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A livable place, should one have the opportunity to live here.

A livable place, should one have the opportunity to live here.

 Laurie, Marlene, Pauline, and the rest of you who have asked me these past few weeks, “Hey Crystal, what’s the news on the house?” Well, here is an unofficial, totally non-committal update.

The photo above would theoretically be my new home, should the planets properly align.

As I told Laurie, I’m superstitious. I blogged a month ago that I found a home to purchase. And then I tantalized you by saying how close to paradise it’s going to be. And I still won’t get into the reasons why I think it’s paradise, because I worry that if I rave too much, or flash a bunch of photos, it will evaporate. My fingers are crossed, I’m hopping from one foot to the other, hands balled up, trying not to shout how excited I am.

For the last few years I never thought this could happen because my name is currently on another mortgage that I cannot currently escape from. In January 2008 I bought a house with a guy I was dating at the time. I am not at all comfortable with sharing enormous investments and would have preferred either his name on it or mine, but not both. However, we were told that in the state of Oregon, no matter what the relationship, if multiple adults will consider the property their home, then everyone’s name goes on the mortgage. It was the sixth house I have purchased, and the FIRST one that had another person’s name on it. The idea of that grated (I’m a very independent woman, ha ha).

The economy crashed and he lost his job and I carried us for a year till he got another job. Then he lost that one too. And I carried us again. Times were hard. So hard in 2008 and 2009. Though he was finally working again in 2010, a lot of things piled up until I couldn’t bear it anymore and left the relationship and moved out, leaving him in the house since he loved it so much. He said his intent was to refinance and get my name off it. I fully support that idea, as soon as he can possibly arrange it.

Instead, he lost his job again.

So what I have now is a house on my record that is not mine, that I am not welcome at, that has many many months of missed and late mortgage payments, that I have no control over, but it somewhat controls me.

The ex-boyfriend and I barely communicate now, but I still have access to the website of the mortgage lender, and guess what I discovered several months ago? Viola! One full year of mortgage payments have been made in full and on time! This means that I no longer appear as such a great risk, and I can qualify for a loan in this window, while it lasts. (Quick! Before he loses his job again!)

I also mentioned in an earlier post that there are not many houses on the market here, and that they are rising in value. I knew exactly what I wanted and I would not settle for anything less. That meant I had to search far and wide for a place. I found it well outside of Portland. It will be an hour and 10 minute drive from home to work from now on, so thank goodness I work at home and only have to head into the office one day a week. Next month I will say goodbye to City Girl and get to know Country Girl again. I miss her. I haven’t known her for oh, so long.

You will see my new journey chronicled, as I make that transition. In fact, today I was negotiating the price of a used tractor, and The Uncles called to see how many chicks I needed so they can start raising them for me in their incubation cages. I like to begin all my adventures feet first.

That is… once I am certain the adventure is actually going to happen. Stay tuned.

View from the Thomas Condon Visitor Center

View of Sheep Rock from the Thomas Condon Visitor Center

We roused the kids early, fed everyone breakfast, and were rolling through the eastern Oregon desert by 8 am. We stopped first at the Mascall Formation Overlook. The Mascall layer is remarkable because it’s a 15 million year old section of rock made up of successive layers of volcanic ash (you know I love volcanoes) separated by floodplain activity. This formation spreads across a large area of Oregon and holds a wealth of fossils. The protected area of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument includes 20,000 square miles.

Mascall Formation Overlook. You can see the wedge of the ash layer poking up.

Mascall Formation Overlook. You can see the wedge of the ash layer poking up.

Picture Gorge. On the other side of that gorge is the turn off road to the Visitor Center and museum.

Picture Gorge. On the other side of that gorge is the turn off road to the Visitor Center and museum.

From there we could also see Picture Gorge, so named for the pictographs said to be on the walls of the canyon. I yearned to see the pictographs, but there didn’t appear to be any good place to pull off the highway, and there was no clear indication in brochures and signs of where the ancient art might be. And we had a truckload of teenagers dying to get home to their friends…

Those kids were so funny on this trip. Moan and groan at every opportunity, then enjoy every stop. We pulled up to the museum, and blam! They all disappeared into the exhibits, got excited about stuff, read the placards, pulled out drawers holding small fossils, and peered through the glass into the fossil laboratory co-located with the museum. “Mom! Check this out!” “Dad! Look at this!”

dinosaur heads and turtle shell

fossilized skulls and turtle shell

Tara, Arno, and Diego engrossed in the displays

Tara, Arno, and Diego engrossed in the displays

Million-year-old leaf fossils

Million-year-old leaf fossils

Like I said in the last post, Arno and I had never been to this part of Oregon before, and for me it was a surprise to discover what a wealth of fossil excavation and high-quality paleontology is going on right here in my back yard.

