Monday, March 31, 2008
It did make me feel very peaceful and cozy -- I lay half awake listening to the sounds of total silence in the house and beyond. That's rare. We don't live next to a freeway, but our street is busy enough and the road behind us even more so. But for the longest time I didn't even hear normal traffic sounds. The bed was not too cold, not too warm, just right. The cat behaved himself for a change and didn't make any sounds to leave me wondering what he had decided to destroy this time.
It certainly rested my body, inducing a sort of mild numbness. But my mind turned, twirled and whirled all night. Mostly what went through it were thoughts of the crappy car I bought Wally last year, and how the dealer is sooner or later going to put the hammer down on me to either pay for it to be towed back to him or to pay off the remainder of the loan. It comes to about $600. And when this happens, it is sure to be at the worst possible time. Even worse than the present time!
Over the weekend I calculated our taxes and we're going to end up paying because I took a distribution out of my retirement acct to pay Wally's med bills and it jacked our adjusted gross way up. I don't see any way around this, other than just agreeing to pay the IRS in installments. So once again, the squeeze is on. I dreamed about Wally hanging the phone up on me, which is probably because Doug called last night and we talked about Wally. Doug said he tries to tell himself that Wally's occasional weirdness "has to do with the fact that he's still a kid." Well, fucking DUH! It would have been nice to have such sensible, generous thoughts BEFORE you put Wally on anti-psychotic meds and then kicked him out of the house, you son of a bitch.
Oh, and I itched a little too and woke up with a headache over my left eye. Bye-bye generic substitute for Vicodin. I guess I'll just dump it in the trash, since you're not supposed to flush meds.
Today feels like one of those days when going to work is an escape from here. It wasn't a bad weekend overall, but work is just easier to cope with sometimes. At least there I have a supervisor and team-mates. Here, I'm on my own when it comes to making decisions. I don't mind being in control, but it sure would be nice to have backup. Carl has little understanding of personal macroeconomics -- he leaves it all to me. It's only when everything gets to be too much and I have an emotional meltdown that he comes to my aid. Click Here to Read More..
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
Ah, Friday at last! Can't complain, unfortunately, since the week went by fast with minimal stress. Even being broke wasn't too bad, since Carl covered any expenses, and I simply postponed any bill payments until I'm back to normal (a week from now), so I won't get hit with any additional overdraft fees.
The weather's getting really warm now, in contrast to where Wally is -- about a 30-degree difference. He can have it. He told me last night he's starting to look for a new rental situation after May 1st, when the family he's living with will take on a new person and he'll have to move on.
Click Here to Read More..
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
I wrote him a note and stuck it on the fridge for when he finally gets home.
Marilyn is now my next-door neighbor. She's been catty-corner from me since last May when we moved to our new office space. At first she wanted a window cubicle like mine but was afraid the windows would produce too much glare. By the time she realized she was wrong about this, it was too late. She was already ensconced in the aisle-side cube, and the IT guys were very busy with everyone else's installations, so she stayed put. But after Miss K left a couple of weeks ago, Marilyn saw her opportunity and got permission to move. Now I'm sure she'll be peeking around the dividing wall to talk to me several times a day.
Maybe she'll bypass me altogether and talk to Linda, who sits on the other side of me and is also the gabby type. Click Here to Read More..
Monday, March 24, 2008
Good got-damn, it was cold in that Northern state! Even Wally has begun to lose his love for the higher latitudes and is looking forward to attending college out west where it's warm.
Two main gripes.
- An idiot I met at the hotel. We had to move our cars because repairs were going on during the weekend. Another guest complained about having to move it so far from his room and expressed a wish (loudly) that "some asshole won't come along and give me a ticket..." He had moved his car next to mine and apparently saw my out-of-state plate. In an even louder voice, aimed at me, he said "I tell it like it is! I'm not from the south!" The appropriate response, which I wish I'd been quick enough to think of right then, is, "Well, bless your heart!"
- All the many Darwin Award contestants on the interstates. People who take up residence in the left lane and then do the speed limit deserve the death penalty.
Oh -- this wouldn't be complete without some moaning about money!
I'm seriously overdrawn, with over $400 in overdraft fees! If it weren't for the frickin fees, it wouldn't be all that bad. I may call the bank and see if maybe they could take off a couple of them. But first I have to wait until it settles -- there are still some pending items. Then it will be payday, which will help a bit.
I got the registration done for the conference in June - no one said anything about having to send in money so I'll assume my sponsors are going to take care of that. Great! I've already got my flight and hotel room. Click Here to Read More..
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
But this time around, at least I don't feel that "impending doom." I know I'm solid at work. I'd better be, for their sake. Marilyn and I are now the only two people doing our job. The third member of our team, the temp, has left. Marilyn and I are splitting the two regions she was working on. I have a few months before my next review, but the time since the last one seems to have gone by very fast, so all I have to do is hang on.
Had to take care of a traffic ticket today. Talk about ups & downs. As I'd been told to expect, the judge reduced the amount I owed by a substantial amount and I was almost doing a happy-dance out of the courtroom. But then I got to the little room where I actually paid, and there was a lot more tacked on for court costs. It seems to be that way all the time, lately. A good moment, followed by a not-so-good one, and vice versa. Money worries give rise to so many other negative thoughts.
Wally's going to college in a few months. I'm virtually unable to help him financially at all. I know Doug "disapproves" of me for living paycheck to paycheck. From time to time I encounter people from long ago, my teenage years, and they will say things like "Gee, we all figured you'd be a lot more successful than you are -- what happened?" But I try to conjure all the positive thoughts I can -- I have a full-time job; I have my health; I'm an owner and not a renter; my marriage is solid, etc etc etc. My church helps. I know life could be a whole lot worse. I think of an acquaintance of mine who was injured in a wreck the other day. To (literally) add insult to injury, from all appearances the accident was his fault. It could be tons worse. But I hate having debt hanging over my head. Again, it could be worse. It's been worse.
But it makes me so tired.
Click Here to Read More..
Monday, March 17, 2008
However, by the time I got into the shower this morning I had started my self-talk. Mom was a great role model for what not to do. Any time I asked her what she wanted for Christmas, or her birthday, or Mother's Day, she'd just give that wistful, willow-in-the-wind sigh of hers and say "Peace....happiness..." in a tone that said she'd never, ever have any of those things and it was all our (Dad's and my) fault.
Blanche Fucking DuBois.
Even as a tiny little kid, I knew when she said this, that it was bullshit. It took a few decades before I could put it into words, but to summarize:
- I am not responsible for anyone else's mental state, and
- No one is responsible for mine!
If you want the image I keep handy for moments like this, catch the movie Gypsy next time it comes out on AMC. It's the movie with Natalie Wood as Gypsy Rose Lee. In one of the scenes just before the end of the movie, Gypsy's finally made it big. She's stopped being the mousy, dutiful older sister to Baby June, who has run away. She has unwittingly become a burlesque stripper and to everyone's surprise, she's taken off like a rocket and she's the hottest thing in showbiz at that time (a true story, by the way). But her mother still wants to run the show. They have one of their innumerable arguments, and after Mama Rose storms out, Gypsy realizes she has to put her angry, hurt feelings aside because she's just about to do a photo shoot. She sits on a stool and the guy who's setting this up says "C'mon, Gypsy, give us a smile." And oh, does she smile. You can see her summoning every ounce of willpower she's got, and then she tosses back her head and splits her mouth, her entire face, into this absolutely stunningly brilliant smile that everyone is looking for on a magazine cover. You can almost hear her thinking, here's your fucking smile, goddamn you to hell, all of you. KISS MY ASS, WORLD!
So that's a good thing to fall back on when I feel myself sinking.
I exchanged e-mails with Doug today regarding Wally. I thought he was going to get on my case like he often does, but I told him straight out what my situation is, and he managed not to jab at me.
