Sunday, January 25, 2009

Calling it what it is

I’ve been looking at Real Estate Porn quite a lot lately. I guess I like to torture myself... After the Great Financial Debacle, I don’t think anyone legitimate is going to approve me for a mortgage until 2012, so I realize it is what passes for entertainment. I miss my garden deeply, so much that I don’t think about it too much, but I believe there is only a townhouse in my future. The responsibility of my house used to give me strange, disturbing nightmares. My “money problems” weighed me down for years. I don’t want to revisit that.

I don’t burden M with details or want her to wrestle with stuff she won’t understand, but I also believe in being honest with her. So it kind of cracks me up when I hear her say that I had “money problems.” Part of me cringes and wants to deny it and call it something else. But (fortunately) the healthy stronger parts of me are grateful that I don’t have any secrets and that part of my past is behind me, and besides... I DID! Having that out in the open makes it lose its teeth.

She also asked me why I wasn’t married. That to me could open a can of worms that she isn’t old enough to handle, so I just say that I didn’t want to. The great thing about her age is that “I didn’t want to” sounds perfectly reasonable to her, and the conversation moves on to something else. That, too, is the truth, but it isn’t quite that simple. But I don’t have to deal with that right now, thank goodness.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The fog is back

The fog came back this week. Rain and fog all day and night, making the drive to and from work more stressful and unpleasant and making me that much more anxious to leave. The damp gets into my very bones. The noise of the wipers and the hiss and splatter of water on the highway grinds on my nerves.

When I lived in Colorado I used to hear people talking about the dry air and how they worried it would age their skin, but I found the dry to be great for my skin – it finally cleared up – and the blue sky and sunshine was such a great contrast to the dreary grey of the Bay Area that I’d left behind. Northern California has lots of areas that are dismal to someone who is sensitive to the weather. I lived in the Silicon Valley until I was 23, and smog and haze was the norm. Now I’m living and commuting along I-80 and the sky is rarely blue. It is so depressing to not see the sun for weeks. Even clear days the air pollution is ever present. Today we are completely socked in – we can barely see across the street.

Such a week at work. The projects I’m working on are a mess, and the emails have been flying back and forth. We’ve had several meetings and changes of direction. The budget problems are making everyone crazy. One of the senior project managers told me yesterday that she’s looking for another job; she can’t take it any more. I’m worried about what the job market will be like in Denver when I get back, but I really hope I never have to work in an environment like this one again. Not one person I work with is happy, and these are the good, talented, dedicated people. The stress level is just exhausting. It makes people act stupidly and make bad decisions, and doesn’t foster creative thinking AT ALL.

I’ve got school to pay for and M’s daycare, so I am that much more grateful for the paycheck, but once I’ve graduated and she’s older, I won’t have those expenses anymore and that is something I’m really looking forward to. Those two take up almost 30% of my gross income.

Monday, January 19, 2009


I’m so excited about tomorrow! M is old enough to have picked up on the Election, and she says she is excited too. She says she wanted Hillary, but she likes Barack, and so she’s okay with it. From the mouths of babes...

We talked on the way to daycare about why it is exciting that Barack is going to be our President. I told her one of the best things – besides that he’s a good guy – is that they used to say Black men couldn’t be President. And now we’re getting one. So maybe we’ll get a woman someday soon. We agreed that would be pretty great. I want her to get the message that just because some people think you can’t or you shouldn’t do something doesn’t mean they’re right. It doesn’t mean things can’t change.

When I was a little tiny girl, Kennedy became the President. He inspired people. I was too young to remember him, but I remember the way people talked about him when I was a kid. I do remember MLK and Bobby. I remember how their assassinations and the Vietnam War took away a lot of people’s hope for the future. I remember thinking that you couldn’t count on anything. In my life at the time, that was the truth. It shaped the person I became.

