Friday, December 31, 2010

As Promised: More Stuff!

Todd scolded me for what he called "an unsatisfying blog post" the other day. Well okay, he didn't really scold as much as comment. But he's right. I need to get back on the literary wagon, so to speak, and stop writing half-formed boring posts about nothing.

As my first topic I'm going to talk about the kids, because they're not here this week and we miss them. They're brilliant, charming and gorgeous to behold, of course. Doesn't every parent think that about his/her own child? But also? They're pretty frickin' hilarious. Stone (i.e. Mr. Personality) keeps us in stitches. Daphne is a fair bit more... ladylike and usually serves as his straight man. She's gotten really good at rolling her eyes. Here are some recent gems:

Scene: Kids' room. Stone is getting dressed.

Jess: [suspiciously, eyeing pajama bottoms sans underpants on floor] Stone, did you put clean underpants on when you changed?

Stone: [enthusiastically] Yeah!! I did!

Todd: You did?

Stone: [nodding emphatically] I did!

Todd: Where are the dirty ones?

Stone: [His most sincere winning smile plastered to his face as he nods] I put them in the hamper!!!!!

Todd: Show me.

Stone: Okay! ... Um.... Uh...OK....Nooo... maybe I didn't...

Overheard from the kids' room:

Daphne (somewhat horrified) "Did you really swallow that?"

Stone (excitedly) "Yeah I really did! I swallowed it! And then I burped it out!!!"

I don't even want to know.

Daphne: (accusingly) Sto-one, did you wash your hands?

Stone: Yes!

Jess: You weren't in there very long.

**calculating silence...wheels turning, gears grinding etc.**

Stone: I washed them WHILE I was using the bathroom!

Daph & Jess: *facepalm*

Stone: Hey guys! We were wrestling and I made Daphne say uncle, AGAIN!! How can a small brother make a big sister say uncle two times in a row??!?!?!?!

Me: I guess you're just a really good wrestler, Buddy.

Stone: Nah, I think it's 'cuz of my fat belly from breakfast.

Stone: "Dear God, thank you for the good food and the bestest family ever. And... and soon Christy's gonna marry Zach and then she'll be our sister! Amen."

Stone [apropos of I can't remember what]: Daphne run, Daddy has a knife!!!

It's like a circus around here, really. And it's great.

Oh, Mah Toof

I had a head cold last week. It was an unpleasant time to be sick, especially since a lot of our Christmas projects were put off until the last minute. But I drank lots of OJ and a few days after Christmas the cold started to abate. Cue sinus infection. sigh

The pain has resolved itself into my upper jaw (think toothache) and seems to be settled in to stay. Also? It's a holiday weekend and I don't have a doctor in Modesto. Yay! I've been taking decongestants and doing sinus rinses and chugging tea and breathing in steam from boiled eucalyptus leaves but nothing really helps the pain.

None of this is very interesting, I know, and for that I apologize. At least I didn't ask you to read the multi-page document I composed (for posterity, and Lisa) detailing my history of supposed Celiac disease.

I promise I will post something more interesting before the holidays officially come to an end (around here that would be the 2nd week of January, when the kids come home from their mother's house and go back to school).

In the meantime please watch this horrifying video of what would happen if we outlawed guns and criminals had to rob convenience stores with sticks. No laughing please, this is  a serious matter.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Merry

It is still Christmas right? Yeah, ok, less than an hour to go. Today was a good, good day. And the last weekend and months have also been good. Life has been hard at times, but also drenched in goodness so sweet that I can hardly taste the bitter. My brother got married. I have a tiny new niece. My perfect little oddball family had its first Christmas together. Also, I am back to not eating gluten. Which Lisa wants to hear about. Which I kind of want to write about because it's a big deal in my life right now, but also not because it's boring and slightly depressing since I haven't seen any benefits yet, just deprivation (Oh- the woe of her that cannot eat bread).

There's also lots of other more int'restin stuff that I want to tell you about* too but I can't find the time! I don't have a job right now and it seems to me that I should have time to do all kinds of things because I'm a New Englander, dammit and we work hard and get stuff done and are never behind and I guess that's why I never really fit in there, huh? I have to keep telling myself that this is my job right now, and I don't have to feel guilty because I'm not looking for work. Between laundry & making sure the the kids are properly fed/clothed & Christmas & traveling back and forth to San Jose & trying to fed three people a glutinous diet while avoiding it myself (or alternatively planning gluten free meals for four) & figuring out how this I-am-partnered-with-you-for-life-OMG-Yay!-WTF?!-wait-how-is-it possible-that-you're more-stubborn-than-I-am? & trying to organize/keep the house clean... I just don't seem to have a lot of free time these days. I probably could spend less time Facebooking though, *ahem.* Yes, it's a verb.

I will tell you all about it, I promise, just not right now. Right now I'm sick and severely sleep deprived and I need to go to bed. Goodnight, blogworld. And Merry Christmas.

*like examples of how the kids keep us rolling, either on the floor laughing, or our eyes in exasperation. Or how weird and cool it was to have so many of my family members in California for the wedding. Or how much I like Todd's mom and brother and how lucky I feel to have in-laws I genuinely want to hang out with. Or how God is trying to untwist something that's been twisted up way too tight in my heart for a long long time and how it's not a very comfortable process but I'm glad of it, because it's time. Or about the delightfully nerdy ('hem, I mean academic) theology blog I am currently obsessed with.  Or how squishy and warm and perfect my new niece is and how I can't decide if I love babies enough to have one that I can't give back when I get bored but I sure do like having the loaners in the meantime.

Friday, December 17, 2010

One Year Ago Today

December 17, 2009.

The setting: A snowy Rhode Island, my sister Lib's house.

The mood: Low, very low. Depressed, lonesome in a way only the holidays + a recent breakup can inspire, and flat out of hope.

I got a FB message from a stranger. It said this:

Hey, I read some of your posts on Blogger and really enjoyed the way you wrote, kind of funny and witty, and a bit truthful and heart felt. I guess it's also the way you can set a tone, and get a reader enveloped in what it is you're trying to say while using a pretty decent vocabulary without ever sounding stuffy. I always feel like I'm prying into someone's personal life or reading their diary with a blog, but I was wondering if you write anywhere else on the net. Do you ever write fiction? Thanks. -Todd.

One year later, I sit across the room from him. The kids are sleeping peacefully and the lights from our Christmas tree twinkle behind me. Our first holiday season as a family has been wonderful. Tomorrow we'll celebrate my brother's wedding to a wonderful woman with the rest of my family. The kids will play delightedly with their (unofficial) cousins. I'll get to hold my newest niece. I will laugh with my crazy family and wonder, one again- How is it possible for one person to be so blessed? And I will feel my Father's extravagant love surrounding me and laugh at the way He worked out this plan for my life, and how little I trusted Him.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Oh, My Heart

Oh internets, I am so sad. A wonderful woman whose kids I used to nanny for lost her battle with cancer today. Her daughters are in high school now and I'm so glad she had the extra years with them that treatment afforded her. But it's so heartbreaking to think of them without her, and their father, losing his best friend. It hurts more now that I know what they're losing. I can see why people would think being alone in the world is a better choice than loving people you might lose. I don't know how I would go on if I didn't believe that the end of this life is not the end, but the beginning of something far greater.


