unexpected events

Writing prompt: An unexpected event

This prompt is more stymying than expected. I’ve found myself turning it over in my head, trying to think of something unexpected which has recently occurred (besides my dog almost dying), and I can’t really think of anything. Nothing big, anyway—there are the usual small things. Coupons in the mail I didn’t expect, an unplanned-for phone call, a last-minute change of schedule. But those aren’t really “events”. Those are just … life. The heyday of the everyday.

I am a routine sort of person. I like routines; the predictability of them. I like schedules. I enjoy the soothing reliability of to-do lists, check boxes, and calendars breaking up the day’s hour-by-hour. I am the type of person who, when working, likes to leave the house at the same time each morning. I usually know what I want to order before I’ve ever looked at the menu—oftentimes before I’ve entered the restaurant.

It’s not that I’m unadventurous. Or maybe it is? I don’t see why that’s a bad thing, honestly. I enjoy stability and reliability. It’s not that I can’t handle surprises or I’m incapable of going with the flow. It’s more that … I guess it’s that I’ve had my fill of instability, and now I prefer the comfort and reassurance of a routine.

The result is a life with very few unexpected events. Over the past year, the most unexpected event that comes to mind is our dog almost dying.

The unexpected event of 2015 was … hmmmm. I guess our spur-of-the-moment trip to San Francisco? We were sitting in the living room talking about my husband’s upcoming weekend—I think it was a 3 or 4-day weekend—and he said he wanted to do something different, like drive straight to San Francisco. While he was talking, I started googling touristy stuff in San Francisco, and looked at Alcatraz. There were tickets available for Sunday afternoon, and I said, “Hey, we can buy tickets to Alcatraz.”

So we bought the tickets, packed the car, and drove down. It was about a 10 hour drive. We arrived shortly before a friend flying in from England to go to Burning Man landed, which was serendipitous. That first night, we ended up sleeping in the car (which was broken into on the street the next day). The following night, we stayed at a campsite a few miles outside the city, and the third night we camped at Crater Lake. It was a really fun trip.

No unexpected events come to mind for 2014 or 2013, happily.

2012 was the Year of the Psycho Neighbor– an unexpected and surreal situation which ended with physical assaults on our family, broken bones, and us having to a file a restraining order. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced—the more we tried to shut ourselves away from them and detach entirely, the more frothy-at-the-mouth this guy got. “Unexpected” somehow doesn’t seem strong enough for how baffling and unreal it was.

You hear about harassment situations, but it’s hard to comprehend how intensely off some people actually are until you actually have to deal with someone like that … there’s always some part of you that secretly, deep down, thinks, “Oh, I could’ve handled them. I could’ve talked ‘em down.” No. It turns out some people can’t be handled. Some people can’t be talked down. Some people are just unhinged.

Nothing unexpected in 2011 or 2010, happily.

In 2009, a family member passed away, beloved to those I love dearly. I was fond of the family member, but did not know them well, due to long illness and the nature of said illness. Even so, the actual death was a shock, and a devastation of grief crashed in the wake of it. The influence of their life, love, and childcare has rippled across our lives in countless ways large and small.

In 2008, I was in my first motorcycle accident. I’d had my learner’s permit for two months, and was riding my yellow Ninja 250 home from a practice ride. A white van ran a stop sign and t-boned me. It was a 45 mph street, but I was going a little under the speed limit. The white van left the scene. I came to surrounded by strangers, with a man asking if I could wiggle my toes. I asked where my motorcycle was, and he told me they were setting it upright—that it was unharmed. The police arrived before the ambulance. I had a mild concussion. The ambulance was blue instead of fire-truck red, so I refused a ride to the hospital. I found my helmet on the side of the road, and an officer asked if I was sure I could ride home. I explained my house was less than 5 minutes away, and I didn’t want to pay $1000 for an ambulance ride when my husband could just drive me to the hospital. They offered to escort me to the house, so I accepted, which is how I came to end one a practice ride with a police escort.

In 2007, my husband was riding his motorcycle to work on Black Friday when a car t-boned him. He had just come out of the 15 mph roundabout, and was in the straightaway heading toward the stoplight. There were two traffic lanes going the same direction and a single lane going the opposite, with businesses on either side. According to the witnesses/ police report, a car driver in the far-left lane saw a car waiting to leave a driveway exit on the left side of the road, so they stopped and politely waved them into traffic. The car took the invitation/ opening and darted forward to cross the two lanes of traffic to the driveway on the other side, ignoring the motorcyclist in the way.

A week later, our house was flooded in a natural disaster. It was especially unexpected because the last time the area had been hit with a 100 year flood (a decade earlier), our neighbors said the floodwaters had never even approached our house. This time, though, the dyke holding back the river broke. Apparently, it was in some amount of disrepair and with the pounding strain of rain and river, it just gave in a great gush of mud and water. Our house, despite being raised 18 inches off the ground, got a good 6 inches of flood water inside the house proper.

So 2007 had two unexpected events, which should be enough for any year. Except that was also the year my grandma died and I found out I had a small inheritance, so really it had four unexpected events.

In 2006 my husband brought me flowers for Mother’s Day. That was unexpected, because by then flowers were less common than arguments. I liked the flowers, though. Flowers are lovely. I can’t remember most of our arguments from that year, but I remember the flowers. The separation in September was not an unexpected event.

My grandpa died in 2005. That was the unexpected event of the year. I knew grandpa wouldn’t live forever, obviously, but I didn’t expect him to die while I was still in my 20s. He played golf and drove his Cadillac around right up until the last year or so of his life. I thought grandpa would live until his late 90s, still pulling wooden nickels out of my ear and dandling my son on his knee. They said at his funeral that when my mom died, all the fire went out from him.

Mom’s death was one of the unexpected events of 2003. I don’t have an unexpected event of 2004. I don’t remember 2004. It was a black hole. In 2003, two of the women I loved most dearly died by suicide. One in spring, one in fall. My best friend and my mom.

I cannot say my son’s birth in 2002 was unexpected, because it was not only expected, it was scheduled. He was induced. I could lie and say the emergency c-section which followed was a surprise, but somehow it wasn’t. It was definitely an emergency and not planned, but for some reason, I’d been expecting a c-section since the first trimester.

So when they told me he wasn’t turned right and his heart rate was dropping during labor, I didn’t feel panicked at the thought of a c-section. Just sort of calm. Like, all right, so this is happening, and I had this weird sensation I get sometimes that’s kind of like déjà vu, but not quite. Not like I’ve experienced it before, but more … as if events are unfolding exactly as they are supposed to. In retrospect, it was quite the curiosity. I can’t explain it. I have no idea why I was so full of conviction the birth would be a c-section, but I was.

In April of 2002, my husband woke up at dawn and collected armfuls of pussy willow buds and flowers, and covered every surface of our living room with chocolates and flora. That was unexpected.

The unexpected event of 2001 was probably the positive pregnancy test and my husband getting laid off a week later from the plant nursery, both occurring nearly two months after our wedding day. Wham-bam, one after the other. You know how people say bad things come in threes? Writing this out, I think they come in pairs.

Unplanned pregnancy + Layoff.

Suicide + suicide.

