What doing

In my early 20’s, I had a friend named Jodi that more or less lived with me. She lived in this little cabin way out of town, with no electricity and no phone, but would often work so late, and have to be back to work so early the next day, that it made no sense for her to drive all the way home and back that night. So Jodi would crash at my place two or three nights a week.

Jodi was a kick. She was a short, fucking adorable, very skinny lesbian that almost always shaved her head because at some point she decided that hair was just too much of a pain in the ass to deal with. She was always smiling, always upbeat, and had an unusual knack for knowing when I was having a bad day.

She would call me up and say “Hey Allen! What doing?”.

Jodi lives in Arizona now, but I still occasionally get an email from her. I used to have a few photos of her, but they have long since been lost. I suspect they were in a box in my storage unit when it got broken into and emptied out, years ago.

I miss Jodi.

Anyway, when trying to decide on a title for this post, her voice popped into my head with “What doing?”, so there it is.

I’ve been contemplating for the last few months, about what I might want to do with this blog. I get the urge to write once in a while, and this always makes a good outlet for it, but it’s usually just venting about personal shit, and not terribly interesting.

I’ve mentioned a few times that I used to write a lot. Like… a LOT. I have shit tons of unfinished stories, mostly fiction, sitting on my hard drive. I either get bored with an idea, or I get busy and forget about it, and shit just doesn’t ever get finished. The last time anyone other than myself read one of my short stories, was in college. So we’re talking twenty years ago. I write that stuff mostly just to get it out of my head, because nothing else does the trick. Then it gets shuffled into limbo on my hard drive, and forgotten about.

So far as blogging goes, in my single days (post ex-wife, pre-Laure) I wrote about single guy life. As in, nearly every day I would have some little anecdote regarding something that had happened to me, or something I noticed, and I would turn it into a story and stick it up on my blog. It felt good to unload my thoughts like that every day. Those things still happen now, all the time, but I’m usually so busy that by the time I’m able to sit down and write about it, a few days have passed and it doesn’t seem that interesting anymore. Again though, this teardrop project has completely taken over my life for quite some time now, so once that’s done… maybe I’ll start writing more. I’d like to think so.

In other news, it’s Friday. Just two days of work next week, and then I’m off for two solid weeks. Hopefully it will be spent camping. There will be photos.

And speaking of photos, this is Erin, posing near the top of this really great waterfall I found about forty-five minutes north of here. The water was not just cold, it was that stinging-your-skin, instant headache kind of cold, but as you can see, she did wonderfully.

 

Vacation is imminent

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks for me. I’m rather thankful for it though, because it’s keeping me distracted from the relentless onslaught of fuckery coming from our government.

Not gonna go there though.

Our vacation starts soon. Just for shits and giggles, I set up a twitter bot that tweets a daily countdown from my account. I was bored, it was kinda fun.

I’ve spent the last two weeks working on the teardrop every spare moment I have. It’s been two weekends of working on it from the time I wake up, until the time I go to bed. During the week, I’ve been coming home from work, changing my clothes, and going straight out to the garage and working until sometime between eleven and midnight.

It’s almost done.

I’ve got it skinned, which is a major milestone. It looks pretty good but I am pissed that I wasn’t paying attention to which side was working with, and marked the shit out of the driver side with my router as I was cutting it out. Oh well.

Tonight I’ll finish installing the port holes and the cabin fan in the ceiling, and hopefully get the solar panel mounted. I’m not sure how long this is all going to take me. While I’m doing that, Laure will be cleaning up the galley, touching up paint, and making the curtains.

Whatever I don’t get done there tonight, I’ll definitely finish up tomorrow night. I also need to stain the wood that will go on the inside of the hatch, and finish painting primer in the galley.

Next is finishing up the hatch, which isn’t that big of a deal, although I am stressing about just when the hell the fucking goddamn hinge is going to show up. It’s in Billings right now, five hours away, but tracking says it may not show up until Tuesday… we’ll see. I didn’t pick up enough trim when I was at The Teardrop Fix-It Shop in Victor last weekend, so I may be driving down there again this weekend to get a few more pieces of that. I need those to finish the hatch completely. But even if I get everything else done, skinning the hatch and putting on the hinge are things that can be done in an afternoon. Then it just needs to sit over night to allow the sealant to dry.