This part of Oregon holds one of the richest fossil beds on Earth, revealing a window into the Age of Mammals, in which ancient prehistoric critters battled out the circle of life in rich riverbeds and floodplains. The fossils here come from multiple eras dating back as far as 55 million years. There are remnants of early three-toed horses and rhinos, camels, elephants, and giant sloths. Early dogs, wolves, and cats are here, and crazy creatures like warthogs as big as bison. Tara and I were pleased to discover bones of ancient mouse-deer and bear-dogs, since they would fit perfectly into the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender or Korra.

Diego suggested a stop at Painted Hills, without being able to explain why. He had seen them the summer before, while at an OMSI camp. We were still trying to keep kids happy, and made a lunch stop there. The ranger at the museum had told us that all the trees growing in the park were particularly selected because they were relatives of the 30 million year old plant fossils retrieved from that very area. So cool!

View from the Painted Hills Overlook trail

View from the Painted Hills Overlook trail

What a spectacular scene. From this distance, I could only guess at the texture and composition of the hills.

What a spectacular scene. From this distance, I could only guess at the texture and composition of the hills.

After lunch we chose a couple trails and headed out to see the sights. Bravo Diego! The painted hills are wonderful! They are 33 million year old coloured clay hills that are somewhat beyond description with words. You’ll have to use the photos to see what I mean.

The hills are fragile and millions of years old, so one of our trails was on a boardwalk, to keep our reckless feet away from the precious resource. There were a couple places where we could see tracks across the mounds. Yes, the appeal of touching them is nearly irresistible, but resistance is not impossible. And I wished people could do a better job of restraining themselves (or their children or dogs).

Mounds of coloured cracked clay

Mounds of coloured cracked clay

Miguel, Diego, and Tara along the boardwalk on the Painted Cove Trail

Miguel, Diego, and Tara along the boardwalk on the Painted Cove Trail

This little girl ran ahead of her parents in her excitement

This little girl ran ahead of her parents in her excitement

 

boardwalk into Painted Cove Trail

boardwalk into Painted Cove Trail

We hit the highway again, and put the miles behind us. We had to screech to a halt when we spotted this beside the road.

Shoe tree

Shoe tree

wow. all those shoes...

wow. all those shoes…

North of Madras we had a lovely view of a whole string of volcanoes running north-south along the Cascade Range. Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson, both above 10 thousand feet, then Mt. Hood above 11 thousand.

We came to an intersection that is a poignant reminder of one of the obstacles in our lives. A metaphor for Arno and me. Amidst the astounding beauty of this phenomenal place in the world, the sign says turn left for where Crystal lives, or turn right for where Arno lives. Before we met, Arno and I moved a lot. A LOT. We packed up our kids and dragged them all over the place. Before we met, we had each promised our eldest not to move anymore, so they could have a home in one spot till they were able to finish school. So we find ourselves today, 62 miles apart in a beautiful relationship, which is not impossible, but frustrating on some days. Miguel and Tara graduate in 2015, and Diego will still be in high school in Hood River. I’m already scanning the internet for homes for sale in Hood River!

left or right?

left or right?

A new perspective of Mount Hood. This is from the south, an angle I don't get to see very often.

A new perspective of Mount Hood. This is from the south, an angle I don’t get to see very often.

Post Script: I had to soothe my curiosity and thus finally figured out the mystery of The Great and Powerful John Day. Who was this famous man? Ground-breaking paleontologist? Mining magnate? Politician from the pioneering days of the Oregon Trail? No, to all the above. Mr. Day left Virginia with a group heading for Astoria, Oregon to start a fur trading post on the coast. On the way he got lost and was helped by a band of Indians to find the Columbia River Gorge in late 1811. Not long after, a different band of Indians robbed him, taking even the clothes he was wearing. The scene of the robbery was the mouth of the Mah-hah River as it emptied into the Columbia. Mr. Day finally made it to Astoria and told his story. From then on, people pointed out the river and said, “That’s where John Day was stripped naked by the Indians.” Well, it eventually was known as the John Day River, instead of the Mah-hah. Meanwhile, far upstream, and many many years later, a national monument was named after the river that flowed through. As far as anyone can tell, John Day never came within 100 miles of the town of John Day, the fossil beds, or any of the other dozens of things named after him in the region. 

I don’t, apparently, do relationships like others. Or like I’m supposed to. The feedback I agonize over comes mainly from my family. My mother may be gone, but her voice is still clear in my head, “Sissy, a woman’s role is to support her husband.” Or, any number of other countless admonishments I received from her for my entire life. My father says he doesn’t want to meet my current love because it’s too painful for him to open up to another man, and then have that person leave my life, and thus his. He doesn’t have the emotional constitution to deal with “another future ex-boyfriend or future ex-husband” as he puts it. My Grandma Trulove, bless her heart, I love her to death, said once, “Now what’s his name again? There are so many I can’t keep track.”