Accident + flood.

Reviewing this, I realize something else: apparently, I see unexpected events as emergencies or tragedies. When I think of the happy moments in my life, they were not unexpected, but worked toward and planned. Expected (except for, obviously, finding out we were pregnant—which, while happy, was complicated).

Weddings, births, graduations, parties, holidays, celebrations in general … we see them coming. We anticipate them, plan them, and, well, expect them. I had a surprise party once when I was 17, but since becoming mom of the house myself, those are sort of a thing of the past, haha. So I guess I do try to arrange my life to avoid the unexpected, as I associate unexpected events with tragedy, heartbreak, trauma, and instability.

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caught in between 10 and 20

Kidling began high school this week.

It’s a strange moment. Weird to be the parent of a high schooler. He grew up really fast. They tell you that, when he’s a baby and toddler–everyone tells you that. “Treasure these years, they’ll go by so fast.”

And you’re thinking, one day at a time, 365 days a year. Diaper after diaper.

In the moment, it doesn’t feel fast. Dealing with midnight feedings and potty training and pooptastrophes and meltdowns. Soothing a hand across a sweaty brow after yet another nightmare. Listening to story after story about dinosaurs and robots and lasers and legos.

It doesn’t feel fast.

But then, somehow, 2 months has become 18 months has become 5 years has become 8 years, and I find myself blinking and rubbing my eyes as I peer backward through time, wondering if it was only three years hence he was starting kindergarten.

And now even that was 6 years ago.

When I was 14, I still thought parents knew what they were doing–that they at least had a clue on this whole “parenting” ride. That it wasn’t a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants gig. Now, of course, I know the deal.

Back then, I remember, I tended to group the adults around me roughly by age.

Youngish adults in their 20s were hard to take seriously, like too-old teenagers, just barely out of high school themselves. Too much my older brother, not enough my parents. When hired as teachers at my high school, I smirked and joked through their classes, viewing them less as authority figures and more as co-conspirators.

Adults between 30ish and 60ish had that parental vibe of authority, the automatic clip to their voice that adults with long practice dealing with recalcitrant youth acquire. I took them a little more seriously. I tended to like and respect them, and seek their approval.

Anyone over 60 was grandparent status in my eyes, and had a little extra bump of authority from the expectation of a lifetime of lived experience.

I remember disliking adults who made presumptions on me–who assumed I would follow their directions/ orders because they were the adult and I was the child, or thought they could get me to respond positively to them if they tried to talk to me “on my level,” or tried to be buddy-buddy with me. I didn’t like adults I perceived as being dishonest, unfair, or manipulative.

I didn’t mind rules or boundaries, so long as I  felt they were fair, clearly communicated, and fairly enforced.

I try to recall how I felt back then, how I related to adults, in raising and dealing with and talking to my son. But it’s a fine line to walk, because in the end, he’s not me. He’s similar to me in personality and interests in a lot of ways, but he’s not me, and it’s not fair to treat him like me.2 … I have to keep reminding myself of that.

I’m proud of him. He’s a really great kid. Polite, compassionate, intelligent, witty, good-tempered. We recently got his state test scores back, and he scored above-average for his grade level in the school, the school district, and the state in every subject.

I’m a little nervous about the next four years. For me, high school was not a good time. But then, public education in general was less of a learning experience and more of a prolonged bully gauntlet–my son doesn’t seem to be having the same experience. He’s run into a few bullies–the usual sort, projecting their misery from abusive homes outward–but has thus far handled them firmly and gracefully, with the support and advice of myself and other adults. I’ve been impressed by his composure and self-possession thus far, and I am more hopeful than concerned about his high school experiences.

another 30 days of prompts

I enjoyed that last 30 day prompt I did, last spring. It got me blogging again (in spurts) and using my scheduling tool so I didn’t feel so bad about a neglected blog in between times. So I looked for a few more to fill out over the next several months. See how it goes.

30 day writing challenge

Prompt: The furthest away from home you have ever been (~1000 words)

I think the furthest away from home I remember being is Hawaii, in 2007, as a sort of make-up honeymoon.

I’ve been in Germany, Paris, and Wales. But I don’t remember it. Frankly, I think my parents were being supremely unfair to even take an infant on such travels. It doesn’t count as traveling if you can’t remember it!

Anyway, back to the make-up honeymoon. It kind of begins in 2001, when we got married– a small ceremony and no honeymoon to speak of; partially due to finances and partially due to cultural pressure. We were mormon at the time, and not getting married in the temple had an element of shame attached to it.

Fast forward a few years, and in 2006 we were having some issues and separated. We reconciled a few months later. Shortly after my grandmother passed away. I was surprised to learn I would receive a small inheritance. Of course, the first thing we did was pay off several debts and put some money into savings—but I also wanted to treat my husband.

At the point we went on the trip, we’d moved back in together and been going to marriage counseling for almost 9 months—working on reconciliation for nearly 10 months. Some people said it was a bad idea to splurge the inheritance funds on a fancy trip when our reconciliation was still so “new,” but to me it seemed more than worthwhile.

Our separation wasn’t because of a difference in values, or because we fell out of love. It was communication issues, plain and simple. Both of us feeling unappreciated. For six years, he’d worked long and difficult hours at often thankless positions to keep a roof over our heads and food on our table.

And now, when it came time for it, he’d actually listened and gone to the effort of making the changes he could to improve our marriage. He’d communicated the changes he needed from me. Not many people do that, y’know. Not many people have the strength or willingness to lean into the discomfort of confronting their own biases, their own entrenched habits and bad behaviors. But my husband has that strength, because he’s awesome.

He found ways to show his appreciation for my contributions as a wife, mother, and life partner. On a daily basis, he made concerted efforts to be present, generous, respectful, compassionate, and thoughtful—to leave work at work, to develop good stress-resolution coping skills, to communicate his needs. We were working through our problems.

So as far as I was concerned, it wasn’t a risk or bad idea at all. It was an opportunity to take the honeymoon we never got to have. The only regret I have is that I didn’t buy the trip through Costco Travel—I used some online travel package place, and they kinda sucked in terms of price to value. I could have gotten a way better deal through Costco Travel. I know it sounds like I’m totally pimpin’ as a salesperson, but for real—I spent about $3.5k for about a week and a half on what was advertised as a 5 star hotel room (it really was not) on the beachfront (I guess three blocks away is kind of the beachfront).

We also got a rental car, luau night, and a magic show. After a few days, we realized the spare tire on our rental car had a rusted screw jammed into it (clearly not put in by us—the rust was old and spreading onto the tire rubber as well), so we took it back to the dealership. I’d specifically paid for a convertible, and they tried to push us into a sedan. We ended up getting the last convertible on the lot, a Sebring or something like that. While on the trip, I made the mistake of pricing out the exact same package through Costco Travel and found out we could have stayed in one of the super nice ocean view resorts right on the beach, gotten two extra days, and saved money.

Eeeeerrrrrghghhhhh.

So yeah, that’s the only thing I regret.

