks, I had been planning with "my girls"; Kim, Kendall, and Erica, all the fun things we were going to fill the weekend with.  Not one second was disappointing.  It was completely and utterly over-the-top joyful.  I was surrounded by light, and love, and laughter.  My wonderful "halo" of beautiful souls gathered and made me feel like the center of the universe.  From Friday lunch, to Sunday goodbyes, I wouldn't have changed a thing.  Well, perhaps one thing.

As Lokelani and Phil were at the door and we were exchanging goodbye hugs, my phone pinged.  I had been off of social media all weekend.  I was having way too much fun to stop and stick my nose into the screen of a phone.  After all, nothing was more important than what was happening in my immediate universe.  Perhaps selfishly, I didn't want to be dragged down by politics, I didn't want to hear anymore about Irma, I couldn't watch anymore heartbreaking videos or news of devastation.  Just for this weekend, I was going to feel only joy.  Almost made it.  I picked up my phone and looked at it, and saw what I first perceived to be some kind of sick joke.  Someone had posted a RIP comment about a friend.  My instant thought was; "Oh, it's his birthday weekend too.  Someone's making a funny about his age."  Caris saw my face and said; "What, Mommy?"  I said the words out loud; "Someone just said Scott Barnes died.  That's a joke, right?"  I saw her face drop.  "I'm so sorry." She said.  "Averie and I knew last night.  We had hoped you wouldn't see anything until later today when everyone went home."

It's a very good thing there was an ottoman behind me, because I literally fell off my feet.  I left my sister and brother-in-law standing there at my front door, mouths open, while I lost my face in my hands and sobbed.  No. No. No.  We just had birthday greetings.  We do Birthday Darling Martinis. No. This is NOT happening.  After a few moments, I pulled myself together enough to properly thank Loke and Phil and see them off.  Then I went right back into the house where I asked Caris to fill me in.  I didn't want to see post after post because I knew FB would be flooded.  She explained to me what she knew.  I sobbed again.  Charlie, Caris, and Bryson gave me loving embraces and told me how sorry they were.  Caris said she and Averie knew I would lose it.  They were right.  They know me.

The world went cold.  I was a zombie the rest of the day and into the night, and into the next day.  I could only process enough to think of the happy day that we finally met face-to-face and share that memory with the FB community.  Monday afternoon, as Charlie and I went to have a bite to eat, I talked about Scott all the way to the restaurant.  I ordered a Birthday Darling Martini, and Charlie and I toasted Scott.  I cried. He hugged me.  I opened Facebook.  The minute my friend Jeffrey Ricker appeared back on FB after having been gone from it for years, I knew it was real.  His appearance back on that platform solidified the heartbreak.  He said exactly what I knew he would say, and all I was feeling. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK.

Charlie began talking about services; the when, the who, the what.  He told me to go.  Always the generous soul, my husband.  I kissed him on the cheek, he hugged me back. 

"Listen." He said. "We've had this conversation a million times.  You have this amazing network of friends all over the place.  You've always blown me away with the way you've gathered your tribe.  At the beginning, all those years ago, I was scared for you.  I mean, how do you trust?  Who do you know to trust?  It's scary 'out there'.  And yet, your soul knows, and your big heart trusts, and for some reason, it's always been a good thing, this blog world of yours.  It's brought you family.  I've learned to enjoy that benefit with and for you."

I agreed.  I talked about the many disappointments and betrayals of people who actually share your 3D world.  The ones who called you friend, but hurt you and damaged your trust.  The ones who made you hesitant to open yourself.  But, writing on a platform and sharing who you were, and naively thinking perhaps as an ironic form of protection, that you were pouring your soul into an abyss, it was safe.  No one was reading anyway, right?  How wrong I was.  How joyfully wrong.  That Abyss, which was the original name of my blog, had eyes.  Those eyes were attached to hearts and souls, like mine.  One of those souls wrote to me and said my blog was poorly named, and he offered up Warm Cookies (Thank you, Toddy).

The tribe grew.  From coast to coast, and across the pond, and way down under, it grew.  At the same time, each member of my tribe allowed me to join theirs.  We loved each other through our sorrows, our grief, our celebrations, our joys, our victories.  If you go down the link list on the home page of my blog, you will see names that may mean nothing to you.  But they are the world to me.  Time passes, lives move forward, Facebook happened and the blog world took a dive.  However, it all started there.  It just moved to a different platform.  One with less words, and honestly to me, one with less heart and soul.

The difference I guess, is that we built this foundation a long time ago.  Those of us who started there were once faceless to one another, but as my friend Steve once wisely said; "There is no faking the soul."  This treasured tribe so dear to me, no matter where the wind blows our lives, we are bound.  Some of us have had the great joy of actually meeting face-to-face.  Some of us are still looking forward to that day.  But seeing one another in our 3D worlds doesn't change the depth of our love, admiration, respect for one another.  Seeing each other just adds a new dimension of joy.