Ugh. It makes me feel wretched.

Why do I feel wretched? Because my society (and many societies around the world) teaches that a woman needs to pick one partner and stick to that person. Forever. Period. Deal with it! If you have loved more than one man, you are a bad woman. What governing power usually directs societal pressure? Religion.

I began life pretty dumb about relationships, and I have spent decades learning how to put healthy people into my life. Maybe *you* found an excellent, caring, respectful person to fall in love with, the very first time you tried. But I did not. Maybe you had some reliable relationship skills when you were 19, and knew just how to respect your partner and make that person feel valued and cherished. I did not have these skills. I had to learn by trial and error. I blew it. I got damaged and I caused damage. Often.

I was swimming out at sea in religion the whole time I was growing up, and that was getting in the way of my learning. Religious rules are often about absolutes: “Do this because it’s right,” but those rules don’t accommodate my questions. I had no foundation to stand on from which to launch my life; just criticism and reminders from those around me that I was probably sinning in some way. I don’t recall solid modeling of good relationship behavior, or helpful tricks and tools. Mom reminded me that (very soon) I needed find a cute guy, get married, start popping out babies, and stay married to that person for the rest of our lives no matter what. Because that is what good Christians do. There is all that accountability in Heaven. There is St. Peter to reckon with at the gates, there are all my ancestors who will certainly judge me and every decision I ever made on Earth, and there will be the community of other judgmental Christians while I live. Talk about pressure!

Skipping all the details, at about age 30 I came to terms with being an atheist. I really have tried (trust me) to believe. It would simply make everything easier. I have tried since my youth group leader, Hoby, assigned me to the debate to team to argue the truth of God’s existence. I tried when my father decided to live his life true to his faith, and that faith turned out to be startlingly conservative. I tried when my mother had me at church four times a week trying to beat religion into me. I tried when my Grandfather, Capn. John, actually took my hands and bawled his eyes out, begging me to give my life to my Father. Sorry everyone. I can’t do it. I can’t lie.

Ok. So, atheism established, it changes my perspective on things. WHY on Earth would anyone want to stay in a bad relationship if there is no such thing as Heaven? If when I die, I’m dead?

If I was a stupid 19 year old, and dated a jerk, why would I stay with that person? If I was a stupid 22 year old, and married a selfish spoiled arrogant man, why would I stay with that person? If I unexpectedly got myself in waaay too deep at age 25 and discovered the next man I had married was using methamphetamines, why would I stay with that person? If I am 37 and have a daughter, watching me, trying to figure out how to grow up, why wouldn’t I try to teach her empowerment?

I believe that my life ends the day I stop breathing, and thus what I do with my brief life becomes desperately, excruciatingly important. What society or religion thinks of me becomes pathetically unimportant. I must do this right, even if that means to stop what I started, and to try again. An atheist can be motivated by time, rather than by guilt, which is a much more positive form of energy. And if she is naïve, and lacks skills, then she is obviously going to make poor choices. And I did. And I learned. I am 42 now and I don’t know it all, but I am learning every day, and always getting better.

Maybe my Arno is my future ex-husband. It could happen. I am no longer naïve. But no matter how things end up between us, he is the best man I’ve ever loved. My skills to put healthy people in my life have improved with time. I do relationships my way, and that doesn’t look like the way everyone else does it. In the whole scheme of things, what I am responsible for boils down to me and my short life, which, when all is said and done, is done.

{On an unrelated topic, the photo at the top was taken by my daughter, of random people at Mt. Tabor, in Portland. I like the shot.}

My vision is slowly clearing up from the frosted glasses I wore in my last relationship. For me, three months is a long time to snap out of it. I am used to feeling freedom and joy almost the instant I get away from whatever man I’ve leeched myself onto.

What explains the gradual drift away from him, rather than a sudden snap to consciousness? I’d like to believe it’s a sign that I have grown as a person enough to leave a relationship before I am on the edge of despair. In the past, I have left relationships as a last-ditch effort to survive. My grieving the betrayal and loss of most relationships occurs while still officially in them. This time I left earlier in the process, and so maybe I continued the grieving once I was gone. Maybe I’m getting wiser.

In any case, my cathartic experience was Monday, when I finally moved the last of my stuff out of the house and over to my new rental place. In the process of hauling stuff out of the basement, I passed a sickening sight. He’s got a bunch of trash and furniture strewed at random along the side of the house. Who knows how long it’s been there – a month? Plastic, wires, broken things, tools, and painfully- furniture. For example, a pine hutch for the kitchen with cupboards and a drawer. It was in perfect condition when I left. It is now beyond salvage; warped and bleached from rain and weather. One of the pieces was a large oak entertainment center that I had come to get. He had at least laid a piece of plastic on top, but the base was in three inches of standing water. The bottom trim is warped and blackened with mold.

