Sunday, August 24, 2014

15. go backpacking

When I wrote this list item, I think I meant that I wanted to go on one of those trips where you hike out to where you are camping and wear a big backpack with all of your supplies.
Well, screw that, me of the past.
On my trip to Ireland (yes, evidently you’ll be hearing a lot about this. Sorryish), I knew I would want to carry around a… bag of some sort. I bought this purse at Ross because I thought it would be big enough and was also cute. But then I hemmed and hawed over it for ages until I finally realized I couldn’t convince myself to like it and I should just return it. So I did. And in a stroke of sheer brilliance I searched for “day pack” on Amazon, and lo! I found a whole world of lightweight, durable, folduppable backpacks! I ordered myself a hot pink one and used it the whole time I was in Ireland, exclaiming to Niall at least daily “Have I mentioned how much I love my backpack?” and he would wearily nod his head.
See what I did there?
I still use it on the weekends now that I’m home. It’s excellent for shopping or errands because I can have my hands free, and it’s great for bringing an extra layer or several since I tend to get cold. It was also oddly comforting to have the other day when I went to my trauma survivors speakers’ board meeting; putting it on felt like I was getting a little hug. Or perhaps I really have gone insane. Whatever. We’re all just going to have to accept that Julia? Comes with a bag!
I’ve affectionately nicknamed it my pa-pack because that’s what my 2 year old niece called it. It’s… probably cuter when she says it.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

4. milk a cow

I thought I had an idyllic childhood of excessive romping about the yard and swimming from dawn till dusk, until I saw where Niall grew up.


 
That’s his family’s dairy farm in Ireland. It's... pretty awesome.

When we went to Ireland in May for my vacation and his visit home-and-show-everybody-his-American-girlfriend trip, we managed to have a nice balance of spending time with his family and friends interspersed with doing touristy/travelly things for me since I’d never been there before.
We saw the Cliffs of Moher, dined and walked around at Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, I kissed the Blarney Stone, we saw the Book of Kells, and drank a pint at the Guinness Storehouse. We also spent five days staying in holiday homes in Kenmare with his parents, sisters, and their kids and visited his extended family at the dairy farm. They are spread out in several houses on the farm property and we visited them all. I’ve never had so much tea in my life.
I embarrassed Niall by taking photos of the gorgeous scenery and we got to see his uncle’s fancy new milking machine. The lads were intermittently in and out doing chores and cutting silage. We visited the little calves and walked down to the lake.
In the interest of full disclosure I should mention that I... um... did not actually physically milk a cow, BUT I had a good long visit with Niall’s grandmother, aunties, uncles, and cousins on the Irish dairy farm. And I’d much rather do that than announce hey it’s been nice talking to you all but I’ve got an item to cross off a list so can somebody point me in the direction of the nearest cow teat. It’s a scavenger hunt, not a checklist. There’s no prize crossing off each item; the fun part is the experience.
Especially if the experience includes getting Niall to stand awkwardly in front of things while I take his photo.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Story Time

My sister told me a story about her friend who lives down the street from a cemetery:
Her friend bought a house down the street from the cemetery and a couple years later she and her husband started noticing bubbles forming in the epoxy floor of their garage. They had builders out who discovered that under their house is a natural spring and the water had caused damage (and epoxy bubbles). So they had the floor dug up and the garage, basement, and foundation redone.
And under the foundation they found miscellaneous horseshoes, pottery, tombstones, and, oh oh, not to mention several BODIES. Evidently their property was part of the cemetery back in the 1900s. The bodies were supposed to be moved when the land was re-zoned, but evidently someone fell down on that job.
So, what would you do in this situation? (Move, right? You’d have to move.)
Apparently the land/remains/odds and ends were deemed as not historically significant, so the builders diverted the spring water to the neighbor’s yard for their garden, and then DUG THE FOUNDATION DEEPER, TOSSED IN THE BODIES AND CEMENTED OVER EVERYTHING. And then told my sister's friend afterward.
Me: “OHMYGOD.”
Sis: “Right? I couldn’t make this up. It’s like the legless man who robbed the bank in Crescent City.”
Me: WHAT?
Sis: Oh, there was a legless man who robbed the bank in Crescent City. I don’t know why he didn’t just pay someone to drive him away because he got away with 35,000 dollars but then he waited for the bus and they had to lower the handicap lift for him since he was in a wheelchair.
Me: …. O_o

This is what conversations with my sister are like, you guys.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

traumaversary


The problem with July is that the end of it always runs into the beginning of August.
My birthday is in the end of July.
The anniversary of when I was violently sexually assaulted is in the beginning of August.
It’s basically a recipe for disaster.

I tend to get a little sad around my birthday, which I HATE admitting. Before this year I thought I was just sad around my birthday because of crappy things happening, but I’m realizing that perhaps I’m just one of those people who gets Birthday Blues. Which is LAME and STUPID, because I can try to logic myself out of feeling sad but the FEELINGS don’t go away.
Anyway, I’m generally a little sad around my birthday.

