An unexpected obstacle

This year my husband and I finally faced the reality of deployments, which for my husband means 6-7 months away with little to no communication between ports. Sometimes I can receive emails every few days, sometimes it goes quiet for a month, with no way to know if my emails are reaching him at all. I just write daily, little things to keep him connected to our world out here, and hope he receives them and that they help him deal with the stress of his daily life under the sea. That part of the military wife package I was completely expecting, though of course I hate it, it comes as no surprise. The part I was not expecting is the strange sort of starvation my body seems to be going through, the one form of sustenance that I never counted in my daily diet but now that it’s completely taken out I find myself feeling inconsolably empty. That part is simply the hug. Of course, people always jump to sex when thinking of the difficulties of marrying someone who deploys for months at a time, but even at our best, we still hug 200% more than we are intimate. We are a very touchy feely couple, not in a gross 15 year-old way, but rather in that when we are in the same room we are generally touching, even if it’s just my foot on his lap while he plays video games and I read a book. Even then, in a quiet moment he will squeeze my foot, hugging the closest part of me. At the end of the night before sleep there is always a moment of quiet hugging, forehead to forehead, just as there is every time he comes home from work. The longer he’s been away the longer we will lie or stand like this, almost recharging. It is such a part of our marital language that I never thought what it would be like to go without it for so long. 

Some days, especially now, when we aren’t even halfway through, it is more noticeable that I’m losing battery, limping along until the next port when I can hopefully fly out and see him for a few days, even if it does mean spending more time flying than actually being with him. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to fly out a couple times already, but honestly, I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t been able to. I would probably just be a little miserable ball of pain, so stressed out that the fibro runs rampant. Nothing permanent, nothing I couldn’t survive, but definitely nothing I’m looking forward to going through. Also nothing that would make me very pleasant to be around; as my pain goes up my pleasantness tends to be affected inversely. So I’m very appreciative for the people in my life who have made it possible for me to fly out on a moment’s notice, because without all of them it wouldn’t be possible and I’d be in the middle of fibro hell right now. Instead, though I’m fighting a losing battle, at least I’m still fighting, not yet in little ball of pain form. And each little trip means another little top up which gets me through to the next little trip and the next little top up until finally he’s home and we, (hopefully), get a couple weeks of leave to just be together and actually recharge fully. As I always say, it’ll all be all right in the end, this just isn’t the end. 

While we go through this deployment there are a few things I can do to feel a bit better, to distract myself from what is missing, to keep myself so busy I don’t have time to miss him, (even as I write that I am shaking my head, because it’s crap, no amount of busy keeps him from popping into my mind constantly), but absolutely nothing that can replace that need for his hugs. Put quite simply: it sucks. I don’t want sympathy, though, I don’t want pity. I only write this in the hopes that by acknowledging it I somehow gain some control over it. Because there’s nothing to be done, no amount of distractions and hugs from other friends or family will ever add up to what I’m missing. There is only patience and sheer stubbornness, an unwillingness to let some stupid deployment be stronger than me. For the most part that means I become a hermit, which has proven the easiest way for me to deal with this time. I get a lot of work done and I follow my own weird internal schedule, and if some days pass without me saying a word to another person, that’s not to say I don’t have very lively discussions both alone and with my ever chatty cat, Bubs. Luckily, we’re both fabulous conversationalists, he especially can continuously discuss things til all hours of the morning, whether or not I’m even conscious. So my days are full and that way they pass as quickly as can be expected. 

At the end of the day, suck though it may, he’s worth it. And one day we’ll be so far past these years we’ll have forgotten how it felt to lose charge, life will be 100% again. I just have to

be

patient.

Mini update

Just a quick note to share my new etsy shop. I will be regularly posting my paintings and various crafty things there for sale and I invite all my readers to check it out if you like creepy cute, geeky and generally random things.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/LovelyLittleBeasties

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Thank you all for your support!

