How I met my husband. Or, how I almost died at Disneyland.

My husband and I met at Disneyland, of all places. We were introduced there by a mutual friend, who he knew from middle school and I knew because my uncle had been the doctor at his birth. This friend’s family is Spanish, and as our family is Chilean we all ended up friends, as Spanish speaking people do when far from home. So, when he invited me to go to Disneyland for free I happily agreed, never expecting how much that decision would change my life.

We met up with his friend at the park, it was due to this future husband that we were able to get in free, at the time he worked there as a ride operator while waiting for his Navy contract to start. So, the three of us spent an evening playing in the park together, all getting along very well and having an altogether enjoyable night. The next day I texted this kind new acquaintance to thank him for showing us around, and he offered to take me again to do it “right” a couple of days later. Doing it “right” meant promising to go along with him 100%, to be at the park when it opened and stay until it closed, to trust and follow along with whatever he had planned. I promised, 100%. I knew all the rides at Disneyland, knew there was nothing I hadn’t been on and thus, I was safe promising this, there was nothing to fear. Or so I thought.

We met up that Tuesday morning and he started taking me all around the park, giving me a private tour, pointing out all the secrets and hidden Mickeys. We talked and laughed and got along very well, very comfortable from the first moment. Comfortable, that is, until he started leading me out of the park in the early afternoon. I was completely confused, what happened to staying until it closed? “Oh, don’t worry, we’ll be back,” he said, “after California Adventure.” Now, the last time I had been to Disneyland that’s all there was. Disneyland. None of this newfangled California Adventure stuff. So imagine my shock when we walked in and I saw a massive rollercoaster. This was not like Space Mountain or the Matterhorn, this was a real rollercoaster, with a massive drop and a loop! Now, I should mention, I am deathly afraid of heights and rollercoasters. But fortunately, he said we were going on the ferris wheel. Not much better in my opinion, but still, better than that horrifyingly immense drop on California Screamin’! What I didn’t know at the time was that he is terrified of the ferris wheel, he took me on that first to show that he conquered his fear before asking me to conquer mine. This may have been helpful information at the time, but honestly, I don’t think anything would have made me happy to go on that coaster. I was just dreading it, hoping we would get off the ferris wheel and that would be it, I wouldn’t actually have to go on that monstrosity. But, after I somehow managed to survive the ferris wheel he, of course, led me over to the rollercoaster. I completely balked at the idea, shying away like a nervous mare, if I could have galloped off I would have. I tried to explain why I just couldn’t possibly get on the thing, but he sweet talked me and said, “You promised, 100%”. And he was right, I had promised. Sometimes I can be very stupid. But, a promise is a promise so I let him push me slowly towards the front of the nearly non-existent line, (there’s never a line when you want one!), and on to the ride. As impossible as it may be to believe, I did actually ride. My eyes may have been closed the entire time, and my hands death gripping the lap bar, but I did it! We got off and I was shaking like a chihuahua but thinking, thank goodness, there can’t be anything worse than that…and that’s when he told me that there was just one more thing we had to do before we headed back to Disneyland for the fireworks. I was thinking that after those two there couldn’t possibly be anything more terrifying. But clearly, this was a day I was just destined to be wrong, because the Hollywood Tower of Terror exists. I don’t know if any of you have been on this, but it’s absolutely horrifying. It’s the exact thing I dislike about rollercoasters. It is a ride that brings you up, in complete darkness to an insane height, and then drops you. Then it lifts you again and drops you again. And again. That awful feeling of your stomach rising out of your head is absolutely the worst sensation for me, falling is my biggest fear. We stood in front of it and I just kept shaking my head, saying, “I can’t do it, I can’t do it.” He talked quietly and calmly, rubbing my shoulders, whispering in my ear, telling me I could and I had promised. He kept using my promise against me and continued to slowly ease me toward the horrible contraption. After a few minutes I realized he wasn’t going to let me wimp out on it, and chances were I wasn’t going to actually die on it, so I let him gently push me towards the line, or lack thereof, and on to the ride. I even opened my eyes a little on this one, at his insistence! But as soon as we got off I started punching him in the arm saying now that I’d gone on all these horrible things I would never ever have to again! He laughed and hugged me and agreed. Then he took me to see the fireworks show and we spent the rest of the night laughing and enjoying the park. The night ended, we each went our separate ways but from that day on we were hooked.