The rest of it was amazing, though. We had a really fantastic time, with just the right balance of touristy activities and self-guided island wandering. I tried sushi for the first time, and there was this one day when we rented mopeds and whizzed around Honolulu. As it turns out, they don’t have helmet laws on Oahu (which is utter insanity), and realistically speaking, all hours are kind of rush hour traffic in Honolulu, but we were literally riding through what is colloquially accepted as “rush hour traffic,” that is, 5 o’clock traffic. It was terrifying and exhilarating.

When I began riding motorcycle in 2008, I’d often think back to that experience and tell myself, “You survived riding a moped without any gear at all in rush-hour Honolulu traffic. You can do this.”

We drank pineapple juice every morning and ate mahi-mahi at the restaurant every night. We would get up early, just as the sun was rising, to walk or snorkel at the nearly deserted beaches. I guess the time of year we went was the off-season for Hawaiians to go to the beach, and no-one on vacation likes to get up at dawn. For Washington natives, sunrise in Hawaii in the fall is absolute perfection, though.

We visited historical sites and museums, Buddhist temples and gardens, and beautiful national parks. At the magic show, an illusionist made a helicopter appear on stage.

At the luau a woman in a grass skirt stood in front of the audience and gave a little speech about traditional Polynesian values and culture before launching into a blessing for the gathered attendees which sounded suspiciously similar to the typical mormon, “Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for everyone arriving safely this evening, and please guide everyone safely to their homes and families at the end of the night, in the name of Jesus Christ amen,” template. I choked on my Long Island Iced tea and met my husbands’ eyes across the table, smothering laughter as we shared silent merriment at the LDS prayer over our alcoholic drinks. Later, on the fake beach by the dugout canoes, I found BYU insignia painted on the wall, but I was too drunk to be indignant at my inability to escape the mormons even on vacation.

Near the end of the trip, we got tattoos to commemorate both the honeymoon and our renewed vows. I chose three plumeria blossoms, while my husband chose three sea turtles (each with a different design on the shell). Three to represent our family: Husband, self, and son. Plumeria and sea turtles to represent Hawaii, and new beginnings.

 

same song, different tune

A few weeks back, I met this guy who–long story short–told me I couldn’t have an opinion on Lupe Fiasco because I hadn’t bought all his albums.

Yeah.

So, story (slightly) lengthened, the comment came about because I’d indicated that I thought Eminem was a good lyricist, but I disliked listening to him due to his misogyny. The guy–who we’ll call Guy–became extremely agitated and dismissive at this statement. Another Fella in the bar, a mutual acquaintance, supported my statement, and Guy began arguing with me/ him, and it was  kind of weird conversation that’s been bothering me, so I decided to write about it.

Specifically, I said that Eminem was, while a talented lyricist, not among the best rappers out there, and his misogyny bothered me so much I couldn’t even listen to his music.

Guy got really upset at this statement–like, really upset–and proceeded to spend about the next 30-45 minutes insisting that it was irrational and stupid to discount an artist because of a little thing like a stage persona or personal opinion (ie: misogyny). He repeatedly defended Eminem’s misogyny as:

  • An act
  • A result of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his mother/ ex-girlfriends
  • A stage persona
  • Not taken seriously by his fans
  • Not a problem because his (female) fans–the type of women who listen to rap music–don’t care about women’s rights

After his friend, Fella, chimed in about two sentences into the conversation in order to support my stance that it could be difficult for a woman to listen to sustained lyrics about violence towards women, and say that misogyny in rap/ hip-hop is problematic and needs to be addressed moving forward, Guy stopped talking to me completely (although he continued to respond to statements I made; he simply spoke past me to Fella instead) and, in fact, began to refer to me in the third person (as in, “I bet she doesn’t listen to Lil’ Kim!” and, “I bet she doesn’t have all his albums!”), even though I was sitting right there.

It was weird.

The ironic thing was, the only reason I brought up the Eminem thing was because one of my son’s (white) teachers had told the class that Eminem was the greatest rapper who ever was, and the only one worth listening to. My son repeated it to me, and I–not knowing much about rap, but knowing enough to know that there had to be black artists as good or better than Eminem in a genre pioneered and created by black artists–had told my son, “I seriously doubt that. I think that’s probably a thing white people who only listen to rap on popular radio stations say.”

So I’d actually only brought up the whole Eminem conversation–along with my distaste for him–as a segue to ask about their recommendations for excellent black artists, since Fella is a rap/ hip-hop artist and Guy apparently professionally reviews rap/ hip-hop. Unfortunately, once I said the thing about misogyny, I (ironically) couldn’t seem to find a place to turn his angry-train pro-misogyny rant back to the station.

Near the end of the conversation, I was getting so frustrated at him talking past me and over me, as well as interrupting me, that I finally asked with a kind of embarrassed half-laugh, “Hey, why are you looking at him? Why are you talking to him? I’m the one who asked you the question. I’m the one who made the statement you’re responding to.”

Guy looked at me, then, kind of startled, and I saw Fella cover a grin. Guy tried to defend himself–say he was responding to both of us, that we were both arguing against Eminem and he was responding to both our arguments. I said, “But you’re not–you’re not even listening to what I said.”

“Yes I was,” he argued back. “You don’t listen to Eminem because he’s a misogynist, but that’s not even giving him a chance, when he’s one of the most talented–“

“No,” I interrupted, frustrated. I don’t like to interrupt, it’s rude, but he’d been doing it to me nonstop and I was tired of it. “No, I specifically said he’s a great lyricist and very talented but I cannot handle his misogyny. So I did recognize his talent, but I cannot handle the misogyny that accompanies that talent.”

He paused, staring at me, and then said, “Okay, okay. That’s valid. I think it’s dumb, but that’s valid.”

Fella spoke up then, to decry misogyny in rap/ hip-hop, and Guy refocused all his attention on Fella. A bit later, Guy said the bit about the type of women who listen to rap/ hip-hop don’t care about all that women’s rights shit, and said women rappers are some of the worst for derogatory, sexist language, he pointed at me and said something like, “I bet she doesn’t buy any rap music,” and I said defensively, “I don’t buy whoever that girl you’re talking about is, but I buy Lupe Fiasco!”

He laughed derisively and said, “Lupe Fiasco believes in aliens!”

I just laughed at that. Like, wtf. Like that somehow discredits him? I mean, most grown-ass adults I know not only believe in an imaginary friend, but pay this imaginary friend money, talk to him, credit all their success to him, and even build him houses that stand empty 6 days a week. I’m supposed to accept that without a flicker of my eyelid, but a famous guy believing he had an alien visitation when he was 8 (I looked it up) is a bridge too far? Wtf, dude?

It’s even more hilarious to me that he dismisses one rapper based on a harmless belief, but elevates another rapper who espouses a demonstrably harmful belief. Like, that’s … what? What?

Anyway, then a friend of theirs came in and said the blacklivesmatter protestors were coming back and blockading the street, so our conversation ended. Guy finally looked at me and shook my hand and said something about a good conversation, and it being nice to talk to people who didn’t know much about the genre because at least it showed we were starting to listen and pay attention. Very condescending.

The whole encounter left a sour taste in my mouth. I couldn’t tell if Guy was treating me shitty because I was ignorant about music, white, or female. My money was on female, mostly, although I was leaning a little toward the ignorant about music angle–but he seemed like he was really passionate about music; the type who would’ve talk the ear off a mannequin if you got him going on some esoteric piece of musical trivia.