Searching for Home and Stumbling Upon Happiness

I grew up with one foot in Santiago, Chile and one foot in Chicago, Illinois, in a family of travelers. I was incredibly lucky, my parents gave me summers all over the place, from a quiet seaside town in Mexico, to Italy, to the Amazon and the Galápagos. I found that as I grew up I was searching for a place that felt like home, and as I grew older and continued to travel on my own I began to grow more afraid that no such place actually existed. I was accustomed to wandering off whenever I got bored, it seemed that I was destined to always be in a temporary state. I was always working somewhere new, living somewhere new, visiting somewhere new. I was always renting, living paycheck to paycheck, never expecting anything otherwise. I was an art major, I grew up knowing I wanted to be an artist, even if it meant living in a cardboard box. The idea of putting down roots, of buying a condo, much less a house, was laughable.

This was my mindset, learned from experience, when I ran off to Long Beach just before my 29th birthday. And all of a sudden there I was. I’d found a place that had all the parts of the places I’d loved. The friendliness of the midwest, the laid-back attitude of the Caribbean, the nightlife of LA just next door, the ocean and mountains of Chile. It just had everything. To make things even sweeter, there I met my giant husband, who embodies so well that spirit of Long Beach that I fell in love with. I also began to work for American Dad!, the beginning of what had the possibility of becoming a solid career in television, one that had me laughing and enjoying my workdays.

Yet, even then, I put down no roots, I knew somewhere in my deepest subconscious that this wasn’t permanent. And I was right, only a year later we were married and I left my job and my lovely Long Beach to follow my husband to Charleston, South Carolina, a place I didn’t feel at home at all. I had always known that once I found the right person I wouldn’t care where I was or what my job was, because everything else in life is temporary. The giant husband likes to say I married down, leaving my job in LA, but to me it was a no brainer, and even through the 2 years in Charleston, which were extremely difficult for me, I have never doubted that decision. Thankfully, 2 years later we were off again and landed on our lovely little island.

Now, just over a year since we bought our little home, something finally *clicked* in my brain. I’ve settled down. I own property in a place. I don’t expect to leave this place, (other than for visits), for the next 10 years or so. As if that weren’t incredible enough, imagine my astonishment when the giant husband and I had a long talk about our roles in the marriage now that we are settled and I learned that his wishes for our roles boil down to this: he expects to provide enough for us that we can afford to have me just art. His words. Because, if I art really good, that will bring in some money anyway, so I should art all the time. His words again.

Even re-reading that now I still can’t wrap my mind around it. You mean, after working 1 or 2 jobs since I was 15, I can just be an artist and you’ll take care of everything else? On top of that you want to take care of me in our own little home on a tiny tropical island?

Mind. Blown.

So I’ve settled into a routine, every day working on projects that have limped along in the time I had available after work for the last few years. And every day I look at my situation here and at the progress on my current canvas and I’m both content and astounded. Somehow, after so many years of searching, I managed to land in the lap of a man who had always dreamed of being an artist’s patron, and when he comes home to see me paint smeared and smiling he feels as content as I do being paint smeared and smiling. This is home, this is my giant husband, this is my career. I’m going to wake up any moment now, right? Shhhh…let me keep sleeping, this is such a wonderful dream.