“Just like common white trash,” I thought to myself. “Leaving a bunch of stuff outside in the yard to get ruined.” I wondered: Who is this person who is so thoughtless and careless?

And it hit me: there is no difference in this behavior than anything I knew about him in our six years together. This is how he has always been. He has carelessly smashed half our dishes over the years. When we moved he piled everything in a jumble in the moving van so nearly all our wooden furniture is damaged now (that is, the stuff that wasn’t totally ruined). He stacked spare tires on a rocking chair, so that when we unpacked the chair the fabric cushions had ground-in black rubber. Ruined. It doesn’t occur to him to place any extra value on things that are expensive or of quality construction: to him, no things are valuable. In one way, it could be said that he is not beholden to material objects, but on the other hand – since we have often struggled for money – he was thoughtless and careless not to consider that everything he ruined had to be replaced. For a price. Sometimes the things he ruined had nostalgic value to me and can never be replaced.

The difference is that I am no longer there to walk behind him and clean up his messes.

My transformative thought was that the whole damn relationship was probably me! The catharsis is that I am relieved to know that I was correct to leave him. He isn’t only careless with furniture; he is careless with his life. He does not cherish his friends, and he does not cherish his family. I thought back over all the catastrophes he helped create and maintain, and I thought back over the lies that I told to my family and my friends to protect and support him, and to protect myself from my embarrassment and shame. Like when he was unemployed for 14 months and I helped him maintain all his excuses and lies about why he wasn’t employed. Yes, the economy was bad – a perfect alibi. But I didn’t tell anyone the truth. Such as the time he got a job offer, and let it go.

I am angry at myself (No, not at him; I feel sorry for him.) for not learning this lesson yet. I am a world-class enabler and after forty years and hundreds of relationships (well, it SEEMS like it!), I just cannot seem to learn to stop it.

I need to stop valuing people according to their potential, and begin placing value on what they actually do with their potential. I glom onto a man believing that with support and encouragement, he could be the man he truly is inside! I give, and give, and give until I am sucked dry, and there is nothing to show for my investment. And my bonus gift is that they always (Always.) find a way to spin it so that I am the one who betrayed. I am the one who let it fall apart. I am the evil trickster.

He said to me recently that he has watched me fall into deep depression in the past two years (actually, I have indeed been depressed a lot). He said I am the most depressed person he knows. “I am truly worried about you without me there to look out for you,” he says. “Now that you’re gone you will withdraw from life and sink more deeply into your depression. It drives me crazy because everything you want, I give you, but you can’t be satisfied with anything. You think leaving me will solve all your problems, but you had all you ever needed with me, and refused to see it.”

For the last year I’ve believed him when he told me what a dark soul I was, dragging him down when otherwise he would be happy. Today I say back to him as Eowyn said to Wormtongue, “Your words are poison.” I will no longer listen.

I am now free to try again to live up to my own potential. It is a beautiful, limitless path with brilliant possibility.

The view southwest from my Pa's deck

We spent a leisurely weekend at my dad’s house in southern Idaho over Labor Day weekend.

This corner of the deck is the center of life here

Man, I love that place for its peace. The Owyhee desert is too dry, too brown, for me to really love. So it’s simply the environment that my dad and his wife create for visitors. Not to mention the incredible food.

hummer

While Mark studied for his geologist certification test, Tara and I went to visit Gramilda and Rex on Sunday. They seem to be doing well. Gramilda was active and in good spirits. She’s going blind. She doesn’t say anything about it, but just doesn’t look at stuff. You know how eyes will follow your talk or your hands in a conversation? I found that interesting, since I’ve never been around a blind person. I am really proud of her for being so strong about it and not complaining.

Gramilda, Pulek & me

Tara and I drove on the other side of the Snake River to get a look at her Grandpa and Grandma’s house from that side. When we got back, Pa told me that we had passed rocks with petroglyphs, and didn’t we stop to look at them? Arggh! I would have, if I had known they were there!! It’s a long trip, so we didn’t go back then. But now that I know what to look for, I will go back another day.

We swam in their pool, which was an excellent cool-down in the hot weather. I think if I lived out there, I would have to have a pool too. Tara and I tried swimming in the Snake once. In the summer it’s full of muck and sort of disgusting to swim in. The middle is clear, where the current remains strong, but then… there’s the problem of the current.

The view from inside my head for four days. Nice.

Each morning, everyone tumbles out onto the deck in the dark with their coffee and waits for the sun to come up. It’s my favourite peaceful ritual there. Pa and Michelle have stepped up their coffee quality since my last visit.

trying to hide her pretty face

Finally, they aren’t drinking that pale, flavorless yuk they’ve had for so many years. But in any case, the quiet of listening to the birds in the dark, waiting for the sun to climb over the ridge across the water, is great therapy.