You guys, I had the best Thanksgiving evaar.

The Saturday night before, with the kids, we had a mini rotisserie turkey breast plus other fixin's that I bought from the store instead of cooking. It was simple and last-minute and when we each took a turn saying what we were thankful for Daphne said, "I'm thankful that Jess is part of our family." And then I died of happiness because I so do not deserve everything I've been given.

Sunday the kids went to their mom's for the week.

Wednesday Todd and I cleaned the holy hell out of the apartment and then went out and finally acquired some couches. We have been sitting on the removable minivan seat and our one easy chair up until now. Also lots of pillows and the floor.

By the time T's mom and brother arrived late Thursday afternoon our little place looked homier than ever. It's amazing what a couch, loveseat & coffee table/decrepit antique steamer trunk can do for a living room. We built a fire in the fireplace, I made fried rice with orange chicken (thank you, Trader Joe's) and we spent the evening talking, laughing and watching a perfectly horrendous movie that traumatized every single one of us for life. You don't even want to know what it was, believe me. Then we laughed some more about the movie and how dumb we were to watch it knowing how awful it would be. Then Todd and his mom competed for who could say the most inappropriate thing. Todd won. His mom apologized to me for creating a monster but I told her it is natural for an exceptionally gifted student to surpass even his teacher and when it comes to making inappropriate jokes Todd is unrivaled. That's why I like him so much. I secretly enjoy making angry eyebrows and giving stern disapproving looks while I'm laughing on the inside.

Friday Todd and I (after a sputtering start in which Todd asked if I had started on the turkey and I told him snottily that if he wanted to feed his relatives that was no concern of mine and why didn't he start the turkey) jointly made a delicious Thanksgiving feast consisting of turkey, (awesomely) mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberry glop, corn and (wait for it) brussels sprouts. I ate all of it, even the vegetables. Apparently if you drench anything in bacon it tastes at least 20 times better. Then we ate pie, sat around and clutched our stomachs and moaned, watched Harvey, and had jolly adult conversations that we couldn't have had with the kids around. All in all if we had to be apart from the kids on Thanksgiving it was lovely to be able to appreciate it with some grown up time. Of course, T and I never quite managed to get our planned "date night" in but the trade off (couches) was totally worth it.

Saturday night the kids came home and our wee family was reunited.

Saturday we rested and thought about how good life is just now.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

30 Days of Truth, 20/21: Drunk History

Day 20 → Your views on drugs and alcohol.
Day 21 → What historical figure would you like to meet?

= What historical figure would you like to meet on drugs and alcohol?

I like drunk historians. Like these. *warning, vile language and graphic imagery, including drunk puking, is involved, but it's totally worth it.*

Friday, November 19, 2010

I Need to Make Me Some Dayum Friends

I like Modesto. When you say "I'm moving to Modesto" to people in the SF bay area, my home for the last 5 years, they generally wrinkle their noses like something smells funny and roll their eyes in mock horror and sympathy. But then the bay area is really snooty and snobby (not my friends, of course, but the area in general*) and I never really felt like I fit in there anyway, so I don't have a problem admitting that I like Modesto. Even though there are only 23 Starbucks locations and some of the playgrounds have missing equipment and instead of paying immigrants to clean my house I live in the apartment next door to them and send my kids to school with theirs.

*And still I feel the need to point out that I know many, many wonderful people, both with money and without, in the bay area and I'm not talking about any of them. Do you hear me people who read my blog? I swear on all that it holy that I am not talking about you so please stop being offended. There's this.. attitude... of keeping up a certain standard and that's what I'm referring to. I was just as much a slave to it as anyone else when I lived there.

So I like it here, but I'm not sure how to fit in here any better than I did in  San Fransiscan suburbia. When the other moms wear pajamas to the bus stop, the need to keep up a bay area appearance (My version of this consists of putting pants on and occasionally wearing a bra. Also I glance in the mirror to make sure my hair isn't sticking up. This would not actually fly in Palo Alto or Cupertino but it makes me feel really fancy and overly fussy here in Modesto) doesn't exactly aid one in making friends. The other day we were late for the bus and the bus driver scolded me for not being at the bus stop 5 minute early. It was kind of demoralizing, but due to my humiliation I had an entire conversation about bus times with the woman who normally avoids eye contact with me. I was so excited- maybe we can be friends and braid each others hair and have slumber parties!! But today she ignored me again and talked on her phone so she wouldn't have to interact (I am pretty sure that was the reason she was talking on her phone because the world is all about me and surely she cannot have had anything legitimate to talk on the phone about no that would be ridiculous) with me just because I was wearing pants. The fact that the kids were in pajamas and bathrobes apparently did nothing to balance this out.

It was pajama day at school.

Normally I make them wear clothes.


I don't want to be a snob. I don't think I'm better than anyone else. But I am shy and awkward and weird in new places & with new people and I am further unsure about my present precarious perch on the societal ladder. I am a stepmother in practice but officially they're just "my boyfriend's kids." I feel the need to casually work the fact that I am not their biological mother- that they have a biological mother and I'm not it- into conversations with teachers, school secretaries, neighbors... everyone, really. Then I feel oddly ashamed of the fact that I'm attending parent-teacher conferences/ talking to teachers about homework/making doctor's appointments for them because who do I think I am. This makes me even more awkward and weird and I usually end up walking away from conversations feeling like I convinced the person I was talking to not to be my friend.

It sucks.

I love my perfect little family. But I need some outside friends. Do you live in Modesto? Do you wanna be my friend? I braid some mean hair.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Da Stomach Monster

At long last, I give you Todd in his internet debut:

See the reasoning behind this madness here.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

30 Days of Truth, 18: 'Cause I Said So

Day 18 → Your views on gay marriage.

Oh yay- controversy!!! Or not. Because I'm not really in the mood to make a bigger deal about this than I feel it ought to be. People who love each other and want to get married should be able to. That's all I got to say about that.

30 Days of Truth, 17: Read to Change

Day 17 → A book you’ve read that changed your views on something.

I'm supposed to pick just one? I love to read. Anybody who knows me knows this. I stuck mainly to fiction growing up but at some point when I was in my twenties I discovered that well written non-fiction* can be as gripping as the best novels. I read everything- biography, anthropology, sociology, history, medical narrative, essays, true crime, theology... I especially love books where the author delves into an obscure subject and makes it fascinating to me. Parrot behavior, anyone? The world of orchid enthusiasts? How about the Great Hurricane of 1938?

