Was It REALLY Just 3 Years Ago?

Right in the middle of the morning craziness (the dog trying to eat a zip tie, the kid beseeching me for more screen time, and me wading through client social media while trying desperately to down that second cup of coffee), this popped on my Facebook feed:

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I mean, holy shit. That was a showstopper–just as much now as it was 3 years ago.

I went barreling into Simon’s office (he works at home. We both do. I know, I know) to show him. Because HOW was that only 3 years ago?!? It feels like a lifetime. But I can also feel that raw emotional turmoil (on my end) vividly like it was yesterday. It’s complicated–as most big life events tend to be, I suppose.

So what’s changed?

Simon. I mean, he’s a hell of a lot different than before he transitioned. And who wouldn’t be? He spent his whole life being misgendered and feeling a disconnect between who he was at his core and how people saw him. Once he transitioned, and people saw who he’d always been, that unease around people dissipated. I mean, he can still be hella socially awkward. It’s just one of the quirks that makes him so charming. But now, he’s at ease with who he is. He gets to walk through the world as the person he was always destined to be. It’s both so simple & so profound. It’s also a tremendous blessing, both for him and for the people who love him. I admire Simon’s bravery and his commitment to live out his truth. And I feel really honored to be part of his journey.

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Our relationship. Simon & I got a whole lot of “Love is Love” cheers when we stayed together after his transition. But, really, sometimes love isn’t enough. When Simon transitioned, deep down I believed that I would need to leave our relationship. Not because of him. But because of me. I didn’t think I could be attracted to a man. And being in a romantic relationship requires attraction. But, then, I was attracted to him. And that caused a huge identity crisis for me.

Good Lord, with the crises and chaos. 

The transition, our move to Atlanta, my emotional turmoil: it all pushed our relationship to the breaking point. We had a very clear, monumental decision to make: split up or stay together. After some push & pull, and a misstep or two, we chose to stay. Rebuilding has been a long, intense process. But there’s power in choosing each other again, after so many years of being together. For two people who are so wildly different, we really get each other. We’re a battle-tested team. No one around here will be throwing in the towel any time soon. Turns out that we love each other. A lot. (And, I feel that little surge of energy when we’re together, the one that tells me that I’m with the right person, that reminds me how much I love him. It’s wild. And a little exhilarating)

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My confidence. Simon’s transition made me feel incredibly vulnerable. I wanted to protect him. And me. In that bewildering and vulnerable state, I took a lot of shit from people that would never fly now. People asked really invasive questions (under the guise of “educating” themselves. Ahem. That’s what Google is for). They made all kinds of assumptions. Some folks bailed when I needed their support. It was a rough time. But now I know how to advocate for myself. And for my family.

Simon & I fly a Pride flag at our house, because we are out & proud members of the LGBTQ community. In our “normalness,” we are revolutionary. We are a symbol that things DO get better. That, sometimes, love really does win.

via Facebook http://ift.tt/2kJus4w by Simon Kellogg on 500px.com

 

 

 

(ETA: We’ve got a LOT of pictures from Disney. But not a lot of pictures of me & Simon. Odd. But we are. Odd, that is.)

The State of Things (Weekly Update)

Summer is killing my kid.

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Jane pictured here during a brief reprieve from End-of-Summer-Angst 

Okay, okay. Not literally. Truthfully, most of the summer’s been great. But this week… this last week before school starts. Ooof.

The kid thrives on routine. And people. This week, she’s had neither. Oh, I’ve been here. But I’ve been scrubbing the house from top to bottom, so I’ve been a little busy. And there’s that pesky work thing that I have to do. So, I’m home, but I can’t hang out. Not the way she wants me to.

And there’s change afoot over here. (No, nobody’s getting divorced. And, NO, we’re not having a baby.) Jane isn’t a fan of change. Or, more accurately, she’s not a fan of the anticipation of change. She usually just rolls with the change when it actually happens. Just like her mama.

