Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Trash House

This is our next door neighbor's lot. These piles of crap have been there for four years, probably longer. (that's just how long I've seen them!) The trash cans are ironic, I think. I've never been able to figure out how they decide what goes in the can, and what they just throw on the ground. There's all kinds of nasty crap that doesn't show in these pictures. They claim they are "renovating" - but it's been going on for EVER and it just gets worse. Oh, yeah, there are several late model trucks parked there all the time.

I’ve written before about the Trash House next door because of the rats that keep finding their way over here. My tally for the four years I’ve been here: 3 infestations of big disgusting rats, and 2 of mice. The last mice “visitation” was pretty recently and the little fuckers were in our upstairs bedroom! I even heard them squeaking!

I’ve been meaning to get pictures of the place and I finally did. One of the old ladies across the street saw me taking the pictures and was laughing. We started talking about the Trash House and she told me everybody has had rat problems since those people moved in, and everybody’s mad about it. Of course, my mother never told her we had worse rats than anyone, so I outed her to the neighbors. My mother and the other old ladies on this street talk all the time, standing out by each other’s flower beds, and in all time, Mom never revealed our shameful secret! Eeesh.

The camper comes and goes. Some children live over there, and sometimes you can see them playing on the trash piles and it looks just like a Save the Children ad. Between the health violations, the building code violations, and the other nasty goings on, the sheriff and the county have been called numerous times. Because it is "unincorporated" and the enforcement is truly pitiful around here, nothing is done. One of the old ladies on the street, the one who has the misfortune of living right across from them, was once a Social Worker for the county and she knows these people. It kills her that it isn't being taken care of, and it kills her that she has to look at it. For a while she was going to move, she said, but she can't sell her cute as a button and neat as a pin house. Hmmm, I wonder why?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Not the Charm - part 4

Okay, this is where some of the funny stuff comes in. It wasn’t at the time, but that is the beauty of time and distance... it can make even the most wretched things seem simply ridiculous. Most of that year was just that.

I worked in a small IT department of a large bank. Weirdly, three out of four of us working the support desk were due to have a baby in the same week, although I was the only one actually carrying the baby. It was a first child for all three of us. One of the three of us had been there longer and was a favorite of the management, so he and his wife were given a baby shower, and they half-heartedly threw a second one for me and the other guy and his wife. Awkward doesn’t even come close. Of course, my baby’s father couldn’t come. He had finally been coaxed into gainful employment, and it was way down at the Tech Center and I worked Downtown.

The day my baby was born, he stood by me during the delivery, but soon left to go “have breakfast” – claiming the hospital food was unappealing. I was later told he was in fact looking into moving his stuff into a storage unit while I was in the hospital, and then moving out without telling me, which he ended up not doing. I ran across the paperwork one day but he never mentioned it to me. My gut tells me that it turned out to be too much work.

When M was a few months old, I told him I couldn’t take it any more and if he wanted to stay he was going to have to go to couples therapy with me. He was driving me up a wall. I was kind of surprised that he agreed to go, but I discovered that he was so sure that the therapist would tell me that I was the problem that he was in agreement. Unfortunately for him, the therapist was an older woman who had seen and heard it all, and I liked her a lot. She saw right through him and I didn’t have to do much talking. She assigned reading and homework that he agreed to do – and then didn’t touch. Pretty soon, she was explaining to him what Passive Aggressive behavior disorder was all about. I found the whole thing hilarious, but put on a poker face.

My favorite moment of all was when we were talking about household chores and sharing the work, and keeping a clean and safe environment for the baby. He didn’t like doing anything, but especially cleaning of any kind because he imagined it as work that I had made up just to persecute him. They were discussing vacuuming, and she asked him what he thought the solution was. His answer? Just don’t vacuum. At all. He was serious.

I thought she was going to go ballistic on him! I about died trying not to laugh out loud. She was very professional, though, but firmly told him in no uncertain terms that his idea was NOT a solution! She also reminded him that we had two Labradors, and that for the health of the baby as well as us, he was going to have to man up. It wasn’t just household stuff, but that part stays in my memory.

I think it finally occurred to him that we were “ganging up on him” and he didn’t want to go anymore. I replied that I’d put up with as much as I was going to. For M’s sake, I’d given him every opportunity to pull his head out of his ass, but it was apparent that nothing was going to budge.

I arranged to divest myself of my house and most of my belongings in fairly short order after that. I was going to have to take care of M on my own, and for that to go smoothly I needed to regroup in a big way.

Throughout it all, he maintained his victim status.
- to be continued

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Not the Charm, part 3

Not long before I got pregnant, I was at a park with some friends, and the subject of regrets came up. With my past, I suppose I could have identified any number of things, but what I said was “my one regret is that I didn’t have the daughter I always wanted.”