Entering another world by reading a good book is always wonderful. But I think the greatest thing about being a reader is the opportunity it offers to learn. I've learned as much through reading as I have through living. I've learned a lot more through living because of what I learned from books. I've read many, many books that changed my opinions, or ideals, or the way I see the world, but I think the one I want to write about today is Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey. I mentioned it here with the intention of going on to list other books that had influenced me, but of course I never got around to it (I do that. I'm one of those people who puts things off. I'm pretty sure there's a word for that. I plan to look it up, later.).

Yancey's one of those incredibly rare Christian writers who writes with complete honesty. He disregards the taboos and sacred cows of cultural Christianity to ask the questions one seldom hears in church. I should clarify that Yancey's disregard is never for the people who hold these ideas sacred. He asks uncomfortable questions, but in a gentle respectful manner, with complete honesty regarding his own failings and always holding himself accountable for their answers. I want to be like him when I grow up.

Soul Survivor was an eye-opening read for me. I've found that in my experience, people like MLK jr. and Ghandi are ignored by Christians or, worse held in mild contempt. They didn't fit into the proper mold and therefore had little of value to add to any discussion of theology or life. Yancey takes 13 people who influenced him and explains what it was about the subject's life or actions or beliefs that caught his attention, and allowed him to emerge from a deep-south-fundy upbringing with his faith in God intact.

Read it. It's good.

*Obviously fiction is more enjoyable if it's well-written, but I find that fiction writers can sometimes get away with atrocious writing if their stories are good enough. Witness the many best-selling authors who will never be considered in literature classes.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Fail at NanoBloMoPoFo-whatever

I can't even finish the last 30 Day prompt, even though, or perhaps because I've already written several paragraphs. They bore me. I am bored. I do not feel like writing. I have to much to do. November is a bad month for NANOWRIMO. Plus Todd hasn't written anything in days so ppffffttt.

In other exciting news though, today I had 2 cavities filled and then ran out of gas. It was harrowing, but not so much that I couldn't go to the local kids' consignment shop and score some sweet deals on pants for the extra-short people. Now that they have more than 2 pairs that fit I can transition to only doing laundry every other day.*

 Well, bleepity bleep. I just erased three paragraphs and Blogger helpfully immediately automatically saved the post so I can't hit undo. I'm not writing all that again. Didn't I just tell you I don't feel like writing? Geez... Anyway, to sum up we put a lot of gas in the car Saturday night and then the gas gauge was broken but apparently we didn't and it wasn't or something because although we drove the rest of the way home and ran errands for a few days, today when I left the dentist although I should have had at least half a tank I barely managed to coast into a gas station- hoping the problem was fuel related and not something more expensive dire. It took 12 gallons to fill my tank up. I have a 10 gallon tank.

Also I ate a bunch of the kids' Halloween candy after they went to bed in spite of the fact that I've had five cavities filled in the last month and still have to go back for five more. Getting old sucks.

*Oddly enough- because it's me, remember?- I'm not complaining. I've always kinda liked laundry and now that I'm doing a whole bunch of other people's in addition to my own, I kinda like it even more.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

In Which Todd Is Left To His Own Devices and Gets into Mischief

So I've been working on a prompt which, frankly, is boring even though I feel that it really shouldn't and I'm just stuck. So today I was staring at the computer screen when I realized, "Hmmmm, I haven't heard Todd for a while. I wonder what he's doing." Our dwelling place is rather cozy for four people and while the kids flit in and out of their room, the living room and outside, Todd and I can generally be found in the living/dining room/kitchen area in the afternoon. It's not often that he disappears for long but I remembered him saying something about taking a shower so I didn't give it too much thought.

Then I got and headed toward the hallway for some reason I forgot before I got halfway to where I was going don't remember now and all of a sudden a strange apparition jumped out at me...

Guess who had found the Halloween face paints in the bathroom and decided to draw an elaborate face on his stomach and chest? Let me tell you, if you've never seen a half-naked man dancing around in his camouflage underwear (I bought them for him, I couldn't help it) with a giant crazy face drawn on his torso  you haven't lived. When I stopped laughing I forced him to let me take a video of The Stomach Monster and then he proceeded to make "stamps" by mashing the flab muscular manliness against closet doors, chest-bump style before I gave him my stern look and ordered him to take a shower. When he got out, there was a Stomach Monster imprint on the shower wall.

Now generally it's when the children are too quiet that one needs to worry, but not me. Noooo, not me. This man will inevitably drive me crazy, but it sure will be a fun ride.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

30 Days of Truth, 16: Do Without

Day 16 → Someone or something you definitely could live without.

There are plenty of things I could live happily without. There are also plenty of things I'd love to get rid of that I probably couldn't live without. I don't want to live with worry or pain, but I know that I need them to survive. Broccoli, however is one thing I'm fairly sure I could manage without. If the world ran out of broccoli and no more was to be forthcoming, ever; I think I'd be okay with that. Yup, pretty sure. Now pie on the other hand....

------------------ 30 Days of Truth--------------------

Monday, November 1, 2010

30 Days of NANOSHMOBLO...PO: The Fifteenth. Or Whatever

Day 15 → Something or someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it.

So yeah, I'm supposed to be doing NANOWRIMO* except without the annoyingly perky email updates this month, in addition to the blogging one, which has an entirely different but still stupid acronym. But I'm still only halfway through the 30 days of truth so I'm going to combine them into one really all-over-the-place mishmash. You know, like usual. 

Todd and I decided to to NNWM* because we both want to practice writing and we both need a kick in the pants. Or a dumb acronym. I dunno. Also it's almost 10 pm and neither of us has been spotted jotting a single word of fiction yet today. So... we'll see how that goes. 

*shortened. I'm so not typing that out every time I refer to it. You know what? Maybe we'll just go with NN, because why make it more complicated than it has to be? 

I'm supposed to be writing about something I tried to live without and can't. There's only one obvious answer to that for me: There was a time when I felt certain that I was not worthy of God's love or attention. I was bitter and angry and hurt by my own perceived failures and experiences with the church and I was ready to take the whole thing and be done with it. God, religion, Christianity, trying to live up to some impossible standard, trying to be someone I wasn't- I tried to turn my back and walk away from all of them, because I was unable to separate them into separate and distinct categories. All of those latter things held me only with chains of guilt, they weren't holding onto me, I was holding onto them. God held me with something much stronger; with the strongest thing that exists. 