Now entering the age of acceptance

Lately I’ve been reveling in the epiphany of self acceptance, a very recent development in my life. I think it hits everyone at different times in their lives, but at some point everyone has a period of transition that leaves them finally comfortable in their own skin and in their own soul.
I think it comes when you finally settle into yourself, you’re not a wishy washy teenager, or a struggling to find yourself 20 something. You’re in a place in life where certain things are decided. Your temperament, sense of humor, personality, they’re all set. You are who you are. And if you’re lucky you’ve also found a partner in life who you know as well as you know yourself and so that’s a huge part of life sorted. And maybe, if you’re crazy lucky, you two buy a home and settle down somewhere. And all of a sudden you’re settled down. You look around and you see your roots growing, you see the impact your presence is making on this new space, this new community. And you start to feel grounded in a way that is impossible when you’re 16 and can’t decide if you want to be a cheerleader or a goth or a mathlete, and the slightest influence sends you careening off in another direction, pursuing another random person/fad/hairstyle.
So finally, at 32, I find myself in these beginnings. I’m far from my homes, of which I’ve had quite a few, and I miss people and things, (and food), from all of them. But I’m in a place that without all the people, without all the things, I’m at peace and finally at home in myself and in this place. It’s an amazing feeling, though still disconcerting, to find myself building a life here. I wake up each day and I’m surprised and amazed at my luck. It still feels like a dream I’ll wake up from at any moment. And because I feel accepted in this place, by the people most important to me, I finally have accepted myself. The best part is it’s just going to get better. To think, just five years ago I was in a bad way, getting diagnosed with fibro, losing my job, my apartment, my hair, my figure. But now? The fibro is managed, I have a house in paradise with an incredible husband who is too good to be true, and I’m learning a new set of skills, training to be a scuba instructor. This life is outrageous, beyond anything I could have imagined, but I am beginning to internalize these new facts of my existence, I’m slowly accepting this reality. It’s all real. It’s all mine. And every day I am so grateful for all these twists of fate, that led me here. To a place in my life where I’m finally happy with myself and my situation. Not that everything is perfect, but every day is an opportunity to make things better and I’m taking full advantage of that. Every day is a chance to go to the gym, to work on a project, to create a piece of artwork. Every day is a chance to be a better me, to choose a better life. Because everything in life we view through our own filters, and our attitude affects absolutely everything. If you see the world as bleak and hopeless you’re only hurting yourself. To focus on the positive, even in painful, difficult, or stressful situations, is so important. So every day I strive to be the best version of me that I can be, and those days when it’s 4am and I’m in pain and can’t sleep I’ll write blog posts to remind myself how good life is. So it won’t be a zero day, I’ll have created something, shared something, that makes up for a day stuck in bed. I don’t have to be vertical to be productive. And I’m ok with that, with all the ups and downs, the pros and cons of this life. Of my life. Because it’s mine, it’s what I have. I choose to celebrate it, every day, however I can. And when things are bad I know it’s temporary. And when things are good I appreciate them, they are sweeter for having gone through the rough times before. Life is extraordinary, we are capable of such beauty, kindness, strength…to waste or bemoan our existence is missing out on all the wonder that is our daily reality.
Just having lived, we are lucky.

Anxiety shmanxiety, no brain is going to tell me what to be afraid of.

At the end of my high school years, as I was applying for colleges, I started having these strange, random moments of panic. I didn’t know anything about anxiety or panic attacks, had no clue that what I was experiencing was related to the stress of the decision I was in the process of making. For me it seemed insane, I would be reading a book or daydreaming on my way to school and all of a sudden I would be in full on panic mode. I brushed it off each time and after I started college it faded away and I thought nothing of it. Then, as I was finishing college they started up again and I finally decided it was time to see someone about it.

By this time it had gotten so bad I would randomly start hyperventilating in public, and I was in a constant state of terror, never knowing what would set me off. Because the things my mind would obsess over were not at all related to my current situation it seemed like it was completely random. I would be reading happily and all of a sudden I would feel my mind plunge over the edge into this chasm of horrifying thoughts. Always the same worry, this overwhelming fear of death. Not dying, not pain, but the status of being dead. No longer breathing, and most importantly, no longer thinking. How could I even imagine no longer thinking? How do you think about not thinking? My mind is what tells me I’m alive, the idea that I won’t be here or anywhere or feeling or thinking anything is just absolutely terrifying. I would be frozen, unable to move, doing everything I could to force my brain out of its trap. To no avail, once I was over the edge and into the deep end there was nothing I could do to get out. Finally I would exhaust myself and fall into a coma like sleep, if I was lucky.