Two years ago, I turned 30 and then a few days later I went on a trip for a conference/vacation combo and came home a rape victim/survivor.
The conference I went to is an annual event, in late July/early August.
This year, the conference just happened to perfectly coincide with my birthday.

I didn’t realize how much that would affect me until I collapsed into a puddle and had a good long cry, after leaving the bar early where I had met up with a few friends for my birthday.

People I know went to the conference this year. They schmoozed and gossiped and had a grand time at the conference that I was attending when I was raped, that also happened to be on my birthday. And that’s fine. Nobody owes me anything (except for my rapist who owes me a new pair of underpants and ALSO THE LAST TWO YEARS OF MY LIFE).

It’s LAME and STUPID that I would be sad that people I knew went to the conference. It’s LAME and STUPID that I would be offended at the very existence of the conference. The conference didn’t hurt me. But trying to logic myself out of them doesn’t make the feelings go away.

So apparently the end of July and the beginning of August are just going to suck for… who knows how long? And it’s nobody’s responsibility to make it suck less, except mine. The world didn’t change when I was raped, just my world.
But that doesn’t stop me from irrationally wanting apology letters from the conference and perhaps a burning effigy or SOMETHING that makes my pain and feelings real and tangible to somebody else because sometimes I feel like I’m still going crazy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Labyrinth Epiphany

I was hanging out with my nieces the other night and we decided to watch my favorite movie, Labyrinth, because they had never seen it and also because I bribed them with popcorn and sodies.

Upon this watching I realized:
1.       I really love this movie.
2.       I REALLY love this movie.
3.       I really LOVE this movie JUST AS IT IS.

Spoilers ahead!

I used to love this movie with an asterisk because I always got annoyed with Sarah for not falling instantly in love with Goblin King Jareth and his riding crop.
In my imagination version of the movie, Jareth would successfully seduce Sarah and they would return the baby to her dad and stepmom or maybe they would keep the baby and raise him together in the Goblin Kingdom, but either way they would run off together and Sarah would be a magical queen of David Bowie's tight pants.

But instead! Sarah holds her ground against Jareth and gets the baby back and then returns to her regular life as a more worldly and mature young lady (with a little bit of magic on the side).
This used to frustrate me to no end, but now I realize that homegirl was right on! She picked up on Jareth's shady behavior and made it clear she didn't want what he was selling.

Sarah asked that the Goblin King take the baby away. He took him.
But then she changed her mind (which a lady is allowed to do at any point if a situation makes her uncomfortable AHEM) and realized it's a mistake and she wants him back.
And then Jareth goes all date-rapey creeper vibe on her. Oh what? You’ve changed your mind? You don’t mean that, LOOK AT THE PRETTY CRYSTALS. You still want the baby back? Okay, come and get him. But first, allow me to introduce you to this impossible situation in which I will set you up for failure, turn your friends against you, and manipulate your emotions! I LOVE YOU. YOU ARE MAKING ME DO THIS TO YOU.

And Sarah’s all: Nope. Give me my brother back. You have no power over me.
You go girl.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

43. refinish my grandmother's cedar chest

A few years back my sister gave me an assortment of furniture she had in her garage, including our grandmother's cedar chest. Driving it from her house to my apartment in LA made me feel like I was hauling my own coffin, but once I got it into my place I loved it. It's a very nice, very solid cedar chest that faithfully holds sweaters and blankies.
In our new place, Niall set it up in living room bay window nook and we popped a new cushion on top of it.
It looks great, and does not seem to need any actual tools or sanding, so I'm calling it done! (This is one of the benefits of having a Life Scavenger Hunt-- I don't feel hemmed in by the rules.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Couch

The important part of this story is that we have a couch. I guess that means you can stop reading now. You’re welcome.

From the beginning: Niall (boyfriend) and I moved in together. Which is a big step! But it doesn’t so much feel like a Big Step because we like each other and he was already spending most nights at my place anyhow, and I was very very ready to not live in my too-close-to-baseball-traffic apartment anymore (side note: everyone told me that baseball traffic only matters during baseball season. DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG BASEBALL SEASON IS?).

Anyhow. We told my Catholic parents and then we told his Catholic parents and then we found a place and moved in together. I love our new apartment, for several reasons:
1.       We both live there.

2.       Bowie lives there, too.
3.       Two bedrooms (one is ours and one is spare, but Bowie seems to think one is his).
4.       Two bathrooms (one is ours and one is mine).
5.       Both sets of our Catholic parents are happy for us that both of us live there.
6.       It’s like a mini HOUSE. Well, technically it’s a townhouse. Bottom floor is a little garage, and then you go upstairs and there’s the kitchen and living area, and then you go upstairs again and there’s the bedrooms and bathrooms.
7.       The bay windows.
8.       It has a little patio. With a screen door so Bowie can sit and look out at it.
Or stand and look out at it.