Anywho, aside from the hatch, all of the major stuff is done. Then it’s a whole shit ton of little things. Porch lights, skinning the tongue box and installing it, installing the plumbing, cupboard doors, and lights in the galley, and fixing the turn signals.

I’m confident I can get all of that done in the next few days.

I’m managing to not lose my steam on this yet. I keep picturing us sitting next to Ashley Lake, eating hot dogs, and reading in hammocks. That’s been doing the trick.

Struggling for connection

Not since my mid-twenties have I had a close-knit circle of friends that I regularly spend time with. At that time, it was friends I’d made during college. Royce, Travis, Kendra, Cindy (whom I was married to for a tick), Jackie, and Jody.

Before that, it was friends from high school. Donald, Lester, Dan, Jim, James, Erin, and Jenny.

Before them, well I moved so much during my elementary and junior high school years, about every six months, that I rarely had time to make friends, and so I just didn’t bother. The frequent relocating was due to my mother’s mental illness, about which I’ve gone into in great detail before.

I’ve mentioned before, that I was diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder, a little known personality disorder that gets most often confused with schizophrenia due to the similar names. “Schizoid” is often used to denote a person who has schizophrenia, and schizophrenia is almost always misconstrued to mean dissociative identity disorder… which are two VERY different things. SPD and schizophrenia are also nothing alike. Not even close.

Anyway, the point is that most people have never heard of SPD. As disorders go, there are worse things to deal with. I’d never heard of it until my diagnosis about fifteen years ago. My therapist explained it to me, and I did a lot of reading on it, and in the course of just a few days, so many things about my life and behaviors began to make sense. For example, the fact that most people hold absolutely no interest at all for me. In fact, most of the time I want every one around me to just go about their day and leave me the fuck alone. But then, for whatever reason, somebody will catch my interest, and we’re suddenly really good friends.

It doesn’t happen often.

I have a hell of a time forming connections with other people. Most of the time, I feel like I’m standing outside of my own life, watching it all happen without me. I feel like I’m missing out on so many things. Some of those things are real, but most of them are just my disorder fucking with me.

I have a general apathy about people, commonly misconstrued as a lack of empathy, which isn’t exactly the same thing. I care about other people, I’m simply not willing to let their problems become my problems, if that makes any sense at all.

It’s difficult for me to get motivated about anything, and when I do get motivated, that motivation can very easily get sucked out of me in a hurry. Depression has a similar effect on motivation, but also not quite the same thing.

I spend a lot of time imagining the person I wish I could be, and the life that person would lead, something I can remember doing in the fifth grade. The comments on my report cards almost always included some note about me spending too much time day dreaming.

These are all very common symptoms of SPD, and they’re only going to get more pronounced as I get older.

I’m not just writing about all of this to fill you in on the ins and outs of my emotional problems, there is a point. That point being that I have spent most of my adult life struggling to connect with other people, and failing miserably at it. There was a time just after my divorce, before Laure and I were reunited, where I was so lonely that I would go to Walmart and wander aimlessly, without buying anything, just to be in proximity to other people.

I think that was the root of my decade long obsession with Flickr, and photographing people. It was an attempt at connecting. This blog is another such attempt. I’m aware that it has almost zero readership, maybe three or four people on a busy day. However, there was a time waaaaaay back when, where I was writing about actual interesting shit, and my blog was getting hundreds of hits a day, and I couldn’t keep up with the comments. That however, was just as social media was taking off. Twitter was in it’s infancy, MySpace was just beginning to lose the battle to Facebook, and blogging was still where everything was happening.

I feel so isolated from most of the people around me that, like so many people today, I spend a lot of time looking to the internet to help me make those connections, and being sorely disappointed.

I know this all sounds like depression talking, it’s not. I’m fine, but it may be time to go back to therapy for a bit.