I ended up seeing a psychologist and then a psychiatrist, both immediately diagnosed me with classic anxiety disorder. The psychiatrist especially was very comforting, I spoke with him for five minutes, crying and choking on my sobs within the first two, and he immediately knew what the problem was. He told me that I was experiencing panic attacks related to the stress I was under and he explained the science of what was going on in my brain when I had these emotions. He prescribed me zoloft and klonopin, the former as a long term solution, the latter as a short term. I and my family were hesitant. Though I trusted my doctor, understanding that these thoughts were due to a chemical imbalance in my brain was difficult to process. How could thoughts be affected that way? It just didn’t compute, but I figured I had nothing to lose so I followed his directions and started taking the medication. In one week I called him back, crying again but this time joyfully, I felt like myself again. I could read, watch movies, talk about the future, and no breakdowns. I was beyond overjoyed, I was ecstatic. I had my life back.

Years passed and I continued taking only the zoloft, a minimal dose that allowed me to control these symptoms but didn’t leave me feeling numb as higher doses tended to. After a while I felt stable and went off the meds, thinking that I was balanced now, I knew the science behind what had happened and I believed it was a temporary problem that should be a non issue now that I wasn’t in the middle of major life changes. The result was that all of a sudden I had a hair trigger emotionally, the death related thoughts didn’t start up again but rather I would find myself tearing up at the silliest things. Commercials would have me sobbing, stupid internet videos would leave me melancholy and weepy for hours. But I thought, no panic attacks so that’s a good sign. But as things changed in my life, as I found out about my fibromyalgia, as I decided to go back to school and then move to LA, I found the death thoughts creeping in once again. Not full blown, no hyperventilating, but rather I could feel my mind skittering on the edge, trying desperately to grab hold of something so as not to plunge into that awful darkness. I held out as long as I could before caving and making another psychiatric appointment. I went back on the meds, evened back out, and all was well with the world.

But after all that, even knowing why this was happening and the simple solution to fix it, I was still hesitant about taking the meds. Such a stupid issue, but one that I don’t believe I’m the only person to experience. For some reason when it comes to mental issues I find myself saying, “I can push through this, I’m strong, these are just thoughts.” They’re not just thoughts, those thoughts are merely the symptoms of a physical problem. That’s the key, remembering that it is a physical problem. I’m not weak for having these thoughts, I can’t just force myself to “pull it together” and “calm down.” That’s not how these things work.

The mindless terror of a panic attack is not something easily explained to those that have never experienced them. You can’t break out of it. You simply can’t. You are absolutely powerless, a bystander watching as a some horrific accident unfolds in front of you. You stand, transfixed, as the car crashes and bursts into flames. And the worst part is watching this horror and seeing that, even as you stand to the side and watch, you’re also in the car.

It’s ludicrous, that these thoughts and emotions, these feelings that have no tangible qualities, are the result of a chemical imbalance. And so you try to push through, to tell yourself you’re fine, but you’re not, not at all. Because reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy shouldn’t set you off in a terror spiral. So if a little pill will solve this problem, then trust me, just take the pill. Even if you think you can cope, think you can overcome and win this struggle, listen to me, and just take the damn pill. You can thank me later, when you’re able to watch banking commercials without breaking down in tears.

Starting the new year off with a purr.

My husband and I are cat people. Not that we dislike dogs, (or are part of the Cats touring company), we just tend to prefer purrs to barks. We had adopted an adorable little cow looking kitten about two months old when we first moved in together. Her name was Proton and she followed us across the country happily, she was very trusting and completely comfortable as long as I was nearby and calm. Long car rides were no issue, and by long I mean five days full of driving. She was always easy, loving, happy. And, on rare occasions, she quacked. We were happy to give her a forever home, and expected her to be our only pet for years. Until the fourth of July this past year when we happened upon a tiny mewing bundle of night, purring her heart out while all around her it sounded like a war. My husband fell in love and turned his unfailingly convincing puppy dog eyes on me, how could I refuse? I wanted her just as much, though first I needed to make sure she was healthy, had her shots, and was not someone else’s who might be missing her. So we scooped her up, took her in and to the vet the next day. She was not microchipped nor spayed so we decided to keep her, and get her all the health updates she needed. This little six month old girl became Electron, a feisty little jumper who was a complete cuddlebug.