I mean, I can see how someone could say I couldn’t have an opinion on rap/ hip-hop because of my race/ culture/ upbringing–like, that would make more sense to me, right? I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that assumption in every case, because I’m sure there are plenty of white Western-European-descended middle-class people who have just buried themselves in the history and trivia of rap/ hip-hop and are quite versed in the genre, but for my specific case? Yeah, I’ll admit I am not generally a musically inclined person, and my cultural background and upbringing did not predispose me to listening to rap. Here in the PNW, alternative was more common on the radio stations.

Truth is, I’m not just musically illiterate with rap/ hip-hop, as it happens–although Guy did indicate numerous times his assumption that I was a fan of country, pop, and/ or punk/ alternative. Sad truth is, I’m pretty much equally ignorant of all genres. I am the audience the “Top 40” lists are geared to. I don’t care about music history or music trivia, or even fuckin’ what genres things are in. I listen to what I like, and that’s that.

I first listened to rap in middle school, which is also when I first recall having black classmates. There was a black boy named Travis in one of my classes. He sat in front of me, and he used to turn around and sing, “Then I step through the fog and I creep through the smog/ Cuz I’m Snoop Doggy (who?) Doggy (what?) Doggy [Dogg]“, then point at me. That was my cue to sing the next lyric, “Snoop doggy, doo-ooooo-ooog,” but instead I would turn red and sink into my seat, certain it was a set-up.

See, Travis was cool, and I was decidedly un-cool. Travis seemed nice–always joking with me in class, teasing me, helping me with my work. But Travis was cool. He played football and walked with the jocks in between classes. He didn’t eat with them at lunch, but that’s because he ate with the black kids, and the black kids were even cooler than the jocks. I’d spent Kindergarten through sixth being teased by the popular kids in elementary school, who’d become the jocks in middle school, where the teasing had just gotten worse. Travis had never teased me–none of the black kids had–but I was terrified of their niceness because they were so cool, and every time a cool kid was nice to me it turned into gut-wrenching humiliation.

In 8th grade, at the time Travis, Deon, and Shaun (be still my beating heart, art-class crush!) were making their overtures of friendship to me, the jocks/ popular crowd were hounding me through the halls, singing “A horse is a horse, of course of course,” between classes. Because I had buck teeth. Get it? And then, someone told them (the jocks) I was seeing a therapist, and that’s when the straightjacket/ psych-ward/ psychopath questions started.

Then 8th grade ended and the summer started. Away from the bullying, and with the clarity of distance, I realized that Travis, Deon, and Shaun hadn’t actually been friends with the jocks. They didn’t eat lunch with them or hang out with them voluntarily. They’d never yelled at me in the halls. I regretted being suspicious of their motivations. I regretted losing the chance to make some friends. Over the summer and during the first few months of 9th grade, I started listening to more rap. I kind of had this notion that we’d run into each other again, and Travis would do that thing where he would sing a line from a song, and this time I’d be able to sing the next line back. That’s the period when I got into the Geto Boys, Coolio, Shaggy, and the Notorious B.I.G.

When I started high school, I didn’t see Travis, Deon, and Shaun again. A new high school had been built, and my 8th grade class divided into new zones. Most of the black kids in my 8th grade class were zoned to the new high school, while I went to the old high school with my tormentors for the next four years. Freshmen year, I made friends with a bunch of stoners and started listening to Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Garbage.

Back to the present … for a few days after my conversation with Guy, I kinda played with the idea that–since he was a person of color (someone referred to him as hispanic, but I thought he was black)–and we were at a blacklivesmatter protest, he was fuckin’ with me because I was white; like forcing me to step outside the privileged comfort zone of my race and deal with being “othered”, which was an interesting and discomfiting thought. Except I realized that theory didn’t really fly because there were other white allies at the protest that night–and the bartender was white–who were male, and he conversed with them as though they were social and intellectual equals.

No, it really just seemed to come down to that as soon as I’d said the dreaded word, “misogyny,” I ceased to exist for Guy. It was especially weird to me because we met at a #blacklivesmatter protest. I’m always blown away when civil rights activists for one cause are completely dismissive of another. I know I shouldn’t be–I’ve met radfems who are just utterly transmisogynistic, and I’ve met plenty of lesbians and gays who are completely biphobic, but it still always catches me off-guard. Like, wait, what?

So … you’re all for equality, but not for everyone? Oh, you are for equality for everyone, you just … don’t believe this specific group is facing discrimination? You think they’re exaggerating? You think their stories are overblown, they’re over-reacting? You think it’s more of a perception problem, or more about the way they’re presenting themselves/ dressing/ interacting with the structures of power in our society than that they’re actually … experiencing the issues they’re dealing with and living through?

Sounds so familiar.

Funny how that works.

I loved your funny face

Funny

Did you hear that?

Funny

Yeah, the guy said

– Funny Girl, Barbara Streisand

~*~

story of a girl

Mom was born in 1943, the youngest of three girls. Her sisters were much older than her, already in their teens.

Apparently, most of her childhood–before age 13–was spent living at her grandmother’s, because her parents were ill and had (at the time) an unhappy marriage. It would have been the post-WWII years to early 1950s, and I’m told my grandpa was an alcoholic and my grandma was bipolar (in an era when neither diagnosis or treatment were up to par).

Once she told me she’d stopped my grandma in a suicide attempt. Another time, she remembers my grandma locking the door against grandpa raging drunkenly outside in the snow of an Idaho winter.

In grade school, mom once overheard a teacher call her a homely child, and thought of herself as ugly forever after.

At 13, my grandpa reactivated in the LDS church and gave up drinking and smoking. Mom says that’s when everything in her life improved, which is why I think she was always so dedicated to the church.

~*~

“Honey, you’re a funny girl,”

That’s me

I just keep them in stitches

Doubled in half,

Funny Girl, Barbara Streisand

~*~

who cried a river and drowned the whole world

She attended BYU and got a degree in Political Science. She had a brief fling with some boy and had to take sabbatical and live with one of her sisters after the breakup. The boy who remains nameless to me– I only know about him because I was in an abusive and toxic relationship from 19-20, and after it ended, mom confided in me about her BYU heartbreak. She said the heartache ends, and this too will pass, and even intelligent women end up in stupid relationships.

I wished she’d told me earlier, at the beginning of my own bad relationship. Or before it. I’d thought no-one in my family understood, and it turned out mom understood best of all.

She served an LDS mission in Germany, which awakened a lifelong curiosity about the Holocaust. Specifically, how the German people could have turned a blind eye to the atrocities happening in their midst. It was a question of deep importance to her. She knew they were good people, having lived among them and taught them, but she was disturbed by how many had confided, over the course of her mission, their sense of awareness that something was wrong. They’d known something was wrong and chosen to do nothing, to turn a blind eye, to deny the atrocities in their midst and not know, because inaction and complicity was easier and less dangerous than speaking out.

After returning home, she moved to Washington D.C, where she worked for a Senator and volunteered on the Nixon campaign. Mom was political and educated–a working woman in Washington DC in the 1960s, at one of our cultural apexes of the feminists and civil rights movements.