I’ve felt since I was young that I would be a good mother, and that I was meant to have a girl. I wanted a child of my own very badly, but until I could offer a child far better than what I had grown up with, I knew I’d have to wait. I waited through my marriage to Skip, I waited through my relationship with MG, and the stars failed to align themselves. Yes, my life got much better, and I had friends and stability and had grown up a lot, but I wanted to give a child the best shot at being healthy and happy and whole, and it just eluded me.

I was past forty and now, here I was, and I wanted so much to be able to celebrate and anticipate and plan like other women get to when they are happy to be expecting a desired and wanted child. Instead, I was confronted with this reaction:

“It’s the end of the world.”

He did what he never, ever did. He called his father. His father and he had a relatively short telephone conversation, the gist of which is that he was encouraged to tell me to seek an abortion. Believe me when I say that I am and have always been Pro Choice. But I wanted this baby. I had waited my whole life for this, and damnit, I was going to have this baby, and his opinion at this point in our relationship was next to meaningless to me.

I told him that I was going to have it, and that if he was going to bail on me, he’d best do it. I explained that I knew that it would be harder to cope with it later, and that I definitely did not want my child to ever feel abandoned, so if he was going to go, there was the door.
He chose to stay. I can’t say whether that was the best decision, but I also knew that I wanted to be able to say that I had given him the chance. I just had no way of knowing what kind of obstacle course he was going to put me through. I did know that we as a couple had no chance, so we never even considered getting married. All along the way, I can say that I was pragmatic and outwardly rational. I offered him an easy out on more than one occasion. He agreed to do far more than he ended up doing, but I was prepared to do this alone, so it wasn’t about manipulation. It was about keeping it something I could be honest about to the only one who mattered to me; the child I was going to have.

-- to be continued

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Not the Charm - continued

I think that part of the problem is that I really do want people to be the person they profess to be. I give them the benefit of the doubt, even while my inner voice is shouting “No!”
Because some of the significant relationships in my life, especially the early, formative ones, were with people who weren’t exactly stable, or trustworthy, or dependable, I have both a great need for those qualities in others and an unhealthy familiarity with the lack of them.
So when I start to find out that someone is lying to me, say, part of me wants very much to not believe it, instead of just accepting what is and dealing with it right away. Makes for a bit of a muddle for a while, I suppose.

By the time it was clear to me that not only was the situation worse than I’d thought, but also not likely to change, I was in despair. It had been a long time since I’d taken such a leap, and I felt very tragic and ill-fated about the whole thing. I was no longer young, I was going to have to make a big decision about my house, and now the man I lived with was turning out to be a big liability. It seemed like everything I’d worked so hard and so long for was disintegrating in my hands.

I remember the day I went walking in the watershed with my best friend, telling her how I’d come to realize that I’d have to end it. Summer had come after a long winter of struggle, and instead of the lightness that summer always brings, I felt resigned. I was going to be alone for the rest of my life, despite everything, and all that remained was the details. We talked about options and possibilities for the future, but it was clear that things were going to change, and change in a big way, and I knew it was up to me to take action.

Soon after that I discovered I was pregnant.

-- to be continued

Friday, May 22, 2009

The third time isn’t always the Charm

I lived with but did not marry the man who is my baby’s father. I had a house, and he had a crappy apartment, and we both were struggling with financial issues, so I thought it would help us both out to live together. I made a BIG mistake, and it was my idea. So there. If I’d been thinking clearly and not rushed it, we’d have broken up long before I got pregnant, though, and since my daughter is the best thing that ever happened to me, I try to be philosophical about it. Still…

I was working in IT at the time, and his most recent job had been as a system administrator for a company that had left the area, so he was unemployed when I met him. The ‘tech bubble” had just burst and a lot of my friends were in the same boat, so that particular red flag didn’t get the attention it should have. He had a way of not revealing things until much later.

The thing that was so frustrating is that I would work, come home, and find that he’d not really done anything all day. He had criticized me for being what he called “materialistic” because I had a house and a tv and a computer, but he was more than happy to watch my tv and sit on my computer for hours. Not looking for a job – at all, as it turned out – just reading conservative Republican websites, obscure articles about dead people (he liked to read obituaries) and studying astronomy. He didn’t clean or fix dinner or do anything to make an attempt.

At first I believed that he was trying to find a job and was depressed because he was not finding one. So I tried to be supportive, and frankly, I was going through stuff at work and wasn’t focused too much on what he was doing. It was annoying to come home and find things worse than when I’d left, but I tried to be patient.

After a few months of this I told him he needed to make more of an effort. I was starting to suspect the job hunt was non-existent and I was disturbed by some of the statements he was making.