I never really knew God until I tried to run away from him. All my life had been spent doing the right things, being the good one, the responsible one. All my life had been spent trying to earn God's approval in the ways I was taught, by the system I grew up in, were the only ways to know God. I was hunched over a tiny airless box that everyone insisted contained God, clutching it and talking to it and berating myself when it did not answer. All the time God was everywhere, all around me, trying to love me in spite of my insistence on telling him he was in the box and my pretense that I was good enough for him to love. Finally I broke. My box shattered and my mask fell off and I found myself running, terrified, in a dark, confusing place.

It was the moment he'd been waiting for. He chased after me. He tackled me as I headed into the darkness and held me while I beat my fists against him and screamed at him, until finally I melted into his embrace, and then he carried me back to safety. And I knew, then, that he'd never loved me because I was good. How could he have? Did I really think I could fool God with a mask of proper behavior?! 

My God told me he loved me in spite of my facade, not because of it. He saw me and not only did he still love me, he always had. He was just waiting for me to let go of the box and listen to him telling me how beloved I was to him. He was willing to run into the darkness after me and bring me back, even though I was the one running away from him. He was not willing to let me be lost. The strongest thing that exists in this world is love. It is stronger than hate or fear, stronger than evil, stronger than death. And I could never live without it.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 14: I Made Up This Question, In Case You Couldn't Tell

Day 14 → Did you really hot glue seashells to the toilet? Also, how did you learn such mad decorating skillz. Did you go to school for that?

I really did it. They didn't stay there for long, of course, because the kids couldn't resist touching them and hot glue is useless on non-porous surfaces. But that's okay, because now I can dust and then glue them back on.

I am just naturally awesome at anything involving astheti esthetic things that look purty. It's like I was born with this gift. On the topic of decorated toilets, today Todd and I saw a clip of some weird web show involving very disturbed/disturbing people who were peddling their freaky Halloween-themed wares at some sort of show. One man had a sort of tattoos for toilets thing going on. His designs were completely gross (I mean, like, because they were supposed to be, not because he wasn't talented- it take a special kind of talent to specialize in painting fecal matter), but Todd immediately questioned why no one had thought of decorated toilets before. Within minutes we were hatching plans to start a decorated toilet business that would take the world of bathroom decor by storm. But it turns out that we're not really onto anything new. It doesn't seem to be catching on, but that's probably because that silly ceramics woman hasn't tried gluing seashells to the back of the toilet. Yet.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why Yes, I DID Hot-Glue Seashells to the Toilet

 It's time for Jess's decorating advice!!! Gather 'round, children, I am about to impart wisdom the likes of which you have never heard before. If you're lucky, you will never hear it again, but if you keep reading my blog I can't make any promises.

We are currently rockin' a seaside theme in our half bathroom. Lest you hold me responsible give me any credit, let me point out that it was all Todd's idea. He swears I have an evil agenda to throw away all of his stuff. This is so not true, I only want to throw away the ugly stuff. Can I help it that he is a boy and lacks my superior aesthetic skills? No, I certainly can't. And also (while we're on this topic) have you ever heard of anything so ridiculous as a man wanting an equal amount of closet space as a woman? I keep telling him that if he wants me to look nice, wear makeup, etc. (I'm up to almost once a week now!) he has to understand that it's my right as a woman, indeed my duty, to have more shoes than him. I do not understand why he cannot see my point. But! I digress. We were talking about the bathroom. There are shells and stuff. Like this:

And I had a bunch left over at the end that were too heavy to put in the net. But I knew that if I didn't use them somehow Todd would accuse me of hating his stuff and making him get rid of it while keeping all of my useless craft items. So I combined the two. Reader, I certainly did. I got my handy mini glue gun out and I glued seashells to the back of the toilet. I hope he's happy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

30 Days of Truth, 13: Sad

Day 13 → A prompt I do not care for so I willz replace it.

I've been really down lately. Nothing new is happening but everything seems so much harder. I think I've just had an epif epiphin  epifuny really smart* idea about why. This Friday is my birthday. It's also Daphne's birthday. In all the excitement and planning for Halloween and parties I neglected to connect the fact that it is also my grandmother's birthday. It would have been her 90th birthday.

Mimi was the matriarch of our family, with twenty children and twenty great-grandchildren. She is very much missed but in the whirlwind that was flying home for her funeral/meeting Todd and the kids/driving back across the country with them and moving and all the rest of the changes that were taking place in my life just then I didn't really have the emotional space to properly mourn her. I had intermittent crying fits at random gas station stops at various points across the country but I've lived far away for so long that it still doesn't seem real most of the time. I hadn't seen my Mimi in over a year. I miss her.

So I think I'll give myself the space to be sad and be okay with that. I had the best grandmother anybody could have asked for. She always smelled lovely, she gave the greatest hugs anyone has ever given, and she was beautiful, inside and out. She was wonderful, I miss her, and I'm sad that I never got to tell her about Todd, and Stone, and Daphne, who shares our birthday. And that's a pretty good reason to be sad.

* Yes, that's S-M-R-T smart!

30 Days of Truth, 12: Um, Uncomplimentarity?

<Day 12 → Something you never get compliments on.

It's weird, really, but few people seem to notice or see fit to comment on my humble and retiring nature. Or on how I manage to remain calm and unruffled when I am hungry/tired/stressed/Tuesday.

Also- are these writing prompts getting stupider or am I just getting tired of this?

------------------ 30 Days of Truth--------------------

30 Days of Truth, Day 11: Complimentary

Day 11 → Something people seem to compliment you the most on.

My humble demeanor and towering stature?

Or is it the other way around?

Maybe those aren't compliments...


------------------ 30 Days of Truth--------------------

Sunday, October 24, 2010

30 Days of Truth, 10: Letting Go

Day 10 → Someone you need to let go, or wish you didn’t know.

Oh... this is a hard one. It's so hard I don't really want to talk about it because it's a bit too real, a bit too immediate, and it encompasses too many people. I've lost a lot of friends over the last few months, due to a combination of geography and complicated church politics. The one person I knew in Modesto just moved away. She was in transition too and now she's moved away. I'm happy for her but feeling bereft. I am not good at keeping up long distance relationships. I need face-time, and phone conversations just don't really cut it for me. I have no friends here.

When I decided to move in with Todd, some of my Christian friends and acquaintances were convinced that it was their duty to reject me for my own good. Most of them will be polite to my face, but I am no longer one of them. I am outside the circle. I would be allowed back in if I repented, and then either broke up with Todd or got married. Barring that, however, I will never again be part of the circle. I know I am being talked about. My choices do not fit into their boxes and it cannot be allowed to sit just outside of them. It makes them uncomfortable. I make them uncomfortable.

Of course I have many friends who defended and stood by me. And many more who thought I was doing the wrong thing and still stood by me. For the most part, I don't blame the people who didn't because I know what it's like on the inside. I have been that person. And I don't regret being on the outside. In fact I think I've felt it calling to me all my life.