This time, however, Pa and Michelle could not stop talking. I don’t know if it’s because of age, or if they’re lonely out there, or if they were nervous about meeting Mark for the first time (except for Grandma Haley’s funeral, which didn’t really count as a visit). Blah blah blah. Mark and I are not so much talkers. We tend to prefer silence in the mornings.

Grandpa Trulove and Miss T fly fishing

busy feeding

I wondered what they thought of him. I’ve been having reservations about my relationship for the first time, and I’m interested in feedback. I am not so critical of Mark, as I am recognizing that I’m not happy and trying to figure out why. Mark is an awesome person. Truly the most modest and spiritual man I’ve ever been close to. He does things that drive me crazy, but doesn’t everyone’s partner drive them crazy sometimes? He can be a giant, needy, baby…but in my opinion that’s a typical male tendency. I am sure my dissatisfaction is due to my own wonky head, and the reason Mark is on the radar is because I see him every day.

Pa and T bringing in their catch

So all too soon the weekend was over, and we had to make the loooong long drive back home along I-84. It’s a full 8 hours. More if you stop to eat or explore. We decided that, in the future, as long as flight prices stay low, it would be worth it to shell out the money and get two extra days to enjoy, rather than drive.

Oh yeah, one funny: Mark flipped out when I told him I wanted to do a road trip on Labor Day Weekend. “Back in New England, on Labor Day you hunker down and hide because the traffic is so bad. If you can, you don’t leave the house.” “Well, we’re heading through eastern Oregon,” I said. “There probably won’t be much traffic. You know how empty those roads can be. There will be increased traffic, for sure.” Mark laughs, “Oh, so instead of four other vehicles on the road… I’ll see, what, ten?”

empty roads in the Columbia Gorge

miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles

Sure enough; the highways were empty empty empty. Man, I love the West.

The Trulove household from the other side of the Snake River

I wrote to my friend Vlad this morning: I need to choose one of many topics and blog this morning!

As I assume many artists do, I keep a running list in my mind of all the projects I want to get to. Since I fancy myself a writer, my prominent list is of all the blog topics I will write. Then, before I get to them, new topics come up. And now look, it’s been 10 days and I haven’t written about anything!

Just off the top of my head, there’s:
1) What’s going on with politics, demonstrations, vandalism, violence, state TV, foreign media and all the rest in Iran! Wow! So exciting.
2) Our trip to Cali and camping and the ocean, seeing old friends over last weekend.
3) My “garden” is more like jungle, I can’t believe it. So awesome. I need, need, need to put up new photos.
4) Excitement at being contacted by a new beautiful Gaia soul who reached out to me. I can’t wait to get to know her better.
5) Writing about the foreclosure and loan modification process on our home, for those interested, those worried, those hopeful. Inspired by Love in the Time of Foreclosure.

…but in the interest of time, I’m simply going to copy an email I wrote to a family member this morning. It’s not really a hot topic on my mind, but it’s interesting, and says a little more about me.

***********
Yep Mark and I are happy together, but I need to set the record straight. You give me too much credit. It’s Mark’s second really significant relationship, and his total relationships he could count on his fingers. He’s a pretty loyal pup.

I, on the other hand, am currently in one of the longest relationships I’ve ever had. Crazy, huh? I’ve dated over 40 people, was married and divorced THREE times. I’m always seeking, unsatisfied, restless. I always manage to hook up with selfish partners who aren’t necessarily evil, but get that way when combined with my faults of enabling and playing victim and having extremely low self esteem.

My relationship life has been a total disaster. When I met Mark I was close to having completely given up, and he was feeling the same. In the beginning, we were together NOT because we thought we were dating!! ha ha. I had given up on men and he had given up on women and we both swore off marriage forever, and thought the only good thing about relationships was sex and who needs to be in a committed relationship for that? We are also both needy, clingy people, so we spent all that time together because we didn’t want to be alone. And it was easy to be together because we didn’t expect a damn thing from each other. We felt the same about love and the opposite sex. When Mark moved in with me in Fitchburg, we agonized about the terms of it for a long time, until we agreed that it was not a commitment, except his rent payment was a commitment and helped me continue to own the house.

However, we really liked our time together. We enjoyed each other physically. We enjoyed our talks. I loved meeting his family and learning about his life. We had these serious talks pretty often that were like “Ok, the day one of us doesn’t want to be here is the day this arrangement is over.” But…we continued to want to be together.

Maybe that was my secret to learning how to be happy. I needed to stop having so many irrelevant expectations.