Wally is looking forward to seeing me this weekend. I hope it goes well. Click Here to Read More..
Saturday, March 15, 2008
I meet a lot of religious Christians, and they assume I'm one because I don't make a habit (other than HERE) of announcing the fact that I don't currently line up with any particular conventional theology. I do go to a liberal church, though, so 2-3 days a week I am in close contact with people whose worldview is way different from people I meet other days.
Case in point: As part of my involvement with my neighborhood association, I have had the opportunity to attend local law-enforcement meetings. At the one I went to last week, there was a woman who was completely, unabashedly rabid on the subject of prostitution. She described how, when she sees a man inviting a young lady into his car, she will get behind the car, make a show of taking down the tag number, and sometimes follow one or both occupants if they later go into a nearby establishment. The police officer there had to urge her, more than once, to behave in a more circumspect manner, for her own protection. He said the local hookers are armed with two things most of the time: A blade, and a sexually transmitted disease, and very often they're high on some potent substances that make them much less likely to be intimidated by Joe or Jane Citizen. She is much better off, he said, just keeping her cell phone handy and calling the PD. Her descriptions were so vivid, it was truly fascinating.
So the following night, at a church meeting, I mentioned to a fellow congregant with whom I'm very friendly about how she ought to try attending some of these meetings -- they are true eye-openers. I mentioned that apparently our town's prostitution problems are quite something. My friend pretty much blew me off without listening to much more of what I had to say. She said, in effect, that with all that's going on in the world, people should have more to worry about than what prostitutes are doing.
This is a live-and-let-live attitude, and I share it about 75% of the time. But after having attended the meeting the night before, I had become slightly, temporarily, infused with the sense that I should, at all times, be looking out my window, prepared to call the police and report the slightest irregularity.
At work, everyone's white, respectably middle- or upper middle-class and they live in the "nice" part of town. Many of them ask me how it feels to live in my neighborhood. I look them straight in the eye and say "Well, it only takes me 10 minutes to get here every morning."
But if I internalize this and jokingly mention to someone at church that I live in "the 'hood" [ALL my neighbors call it that, unashamedly], I get disapproving looks. as in, how can you be so un-PC?
My fellow church-goers, most very well educated and mostly quite liberal politically, are of a very different mindset from my neighbors and co-workers. And as usual, I'm pretty much in the middle. Story of my life. I definitely believe that "the drug war" is making a mess of things. ~But~ I'm also happy when I hear stories of meth labs being busted, because the drug clearly devastates the users.
At least, that's what all the news stories say. But then you read columns in the off-the-beaten-track websites and papers that say no, the "meth epidemic" is simply the 21st century's version of "reefer madness," and that people really, truly need to be left alone to deal with their own vices rather than turning harmless junkies into criminals.
And where am I in all of this? I've never used pot, other than the one time someone passed me a pipe, I inhaled and felt absolutely nothing. No other drugs whatsoever. I like to drink but don't get to do it very often because more often than not, I'm the designated driver.
Oh, before I sign off, one more thing. It stopped raining a few hours ago. Now I hear gunshots. Click Here to Read More..
So much to do today! Have to get down to the bank and close out Wally's account. Or should I say, our account -- I set it up for him, but he was under 18 so my name went on it about 2 years ago. He's been overdrawn more times than I can count. I've replaced the "divots" a couple of times, most recently this last week. I have to appear in person to close out the account and I warned him over the phone that I might be calling him "early" to get information from him if the bank requires it. Ironic: At age 18 I had a joint account with my dad because I was a minor when it was set up. He and my mom went in and took most of the money I'd saved up because they weren't able to make their mortgage payment. They just went in and took it; never gave it back, and my mom, when she got drunk and abusive, would sometimes say "You'll never get it back because you don't deserve it." Then Doug stole money from me during our marriage, and now my son is costing me money because of a joint account. I'll say one thing, Carl doesn't steal money from me. I don't have a joint account with him, because he's always let me handle the financial reins. It's too much for him to deal with. When he got his bank account, I was insistent that he NOT set it up jointly with me. I am a staunch believer in separate bank accounts for married couples. Call me a cynic, but you just can't trust anyone any more.
Have to recycle and do a spot of shopping. Play rehearsal at 4, followed by a church reception at 6 -- it's pledgy-pledgy time and I'm going to have to tell someone that my pledge for the upcoming year will be a bit over half what it was this time around. But last year Wally was living at home with no car or insurance or rent expenses. No ridiculous cell-phone excesses either. I want a pledge I can fulfill without having to drain my IRA again.
Have to also do the minutes from last Saturday (if I want an excuse, I can always say that I never got the ATTENDANCE SHEET back -- hello??? Charlotte? Irene???!), but that's a very flimsy excuse. I will get it done today.
Need to send back the bra I ordered. Do I want a larger size or something different altogether? Or maybe just the money back?
We need a refrigerator! The old, dinky one that came with this house leaks like crazy. It's awful. We can't use the vegetable bin at all; it just fills up with water.
We have to do something about our yard -- it's full of ruts where water accumulates. I almost killed myself walking across it the other day to give Paul a pint of strawberries. I wonder if it would make sense to install a deck of sorts -- like a raised walkway, even just lay down a couple of pallets -- to cover that spot where the water pools so we wouldn't have to get soaked going from the door to the car, at least until we can afford a more long-term solution such as grading the land so the water won't run this way every time.
Have to get the taxes going -- just get the forms filled in, but I want to wait to file until I've had a chance to confer with Wally when I see him about his FAFS.
I'm relieved that he'll be attending college not far from where his uncle and grandmother are. I think, though, that his college is about equidistant from here to where he is now ... just in a totally different direction.
A few days ago I was mulling over some of Carl's characteristics and came to the conclusion that some of his astrological configurations are different from what I'd been assuming all this time. Specifically, I think his rising sign is Taurus, rather than Cancer. When I put everything together that I know about him, this makes more sense. It works better in terms of the compatibility between the two of us, as well.
Click Here to Read More..
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
It was my first time. My neighborhood association said, "Please attend and report back." But what happened was, everyone at the meeting had something to report to the officers. Except me -- I don't get terribly involved in the goings-on. I'm not that eagle-eyed person who's perpetually looking out my window and taking note of the most minute variation. And, since moving here (and actually, for many years prior), I've wondered, how does one get to be that sort of person? It seems to be very much against my nature, for two main reasons:
1. I'm extremely unobservant. No, oblivious is probably a better way to describe me. When I'm going about my business, I'm going about MY BUSINESS. That is, I'm thinking about whatever's going on in my life. Driving for me is a very automatic function and it takes place without much here-and-now observation of anything other than the road. I see things in a very uninvolved way. I miss lots and lots of details. And I have that defect in my brain that makes it hard to distinguish faces, cars, and most of the other details that "normal" people can spot and memorize. Because people in my neighborhood are very sociable, and because I have an official position in the neighborhood, I compensate for this by waving "hi" any time I drive past anyone. I don't really look to see who it is, and if I ran into that person anywhere else, I'd only be about 20% likely to recognize them as being from my neighborhood. It's THAT bad. So this is why I have a serious problem with this "crime spotter" thing. I just don't notice things.