I'll never have an easy time fitting into categories. I will make my home on the outskirts with the other misfits. And I'll be grateful for the clarity it affords me. But right now, it's a very lonely place to be.

------------------ 30 Days of Truth--------------------

Thursday, October 21, 2010

30 Days of Truth, 9: Letting Go

Day 09 → Someone you didn’t want to let go, who just drifted.

Raise your hand if you're tired of hearing about me. Me too!!!! So I'm going to get creative with this one and just make crap up. Hopefully it will amuse you, if not please send complaints to my editor, Todd Valencia.

I really miss George.

I didn't want to let him go.

I held onto his rowboat until my hands got tired. But in the end he drifted. He just... drifted. I think he ended up somewhere downstream.

The end.

------------------- 30 Days of Truth--------------------

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

30 Days of Truth, 8: Mean

Day 08 → Someone who made your life hell.

I suppose I could pick out several people who've made me miserable over the course of my lifetime, but the truth is that I'm my biggest critic. I don't think there's any one person who's been crueler to me than I am to myself.

Plenty of times I've felt guilty for legitimately doing something wrong. It's unpleasantly squirmy and will not go away until I confess (to a person, to God, or to myself) that I was wrong and try to make amends. Guilt is useful as a prod toward repentance. After that it becomes a corrosive acid that eats away at anything it comes into contact with. I tend to let it stick around and eat at me until I'm full of holes. But if guilt is a stone, God reminds me that I pick it up myself, when he's trying to get me to put it down. He typically reminds me of this when I go to him complaining that my arms hurt because of the heavy rock of heaviness I am carrying. And he never even rolls his eyes.

I have a habit of feeling guilty. My personality type and years of churchily-imposed restrictions combined to result in someone whose basic modus operandi is guilty. I never doing anything well enough, I'm weird, I have too many opinions, I'm mean, I'm petty, I should be trying harder, my ego is out of control, I'm lazy, I don't care enough, I care too much... it's endless. And it all points to the same insidious little thought: God is not pleased with me. And it's a lie. It's a terrible, terrible lie and, much as a child thinking that his parents were not pleased with him doing his best would, I'm sure that it breaks God's heart.

And yet the habit. I am a creature of habit in some regards and this vein runs deep. It was reinforced for years by the church (and I'm not talking about one church in particular) with constant reminders that you could be reading your Bible, praying, serving God, witnessing to people, going to church, thinking Godly thoughts, and doing good deeds more than you already were. You read your Bible for an hour every morning? Jack reads his for three, in the original Greek. I was caught in an endless loop of trying to please God by being who I thought he expected me to be, never living up to my image of who I thought I should be and never entirely happy with who I was.

I knew about grace. Everyone talked a lot about grace. But I don't think anybody really understood the concept. It wasn't until my idea of who I was and who I was supposed to be was completely shattered that I saw grace for what it is: freedom. There's a phrase from the Bible that I love: He [God] is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction. How typically human, that we have to be coaxed out of the jaws of distress and into freedom. We're like captive animals that have grown so used to our cages that we hesitate to leave when the door is opened. And yet God takes the time to woo us, he's not just opening the lock and letting us out, he's beckoning, pleading with us urgently to leave the prison behind and step into the spacious freedom of love. I wish I could live in that freedom all the time, instead of retreating to the safe, familiar confines of my cage frequently, but I know that he won't ever let the door be closed again. I am so grateful.

------------------- 30 Days of Truth--------------------

30 Days of Truth, 7: Life Worth Living

Day 07 → Someone who has made your life worth living for. 

(let's just pretend I put this up on Monday, ok? 'Cause I started it on Monday, and I'm pretty sure that totally counts)

I take exception to the grammar of this prompt. "Someone who has made your life worth living...for?" Is it that they make your life worth living for you, or them? Are you living your life for them? Or do they make your life worth living by being part of it? I em confused.

I'm going to go with my own interpretation: Someone who makes my life worth living when nothing else does.

Cue the organ music... I have to say, God. It sounds trite and corny and there's nothing I hate more than churchy cheese (with the possible exception of the idea that if you object to having your Christianity with extra cheese it means you don't love/are ashamed of God/Jesus) but it's true, y'all.

I mentioned the perfectionism, right? And the fact that I feel things way too strongly? For as long as I can remember (and I have a very good memory) those two things have combined in me to result in occasional but overwhelming feelings of deep despair about the world, both personally and in a larger sense. I can remember, even as a young child, thinking, There is so much suffering and pain and emptiness and failure in the world. How can anything not be pointless and irredeemable? I found my answers in books.

C.S. Lewis, Madeline L'Engle, Lucy Maude Boston, Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper and many others taught me about God. Now few of the books I'm thinking of (in fact I would say none of them although I know many people would disagree about Lewis & Narnia) are explicitly "Christian." In fact at least one of those authors was an atheist and reflected her views on the church quite strongly in her books. However, all of them knew there was something more to the universe than suffering and despair, and none of them were egotistical enough to pretend that they knew precisely what that more was. In all of the stories that I thrived on as a child, there is an element of wonder and mystery, like a vine hanging over the quicksand of nihilism needing only to be grabbed hold of in order to avoid being sucked under.  These authors knew there was more and that the more was something both great and good. And they all agreed that the good is allied with love, and that the bad thrives alongside hate. Looking back now, one of the things that stands out among these storytellers is that they did not claim to have the answers. Even Lewis's Narnia hints that there is far more that is unknown than that which can be known.

The message all of my favorite stories had in common though, was that although the unknown can be terrifying, we need not fear it. That although life is hard and confusing and battles need to be faced with courage, there is hope and, ultimately, all will be well. We are not alone. Someone greater than us is in control.

I learned more about God in children's stories than I ever did in church.

------------------- 30 Days of Truth--------------------

Sunday, October 17, 2010

30 Days of Truth, 6: unHope?

Day 06 → Something you hope you never have to do.

I hope I never stop writing, or reading, or loving. I hope Todd never stops being a punk and driving me crazy by scaring the bejabbers out of me 20 times a day. I hope I never have to eat broccoli. I hope I never lose my sense of wonder or forget what it felt like to be a child. I hope I never become a burden to those who care for me when I'm old, but if I do, I hope I retain my sense of mischief and at least enjoy it.

------------------- 30 Days of Truth--------------------

Saturday, October 16, 2010

30 Days of Truth, 5: Hope

Day 05 → Something you hope to do in your life.

I hope to serve God. I hope I hope to leave the world slightly better than I found it. I hope to magically get a publishing contract for a million dollars (just kidding! Kind of*). I hope in His unfailing love. I hope Daphne and Stone get to come to my brother's wedding in December. I hope their mother stops hating me. I hope I can learn to love her. I hope that we can cooperate in raising these two beautiful children. I hope it starts feeling like fall soon in Modesto. I hope that I'm right that nothing good is every truly lost or wasted. I hope  Todd stops smoking so I can keep him around to torment for many years. I hope that this world is not all there is; that sorrow last for a night but joy comes in the morning; that though now we see dimly through a darkened window, someday we will see the One who made us, face to face. I hope the next season of Doctor Who comes out on dvd soon. I hope nobody knows that I'm cheating by writing day 5 and 6 on day 4 and setting them to post while I'm away for the weekend panning for gold.