9.       THIS SECURITY SYSTEM.

We're still getting settled, but we did make some grand strides this past weekend. Up until last week, this was how our living room looked: one million boxes of my crap everywhere, my old TV, and two chairs.
You'll notice that Niall had no problem claiming BOTH CHAIRS.
I sent the above photo to my family which had the beneficial effect of my sister piping up to offer us one or two of her spare couches, and then the not quite so beneficial effect of everyone else offering us the contents of their garages.

So on Sunday we reserved a Uhaul. Our rental started at 10AM, so naturally the Uhaul place didn’t even open until 10:30, and then when the place did open another couple cut in front of us but instead of saying anything I just passive aggressively tweeted about it. ANYHOW. We finally got on the road, and by that I mean that we stopped at my sister’s house to pick up the couch, and then back to my parents’ house to pick up some bookshelves (and Bowie)
and then stopped again in San Jose (storage) to pick up some chairs and a coffee table that was my grandmother's.
and then drove to our apartment in San Francisco. We carried the two bookshelves and the coffee table and the chairs upstairs. Then we yanked off the blocks from the couch to make it into a couch with no under before attempting to carry it up the stairs
and around the corner.
And we learned that no matter how much we tried, the couch would not PIVOT.

So we went to plan B which was to set it on fire heave the couch over the back fence and through the kitchen into the living room. We carried the couch back down the stairs, loaded it up into the Uhaul again, and drove around to the back of the house. (We had to drive to the back of the house because, as I mentioned, it is a little townhouse. It’s connected on both sides to our neighbors and ours is in middle of something like 20 townhouses in a row, each with their own little wee patio/yard but only access to said yards if you go THROUGH the houses. The yards all back up to the next street over, which is where we drove. Everybody with me?)
Okay, so. Then we unloaded the couch from the Uhaul and heaved it UP ONTO the fence. I held the couch balanced on the fence for a few very precarious minutes while Niall ran down the street, back around to our street and the front of the house, up the stairs and out through the kitchen into the garden, climbed up on a ladder, and pulled the couch over the fence and down to the other side.
This, by the way, is the fence:
Chair for scale.
Then I ran down the street, back around to our street to the front of the house, up the stairs and out through the kitchen into the garden, and picked up the other end of the couch and we brought it into the living room where it will now stay, presumably, forever.
This week Niall is full of energy and I’ve spontaneously burst into tears three times.

BUT WE HAVE A COUCH.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

93. kiss the Blarney Stone

Blarney Castle


The stone is allll the way up there?
 Climbing...

 To the top...


Annnd...
Mwah!

It was a bit rainy that day, but a few lads I had met told me that the locals sometimes like to go and pee on the stone, so I was happy for the weather (even though I did fall down a flight of the slippery castle stairs).

Friday, April 18, 2014

Potpourri

If you had told me five years ago that I would be eating quinoa with avocado and calling it an acceptable lunch, I would have…. Well. I would have asked you what the hell quinoa was.

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Today I had the unexpected pleasure of learning how many people in my office pronounce it “vayse” and how many people pronounce it “vahse.” I’m in the vahse camp.

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In my continuing efforts to maintain my position as Favorite Aunt I have had my niece and nephew come and stay with me for overnights, separately, for Fun Times with Auntie. When my 9 year old niece came to stay I bought her a cupcake and a bag of cookies and took her to a movie (Muppets Most Wanted). Then in the morning we got donuts for breakfast and went to the flea market where she bought a bunch of little glass animal figurines (a girl after my own heart). And THEN we went to the trampoline park. When my 11 year old nephew came to visit I took him to a baseball game and then we went out to dinner at this kind of cheesey arcade gamey place (where, for about $40 worth of tickets, he got a pair of wind up chattery teeth). Then in the morning we got donuts for breakfast and went to the flea market where he bought a crossbow and a Samurai sword and a lighter and I think I just figured out why my sister said she doesn’t want me to take him to the flea market anymore.

Speaking of Muppets Most Wanted, how awesome was that A Chorus Line reference? I wonder how many people got it.

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Last Friday night I went out to see my friend Lisa perform in Foreverland, which was just spectacular. And this is going to sound like a backhanded compliment but I usually hate live music. If I’m going to a bar and I hear there will be live music, I’ll pick a new bar. I don’t go to shows because I get tired of standing and bored of watching music. But anyhow I USUALLY hate live music, but I LOVE Foreverland. Enough to have seen them FOUR TIMES. This last time was 80s night, so the boy and I got dressed up in our 80s finest. I bought him some 80s finest at the Salvation Army, but he gets full credit for making a trip to Old Navy for the sole purpose of purchasing a purple headband. And I wore… stuff I just had lying around, which basically justifies every impulse buy EVER. And I grew up watching my sisters do their hair so I knew how to attain some killer 80s bangs.
I’m pretty excited to have a boyfriend (BOYFRIEND) who will dress up with me.