I want my daughter to feel like her future is wide open. At this moment in time, she is a happy, confident, socially graceful child (and whip-smart, but that’s something else). I don’t want anything to take that away from her. I know all too well what can happen to damage someone in ways that haunt them for the rest of their life. I also know that despite my stance that “they’ll have to come through me, first,” that I can’t be everywhere and every moment. But I am very, very careful about who she spends her time with. My past gave me some gifts, one of which is a pretty strong bullshit detector and crazy radar. And I am absolutely unmoved by surface things like how much money you have or what kind of house you live in. Some of the most corrupt, nasty, soul-less people I’ve encountered in my life were physically attractive, shiny, popular, and gregarious. I don’t buy for a second the excuses that people make about the people they hang out with, either. My sister is a prime example of this. She has picked some real winners. She’s so intent on finding someone that will both take care of her and put up with her that she lets some pretty skanky people through the net. It is hard to watch. Eight years younger than me, she’s been married and divorced three times already. But she’s really more her own post, so I’ll stop there.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The ties that bind

The weather finally turned sunny around here and as it happens I am stuck inside trying frantically to complete a very long paper for school. I think the transition I’ve been working on is there, at last, and so I took a break to shower and check the news. M is still in her jammies and watching one of her Dora the Explorer DVDs, but it is Sunday, so why not?

I’ve been feeling my deep well of sadness rise to the surface in the past week, and again, fighting tears in any moments that I find myself alone. My parents and I do not have an emotional or intellectual connection – something that I’ve struggled with all my life. It is difficult to accept, for some reason. I feel sure that they think that they love me, whatever that means to them, but I know that they don’t know me or understand or accept me at all, and that hurts. My friend S points out to me that I probably scare my mother, and I think he is right. She is a painfully traditional, weak, and insecure woman who is overwhelmed by the need to seek approval from some nebulous external “other.” I find her exhausting to be around. She is so needy, and yet treats me – has always treated me – as if I were 3. I think even at 3 I found this insulting. No matter what I have done throughout my life (and I’ve done a lot) my parents react to me as if I were a disabled idiot. That doesn’t stop them from asking for my help with their computer problems (constantly) but it prevents them from listening to my words. About anything. Interacting with my parents is a profoundly lonely experience.
Being here is a constant reminder that I don’t have what most people think of as a healthy family. The only family member that I ever had a connection with died a long time ago. Many of my family members are unbelievably toxic and abusive. Most of them are completely uninvolved and uninterested in the others. (I have an uncle that moved to Colorado some time after I did that never made contact on his own or ever saw my house. And I lived there for nearly 20 years.) It was just one more thing that made me different from “everybody else” growing up. As an adult, intellectually I know that my experience is not that unusual, but emotionally it still bothers me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

This just pisses me off

I've been reading about Marcus Schrenker, the guy who has apparently faked his own death. What a miserable little worm. I am so sick of people who can't deal responsibly with their own messes. It just pisses me off something fierce.

The idiot is only 38. The stories say he was a "daredevil." Yeah, right. It's not hard to be a cocky asshole. It isn't hard to be a flashy salesman and spend a lot of money and party it up. But now it looks like his party is over: he lost a lot of money (waaaa), his wife filed for divorce, and his business dealings are under investigation. So he booked. Coward.

Sounds to me like people just started calling him on his shit. Happens. Grownups learn to own up to their mistakes, take stock, and do what they can to make things right and then start over. Many times with nothing. Like I said, he's only 38.

He makes me sick. What a poster boy for the kind of attitude and lifestyle that got us all into the economic mess we're in right now. Bigger, better, faster, newer, shinier... til it runs out, then someone else is left holding the bag.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Escape

I am nearly finished with my classes (after this one I have only 3 left!) and then I'll have my BA in English. That is incredible, to me. When it became clear, in the spring of 2005, that I'd have to leave, I thought long and hard about my options. The most important consideration, as far as I was concerned, was that I had a year old baby and whatever I chose had to be in her best interest. All of my other options sounded better for ME, but not for her. So, I packed up most of my feelings along with what remained of my stuff after I gave away or sold most of it, and moved a thousand miles. I had two black labs and a baby. I moved in with my parents.

I'd watched my parents with my nephew when he was little, and I knew that as long as she was little, that they would dote on her. They had a house with a large room and a bathroom available, and a fenced yard. They were willing to have us. That was enough. It would be safe*, it allow me to keep a consistent pattern with my child, my dogs would be okay, and I'd be able to work on what I needed to work on. (*for her)

We arrived in July of 2005. I found a good daycare for M, a job for myself, and enrolled in classes, determined to finally get my Bachelor's degree. I was right; M has been doing great. I've managed to pay off my car and my student loans and will be able to move back without any financial debt hanging over my head. I've been able to save some money.