* Of course I am a true artist and scorn the idea of taking something as base as money for my work. I live on dewdrops and moonbeams. Todd, however, lives on Mountain Dew and Moon Pies, so the cash sure wouldn't hurt.

------------------- 30 Days of Truth--------------------

Friday, October 15, 2010

30 Days of Truth, Day 4: Forgiving

I don't want to brag, but I am a very forgiving person.

I have forgiven Todd for the time he brushed my hair with the cat brush, the 560,732 times he's jumped out from behind the door to scare the crap out of me, the times he put pillows under a blanket to make me think he was in bed and then jumped out at me from the bathroom, the other times he hid under the blankets so I would think he was a pile of pillows and then jumped out and scared me when I went and looked in the bathroom for him, the time he poured cold water on me in the shower, the time he surreptitiously tucked my skirt into my underwear under the guise of hugging me and then turned me around so my back was facing the children while grinning at me like a cheshire cat. I have forgiven him for the times he gave me "helpful criticism" on meal preparation instead of appreciating the fact that I was feeding him (it helps that he is a fast learner and responds well to angry eyebrows, tears, and phrases like, "Make your own damned dinner if you know how to do it so well!!"). I struggled mightily to forgive him when he told me I was a bossy woman but finally told him I would do it him if he just agreed to do whatever I tell him, all the time.

I have also forgiven him for the time he hid on the balcony and threw a cupful of water down on me while I was talking on the phone outside. In addition there's the time he locked me out on the balcony and then pointed and laughed through the glass door (it helped that I have also done that to him at least once). I am still struggling to forgive him for teaching the children "ninja skills" i.e. how to hide behind the door in order to jump out and scare the crap out of me, but luckily he is patient with my efforts. Truly, the man is a saint.

------------------- 30 Days of Truth-------------------

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Palm, meet Face

This morning the alarm went off. I have it placed at the other end of the room so I have to get up to turn it off. Yes, I need the motivation.

But this morning I tried to shut it off by pressing Todd's nose.

I woke up to confusion about why the alarm clock felt so weirdly flesh-like. And then I opened my eyes to find myself face-palming a very grumpy man who accused me of trying to smother him in his sleep.

Heh heh heh.

I saw the hilarity in this before I was even fully awake but for some reason Todd has yet to appreciate it. Maybe I accidentally shut his sense of humor off.

30 Days of Truth, 3: Forgiven

Day 04 → Something you have to forgive someone for.

I was six when my sister Julie was born. For complicated reasons involving both family dynamics and the onset of pre-adolescence I started to hate her three years later. None of it had anything to do with Julie herself, she was just the most obvious scapegoat. She was too young to defend herself (Libby could beat me up even though she was three years younger) but not so young as Dan, who was a baby and therefore off the hook. I was horrible to her for years. I knew it was wrong and I hated myself for it, but I couldn't stop. I did everything I could, and as an older sister my powers were considerable, to make her life miserable.

By the time my angry hormones had calmed down and I had, if not made peace with my parents, at least stopped blaming Julie for their failings (it would be many more years before I forgave them for being imperfect human), my little sister had hit her own patch of pre-adolescent hormones and was ready to hate me right back. Our relationship suffered for years from the awkwardness that stemmed from my inability to tell her I was sorry.

I could not tell her I was sorry. I could not ask her for forgiveness until I was able to forgive myself. I could not forgive myself because I couldn't come to terms with what a terrible person I must have been. I was in my thirties before I started to figure out what could have prompted a nine-year-old to act in such a manner toward someone she was responsible for protecting, and begin to see my younger self as a victim of circumstance, as well as a tormentor.

I grew up in the church. I have been taught so much about forgiveness. Learning how to accept it is the hardest lesson.

------------------- 30 Days of Truth--------------------

Thirty Days of Truth, 2: Love

What do you hate about yourself? What do you love?  How can I separate them?

I hate my perfectionism. I love my perfectionism. Without it I'd have no drive, no creativity.

Guilt is sometimes the only thing that keeps me in check. It destroys me. I need it.

I need to question things. It frequently makes me miserable. I wouldn't change it.

I am a collection of extremes. I am a mess. I am a sloppy bundle of flesh and soul, held together with ties that can't be seen.

Aren't we all just that? Beautiful, terrible, wonderful, divinely-wrought messes.

I love my imperfections. I hate my imperfections.

I am grateful to be human.

**Also, I love how I'm going to pretend I posted this Wednesday because that's totally when I started it so it counts, right? Right?**


------------------- 30 Days of Truth--------------------

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Things I accomplished Before Eight O'Clock This Morning

  • Got the kids up, dressed & ready for school. 
  • Made them lunches and took them to the bus stop (okay fine, we drove the 2 blocks to the bus stop because we were running late, so sue me). 
  • Put away the laundry I folded last night, folded and put away another load. 
  • Ate vegetables for breakfast. 
People, I am on fiyah!! Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going back to bed, I need a nap.

p.s. Just kidding!! I am going walking at 9 with my one lovely Modesto friend and her exquisitely cute baby. Got that? I am exercising!!!  And I've posted three times on my blog in two days. I'd better slow down, I am going to hurt myself at this rate.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Part the Third

NEW: Now with pictures!!

(Make sure you didn't miss parts one and two! Unless you wanted to, in which case I can't blame you, they're both ridiculously long and contain way more information about me than anyone really wants to know).

August- School starts on the 9th in Modesto!!!! We decide on a last minute camping trip the week before school starts, as a last hurrah to summer. I drag my feet about the preparations. Todd insists we must go. We end up setting a tent up in the dark. I am not thrilled. After a few hours of sleep I feel immensely less grumpy and the trip just gets better from there.

I almost fall off of a really big rock.

We spend two days at Hume Lake,
having pure, unadulterated fun.

We all have a superfantastic time.

After a few days of recovering at home, school starts. The children love their new school. The children finally get tired of saying, "Jess!! You almost died!!!!" and we all agree to forget about that unfortunate incident with the rock.

Me & the lovely Bry

We attend a wedding in the bay area and I get to show off my new family at my old church the next day. I try not to brag too much but they are pretty cute. Especially the tall one! The kids have so much fun in Sunday school that they don't want to leave.

September- Todd plays a lot of Nintendo in an effort to relive his youth. 
He looks perplexed. I cannot imagine why.