That was where she met my dad, who was going to law school.

~*~

And though I may be all wrong for a guy

I’m good enough for a laugh

I guess it’s not funny

Life is far from sunny

Funny Girl, Barbara Streisand

~*~

she always looks so sad in photographs

They started dating when Dad asked her out while they were filling out invitations for some sort of formal dance. Mom smiled and accepted, very calmly and graciously, and put down the invitation to walk out in the hall and whoop for joy. She smoothed her hair and skirt and returned to the room where they were working on the invitations, unaware dad heard the entire thing.

She kept the dress she wore to that dance, their first date. It was a blue velvet empire waist with cap sleeves that she sewed herself, back in the 60s when women could still sew their own formal gowns to wear to things and it wasn’t guache. I used to wear it as a teenager sometimes, to church or when I was in the mood, or as part of a princess Halloween costume. I don’t know what happened to it after she died. I think my older sister probably has it. Maybe dad’s new wife donated it to Deseret Industries when she was cleaning out the house before they moved, unaware of the meaning behind it.

They married after a few months of dating, in an Autumn wedding, and moved to the West coast, where Dad moved from jobs between various small firms. They both indicate this was a stressful time, with egotistical small-business lawyers squabbling over how to run their small businesses into the ground and toxic work environments. Dad was concerned about how to support his growing family, as they had two children over five years.

He’s often cautioned me not to work for small-business owners, especially lawyers, telling me the easiest way to cut costs is when it comes to employees–benefits, pay, hours; and that bad business owners often take their stress out on their employees through negative management techniques and bullying/ blaming of their underlings. I wish I’d listened to the lessons he’d learned early and harsh.

Eventually he acquired a position as civilian lawyer with the military, and the family moved to Germany, where my older brother joined the the family. Two years later, I was born–fourth child. I understand there were miscarriages between my older sister and I.

As a teenager, I often joked about the sequence of our births to explain why each child was our parents’ favorite: My eldest brother is beloved, I said, because he was firstborn and first boy. My eldest sister, because she was the first girl. My other brother, because he was the son brought as a gift from god when they believed they were infertile and would never have another child. Me, because I am the miracle baby–the unexpected pregnancy they didn’t think could happen. My kid sister because she is the youngest, and everyone loves the baby of the family. Mom liked this accounting of events. (Or, when I was feeling salty, I ended the recitation on a subversion: And my little sister–well, she was an accident. Mom never laughed at this version).

~*~

When the laugh is over

And the joke’s on you,

A girl out a have a sense of humor

That’s the one thing you really need for sure

Funny Girl, Barbara Streisand

~*~

but i absolutely love her when she smiles

Six months after I was born–after five years total in Germany–my family moved back to the US. They settled in the PNW, where my kid sister was born, and mom slid into post-partum depression.

Apparently, she had it after each pregnancy, a little worse each time. A little darker. A little longer, a little harder to shake. Apparently, she’d been advised not to get pregnant again, especially with her family history–a mom and a sister with bipolar.

She thought she escaped bipolar. Usually, people are diagnosed in their 20s. Mom was in her 40s when she was diagnosed. It was that final bout of PPD that was the trigger. After months of nonresponsive depression, dad took her to the hospital for ECT treatments, which worked, although it severely disordered her short-term memory. With her moods were stabilized, she began treatment.

Her background and family history strongly influenced her attitude toward treatment. Rejecting the diagnosis, or treatment, was never a risk with her. She absolutely shunned the anti-science stance that mental illness was a myth. She was also intelligent enough to realize that just because she did better while on medications, didn’t mean she was “cured”. She knew the difference between symptom management and curing an illness, and absolutely refused to entertain any notion of giving up on her meds because of temporarily manageable symptoms. She believed 100% in the model of medication management.

She was never the sort of person who bought into the folderal that mental illness was a personality flaw, or some sort of test from God–at least, not in the sense of punishment for current misdeeds. In the sense of, maybe, the God she believed in giving us a “bag” of difficulties to carry through this test of life, and her bag included mental illness, sure. She believed that–like a person might believe God gave them poor eyesight, or a bad leg, except God gave her bipolar. So she carried it with grace and goodwill and handled the burden as best she could, as she believed God intended her to. She did not believe the God she believed in wanted his children to suffer. She did believe he inspired scientists to create medicines and treatment for the illnesses to help people in need, so–to her mind–it was by God’s grace that treatment was even available, and it would be a denial of that grace to turn away from it.

Me, I was never able to reconcile the notion of a loving and omniscient/ all-powerful god with this existence of trauma, harm, and pain. To me, someone that knows about horrific circumstances in advance and is capable of preventing them is just as liable as the perpetrator–if, say, my friend were to send me a text saying, “I bought a semi-automatic and I am going to go shoot up a grocery store,” or my ex sent me a text saying, “Fuck you, you feminist, I’m going to rape the next feminist I see,” I do think I would be somewhat morally culpable for the crime if I did not attempt to prevent it in some manner, and I’m not all-powerful. God allegedly is. Ergo, it must logically follow that if God is actually omniscient/ all-knowing, then God knows criminal events and human tragedies prior to their occurrences (mass bombings, terror attacks, child rapes, and all the little heartaches and tragedies of our lives), then God must either not be all-loving or all-powerful (one of the two) because God is clearing opting not to prevent such situations. So it’s either choice (not all-loving) or inability (not all-powerful).

Clearly mom and I disagreed on that–but I love that my mom could find grace in her worldview. That she could reconcile science and god.

Even with treatment, bipolar is a dark disease. The symptoms are never fully eradicated. They’re handled. Managed. Not erased. When I was growing up, mom would sometimes be brimming with energy, a barely-contained mania simmering beneath the surface as she rushed to and fro, starting a thousand church and family projects. She sewed costumes at Halloween most years–sewed my sisters’ orchestra dresses, and our prom gowns. She was a talented seamstress. She was Relief Society president in our ward for a few years. She used to pack us into the car and go, “searching for sunshine,” on rainy days, which really meant just driving to Tacoma or Centralia or Seattle until we found a patch of blue in the sky, then getting out and walking around a park for a bit. She was afraid of taking us swimming; irrationally fearful of us drowning.

Other times, the entire house was a tomb, silent and still. The heart of the family would hide away in the musty darkness of her bedroom upstairs, lights off and curtains drawn, for weeks or even months at time. It happened more frequently during my later teen years, as the last of her children approached college age.

It’s strange to think my older siblings know a mom who isn’t bipolar. Who was never bipolar. I try to imagine that, and cannot. It doesn’t really matter, because even with the spectre of illness, she was a great mom–a truly amazing woman: Reliable, affectionate, supportive, intelligent, and wryly witty.

She championed education–always expecting us to attend college ourselves–and believed in our abilities. She liked to spend time with us one on one. She cultivated activities and hobbies with each kid, individual to them and their interests. She was sarcastic and self-deprecating and creative.

When I came to her in high school, and told her the bullying was too much–that I couldn’t bear it anymore, that it was breaking me; she listened. She agreed to my proposal for an accredited learning program through mail (yeah, it was the 90s, no online learning) for course credits, even though it meant I was essentially homeschooling and she’d have to oversee my self-directed learning; make sure I was actually doing my lessons, and we’d have to arrange proctors for my tests. Even though it meant having a kid at home most of the day, instead of in school.