Sadly, this blog has been quiet for awhile.  But when something shakes me off-kilter, it is still the place where I run.  Yes, the loss of a dear, sweet friend has rocked me to my core, and here I am for therapy.  This may not be read, and it may not mean anything to anyone but me.  I have many, many posts here that never get published.  That's okay.  This is how I process.  This is where I grieve.  This is where my tribe began, and this is where I beat that tribal drum.  They know who they are, and though they are scattered, they hear me.  They hear my heart.  If anything, I think Scott would be glad to see me write something.  Anything.  He was one of those who encouraged me to keep writing.  I have failed in that.

Scott's gift to the world was his eye for beauty in everything.  Everything.  Scott's gift to me was his friendship.  Given with trust; pure, and sweet, and with a full heart.  Scott broadened the scope of my tribe by adding to it in my 3D world; Jay, Seth and Lisa Hancock, Levi, and Zack.  In turn, those friendships grew and more were added; Crafty, the Nathans; Smith and Bates.  Charlie and I found treasure from a map of Scott's making.  This is how the heart grows.  A seed planted, a root system created, a blooming life springs forward.  Scott loved hearing the ripple-effect his ONE visit created.  My life immeasurably blessed by his presence.  He smiled humbly, giggled softly and handed Seth his camera to take a picture of us.  I felt his heart in my hand and his arms around me and quite simply, I melted in. 

The gaping hole he leaves is resonating far and wide.  The world feels harsh, and cold, and wrong.  Yet, and this is a great big YET; his joy in life, his journey in these past two years, his effervescent spirit, his brilliant, happy smile, are the soothing balm to this broken heart.  He was happy.  Right now, that has to be enough.  For now, let it be enough.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


I stole this from a commenter on my friend Corri's FB page.  I instantly loved it.  I also instantly took my inventory.  I've been guilty of spouting off about something someone posted that they obviously enjoyed, and I poo-pooed all over it. 

Some of it completely good-naturedly.  Hockey for example.  My people know I love hockey.  I have a dear friend who, over the years, has given me a "workout" with hockey banter, each of us fans of rival teams.  But I do admit I've been a pretty horrible football basher.  I hate the game.  I honestly hate everything about it.  I have an equal disdain for basketball.  Oh heck, let's just be real, shall we Pua?  I hate ALL SPORTS.  Except hockey.  Hockey is awesome.  :)

With this recent Pokémon craze, I was at first annoyed.  But because Pokémon played such a huge role in my kids lives, I decided to peek in to the world everyone was going gaga over.  The truth is, it's pretty awesome.  I admit it.  I have found myself out and about, on my morning walk, waiting for my coffee friends, running errands, waiting at a job interview, looking for Pokémon.  I've been assimilated.

This, like any fad, is going to have its cheerleaders and its choir of detesters.  It's what happens on Social Media.  Everyone knows it.  Something comes along, or someone posts their enthusiasm for something they enjoy, and there's always someone who wants to throw a raspberry at them.  Again, I've been guilty of that.  The difference now, I guess, is that I have some time to reflect on where I am in my life that I would let something effect me so profoundly.  I'm unemployed.

With unemployment comes a level of depression.  Well, if you're not supposed to be unemployed.  Don't get me wrong, we won't be losing our home anytime soon.  My husband is a wonderful provider.  But the fact is, should he lose HIS job, we're screwed.  I have no talent that anyone wants, really.  I have no degree to fall back on.  Everything I would bring in financially is put toward what would be our retirement.  Let me tell you, that really isn't much.  So, it can be quite scary.  My husband is generous and doesn't make me feel bad, but I know me being employed would very much help.  So, as the days go by and the resumes and interviews bring no fruit, it weighs on me.  Then what happens is, I take my depression and frustration out on others.  On Social Media.  That makes me feel pathetic.

I decided at the beginning of the month, after not getting too many hits on jobs, and after getting more and more sad with the state of politics and news, and violence in our world, that I was NOT going to participate in negativity.  I was not going to follow the normal cycle of letting things take me down.  It's a very dark hole that I am easily susceptible to allowing myself to fall into.  It manifests itself in me saying snarky, sarcastic, passive aggressive things in response to someone's joy.  It's sad, and it's sick, and it's not me.  I don't like it.  It makes me feel crappy.  I've also found it's my response for two things: 

1.  Jealousy.  That's not something I'm proud of.  But it's real, and it's true, and it's completely embarrassing.  I hate this about me.  Of all of my faults, and there are many, this one slays me and leaves me incapacitated more than anything. 

I'm fat.  So when my friends who watch what they eat and exercise do their thing, and post about it, I get all grumpy.  Instead of cheering them on, I want to say something high-caloric in the snark department. 