30 Days of Truth, 1: Hate

  • I wish I could see myself clearly. As it is, I can see two wildly vacillating sides, neither of which, I'm aware, is entirely accurate. I am either all ego, sure I can do anything; or nothing, crushed in the dust of my self-perceived failure. 

There are elements of truth in both of these, but also false notes. I am, simply, human; neither perfect nor completely lacking. If I could just get outside of myself, outside of the world and my head, maybe I could hold in one hand the twofold truths that all human beings carry within themselves: I am glorious, a masterpiece without equal / I am a wretch, lost and twisted and unable to pull myself out of the mud without help. 

  • Perfectionism is a curse, but it's one I rely on. If I wasn't driven by it, I don't think I would ever accomplish anything concrete. I would be well read, however. 
If you could see me, really see me, you'd see that I am a contradictory mess. All or nothing. My house is a mess only when it's not impeccably spotless. My life is only  a mess when it's not impeccably spotless. I am all yea or all nay, but no in-between. I am incredibly happy or plunged into the slough of despair, all in one day, one week, one hour. 

I can't discuss an issue without getting passionate about it. It gets me into trouble, a lot. I have quite the mouth on me, is how my parents liked to describe it in my teen years.They were not being complimentary. I wonder how much of my outspokenness has to do with the fact that I always felt that my father would rather that women did not have opinions of their own unless they aligned perfectly with his. Honestly he feels that way about everyone in the whole world, but women in particular. He's mellowed out a lot over the years but he still tries to pull me into a political argument every time I go home.  It makes me feel like he doesn't respect my opinions although I suspect it's his way of trying to connect with me.

I feel guilty all the time. Guilt is my secret addiction. I never do anything as quickly, as well, as kindly, as perfectly as I could have, should have. Frequently I don't even try because the thought of achieving the level I set for myself exhausts me before I even start. That makes me feel guilty too. I pick at the guilt the way a child picks at a painful scab, simultaneously repulsed and fascinated; it hurts but I cannot stop.


Following are the writing prompts for 30 Days of Truth, should you be interested in doing so yourself.

Day 01 → Something you hate about yourself.
Day 02 → Something you love about yourself.
Day 03 → Something you have to forgive yourself for.
Day 04 → Something you have to forgive someone for.
Day 05 → Something you hope to do in your life.
Day 06 → Something you hope you never have to do.
Day 07 → Someone who has made your life worth living for.
Day 08 → Someone who made your life hell, or treated you like shit.
Day 09 → Someone you didn’t want to let go, but just drifted.
Day 10 → Someone you need to let go, or wish you didn’t know.
Day 11 → Something people seem to compliment you the most on.
Day 12 → Something you never get compliments on.
Day 13 → A band or artist that has gotten you through some tough ass days. (write a letter.)
Day 14 → A hero that has let you down. (letter)
Day 15 → Something or someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it.
Day 16 → Someone or something you definitely could live without.
Day 17 → A book you’ve read that changed your views on something.
Day 18 → Your views on gay marriage.
Day 19 → What do you think of religion? Or what do you think of politics?
Day 20 → Your views on drugs and alcohol.
Day 21 → (scenario) Your best friend is in a car accident and you two got into a fight an hour before. What do you do?
Day 22 → Something you wish you hadn’t done in your life.
Day 23 → Something you wish you had done in your life.
Day 24 → Make a playlist to someone, and explain why you chose all the songs. (Just post the titles and artists and letter)
Day 25 → The reason you believe you’re still alive today.
Day 26 → Have you ever thought about giving up on life? If so, when and why?
Day 27 → What’s the best thing going for you right now?
Day 28 → What if you were pregnant or got someone pregnant, what would you do?
Day 29 → Something you hope to change about yourself. And why.
Day 30 → A letter to yourself, tell yourself EVERYTHING you love about yourself

Monday, October 4, 2010

How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Part Deux

Where was I? Okay, you read this part right?

June (cont.)- Having made it to California still on speaking terms (minus one fiasco involving the fiendishly covert disposal of someone's cherished tobacco products by someone else who is cruel, unusual and very very mean; and in retrospect this makes the survival of both parties over the next three weeks of travel even more amazing), Todd and I visit with his family for a few days and sadly prepare to hand over the kids to their mother for her summer visitation. 

After dropping off the kids off, we head to my house in Cupertino. We try to figure out logistics for our relationship and the coming summer. Todd votes for finding a place together but I tell him that that is definitely against the rules. God says, "Trust Me." I decide that going with The Big Guy rather than church regulations worked out rather well the first time so I ignore a lot of people who telling me I'm making a terrible horrible no good very bad mistake. We'll skip over the next few weeks and get to the part where we decide on five different towns to move to in one week and do A LOT of driving around. Finally, we decide on Modesto as being fairly inexpensive and equidistant from Todd's family and my peeps in the bay area. We find an apartment in the perfect condominium complex- it has a pool, a pond with a family of ducklings, koi fish, turtles and lots of tadpoles (promising a healthy frog population in the coming months). Oh, and it has, like, walls and a roof and stuff too.

We spend Father's Day weekend in the central valley with Todd's family and the kids. We have to buy them new clothes because their mother delivers them to us without underwear or socks. The few pieces of clothing they do have with them mostly belong to their young half-brother and sister and are much too small. Stone doesn't even have shoes. As in, he is not wearing any. Even though they met us after going to a movie and an ice cream parlor. Even though he has a hole in his foot from stepping on a fork. Apparently he left them somewhere and his been shoeless for several days. His feet are black. In one of the few times in my life am grateful for the existence of Wal-Mart, we stop to invest in shoes, bathing suits, socks, underwear, t-shirts, shorts, and lots of anti-bacterial wipes.

Much fun is had over the weekend. Not so much fun is had on Sunday when we have to give them back, wondering when we will see them again. Todd is legally entitled to several weekends over the course of the six-week summer visitation, but his ex-wife has no compunctions about using the children as pawns, and will therefore threaten to cancel every single weekend we try to plan for and will indeed cancel the next one, at the last minute. Since our only recourse is to show up with the police (i.e. traumatize the children), we let it go but decide take the kids back in mid-July shortly after the six weeks is over, rather than letting her have a longer extended visit as we'd planned.

July- We move into our new apartment in Modesto. The next few weeks are spent setting up house as much as possible with our combined possessions of... practically nothing. I have downsized over the last few years until everything I own fits into a small bedroom, and Todd's belongings are languishing in storage on the opposite coast courtesy of the Army and the Army's awesome organizational capabilities. They won't arrive until the end of August. However, we have a table, some beds, a laptop, and a netflix subscription; what more could anyone need, really? 

We pick the kids up and they are thrilled with the pool, the local wildlife, and the fact that they will be sleeping in my old loft. There is a lot of pool-going that takes place for the rest of the summer. In fact little else takes place, except for weekend adventures to visit the Fresno zoo and Playland with T's family, or to the bay area (Santa Cruz! Monterey! And more importantly, Dennis the Menace Playground!!). Much progress is made by the kids in the area of swimming.