I recognize the sacrifice of personal time now; I didn’t then.

She did require I attend my math classes at the high school, which is another cool thing about my mom. She recognized her own shortcomings, and refused to teach or oversee lessons for a subject she wasn’t trained to teach in. My parents were always teaching lessons like that: Don’t be afraid to admit when you can’t, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

She loved to read, and shared that love with me.

She loved old movies and musicals, and shared that with me, too.

She taught me to love history.

She taught me to open my eyes to injustice. To not be the German who closes my eyes when my Jewish neighbors disappear, one by one.

She was a stay-at-home mom and a devout mormon, but still managed–through her life–to teach the importance of feminism and activism.

She was the most beautiful woman in the world.

~*~

When you’re a funny girl

The fella said “A funny girl”

Funny

How it ain’t so funny,

Funny girl

Funny Girl, Barbara Streisand

~*~

Now how many days in a year/ She woke up with hope/ But she only found tears

Mom loved Barbara Streisand, and the movie (and song) Funny Face. She related to them. I’m a 90s girl. I relate more to Absolutely (Story of a Girl), by Nine Days.

 

Scariness

We had a bit of a family emergency in July, over one of my husband’s 4-day weekends. While we were out as a family Pokémon hunting at the Rose gardens, our dogs at home got into some ibuprofen and benadryl that was in a ziploc baggie on the table.

The benadryl wasn’t an issue, but ibuprofen is extremely toxic to dogs. We got home and saw Azura (our yellow lab) had thrown up twice, and he threw up again after we got home (about 6:30 pm). Sirius (our black lab) seemed fine, but he was in the room when the meds were eaten and dogs can’t talk, so …

I called the vet, but they were closed, so I had to call the emergency clinic instead. They said it would be $90 per dog to bring them in for an assessment, but if I called Pet Poison Control first and got a case number, it would be cheaper. So I called Pet Poison Control, who charged $49 for the call. Based on the info I provided about the weights and probable ingestion, they strongly recommended we take our pups to the emergency clinic for treatment.

So off we went to the pet emergency clinic in town, pups in tow. Azura threw up again on arrival; Sirius was just excited by the car ride. That was around 7:30 pm

It was pretty busy (a little puppy came in with its ear torn off) but around 9:35 pm, the vet called us back to a private room. He said he’d done a physical exam and looked over the Poison Control Center information, and he recommended an overnight stay with observation for both dogs with aggressive fluid therapy. We said sure, absolutely, no problem.

Mentally, I revised my cost estimate for the night up from maybe $200 max (from $49-$90 per dog) to maybe $1,200 max (I assumed it would maybe be $600ish per dog, with emergency services). It would hurt a little, but doable. The vet said he’d draft an estimate for us.

Around 10:30, they brought us the cost estimate–they were asking $1,900-$2,500 per dog to keep them for the night. At 10:30 pm on a Sunday night, mind you. And, it turned out, they haven’t actually done any bloodwork or started any fluid therapy yet, and wouldn’t until our payment processed. We were aghast. We did not have $4,500 on hand. With about $1,300 between two credit card balances, savings, and checkings, we did’t even have enough to keep one dog overnight.

I looked at the breakdown of costs, and asked them to at least start the bloodwork and kidney panels on Sirius, since I suspected he hadn’t even eaten the pills (and therefore hadn’t been poisoned) and I wanted to confirm that. That lowered his costs’ to $550. Meanwhile, we kept trying to secure a loan for Azura’s treatment, which was clearly necessary.

It was futile, because every financial institution on the East Coast is closed at midnight PST on a Sunday, which means all their customer service is closed, which means we were fucked.  Literally all we’d done was move our poisoned dog from Point A to Point B, where we were placed in separate rooms–so we couldn’t even sit with him–and a vet who could save him withheld treatment and watched him slowly die while we tried to secure funding.

We sat in the private room until 2 am. It was weird. We could hear everything happening in the waiting room–hear people coming in and out, hear them paying their bills, hear the staff complaining about the lack of available rooms and how busy it was, but they just left us there for these long stretches of time, ignoring us. No dogs, no staff. Just before midnight, they told us Sirius’ bloodwork had come back clean, and asked if we were ready to start Azura’s yet.

We were in tears, literally in tears–after the banks, we’d called friends and family, explaining the situation and that it would literally be a 24-hour loan because we could get the $2,000 to pay them back within 24 hours, but nobody else had $2,000 to hand, either. I hated the way the vet tech was looking at me, like I wanted to kill my dog. She sighed and said she would see what she could do, and left. About 30 minutes later, the vet returned, and said they would run Azura’s bloodwork along with Sirius’, so we would at least have the tests, and with Sirius’ tests our total cost should be around $675.

Around 2 am, the vet tech returns with the bill for Azura’s tests, which came to $400. We were so tired. We didn’t even argue. Altogether–with Sirius’ tests–the costs for the night were $950, and the bloodwork did show that Azura’s kidney levels were elevated. The vet gave him activated charcoal and some medications, and told us to give him lots of water and take him straight to our regular vet in the morning.

So the next morning, we took both dogs to our regular vet. Once again, Sirius’ blood work was normal, but Azura’s kidney levels were still elevated. The doc recommended leaving Azura at the office for observation for the day. Cringing, we asked how much that would cost, and were told $150.

Seems hard to believe, right? I still have a hard time parsing it, a month later.

Azura stayed with the regular vet for three days. We dropped him off at open, picked him up at close. Not only was it affordable, our regular vet didn’t demand pre-payment for life-saving services; they collected payment after saving our dogs life rather than holding medical care hostage. After three days of observation from 7 am-7 pm and morning/ afternoon kidney panels, the total damage was $650.

When they told me, I actually froze for a minute. I thought I misheard. Even though they’d told me it would be $150/ day, over the three days of treatment I’d started psyching myself out–at the ER clinic, they charged $209 for the Abraxis/ kidney panel. I thought, maybe that’s where the cost comes from. Maybe it’s not the fluid treatment and the IV’s; maybe it’s the bloodwork. Maybe doing kidney panels for three days straight will kick this bill back up into the thousands range.

So when they said our bill was $650 after three days of treatment, for a minute I lost my breath because I misheard them–I thought they said $6,500.

But no. $650.

I wonder how the emergency clinic justifies their price gouging? How is it even legal? Everyone just accepts it. When we told the vet, they nod knowingly and say, “That’s the emergency clinic for you,” as though it’s an accepted aspect of the field. Like, don’t have a pet emergency after hours–you’ll get gouged! Tests cost more when run at 10 pm as opposed to 10 am! You know how much the $209 emergency vet clinic Kidney panel/ Abraxis test cost to run at the daytime clinic? $48 fucking dollars. A quarter of the cost. A fucking quarter of the cost.

Can you imagine if anything else worked this way? Gods. You know how our ambulance system in the USA is fucked? Like, red/ firehouse ambulances are tax-funded so essentially free to user (no billing), and the blue ones are corporate and super fucking expensive? Imagine if the blue ones were affordable from 9 am-5 pm and only super fucking expensive overnight? Jesus christ on a cracker, it would be even worse than it is now, and it is pretty bad now.

