Friday, July 17, 2015

My Favorite Nephew

I have one sibling, my younger sister. My sibling has had three children, all of whom are dogs. These are the nieces and nephews I get, and so I love them. Or I have loved them.

Let's back things up. For most of my life I was terrified of dogs. My dad got bitten by one when he was a kid and therefore any time a dog neared me, he started yelling, hiding me, and otherwise protecting me from potential teeth. I didn't even realize that until I was an adult and he did the same for my daughter.

My sister knows this, and so when she and her husband adopted a rottweiler puppy, I was kept in the loop. I got to see pictures of the litter as soon as it was born, got to see a tiny thing turn into something big enough to romp, and they took the puppy to visit me and my then-toddler daughter. I was called over to visit regularly and any time the dog started a growth spurt. My sister and my first niece got me over my fear of dogs.

Then my sister adopted a boy, also a rottweiler. Whereas my niece was from a line of working dogs, my nephew was from a line of show dogs. I was kept in the loop just the same with him, from his birth through his growth into a dog who would have been show-perfect if not for a very slight underbite.

Both dogs were well-behaved. They were trained in agility to stay healthy and they were cuddled and loved. They were most definitely family.

My sister's small family was growing with the adoption of another high-energy niece when their first died of cancer. They'd heard about a link between spaying/neutering and cancer, so they left their boy intact as long as possible before neutering him.

He completed what his older sister started. She got me over my fear of dogs of any size or breed, and he was so mellow and so cuddly that I actually grew to like dogs. I'm considering having a dog some day, when I can afford to raise one well.

Then he began having occasional seizures. He was such an easygoing dog that he got to expect the attention he got afterward. He'd be shaky, but he'd get up and head for the bathroom for a warm, relaxing bath and a nice rubdown, then he'd cuddle into a nap.

This is more than just my sister's dog died, for all of the above and more. My five-and-a-half year old nephew died today. He was allowed free reign in the house while my sister and her husband were at work because he was trustworthy. His little sister stayed in her kennel during work hours, except for a lunch break at home. He was found dead lying outside her kennel.

I know you're not supposed to have favorites, but he was mine.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Nervescitement on Steroids

You may have noticed that my Facebook page says I'm in a relationship. Normally when it says that it's because I just felt like messing with the settings, but it happens to be true at the moment.

This long-distance relationship is my first relationship since my failed marriage and I'm on the edge between eagerness and straight-up panic. This is nervescitement on steroids.

Let's go over my past relationships. I fell head over heels in love with my first S.O. while we were in high school. We had a great deal of *ahem* fun together without actually losing our virginity. Family pressures and the waning of that first huge rush of adoration led to a breakup after two years.

Then there's my ex-spouse. I never really felt much physical attraction, but I loved X. Unfortunately a week after the vows were spoken I was no longer worth impressing. My new spouse jumped immediately into unemployment, stopped showering, and started lying. Somehow my full time factory job wasn't enough to pay $200 per month rent and still have enough left over for utilities.

Physical relations were unpleasant. I tried everything I could think of to make it better, but X had no interest in my happiness. It quickly became something I did in the hopes of not being cheated on. After all, I was told often how my X's exes wanted to hurt me for taking this prize specimen. So I'd spend days beforehand working myself up,  trying to get interested and bracing myself for the event. Then I'd see how many Pok√©mon I had memorized.

I had no driver's license, no friends, and rarely saw people outside work. I would call in sick when X didn't feel like driving. I would fend off accusations that I was cheating, but I was never anywhere that I hadn't specifically been taken. I was driven to work, picked up, and taken home.

If not for my daughter I'd have stayed longer, but during her first month of life, when she was fed through a tube and hardly moved, X wanted to use the time off to go explore the city, to go shopping and eat out. I wanted to sit by my child and pray she lived. When we three got home together, I sat by the bassinet and did all the physical therapy the nurses had shown us while X went back to video game marathons.

Then one night X walked into the living room with the biggest knife we had.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm going to kill myself."

"Go put that knife away now and go to the bedroom."

Let me pause here. My X threatened suicide now and then when I was giving something else too much attention. It was really only a few times during our marriage, but that knife got put away with no fuss whatsoever. Just a melodramatic sigh on the way to the bedroom. I'd been catching lies for months and the style of manipulation was starting to show.