Feeling much better

I’m not sure if it’s the benedryl calming my allergies down at night, or just getting knocked out by the benedryl itself, but I am doing way better. My mood the last two days has been great, and I’m back to getting shit done. Just in time too, because we have awesome friends coming over tomorrow, and I have more shit to do this weekend.

Also, I decided that the blog needed a face lift, something a little brighter. I still might change it again.

Here is Chelsi, in her garden. Not only is she a fantastic model, but she’s one hell of a tattoo artist, and an amazing artist in general. She gave Laure her first tattoo last year, and is chomping at the bit to do my first. I still haven’t decided what I’m going to get. Whatever it is, it’s going to be something geeky. Whenever I get to looking at tattoo ideas, I always end up looking over Starwars and RPG stuff. Two things that have had a huge impact on my life.

Anyway, yeah. I’m all over the place with this post.

Chelsi, in her garden.

Sleep apnea strikes again

I’ve had trouble sleeping since I was in college. It comes and goes, but it occurred to me this evening that I haven’t been sleeping for shit this week, which explains my mood. I’ll have to start taking something before bed for a week or so, and see how I do.

 

Here’s Liz, being flexible. It hurt my knees just watching her hold this pose.

I found myself in a bit of a funk this afternoon

I’m not sure what brought it on. I got a good night’s sleep last night, I don’t feel tired, it’s been a productive day… I dunno. It happens some times.

I think I need to take the night off. I’ve been dedicating almost every evening, and every free day, to working on the teardrop. It’s so close to being finished, and our vacation starts in just over three weeks, so I’m feeling a lot of pressure to cross the finish line. It really sucks the fun right out of things.

On the bright side, my Fitbit has been awfully proud of me lately. So I’ve got that going for me.

And here, boobies.

 

A bit of politics

…because this particular bit has been bouncing around inside my head for a few days, and needed to get out.

I am not a lawyer. So take these opinions for what they’re worth.

Article II, section 2 of the US constitution states that the President ”…shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment”. So if he’s being impeached, he can’t pardon himself for what ever crime or crimes are in question there. The fifteen minutes of searching I did turned up several cases establishing precedence for a president preemptively pardoning someone, and that a pardon can be made before an indictment is brought. As stated earlier, the way around this is to impeach him.

Impeachment requires that the House of Representatives vote, by a simple majority, to impeach the president. If that succeeds, then it’s the senate’s responsibility to try the president. This of course means someone has to preside over the trial, and finding someone to do that, who doesn’t have a blatant conflict of interest, could be a challenge.

Given the insane party-over-country credo demonstrated again and again by the GOP in the face of countless legal and ethical gymnastics, many of which those same politicians showed they would not tolerate from Bill Clinton, there is no telling if an impeachment would lead to a conviction, or a removal, or a parade for Donald Trump.

Many people are drawing parallels between Nixon and Trump. Granted, they are following the same PR play-book, damn near word for word, but there are some stark differences. While Nixon was a corrupt, morally bankrupt president, he wasn’t stupid. Trump… is a different story. Also, Nixon actually won the popular vote to become President, whereas Trump did not.

Nixon discussed pardoning himself when impeachment became imminent, then resigned three days later after learning that wasn’t possible. Not that he had a need to pardon himself, because Gerald Ford preemptively pardoned him anyway. It’s extremely likely that Trump’s predecessor  would follow Gerald Ford’s example, and pardon Trump of whatever he gets convicted of. Who would succeed an impeached Trump is difficult to tell, since damn near everyone in the line of succession is somehow involved in this Russia business, or knew about it and chose to look the other way. When this all goes down, a lot of people are going down with it.

Regarding this “the president can’t obstruct justice” garbage, obstruction was one of the charges being leveled against Nixon, and it was also the one of the charges that Clinton was impeached on. The precedence is there. The idea that it can’t happen is just more hot air from Trump’s legal and PR teams.