I’ve been to the ER for overdoses and it cost less, and I’m a human person. I’m not talking about, “It costs less because insurance paid it,” I’m talking about the actual original bill amount–which, of course, insurance did end up ultimately paying most of–was less than what was quoted by the emergency pet clinic to treat my dogs.

How does a human bill come to less? How does a daytime vet bill for the same services come to so much less?

I checked the costs for my 2015 surgery, where my uterus was removed and I stayed overnight for 3 days in the hospital with a catheter in me. There were complications because they saw a tumor on an ovary and they had to remove the ovary for biopsy (benign), and the surgery ran long. I had anesthesia and everything. Guess how much that cost? Less than $4,000–and payment was after services.

Anyway, Azura is alive and well. Fat and happy and kicking around the house as stupid and lovey as ever. He’s been on medications for the last month to support his kidney function. There’s a possibility of long-term kidney damage. We canceled our long-anticipated motorcycle road trip, due to the $1600 in unexpected costs for the initial care, as well as the long term care and follow-up visits Azura needed over the next month.

One cannot help but (bitterly) wonder if the kidney damage might have been avoided had the bloodwork/ kidney panels immediately been run and aggressive fluid therapy immediately been started, rather than delayed indefinitely at the cost of my dog’s health. I now view the local emergency vet clinic as opportunistic price-gouging vultures who prey on the after-hours fears and emergency needs of frantic pet parents, and I utterly loathe them.

Unfortunately, with pets, it may transpire that we’re forced to use their services again. Unless I learn basic veterinary first aid or something, which I might well do.

summer days

Last summer was a long stretch of heat, burning through the days in a glare of endless sunshine. This year, the days are greyer and softer–a lazy passage of time, often humid with rainshowers. It’s hard to believe we’re still in the midst of a drought, when the sky is horizon-to-horizon with clouds.

For past week and the next several weeks, John has been/ will be scheduled frequent long weekends, which is nice–little mini-vacations, almost. We popped down to Portland on a whim this last weekend and wandered around the city, window-shopping and catching pokemon, before eating at an insanely delicious Greek food truck and heading back home. The next day, we took the dogs out to Soap Lake in Eastern Washington.

About once a month, we have a family game night with the in-laws. I was hoping we’d be able to do it more often in the summer, but somehow work schedule hadn’t lined up that way until recently–hopefully we’ll get a few more game nights over the rest of July and into August, although there is camp and our motorcycle trip in August.

Usually, we play Catan, but recently we picked up a copy of Munchkin, as well as the card game Gloom (based on recommendations from Tabletop). I do feel kinda bad, because I think my niblings are a little bored while the adults are engaged with our board games (based on the question my niece asked me: “Why do you always bring board games when you come over?”).

I think I have a solution, though–when I was a kid, mom had an activity bag to entertain us during sacrament meeting, and it was actually pretty effective. Also, the toys at our sitters house–despite being pretty objectively ho-hum–were freakin’ amazing to me, as a kid.  Why? Because they weren’t regular-time toys. Mom wouldn’t let us touch the church activity bag anywhere except church, and the toys at the sitter’s house were only available at the sitter’s house. So I have this little doll suitcase/ trunk, and I’m going to start packing it with a rotating surprise selection of toys and activities for my niblings. Hopefully it’ll keep them occupied and happy until they’re old enough to play the big people games with us.

Kidling is old enough now that he’s asking me to drop him off with his friends, which is both cool and heartbreaking. Also weird, to ferry him around town and drop him off at the places I used to go, to do the things I used to do. Skateland, Lakefair, Library events–ha, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I am trying to work on my book on the days John is working. It’s difficult to focus. It took a few months to get the drafts/ feedback back from my readers, and in that time I had a lot of ideas on how/ where I wanted it to go.

I feel like my biggest problem at the moment is that I wrote it on a computer, honestly, without an outline. It feels unwieldy. From now on, all books I write will have outlines. My next four are already outlined by hand, in notebooks.

So I finished the whole thing, and it’s a book. It has a plot, with a beginning, middle, and an end … but I hated the end. So I rewrote it. Then I cut the wordcount down from insanity to manageable, and chopped the first three chapters of backstory. Sent the resulting draft to my reader volunteers. Specifically, I asked for feedback on:

  • Readability
  • Character development/ growth and relatability
  • Subplots (too distracting? Barely noticeable?)
  • Worldbuilding (too much foreignness? infodump problems?)
  • Overarching plot (hints too obvious? too subtle?)
  • Overall impression?

Each reader called/ messaged about a week after receiving their draft and said they’d finished it and really loved it, found it very engaging, and now they were going to re-read it and notate it fully and send me back a notated copy. About three to four months later was when I began getting more specific feedback, most of which aligned with my own concerns/ issues. Primarily, I didn’t like the beginning (I’ve since rewritten it). It felt choppy and info-dumpy, and I just … I was really dissatisfied with it.

There was also an incident that happens about 1/3 of the way in and then isn’t addressed again, and I felt like I’d kind of brushed off the significance of it, initially–that it was just hanging there unresolved and weird, and it needed to be either addressed or completely removed. None of my readers mentioned it, but when I asked what they thought of the incident, they did all say, “Oh, yeah–that was weird … why did they just ignore that?”

And, universally, everyone hates the title–which is fine, because it’s a working title. I’ve given up trying to explain that titles are nearly always decided by the agent and/or publishing company, and the shit title on my draft is just a placeholder. I think next time I’ll just call it Working Title, or Placeholder, or Shit Title.

So now I’m engaged in yet another round of edits, and it feels just endless. Like swimming through jell-o, honestly–but I have a vision in mind, a set end point. I know what the final book is supposed to look like. I know where these characters are going. I know the plot, the world, the story arc. It’s just frustrating, because it’s a lot of rewriting–which isn’t as fun as writing–and I feel like I’m re-treading ground I’ve already walked when I’d hoped to be moving onto the next phase by now.

Also, my work schedule is the same as John’s work schedule–he’s at work, I’m writing. He’s at home, I’m not writing. On one hand, this is great (excellent family time!). On the other hand, summer scheduling is super uneven and apparently ADHD brains work best on consistency, haha. I keep joking about renting a hotel for a week straight and unplugging all the phones so I can blast through these edits. The only concern is that I forget to eat when I’m writing.

One thing you’re excited for

I was pretty stoked about an interstate motorcycle trip we were planning, but that was canceled due to a pet emergency.

Um. 

I guess I’m excited my kid has the opportunity to go to Camp Quest again. 

I’m excited about finishing the next draft of my book and querying agents. 

I’m excited about getting my first rejections. And, eventually (knock on wood) an offer.

I’m excited about my son going into high school. 

That’s not really one thing. But I don’t have a big thing. Just little things. 

lil old outspoken me

It’s funny, sometimes, how the way we see ourselves and the way other people see us can be so radically different. This is something I’ve often pondered, since I was a teen–the old song line, You never know just how you look/ through other people’s eyes comes to mind–but it was recently brought home again when I attended a recurring social event and someone (who’s only met me twice, and in the context of talking about books!) referred to me as a person with “strong opinions.”