My house is falling down around us.  There are so many things that need fixing that it's depressing.  When I see friends getting new kitchens, new carpet, new floors, new landscape, I become a creature that goes well beyond the Green-eyed Monster.  I simply ooze chartreuse.  Again, it's not something I'm proud of.  In fact, I can't even believe I'm sharing this now.  A response of  "Lucky you." is the most generous I can be when inside of me, a torrent of nastiness is happening.  It's ugly.  It's very ugly.  I don't like this about me.

People seem to travel.  A LOT.  And they post lots and lots of travel pics to exotic places.  Yes, we've been lucky with local trips to Mexico (which I love) and weekender cruises (cheap and close to home).  But the last time I went home to Hawai'i was 6 years ago.  I'm not whining.  I AM grateful.  Hell, my poor sister hasn't even had an actual vacation or gone anywhere for YEARS.  But, I'm just being honest.  I don't want to hear about trips all over the world.  And I get monstrous when people say; "Just travel."  Yeah?  Seen my bank account?  Wanna yodel in the canyon.  STFU!  Jealousy.  It's ugly.  I hate it.

You get my point.

2.  This one is a doozy.  Lack of understanding.  Not lack of compassion.  I'm overloaded with compassion and empathy, sometimes to my own detriment.  The lack of knowledge of something.  If I don't understand it, if I don't "get it", I tend to debase it.  I know I'm not alone in that. 

The result of these two things is that I risk hurting people I care about.  Well, yes, it's true that most of my interactions these days are online.  I'm not working, so I don't get out much.  But there are people out in FB world that I care about deeply.  Though we may live far apart and we don't see on another in everyday life, I care about them and their lives.  Why is it then that I would be so quick to judge something they do that they get enjoyment out of, and say something mean about it?  Do I feel better after?  Does it give me joy when I know that if I don't hold my tongue and blurt my opinion of their "silliness", it could hurt them or make them mad? 

I don't understand the face-swapping thing.  It honestly grosses me out.  I mean, to the point of physical illness.  But, so many friends and family members are getting the biggest kick out of it.  My world is full of happy nerds, musical freaks, over-the-moon grandparents, rabid dog-lovers (yes, I did that on purpose), vegans, meat-eaters, published authors, political enthusiasts (that's my nice word), creationists, scientists, ecumenists, geniuses, the list goes on and on, encompassing a myriad of life's wonders.  Would I tell any of these folks to their faces that I think the thing that gives them happiness in this messed up world is stupid?  No, I wouldn't.  I don't.  Well, okay, I confess I have said some pretty awful things to people who have bashed our President in hateful ways.  But with regard to religion and politics, I only speak my true mind in the comfort of my home, in the safe company of my husband.  Who loves me in spite of all of the ugly parts.

I decided recently, when I recognized that I was getting really depressed with this last round of unemployment, that I wouldn't bash people's joys.  So, I've held my tongue on many things, and I've asked myself these questions when I want to set my fingers to commenting:

1.  Is my friend excited right now?
2.  Does this thing give my friend joy?
3.  Will saying something shitty take my friend's joy away, or will it just make me look like a crappy person?
4.  Do you WANT to hurt your friend's feelings just because you don't understand this thing that makes them happy?
5.  Will your opinion enhance or detract from their joy?

I have decided to stay away from political posts, religious posts, and negative posts.  I have decided not to fall into my hole of depression.  I have decided to SHARE in joy, not take away from it.  Don't think for one minute I'm not biting my tongue a lot.  I am.  But that doesn't mean I can't be a better person for myself.  Because being a shitty person certainly doesn't make my depression go away. 

That being said, all bets are off if you VagueBook.  If you Vaguebook, I'll annihilate you.  ;)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Charlie and the Junker Factory

Back in January of 2012, we were looking for a new (to us) car.  Charlie was, at the time, driving his mom's old Buick and I was still driving our van.  I wrote a post about it here.  Long story short, we didn't end up turning the van in as a trade-in.  When we went home to start it up, it was completely, catastrophically dead.  We knew it had problems, which is why it was time.  But because we couldn't start it, Charlie just decided to make a cash down payment and we brought home my little "Aubergine", a used Nissan Rogue in a color the maker calls "Iridium", but looks kinda purply-brown in the sun.  I drove the Rogue, and Charlie continued to drive mom's old Buick. 

The van sat in the driveway, unused for three years.  In those three years, we got constant inquiries from gardeners and painters in the neighborhood.  The doorbell would ring on a regular basis with people asking if we wanted to sell it.  Unfortunately, the person that he is, my husband said he could not, in good conscience, sell a vehicle that didn't run, and he just didn't have the time or inclination to fix it up enough to get it running.  So there the van sat, like a wallflower at the dance, waiting for her handsome prince to come and ask her for a spin. 