We started seeing each other almost daily and fell immediately and completely in love. As the relationship progressed we kept that motto of giving 100% to each other, always. We only had six months before he left for boot camp so we spent all our time together, finding that even spending all day, every day, for months together we still wanted more. I waited for him through boot camp, sending letters, laughing when I’d receive his and find we had written the same things to each other. The synchronicity we have had since the beginning is astonishing, and every time we have one of those strange moments it has only emphasized our belief that we should be together. Beyond finishing each other’s sentences, we seem to be two halves of a whole. We make sense together. As cheesy as that sounds, it is simply true, and though we began facing many doubters, as soon as anyone spent time with us the way we fit became apparent. The day he graduated from boot camp he asked my father for his blessing and three months later we were married, one month shy of the anniversary of our first day at Disneyland together. As quickly as it all happened, as big as our age gap is, (10 years), there has never been any doubt in either of our minds that this was the right path. Actually, looking back neither of us can even remember who said I love you first or when, or even who brought up marriage first. It all happened so naturally and comfortably, as soon as we were together it felt like we always had been.
I look back at this and still can’t believe he managed to convince me to get on any of those rides. But I’m proud that I did, at least once. And happy that I’ll never have to again. I’m also proud that I kept my promise to him, and that we both keep giving 100% in everything. Three years later we’re still going strong, neither of us has ever had a doubt about what we have or the choices we’ve made. Love is important but even more important is recognizing it when you find it. And if you’re lucky enough to find it and recognize it you hold on with both hands and you give it everything you’ve got. 100%.

An artist’s life. Or, why my inner voice can just go ahead and shut the hell up.

I have always been an artist. Always wanted to be an artist. There has been no moment in my life, since childhood, when I have not wanted to be an artist. But, for some reason, I have only recently begun to think of myself as an artist. It was only once I was working and earning a living from my art that I began to feel like I had earned that title. And even then, I was a tattoo artist, a very specific type of artist, when in reality, I was an everything artist. I paint, I sculpt, I take photographs, I animate, I write…yet because until my late twenties I did not make my living from any of these ventures, I wasn’t an artist until then. But now, that I’ve had to give up tattooing, (twice), due to the fibromyalgia, I find myself reluctant to give up that title. And why should I? I realize now that every single day of my existence so far I have been an artist, because that is just who I am. Whether I am paid for my creations or not, does not change that fact.

I have been lucky throughout my life, I had parents who were completely supportive of my oddness, teachers who nurtured me, and friends who came to all my art shows. It has been very rare to find someone who didn’t support me doing what I loved, in whatever format I was focusing on at the moment. I think, if anything, it was probably my own inner demons telling me it wasn’t a “real” career choice more than anyone else. I used to joke that I wanted to be an artist because I’d always wanted to live in a cardboard box, but at my core I believed that was the truth of it. Artists don’t make money. The funny thing is, I don’t care about money. Never have, never will. As long as I have enough to live on, I don’t need any extravagances. Heck, I could live in an efficiency apartment, eating cereal or noodles with butter for all my meals and I’d be happy. In fact, I have. So, why then, has it mattered if being an artist didn’t equate to a pile of cash? Delving into that excuse further makes me realize that it was really only fear talking. Fear that I would never be good enough at any of this to make it “worthwhile.” But why does worthwhile have to mean worth money? Pursuing my artist interests has never been about money, it’s been about need. I need to create. I have no choice. If I don’t write, or paint, or sew, or knit, or whatever, I’m miserable. I start to feel under pressure and cornered, as if I have to escape and am unable to. Most of the projects I work on will never be seen by anyone other than myself and possibly my husband. It’s never meant to be seen by anyone else because it’s just a release, it’s just a fact of my life that I will regularly be creating things as the urge strikes me, like having to drink water or blink occasionally. It’s just a thing I do.