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Ugh. I actually wrote this post yesterday when words like quinoa and donuts didn't make me feel queasy and then today I had to leave work after an hour and a half because I felt so sick. Waves of nausea and cold sweats and having to call a lyft to take me home since I couldn't drive. The worst part was that I was in the middle of seeing a patient and had to excuse myself, ask one of the docs to take over my appointment, and cancel the rest of my day. Every once in awhile I get annoying nonspecific symptoms and abdominal pain so bad that I cannot function and it's super embarrassing and inconvenient. Especially when I'm IN THE MIDST OF A WORKDAY. Ugh. I'm cranky.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Shopping Trip

I knew traffic was going to be terrible so I stopped at Ross on my way home from work tonight. Oh darn.

Question: Do I need this extremely practical travel purse? Hear me out. I'm going on a trip to Ireland in May and I'm thinking maybe I do. I like that it has a shoulder strap and a zipper. My regular purse is of the over-one-shoulder variety and I'm thinking perhaps I'll need my hands free to hold my beer and pet the sheepies. Anyway I bought it. It was $40, which is a bit steep at Ross, but it's The Sak and seems to be leatherish and sturdy and I dunno I just like it. For traveling! See the handy passport pocket?
Quarter for scale
I also bought a dress for my sister. I had sent her an orangey-pink dress for her baby and she was really excited when she first pulled it out of the box, "Oooh, it's just my color! I lo- oh, wait." So anyhow I saw this dress today and I thought maybe she'd like it.
I also got her this little floofy sweatery thing.
Not to wear together, but knowing my sister she actually might. I usually don't buy clothes for people that they wouldn't be able to return, but my sister kind of lives in the middle of nowhere and I want to send her a dress. I realized that I like the picking out and sending enough to justify the fact that it might not work out every time. I'm sending my sister these things and maybe it'll fit and she'll love it, or maybe not. And if not she can give them away to somebody else or cut them up to make new playclothes for the Von Trapps or whatever.
Even if I bought her a dress from Macy's where they have a great return policy she still wouldn't be able to return it for months since she lives nowhere near a Macy's of any sort. The point is that I thought of her and sent her something I thought she'd like and that makes me feel good, so yay. (It's this logic that led me to buy my other sister a purple dress from Belk when I was in Carolina.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

dolla dolla bills y'all

I recently took my car in for its 245,000 mile service. It was a minor service, which cost me $62 last time. But this time I had a surprise need for new brakes. The mechanic called me “You need new brakes, is that okay?” Me: Um. YES. Yes please. BRAKES. Give me the newest brakes that you have. BRAKES ARE IMPORTANT.
Anyhow, my “minor” service now consisted of new brakes and fixing a valve to the tune of just over seven hundred bucks. Which, that was fine.  I cheerfully slapped down my credit card, because BRAKES. My 1997 Honda is still chugging along (I hope I didn’t just jinx her), but this unexpected major expense got me thinking about money and how I manage it, which, incidentally, is not very well.

I tend to go in cycles. For awhile I’ll put everything on my credit card and studiously pay if off every month. And then I’ll start feeling like that is a Bad Idea because technically I’m spending imaginary FUTURE money when I use my credit card which can be dangerous and spin out of control. So then I’ll start paying cash and using my debit card, but then an unexpected expense will pop up and I’ll start getting nervous about the payments I have on auto debit so I’ll ‘borrow’ some money from my savings to pad my checking account a little bit and then I’ll start putting a few things here and there on my credit card and then I’ll go fully back to credit carding but I never feel like I’m completely settled in a successful way of budgeting.

This just won’t do. As of today I am implementing a new system.

Setting aside lofty financial goals (retirement) and other expenses (student loans), I came up with a couple lists of things I have observed about myself. My financial strengths and weaknesses, if you will.

Things I cannot do:
1.       Save money in my checking account- Can’t do it. I don’t know where it all goes but it’s like my account is a leaky bathtub. If it the money’s in my checking account it won’t be there for long.
2.       Save money in my savings account if it is easy to get to- Transfer money to checking, you say? Don’t mind if I do! And then: leaky bathtub phenomenon.
3.       Trust myself to keep an accurate calculation of all of my spending- I have my student loan payments and a couple other expenses on auto debit and I’m forever nervous that I’ll spend too much from my checking account and end up being overdrawn.
4.       Accurately calculate- Because let’s be honest.
5.       Pay for everything with cash or debit- See items 4 and 5.