Also, my Mark is an extremely spiritual guy. He has his days when he’s a total selfish, whiny brat, but if I can wait it out, he corrects himself. And I forgive him for it, because I know I can also be a horrible bitchy moody person and he keeps forgiving me for it. He never asks me to change. He makes fun of my habits sometimes, but not in a mean, you-are-wrong, kind of way, but just because he thinks I’m amusing. Mark is loving and loyal and it takes very very little to make him feel good.

Anyhow, somewhere along the line we realized that we were in love with each other. It wasn’t until after he moved to Portland. In fact, when we agreed to both move to Portland together, we still insisted to each other that the move did not commit us to each other, and that we were still free to go our separate ways in Portland if either one of us wanted to.

There did come a time when we hashed it out and made a new agreement, that we were in a committed relationship. It was a slow and painful transition. It took about a year probably. And the hurt and resentfulness that built up during the transition took another year to get worked out.

He is so wise. He told me soon after we met that he didn’t think he could get to know a person until they had been close for at least 5 years. Considering that none of my marriages had lasted that long, I thought he was crazy. But it’s been almost 5 years, and I am just now starting to think we’ve got things going on the right track between us. I am also aware that we both have a lot of work to do if we’re going to keep it healthy. Urg. What a lot of work.

But it is fun feeling love for a guy after all this time. I mean, getting all giggly and happy just to see him. That’s a new thing for me – to feel that way after years.

OK! Enough on that topic. I hope it wasn’t tremendously boring. I just didn’t want you to think that I’m a sweet innocent girl, floating along to guy number two and having it all work out. We have come through a lot of crap to be happy together. And that pain includes the things we have done to each other and somehow recovered from together.

Financial stress and deaths of loved ones has hit us hard in the last few years, and that makes everything worse. But I’m sure you guys know about that right now. Two of Mark’s closer friends in AA have killed themselves, now his grandmother dies of cancer. Urg. I think you are an optimist like me, so here’s to keeping your spirits up!

Newspaper clipping from the olden days

Whew! I made it all the way through.

This week off didn’t go quite as planned, but it was full. I like my life to be full. Now I’m just sort of exhausted. I am looking forward to going back to work so I can wind down. Hm. That doesn’t seem right.

Did I say good? I need to say that too. I spent the week with my family – my amazing daughter especially – and that is good soul food and something I really needed.

It’s my daughter’s Spring Break from the 5th grade. Since it’s my turn to spend Spring Break with her instead of her dad’s turn, I took the week off work to be with her. (I love that my job allows me to just take time off when I need to)

My mother showed up the first Friday, with her husband. She has been going stir crazy ever since we bought this house, wanting to come for a visit. She brought two boxes of tools and supplies, wanting to do fix-up work with us. I thought she was nuts, since she was only planning to be here for 2 1/2 days, including Easter. I think my head is more firmly centered in reality. But I let her have her Mom dreams, and didn’t say anything. Who knows? Maybe it would work out.

Ug. I forgot how completely draining it is for me to spend time with Mother. I don’t think it’s entirely her – though she is one of the most challenging personalities in the world to entertain – but it also has a lot to do with our relationship. My perception of our time together is her constantly judging, criticizing, lecturing, and whining. And then sporadically telling me how much she loves me and loves my daughter, which doesn’t boost me as much as it could, because I get confused. Perhaps that is not what is going on, but that is how it feels to me.

Anyway, generally within a week of an anticipated visit from my mother, I begin to freak out. It’s mostly subconscious. This time I only burst into an angry fit and yelled at my partner once – the day before her arrival – and he was good enough to figure out the source of much of my stress. While she’s here, I freak out non stop. I become hypersensitive to her whining complaints, and somehow feel it is entirely up to me to make her life the way she wants it. (Note: this is very, very, child-parent stuff… it’s like I’m 12 and afraid of getting grounded again. Very unhealthy and scary to me that it happens so thoroughly and so quickly when she’s in my presence.)

I am much better than I used to be, so I am pleased with my growth. That, as with so many things, is due for the most part to my amazing partner, who continues to teach me how to stand up for myself, and how to disagree with someone I love, and how arguing does not mean I care less about the person I’m arguing with. So, Mom would whine and judge me and criticize, and I was able to let a lot of it just slide through my ear canals and pass on back into the air rather than find a crevice in my head to fester in. At the same time, ever since I’ve been practicing standing up to her, she has stopped being so critical. I think she finally realized how hurtful it is for her to be like that without any sort of reign on her tongue. I can see her earnest effort to try to keep her lips together, and I really really appreciate it. This is the kind of thing that lets me know my mother does love me.

