Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Cripple Adventures – Weekend Edition

Oh boy, do I have a full weekend planned. Blog posts, cupcakes, cleaning, hunting for dismembered wildlife in the backyard…

Once I can move and feel my extremities again. Well, even the non-extreme portions of my body. People are supposed to be able to feel their sides, right?

You guessed it, the neuropathy and paralysis are back. How am I typing this blog post, you ask? Very carefully, and I’m going to pay for it later. Oh well.

 

are-you-fucking-kidding-me

 

5 surgeries and 8 incisions later, the nerves are supposed to have been moved, decompressed, repaired enough for the damage to heal. After the last operation it seemed that not only had the right lower arm and hand calmed down finally, but the left arm had stopped screaming and I would be able to use my hand. I’ve had a nice two and a half months of minimal twitching and mainly only-recovery pain. Laugh along with me when I tell you it’s now come to an end. The twitches, stabbing pain, lobster claw, and paralysis aren’t as extreme as they used to be, but they’re back and I can’t hurdle them.

Harsh reality started to set in after not being able to move my legs or my left side yesterday while Miss J was making dinner.

 

paralyzed

 

While I will be seeing Dr Torture (that’s what his name sounds like, seriously) when I’m back in Vegas for work, there’s not much I can do to be a regular human again unless I’m willing to plow my way through the symptoms, the pain, the disability.

There will be baking, and I’ll let you know how my new low-sugar whipped frosting recipe turns out. I’ve got a post planned about how the incisions have healed, if anyone’s interested in how to deal with minimizing the look of scars. There are D&D sessions to plan, character prep to do, and maps to draw. The basement needs to be cleaned and I can’t be asking Miss J to clean up after me.

 

Let me be clear: I’m not asking for pity. I’ll be damned if I let this stupid injury steal any more time from me.

And if it turns out to be an underlying neurological disorder causing all of these problems, then I’m well on my way to coping with whatever degeneration awaits.

 

poke your eye out

 

 

In the meantime, let’s all have a good laugh!

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A Long-Overdue Apology

This blog is not meant to be constant navel-gazing, and if you’re not interested in my personal bullshit feel free not to read. However, there’s an apology that’s long-overdue to someone who’s been very dear to me – someone whose constant complaint was that he felt like a secret.

A blog post won’t right any wrongs, especially one that’s somewhat anonymous. Still, I’ve been in his shoes before so I will do what I can.

 

Once upon a time I was madly in love with a guy named Dru. For some time he was the first person I thought about when I woke up and would often fall asleep texting him at night. There was a time where I was traveling wherever my little heart desired, and every place I visited I saw through the lens of his crazy sarcastic artist’s perspective. There was a CD I bought a few weeks before the first time he said “I love you”, and I would listen to it on repeat because it said the same thing that I was too chicken to say.

 

Long distance relationships are always a challenge, especially when people are focused on school and work as intensely as we were and probably still are. Being in different time zones can add to the wear and tear, but luckily we found ways to enjoy the same TV shows and movies, the same news, the same jokes. All I cared about was that we were able to share these things, but it wasn’t enough.

I didn’t declare our relationship on Facebook or Twitter. To me it was moot since the people in my everyday life knew about him and I couldn’t care less what Facebook thinks. Even when I have dated people who also have Facebook I don’t always list my relationship. When my coworkers, roommates, friends ask how someone is… To me, that’s what’s real.

 

Dru, you’ve hardly been a secret in my life. Spending the crazy brief vacation with you was better than any of the other trips I’d taken. The accident and injury was scary – more than I’ve admitted to a lot of people – and I can’t tell you how much your support meant to me. My work bestie still asks about you.

 

I understand that school became your priority, and honestly that’s probably how it should be. You’re gifted and deserve all the fruits of your hard work. While we disagreed about how I should or shouldn’t have aired our relationship on social media I still respected your opinion and always loved you. I understand your reticence. I know you’d been hurt in the past by being a secret. I know that we live at a different pace, and that I live life much more intently when it comes to getting what I want. I always thought that two independent people could compromise and come together eventually.

 

Why the fuck am I writing this if you’ve been radio silent for ages? People have been asking about you (still), so this is my statement. And, well, it’s what I wanted any time I’ve been in your position. Here’s the publicity you wanted, for whatever it’s worth.

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Wake and Bake

The need, it’s back – it’s taken over. Cakes, cookies, frosting…

Fucking baking.