In October we found out we’d be moving to Hawaii and discovered that we didn’t have enough time to quarantine them both at home before leaving so a friend was kind enough to take them in for us temporarily until I figured out what we needed to do to get them over here. My friend was very kind to take them in but I felt guilty for saddling them with her, even though she clearly fell in love with them herself.

After arriving here in Hawaii and getting settled in the house I started to look into how to bring them over and even the best case scenario worried me. It isn’t the cost that bothered me but the fact that they would either be under the plane, being subjected to all that noise both during loading/unloading and flight, or stuck in a carrier for hours in the main cabin. Neither seemed like experiences that would leave them well off and I worried that the stress of it might cause irreparable harm. I love those two to bits and the last thing I want to do is hurt them out of my own selfishness. So, I had a long chat with my friend and it turned out that rather than feeling stuck with these two kitties, she was miserable at the thought of losing them. So, it seemed natural to have her keep them, with the stipulation that I get regular pictures and updates, which she has been wonderful at providing. Seeing the two cuddling on top of her assuages my guilt and I realize that this was the best decision all around.

The only problem is now I have no cats, no snuggle buddies, no purring to put me to sleep when my husband is away. So, we discussed and decided that once the house was far enough along we would look into adopting a young cat from the humane society.

Then, today, I had a bad day. My lower stomach was cramping and I was in intense pain for most of the day, though there was no reason for it. One of the other lovely issues I’m stuck with is the fact that my ovaries insist on forming cysts when no one is looking and then apparently they use a melon baller to scrape their way out of my body to freedom. It’s unpleasant to say the least. I’d been free for a year or so, until this morning it just hit me and it was all I could do to force myself out of the fetal position and upright to run errands. In this situation I know what helps, a furry bundle of purr to snuggle up to. There’s simply nothing better, especially when there isn’t really anything to do but wait out the pain. I have a doctor’s appointment this week but until then it’s grit my teeth and suck it up. So, since we didn’t have any cats currently in the house and my enormous stuffed moose wasn’t doing the trick, we decided to just go and see what the humane society had. I thought we’d play with some kittens, I’d feel better, we’d go home. (I can be so naive sometimes). That was the plan, at least, until we started actually playing with them. I found a tiny two year old orange tabby who head butts as if her life depends on it and purrs almost violently when you pay her any attention at all. She was exactly what I wanted. Then I looked over to see my husband on the floor, with a gorgeous tuxedo cat twining around him, purring his heart out. And, of course, I get the puppy dog eyes again. I just can’t say no, besides, better to have two so they can have someone to play with the rare times I’m not home. Also, why do I always have to be the one to say no? I want all the kitties too! So, long story nowhere near short, we took home two cats today. The young orange became Ipo, meaning sweetheart in Hawaiian, (or secretly I can call her Hipo, pronounced the same but meaning hiccup in Spanish. Which entertains me to no end), and the tuxedo became Bubs, (an homage to the amazing cat loving Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys).

Now, at this insane hour of the morning I’m lying in bed with Ipo on my feet, purring so hard she keeps falling over. Bubs wanders in and out, coming up for a quick cuddle then going off to explore more of the house. Tonight was an intense night here, a massive storm came through, with wind battering at the windows and torrential rains pouring down. The two have understandably been skittish to start, hiding behind the couch or in a corner until we finally coaxed them both out. They each love snuggling so the promise of being pet is more than enough to lure them up to bed with us. And, though I’m in pain and exhausted and apparently catching a cold, I couldn’t be happier. I’m not a cat mom, I don’t call them my furbabies, but I feel like we are a family again. The benefit of having something so small depend on me allows me to push aside some of the pain and rise to the challenge of taking care of them…it’s immeasurable, absolutely immeasurable.

So, unexpectedly, which tends to be our style, we now have two cats. We’re starting out the new year right, building a home and a family and it is really starting to feel like it. Though I never expected to settle down so completely the feeling of putting down roots here is so fulfilling, and these two are an important piece of the puzzle. I finally feel home.

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.