It’s not the first time I’ve been described as such–though mostly since my mid-to-late 20s–and it always makes me laugh, because it’s really not how I think of myself at all. I guess when I think of people with “strong opinions,” I think of people who aren’t willing to listen to guidance, or cede an argument when presented with new information? Or, maybe, people who enjoy arguments and intentionally try to foment dissent at social gatherings as a form of, like, amusement, and that’s not my bag at all.

I consider myself more of a pacifist–a mediator and negotiator in personality, someone who prefers to avoid conflict if possible, but if it becomes unavoidable, I prefer to opt for communication resolving in peaceful resolution first and foremost. I have what’s often been called a naive belief in the innate goodness of humankind, and I truly believe the majority of people mean well, it’s just, we have different ideas of how to achieve it.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize the behaviors I exhibit which are often described, “bold,” or “outspoken,” or, “strong-minded” are just enthusiasm. I get really enthusiastic about things … books, Harry Potter, income inequality, motorcycling history, labor law, Star Trek, board games, writing, the publishing industry.

Like, super enthusiastic. And when I get enthusiastic about a topic, I research it backwards and forwards and up and down, like a super nerd. I read about it, I think about it, I talk about it. I daydream about it, come up with theories, and link it to other things I’m enthusiastic about.

Now, just like anyone else, I don’t randomly bring up this stuff at inappropriate times–I’m not sitting at, like, work functions rambling on about esoteric factoids regarding labor law history to a bunch of dull-eyed coworkers and/or clients. No.

But … I mean, yeah, I have been at, say, book club, and waxed intense about my feelings on a book. Or book series. Occasionally in a very detailed breakdown of the plot structure and the flaws therein (like writing a book where the overriding relationship question was resolved in the first THIRD of the book, thereby completely nullifying any plot tension for the remaining 2/3 of the book, OUTLANDER 2). 

Also, I’ll plead guilty to, say, standing around at some dull social function, participating in make-nice chit-chat, and I hear someone make a reference to a shared topic of interest, so of course I gravitate over, because hey. Interesting conversation thataway.

And sometimes I’ll share an interesting factoid–like, maybe telling a fellow motorcycle fan that the Indian Motorcycle company was a casualty of WWII, and explaining why; or mentioning in addendum to some anecdote about marketing or customer service that, The customer is always right is actually based on a 1920s marketing slogan rather than any sort of overriding consumer ethos, because my general assumptions are that history is cool, trivia is fun, and most people enjoy learning new things.

I think this is where the bold/ outspoken/ opinionated impressions come from. It’s interactions–like casual social gatherings, or seminars where we’re explicitly discussing reactions to readings, or classroom settings where discussion is encouraged–where I feel comfortable, because of the context of the situation, in voicing my opinion and why I believe as I do.

When I was a kid/ teenager, whenever I wanted to do something my parents were uncomfortable or ambivalent about, my dad’s thing was for me to argue my case. I guess it’s a lawyer thing. He would tell me if I could come up with a convincing list of pros and cons–because a good lawyer has to understand both sides of the situation in order to rebut the opposing argument–then he’d consider my request. That’s actually how I negotiated most of my teen concessions.

So I do feel pretty comfortable examining an issue thoroughly, from all sides, and coming to a conclusion regarding my stance. Thanks to great parents and some fantastic professors over the years, I’ve also learned how to organize my supporting arguments when participating in a discussion so I can support my stance, and I’m comfortable revising my stance in light of new information which may alter my perspective.

All that said, I really do not like debate or disagreement, especially outside the specific parameters of the classroom (where it’s moderated and all are working from the same base reading material). This is one of the factors in me deciding not to pursue a law degree (though hardly the only).

I know that might seem incredible to someone who’s only knowledge of me is this blog, but it’s important to recognize the words on this screen are on stream-of-conscious, largely unedited personal blog–this on-the-fly verbiage represents my internal world, and while the values of fairness and equality espoused herein aligns with my real-world values, beliefs, and general behavior, there’s a pretty key difference–I’m a lot more polite and in real life.

Call it esprit de l’escalier, or a lifetime of gender conditioning, or empathy from having been bullied myself. Whatever it is, the sometimes pointed language I use on this blog when venting about disagreements doesn’t come into play during personal disagreements. I believe there’s no need to get insulting or derogatory during a conflict–any resolution to the disagreement will hinge on the facts of the situation, not he said/ she said opinions on character.

So it’s funny, because when someone describes me as, “bold,” or “opinionated,” or “outspoken,” I hear “argumentative,” or “rude,” or “disruptive,” and I automatically flinch away from those descriptions–they feel weird and uncomfortable to me. I pride myself on my ability to be civil, pleasant, cordial, and generous in personal interactions. Sure, I’ve sometimes felt frustration at walking away from an encounter where someone was rude or derogatory to me and I didn’t yell back–I’ve thought to myself, coward, wimp, chickenshit.

But far more often, I’ve felt satisfaction at my ability to not only remain calm and collected in response to instigation, but when I’ve successfully de-escalated a potentially explosive situation. Sometimes I feel bad that I’m not more of a fighter. But mostly I’m glad I gravitate to peacemaker. But I suppose it’s all in interpretations–here I’ve been thinking bold/ opinionated/ outspoken equates to argumentative, when really, those could just as easily describe traits of enthusiasm and mediation. After all, enthusiastic people will come across as opinionated and outspoken, and a mediator personality has to be able to have strong boundaries in order to mediate–its impossible to mediate if you can’t negotiate, set, or enforce fair boundaries. So those are strength characteristics, too.

15 years ago

Prompt: The night of your 21st birthday 

Christ, I can’t even remember. And not because I was drunk–I was LDS at the time. Engaged, actually. I probably did something with my friends and family. I believe I have the pictures in a scrapbook–John gave me a bouquet of yellow roses that morning before he left for work. I think we had a family dinner, and my mom made my favorite cake, and then we sat on the couch and I opened presents surrounded by my loved ones.

American culture has a weird obsession with the 21st birthday, which is especially strange when you consider that 18 is when we’re all legally adults. That seems like a much more meaningful birthday to ask about–how did you celebrate the night you officially became an adult?

Twenty-one is just the legal drinking age. Eighteen is when we’re legal to sign contracts and be responsible for ourselves–vote in elections, join the military, die for the government, get married, buy a house, all that shit.

Actually, depending on the state and the situation, an individual may have access to some of the aforementioned adult activities as early as 16.

But yeah, in most of America, it’s totally legal to buy a house, get married, and die for your country at an age when you can’t even legally drink at housewarmings, weddings, or wakes.

It’s been 15 years since I turned 21. There was nothing transformative about that birthday.

When I was 22, I had my first birthday as a wife.

When I was 23, I had my first birthday as a mother.

When I was 24, I had my first birthday without my mother.

I spent my 26th birthday in the first home I ever owned.

I spent my 30th birthday heartbroken and alone, surrounded by friends. I stopped trying to have birthday parties after that–started focusing just on a family day, on time with John.

Twenty-one is such a silly age to focus on, to prioritize.