2. The other reason I'm not law-enforcement material is, when I DO notice something, I automatically assume that everything's cool. I'm a firm believer in "mind your own business," "to each his own," and "judge not, lest ye be judged." So when my next-door neighbor piles old cars on his lawn and pulls up in a Rent-a-Center truck every month or so, I'm thinking, well, it's not the way I like to live, and I wish his property were more aesthetically pleasing, but who am I to dictate what his house looks like? Two guys talking on the porch at 2:00 in the morning. 90% of my neighbors would say "They're doing a drug deal." I say, "It's two guys talking on the porch at 2:00 in the morning." A young lady is walking down the street alone at 11pm in the middle of January, dressed in high heels, shorts up to here and a middy top that's little more than an embellished bra. 99% of the rest of the world would say, "She's a hooker and she ought to be arrested." I say, "She's a woman going somewhere, and she must be cold; why doesn't she put on a coat?" I just take things at face value and believe that if I go and make assumptions, it's going to turn out to be the one time in 10 years that the guys were just talking on the porch or the girl was walking along dressed that way because she was coming from a costume party. I don't know how to tell the difference between people who are up to no good and people who are just waiting for a friend. I'm not totally incapable of telling when something's wrong but I don't consider myself very sharp in that area. If someone smiles at me and says 'everything's fine,' I figure it's true and just go on about my business. But, I've had enough marginal, second-hand experiences in life with shady dealings that if I'm really looking for it and keep my eyes open, I can manage not to get fooled. But I wish there were some way to take lessons. Click Here to Read More..
Monday, March 10, 2008
- Carl. We've been married just over 10 years. We got engaged 19 days after we met and married 5 months after that. We have a good, easy, fit-together type of relationship. I sometimes feel like I'm much more of a caretaker to him than he is to me, but in all honesty, I don't need that much caretaking. I like being the person who does more of the work because it makes me feel like I have more power. In past relationships (to be described below) I often had way too little power. I only wish Carl could do a better job of getting along with my son. He rates about a D minus in that department. On the other hand, it's very hard to imagine my life without Carl. Please forgive the cliche, but he completes me.
- Dennis. Not much to say about Dennis. He was an occasional FWB that I met on AOL when I had that service for a very short time. Middle aged (over 50 but said he was in his 40s); widowed, a bit on the dramatic side. We had some good phone sex one day and went out on exactly two dates. Our parting was mutual and completely undramatic; we both had other fish to fry. But in the meantime he said I was overweight and should think about trying to go back to my ex. Yeah...
- Steve. Steve was a fling I had while married to Doug. I felt a lot of guilt about this for a long time; it led to me becoming a Christian for 15 years. Steve was wonderful. Sometimes I think I should have left Doug and "gone with" Steve. Steve certainly wanted me to -- he got a bit "Fatal-Attraction"-esque until I broke it off for good and stayed with Doug. My big mistake was telling Doug about it when I thought it was ancient history. I had a lot to learn about life. The best advice anyone could have given me (assuming I was ever inclined to follow anyone's advice) would have been, keep your own secrets. Sharing them causes pain for the other person and for you. Confession may be good for the soul, but it will kill a marriage. Steve wanted a true love for all time and apparently he found one. He's got 2-3 kids now and a very interesting career.
- Doug. Doug was my husband for about 13 years and we lived together for a year before that. At the time we met (and for many, many years therefter, until very recently), I was prone to make quick assessments of people and situations and then set them into quick-dry cement. My impression of Doug was that he'd make a great father, because I saw him interacting pleasantly with kids. Doug and I were simply too young -- we were both still living with our parents, on the verge of making some breakthroughs into adulthood, but we took the easy way out and moved in together because we were both afraid of being alone. I wasn't afraid, actually, but my parents were. The thought of me moving out made them both kind of hysterical, so I figured they'd have less objection if I moved in with this big strong-looking guy. I very much put my thoughts and feelings on ice for years -- I had come to a place in my life where I felt that my opinions were worthless ... that I was worthless. What's that movie where the actress says "Oh, it was easy -- I looked for the guy I thought could give me the worst time, and that's the one I went for." I'll think of it at some point. That was basically what I did. I wasn't attracted to Doug other than as a friend. Bob Seger paraphrase: I used him, he used me, but neither one cared. I know that without Doug in my life, there most likely would never have been a Wally, but the frustration at not being able to go back in time and change things sometimes gets overwhelming. Talk about wasted time.
- Danny. A med student who I met around the same time I met Doug. Now him, I was attracted to! Wow! I went after him in a rather bold way (bold for me, at least). We slept together twice. I knew he had a serious girlfriend but thought (hoped) for a time that I would "win" him. I didn't. No longings; it was fun while it lasted. Rebounding from Danny is probably what sent me toward Doug.
- Felix. That's not his real name; none of these are real names! But Felix was "my first." Very good-looking; looked several years older than his actual age. But talk about the interior and exterior not matching up! Felix had been seduced by an older woman when he was in his mid-teens, and as a result, he had one of those madonna/whore complexes that some guys have. A sexy (or sexual) woman was seen as evil. I was at the age where I felt old enough to explore my sexuality, but it was my misfortune to consistently run into guys who either wanted me to be sweet and sexless, or who were not terribly attracted to me physically. That's why Carl is such a keeper -- there is attraction there, and it is mutual. Carl also doesn't try to transform me into someone I'm not. For anyone who's come out of that type of relationship, that one thing is very, VERY important. Felix and I split mainly because of the same problems I should have recognized with Doug: We were too young, still trying to sort out our identities. Felix probably could have kept it going (right to the altar, God help us all), but I felt very smothered and trapped and broke away. He married a submissive mousy type and they now have 2 grown daughters.
- Tony. Tony was just one date, mere weeks before I met Felix. Tony had been a classmate, one of those kids people make fun of. So I really didn't take him seriously when we had that one date, just a year after high school ended. But I think back on that one date surprisingly often. It could have gone somewhere, I realize that now. Tony was sexy in an understated sort of way. The kind of guy who could surprise you in the bedroom. We never got as far as his bedroom, though he did give me this one sizzlin' kiss that I still remember. It's probably a good thing I never dated him a second time; I was in a very unstable period of my life and most likely would have made the poor guy's life hell.
- Mike. Oh, my mom had a jones for Mike! See, my mother liked men who were tame and useful beasts. She didn't want personality (my dad had plenty of personality). She wanted "the strong silent type" who could fix anything around the house in a jiffy, eat whatever you put in front of them, and hardly ever speak. Mike was like that. It drove me crazy, because I was the quiet type. That's why Felix appealed to me -- he was flamboyant and very "out there." I needed someone to speak for me. Mike did none of that. Which was why as soon as I met Felix, Mike was history. Another case of, the guy has no idea how lucky he was not to marry me.
- Brian: A classmate who pursued me for YEARS. I don't like possessiveness and Brian was brimming with it. I went out with him because he was really persistent, but for awhile I found him so repulsive, I'd get literally nauseated being in his presence. We went to the beach once and I dug a hole in the sand and retched into it. I'm sure he noticed, but pretended not to. Finally, one day I looked at him and out of nowhere began to feel stirrings of attraction. Suddenly, I really liked being with him. We got closer...and closer...and then I discovered that he was one of those madonna/whore types. He had a bunch of alcoholic part-time girlfriends that he saw when I wasn't around, but I was this angel on a pedestal, and the one time we got to where we were actually in his room, on his bed, and my clothes were coming off, he got the worst case of cold feet I have ever seen in my life and abruptly took me home. That was the last time we went out. Many years later, I thought he might be a good match for a friend of mine. They got along great, but unfortunately, he'd never gotten over me, and was using my friend as an excuse to see me, even though I was married to Doug by that time. He treated my friend worse on a progressive basis, really messed up her head, then they split. Fortunately, my friend met someone better, and he finally quit drinking and settled down. About time. What a strange case.
- Tom: We came close to having actual sex, but it never went past manual and oral -- we were both 17 and pretty conservative. Tom had plenty of issues; he saw his life as some sort of sweeping, epic novel. But I really enjoyed his house and his family. Tom and I broke up at the end of high school and he died suddenly in freshman year of college. It was very hard dealing with that. Took me about a year and a half before I started feeling normal again.