I think a lot of the fear that lies at the base of calling myself an artist is because I feel like a fraud. I’m not a “real” artist, for some reason. Of course, most people suffer from a lack of confidence at some point in their lives, but what’s so funny is that I would be doing this creative work anyway, whether I call myself an artist or not. So what is it about the word that I’m so afraid of? And is that something I will ever get over? Will I ever feel that I’m good enough at any of these endeavors that I will have earned that title? And that’s just it, I feel like I need to earn it. But this is all subjective, there is no objective basis to judge whether someone is an artist. The way I used to explain my frustration about this fear to people was to tell them about my husband. My husband is a swimmer, he used to compete and at the end of every meet he knew how well he did, it was right up there on the board in lights. At the end of the day, he’d go home, exhausted, hair sticking up at all angles, smelling of chlorine, and at no point would he question if he was a swimmer. Not only did he know he was a swimmer, but he knew how good he was, in comparison to his peers. There’s simply no way to do that with artists. Oh sure, there are competitions and gallery showings and all of that, but at the end of the day, if people don’t like your artwork, don’t buy your artwork, does that mean you aren’t an artist? No, of course not. But, try telling that to your inner voice.

Your inner voice is an asshole. It’s just that simple, it never has anything good to say, and it’s partly because part of being an artist means you face rejection constantly. So, of course your inner voice thinks it’s right in being an asshole, it’s only telling you the truth. Even when your work is liked, it is still critiqued, and in my youth this was torture, not taking critiques personally was impossible. You put your heart and soul into a piece and then give it to people and say, “Here! Take this and tell me every single thing that is wrong with it!” And they do. At length. Your work is an extension of you, it feels like you’ve literally hung yourself up on the wall for examination and you are, for some insane reason, asking for people to criticize it. You grow thick skin and try to remember that they aren’t saying these things about you but about your work. That they mean these things to help, not hinder. Doesn’t matter, that piece is your baby, you’ve nurtured it, fed it, shaped it, watched it grow. Your work is you. So those critiques, though, (hopefully), well-meaning, team up with your inner voice and become failures instead. Which your inner voice loves pointing out, day and night. Even when you have an unequivocal success, your inner voice knows exactly how to smother any positivity you draw from it. For me my biggest success has been my biggest stumbling block, it is a painting I did in college. I worked months on this huge painting, a portrait in oils that I obsessed over, reworking every tiny detail until I finally felt I was pleased with the results. And it’s good, if I do say so myself. At the end of that year it was in a competition and I won, outside sources agreed, it was good. I should be happy, I should be proud. And I was, for a short while. But then, that lovely asshole spoke up and said, “Oh no, what if that’s the best you’ll ever do? What if it’s all downhill from here?” Thanks, guy. Just what I needed. So, ever since that painting I haven’t finished one real painting. I’ve done little hobby paintings, but nothing just purely for the love of painting. For the art of it. And the longer it’s been since then, the scarier it gets. It’s only recently that I’ve fully embraced the ten thousand hours idea, that with practice you master skills, no matter what, if I keep painting I will keep getting better at painting. It’s a freeing thought, and one I try to keep at the forefront of my mind whenever I am facing a blank canvas or page.

A lot of my feelings about my creative life have changed recently because I’ve been able to take time to pursue these interests. Luckily, my husband is able to support us so that, though we are by no means well off, we are well off enough that I can work freelance jobs and focus on the things I want to without us having to sacrifice things like electricity and food. So now I have no excuse, I realize how rare an opportunity I have to focus completely on my art and I want to take full advantage of it. My writing and beginning this blog is a part of that as well, it actually stemmed from a conversation with my father a while back. He mentioned that he had always thought I would grow up to be a writer and I looked at him, shocked. This was back before he was super talkative so I was in awe that he had ever thought that as well as that he was telling me. I asked him why he felt that way and it was his turn to look shocked. “Because you were always writing and winning awards for your writing. You even went on tv because of it!” And he was right, I had at one point written a piece that won an award and led to me being interviewed and reading it on television. But I had completely blocked that out. Or maybe blocked out isn’t the right term. I minimalized it. I thought that everyone had that experience, like getting a participation award. But his comments led to some memory searching and I realized, he had a point. I had stacks of my writing, notebooks, diskettes, print-outs. Tons of my work, in English and Spanish, that had been very well received. I had won different awards, been published a bunch of times, all the way through my college years. Yet, I never really considered myself a writer. And I honestly have no idea why I didn’t. I read voraciously, generally finishing a couple books a week. I respect writers to a ridiculous degree, but yet, I never considered really focusing on following that career path. It’s like this strange, selective insanity. Because my soul is so happy doing these things, they can’t be legitimate things to do with my life.