All the while, Charlie drove that old Buick.  The headliner was droopy and wrinkled like last Saturday's Walk-of-Shame dress, the floorboard on the driver's side was rusting away and you could actually see the road below in a little hole, the seats had worn down and you could feel the springs poking your butt.  You couldn't wash it because every time you tried, the paint would come off in large sheets.  I told him the paint was all that was holding it together, so he'd better stop washing it.  I begged him.  I pleaded with him.  "Please Charlie.  Please let's go look at a more reliable, safer used car.  I worry about you in that car."  He shrugged his shoulders and said he was fine.  The car is running well and still has life and we just can't afford another car payment right now.   That was until last year, when mom's old Buick died.  I thought to myself; "This is it!  Finally!  He'll get himself a better vehicle!"  Nope.

He went down to Pep Boys auto supply and started buying parts to fix....THE VAN.  Yep, the sweet little wallflower from the prom was being asked to dance again.  I complained and whined and moaned about the time and money he was spending on car repairs, all of this falling upon deaf ear.  No literally, he's deaf in one ear.  He got the van running, quite proud of himself.  While he was working on it, the neighbor's gardener came running over, quite excited, and asked if he was finally fixing it up to sell to him.  You should have seen the sad look on his face when Charlie told him that yes, he was fixing it up, but that he was going to keep it to drive it himself.  Such a sad, sad face.  I felt sorry for him, shrugging my shoulders as he looked at me with those sad puppy eyes, then walked away, dejected.  Three years of hope, for both of us, down the drain pan.  On the other hand, here was Charlie, holding his arms in the air, flexing his muscles like He-Man, victorious in resurrecting the dead van.  His last act in the circle of car life that rotates in this house?  He called a veterans organization and donated mom's old Buick.  For some reason, they were grateful to have it.

So, for the last year and a half, my frugal selfless husband has driven the faithful family van.  As with the Buick, the headliner drooped, nay, it ripped open.  We held it up first with safety pins until those rusted and the foam underneath crumbled like feta cheese.  If you drove with the window down, which you HAD to do because the motor for the window didn't work, the foam "snow" would fly into your face.  So then, we tried duct tape.  Classy.  It was good the window stayed down because the AC didn't work, turning the van into a rolling sauna in the summer.  The driver's seat broke, so Charlie replaced it with the passenger seat, leaving the passenger side empty.  The paint completely oxidized.  You couldn't open the driver's side door because the handle was broken.  You had to go in through the side slider, or the passenger side.  He said; "See?  It's easier now to get to the driver's side now that there's no passenger seat!"  Always the optimist, my husband.  He fixed little things as they came along, me still complaining about pouring money into it.  "Luckily, I'm a very handy guy!"  I sigh with each of his optimistic chirpings.

Last Friday, Charlie tells me that he paid the DMV registration on the van, but that it needs to get a smog test before they'll send the stickers.  "When's it due?", I asked.  "The 31st", his reply.  WHAT??  That's next week!  "Yeah, I know.  We've just been so busy."  Le sigh.  So I tell him to take the Rogue to work and I'll drive the van over to the Auto Club and get it smogged.  Cut to the chase, the guy at the Auto Club tells me it's not even testable because there's an exhaust leak.  We need a new muffler AND he says, we probably have a head gasket problem on the way.  Great.  More money.  I call Charlie at work and tell him the news.  He said he had an idea that was going to be the case.  I turn on the whining and tell him he really needs to think about a car.  He rebuts with the usual budget limitations, me not working, etc.  The weekend comes and goes, and on Monday, Charlie comes home from work holding printouts of used cars at local car lots.  Wait...what?

Charlie:  "I called several muffler places and told them what I needed.  Basically, they all said I'm looking at an easy $3500 to do what needs to be done.  All this, just to get it smog tested.  Yeah, I'm not doing that.  So, I relent.  It's time."

Pua:  "Halle-F-ing-lu-jah!"

Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, I present to you, my sweet, deserving husband's new (to him) ride.  If anyone deserves a car, this wonderful guy does.  This guy who has been driving klunkers for pretty much the entirety of the kids' lives.  While he gives me the safe, reliable car, he sacrifices without a single complaint.  Day in, day out, not a peep of complaint even though I know he's been in true, physical pain climbing in and out of that van with his bad back.  That's my Charlie.  I'm overjoyed for him.  Yes, like a true engineer he went over it with a fine tooth comb, haggled prices, got what he wanted in the way of price that would fit our meager budget and not put a strain on us while I'm unemployed.  Yes, it's an economy car.  No, it's nothing fancy even though he deserves so much more.  But it's very Charlie.  Deserving, wonderful, unselfish Charlie.  "So shines a good deed in a weary world."

The van?  We practically had to pay THEM to take it.  "But...", says Charlie, "We got every last mile out of that old girl, didn't we?"  Yes, Sweetie we did.  Thanks to you.