And, to make myself feel a smidgen better. Here are some things I CAN do:
1.       Maintain a small ‘buffer’ of money in my checking account- I do an embarrassing amount of math every month to MAKE SURE I have more money in my checking account than I have things it is slated to cover.
2.       Save money in a savings account that is difficult to get to- I do save money. I do!  It is safer if it is difficult to access (It is safEST if I don’t even know it is there. Which explains why I've put cash in milk bottles and squirrel them away in hiding places so that I eventually forget about them (or have I?)), so now I have an account that isn’t affiliated with the bank where my main checking account is and I also don’t have a card for it or mobile access on my phone. I have weekly automatic debits set up that transfer money from my checking account to my savings. To access that money I would have to transfer it BACK to my checking account and THEN use it. For some reason that extra step helps the money actually stay in the savings account and not get bathtubbed away.
3.       Pay off my credit cards on time and in full- My mom taught me to always always ALWAYS pay off my credit card ON TIME and IN FULL. Always. Thus far there has only been one instance wherein I did not do this. It was during the time in my life when my crazy ex was being a human suckerfish and siphoning away all of my money/energy/self-esteem and I was trying to keep my whole situation from unraveling completely so I got a tad behind on some things. I couldn’t QUITE pay off my credit card bill one month and so I had to let the balance sit there and the fees start accumulating until I was moving and starting school again and trying to get things back in some semblance of order. So I womanned up and …  uh. Asked my mommy for help. She looked over my bank statement and SIGHED AND SHOOK HER HEAD (if you knew my mom you’d understand that this is actually quite terrifying and an awful punishment in and of itself). Now I always pay off my credit cards on time and in full. Always.

Okay, so I know you are waiting on bated breath to hear about my NEW SYSTEM. Taking into account what I am able to do and what history has learned me that I am definitely unable to do, here is my new system:

1.       Pay for most things with my credit cards- and obviously pay off my credit cards on time and in full
2.       Maintain only a small buffer of money in my checking account to make sure I’m never overdrawn when my auto debits and other payments go through- any extra money in checking gets transferred into savings
3.       Always have enough money in savings to cover the amount of my credit card spending at the time it is credit carded

In that way it’s like I’m using my savings account as a SUB-checking account, if you will. Pay for stuff with my credit card, pay my credit card off with my checking account, but have enough money overall so that I’m not actually going into debt when I use my credit card.
I’ll keep only enough money in my checking account so as not to ever be overdrawn because any extra money in there will just disappear. So instead of keeping it there and fighting against its natural tendency to disappear, I’ll transfer any extra dollars to the external savings account.
Technically I suppose AM spending future money that I haven’t earned yet because I pay my credit card off with the money from my checking account which I earn each payday. But I DO have the money, it’s in savings, it exists. And if I needed to I could take it out and apply it to my credit card payment, but I'd rather keep it in savings and apply my new money from payday to my credit card. If this makes any sense at all.

I was talking about this with Sunny and she told me that she has a system of three accounts: checking, savings, and spending. On payday the money goes into her checking account. Then she transfers a certain amount into her spending account to, uh, spend. And then if there is leftover money at the end of the month in her checking or spending, it goes into savings. Maybe I should have talked to her first and I wouldn't have come up with my system of buffers and credit carding, but we all deal with our leaky bathtubs in different ways. What's yours?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Worky Clothes

So I was looking back through my archives and I noticed when I first started my job I wrote about the outfits I was wearing to work. I thought it might be fun to do that again now that I’ve been there, wait for it, TWO WHOLE YEARS. Two years! That’s some seriously legit employment. For me, anyway.

I don’t recall if I explained this at all but in order to hire me my workplace had to actually have me come on as an RN and then transition into the role of NP. My current position is still somewhat a combination of the two (but I have learned that the profession of nursing is so broad that it encompasses quite the assortment of types of jobbies). The point is that I’ve had a couple different job titles and with those job titles comes different ensembular expectations.

When I first started at my job I did the New Job Dress to Impress thing until my supervisor asked me why I didn't wear scrubs like a nurse. So I wore scrubs like a nurse. About five months later my job title and requirements changed, so it was back to business casual for me. That was fun for about two days and then I started running out of options and realizing how persnickety I am about my clothes. I always have to wear an undershirt uh.. under my shirt and tucked into my pants. Should it ever come untucked from my pants, HEADS WILL ROLL. I cannot have the tops of my shoes showing, even sitting down they should be covered by my pants (by this I mean the tops, like the… mouth(?) of a boot, not, like everything except for the sole). I can neither be too hot nor too cold and I need to have the option of removing/donning layers. Mainly my rotation of outfits consisted of slacks with niceish tops and cartigans and it was a bit of a pain to remember that this sweater would go with this top but oh that one is dirty and I don't have the right shoes and why did I wear short/long sleeves today and these pants are too floody.

And then one day whilst I was pawing through my closet, I rediscovered leggings. Leggings are comfortable!, I realized. And leggings work with boots and dresses. So now, a year or so later, I think I have nearly perfected my work uniform. On any given day I can usually be found wearing some combination of long sleevie dress plus leggings plus boots.
Examples!
These are actually tights.
The long sleeves are for covering my tattoo.
Red leggings!
Long sleevie dress plus leggings plus boots = actual work OUTFITS.

Outfits I can actually, like, put together.
Yeah, I'm getting the hang of this.
Once I started looking, I was surprised at how many long sleevie dress options I could find (at Ross and Marshalls).

Don't I look somewhat put together? Ish?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

standing out, leaping in

I once had to get a restraining order against my ex boyfriend. Let me explain. (No, there is too much. Let me sum up.)
I broke up with this guy and he was furious. He sent me angry emails and texts. I blocked his email address and phone number.
He stole my social security number and used it to call the cell phone company's automated system and get my phone shut off, multiple times. I changed my phone number and my social security number.
He sent me increasingly baffling and threatening emails, texts, and messages through his friends. I sent him one message, asking him to leave me alone.

