Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I have a jig-saw puzzle in the middle of the living room floor. Every time I look at it I feel drawn to fill in more pieces, but I'm resisting that siren song right now. I know that if I start easily an hour or two will go by and I risk feeling I haven't accomplished much.

Haven't I though? There is the practical experience of persisting and finding order in chaos. There is the experience of looking for little distinguishing nuances within blandly similar regions, and finding that each gradation has an important contribution to the whole. There's the lesson of feeling overwhelmed, but noticing that little efforts over time reduce the mystery.

Is it worth a few hours with only a few pieces successfully placed? (For someone like me, who does tend to get overwhelmed quickly by details, this puzzle is really hard. Thank goodness it's only 500 pieces.)

It is one of four that I snagged from my neighbor's "Free Or Best Offer" pile out front of their place. Since Scott's learning and understanding remind me of a puzzle--more forest-y than trees--I thought it might be beneficial to him. Beneficial to him, beneficial to Us, since he's the kind of child where meaningful conversation usually slips out in tangent to some other activity. It wasn't long before I realized this puzzle was way beyond him, and by then I had enough investment in it that some stubborn pride has kept me going.

I'll be very cautious before opening any of the others.

I have a veritable box of puzzle pieces spilled around me, and I'm wondering if I'll be able to piece them together.

One of them is Scott. A few days ago I got a phone call from a mother whose child used to be in Scott's classroom at the first elementary school, before I pulled Scott out and took him to Trillium. This is another very active boy. His mother said that Skyline is not working for her child and she's exploring alternatives and so thought of me. Her son's teacher had raised the "M" word, medication, and she firmly said, "I am NOT putting my little boy on Ritalin."

This reminds me of how heated the debate can be over the use of medication to treat attention deficit and hyperactivity in children.

Still, the whole issue reminds me of a puzzle, and I feel overwhelmed. It makes sense to me that if our consciousness is mediated by biochemical processes in our bodies, that the deficiency of a certain molecule may create a gap in a crucial function, such as memory, or the ability to persist in attending over time. I'm not at all ideologically opposed to the use of medication in children, though I sure wish we were further along in refining our understanding so it's not such a blunt instrument. I took Scott's pediatrician's word for it, that ritalin has been subject to years of long-term studies, and that it's safe and effective. I started him on it just about a year ago when it was clear that he wasn't functioning well in the alternative school setting either.

Still, I feel nagged at having 'read the cliff notes' about the medication issue, and not piecing together my own puzzle from the ground up as to its risks and benefits. I'm overwhelmed at the prospects--just now I googled "ritalin use children" and found 1.3 million hits (and top of the list are "ritalin death" results).

I did see an improvement in his ability to attend. He seemed to have more of a solid core, a centralized Presence. He is definitely not a zombie, but he can tolerate periods of stillness longer. His reading has improved.

But with the beginning of school, I'm uncertain. I feel like I need to find another parameter to explore adhd and formulate effective responsiveness to it. I really liked Gabor Mate's book Scattered (Scattered Minds, in Canada), and need some kind of follow-up. I'm at the beginning of seeking another pediatrician, since I've felt this one is not responsive in a timely enough manner to my questions, and does not provide an atmosphere that invites the development of questions and discussion.

I just realize I'm temperamentally unsuited to raising a child with adhd. I tend to be agenda-driven, and have an expectation that when I apply pressure a child moves in that direction. Connor responds fairly compliantly to this--Scott just seems to spread out. If the boys are toothpaste, Connor oozes right out of the tube opening; Scott merely expands in all directions. This impacts everything from getting out of bed in the morning to getting to school to doing homework in the evening. I begin to feel like a drill sergeant, because I need to remind him at every step what the next one is. It's hard to not feel irritated, and outright angry with him. Last night it took a half an hour to read 5 pages from a book, because every word, every picture, reminded him of something else he wanted to talk about. But he was reading beautifully, and far more fluently than he would have a year ago.