Anyway, she’s missing her friends and trying to avoid being vacuumed up in one of my cleaning frenzies (which I suppose would be difficult, since I just have one of those dustbuster-on-a-stick things. But still). And I’m trying to be sensitive and loving. Which is kind of hard because a) it’s hot as hell in Georgia and b) the last thing I want when I’m hot, sweaty, and tired is 7 year old wrapped around me like a boa constrictor. So, Jane’s struggling; I’m waging an inner war not to be at 100% bitch level; oh, and the dog wants to either get in my lap or put her nose on every surface in the house. The surfaces I just cleaned, for the love of all that’s holy.

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So, you know, that’s what’s going on over here. What’s new in your world?

 

(For the curious: no anvils yet. But I’m ever vigilant. I did look up a meeting list. That’s all I can commit to thus far. #anvilfree2018)

Deep Clean … Keeping it Real (Clean)

LOTS of cleaning happening around these parts lately. And not like the tidying up kind. It’s the get on your hands and knees and scrub the baseboards and the floors kind of cleaning. The kind where you have to take a shower afterward because GOOD GOD who knew a house could require this kind of scrubbing?!?

What are my people doing that they track in so much dirt? It’s like they recruited tiny Tonka dump trucks to haul dirt in and scatter it randomly throughout the house. But, bit by bit, I’m seeing progress. Sparkling white baseboards (before the dog slings slobber all over them). No dirt lurking in corners. Turns out, I really like clean. And, somehow over the past few days, I’ve begun to appreciate the process of cleaning.

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It just feels like plain, old-fashioned hard work.

And at this moment in my life, that feels good. Rewarding. Stabilizing.

It’s a bit like the psychic work I have to do to stay sober. My brain can get a little cobwebby, too. Resentments, doubts, fears start accumulating. For a while, I might try to overlook them. Because who really has the time to excavate them when I’m trying to manage the dog, the kid, the Simon. But dark corners eventually begin to crowd out my happiness. All the psychic dirt makes my perspective . . . gray.

Eventually, when I get uncomfortable enough, I do a psychic sweep. Yes, it’s much easier if I do it every day & don’t let the dust bunnies colonize. But sometimes, you don’t see the dust bunnies multiplying until they’re ready to revolt and take over the whole damn place.

It’s just as hard to get my brain/heart/soul clean as it is to clean this house. But it’s worth it to live in a place where I can let ALL the light in without fear of what it might uncover.

 

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All this scrubbing has unearthed a desire to live in a clean space ALL THE TIME. Not just once a year or so. Which means a lot of work. Emotional work and physical work. I’m still in the middle of the physical work–I swear, two or three tiny dump trucks of dirt made it in overnight. But I’m examining what the emotional work will look like… it shifts, you know. I’ve felt called at different points of my journey toward different spiritual practices.

And against everything I want to do–and I mean everything–I think I might be called to haul my ass back into A.A. Let’s just be super clear: I am so grateful for everything A.A. gave me. I know, without question, that the 12 Steps & the 2 years I spent going to meetings are why I am sober now (almost 10 years later). But I’ve never been in love with A.A. I didn’t like going to meetings. I’m not good at towing the party line. I’m just not an A.A.er.

Yet…

I feel called. I don’t know if you’ve ever felt called, but you can’t just ignore it. It’s nagging, the calling. It resurfaces. Constantly.

People brand new in sobriety–or folks that need sobriety–keep popping up in my world. And then, the other day at church, there I was minding my own business, dropping off some clothes for the Clothing Closet, and I almost literally ran into a sign for an A.A. Women’s Meeting. I’m afraid if I don’t heed the call soon, the Universe is actually gonna drop something on my head. Like an anvil. Or something.

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Let’s be clear: I’m as stubborn as the day is long. So, I’ll probably hold off a little while on the A.A. thing (see: stubborn). But, if you see me walking around like Flat Stanley, you can assume that anvil found it’s way to me.

My Brain Picks Battles for Me

When something goes wrong (as things tend to do. This is life, after all), I instinctually view the situation as conflict. For instance, if a perfectly lovely handyman didn’t get all the way to the edges in a few spots when he painted the ceiling…well, he must be trying to get away with something. He must be taking advantage of me. He didn’t paint the ceiling properly at me.