To make a long story short, I moved out while X was in the Stress Unit at the hospital. I said that all I wanted before coming back was for my X to have a job and hold onto the house for a couple months. Naturally X moved right in with family and started convincing people that the whole marriage was a sham so I could get a baby.

Here’s a good one:

"I filed for divorce last week."

"Does this mean we can see other people?"

"Yes. We can see other people."

Fourteen years later, X is remarried and I've been on a total of one date. I've also developed a fear of losing my common sense to a relationship. I haven't pursued anyone. I've been torn between wanting a significant other for romantic or physical affection and the two years I spent loathing the whole thing. It seems impossible that a relationship so short in the scheme of things and so long ago would still tear at me like this. Then I remember that I still have to deal with him and the mind games he plays on behalf of our daughter.

But on to my new relationship and how the hell that happened. My best friends are people I've met online. I'm in a rural area where writing and the arts aren't valued, and those happen to be things I love. I've written forum-based role play for years. I create characters with depth, send them off to places I can't afford to go, research these places to get a feel for them. My characters develop, face their fears.

My friends and I have written couples who fought, loved, married, and had children. Friends, enemies and lovers, in whatever combinations. It gets intense. Feelings started to happen with a friend. Hints were dropped and it all came out. 

I'm so afraid of messing something up that I keep reflexively falling back on the idea that I'd better please or I'm going to lose everything. I know it's not true, this friend has stuck with me through bouts of horrible depression, has talked me down from suicidal thoughts despite the toll I know it takes on others. We've argued, we've made up, it's an awesome friendship.

This friend didn’t push. There was eagerness and a power behind the want to try that's everything I could have wanted. Someone who can tell when I need encouraged and won't get offended when I half panic.

I hope the panic passes. It should, right? When I still don't get friend-dumped me for being scared I should be okay? I want to be what someone wants so badly that I forget what I want. Being single has helped me grow as an individual, but I need to figure out how to function with a plus-one.

This info dump deserves a story.

One time, at the cheese factory, they got me a cake to congratulate me on my daughter, but by first break the maintenance crew had eaten half of it. There was a guard next to the box when I walked in. It was pretty funny.

Monday, January 26, 2015


I actually quit my job. Sort of.

It was more like I stopped going, a la Office Space. I really didn't like it and uh, I just didn't go. For the first four or five days, I called in. I went through the time and effort of dialing their 1-800 number, went through all the prompts, connected to my store, and told management I wouldn't be in. They never ask why because there's no such thing as an excused absence; even if you bring in a doctor's note, you still weren't there.

So I didn't go. And a week later when I finally got to see my doctor, she told me I've probably got mild carpal tunnel. She said that if I take care of myself, I won't need surgery and it can heal on its own.

I was so happy to have an answer to something that I drove to Smile Central and hunted down the store manager.

"I need to talk about my employment status. If I haven't been fired, I need to quit."

Imagine all that said by someone radiating energy and joy. I was told I'd been removed from the system and the worst part is that you didn't even call in!

Yeah yeah, whatever. "I'm going to do my graphic design, so no hard feelings?" Still grinning, of course. "I'll just clean out my locker. Bye!"


At this point in winter I'm usually reminding myself why I should stay alive. Instead, I feel free. That job was sucking out my soul. I worked between 12 and 36 hours per week (depending on their whim) running back and forth pushing, lifting, twisting, and getting lectured for whatever anyone in the department had forgotten to do. I was paid minimum wage, got no benefits, and worked until eight or nine at night, random days of the week and every weekend. I'd get two, maybe three days off per week, but not consecutively, and it was exhausting. I only saw my daughter when sending her to school and putting her to bed, and I was in so much pain that most of that time was spent arguing.

During my week of not going to work, I decided that I could be poor, uninsured and miserable or I could be poor, uninsured and doing something I love. I realize that I will be more poor now, as getting things going won't be quick or easy, but this time I'm ready for it.

This time I'm going to get myself settled as a freelancer instead of caving to pressure to have a real job. Parenthood is a real job too, and it's the most rewarding one I've had. I will work while my daughter's at school or asleep and be home for her all day, rest when I need to rest, sprint when I can, and enjoy the hell out of life.

I'm tired of hoping in silence. I'm going to try hoping out loud for a change.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Just Keep Going

Sometimes it feels like life is a game of chicken. Who'll pull me out of it first, me or God? If all I can do is force myself to stay alive out of bitterness to a deity I'm not sure I believe in, at least I keep going.