So, I’ve decided to stop worrying so much on the titles and focus on what I love. Whether that leads to paintings that sell, or published novels, or even just an etsy store, I don’t think I really care. I love the idea that people would like what I have to make, would read what I have to say, but, at the end of the day I’m going to make these things and write these words even if I’m the only one who will ever look at them. And you know what? I’m pretty sure that makes me an artist, whether that evil inner voice agrees or not.

Starting over from scratch

After nearly two months of living in a hotel in a crazy touristy downtown area we finally closed on the house and moved in this past weekend to a nice quiet, suburb type area. This is our first home, and we knew there would be a lot of work involved but of course, it turns out things were even worse than we expected. The previous owners rented this townhouse out to a family that, to put it politely, was absolutely disgusting. For the first two days I couldn’t go up to the second floor because of the smell, they apparently owned a dog with some serious health issues because it had accidents in every room. In every corner of every room. On every stair too. The smell was horrendous, we started out thinking we could just steam clean the carpet but quickly realized that was not going to be enough. Both carpet and pad were stained completely, with an eye watering ammonia stench that seemed to hover over the floor like an evil mist. I should not imagine the hound of the Baskervilles every time I walk in the door. So, we ripped up the carpet, the pad and a million staples before sanding all the floors in preparation for new wood laminate. Now at least I can be upstairs and we’ve started moving things up into the bedrooms and bathrooms. Installing the new floor can wait, at least it’s livable now and we don’t have to sleep on the floor in the living room anymore.

That was the most major of the issues but there are hundreds more, no room is clean or free from some sort of problem. I can’t imagine living in this, the smell was one thing but the filth is another. How do you get to a point where the walls themselves are covered in a thick layer of dust and grime, somehow dusty, greasy and sticky all at the same time? Unless you are a roach, in which case you’d think you were in heaven. At least until we showed up and started vacuuming up your babies. I do not apologize for the massacre that occurred this weekend, nor for the ongoing campaign of slaughter. I expect some bugs, this is a tropical island after all, but opening a cabinet to have a horde rush out at you like blood from the elevator in The Shining is a bit much. So, we cleaned and put down poison and traps, and hopefully they’ll get the point that they no longer have free reign over this home.

Beyond the filth there are toilets and sinks to fix, missing screens and broken doors. The upstairs guest bathroom tub leaks, raining on whichever unlucky individual tries to use the downstairs toilet. There are just so many projects it’s overwhelming. I consider myself pretty handy, and luckily my husband is very good with repairs and cleaning, thanks to the Navy. But it’s just a lot, and it’s a bit terrifying because we own this mess. I am completely confident that we will not only finish all these projects but that we will end up with a wonderful home, but looking at the end result from the starting line is disheartening.

At the same time, it’s exciting. To be able to change whatever we want, whenever we want, it’s an unchecked power that I’ve never experienced. I love coming up with crazy ideas and having my husband not only agree, but one up me on the craziness. I want this home to be unique, to feel like us. I was always very affected by Frida Kahlo’s home, La Casa Azul, and I love feeling free to paint murals and build strange pieces into our home. Though we plan to stay in this house for a few years, at some point we will want to move closer to the water and into a single family detached house and I want the people who come look at our place to see and feel the love we put into it. I don’t want them to walk in and gag from the smell or call it a fixer upper, I want them to see a real home. 

More than that, I want to live in a real home. In a home like the one I was raised in. Where weekends meant the house smelled like banana pancakes and sounded like Inti Illimani and the Gypsy Kings. Where, if you stood in the right spot outside you’d feel the heat from the dryer on your feet and smell that amazing clean laundry smell drifting up from the vent. Where, when you walk in for the first time in a while you inhale that perfect smell that says, I’m home. Clearly, smell is very important to me. That probably is the most ephemeral of qualities to strive for, for your home to smell like home, but it’s vital. We are slowly clearing out the old, bad, weird other people smells and letting our own scent infiltrate every room. Soon, once we have all our furniture and the boxes unpacked, it will start to smell and feel like home. That’s what I’m reaching for, some semblance of what it will become in the end. I work for small victories, emptying one box at a time, sanding and painting one new step at a time, cleaning one room at a time. It’s like AA, one day at a time. We’ll get there, even if the end isn’t quite in sight yet, at least the halfway point is.