 

Many, many moons ago my secret recipe cookies were mildly famous from Wisconsin to France. I started experimenting with cakes in college and, in certain circles, a party was only an excuse to make another cake. Fillings, chunks, frosting, fruit – you name it, I experimented with it. No half-assed sheet cakes for this domestic derelict, either. Imagine layer cakes, ganache topping – spending more money on your bakery budget than the rest of your food combined.

I invented CAKE PIE for God’s sake!

These were the parties.

 

After the accident it was necessary to stop many of my hobbies, of which baking was a particular challenge. I melted my hand trying to make nachos one evening because I twitched and ran my palm along the heating coil in the oven. This mishap was pre-injury so I knew better than to mess with an oven with two busted arms. Now that the recovery period is coming to a close, I decided to test the waters.

 

This batch of my secret cookies might be one of the best batches I’ve ever made. Period.

 

Oh goodness...

Oh goodness…

 

Next came a Final Four cake, in honor of the Wisconsin Badgers. Dark chocolate double layer cake with sour cream and raspberry filling, mixed with a little of the cream cheese frosting to help keep it together.

ON WISCONSIN

ON WISCONSIN

 

Miss J mentioned she had muffin pans that had never been used so I decided to try my hand at cupcakes. Meet my new love.

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This is my third batch of cupcakes, the second batch just in the last week. I’m teaching myself how to decorate despite really, truly only liking the simple frosting spread you do with a butter knife. Next up? Low-sugar or sugar-free frosting. Once I’ve got the handle on that it’s time to learn to make the batter from scratch.

It's a start, for a cripple...

It’s a start, for a cripple…

 

Holy hell, I’ve found my favorite new hobby. Forget minion-mastering, forget demon-slaying, forget crocheting. The three year hiatus took its toll and now I’m making up for lost time.

 

Let’s see if my high-powered metabolism holds up, or if it finally crashes with all of this indulgence.

At the very least, it’s a good way to justify joining the gym this weekend.

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Mother’s Day – Insert Something Shitty Here

 

This post is for Amanda.

 

My relationship with my family is practically non-existent on both sides, so why is it I get more shit for skipping Mother’s Day than Father’s Day? Obviously, it’s because we understand the harm of a neglectful, hateful parent more than we understand the danger of a parent who loves too much.

Yep, I said it.

Read more here from people more scholarly than myself: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-legacy-distorted-love/201204/when-mother-s-day-hurts

 

Most people accept that I gave up on any relationship with my dad long ago because the neglect and abuse was clear. As the firstborn, I was what ruined his life – he made a point to tell me several times. I was just as hormonal as a young adult as I am now, but I was also Full IB, in every band possible at my school (half of them prestigious and award-winning) and playing half a dozen instruments, I lettered in curling my first year as a Sophomore, and I had 2-3 jobs at any given time. I was fluent in French by the time I was 16, our drama club advisor would always ask if I could participate, I wrote and directed a one-act play. None of this was good enough for him. I was a fat, lazy, nerdy, emotional loser and I would never amount to anything.

It’s easy to understand why this is toxic. In fact, it’s much easier to sever this part of my life because it is so clear how bad all of these experiences are, and how they’ll never change into anything positive. Being told I need to grovel and beg forgiveness for the abuse I suffered is clearly the wrong answer, and even at 23 I knew I had made the right decision to walk away when I did, six years earlier. That gives me strength.

 

The problem is how we see parents who “love too much”, whose shortcomings are much more impactful than “shortcomings” but get swept under the rug because a parent does it out of love.

On the one hand, I’ve got a mother who’s worked hard to provide for her children despite serious life challenges. Having had similar challenges WITHOUT having children, I can appreciate the difficulty of her experience.

On the other hand… In the words of my friend Amanda, #MyMotherIsBatshitInsane. To my mother, as the firstborn, I was what saved her life. I was her best friend, her ray of light, her reason for living. And I knew this since I was old enough to remember.

 

I’m not going to delve into the sad, crazy, pity-me stories – let me leave you one example so you might understand. When I was 18 I was in a terrible relationship and was too afraid to tell my parents (mom and stepdad) I was being raped because I was afraid I’d be made fun of for it. Eventually I found the courage to get out of that relationship, and that day culminated in the cops being called because the boyfriend was trying to kill me. Through the circumstances I was forced to tell my parents what had happened, and sure as shit, my mom laughed at me. My own mother made fun of me for being a victim – almost a “serves you right” attitude – despite her having told us she’d also been a victim of sexual abuse as a child and young woman.