There have been many indictments so far, and many more are in the works. There has already been witness tampering, and numerous cover-up attempts. Countless lies have been backpedaled on by Trump’s PR people. Trump has so many ties to Russian money, and the Russian government, that it’s difficult to keep track of them all. Trump and his staff have lied about said ties so many times that even they can’t keep it all straight.

Too much to cite in that last paragraph, go read it yourself.

The question isn’t “if” Trump is going to be impeached for a whole menagerie of criminal entanglements, it’s “when”.

As an apology for the political shit, here is our very dear friend Genie.

Another Memorial Day weekend has come and gone

This weekend is a big deal for my family. We have a family get together every year, at the same lake, all renting the same cabins that we have for decades. I haven’t missed one of these since 1986. My grandmother has been going since 1947. So again, it’s a big deal.

I always come back feeling very contemplative for a few days. I think being around so much family, and being reminded of so many childhood memories, and being disconnected from technology and the relentless onslaught of information twenty-four hours a day, gives my mind a much needed break.

Regardless of how restful it is, we always come back feeling exhausted. There is lots of packing and planning involved, particularly in regards to meals because Laure has celiac disease. She can’t eat what the rest of us are eating, so she has to plan everything out ahead of time, we do the shopping, and cook/prepare it all the day before we leave. She also deals with depression and a tremendous amount of anxiety, which of course is aggravated by the anticipation of the trip, and every year she spends the entire week prior feeling overwhelmed, and we have repeated conversations where she tells me she doesn’t want to go, and I assure her that she always enjoys it while we’re there, and she just needs to power through this hump. And she always does enjoy it, and looks forward to it the rest of the year.

Then there is the challenge of getting a teenager with Asperger’s to properly pack and prepare to leave. He too insists that it’s miserable there, he hates it and hates going, and there are lots of dirty looks and attitude, and double and triple checking to make sure he packed everything I printed out on the list we prepared for him. Then of course we get there and we barely see him for three days because he’s off playing with other kids and having a ridiculous amount of fun.

I have a saved checklist that I print off every year, and it takes a few hours to get everything together and pack it all into our van. And on Monday morning, it all has to be packed back into the van, the cabin cleaned, we drive the hour and a half back home, unpack and put it all away, start laundry, shower, and spend the afternoon napping.

As much fun as we have every year, it’s exhausting.

We’d planned to take Laure off into the woods and do another nude shoot, but the mosquitoes were so bad this year that Laure probably would not have survived it. So here is a photo of her from one of Memorial Day weekends past.

 

I’ve never posted, or talked much at all, about my mother’s death

I know that sounds sad, it’s not. The truth is that when my mother died, three years ago, we were basically strangers. Over the previous twenty-two years, we’d had maybe four or five conversations face to face, most of which did not go well. We occasionally exchanged email and snail-mail, which were mostly just arguments.

My mom was mentally ill. She was originally diagnosed as schizophrenic, but that was later changed to bipolar disorder. However, all of the reading I’ve done, and based off of my own experiences with others with these illnesses, and remembering certain behaviors growing up, I’m still inclined to believe that the first diagnosis was the correct one.

Growing up with her was no picnic, but as children, years before she was officially diagnosed, we had no idea that anything was wrong with her. The way she behaved was all we knew, so we thought it was normal, and never gave it a second thought.

It wasn’t until after her third fake suicide attempt that she was finally diagnosed, but only because a judge ordered that she do a stint in the state mental hospital because she was a danger to herself. I say they were fake suicide attempts, because she always arranged things so that someone would find her. People tell me it was a cry for help, but if you knew my mom, you’d know how far she was willing to go to recenter the attention on her, and get people talking to her again that she’d burned bridges with for the umpteenth time.

On the subject of help, I credit my mother’s relentless, fanatical faith for her failure to get proper help until she was well into middle age. She preferred prayer, faith healing, so-called “christian counselors”, and even the occasional attempted home exorcism by friends, over any actual, qualified, legitimate care. Even after her stay at the mental hospital, which lasted several months, she abandoned it all when she came home. The meds, the therapy, all of it, going right back to the old faith-based methods that had failed her over and over again, all of her life.