A good time is had by all except for the times when Todd and I are figuring out that we're both stubborn as mules and too proud to apologize. But in between? Good times.

Progress is made by me in the area of Not Stomping Off After A Fight.

Progress is made in the area of Who's Job is it to Cook Dinner?

Progress is made in the area of Why You Wanna Throw Away All Of My Stuff, Woman?

Occasional regressions occur but are duly dealt with, usually by crying on the part of one party. One party cries a whole lot. Especially around certain times of the month. Patience is learned by the other party, eventually.

to be cont. because it was just getting too dang long...

Part three

Friday, October 1, 2010

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Reposted from a Facebook note since I accidentally deleted the original post and had to rewrite it

I fell in love and gained an instant family. Also I spent a month driving cross-country and moved to a different town. 

It's a long story, really, so I'll try to sum it up. That really means I'm going to make you read an eleventy-jillion word essay describing the past year of my life in minute detail. It's like the Christmas letter from HELL!!!

November/December 2009- The holidays are particularly sucky. I turned 35, broke up with the guy I was dating, and came to realize that taking antidepressants is actually quite vital to my well-being and going off of them was a really bad idea, all in the same weekend. It was like this. It takes time to get back up to a normal dosage of happy pills and in between I am NOT in a good place. Things are bad. I am at my sister Lib's house for Christmas. I am trying not to be miserable because, "Hey! it's Christmas!! And Family!! And niece and nephews!! I should be So! Happy!!"  but mostly failing

I get a message on Facebook from a stranger- Todd Valencia. He says he came across my blog and he says incredibly nice things about my writing. [I offer to remain his devoted servant for as long as he keeps giving me literary compliments, but only in my head.] He wonders if I write fiction and if I write anywhere else online. Stranger is kinda cute. I write back.  We send tentative messages back and forth. I tell no one, not even my sister because I'm secretly kind of ashamed at myself for hoping there's a chance this will turn out to be something. Because really, what are the odds? I have no idea what I am in for.

January- The messages get less tentative, and longer. We find we share a fantasy of making a living as writers one day. I begin to find minivans increasingly attractive. We start challenging each other to short story challenges and critiquing each other's work. 

Todd tells me about his divorce, his two children, what it's like being a single parent. We both admit to interest and bemoan the fact that there are so many solid and practical reasons why we could never become involved with each other, such as geographical distance (He's a Californian living on the east coast, I'm an east coaster living in California), The Army (current possessor of his soul and physical body, and bent on sending him to Afghanistan a few months hence), religion (I am a Christian, he is... not), age (he is eight years younger than I am and I have recently sworn off of dating younger men), and, confusingly, musical tastes..? (I will tease him until we die about the fact that he listed slightly differing musical tastes as a reason we could Never be Together).

February- Todd sends me flowers for Valentine's day. Conversation culminates in an anguished discussion where both parties acknowledge that strong feelings make a simple friendship impossible but I insist that I can't reconcile my devotion to God and a relationship with an unbeliever. I tell him we can never speak again. Oh. The Drama.

Three of the worst days in history later- God tells me [in a cloud of fiery splendor (not really)] that I'm doing the wrong thing. I argue that church people are very firm on the not-dating-non-Christians thing. He asks who I'm going to listen to. I tentatively decide on Him. Todd and I resume communications and he forgives me for "dumping" him on Valentines day with the stipulation that he will never ever let me forget it. We share our thoughts and feelings via incredibly long daily emails and frequent chats that last into the wee hours of the night (for me, in CA, and the late hours of the morning for him on the east coast). We are falling in love. We have never even spoken on the phone. 

March- The army decides that maybe they possibly will discharge him or not because of the custody situation with his children and his ex-wife which we will not go into here. I (kind of) jokingly volunteer to a marriage of convenience in which he goes off to war while I stay with the children. We both pretend this is not an option either of us would seriously consider. We both pretend it would just be really practical and convenient for everyone.

March- The army decides that "Yes, no, he can't not go" and Todd begins the great debate about what he is going to do now. Options are: taking advantage of GI bill and going back to school, or getting one of those job things doing the same thing he's doing for the Army as a contractor. We decide that the time is long overdue for us to meet in person and possibly date or maybe just elope to Vegas on first meeting. Todd decides to come back home to California for the summer while he figures things out, which, since his family and his children's mother live conveniently close to me, works out nicely with the aforementioned plan.

April- Todd finalizes plans for leaving North Carolina and driving to California at the end of April. We eagerly and nervously anticipate meeting in real life.

My grandmother becomes unexpectedly ill and I tearfully explain that I am flying to Rhode island to say goodbye. Todd insists without hesitation that he is willing to drive to Rhode Island, pick me up, meet my entire family, and drive back to California with me. I tell him he is crazy and does not know my family but am willing to be convinced. I wonder if I am insane, or if he is, or if both of us are, for thinking this could be a good idea.

Late April- My wonderful grandmother is laid to rest and mourned not solely by her six children and their various and assorted spouses, twenty grandchildren, and no less than twenty great grandchildren;  but also by many other friends and loved ones. I did not get a chance to tell her about Todd, but the fact that his daughter shares my Mimi's birthday, a day I was also born on, confirms my feeling that she is somehow looking out for us.

The next day, May 1st-  a minivan containing the love of my life, his two children, his brother, and two cats pull up in front of my parents' house as my mother feels the sudden and inexplicable need to wash the outside of the front windows. We exchange slightly awkward greetings in front of nosy family members. We go on a date while Uncle Ben babysits the children. I go back to my sister's house for the night, and that turns out to be the last night we spend apart until late July.

May, early- We vacation in Rhode Island, blissfully getting to know each other, while the kids and I = instant love, and they bond with my niece and nephews as if they're all already cousins.

May, rest of- We spend a leisurely three weeks driving cross country- two relative strangers who know each other very well, and two children who seem to accept this new family arrangement as if it's always been this way. We sightsee in DC, kidnap, er, compassionately relocate a chicken from North to South Carolina, dig for diamonds in Arkansas, gaze in awe at the Grand Canyon, and cavort in a very, very cold river in Sedona. We weather countless pit stops, disciplinary issues (I am not allowed to treat the six year old like a baby, no matter how cute he is and no matter how many times he flashes his dimples), poor driving skills (Todd's, totally Todd's) and wanting to kill each other for several brief periods of time. I find out that the house I've been renting for the last year is being sold, and I have to move out by the end of June.

June- We arrive in California, lives and relationship miraculously preserved against the odds. We decide that if we could weather three weeks in a car with two small children immediately after having met, we'll probably survive anything and promptly decide to move in together. 

To be continued...

Part two
Part three