 

No, I didn’t cut ties with my mother when I was 18. It took another 8 years, but throughout that time I’ve been held hostage to both her past and our family past.

 

My parents divorced when I was in elementary school and through a tumultuous, manipulative time I chose to live with my dad. Even as a young kid I knew that my dad would be best able to provide for me, while my mom only wanted to be my friend. I’ve always said I needed a parent who could be responsible and keep a roof over my head, and even in the thick of the neglect and abuse I again chose my dad’s house of hell over a house where my mom would drink and drive, or maybe the phone or gas bill wouldn’t be paid. Over and over again I’m made to answer for these decisions, for the actions of my dad and stepmother, and for the things that happened to her as a kid.

 

Now, in the interest of having an adult relationship and clearing my own conscience I’ve apologised most sincerely for the hurt and the things I’ve done. I’ve done all I can to atone for the things I was responsible for. It’s still not enough and I don’t know what to do.

If this sat between only me and my mom, maybe it would be easier; the trick is that my younger brother is involved and he takes the hurt and the pain my mom experienced even more personally because he chose to live with her. There were months where my brother and I didn’t see each other because neither of us wanted anything to do with the parents where each other lived. It was painful, and when we were able to be together, my brother was one of my dearest friends. What hurts the most is how my mom uses this emotional dynamic to manipulate my brother and me when she can, either to get her own way or to get us to do something. I don’t think she does it consciously, but it happens. The lies that get told are different enough from reality that it’s not some simple misunderstanding.

 

Yet, all of this happens because my mother loves us too much. She always wants the best for us, her hurt comes from the fact that she’s sacrificed everything if only for us to have a better life. She didn’t get to go to college or have fun as a young adult, so it was on me to make the best of myself. She was always a prisoner to her own neglectful past and her need for us to be comforted that she didn’t get to take care of herself. That didn’t end well – if the self-destructive behaviour wasn’t enough it’s the single thing I can point to that drove me away. I always said I needed a responsible parent more than I needed one who loved me.

 

So few people see this cycle of hurt and guilt as something damaging, something real. My mom isn’t as nuts as Amanda’s, but we’re held hostage not only by our mother’s behaviour but by society’s mandate that we love our parents no matter what. It’s up to us to fix this, parents only do the best they can!

I should rejoice that I have a parent who thinks I can accomplish anything I set my mind to, instead of one who never says I’m good enough! Sure, maybe, but the voices in my head always say I’m never good enough so not having anything constructive to counter those ideas only serves to reinforce them. Let’s be real – there’s no way in Hell I’ve got a shot at marrying Prince William, even if I wanted to.

I should rejoice that the criticism I get is only normal motherly guidance. “You should never have kids, you’re too strict” and “I’ll be surprised if you ever do get married, you probably never will” are things that every mother says to their young adult, right? Clearly those are constructive.

 

I say no. The day when the big fight happened about 4 years ago, I sat down with my stepdad and we had a frank heart-to-heart. He’s seen the drama trauma first-hand and understands that I need boundaries in my life. For the first time I was able to articulate that I can’t actually live a life when I’m dragged into the past every chance she gets. Not only can I not account for anything that happened before I was born, the divorce happened nearly two decades prior and we should all have moved on by now.

I told my stepdad that I can’t have a family like everyone wants because I can’t introduce anyone into the crazy. My mom will spill all the family beans to anyone who will listen, so why would I bring a new person into this mess? Imagine if I had kids, and she started telling them about ANY of the abuse either of us have survived? She did it to my college roommate and made me answer for it. No, that’s not okay.

 

As I get older I’m finding I don’t necessarily want a family. People say that my dog is well-enough behaved and I’ve got a good enough compass to raise well-adjusted kids… but really? Forget all the physical problems I’m still dealing with. I’ve lived with an inner monologue always telling me I’m never good enough, and although in the last ten years or so I’ve learned how to say “FUCK that, I’m awesome”… There’s the worry. Will I swing too far to an extreme, either like my father or mother? How do you raise a family with no history? Certainly the stories about why we don’t visit Gram and Grampa, and why Mom doesn’t call Grampa Dad, aren’t appropriate for little kids.