She decided to extend their visit. ha! Just one more day, and that made more sense. Friday night we went out to dinner at Seasons and Regions, a great seafood place on the West side. Saturday we went to Hawthorne and hit  Buffalo Exchange, Peets, Noah’s Bagels, and all those really truly great shops down there. Finally the sun had warmed us up, so we spent a few minutes at the ever-lovely Laurelhurst Park coming into full bloom, then went down to the Waterfront Park near where the giant Cirque du Soleil tents are set up for Corteo (my partner begged me to go, but at $85 per ticket, I scolded him out of it – we can barely afford groceries). We were all getting hungry, so wandered up to the Saturday Market and bought lunch – each of us at a different stand. Tara had corn dogs, my partner a big chicken, rice and vegetable plate, Mom and I had falafel pita sandwiches, her husband had pizza. How fun is that?

Saturday afternoon was Easter stuff: decorations up, coloring eggs, and winding down. Sunday morning, pouring rain and cold of course, so Tara found her eggs in the sopping wet. We had fun making the day special for her. She’s 10, and in the age of finding out the truth about things like the Easter Bunny. She truly was surprised that eggs were already hidden, and I could tell her young mind was trying to figure it out.

She still chooses to believe in some things, even when she learns a different story, which I like and encourage. This may offend some of you, but I am committed to this: If you believe it, that is what makes it true. It works for Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, elves, faeries, and God. Yes, God too. I don’t believe in a god, so no gods are working miracles in my life. BUT! I do believe in Mother Earth, who works constant miracles, and I believe in faeries, who play tricks and cause mischief in my life. I believe that human beings have magical powers, so I even create miracles in my own life. You may say “well, that’s God” and I agree with you. That’s why it’s so beautiful. When God is real for you, God is a personality in your life and you see Him in the lives of others.

So anyway, my daughter is a staunch believer in Santa Claus, and she also believes in God. She’s still making up her mind about Easter. ha ha.

Mother brought a stack of recipes she wanted us to cook while she was here. I picked one, and we spent much of Sunday shopping for food and cooking this meal. I was beginning to weaken against Mom’s onslaught, and her husband was getting bored. Luckily, my daughter is old enough to take him for a walk, so Grandpa and the kid took off on a couple of walks. Once they went to Target and Grandpa bought her a whole bunch of stuff for her upstairs bathroom which she has decided needs a “bamboo” theme.

Monday, my partner went back to work and I had to handle the folks on my own. By this time, my poor man had about been driven over the edge. Mom is hard enough, but on top of it, I was crumbling into a mess, and my partner had completely run out of patience. He spent Sunday in the basement ripping down the interior walls which we both hate. It was good hard labor and kept him away from our guests and away from me.

The weather improved on Monday, and my step-father offered to haul a load of debris back to Idaho if we wanted. He had been looking for a way to help us out, and this was a true gift. We live in a city. You can’t get rid of anything that doesn’t fit into the pre-approved trash cans, or doesn’t fit specific guidelines. Since we moved in, we’ve been accumulating a heap of things we just don’t know what to do with. Well, it’s all gone now! Even the plywood and 2x4s that my man ripped out of the basement. While my step-father and I filled the bed of the pickup, Mom and my kid did yard work. They worked hard and it made such a difference. I am very grateful.

Tuesday everyone left. It was a dramatic change for sure! My partner left at 5:30am to begin a two-day work trip to the field in central Oregon. Mom and her husband took off by 6:00am for their 6 hour drive back to north Idaho in the snow. That left my girl and me for two entire days of just each other. I finally let her sink into her computer as she had been wishing for (Club Penguin and Diablo II mostly), and I began taking care of business. By Thursday, I had been to the dentist, took my car for a tune-up, figured out how to check our phone messages with Comcast, had a phone meeting with my Ameriprise advisor, gassed up the car and the lawn mower, got my taxes off to a tax specialist, found birthday gifts for my nephew and niece, bought groceries, did about 16 loads of laundry (ok, maybe only 11), finished some legal paperwork for my attorney, helped my daughter get through two books of required reading, and YES, even worked on my book a little. Man! It feels so good to get so much done.

Part of why my week ended on a down note are the results of some of that stuff. The car hasn’t been in for a tune-up in its whole life, and I feel fortunate for getting it out of the shop after only $2036. Actually, I feel good about that in a big picture sense. Haven’t been to the dentist in too long, and my teeth cost me $285, which is a lot. But that is even tolerable. The problem was that I found out the reason I have been losing tiny chips of my teeth and thus experiencing terrible sensitivity is because I am freekin’ stressed out. I grind my teeth in my sleep, which causes “abfraction” which weakens and chips my teeth. The dentist told me to just tell myself to relax. Um. Yeah. He suggested wearing a mouth guard like football players wear, when I sleep. I think it’s a very good idea, and I’ll try it.