If all I've got is a fear that, worse than hell, there's absolutely nothing, no existence at all if I died, then I use that fear to keep going. The thought that I could blink out of existence entirely is terrifying. It's what got me through last winter. Any time I started feeling like ending things would solve my problems, or at least take the need to make decisions out of my hands, I thought of that.

I've passed out due to my mind simply moving too quickly and too chaotically before, but I wake up. I've gotten to the point where I was afraid to sleep for the nightmares before. I hate it because it's just every hellish thing from being awake exaggerated into more hell. No escape.

I've had so many dreams ripped away from me. So here I am, playing chicken with God. I just have to live long enough for him to give up and kill me, then I win. Every day I don't kill myself, I win.

Just keep going is my best advice, for me, and for everyone else who feels trapped in a personal hell.

Just keep going.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Hard Day's Night

I realized I was standing in the store I work at in the middle of the night. I'd obviously come to get something, but I couldn't remember what, nor could I remember how I'd gotten there. There were other customers around, considering the store is open 24/7, so no one was looking at me weird, but I felt weird. Intensely so.

Had I been asleep? It's scary realizing you've just woken up somewhere. I had to have gotten in my car and driven from home, and the biggest relief I had besides the fact that I'd obviously made it alive was that my daughter is with her other parent this weekend. I could have just left my daughter alone in the middle of the night. I could have caused a car accident, could have killed someone, could have died.

I puttered, reeling, around the store. Since I was there, maybe I'd buy something. Maybe I'd remember what I had come for. I was certainly in no condition to drive. I ran into a few people I've worked with and gave watery smiles, all the while trying to hold onto sanity.

At the checkout, I noticed the registers had all been changed during my day off. I hadn't heard anything about a remodel and didn't like it. It looked a lot more complicated than it needed to be. A couple managers showed up, offered me some snacks they'd had in the back for whatever employees wanted them, and I took one, all the while still trying to figure out what I was doing.

This is the kind of dream I regularly have. It's hard to separate from reality for the most part, and I'm left feeling off-kilter for the rest of the day. I'll be going to work soon and I'll see all these people and feel like I'm insane and if they just thought about it they'd know because they saw something bizarre and didn't recognize it.

My job has eaten my life. I dream about it, think about it, worry about it, and get one day off twice a week instead of an actual weekend. Some people like getting two breaks, but one day isn't enough for me to shake things off and relax because there's something fundamentally wrong with my brain. At least, that's the way it feels.

I haven't contemplated suicide this winter, which is good, but that's less because I like my life and more because I found a question to ask myself that scares me too much to want to find out: What if there's no heaven or hell and death just erases us from existence? The idea of disappearing entirely scares me more than eternal hellfire, and I'll take that.

I'll take it and my feelings of insanity to work, and I'll be quiet all day. I'll work, I'll jump every time someone walks up behind me, and every time I try to smile politely, people will give me a look that says I'm not fooling anyone.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I'll Clean it for You

I'm looking at the mess on my daughter's bedroom floor, and I can hear my mother's voice in my head: Clean this up now, or I'll go in with a trash bag and clean it for you. I generally kept my room clean, partly because I liked it that way and partly because I wasn't sure whether or not it was an empty threat. My mom, after all, would make a spur-of-the-moment threat reality on occasion, no matter how overboard a punishment it might be, so that we knew she was serious. She never changed her mind, and never apologized. I was grounded for two weeks for 'refusing' to eat stew one night, even though I changed my mind as soon as I saw the look on her face.

I was never entirely sure if the threat to clean our bedrooms with a trash bag was true or not, but I didn't worry about it. I was terribly jealous of my younger sister, however, because when her room got to be too badfor example when the floor pile reached knee height and she needed to jump from the door onto her bedmy mother would clean it. My sister would get home from a slumber party and her floor would be visible. My sister would be wide-eyed for a brief time and then cocky about her special treatment, and I would sulk enviously.

One day my sister was gone and I was passing her bedroom to go somewhere. Our mother was crouched on the bedroom floor with a huge black trash bag and a stretched-to-the-point-of-breaking look on her face. She looked up at me with wide, angry eyes and held up some random toy.

"Does your sister play with this?"

My eyes widened as far as they'd go. My mother was not someone to be trifled with, especially when she was angry, and I didn't want any backlash, no sirree. I looked at the toy, shook my head, pointed out a couple others, and scrammed.