I immediately make it a Big Thing in my head. I have imaginary conversations in which I make valiant attempts to stand up for myself. Or I jump to the final dire consequences: small claims court, Judge Judy style.

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All the while I feel victimized. And that sucks. Because victimization = powerlessness.

But, amid the chaos of my thoughts–and it’s hella chaotic up in here–somehow I managed to remember something about vengeance and attack thoughts from A Course in Miracles:

What I see is a form of vengeance.

[This] idea accurately describes the way anyone who holds attack thoughts in his mind must see the world. Having projected his anger onto the world, he sees vengeance about to strike him. His own attack is thus perceived as self defense. This becomes an increasingly vicious circle until he is willing to change how he sees. Otherwise, thoughts of attack and counter-attack will preoccupy him and people his entire world. What peace of mind is possible to him then? 

(Lesson 22, Workbook for Students, ACIM)

The basic theme here: cut that shit out. Because who wants to live their life in constant battle? Not this girl.

So, I tried a different tact (in my own head, of course. All of this is going on in my own head. Apparently, I don’t need other folks to create conflict. My own brain does it for me. Rad.). I assumed best intent. I assumed that, instead of not painting the ceiling well at me the dude just needed to do a little touch-up. And that, instead of trying to get away with something, maybe he just hadn’t noticed because his head had been craned back like an open Pez Dispenser all day long paining my ceiling.

And just like that, all the fight left the situation. Because I wasn’t bringing any fight to the situation. I was just observing a lack of ceiling white paint on the edges of the–ahem–ceiling. But, let me tell you, an observation and a battle are two totally different things.

He knew, by the way. He knew he’d have to touch up the ceiling. And he did. With no complaints. No battle. And no Judge Judy involved.

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Oakland Cemetery Run

This morning dawned dreary and cool(ish) after last night’s rains. What better time to take a run through one of Atlanta’s most famous cemeteries than on a cloudy Monday morning? Right. No better time. So, off I went.

The best thing (the VERY best thing) about running in the summer is feeling free to do whatever I want during a run. No pressure. It’s hot as all hell outside, so taking it slower & just staying in the moment becomes a survival technique. And it’s also a technique that lets me take a lot of pictures on my running adventures.

Here’s Oakland Cemetery in Grant Park, Atlanta, in all it’s summertime glory:

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Beautiful. And peaceful. Such a chill way to start my Monday.

I’m grateful I live in Atlanta. Every day, I’m grateful.

 

Florida’s Weird & So Are We

I’m back in Florida to visit my family and to retrieve my daughter from a week of rollicking fun with her grandparents, aunt, and cousin. I mean, for real, they went to Legoland, to the beach, they swam, they played… It was, apparently, some serious fun.

I think Jane grew at least 4 inches in this one week. But, in good news, I’m still one of her very favorite people. And she still likes to build stuff:

And she’s still weird as all get out, so there’s that.

I, of course, couldn’t resist a run this morning. It’s really just become part of my daily. And I miss it when I don’t get to go exploring on foot. I know: WEIRD.

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These birds are my nemesis. Seriously, one rose up and flapped it’s wings at me. I cussed him out & then hauled ass out of there. If you assumed I’d think these suckers were majestic or something, well, you just don’t know me at all.

Top left: Untamed Florida. I kept wondering if a gator was about to snatch me up. Bottom left: Planned, designed Florida. Still kept waiting for a gator to get me. Right: A magnolia tree. I checked it first for a gator.

And then, when I was done with my run, drowning in 90% humidity, and sure I was safe from the gators, I found this dude on a playground. I think I’ll call him Lil Whaler:

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Florida’s been fun. Catch y’all when I get back to Atlanta. ❤

5 Things I’ve Learned Today

  1. If you go on & on about how hot Florida is, Georgia’s gonna get all jealous and show off. That’s why today it was 87 degrees by 10:30 a.m. And why, on a 5K run, I thought I might simply evaporate into thin air. Or spontaneously combust. Which one is more likely under oppressive heat that sucks all the oxygen out of the air? Either way, hot as actual hell. Sorry, Georgia. You are hot, too. The whole South is hot. So there.