My father is planning to come out soon to help with the repairs and then both my parents for a visit, which I’m very excited about, but it has led to a strange feeling. I don’t mind my dad seeing it in this state but by the time my mom comes out here I want to have everything in place. I want to impress her with my homemaking abilities. Not that it was ever something she stressed, she was always more about my education than preparing me to be someone’s wife, but I want to show her that her example was enough to teach me how to make a real home. I want her to see how her polished, impeccable house shaped me, though I know I will never be as organized and neat as she is, I want to build a place that her heart will recognize. At the end of it all I want to build a home that I am proud of and that makes my heart happy. It will be a long, difficult, and dirty road, but one so very worth traveling.

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

This past year has been ridiculous. Wild and unexpected and absolutely wonderful, but still ridiculous. Actually, not even a year, it’s really only been these last three months, which makes it all the more ludicrous.

For the past two years we’d been living in South Carolina, with little to no say in where we would be sent next. There are only so many bases that have the type of boat my husband is on, so there were only about ten or twelve possibilities, but they were all so opposite that there was no way to prepare. We submitted a “dream sheet,” a list of our top five choices, with no guarantee that we would get any of them. Our list was Hawaii, Guam, San Diego, Washington state or Georgia. And out of those five only the first three were really dreams, the other two had various issues. Although we would enjoy Washington and have some very good friends there, I would be unable to stay in winter, and most likely would end up moving back down to California for half the year to avoid being in constant pain. As for Georgia, though it is infinitely better, in our opinion, than South Carolina, it is still the south. Simply not our favorite part of the US. Actually, it’s not only south but also east coast, which is two strikes against it for us. We are just west coast people, the laid back, surfer/hippie type. We would have loved to be in California again, San Diego would have basically been going home, but being in the Navy you hope to see a bit more of the world, thus Hawaii and Guam. Physically, warmer, tropical climates are best for me so an island in the Pacific is a perfect fit. Guam has a similar climate to Hawaii but it’s less of a tourist destination so the lifestyle is very different. It would have been interesting to be there but it’s not where we would want to settle. An island where the three things people tend to mention first are the number of strip clubs, bars, and snakes just doesn’t have the same appeal as one with Disney resorts, world famous surfing, and no snakes.

So, as you can imagine, three months ago when we got the news that we’d be moving to Hawaii for the next four to six years, we were beyond overjoyed. Here was a place we could see ourselves, and not just in the short term. As we began researching housing out here we discovered that it is actually cheaper to buy a home than to rent one. When the world tells you that not only are you going to be forced to live on a tropical island paradise but that it would be fiscally responsible to buy a house…well, we would have been insane not to embrace our fate. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and not even once in every lifetime, just a very lucky few. You have to learn to recognize when opportunity is knocking because sometimes fear muffles the sound and, just to be sure, it glues your feet to the ground as well. This move has been amazing and beyond my wildest dreams, but it is definitely absolutely terrifying at the same time. It’s partly due to being so far from family and friends, so far from everything I had known, really. And it’s partly due to the speed at which all this happened. Three months ago we received orders to Hawaii, a month and a half ago we arrived, and this morning we signed closing documents on our first home. In two days we will officially be homeowners and residents of Hawaii. There is no way to process all of this so quickly. It’s simply impossible. It still feels like a dream, as if at any moment I’ll wake up back in South Carolina, or worse yet, all the way back in Chicago, never having moved to LA, never having met my husband. Even after three years with him I still can’t believe he’s real so adding moving to paradise into the mix makes me pretty certain that it must all be a dream.

I think it will sink in once we’re moved in and settled, once we’ve started to make this townhouse our home. Right now it’s such a strange state of limbo that we’re in, buying cleaning supplies, furniture, smoke alarms, for a place in which we aren’t living. Our car and hotel room are filled with odds and ends. A massive memory foam mattress in a box nearly my size, a coffee machine and a wet vac, mixed in with snorkel gear, boogie boards and beach umbrellas. All waiting for us to give them a permanent place to live. I’m living a balancing act, juggling a hundred different tasks with not nearly enough hands, trying to time the delivery of our household goods shipment from the mainland, our new furniture, and most importantly, the Internet installer. All the while hoping that we get the keys in time to at least start cleaning before everything arrives. Unfortunately, the people who were renting the place we bought were not the neatest people, to put it mildly. To put it bluntly, they were hoarders, and lived in disgusting conditions. Even the walls are greasy yet sticky, with a thick film of dust coating every inch. They had a dog who chewed up the banister and left a fog of fleas in the backyard, not to mention an unpleasant odor in the carpeted areas. So cleaning is my first and most important task, there are mouse droppings to sweep up, roach carcasses and who knows what else. But underneath all that gross is a house that we can picture making a home out of. I have a list of projects as tall as me, but once they’re all done we’ll really feel like we have settled here. I’ll be posting pictures and projects as we work, I have never attempted most of these things, never had the freedom to change anything permanently about my living space, so I’m very excited.