He didn't.

His messages became even more more disturbing and bizarre. He threatened to make, and then actually made, a humiliating and vulgar web site about me. I filed for a restraining order. I was awarded a temporary order until the hearing, a few weeks later.
A couple days after I got the temporary order, but before he had been served, he showed up at my apartment late at night and pounded on my door. I turned on the shower and called 911, but he was gone by the time the police arrived.

I got a lawyer. He had me re-file the restraining order, listing every single event independently instead of just writing "he is harassing me." I paid a process server to track my ex down and serve him with the temporary restraining order, once it was awarded.

I went to court. Maximum restraining order granted. I celebrated, figuring he would leave me alone now.

He didn't.
It took two more court dates and a warrant for him to finally leave me alone.


Throughout all of this my lawyer insisted that I go to the police and file a report every time I heard from my ex, so that when we went to court there would be a clear paper trail and evidence that I was actively trying to get my ex to leave me alone.

I am not exaggerating when I tell you that every time I showed up at the police station to file a report, I got some serious pushback. I would show up with my folder of emails and they would roll their eyes at me. They would huff and sigh and begrudgingly give me paperwork to fill out. The said things like "How do we even know this is really from him?" and "He hasn't beaten you yet, so...." and "But do you actually think he's going to hurt you?" and "If he's not local he probably wouldn't come all the way here just for you." and "He probably has a new girlfriend and isn't interested in you anymore."

Not making this up. Those are things they really said to me.

I had gotten a restraining order because I was afraid that my ex would hurt me or rape me or kill me. I was the victim, dutifully following the law and trying to do the right things. The police were supposed to protect me and instead they doubted me, questioned me, and shamed me.

The same thing happened when I reported my rape.
I did all of the things that you say you'll never do. I didn't scream for help. I didn't go to the police. I ran back to the hotel and took a shower and then flew home a couple hours later. I felt confused and panicked. I didn't know what to call what had happened to me and it took urging from my loved ones for me to even report it.

I had a rape kit done the day after my rape, after I had already showered. I reported the rape to the police two days later. I told the detective my story over the phone, and then a few weeks later in person. They asked me what I was wearing that night. They asked me what "other" substances I had been on (besides alcohol). They asked me if I had flirted, if I had liked the guy. They asked my friends if they had heard me scream, if I "do this often," and if I'm a risk taker. They told me that my case would probably never go anywhere.

Somehow we live in a world where victims are questioned and doubted. It is enraging when it happens about something as clear-cut as a restraining order violation. It is downright horrifying when it happens about a rape.

After I was raped I felt overwhelmingly guilty and confused. I felt dirty and shameful, like I had brought this upon myself. I felt embarrassed and weak because I didn't fight or scream or go to the police straight away. I felt like my friends probably thought I was being too dramatic.

Fortunately for me I have had overwhelming support from friends, family, and even strangers. I had an advocate, a psychiatrist, and a trauma counselor. And everyone confirmed that it was not my fault. I was the victim. No matter what I wore or drank or whether or not I called for help or pushed him away, it was not my fault.

In my head I know this, I do. But here's also still a deep, dark part of myself that thinks "Well...."
From what I've learned, this is pretty common.

Our society does a lot of victim-blaming, victim-doubting, and victim-shaming. The thing about victims is that we often already blame, doubt, and feel ashamed of ourselves all on our own. That's what abuse and rape do to a person. Even if everyone I know tells me that they are absolutely sure that my rape wasn't my fault, and even if the law says that, and even if I intellectually know that, I still feel like it was. It comes with the territory.

That's why these public cases break my heart. Victims in high profile cases have their credibility dragged through the mud while their abusers are lauded and it makes me die a little inside. I am surviving on a daily basis. I am living as a victim of abuse and rape and it's not as easy as I try to make it look. What if I had to do that, and endure seeing the world at large adore my abuser and doubt, shame, and blame me? That, my friends, is a horrifying scenario and the reason I'm not asleep right now.
How can anyone sleep in a world where this is not only possible, but it is typical?

As much as I would like to close the book on my experience and let my successful completion of trauma counseling act as a benchmark for a new chapter in my life, I'm now sure I can't do that. I signed up for a program (at the same place where I did trauma counseling) to learn about being on their board of presenters who speak out against rape and abuse. I'm afraid, but I'm going to do it. Sometimes I collapse on my bed and say "I can't do this. It's too much for one little person," but most of the time I recognize how lucky I am to have had so much support and it makes me feel like this experience has made me feel stronger than other victims might feel. Like maybe I could even speak up for victims, or stand out for victims. But I guess if you know me you would probably agree that I'd prefer to say that I can leap for victims.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

in a pot, not a pan

My 9 year old niece is very BUSY. She has a ton of interests and likes to do projects that often involve inventing or making something. She takes pieces of cardboard and bits and bobs she finds in the cupboards and makes them into little invented board games. This one time, about two years ago, she cracked open a whole bag of almonds from their shells and candy coated them with melted chocolate. All on her own. We didn’t know what she was up to until she came in from the backyard with a bag of shelled almonds and a hammer. This other time I was talking to her and she said “my pants ripped, so I had to sew them.” Sure enough, there was a crooked line of tiny stitches up one of her pant legs. I told my sister I was impressed and she said “Yeah, me too. I wasn’t even home.” So I guess what I’m saying is that once she gets and idea in her head she HAS TO DO IT. Anyhow, that’s not what this post is about, I just like those stories.