The one that FRIES me is a very bad experience with the tax person. The woman is an offensive know-it-all who repeatedly offended me and showed herself to be lazy as well. By the time I was fed up with her, she was on the phone telling me my taxes were done, so I just decided to pay her and have it overwith. I owe over $3000 in taxes, which is a shock. I have never ever ever had to pay. I always get taxes back. This sucks, but it’s probably accurate. Also, I have done my own taxes every single year except for once, in 1995. This year my stuff was just really complicated and I needed help. So it’s hard to absorb the cost of a tax preparer when I’m used to it being free. She’s charging more than $300 for insults, mistakes, and yes, for doing my taxes. At this point, I do not have confidence that she’s done it right, or well, but I guess I’m assuming her company will take responsibility if there is ever a future problem.

This week was a big week for my partner. Tuesday was his 20th anniversary of being clean and sober. In AA, they hand out “coins” for certain anniversaries that former addicts and alcoholics can earn. I carry his 18 year coin in my pocket, because it inspires me. I like to be reminded that my challenges are only difficult in my mind. There are other people who have bigger struggles than me. The coin helps me with my perspective. My partner only carries the one day coin. It’s white plastic. It used to say “AA” on one side, with carved decorations. Now it’s smooth and blank, worn thin. He tells me that he needs to remember that his battle is only with the day he is living, not with the years ahead or behind him. He carries the one day coin to remind himself that he needs to get through one day, and that the present day is the only one he needs to worry about. Yesterday was his birthday. I bought him a T-shirt that says “Surly” and the first two books of the Golden Compass series. I made him chicken enchiladas and a lemon birthday cake.

Whoo! Tomorrow I go back to work and I am looking forward to it! I miss my friends there, I miss my routine, my morning workout, my busrides with weird Portland people. My daughter goes back to her dad’s house tonight. I’ll miss her. Last night we stayed up to watch Teen Nick Choice Awards, hosted by Jack Black. I was really amazed at how many famous adults were there: Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Harrison Ford, Orlando Bloom, Usher, and Will Smith, to name only a few. Yes, they’re promoting their stuff, but still – it’s a kids show. I’m glad they took the time. Harrison Ford got majorly slimed. Come on, he didn’t need to do that. It’s awesome that he did. Oh yeah, my point. My daughter is growing up. She’s a spaz, like any pre-teen girl. She went bananas over the choices, and waiting to see who would win. It’s stuff I really don’t care a whit about, but it is important in her life. She is truly an individual and I love that.

april

Hey Beautiful,

Thanks for this little peak into your life. I always appreciate when I get a chance to witness your world.  : )

Love you, April

crystal

Well, I think I know about 3 people who would read that one all the way through. I sort of had you in mind as I kept going. I was thinking “Geez, this is a book, I need to just stop.” Then I realized you would read it, so I kept going. Ha!

Thanks, love. I know you like to hear about my life here (cuz I’m so terrible at real live letters and direct communication). Kisses!

april

Oh yeah, I meant to tell you that I might have to have a face-to-face mother experience next month for Isaiah’s graduation. Should be interesting since we hardly ever speak to each other anymore. Mom, Angela and I have not spent time together since the Christmas crisis over two years ago, and there have been a few more crisis since. But right now she seems to be doing better…finally back in church and therapy, which is the formula to keep her from descending into darkness. Part of me hopes she can’t make it due to work or something, but another part wants so much to reconcile by accepting each other exactly as we are now and building a new relationship from that, instead of one poisoned by the past. I can’t pick and choose how this new opening of my heart applies to the people in my life, so it’s time to truly let go of the negativity with the people who are hardest to love.

With my mother, as long as we’re talking people relationships.

And, like all my long-term relationships, the longer I know her, the more things I find I like and dislike about her, and the more I love her.

Stars in Moab taken by Mark Drouin. Click image for source.

Baby got home in the middle of the night
Wrapped his arms around and held me tight
Couldn’t stay on the road no longer
Absence makes the heart grow fonder

*Big sigh!*  ;o)

He left on September 11th, and went first to San Francisco to visit friends. He hasn’t been inclined to come back home till now. I missed him terribly after 18 days.

It’s hard living with relatives, you know. And it’s a small space, so most of our things are still packed in storage and in boxes. Constant noise here. He figured he could wait for a phone call from a potential employer just as well in Nevada as he could wait for one here.

…and Utah. Then Colorado. …and he almost got to New Mexico – stayed the night in Cortez, CO – but something began calling him back to Portland. In Moab, UT, he was pretty sure he missed me. In Jackson, WY the next day, the weather turned cold and the rain moved in, and that was the last straw. He made 1,278 miles in 2 days and didn’t let go of me the rest of the night.

Man, it’s good to be loved.

His flickr photos are really remarkable, and his blog illuminates the trip.

“…and why do you say that?”  I find that in the struggle to express ourselves, we often stop short because it’s so much trouble to be perfectly precise. When I am really interested in listening to and understanding someone else, I learn so much when I ask them to elaborate. Often, I find out that what I assumed they meant was not what they meant at all.

One of my many guises

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