It makes me wonder what factors there are to consider in adhd, in the ability to attend. Is there a kind of learning style that is linear, where one idea is foundation for the next, and so on, so that attention is the string of the chain that links the ideas together into learning. This certainly seems to be the style that most schools teach to, and the tests measure--what is going in...what comes out. The picture in the puzzle emerges because the pieces are given in a certain sequence and are adjacent to one another. Perhaps this is where medication has it's most value--to hold one's attention long enough to see the continuity between the pieces. Scott seems to take in and assemble understanding differently. He seems to link a couple of connections at random in one part of the puzzle, then another few in another part, and over time I see that something, some kind of pattern, is emerging. But in the day-to-day, it looks like he's not 'getting it'. Maybe this speaks to a whole different kind of learning style, and medication has much less return for this style. It holds his agitation level down some, and helps him be patience with stillness, but is it really giving bang for its buck in terms of helping him make connections?

I realize I feel really alone in my struggle to comprehend him and find ways to be more effective with him. I need more support, but I'm not sure what kind of support I'm looking for--so that complicates my efforts to find it.

I sympathize with his attention issues. I wonder if making sense of the world is like a big unwieldy puzzle for him too.

There are a lot of tricky issues that have taken a back seat, but they nag at me, and I feel paralyzed. Instead of one big puzzle box spilled all over my floor, there are four or five. The effort to inform myself seems so much. I'm troubled by the tea parties, and their message that Obama is taking our country in a totalitarian direction. My father sent an article from the Investor's Business Daily publication that he gets. Its basic premise is that Obama wants to set up a 'Democratic Dictatorship' (now how's that for an oxy-moron?). Death-panels, Smeath-panels--the Democrats want to hold power to make life-or-death decisions over all of us!

It's peculiar when the right wing wears the cloak of liberty, because it seems at heart they are loyal to a kind of authoritarian mindset. It seems this group was silent in the face of surveillance over Americans, mining our data, authorizing torture, using the material witness act in unprecedented ways to lock people up without recourse, sometimes for years. The only outcry this group gave was against those who revealed and questioned these practices.

Their assertions have a peculiar internal logic that I feel I can't quite just turn my back on. I'd like to follow them up, and see how much is based on fact, how much on distortion of fact. But I just don't have time.

A couple other issues I yearn to make sense of are: Iran's nuclear program: in just the past year I've learned that Iran had a weapons program, but suspended it years ago...Iran is years away from having a bomb; Iran could have a bomb within a year. Iran has a facility that was undeclared until last Monday. Proof of further deceptiveness, or well within the rules? Has Obama painted himself into a corner in his efforts to engage Iran? How about Afghanistan? Has he painted himself into a corner there? Which really does make sense--get serious about protecting the population from the insurgency--or give it back to the Taliban? Isn't that what got us into trouble years ago and culminated in 9/11?

The part of me that loves order wants to put the puzzles together. But I'm daunted by the prospect of where to start, what sources to use, and the spectre of hours going by while trying to find the pieces that match.


Shortly after publishing I was waiting for another program in my laptop to open and was staring at the photo of the puzzle on my blog page. I noticed a gap that had been bothering me, and I also noticed a piece lying right next to it that looked like it was a match. I'd stared at them for a long time yesterday. I got up, and sure enough, Bingo. That piece happened to be a watershed; at least 10 others easily found their homes. Of course, this was in the course of a half hour. I guess the lesson is I need to take a picture of a problem and post a blog about it, and it will "all fall into place".

Friday, September 18, 2009

Where things stand

On Tuesday this week my cousin, for her "Intuitive Tuesday" blog post, drew a card called "Clair-cognizance". Its lesson was to pay attention to the messages that come to us in life's synchronicities; the songs we hear, the billboards we read, what we tune into. One of her respondents described it thus: "Paying attention to my attention." I had written my last post the day before, and the juxtapositions seemed a model for just what Sheri was talking about. Here I had had a dream, a real-life experience, and the experience of a friend, all giving me messages about keeping up appearances. And all of this in a larger context of Sheri's readings about a "crisis" being over; about having the strength within to take the next steps.