When will I get past the stigma of being a kid who isn’t grateful for having a parent who loves her so much it drives her to do crazy things?

 

Never, I fear. Luckily, I’ve grown into the kind of adult who mostly doesn’t care what you think. I wish more people understood that neglecting a kid’s needs comes in so many more forms than just calling them stupid or locking them in a crate, but I’ve got my own life as validation.

 

Let’s hope this is a bit of education. Let’s also hope that those of you who’ve been hurt by a parent under the guise of them “loving too much” have the courage to recognise it and do what’s healthy for you.

 

Happy Mother’s Day

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Too Much Time on My Hands

If you’re not singing and dancing along you’re not allowed to come to Karaoke Team try-outs.

Yes, Karaoke Team is a real thing.

Bh7HmA5CIAEC6Oy

 

It must be quite obvious that I’ve got far too much time on my hands these days. As much frustration as the bank and house can take, it’s more of a waiting game than anything. Did my paperwork go in? Has the mail come yet? Blah blah blah. Work takes up many of my waking hours, sure, but there are still enough left over where I find myself spending FAR too much time on the internets. Back before the days of smartphones my internet mischief involved mostly RPGs and webcomics. Now that I’m toting around a computer in my pocket it’s gotten far worse. Whether it’s SnapChat, Twitter, or StumbleUpon I spend the day obsessing over a tiny screen THAT IS DIRECTLY CONNECTED TO PEOPLE ON THE OTHER SIDE.

This has to stop.

BVmdF5dCIAAfQSf

 

I happened to catch up with my friend Dr J yesterday, and he mentioned that there’s a contingent of us old middle school friends in the area. Suddenly, I’ve been drafted into Tango Lessons and salsa/tango nights, board games, and running (teaching) D&D sessions up in Madison. I’d already been pondering the Rotary Club here in Rock County, along with a gardening club and joining the local LCMS church, so now I have a long list of activities to consider.

Could it be that the Pirate is no longer haunting the interwebs and has an honest-to-goodness real life? One that doesn’t involve airports and spreadsheets?!

 

Is this the end?

Is this the end?

 

Hopefully soon I will be able to report on the success of our new Karaoke Team, or maybe have some fun stories about a ragtag bunch of level 4 mercenaries stumbling onto the Three Billy Goats Gruff. I’ll try to stay away from the theology, but yesterday we already started diving into Abelard’s Ethic of Pure Intent, mysticism, and why forbidding activities like board games and certain books is ridiculous. You’ve been warned.

 

If you’re in the Madison/Janesville area and fancy yourself any of the following, the recruitment campaign starts soon:

  • singer of moderate or questionable talent
  • dancer of no slight enthusiasm
  • Minion Master, Mook, Eclipse Caste, Brawler, or really any class other than Psion. Seriously, we’ll even take Abyssals.
  • possessor of one or more thumbs that may or may not be green
  • interested in Belgian food and/or beer

Ahem.

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The Old House

I found myself nearly paralyzed in Target the other day, doubled over my cart in pain and wanting to crawl under a shelf. No, it wasn’t the hands. It’s this stupid heartbroken grief that keeps rearing its ugly head.

 

Browsing hampers and shower liners for a new house, I was instantly more than two thousand miles away looking for hampers and hangers for a completely different house – one with a future. I stumbled upon the jewelry box the Ninja gave me for my birthday and had to stop for a few minutes, not quite believing it was the exact same one I so carefully packed and padded for the drive back across the desert. Returning a shower caddy to the clearance shelf because I have a nearly-new shower caddy (also a gift from the Ninja) hurt more than any of the post-surgery falls I’ve had. Sure, it’s good for the brand that the stores are the same nationwide. Don’t they know it’s bad for my sanity?

 

As I said as I was leaving, when you spend two and a half years with someone, living every day so intensely together, it’s not as if you can simply flip a switch and turn everything off. Never mind all the anger, sadness, and frustration at the end there’s still the foundation of love and affection with which we started. After investing so much into a relationship, when it’s over is like having a leg amputated but then still looking to see if your shoe’s untied.

 

This too shall pass, and if anyone knows that nothing lasts forever it’s me. The grief is nearly gone. There is no fear of moving forward, no regret. The scabs have worn down and soon the scars will regain feeling.  Yet, until then, I suppose I won’t be shopping for housewares.