- Dave: If he ever looks back at our time together, I'm sure he'll think our breakup was racial (one of his parents was not Caucasian), but it absolutely was not. I simply didn't think I was "cool" enough for him. I thought I was an awkward nerd and being around him compounded that feeling until I really started acting like one. I couldn't take it after awhile and gave him back his class ring with no fanfare.
- Maurice: I met him through a mutual friend while I was dating Jeff (below). Maurice was really sexy and I probably would have let him seduce me, but he thought I was taking too long to make up my mind and stood me up for my birthday. I now realize he was a total creep and hope he dies of some unpleasant disease.
- Jeff: I dated Jeff for about 5 months. I let him touch parts of my body but felt very uncomfortable with it. He wanted intercourse, but I was only 16 and just could not accept that idea. In order to avoid such an eventuality, I broke off the relationship.
- Ed: I met Ed before I dated Jeff. I found Ed very attractive, but apparently it wasn't mutual. The "friend" who introduced us volunteered to give Ed aid and comfort whenever he wanted; she told me she was meeting him every night "to talk him into" dating me. Apparently she wasn't all that persuasive... Just one of those memories you'd just as soon throw in the recycle bin.
- Bubba: Bubba was not someone I was attracted to in any way, shape or form. He was friends with Brian. I went out with Bubba exactly once. When Tom died, Bubba called me up and asked me out on a date "to take my mind off it." He was a total creep and a toad. Yech.
- Burt: My first actual date. It lasted about 3 hours. I was in the first semester of 9th grade; my friend was already totally boy-crazy. This was on a Saturday. The plan was for Pam and me to walk down to a local store, meet these two guys who were from another town, and walk back to Pam's house. All Burt did was talk incessantly. He never asked me a single question or (as far as I can tell) even took a breath in between sentences. Yes, I'm sure he was nervous, but why do guys have to act so bizarre when they're nervous? I think I said one sentence the entire time I was with this motormouth. I said hi to Pam's little sister; Burt quit babbling and stared at me as though I'd farted or something. When I didn't follow my sentence up with anything, Burt resumed babbling. Needless to say, there was not a second date. I think Pam started dating him, in fact.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
A busy week lies ahead as well and it's not going to stop until late June. Fine by me. Stay busy, stay out of trouble.
That's the theory, anyway. Click Here to Read More..
Saturday, March 08, 2008
- I am overweight. Fat, pudgy face, double chin, huge saggy D-cup boobs, enormous lower abdomen (I used to have a pretty slim waist by contrast but that's gone bye-bye the past 2-3 years). Huge arse, big thundery cellulite thighs. If I ever win the lottery I am going straight to Lipo-land.
- I don't have or make enough money to fulfill my few materialistic urges; I have to worry about making ends meet; I'm draining money out of my IRA just for everyday expenses. I have a good understanding of long-term investments, but put 3 bucks in my pocket and I'll either lose them or spend them unwisely. I'm so absent-minded I frequently record upcoming bills in Quicken but forget to program the payments into my bank's online bill-pay form and then I end up paying @^%&! late fees. I'm not making much money because although I've been in the work force for a good long time, it's only in the last five years or so that I've made a concerted effort to behave like an adult in the workplace. That means showing up on time, mainly. It also means when someone asks me to do something and says "...but no rush," it means do it right fucking now. I've only recently come to understand that concept. Self-sabotage has been a huge elephant in the living room of my life; part of the reason I've been unusually happy lately is that I've discovered the key to monitoring my own behavior and giving myself useful feedback, rather than going along blithely in a state of utter cluelessness and then feeling poleaxed when people got fed up with my behavior and cut me loose. I've finally learned how to listen with a third ear, read between the lines and take hints!!! I'm actually looking for ways to improve myself, rather than assuming I was perfect and not in need of any improvement.
- I'm not as smart as everyone thought I would be when I was growing up. I make dumb mistakes in vocabulary when I should know better; I'm at about a 5th-grade level in math (which probably relates to the money woes). I wouldn't say I'm ADD, but my concentration could be a lot better. I most definitely squandered my school years and I wish I had 'em back.
- I'm not the domestic type. Other women seem to have this knack for making their homes just fit together like a picture. Mine looks like Amateur Night. I'm a hopelessly sub-par cook, too.
- I have very little musical or artistic talent--including photography and crafts. I can only express myself through writing, and even there my talents are very inconsistent. No athletic ability whatsoever (being inactive contributes to #1 above...)
- My emotions get the better of me. I don't cry much, but I get "upset," which means speeding out of control, yelling, throwing tantrums and just having instantaneous, unplanned reactions to things that make me look like, to put it bluntly, some kind of nut. Granted, this was role-modeled for me throughout childhood -- our home was loud and chaotic most of the time. A blind person walking in might think six or seven people lived there, when in reality it was just us three. I'm working on the emotional thing.
- I'm very introverted and socially awkward. The introverted part, I understand. Introversion is (see the link that follows) a chemical process: http://publicaffairs.uth.tmc.edu/hleader/archive/Mind_Body_Soul/2005/introvertsvsextroverts-1221.html so I don't beat myself up over it. I've also discovered ways to dig out from under the introversion a bit and enjoy the "outside" world. Up until my late 30s, I was "living in my own private Idaho," and amazingly cut off from life that was going on all around me. No wonder I was lonely! I'm narrowing that gap between everybody else and myself to a large extent, but I still get tongue-tied in crowds and have this doofus tendency to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. The internet has been incredibly helpful for me. I can sit on a message board and communicate in the way that's most natural to me -- writing -- but also get immediate feedback and keep up with real people in real time. I don't believe in God -- but it's a godsend.
- Related to the above, I've wasted a huge chunk of my life just stuck inside this little shell, not getting out more and experiencing more. On the other hand, this could be part of what's kept me somewhat childlike and "youthful." I look a lot younger than I am, which could be nothing more than my insulated nature showing itself on the outside.
- I've done a poor job of planning. Again, it's only in the last 5 years or so that I've started understanding the connection between what I do in the next 20 seconds and how it could potentially have a direct impact on the next 20 years. I've been very passive throughout my life, just letting people sort of push me in the direction they wanted me to go in (parents and ex-husband, chiefly, but also some "friends," who I've recently jettisoned from my life, hooray for me).
- I've done a very questionable job raising my son. I know Doug played a major part in Wally's troubles, but dammit to hell, he's a beautiful person and some of the decisions I made were not the best ones.
Anyway. Time to get socially relevant. Being the second Saturday of the month, it was the day that our neighborhood association meets. I'm the recording secretary. This tiny little historic neighborhood is about 99% black. I'm in the 1% minority. I agreed to be secretary because the non-profit that's backing us sent us on a nice weekend retreat last fall, put us up at a posh hotel and lavished us with t-shirts, tote bags, hats, pens, and other goodies and it seemed to me that if they ask me to help out this way, it wouldn't kill my ass to say yes and commit myself for a year. I've certainly been doing it since I moved here -- attend nearly every meeting, become a block captain, walk up and down knocking on doors getting people sign a petition to get speed bumps, make 5000 fish sandwiches on a cold November afternoon, sweep and pick up trash for several hours, watch kids on the Astro Jump so they wouldn't kill themselves, and escort a couple of college kids through the community getting people to fill out surveys and win a Wal-mart gift card.
I grew up in an all-white community. My church has recently been running a series on "sundown towns," which are designed to exclude minorities, either by making them feel unwelcome via town charter, redlining or other bureaucratic methods, or by outright threats of violence toward those who lingered. My hometown was such a place. But I grew up in the Civil Rights era and we were taught, on a consistent basis, that black people were the victims of evil whites. It was a very idealistic time. Some people I grew up with were prejudiced (especially the parents of my classmates) but I really had the idea that it was just a matter of people being nice to each other.