There has been so much upheaval lately, we have been living in this chaos, this world of unknowns, watching as the light at the end of the tunnel steadily got brighter and brighter. And now we’re almost there, almost out of the tunnel, and I’m anxious, straining to reach the end, that moment when we’ll at long last be in our home, all clean, unpacked…finally home.

This one goes out to all the teachers out there.

Lately I’ve been experiencing this phenomenon of befriending non-parental adults from my childhood. Aunts, uncles, teachers, etc. What has been quite astonishing to me is finding them to have similar beliefs, habits, and passions. It’s not like I knew these people’s politics as a child, but I believe I had a strong sense of who was, simply put, a good person. So I find it interesting that these people I admired and respected so much have so much in common with the person I turned out to be. With the technology available to us now I’m able to get to know these people from another perspective, similar to my evolving relationship with my father just through different means. That somewhat simple relationship of child + adult that is not parent becomes so complex and fulfilling as you age. Facebook is amazing in that way, it allows me to not only connect with these people again but in a format where they feel free to express themselves, their beliefs, their politics. It’s wonderful, finding that these people that left such giant impressions on me as a kid, turn out to actually be good, kind, even brilliant people.

You can’t help but be in awe of some adults as a child. They are just so much bigger than you can imagine. So much older, so much wiser. But then, all of a sudden, you’re the same physical size and they seem to have shrunk. Like going back to your elementary school and seeing how tiny the lockers seem. It’s off-putting, all of a sudden it hits you: shit. I’m an adult. And these people haven’t shrunk, I’m just finally full size! (Or, in my case, as full size as I’m ever going to get, I’m over five feet but only just). It’s overwhelming, even terrifying, that I’m just expected to communicate with them like I’m a normal adult human. They still seem so wise, so together. And so I’m still in awe that I get to talk to them as a sort of peer. And then, to make things even cooler, I find that we have a lot in common, we share so many core beliefs, and it’s just incredible. It’s strangely validating, to like and be liked by someone you have looked up to for so long. These new friendships that have recently sprung up in my life are some of the most rewarding, in that I genuinely enjoy every moment spent with them, whether in person or long distance.

I know that I have been lucky, throughout my life I have had outstanding teachers. I also realize that I may not have been the most normal of children. I generally felt like I was better friends with my teachers than my classmates, I didn’t necessarily always fit in with the other kids. I was always a bookworm and I didn’t like to feel like an outsider so rather than run around the playground at lunch or after school I was usually holed up in a classroom, reading and hanging out with whichever teacher would have me. This meant I spent more one on one time with these adults, and I found comfort in being able to talk to someone who wasn’t, basically, insane. Children my age just weren’t my thing, in elementary school they were lunatics, in middle and high school they became malicious psychopaths. Children can be cruel and violent, they simply don’t understand empathy and so spending time with adults who did made a big impression on me. That may be part of why I so respected and looked up to these people, they were kind, caring, and actually listened to me. Besides that they taught me, they introduced so many amazing things to me, how could I not look up to them? Even into my late twenties, when I decided to go back to school for animation, I found teachers that embodied that same spirit, people who were excited about what they were teaching and in turn made me excited to learn. It’s an incredible feat that some people are able to spread that passion for a subject to so many others. I may be more appreciative of that partially because my family is mainly teachers and professors of some kind of another, but I believe it is mostly because I was lucky enough to have absolutely outstanding teachers myself. Teachers, librarians, choreographers, aunts, uncles…I was surrounded by people who really cared about what they did and about me. And in this day and age I am able to do what earlier generations couldn’t, at this time in my life of realization and understanding, I am able to reconnect with them. I am able to find that we share favorite books, or a similar sense of humor, or, even better, a similar passion for humanity. And best of all, I am able to thank them. As children we take so much for granted and, especially today, with the broken system we have, it’s more important than ever to show our appreciation for the teachers that have made such an impression on us. So to all the teachers of all kinds, to all the adults that have helped me get this far, I say thank you. You had much more effect than you may have realized and because of all of you amazing people I am now a happy, fulfilled adult. That is definitely something worth showing appreciation for.