My sister remembers getting home that day. I must have been hiding somewhere, because I don't. Apparently the second she walked into the house she knew something was up. There were both our parents waiting for her with that look on their faces.

"I cleaned your room," our mother said, and my sister's heart skipped. "It will never happen again."

No further explanation was needed. My sister's room was spotless, she didn't know what was missing, and all I'd say was that yes, there was a trash bag involved. I didn't want to get on her bad side for my moment of cooperation, and I didn't want her getting upset about things I hoped she wouldn't miss.

It was months before she went looking for some random thing and couldn't find it. I would neither verify nor negate that it had gone into the trash bag. I'm not even sure how much our mother threw away, because my instincts said hide until they drag you out for dinner.

Back to the present. We've recently moved and my daughter hasn't unpacked anything that I didn't unpack for her. She spent two weeks playing Barbies in her room, and then when the third box of toys arrived from storage, her room got too full to enjoy and she stopped going in except to go to change clothes and sleep. I have two hours before I need to pick her up from school, and a box of black trash bags. Some of the stuff in her boxes has been in storage nearly four years, and chances are she wouldn't miss it.

I guess I'll find out.

Monday, August 26, 2013

1 Weird Trick to Looking Good in Photos

I recently read a blog post about incredible transformation photos. You know what I'm talking about; an ad for some diet aid or light food shows before and after photos of people who used to be lumpy and are now utterly svelte. I could tell you how to transform yourself, but I think I'll start off with proof directly from the source, who proved it.

Says MelVFitness:

"Check out my transformation! It took me 15 minutes. Wanna know my secret? Well firstly I ditched the phonewallet (fwallet) cause that shit is lame, swapped my bather bottoms to black (cause they're a size bigger & black is slimming), Smothered on some fake tan, clipped in my hair extensions, stood up a bit taller, sucked in my guts, popped my hip- threw in a skinny arm, stood a bit wider, pulled my shoulders back and added a bit of a cheeky/Im so proud of my results smile. Zoomed in on the before pic- zoomed out on the after & added a filter. Cause filters make everything awesome. What's my point? Don't be deceived by what you see in magazines & on Instagram.. You never see the dozens of other pics they took that wernt as flattering. Photoshop can make a pig look hotter then Beyonce."

That's right, fifteen minutes to a slimmer, fitter you, using this one weird trick.

There are other tricks. Resting your weight on one leg rather than both is one, and another is stretching your neck forward a bit toward the camera. From the side you might look a bit like E.T., but in the picture it'll smooth out your neck and jaw. Wear clothes that skim your figure instead of being overly loose or tight. If you want to play with the big dogs hire a tailor for everything down to t-shirts and sweats.

There are people who make careers out of posing people (or being posed). Models and photographers don't just stand there and take pictures, there's work that goes into it all. If you put in that kind of work, you could look amazing too. Or you could stop worrying so much.

Almost every photo of my mother when I was growing up was actually a photo of her palm facing the camera to block out her face. She was a little overweight, reasonably pretty, and somewhat obsessed with her appearance. Even on weekends she put on makeup before wandering around the house.

I read something recently that claims "Real Women Have Curves" is doing damage, and I believe it. It took me years and years to accept that my shape isn't the one that's currently fashionable, and this applies no matter your sex or gender. Even if I lose every ounce of fat on my body I still won't be shaped like someone in a magazine because not everyone is built with a broad chest, narrow hips, a tiny waist, or legs twice the length of their torso. Buying mass-produced clothing would imply otherwise, but it's not true.

"Real women do not have curves. Real women do not look like just one thing.

"Real women have curves, and not. They are tall, and not. They are brown-skinned, and olive-skinned, and not. They have small breasts, and big ones, and no breasts whatsoever."

It continues in much the same way, the point being that people aren't all shaped the same. At all.

Guess what; the models in lingerie ads aren't the same ones you see on runways. Runway models are typically tall and slender. They're supposed to look like walking hangers so you look at the clothes. They're still real people, just tall, lanky ones who may or may not be pressured by their careers to eat little and stay slim. Lingerie models are shorter and curvier than them, but still pressured to stay fit.

What you see isn't the one version of perfection that so many people think it is.

So you can hide from the camera when you're not feeling attractive or pop your hip, stretch out your neck, suck in your gut and try to look like a model, or you can decide it's just not worth it.

Take my rant and search photography/modeling tricks or give yourself a look and decide that maybe you look like a person, like everyone else.

Discussion/comments are welcome.