I have friends, and have had friends, even dated one girl, that was bipolar, and several friends that are schizophrenic. I’ve seen that people with these illnesses can lead relatively normal, happy, productive lives, even though they do struggle and have to work harder at it. With proper care, it can be done.

My mother actively fought proper care, and I recognized this at the age of eighteen. I had a bit of a “coming to” episode while I was in basic training in Fort Knox, Kentucky. A drill sergeant knew something wasn’t right based off of some of my behaviors, and the lack of mail coming to me with my  last name on it. I was pulled into his office one day, and told to temporarily drop the military formalities that were normally so strict and unforgiving during boot camp, and talk. And boy, did I fucking talk. I had never, in my life, ever discussed the details of my childhood with anyone. I owe a great deal to Drill Sergeant Luscowski. That conversation changed my life.

I left Fort Knox feeling in control of my life for the first time. I knew that I had some difficult changes to make, but I made them, and I stuck to them. I took some time away from my mother. I didn’t speak to her for about a year. Not a peep. This wasn’t a punishment, or a silent treatment, it was just me understanding that my mother clouds things. She was a whirlwind of destruction, and I needed to clear my head to get my life figured out, and decide how to deal with her.

During my first year of college, I finally made contact with my mother. I sent her a letter and laid down some rules. Things like, don’t drag me into your arguments, don’t preach at me, don’t constantly rehash the past (which she loved to do, she couldn’t just move on from anything). Basically, if we were going to talk, let’s talk about our day, let’s talk about how we’re doing, what our plans are. It wasn’t a lot of rules, four or five, and simply laid out.

I told her that if she couldn’t abide by those rules, I could not be a part of her life. I had been walking on egg shells around her my entire life, constantly worried about what might upset her, always trying to calm what ever storm she was at the center of, doing anything and everything to avoid conflict. Again, I grew up with that. So I had no idea that it wasn’t normal. It left me with my own issues, for which I still periodically go see a therapist about, and for which I have had to develop tools and coping mechanisms to deal with.

Her response was what I expected. It was nine pages of bible verses, rebukes, demands that I not dictate to her how things are going to be, and on and on about my disrespect. I wrote her back, and responded with a single line.

“You’re not listening, and I’m not going to play this game with you.”

That was it. I folded it up, stuck it in an envelope and mailed it back to her, and didn’t speak to her again for seven years. This was all in the late 1990’s, right when the internet was beginning to take off, and email had not yet been widely adopted. Letters would come from her, and I wouldn’t even open them. I’d put the unopened letter back into another envelope, and send it back to her. She would try to relay messages through friends, and family, usually my brother. I would usually say nothing in response, and tell them to say nothing.

I had learned from experience that my mother’s illness went in cycles, which completed about every three years. She would be fine, making friends, being social, etc, but then pretty soon she’d get paranoid. She’d over react to something someone said or did, or flat out fabricate a lie about someone having said or did something. The thing was though, that in the instances when nothing actually happened and she flat out made some bullshit up, she actually believed it. It wasn’t quite lying because she was fully convinced that it was real, and no one could change her mind. I watched this in action just through our few exchanges over the years. I would write her a letter or an email, and she would respond and say that I said something that was exactly the opposite of what I had actually said to her, or that I had said something that I had not said at all, and that I could prove by simply referring to our email or to my letter.

She would continue in this manner for months, slowly working friends and family against one another until everyone had their fill and quit talking to her, which she would see as more persecution, and eventually she would have a major break down, beg for forgiveness and for the opportunity to make amends. Then the process would start all over again. About three years was how long this all took.

I could tell where she was in the cycle by the messages that came either through others, or through email.

At around the seven year mark, when the internet was basically what it is today, and she’d tracked me down and blasted me with messages through various electronic means, I finally decided to write her back and just feel things out. It was like no time had passed since that last letter from her. She took the opportunity to send more bible verses, more rebukes, more threats of hell and damnation for my sins against her and against god, tell me how terrible I was to her… on and on.