The toll on me, living here with my parents (and others - more later) has been hard. I knew it would be, I thought I'd be able to deal with it. I've been incredibly busy, but I had to stay focused and keep at it. I've also been incredibly lucky in that I've made some really good friends that have helped in a big way to preserve my sanity. More than anything, watching my daughter thrive, I know that I made a good choice.

But oh, do I long to escape. I've been so depressed, and lonely, and sad. All of the things I do to make myself feel good are out of reach. I have felt for a long time that tears are just under the surface, and that I have grief that is waiting for its chance to be processed.

But, as my dear friend S reminds me, I have a plan. My last class will be finished at the end of June. I have saved money, I know where I'm going, and I have resources. My beloved dogs are both gone now, but that does make the move simpler. And M isn't a baby any more, and is much easier to take care of.

I can do this.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The ticking of the clock

I'm having a hell of a time focusing on anything lately. All I've wanted to do is walk outdoors, so naturally, the weather has been horrible. I can handle cold, but wet, grey, and foggy/damp/drizzly for days and weeks on end makes me feel depressed. The weather here is on the top ten list of reasons why I MUST move, no matter how insane my timing or plans are. Living with my parents is #1, of course. GOD, I was delusional to think I'd be able to deal with it. It was still the best choice for M, but it has shaved years off my life just tolerating all the toxic dysfunction. So, imagine my joy to have M telling me that she doesn't want to move because she wants to live with her grandparents forever! I tell her calmly that it isn't an option; that she has to live with me and that I AM moving, but she remains unimpressed.
Reason #2 is this area. Ugh. A poorly planned one-horse town that mishandled its sudden growth a few years back and is now just a cluster-fuck (transportationwise) and deeply conservative, provincial, and distrustful of progress. BIG McCain/Palin supporters. BIG stupid trucks and SUVs, gun-lovin', church-goin'... Crazy hot in the summer (110+ not unheard of) and grey and damp in the winter. Rain and fog, no snow. The only time the sun shines it is so hot out everyone runs inside to the air conditioning. No one walks.  Soooo funny that this is California - the place the rest of the country thinks is all sunshine, tan, blonde, bean-sprout-eating, surfing actors. Ha.
Reason #3 is this soul crushing job. The management is so hideously bad, the morale is so low, and the work is so poorly executed that it is nearly impossible to stay anything close to positive, motivated, or engaged. The few really great people here are overworked and abused to a ridiculous level, there are a LOT of incompetent slackers, and everyone else acts like a quiet little sheep, keeping their eyes down, their mouths shut, and their focus on simply getting by. It is tragic.
Yes... I could have done something else. I started here as a temp. It was supposed to be a 3 month gig (ala Gulligan's Island, anyone?) and I liked what they had me doing. I was paid a fair amount, and I enjoyed the work. Then they asked me to fill a position that I'd never done before, as a contractor, for more money. Seemed like a better idea than trying to find something else. I was going to school full time (mostly online) and had a just over year-old baby. Less hassle the better, right? But then the stuff started going south. They made me switch agencies - from a really good one that has a national reputation, to a seedy weird one with a stupid name and no local presence. They even had a bad website (red flag for a tech company). Pretty soon they had me working on the Project From Hell, that took things to an all new low, and then I had to hire on or be let go. Of course this happened while I was in the midst of classes and such, so I kept "rolling with it," thinking it would sort itself out. Then the State budget ran aground, the company got bought, the work started to slack off, and here we are.
I've got six months left. It would be stupid to leave now. I have to just tough it out.

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Year and Following the Dream

This year is going to be full. Full of change, full of movement, full of milestones. I have waited for it, yearned for it, and planned for it, and yet there is a lot of anxiety, too. I push away the fear with resolve. It creeps back. *sigh*

Right now, in this first Monday of the new year, I am pushing back at the boredom of my job, the grey, damp weather, and my desire to procrastinate an assignment for school. Watching the clock, feeling fat and achy, thinking about moving and money and M. Missing Colorado.

This was my house in Colorado. Sometimes my throat closes up and I can't breathe, I miss it so.
I've made so many mistakes in my life that have taken enormous work to make right... this house was my safe haven.

All that is gone, but I have my daughter. As they said in "Dances with Wolves," it was a "good trade," but it still aches in my heart.