I still had very little interaction with black people until I was in my mid-30s. Every place I lived and worked was overwhelmingly white. This changed when my ex and I started our own retail-type business in an urban area and found ourselves hiring the people who lived there. We began to experience first-hand the complexities of social relationships. The good-guy/bad-guy lines weren't as clearly drawn as they were on the ABC Movie of the Week. Later, I went back into office life and the demographics this time around were different. I worked with and for African-Americans. This continued after the divorce when my resources were not as abundant as they had been, and I lived in lower-income areas. I had a sense of standing outside myself and wondering if it was okay to be annoyed at neighbors who wandered around at all hours of the night talking loudly and waking me up, and whose kids always seemed to be coming to the door asking for food and money. I started having thoughts like, we're all the same under the skin ... aren't we??
I worked in an office that was about 65% black, and there was an enormous amount of distrust between the races. Each group seemed to keep to itself. The rules in the place were very restrictive. Very little wiggle-room and it was ridiculously easy to get written up for stupid things. One manager said (in a whisper, of course) "If there weren't so many blacks here, we wouldn't have so many rules, but they take advantage every time." There were also whispers of "If a black person breaks a rule, we have to give them a pass the first time, otherwise we'll get sued for discrimination." There were people of both races who firmly believed that every person of the other persuasion was "out to get them."
So, here in this new town where I live now, I'm back to working in a nearly lily-white office. I know there are minorities in the company, but most of them seem to be in the warehouses in far-flung locations. My home, however, is in "the hood."
I really like where I live and have very few regrets. I remember the day the real estate agent drove us through this section. He knew better than to say anything negative. He probably thought it was strange that this midde-class looking white couple was specifically looking for a house here, but he didn't see our finances. We're not in the best shape. It's just a fact of life. I've never made any kind of big bucks and my husband's income fluctuates wildly. Neither of us is hugely interested in opulent living because neither of us ever lived that way. He was very poor. Shoes patched together with duct tape -- that kind of poor. Bad teeth, bad bones, bad nutrition -- that kind of poor. I did better because I was an only child and my parents sacrificed a lot for me, but neither of us was ever spoiled. The 13 years I was married to Doug are probably the closest I ever came to being "upscale," but he was incredibly stingy with me because I didn't earn as much as he and he didn't believe that the higher earner should pull most of the weight. So he stashed his money away and had plenty when we split. And I was too dumb to try going after it when we divorced. So I've basically struggled ever since. I like to think that I "could" have a lot more money if I were inclined to go after it, but truthfully, I'm content to be able to pay the bills on time and have a few modest goodies (panty hose without runs, Stouffers instead of Michelina's, high-speed internet) when I want them. I had no interest in a McMansion. The last house we had was 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom. This one is newer, and it has 2 bathrooms. There are many, many things that need improving here, but I am truly happy. I don't care what the neighbors look like. Actions are the only thing that matters, and the overwhelming majority of the people around here are good and decent. I accept that perspective and viewpoint are going to be different; I can't change history. But people are people; that's all there is to it.
So, we moved here pretty much knowing what to expect. My next-door neighbor, Paul, is a character. He's retired from a utility company and he's a terrible alcoholic. Keeps his yard a mess, but is trying the best he can to improve his house. His buds come over and work all day when the weather is nice. Then they take a break; out comes the bottle of moonshine and a six-pack of beer. The guys duck behind an old half-wrecked cinder-block toolshed instead of going inside to use the bathroom. But I feel a genuine warmth fro m him, his friends and his extended family and am happy to have him for a neighbor.
The people on the other side of us ... well, I have very little idea of who they are, because they just come and go like the tides. This time last year they were trying to fix the place up. But they had no phone and were coming to our door sometimes at 4am asking to use the phone, asking for food, even asking for clothes. We gave them hats, scarves and even jackets. I popped popcorn for them. Other people on the block said not to give them anything because they'd keep coming back.
Well, they eventually quit coming to the door, but we did find a few things missing off our back deck (before we got wise and started locking everything up). Still, no one seems to live there permanently. Someone brings in old cars (often big stretch limos) and keeps them in the driveway for months on end. Boats, too. The owner of the house lives somewhere else; he's 80-something and during the summer, he comes over, trades his walker for a lawnmower and cuts the grass. I think eventually the house will just be torn down. He'll likely die and the taxes will go unpaid, and that will be that.
One of my earliest friends in the neighborhood was named Rita. She always sat outside and when we first moved here, we enjoyed walking to the local stores and around the streets to explore. That's how I got to know Rita. We talked a bit; she had two sons and one of them, from what we could see, was sort of limited. He didn't have a job; he just pushed a shopping cart around, picking up aluminum cans and bottles. Rita told me she'd been recently diagnosed with some sort of heart condition.
Last year there was a series of arson incidents close enough to our house that we could see the flames over the rooftops. The neighborhood gossip reached us: "That strange kid with the shopping cart did it -- his mother passed and he just lost it." That was how I found out that Rita had died. I had just started getting to know Rita and felt a great pull of loss finding out that I'd never see her out on her front porch again. I have no idea what happened to her son.
The president of the neighborhood association spotted me sitting outside one morning and immediately started inviting me to meetings. I went out of curiosity to see what everyday life was like here. Most people were very welcoming and I slowly got to know who everybody was. There were a lot of different ways to be involved, so now here I am. However, I WILL NOT be available for another officer position next year. Enough is enough.
My involvement with this group has been very eye-opening. I get to hear what people are really thinking, and two sides of some very public debates.
This town is typical of many in this country wherein the people feel that the public schools are going downhill and parents should get vouchers so they can send their kids to private schools. But it's a chicken-or-egg type question:
Did the parents bail on the public schools because the schools were so bad, or,
Did the public schools go downhill because the parents bailed?
Then there's the "soft bigotry of lowered expectations," coupled with what the Suothern Poverty Lw Center calls the school-to-prison pipeline.
Deborah, who works for the non-profit, told our group today that she was at a local school for a program and while she waited, she saw one kid just wandering the halls. He'd peek in one classroom door, then move on to another, but spent an entire class period just wandering back and forth while all the other students were in assigned classes. When she asked the hall monitor about this kid, the teacher said nobody could make him go to class, so he just did whatever he wanted. Better he wander the halls than the streets. And when the kid went by, he'd peer at the hall monitor from under a cap and say "Sup." The hall monitor would respond, "Yo, sup." Deborah was outraged. "What's this 'sup' business? Why isn't that kid at least being taught to say "Hello," "How are you," "Yes" and "No?" The underlying belief is, if that were a white kid, he wouldn't get away with wandering the halls all day and speaking in monosyllables. The soft bigotry of lowered expectations says, you can't expect more of the black kids, and if you try to make them obey rules, you'll get accused of racism, and lose federal funding. Or there will be a riot, so just let it be.
And then what happens when Yo Sup turns 18 and has been socially promoted up through 12th grade? If he's very lucky, he'll get a minimum wage job and/or stay with his momma who will somehow find a way to keep a roof over their heads. Probably by working 12-hour days until she drops dead of renal failure at the age of 56.
Meanwhile the white parents complain because some of the Yo Sups aren't content to wander the halls. They have bigger issues such as guns and drugs. But then the SPLC claims that when these kids act out, they're just being set up for the prison pipeline. That's why I've been holding back money from that organization lately. I want to hear what they have to say about this issue. Do they really understand it in 3 dimensions? Anything less just sounds like they're making excuses. Click Here to Read More..
He's over 50 and has never done any other kind of work. His job prospects are very shaky. I hope he won't quit. He has a very juvenile side to him that always ends up costing money. I wish his aunt hadn't said anything about being able to loan him money. He keeps talking about it. He needs to get his shit together.
Click Here to Read More..
He may have a friend whose family will let him board with them for a few months.