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    Wait! Am I actually in hell?! No, no… that’s just the Atlanta Zoo parking lot. Whew!

  2. It’s okay to change plans. Like if, say, you’d planned on taking a nice jaunt through the cemetery on your run. But then you realize that the cemetery doesn’t have much shade to speak of. Then you might just decided that–unless you want to make the cemetery your permanent home–you should run through the park, where shade abounds and you’re likely to be hot and tired but ALIVE at the end of your run. Maybe, if something like that happened, it’d be okay to change plans.

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    Ah, shade: so beautiful… and life sustaining. 

  3. Seven year olds are non-truth tellers. I discovered this 3 days ago, when I started excavating Jane’s room. Normally, she frowns upon me touching her stuff. But she’s vacationing in Florida right now… which meant I got to venture in to her room and discover that it was DIRTY. Like, real, real dirty. Holy shit. She was supposed to be straightening, dusting, and sweeping her room every week. But, I guess I was also supposed to be checking that she done that oh for, say, the past year. Oops.

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    Jane in Florida with her aunt & her cousin. Shhh… don’t tell her I touched her stuff.

  4. Everyone needs to own their part when shit goes wrong. I know Jane tried to clean her room. There’s just too much STUFF in there for her to clean anything. I let her accumulate all that stuff. Then I didn’t check if she was really cleaning–because I’m overwhelmed by the stuff. I was lazy and wanted to avoid a hard conversation about hanging on to and collecting things …. and I paid for it for the last 3 days.

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    Me, after cleaning Jane’s room.

  5. Today is always a good day for a do-over. I tell Jane we can start our day over any time (thanks A.A. for that little nugget). So, I’m calling a do-over on cleanliness and orderliness. Whatever I’ve been teaching Jane about either one of those so far is a load of horseshit. No one needs as much stuff as she has. And cleanliness is next to godliness–or something like that. I just know that if I ever go into her room again and it’s that dirty, all she’s going to get for the next gift-giving-holiday is a Wet Swiffer and some dust cloths. And maybe a hutch to keep the dust bunnies in.
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    The clean version. For a before shot, imagine if a tornado swept through here. A very dirty tornado.

     

 

 

 

Header Image by Franck V. on Unsplash

Mattie Sue & Bizby

Mattie Sue plodded out to the boat. Splash. Splash. Splash. Her galoshes squished on the muddy lake bottom. Just when the lake threatened to overtake her galoshes, flooding her feet and weighing her down, she clambered aboard the little craft. It was a sturdy little boat, not given to capsizing. And she was a slight girl–wispy, folks called her. But she was strong, too. She took the piece of tree branch she’d carried from the shore with her and pushed the boat out off the sandy bottom and into the lake.

She considered starting the motor, but then thought she might draw attention to herself. She wasn’t sure if anyone was awake to hear it or not. Based on the brilliant explosion of stars above, she guessed it was close to 10p.m. She didn’t really need to crank up the motor to get where she was going, though. Better to take it slow and just let the water move her.

All said, it probably took an hour for the boat to meander across the glassy lake. A few times she’d tried to use the tree branch as an oar–but that threatened to send her in endless circles. She’d opted to search out constellations instead. Which is why, when she reached the other side of the lake, she was snoring softly. And why she didn’t realize she’d drifted aground until she heard her own name.

“Mattie Sue?” a timid whisper of a voice called out to her. She shook the sleep off, grabbed her bag from the boat and hopped out. Immediately, her galoshes filled with water.

“Oh, hellfire,” she hissed.

Almost imperceptibly, a giggle came from somewhere along the shore.

“Bizby! Where you at, Bizby?,” Mattie Sue whisper-yelled.

A mess of blond hair popped up over the blackberry bushes. Bizby had obviously been busy with the blackberries; his freckles–which usually stood out like constellations themselves–had all been obscured by sticky, purple juice. “Bizby!” Mattie Sue fussed, “you’re gonna make yourself sick. All them blackberries.” She shook her head. She trudged out of the lake, stopping to empty her galoshes at the shoreline.