 

Maternal instinct error. File not found.

There is an issue that is brought up on a very regular basis in my life that causes a lot of discomfort and guilt on my part, even though I have nothing to be ashamed of. It’s the issue of kids, and it’s been a constant point of contention in my life for as long as I can remember.

Here’s the simple facts: I don’t want children. I never have. Not for one moment in thirty two years have I wanted any. Period. End of story. Should be pretty straightforward, right? But I’m in my thirties, married, with no kids. This fact is brought up almost daily and not only brought up, but questioned. And then my choice is disregarded and insulted. I should add, this is not only how I feel, my husband wholeheartedly agrees. Yet, anywhere from family to random strangers on the street will criticize us on this. I’m told, “oh, you’ll change your mind,” and no one seems to think how rude that is, especially to someone you don’t know!

These days I get more frustrated by these conversations than hurt, but my situation is not just one of personal choice. Since I was young I knew I physically couldn’t have children, I have a hormone disorder that requires I stay on birth control, not to mention the fibro medications that are all feto-toxic. When I find myself in these situations, being berated in Waffle House parking lots for my decision, I use my health reasons as my excuse. But that doesn’t make it better. First of all, I shouldn’t need an excuse! It’s my body, my marriage, my life, why is this anyone else’s business in any way? And second of all, even telling complete strangers that I physically cannot have kids, they start rattling off all the other options…there’s adoption, surrogacy, all sorts of fertilization procedures. My response has always been to point out that yes, these are all options, but you need money, a surrogate, and, you know, an urge to have a child in the first place! It’s not a matter of not having options, it’s a matter of not wanting any in the first place. And for some complete strangers to feel that they are not being rude in telling me that my choice is wrong is just ridiculous.

I’ve come up with snappy comebacks, ways to laugh it off and change the subject, my favorite being, “Well, there’s a ten year difference between me and my husband, so by the time he’ll be old enough to want them I’ll be too old to have them!” I find it makes people super uncomfortable and they start talking about something else immediately. But it’s insane, that I need an explanation at all, that I need a joke, a distraction, anything other than to say simply that my reproductive choices are my own.

It’s not that I don’t like any children, there are some pretty cool ones out there. Our niece and nephew are, in my completely unbiased opinion, two of the coolest, most adorable kids that have ever existed. If I can spend time with those two and still not want kids I think it’s a pretty sure thing. To be fair, most kids can be pretty sucky. Some, if not most, of the time. But there are some people out there that were meant to be parents, who have always wanted kids and are happiest in a parental role. More power to those people, I say. I’m just not one of them. I’m one of those selfish people who just wants to do what she wants to do, without having to worry about a tiny person’s well-being all the time. And it is selfish, I make no excuses for that. I love the bejesus out of my husband, and I love the relationship we have. I have no interest in completely disrupting the fabric of our relationship for a tiny human that neither of us want in the first place! I don’t see having kids as having a family. For me, for us, we are all we need. Admittedly, we’re happier when we have cats as well, but just the two of us is what we signed up for and it’s what we choose to continue.

I admire those, like my parents, like my sister, like many of my friends, who choose to have kids. Who choose to put their own wants and needs after those of a child. Because it is something admirable, and it takes an incredible strength of character to raise kids, especially to raise them well. When I look at what our lives could be like with children it’s always an unfair scenario, either to the kid or to us. Our dreams are to live all over the world, to buy a boat and live on that for years at a time. That isn’t fair to a kid. And having a kid that we don’t want instead of a boat we do isn’t fair to us. Even beyond that silly dream of ours, our lifestyle plans are based on the two of us. On being able to up and move if and when we so choose. That isn’t healthy for a child, and restricting our dreams for an unwanted child would just lead to resentment.

So, for oh so many reasons, I will never have children. And, after so many years of feeling like I was somehow failing womankind because of my lack of maternal instinct, I have finally come to terms with it. It is and always was, my choice. And whatever my or any other woman’s reasons and choices, it is never for anyone else to question. So next time you meet some young couple with no children, maybe instead of assuming it’s your place to “correct” their life choices, just high five them and say something that highlights the positive of their situation. Something like, “Awesome! Now you’ll be able to afford a house with a pool!” Or, “Man, lucky you, never having to deal with dirty diapers!” Trust me, they’ll appreciate it.