I find it ironic -- and wonder if it's occurred to him -- that EVERY ONE OF HIS FRIENDS still lives at home with their parents. Click Here to Read More..
Friday, March 07, 2008
My results for the Blog Personality Test, found at:
Your Weblog Personality Type Analysis
Well, well, well...according to this survey, your answers most closely resemble those we would expect to hear from the following personality type, but bear in mind that you answered 25 percent of the questions in a manner that closely resembles the weblogger personality type described below. You might not resemble the following personality very much.
Congratulations! You're a totally normal person.
If you had a weblog, it'd probably be a great one!
Why are you even taking this survey? You're obviously completely normal. You probably look on weblogs with the same disdain shown by all people of your elite personal perfection, however, if you do like weblogs, I'm sure you have a damned good reason. Kudos to you for retaining some measure of sanity in this mixed-up, shook-up, fucked-up world. We thank you for taking time out of your busy normal life to look this survey over.Click Here to Read More..
Well, if you're "adult" enough to handle some serious irreverence and anti-religious sentiment, then help yourself to the mini-fridge and extend your stay. Otherwise, you'd best move on to some nicer person's blog.
I. DON'T. BELIEVE. IN. GOD.
Surprisingly, yes, I go to church, and it's a very liberal church bursting at the seams with atheists! And agnostics! And pagans! And freethinkers! And pantheists! And disillusioned ex-Christians! And gay people! And people from mixed marriages! And ethnic Jews! And Native Americans! And various combinations thereof!
And we all get along great! And the kids are well-adjusted! And we have FUN! And we get together and drink WINE! And BEER! And we DON'T say grace before, during or after the meal, unless someone feels like it and then that's their business! And plenty of us swear! And plenty of us don't! And when we run into each other on Tuesday, or Wednesday or Thursday, everybody behaves exactly the same way they did when you saw them on Sunday!
And some of us wonder, Did we come from somewhere? Are we gonna go somewhere after we die? Is there another chapter after this one ends? Was there something before this one started? Is it all a dream?
Some of us get together to share those questions, and plenty of others sit that discussion out. Instead, they wait for a good political debate.
I love the folks I go to church with. Before finding this place, I didn't go to church for about 5 years.
In 2002 I made a drastic change in the life I'd been living for the past 15 years. First, I stopped praying. Stopped saying "please" and "thank you" to some invisible entity that was supposed to hear me and care about me. Because every time I said please, I was sure NOT to get what I asked for. And if I got some little thing and said thank you, the next day the little thing was gone. I asked myself, what will happen if I don't pray? If I'm just honest and say, Hey, I wish something good would happen. And sure enough, that's exactly when things started improving in my life. I stopped going to church because I wasn't forming any meaningful friendships or relationships, no matter how much I wanted to. I was reserved and standoffish around my fellow congregants because I didn't quite trust them. I knew I wasn't letting my guard down and being myself for fear of being judged, and I assumed everybody else was playing the same game. And I stopped reading the Bible -- I'd already read through it once and attended countless Bible studies, and listened to Christian talk radio and watched the 700 Club and buried myself as far into Christianity as I possibly could and I ... still wasn't getting it. I didn't feel exalted, or special, or saved, or any better or cleaner or newer than I would have under any other circumstances. I tried. And tried. And stuck with it for 15 years and plodded along as best I could, thinking, I'm just a bad person and I'm so glad God loves me because I don't deserve it, blah, blahh, b l a a a a a a h h h h h........
But that day, 5 years ago, I sat up and said, No, I am not a bad person. I am a normal, flawed person, and I have it within ME to change that. If I make that my full-time job instead of delegating the work to someone whose credentials are questionable at best, I might get somewhere. At the very least, I will be in control of my life, in the driver's seat as it were, rather than feeling like a trusting hitchhiker who has just been kidnapped by Leatherface or Joan Crawford.
It took a fair amount of time to really cast off the religious shell that I'd constructed around myself. It was a gradual thing. It took even longer to realize that I needed to re-rethink my political and social views, because I had become quite conservative during my Christian period. My project was to go back to a time when I felt happy about myself and about my life, and it occurred to me that I am a social idealist who does not think less of poor people because they're poor or black people because they're black, or gay people because they're gay, or female people because they're female! I had to wonder, where the hell had I gone to?
So here I am, feeling like I've not only been let out of prison but found not guilty, acquitted, pardoned and issued an official apology by whoever put me in prison in the first place. You get out of a bad place, and in the midst of enjoying the good place, you find yourself feeling very, very sorry for the people who are still in the bad place. And you also get a little irritated and impatient with people who tell you how great it is on the inside. And very, very upset with people who make public statements about how everybody ought to be in the prison, and at the very least, everybody should have to wear prison clothes and eat prison food. Even those of us who aren't in there anymore, because, bless our hearts, we just don't know any better, and sooner or later, we'll find our way back in.
My ex-husband, Doug, is someone I dislike on a fairly consistent level. But on many, many occasions he expressed views of religion that I now heartily endorse. He said, religion is the greatest barrier to social progress ever invented. He said, religion sucks. And he was right.
Religion is: An invisible Barbie or Ken doll that you put visible clothes on. Or as Dawkins so bravely puts it, it's a FUCKING DELUSION!
Sorry -- but remember, this is adult content and YOU pushed the orange button.
Look, I'm the person who can look at a jigsaw puzzle that has a few pieces missing and say "Oh, what a nice landscape!" I don't have to have every last piece, every last mystery explained. I think the bravest thing in the world (another tip of the hat to the ex) is to say "I. DON'T. KNOW."
Try it -- it rolls off the tongue very nicely and --tip of hat to George Carlin -- I am still here typing this blog and therefore I was not "struck dead" for admitting that I DON'T KNOW how the universe originated, why at one point it wasn't there and then it was. I DON'T KNOW what happens to us after we die. I DON'T KNOW if there's some predetermined purpose that put us here. I have read James Hillman's The Soul's Code, and while the book has plenty of shortcomings, it makes extremely valid points. It's okay to not know the answers but to dream and speculate and imagine. I'm not ashamed to do it -- but there's a HUGE difference between doing that and declaring "I know all the answers right down to the last detail and/or if I don't have the answers, there's a person -- or a book -- that does." BULL. SHIT.
OK, I hear ya. I'll lighten up. Time for a comedy break:
Thank you for staying with me this far.
I spend time with a lot of people online and am acquainted with some hardliners who insist that they are here to "serve God." THOSE PEOPLE ANNOY ME. Other people who annoy me: People who are doing fine in their lives, or those who weren't at one point but then got straight and started making it work who say "I give all the glory to God."
Just for today, try giving the glory to YOU!
Just for today, try saying "I'm here to serve ME. And everything I care about. My family, my friends, certain things in the world that I wish to see improved, random strangers, etc etc." Personally, I find that much more motivating than mumbling some rote-memorized prayer, or talking into the air and really expecting some(one/thing) to answer you back.
Here's another link that I love to share:
It's very, VERY thought-provoking. And TRUE.
I could go on for hours with this. But if you've read other entries in this blog, you'll already know:
- I'm opinionated
- I'm somewhat curmudgeonly (at least here)
- My life isn't perfect by a long shot but --
- It's being lived as much ON MY TERMS as I can get it, and that's why I'm essentially a happy person and have to make a serious effort to keep up the snark.
Good night! Click Here to Read More..
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Three good things today:
The cold is pretty much gone, all praise ye, O Zicam Multisymptom Nighttime Liquid
I told Carl about Wally's current situation and feel better about that.
I'm going on a semi-expensive trip in June but am getting generously reimbursed for it.
Today will be another hectic day and the weather got cold again, but at least it's Thursday. Click Here to Read More..