This one time my dad and I were hanging out with my 9 year old niece and she wanted to make lemonade. My parents happen to have a very prolific lemon tree so she got to work picking, cutting, and juicing lemons. Then she requested simple syrup because she knows that just regular old sugar won’t do. My dad volunteered to make it and I started looking up a recipe on my phone. My niece cut in with “Wait! Listen, here’s how you do it! You just take a certain amount of sugar and your own amount of water and you put it in a pot, not a pan, and then you cook it!”
My dad and I thought that was about the funniest thing ever, until my dad accidentally used confectioners’ sugar and burned it and then had to start all over again, but by that time my mom was home and she made the simple syrup WITHOUT MEASURING ANYTHING, which basically meant that my niece was totally RIGHT—she had SEEN my mom put a certain amount of sugar and her own amount of water in a pot, not a pan, and then cook it.

My sister (not, incidentally, this 9 year old niece’s mom) is one of those people who only ever wants cookbooks for her birthday and Christmas and spends hours in the kitchen trying and perfecting recipes. She’ll make things like homemade pot pie with homemade crust, or chicken tikka masala, or steak with twice baked potatoes and it’s all deliciously intimidating. “This recipe is so EASY,” she’ll say, zesting an orange while simultaneously stoving something and ovening something else.
I don’t like reading recipes or following recipes, or doing anything that involves more than about six steps, so I much prefer instructions like my niece’s simple syrup.

I’m not good at cooking. And I don’t like to cook. I don’t know why. I just DON’T.
Actually, I think it might go back to my feelings of inadequacy from this post. I guess… I kind of subconsciously (semi-consciously?) feel like if I don’t cook well and often enough, that I’m not doing it right and I just shouldn’t even bother. And it’s this sort of thinking that has resulted in 31 year old me to subsist primarily on buttered noodles, snacks, takeout, and an eclectic combination of whatever my current tastes are.
There was the tortilla soup phase. And the lentils with quinoa phase. The Israeli cous cous phase. And every once in awhile I get re-jazzed about getting farm fresh fruits and veggies delivered to my apartment and I’ll sign up again. For the first few boxes I’ll be all LOOK AT ME AND MY EGGPLANT HASH and OH NO BIG DEAL I’M JUST SAUTEEING SOME KALE LIKE A MFING BOSS. And then eventually I won’t cook it all up on the first day it arrives and I’ll have rhubarb and leeks spoiling in my fridge and the emotional weight of a thousand rotten dandelion greens on my shoulders.

I don’t have a solution. At work I sort of graze all day long- cheese, sliced meats, cut up veggies and dip, crackers, nuts. I also have recently decided not to let myself be hemmed in by this ‘time of day’ nonsense, because really who cares if I eat my leftover enchiladas at 10AM and then have a waffle for dinner? Nobody, that’s who. So leftovers or a bagel or nothing for breakfast, then grazing grazing grazing, and then something breakfasty (a waffle or eggs), buttered noodles, or takeout/snacks for dinner. Geez. When I write it out like that it looks terrible. But! Did I tell you I’ve cut back on soda on weekdays?

I’ve lived by myself for about 5 years now, so the majority of the food I prepare is just for me. And me doesn’t care whether I have a wholesome, made-with-love dinner or a glass of milk and a veggie roll sushi from the corner store. I just… I don’t want to go to all the trouble of making some big dinner if it dirties every pan in my home and the person eating it (me) doesn’t sufficiently appreciate it.

I would LIKE to have a couple of go-to recipes. Sometimes I do come home from work and I have nothing prepared and I’m out of eggs and milk and I don’t feel like eating noodles, so then I just have whatever I can scrounge up from my cupboards and it ends up being fairly pathetic. And what if, someday, it’s not just me eating the food I produce? I don’t envision myself becoming some domestic goddess or even a cooks-for-pleasure type person like my sister, because I’m just not going to. And if put to the task I CAN make food. I mean, I know how to put meats and vegetables into my oven and have them come out decently-tasting, and I can make my sister’s tortilla soup which is just this side of heaven, but I guess what I’m looking for is food that I can make easily and with only a couple of steps that will have the end result of looking something like a whole MEAL. Someone who can roast a chicken might roast that chicken and then make some rice vegetables to go with it. And I CAN do that, but it takes so LONG and it dirties so many DISHES and it’s just ME eating that it ends up feeling like too many steps and ugh, I’ll just have a waffle again.