 

Conversations with my father, part 1

I had a really great talk with my father today that brought up some interesting thoughts. After speaking with him I was left with a feeling of appreciation for the relationship we have and inspiration for today’s post. So here it is!

I have always been a daddy’s girl, but what is wonderful is the way my relationship with my father has evolved over the years. We were always very close, I was a bit of a tomboy and wanted to go fishing and camping with him all the time. My mother and my sister were always very similar, very organized, logical people. My father and I were the goofballs of the family. So we spent a lot of time together, but I wouldn’t say we ever really talked. We would hang out in the same space, happily playing together at whatever, but there were never really any sort of discussions of any depth that I can remember. The heart to heart talks were always with my mother, even though we didn’t always see eye to eye, she was the one who dealt with all the emotional stuff, the one I could go crying to and she would know what to do and say. My dad was never that way, though I never felt less close to him because of it. That was just his way, and I always appreciated it for what it was. But something changed very recently, and it has affected his relationship with me and I believe his relationship with the world in general. It has strengthened my own beliefs about life as well, has made me feel like I am on the right track to leading a fulfilled, happy life.

Some recent background: About a month or so ago at his regular doctor’s visit my father found out he had had a heart attack at some point in the last year. This led to tests and in the end a pacemaker to be put in. All is well, he is up and about like normal, even better, actually. He has lost weight and is exercising, being much more careful of his health. But emotionally it has taken a toll on him. This scare made him evaluate his life, actually look internally and take stock of things, which I doubt he had done for forty years, if ever. And what has seemed to happen is his emotional barriers were destroyed, instead of holding back all emotion and really, all discussion, he is finally letting go and connecting with himself and those around him in a very real, sincere way. It’s an amazing thing to witness, this epiphany in action. He was always easy going but now there is this openness to him. He engages people in conversation, and the conversations are wonderful, deep, insightful, and friendly. He is sincere and open and feels free to experience his emotions instead of bottling them up and putting them away as most men of his generation were raised to do. And this extends to everything, he is more empathetic which affects how he interacts with those around him, whether family, friends, or even random acquaintances. He was always a great storyteller but now he is an active listener as well, and it makes every conversation with him that much more enjoyable.

Personally, this has been an amazing change. The father I always adored and respected is now a very close friend as well. He has become someone to whom I can talk about anything, and I feel at ease, welcomed, appreciated. The best part is that he feels the same about me, we both appreciate this new dynamic so much. He will call just to chat now, and every time we end up having fantastic, long conversations about anything and everything and I hang up feeling more positive and motivated than before.

Today he told me about some conversations he had had with strangers recently that had really been enjoyable and we talked about how easy it is to become cynical when you look at a whole group of people, but how incredibly easy it is to feel optimistic when you focus on just one person at a time. Everyone has their stories, their struggles, their experiences. Everyone is interesting if you take the time to listen to them. We tend to get so wrapped up in all this information that is thrown at us at every moment from a million different sources. But all it does is make us lose sight of the micro. The personal interactions that can be simple but beautiful and uplifting. Because the macro is just too much sometimes, it’s too scary, too mean, too ugly. We can’t save the entire world, so either we ignore the problems or get depressed about them. But a simple interaction with a stranger can produce ripples that affect so much more than we realize. I’m not saying it will fix everything, but it definitely won’t hurt anything. We need to be reminded of others’ humanity constantly or we tend to get narcissistic and lose all empathy. I believe that is what has happened with people like the Koch brothers, or the Walton family. They have lost sight of individual people and so it is easier to allow the greed to take over and step on whoever gets in the way. There is no empathy, no realization that what they are doing is hurting so many, because they are not interacting with the people who are affected. They are isolated from the rest of humanity and because of their wealth and power they are able to take advantage however they like with no repercussions.

Now, I realize that some simple human interaction is not going to make the Koch brothers’ hearts grow like the Grinch, and I have no way of forcing that effect. But I believe that if everyone makes an effort to actually engage someone every day, they will find themselves enriched immeasurably. One conversation with someone random can make all the difference, you can learn something from everyone, and any exchange has the potential to leave you both smiling and in a better mood, which will help carry you both through the day. It makes it easier to believe that most people are in fact decent at heart. Or should I say, most individuals. People in groups can still be assholes.