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
I even discarded my diaries going all the way up through my late 20s, before Wally was born. From that time forward, there was some journaling, but not that much. I transitioned over to more of a log format -- just recording things that happened each day. That has proved surprisingly useful. But by and large, I've fallen away from the "emo" style of journaling.
I need to get some of it out of my system, I think. I caught myself doing it a bit on a message forum that I participate in. Last night I was in a fairly foul mood, and that might be PMS. I kind of let it rip and still feel a little uncomfortable saying those things to people who generally have a good opinion of me. What I basically said was -- the question was 'what do you think is the meaning of life' or some such -- that life sometimes has too much meaning, and the casual conversation you have today can go so badly wrong, you're feeling the repercussions for years to come. I also expressed the opinion that life ought to get a bit easier and simpler to figure out as we age, but instead, these stupid potholes in the road just seem to appear out of nowhere and you're back to square one. There are days when life seems like more of a struggle than it needs to be.
Again, my overall state of mind is not a negative one. I had one huge depression that lasted 4 years, and then it lifted. I did go to a therapist, but she was a disaster; I considered reporting her to the American Psychological Association. The thing that got me out of the dumps was having a few key things start going right (or less wrong at least) and building on that.
I also need to mention here that I "lost my religion" about 5 and a half years ago. I had been a born-again Christian for 15 years and one day I just stopped. Just like that. I got tired of waiting for "God" to do something for me. I got tired of saying "Thank you" for whatever little crumbs of good luck came along, only to find them taken back a day or two later. This was during a long stretch of unemployment. I have not been unemployed that way since. I decided that EVERYTHING in my life was going to be MY responsibility. No one else's. No God, no people, nobody but me. I don't find it that daunting to accept the blame when things go wrong. It keeps me focused and shortens the time needed for absorbing events and learning from them.
I belong to a free-thought church, which I joined almost on impulse but have greatly enjoyed. I have some small curiosity about matters of the spirit, but my exploration of those will be entirely on my terms.
Okay, on to the next topic. I'm active in my neighborhood association, having been asked by several members to serve on the executive committee. I seem to be having trouble with "TL," who is also on the committee. She's the one I have the most contact with, and I'm starting to get the impression that she's a moody type. She will text or e-mail me something, and when I respond with a question about what she said, I get no answer. I mean, we're having a back & forth conversation, and suddenly, it's like space aliens came along and snatched her off the earth. I won't hear a peep out of her for days. She's either very moody or very scatter-brained. Either way, it's tedious to work with her.
Okay, that seems to have gotten it out of my system, at least for now. This may be blogspot's most depressing blog ever. We'll see...
Click Here to Read More..
His closest friend's father still won't let him move in. He must be a hell of a lousy houseguest. i know he was a perpetual slob when he lived with me, from the earliest age. I have enough trouble keeping my own space orderly without nagging someone else about it. But overall, I'm really not that messy. I let it get to a certain point and then it has to be straightened out. But Wally goes way past that point. And then he wonders why half the time, he can't find his things. I tried to tell him, you don't have to be compulsively orderly. Just designate "zones" for things. For example, make a decision that when you take your billfold out of your pocket, it will go somewhere on the "left" side of the room, or somewhere near the window, etc. That way you get used to finding something in an approximate place, and as time goes on, it will become a habit to put things in more specific places. I don't know that he ever caught on to any of this.
Carl never had a problem being a constant nag; it's the kind of thing he lives for.
I've decided to start adding in the stories Carl tells me about the establishment where he works.
He calls me most mornings from there after I get up, often with a quick sound-bite describing the goings-on there.
"So I go into the bar area, and there's the night manager, sucking on some girl's titty for 13 bucks. And she's on top of him, like some kind of...
"I can't go on working in this place. It's so fucking stupid. And none of the work has been done. I come in after two shifts, and they leave it all for me to fix. I just can't stand this place; I am so over it!"
Click Here to Read More..
Saturday, March 01, 2008
But the problems didn't go away. Carl and I, meanwhile, were finally gaining a bit of financial ground, and had found a place, not too far from where we were, that we decided we'd like to live in. There were a few hurdles to overcome, but we felt that this move could end up being the last one for a long time.
Right around the time we made the decision and began the preparations to sell the house, I began getting e-mails from Doug. The situation with Wally had not improved. Doug was worried that the tension would kill his marriage, and he was very committed to his wife. Since I was available and obviously very fond of Wally, Doug was thinking that if things didn't get better, Wally would have to move back in with me.
The next six months were a three-ring circus. We were trying to sell the house we were in, buy a house in the other town, and prepare for the possibility of Wally coming to live with us. By this time, I was very worried about Wally, because Doug had escalated things to the point that Wally was using a prescription medication that is commonly prescribed for psychosis. He, Doug, and Doug's wife had participated in several sessions of group and individual therapy to cope with the conflicts between them. None of it seemed to do any good. Her son, by the way, had moved in with his father just before the wedding, and reportedly, he was not doing well, either. There was talk of heavy drug use.
At one point, Carl and I concluded that the move was not meant to happen, because we'd been derailed in our efforts to sell the house. We'd also been unsuccessful in negotiating the purchase of a house in the other city. It became a solid agreement that Wally would move back with us during the Christmas break in 10th grade.
I knew how miserable Wally was, having to leave the place he'd come to think of as home and move back to a home where he'd be picked on incessantly by Carl and where he'd feel completely out of place. But I was also feeling protective of Wally, half believing that Doug had backed him into a corner and put so much pressure on Wally that Wally was now half out of his mind.
We made arrangements for Wally to come and live with us, reconfiguring the spare room that was once his when he lived with us. We knew Wally’s sloppy habits hadn’t changed and were hoping to enable some improvement. Boxes began arriving from New Jersey, containing random items from Wally’s room. I didn’t know if they’d been piled in there by Wally or his father.
When Wally got off the plane, he looked like he was in shock. It was all he could do to keep from crying. I did my best to comfort & cheer him, but he was silent all the way back to the house. Finally, he let his misery out a little. The happy core of his life was not in my home or his father’s; he felt like his real self among his friends, and in school. Without those two elements, he just drifted.
At the house, we tried to establish routines and rules, though without more than one or two friends, and those living some distance away, he had little to do.
We enrolled him in school, and he did the best he could to maintain a routine. But he couldn’t get over the contrasts between the entire environment here versus what he’d gotten used to. North vs. South, English-Irish and African-American Christian versus Jewish and Italian Catholic, lower midde-class versus affluent. He hated his new school and had nothing good to say about any of it. But he did the best he could to conform to our expectations; he was so miserable and depressed, it was easier to just drag himself through the day instead of trying to assert himself.
However, as the months went by, things did change gradually. After about 2 or 3 weeks he asked me if I would mind if he stopped using the prescribed medication. I said it was up to him. He’d already cut the doses in half because a full dose made him sleepy. When he stopped taking the pills, the difference was a subtle one. There was more sarcasm, a bit more “attitude.” But it wasn’t anything radical. He was an intelligent teenager who didn’t want to be where he was.
Soon after Wally arrived, we finally got a solid offer on our house. We soon took another trip up to our prospective new home, found a house and got both transactions rolling.
We’d been through this two other times, and decided to stay put until Wally’s school year ended. The people who were buying our house certainly would have preferred to have us move sooner, but they understood what we needed and agreed.
I would so have loved to make this last move without having to uproot Wally yet again, but due to Doug’s insistence (or his wife’s) on having Wally move out of their place as soon as possible, we had no choice. So once again, we were packing his things and getting him ready for yet another school.
Wally wasn’t completely miserable because he had found a job at a store within walking distance of the house. I discovered something about my son: He had inherited some of his father’s workaholic tendencies. In the two months or so between moving here and getting the job, he had resolved that one way or another, his time with Carl and me was going to be kept to an absolute minimum, and his single purpose in life would be to move himself back to the Northeast. He did reasonably well in school, but the job became all-important. He put in for as many hours as he could, even though he wasn’t even 17 yet. Like most business owners, his manager was more than happy to accept the services of someone who was willing to work 7 days a week.