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The Prodigal Cheesehead

Alternate title: American Woman

 

Often, people will say that the point of travelling is to learn how similar the world is – from Bangalore to Berlin to Bumblefuck, Wisconsin. It’s true, people all over the world typically have the same desires and struggles, and getting outside of one’s own backyard is essential to really accepting and understanding the world in which we live. However, past a certain point of globetrotting I came to a profound appreciation of America’s differences and even developed a preference for my own backyard.

 

This was never the case in my early youth. As long as I can remember, I dreamed of Spain where my grandparents had lived. I dreamed of the Philippines and the jungle, of Korea, of Turkey – the places my family had lived in the military. My grandmother collected souvenir spoons and I would marvel at the display, asking her if she really had visited every state stamped or painted onto the spoon. It was impossible to believe that one person could see so many places but still be my grandma from Chicago! This became my dream.

 

Early on I learned foreign languages. As childhood grew into the painful teenage years and young adulthood, I saw these languages as my ticket to another world. I always imagined life would be fundamentally different somewhere else, even if it wasn’t necessarily better. I would learn to drink coffee and eat strange French food, my love of romantic and medieval literature a buoy in the cultural tempest. I could travel to South America, my missionary’s accent overshadowed by my ability to adapt to new vocabularies and syntax. Gone would be the anguish of not having a family, since I would be thousands of miles away instead of in the same time zone, same state, even the same house. Always, I dreamed.

 

So I traveled. Cross country trips in the US are like visiting a foreign country – sometimes you find you can barely understand locals in Appalachia. It’s not the same as the Deep South, it’s not the same as anywhere. Even Minnesota and Illinois can be starkly different from central Wisconsin. As I made my first forays to France and Canada I reveled in the contrast to home. Being able to thrive (not just survive) in a language other than my mother tongue was thrilling! We discussed literature – from my favorite medieval topics to the great American writers of the 20th century. We all had something in common, even the Hungarian girl whose boyfriend had to translate for her. It felt wild.

 

I fell into the job I have now and travel came. I can be sent abroad for weeks at a time, traipsing through enough European countries to give my bank a heart attack. I love breakfast in Milan, Germany, Portugal; my favorite Thai food is in Sweden. People watching is the best in Amsterdam and Portugal because they’ve got such stunning population diversity. Despite these unique cultural differences the people I worked with all wanted the same things – time off to travel and healthy families; they all had the same hobbies like sports, fashion, reading, and photography; they all voiced the same frustrations with their government about corruption, the economy, fears of pollution and under-funding of public services. Sure, America is very different from Europe when we talk about social policy, but people everywhere want the same basic things.

 

Maybe it’s no surprise the epiphany came when I landed in JFK after spending two weeks in 5 different countries. I found myself ecstatic to land in a place where I had the right currency, inherently understood the local customs, and spoke the language with native fluency and had no worries about my idiomatic proficiency. Normally language barriers don’t phase me – even in Germany I spoke enough to get by in the shops and could understand printed directions well enough. I’ve been speaking French and Spanish since I was a young girl so it’s no sweat to spend my day “getting by”. Even in Lisbon I started to learn the language and now do fine in Portuguese. I get reimbursed for currency exchange fees and EVERYONE takes Visa. I have no fear about potentially embarrassing myself and learning new customs, so what’s the deal?

 

Sometimes it’s all just too much. I have no problem being sent abroad for weeks or months and adapting to new cultures, but all told I really appreciate being home. Charles Darwin said it’s not the most intelligent creatures that survive, but the ones most able to adapt, and I truly have taken that to heart. Even though the work is useful and necessary, it still takes a toll. I like instinctively knowing how to drive, order food, and talk to other people when I’m home in the US. I like knowing what’s popular and relevant, and I like having an idea of what the people around me are experiencing. I’ve been far too empathetic since I was a kid, and either I would be uncomfortable when others were or I would be yearning to learn new ways of living and experiencing the world. Maybe it’s a great thing when you’re a kid, since it drove me to learn and experience new things with little fear and a great deal of excitement. Now, I think I might not have the energy for it anymore.

 

So, yes, the world is a wonderful place full of new experiences and people who often share the same hopes and fears that we do. Get out and experience something different for a while – let it change you and broaden your perspective. Let me know if you don’t grow tired of it after some time and yearn to be home despite all the delicious breakfasts, cool clothes, and fun times you can have in these exotic places.

Categories: getting old, reflection, travel, Workaholic | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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