A had a good friend that would often come over and watch movies. One night we all watched a historical drama about England that centered on the conflict between the English aristocracy and the impoverished Irish. After the movie ended, he said he didn’t believe the Irish had ever been treated badly by the English. I couldn’t have been more shocked if he’d said the Holocaust never happened. He was serious. I was so glad that she was there as a witness, in a way. He’s a history major. He said it was all made up. . And he’s part Irish!

I think that is when the worm turned for me.

-- to be continued

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hanging on in quiet desperation

Learn: to gain knowledge or understanding of or skill in by study, instruction, or experience.

My father has always been simple and straightforward. I could tell that he found fatherhood burdensome and unpleasant. He spent very little time in our company and found every excuse to be absent. He even built himself an “office” in the detached garage with a recliner and a tv, and spent hours in there with the door closed. Since he was violent and critical when he was around us, that was probably for the best.

My mother, on the other hand, is a confusing and complicated person. She got emotionally stuck as a little girl with a huge gaping hole that she has never been able to fill. She is passive-aggressive and needy and manipulative.

When I was little, I yearned for my mother to be strong, to be protective of me, to advocate for me. I longed for a father who could express affection and interest in me. When I realized that was never going to happen, it was a source of a lot of self-doubt and pain. I thought it was because of my own shortcomings that I didn’t deserve that from a parent. It took a lot of work on my part to understand that it was the result of a cruel twist of fate: my parents really shouldn’t have been parents. They had no ability to parent and no desire to change. Every horrible thing that went wrong was outside of themselves and beyond their control, in their eyes. They got married because that is what you did. They had children for the same reason. Certainly not out of a desire to be responsible for another person’s life and upbringing. I think they thought of children and family as something to be endured.

Time and repeated experiences have not resulted in change except a sort of reduction in intensity. You can’t really talk to my mother about anything serious, because she won’t or can’t offer any of her own insight. When it comes to the past, especially, she will stubbornly and consistently stick to the trite old “I did the best I could,” no matter how lame or patently ridiculous that excuse is revealed to be.

For a long time, what I wanted more than anything was for her to tell me how she felt about the things that happened and what she understood about them now. I wanted to have a conversation that included honesty: “this is what I did and this is why, and this is what I learned from it”

But that isn’t going to ever happen. I am the kind of person who needs to understand, and she is the kind of person who only wants to forget; to skim along the surface and avoid any “unpleasantness” and “discomfort” at all cost.

It seems sad to me that my parents are now in their seventies and have no real connections in their lives. The few friends they have they rarely see and mostly they keep busy with things like bridge and gardening and golf. My father runs away to Reno as often as he can and my mother shops for things she doesn’t need. He will keep distancing and she will keep grasping until the end.

“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way” – Pink Floyd

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A snapshot of my Glamorous Life

The purpose of this blog was to document my adventurous move from the “rugged hills” of Northern California’s Sacramento area, back to the suburbs of Colorado’s Denver Metro Area. (Sometimes a reality check is a good thing) You know, because it all looks so different in retrospect...

Today is one of those days that I’m SURE will be funnier LATER.

M was hard to wake up this morning (as usual) but then was lethargic and “cold” and kind of whiny, and she usually isn’t like that. Still, I offered 3 times to let her stay home with Grandma and she declined. (yeah, kid; it doesn’t sound good to me, either!) So, off we go down the hill, and in the rearview mirror she looks bad. To cheer her up a little bit, hoping she’s just tired, I get her a Kid’s Hot Chocolate from Starbucks, but she doesn’t drink it. UH OH! A few blocks later, she says “I feel pukey” and I pulled over just in time to watch her barf all over herself. The orange color was a little strange... hmmm, what did she eat last night?

I cleaned her up as well as I could with baby wipes and turned the car around. Left a message with my boss’s voicemail that I wouldn’t be in, and drove all the way back. My boss is pretty cool, but our “HR” bitch is a venomous cobra who makes our lives miserable, and I can just imagine her reaction and the grief she’s given my boss. I was out two days last week for my OWN illness (which I am just barely getting over) and this will likely send her over the edge.

But I’m out of there in 6 1/2 weeks! And they know it. My boss says she’s been repeatedly pestered about “when is she going to turn in her notice?!” Um, when I have to. In 4 1/2 weeks. The only reasons I let people know that I was leaving already is that they have been making “workforce reductions” and I don’t want someone else to get fired (as I am pretty senior in my assignment) who doesn’t need to be. Plus I really like my boss and I’ve told her from day one that I was going to graduate and then split. I try to be honest and fair with people whenever I can, as long as they aren’t going to use the information to fuck me over. I can’t WAIT to kiss that place goodbye.