Carl and I had plenty to keep us occupied as we finalized the plans for the move, which was to take place over Memorial Day weekend. We saw very little of Wally, who went directly from school to work, calling me at the end of the work day to pick him up. We noted with some dismay that his room was the usual chaos – he had done nothing to pack or organize, and all of that was left to us. At one point, we gave him a hard time about it, and he made no bones about telling us that the only thing he cared about was making enough money to save up and go back up north. He worked through the weekend, and I had to take time from setting things up in the new place to make the 150-mile drive to get him from work and bring him to our new home.
He was only with us for two weeks; he had saved up enough money to spend the summer back with his friends, and he did. And so we had a bit of breathing space in setting up the new house, finding ourselves jobs and relaxing before Wally came back to start his junior year of high school.
After a fairly peaceful, quiet summer, the pace picked up when Wally returned. We soon learned that our new city had a school system in chaos. Most parents who could afford it put their kids into private school. This was something completely new to Carl, to Wally, and to me: None of us had ever known anything but public schools. We looked at our choices and reluctantly decided to let Wally continue at the school he’d been assigned to. He was clearly not happy, but he was more determined than ever that this would be the last year he spent with us; his goals were to get a job and head back north for his senior year.
The fall was rough; he and Carl got along even worse than they had before. Carl was protective of this new house we’d moved into. He didn’t want anything messed up, and Wally was a professional messer-upper. I’m sure that much of Wally’s piggy habits were his way of expressing his contempt for Carl and for me, to a lesser extent. He refused to do chores and basically just wanted to stay in his room unless he wanted something from me. He ate in his room and left used forks, dishes and cups there. Carl would go in there regularly and “inspect,” which infuriated Wally. Their constant bickering left me so drained and defeated, that often I would come home from work and get into bed, where I would stay, reading, with the door closed, in order to avoid having to witness any of it. On two separate occasions, Carl provoked Wally to the point that Wally took his fist and pounded large holes in our walls. Spackling only covered them slightly. Carl called the police, but the officer had little sympathy for Carl. There was now a considerable amount of tension between Carl and me.
After the last incident, it seemed like a good idea for Wally and me to get out of town for a few days. We went to visit my best friend and her husband, who lived in a rural part of the Midwest. I was interested to see how Wally would respond to this type of quiet, peaceful environment. It wasn’t upscale or the opposite; it was an atmosphere he’d never had the opportunity to experience. We had a good time for three and a half days; Wally seemed to enjoy the new sights and sounds and this did my heart good.
My friend’s husband invited Wally to go out and target-shoot, which rural folks do on a regular basis. They had enough land to do this safely.
It was a beautiful late-fall day. We had planned to go back home that afternoon, but agreed to stay an extra day so we could meet some of my friend’s neighbors. Ultimately, I wished I’d stuck to the original schedule. The day (and the trip) ended badly. My friend’s husband came back to the house with Wally clinging to his shoulders. He’d managed to shoot himself in the foot with a .22 pistol. Wally could never adequately explain how he’d done it. It seemed he was just “zoning out” as he would sometimes do, and with the gun in his hand and his finger on the trigger, he gave it a squeeze and ended up with a bullet embedded in the bone.
We spent the next several hours at the hospital; they decided not to surgically remove the bullet for a number of reasons. It would have been a complicated and painful procedure; we were hundreds of miles from home and the doctors felt such a decision should be made there; I also didn’t have much insurance beyond inpatient, since I was still working temp.
Once again, I found myself in a confused haze, back in the “one step at a time” mode. Early the next morning we departed, with Wally propped in the back of my SUV, sleeping most of the way, taking painkillers. I met up with my sister-in-law coming back from her own visit to a friend and we were able to keep each other company via cell phone for most of the trip.
I never asked Doug for any money to defray Wally’s medical expenses, but Doug suddenly assumed the role of protective, righteous parent and threatened to have my friends arrested or sued for negligence. I had no intention of getting them into any trouble, and as a result, Doug cut off the minimally adequate child support payments he’d been sending. He and I had never had a formal support agreement, and therefore it was difficult if not impossible to go through legal channels to get any money from him.
I was able to meet the medical expenses by taking a withdrawal from my IRA. A doctor categorically advised Wally not to opt for surgery: the bullet was firmly embedded and not causing any ongoing problems. Surgery would endanger blood vessels, nerves and bone and create an infection risk. After two months, Wally didn’t even limp anymore, so we were all in agreement that he got off very lucky. But it was just another example of Wally’s occasionally erratic and inexplicable behavior. I found myself wondering if the prescription he’d brought down with him might have prevented this episode, but Wally was utterly resistant at considering going back on those meds.
It took him a surprisingly long time to find a job; he was already into the second semester of the term when something finally came up. I was willing to pick him up late at night when he finished. He still managed to keep up his grades, and that was enough to tell me that the school offered no academic challenges. His year living here cemented his impressions that the South was not for him. One thing I was able to offer him was driving instruction, and he did pretty well with that. In due time, he got his license.
Once he got the job, things moved very fast. Electronic gadgets were kind of an obsession with Wally. He always had his eye on a “better” cell phone, iPod, stereo system. But the cell phone and iPods frequently got lost or broken. As a rule, he didn’t take care of things. He seemed to think everything was disposable. Enjoy it for awhile, but if it gets dirty or broken, you toss it out and get something better. Still, I knew he needed to keep in touch with people, so I got him a nice cell phone and put him on my plan.
Soon, the school year was nearly over and so was the term of his learner’s permit. He was eager to get his license, and then came the time to find him a car. He wasn’t sure how he was going to handle the everyday details of living up North, but he was going to do it one way or the other. There was no point in trying to stop him. He would be turning 18 in just a few months.
He had some money saved up and began inquiring about rooms for rent. We found him a used car at a dealership where you made weekly payments and if you fell behind, the engine was coded not to start. Wally made the down payment and I agreed to make the weeklies for about two years. However, the car was in bad shape, beyond what we were aware. It malfunctioned almost immediately, delaying Wally’s departure for over a week.
But depart, he did, in the usual rush. I saw him at lunch; we hugged goodbye; I went back to work and by the time I got home, he was gone.
A few weeks later I drove up to see him and bring whatever large possessions he’d left behind. He had gotten a rented room and was still looking for work, but he still had his savings.
That fall, the car died; his father leased him a better one and I agreed to pay for the insurance, which was much steeper than what I’d been paying on the policy we got him down here. He started school, found a job, and was relatively stable, but his decisions were still costing me quite a bit of money. The new cell phone broke, but not before he rang up more than $180 in extra calls. So I was paying retroactively for the calls and monthly service on a phone that no longer existed, with a 2-year contract that could only be cancelled with another large outlay. My own finances began to edge into the scarcity zone and were only rescued by a fortuitous year-end bonus at work and another withdrawal from my retirement funds.
But there was more bad news, which brings us about up to where we are now. Wally lost his job. He moved from the first boarding house into another less expensive one, but could not make the rent payments and began making excuses. He did not have a formal lease and the landlord played hardball, keeping his possessions as collateral until he could pay. The options, as Doug pointed out to him, were a) drop out of school and work full time; b) move back down south, or c) move in with Doug, who had moved from the previous home to another state around the time that Wally moved back in with us two years previously. Wally rejected every one of these … and now he’s homeless, living in his car. I have no idea what he’s going to do . The part of the country where he lives has been swept by the serial snowstorms that have been in the news.
And that’s the story of my son. I feel utterly helpless when it comes to Wally, and feel like a dismal failure as a parent.Click Here to Read More..