This time I had a bit of a back and forth with her for a week or so, but ultimately I’d had my fill and told her not to write me anymore. I had to get creative about it this time though. I wrote bits of code into my blog that would tag her browser when she commented on my blog, and then from that point on whenever she’d try to visit my site, my blog would see the cookie and redirect her somewhere else.

I created a black hole in my email account that would immediately delete her email without ever notifying me, so I would never know she sent it. I blocked her on various social media sites, and had to repeatedly ask friends and family NOT to give her my contact information.

For the most part, this succeeded for a few more years, until grandma got cancer. My mother’s adoptive mother came down with breast cancer, but by the time they caught it, it was everywhere, in every organ, every part of her body. There was no avoiding mom throughout this, try as I might. Even grandma and grampa were no longer speaking to her at this point. In true mom form, she was absolutely awful to them and her older brother right up until the day grandma died. It really was terrible to watch.

Then of course, mom told all of her friends and family that she and grandma had had this touching, tearful, mother-daughter re-union before grandma died, which was yet another of mom’s total fabrications. As usual, mom was incapable of distinguishing her lie from the truth, and actually believed that’s how it went down. I know differently, because I was there, through all of it.

It happened again when my Uncle Mike died. Mike was mom’s older brother. I was fortunate enough to rekindle a great friendship with Uncle Mike in the years before he died, and he ended up being a tremendous source of support during my late twenties. Again, same behavior with mom. It was terrible.

Then Grandpa died a few years later, and this whole process repeated. Interaction with mom was unavoidable, so we had a few conversations here and there, only one of which that I can recall actually being amicable. The rest were all accusations of having poisoned him against her, and other such nonsense. She tried to get the sheriff involved but mom had earned herself a reputation with the sheriff’s departments in two counties, and any call from her usually resulted in them calling grampa to see if he was okay.

My cousin Tammy (Uncle Mike’s oldest daughter), myself, and Laure cared for Grampa at home, as he’d opted for in-home hospice care. We fed him until he stopped eating. We bathed him and helped him go to the bathroom. We changed his catheter bag. We sat and talked to him when he would wake up angry to still be alive. We played his favorite records for him, and helped him finish his puzzles. Grampa died in his sleep, as I held is left hand and Tammy held his right. He was 90 years old.

My mother was absolutely awful throughout the whole ordeal. It really was terrible, and we all felt terrible for Grampa, having to see his daughter behave like that in his final days.

I didn’t speak to her again until just before she died.

Mom died on May 18th, 2015, of pancreatic cancer. At her request, I did drive up to visit her one last time, just a few days before she died. Oddly enough, the visit went fine. We just sat on her porch and talked about what I was up to, plans she’d made for after she died, we talked about my kids and about Laure. It was calm, yet a little awkward because we were both actively avoiding certain subjects.

As I got in my car to leave, her christian counselor approached me in the drive way. I forget her name, mostly because I couldn’t take her seriously enough to bother committing it to memory.

“You need to forgive her, and you need to explain to her why you quit talking to her.” She said to me, both hands on the door of my van, and looking at me with this look of sorrow that seemed to be for me.

I put my hands on the wheel, and stared at her through my sunglasses for a moment.

“She has you completely fooled.” I said to her. “You’ve bought into her bullshit, hook, line and sinker… haven’t you.”

She stepped back, her facial expression having completely changed to one of shock.

“I’ve told her, in writing, on the phone, and in person, why I left.” I continued. “She knows why, she just chooses not to accept it. And I forgave her twenty years ago, but forgiving her doesn’t mean giving her license to trample through my life, and the lives of my family, with her bullshit.”

This woman still said nothing. She just stood there with her mouth open, turning her head a few times as though trying to form a response.

“And you’re a fucking fraud, who’s done untold amounts of damage to who knows how many sick people. You should be in prison.” I said, before starting the van and driving away.

I’ve been a bit sullen off and on lately, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my childhood and listening to a lot of the music I loved as a kid, growing up in the 80’s. It occurred to me a few days ago that we’re creeping up on the anniversary of mom’s death, and I surmised that that is why I’ve been feeling this way.

It feels good to articulate it all.