Last week I made some pasta I like.
I don’t want to jinx it or get ahead of myself here, but I think, I THINK I have come up with something I might actually put into the rotation of Things I Cook, and actually keep it there.
Here’s whatcha do. I’m not including pictures because nobody really cares, right? Okay, so. Step 1. Buy some noodles and some red sauce and some alfredo sauce. The alfredo sauce should come in a smaller jar than the red sauce. Step 2. Cook the noodles (in a pot, not a pan). Step 3. Heat up the sauces both together. Step 4. Drain the noodles, pour some olive oil and the sauce mixture over the noodles. DONE. Delicious. Step 5. Duplicate and elaborate. No big deal but I totally added mushrooms and red peppers to the batch I made the other day and I FEEL like I could branch out to adding more veggies and also, say, chicken. It doesn’t so much change my day to day life (leftovers for breakfast, grazing grazing grazing, whatever for dinner), but it IS a food that I could prepare for another human person and they could eat it and be full and it doesn’t include any traditional breakfast foods or takeout or microwaving.  So here we are. I am 31 and I can now make a slightly more interesting pasta than plain buttered noodles, with the skill and instruction level of a 9 year old. PAT ON THE BACK FOR ME.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Best Tings

(My nephew pronounces things as "tings," which I find pwecious.)

I figured that instead of keeping everything in the survey, I might as well make separate posts for the things I REALLY want to talk about. So, the best things I have bought in the past year. They are, in no particular order: my Christmas tree, my Dr. Scholl’s Fast Flats, my nasal rinse bottle, Rubik’s Twist, and a maid service.

First, the nasal rinse bottle. Sometimes I get sick. And sometimes I get sinussy grossness that comes with being sick. And in the past I’ve managed this with hot tea, steamy showers, and feeling sorry for myself. There are people who swear by that Neti pot thing and it kind of scares me. I can’t get over the mental hurdle of POURING water up my nose. I feel like I would drown. So when I learned there was a squeeze bottle that used the same concept of flushing out one’s sinuses, I gave it a whirl. And it’s great! I love it! As much as one can love something that involves squirting warm salty water up one’s nose.

Getting a Christmas tree has really become an expense I can justify, even though I live alone. The cost and hassle and the feeling like I shouldn’t bother getting one because it’s just ME and what does anything matter is fully eclipsed by the fact that I HAVE A CHRISTMAS TREE! HOORAY! CHRISTMAS TREE! It just kicks up my general mood and Christmas spirit and it looks so pretty in my house with all the lights and ornaments and it makes me HAPPY. So, sixty bucks for huge booster shot of happiness in the winter? Sold. 

Speaking of Christmas, let me tell you about the Rubik’s Twist! I had seen it before on a couple of Swistle’s gift idea lists and I always kind of thought meh, I don’t really LIKE Rubik’s cubes. And then when I saw it was more something you PLAYED with, I thought well then what’s the point? Oh how wrong I was. I have a bunch of nieces and nephews ranging from age 1.5 to 14 years and the majority of them are on the upper end of that age range. I feel like they are getting more difficult to shop for-- I can’t just Melissa and Doug everyone and call it a day. So I re-perused Swistle’s lists and ended up buying Rubik’s Twists for a couple of my nieces and nephews and they were SUCH A HIT that I ordered more of them so that we could reduce the household bickering (sometimes *I* wanted to play with one and NOBODY WOULD LET ME). Anyway, two thumbs up for the Rubik’s Twist. Who knew? (Swistle knew.)

Right before Christmas I went to Vegas (with the boyfriend (BOYFRIEND)) to watch my USC Trojans beat Fresno State the Royal Purple Bowl (Sidebar: remember when I called this blog Royal Jewels?). ANYWAY, Vegas involved a lot of partying in dainty high heels, and then jumping up and down at the football game and walking walking walking A LONG WAY (part of the way) back to our hotel afterward and then some walking down the strip just to walk some more for good measure. And so my feet, they did not want to wear my heels OR my boots anymore. We stopped in at Walgreens and I bought THESE:
They are some seriously awesome emergency flats. I wore them out that night and I kept exclaiming “I love these shoes, have I mentioned that?” Which, yes. I had mentioned it. I’ll be bringing them everywhere with me from now on because they fold up so tiny and cute in their wristlet that they basically take up NEGATIVE space in my bag.

And finally, maid service. A couple weeks after I had recovered from my little skin issue, my mom said to me “I’m thinking we should get someone into your apartment to, you know, really CLEAN it.” It sort of made me feel like my mom thought I caught Butt MRSA because I live in squalor and filth, but whatever! You want to hire a maid service to come clean my home? I won’t be fighting you on that. So they came the one time and then I decided to have them come back once a month because OMG having someone else clean my house is just the best thing ever. I CAN clean my home. I have the skills. But it won’t all be clean at the same time and I just don’t do things like dust the shelves or steam mop the floor. Not going to happen. And coming home from work to a clean apartment and a made bed is just delightful.