M is back in bed, napping now. She’ll wake up all chipper, no doubt, while I am dragging my ass and still need to run a load of laundry of her barfed-in clothes. I got a chance to catch up on my browsing of the Internets, though. That was nice.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Brunch in the Mining Camp

My father has good intentions, sometimes. He had it in his head that this year he should take my mother, me, and my daughter to a Mother’s Day brunch. He’s never done this before, but since we’ll be leaving soon I figured I’d just go along with it, knowing we’ll probably never do this again.
He has zero sense of what constitutes quality. My mother – when she’s allowed to intervene – usually mediates his choices, but there have been some spectacular exceptions. His sporadic presents usually come from the gift shop of whatever casino he is spending time at. He is the pawn of salespeople.
So I knew going to brunch today would be iffy. M wanted to wear her new cotton sun dress and pigtails. She looked adorable. I put on a pair of linen pants and a simple sleeveless top and some sandals. I’ve been sick all week and I wanted to look presentable. I shouldn’t have bothered. If I’d have been wearing a football jersey and a pair of cutoffs I would have been overdressed.
It took a half hour to drive there. As it turns out, he wasn’t able to find this place in the yellow pages or the local directory he uses, so my mother suggested he look online. (hahahahahaha) While driving, these little details came out, plus the fact that a bridge friend of his had NOT recommended it but had told him where it was. Approximately. He said we had reservations for 11:30.
The drive took us past state forest land and was very pretty for several miles, then we drove by lots of modest summer homes and trailer parks. Past the mini mart and the post office and fire station, and past the feed store. Then, he found it. I was speechless. It was an old wood building, housing a bar and this restaurant. We had a little trouble finding the way in, but when we did, the door opened into a narrow dark high ceilinged room with wood tables and bench seats. Seated at three of the tables were fat older people in shorts, eating off of blue enameled camping plates. A waitress squeezed by and said to sit anywhere. (so much for those reservations)
The buffet was apparently behind a door in the back. We sat down, looking around, and the people in the room looked at us. After a while, a man with shaking hands came out with his big fist full of cutlery, and told us to help ourselves to the food and that someone could bring us juice and water. Then he said that Bloody Mary Joe was working today since it was so “busy.” I asked if that meant I could get a bloody mary and he said yes! My father ordered a bloody mary too and my mother asked for a mimosa. We all got up to fill our plates.
Ok, I used to work second jobs as a server and bartender, and I’ve done Mother’s Day brunches, so I guess you could say I have a certain set of expectations, but good god. I circled the buffet a couple times, trying to find things that looked safe and that M would eat. There were some colorless shrimp on a plate, mini muffins and sweet rolls cut in half, something in a warming pan they called eggs benedict, some overcooked bacon and dry scrambled eggs, and some sliced fruit and a warm cheesecake.
My dad eats very fast, and for once, we were all ready to go when he was. I sucked down my bloody and his (he didn’t like how “spicy” it was). The mining motif while we ate, surrounded by the descendents of those desperate men, made for a rather quiet meal. I looked at the bars on the windows and wondered what they were protecting. The guy who gave us our forks brought around a single red carnation for each “mother” – and my father remarked that he’d understood that the mother’s were going to get “flowers” – plural. He said this after being there for the whole brunch. I wonder where he gets his information.
Happy Mother’s Day!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Never do anything the easy way

April was my last LAST literature class! Last week I had a shitload of work to finish, a four-hour timed test to take, and a paper to write. I planned ahead and arranged to take Friday and Monday off. (Thank goodness for “diversity days!”) Then I started feeling kind of sick. We’ve been suffering from allergies for weeks, as the pollen around here has been fierce, so at first I wasn’t really sure whether it was just the allergies getting worse, or a real virus. All I knew for sure is that I felt like hell.

Friday I woke up hurting, but as I’d organized my schedule and felt like I could pace myself, I thought I’d be okay.

At noon, I got a call from M’s daycare. M felt “puky” and I had to go pick her up. Of course it was pouring rain. When I got there she informed me she felt better. It is a half hour drive to her daycare one way, so she was coming home with me anyway. I felt horrible.

By the time we got home, she felt energetic and I felt like death. I decided to postpone the test until Saturday and kept working on my assignments.

Saturday: more rain, I felt terrible, M felt fine, and I had a test to take. The test was gruesome, but I finished it at 3:45 and then collapsed on the couch and watched tv until bedtime.

Sunday: more rain, I felt terrible, M felt fine, but bored and kind of cranky. I finished my paper at 8pm. Then I couldn’t fall asleep until after 11.

This morning we slept in until 7:45 (whoo hoo!) and then we stopped at Starbucks and had a little something. M loves their “kid’s hot chocolate” and was very happy.

I am going to catch up with all the laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping I need to do, and maybe get a long nap if I’m really lucky.
No class in May!