When she finally made it over to Bizby, she glared at him and muttered, “I ought to give you a whoopin’ for laughin’ at me.” Then, quickly, before he could get his feelings all hurt, she flashed him a smile and ruffled his hair. She knew she kinda babied him, but she couldn’t help it. Bizby’d had a hold of her heart since he was just a little guy. He still wasn’t all that big, if you really thought about it, his being 5 and all.

“Brought you some supper,” Mattie Sue said, plunking the sack of food down on the ground. Bizby grabbed it, in search of a peanut butter sandwich no doubt. This kid was gonna turn into peanut butter, sure enough, if he didn’t lay off.

He turned to Mattie Sue. “Fank ooo,” he choked out, over the sticky peanut butter and white bread.

“Welcome,” Mattie Sue said solemnly. They liked to try to keep things light, but the reasons Bizby was out here weren’t no joke. Mattie Sue pulled back her blonde hair into a ponytail. “Now you wait til I holler at you to come back, you hear? I don’t want you wandering up while he’s still there.”

Bizby nodded without looking at her.

“Pinky swear me, Bizby. C’mon. I need to know you’re takin’ this serious.”

Bizby stuck out his pinky, and Mattie Sue looped it in hers. “Promise I’ll come fetch you when he leaves tomorrow. This one’s a long haul–probly 2 weeks on the road at least. Reckon that’ll give us enough time to build you a little lean-to out here for the next time he comes through town.”

Bizby wrapped his arms around Mattie Sue and squeezed. She felt tears sting her eyes. She swatted at them with the back of her hand before Bizby could see.

“You sleep good now, hear?” She whisper-yelled over her shoulder, as she pushed the boat out into the lake.

As soon as she’d cleared the sandy bottom, she closed her eyes, bowed her head, and whispered earnestly, “God, if you’d keep Bizby safe, I’d be real, real grateful. And please, God, gimme the strength not to kill that mean ol’ sonofabitch ‘fore he leaves town tomorrow. Amen.”

 

 

 

Photo: https://unsplash.com/@emsbabee

Lessons from the Lake

Yesterday, my kid took me tubing for the first time. Which is really just skimming and bouncing on the top of the lake at very high speeds. She’d done it a dozen or so times before. Me… not so much. Okay, okay. Not at all. Not ever.

I lived in Florida my whole life (until 2 years ago), and I swear I never experienced Florida the way my kid does. She loves boats, tubing, kayaking. She really embraces lake life, mosquitos and all. Before I met Simon’s family, I could count on one hand the times I’d been on a boat. Jane’s been on the boat more times that that in the month of June alone. So, yeah… Florida’s real, real different for her than it was for me.

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Back to the tube…

We’re sitting in this contraption that is more cushy lounge chair than tube. Simon assures me that Jane and I are NOT going to fall out. But we take off and suddenly it feels like we are flying across the water. I’m giggling maniacally and at the same time muttering “Shit. Shit. Shit.” under my breath. Jane looks… I don’t know… amused? Terrified? I can’t tell.

She leans closer to me and says, “It’s a little scary sometimes.”

Now I’m all Mama Bear. “Are you scared?” I ask, fully intending to make them slow this shit down so the baby isn’t scared.

“Mommy,” she says sternly. “I’ll worry about me. YOU worry about yourself.”

Well, there’s a life lesson if I ever heard one.

My water-buddha-guru kid eyes me, sizes me up, and says: “Mommy. If you start to fall off, just let go. It’s so much better that way.”

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When did this kid get so wise? And so grown. She can really handle herself around the boat (and the archery set, for that matter) in a way that impresses the hell out of me. I admire her confidence and her independence.

Later on, Jane told Simon that she doesn’t want to tube with me any more. BUMMER. Bu, apparently, I bring her down with all my worrying. Touché, small person. Touché.

I’m going to work on letting go. It’s so much better that way.