I'm sitting here at the dojo this morning, alone and peaceful. I'll leave here in a little over an hour to pick up Scott from school. Fridays are half-days for him. This was his first week of school, and he's in a new classroom, with a new teacher. The classes are multi-grade at this school, and he 'graduated' from a kingergarten thru 2nd grade room to a third thru fifth. The older children look SO much older. They have the routine down solid--walk into the room. Check the whiteboard for their instructions on what to do before their adviser, Rob, comes. This is usually a 4-step process, and is an important part of self-orientation. Scott's reading has improved a great deal, but he's still not a functional reader--relating what's an abstraction, symbols, on a board, to himself. He looks pretty lost.

Yesterday he was pretty unhappy when I picked him up. His best buddy had not been there because that class had gone on a field trip. Scott's class had gone the day before, and so the novelty of the day had sustained him. Yesterday he was confronted with the reality of his now unfamiliar school environment, and his friend was gone. It's also an adjustment that he and this friend are now in different classrooms and this is by design.

I emailed his teacher, and got back a note that said that yesterday had been a stressful day in the classroom. He said the first weeks often were for the new grades integrating. Apparently other children were acting out their angst more overtly because Scott mentioned that one of his third grade classmates had been "screaming in the hall. And it hurt my ears."

I discovered accidentally that putting him on a swing, or tire swing and spinning him seems to be a winning coin in a slot machine. He talks. Tuesday night I allowed myself to be persuaded to drive with Gary and the boys to Connor's school playground to watch the sunset. I immediately got drafted into spinning Scott on the tire swing and I almost refused. I really wasn't in the mood, but this was when I discovered the connection. He started talking about "hearts," "maps" of hearts, how he'd put me, his father, the dog and cat (not Connor!) in one when he drew it.


excavator to Rob:
Subj: Hearts

Last night we went over to a local park. While Scott was on a tire swing he starting talking about hearts, and bridges between hearts, and love. I asked him what had made him think about this and he said, "I taught it at school, today." So it sounds like there was some sort of discussion along these lines? I'm just curious if he'd participated much in class. Because he was certainly running with it last night. He was pretty engaged with the whole concept.

Rob to ex:
Subj: Re: Hearts

Wow, that is really great. We have actually been doing some mediation in the morning and I did talk about the power of the heart and focusing on the heart. I don't remember talking about love, but perhaps that came up in other conversations. He (along with many of the other new kids) are just trying to get adjusted to the class and while he doesn't offer up much in the larger group, he does seem to be there with us. He is probably absorbing quite a bit. Tell me more about the conversation?
Rob to ex:
Subj: Re: Hearts

Oh, now I remember. We were talking about mapping our hearts. We drew pictures of our hearts and then filled them with the things we love or are passionate about. It was a way to start thinking about what kinds of things kids want to spend time doing.

Connor is well ensconced in his classroom at school. This is a small country-like school perched on a ridgetop that overlooks the coast range mountains--hence the appeal of going over to watch the sunset. (Their mascot is the Eagle.) Over the past 3 years they have been adding a middle school grade until last year when they graduated their first 8th grade class. So it is now officially a k-8. Connor's class with be the third 8th grade to graduate. 1997 must have been a prolific year, because from his 2nd grade on he has been part of a bulge moving through the school system. While the class immediately ahead of him is extremely small, about 16 kids, his is over 30 students. I'm dismayed, but he doesn't seem bothered at all. He says he likes it that way. It is a close-knit group, just one 7th grade class.

Gary helped a company with a project over the summer that involved a trip to Asia. It appears he has changed tactics in his search for work and instead of seeking traditional employment he's going to pursue hiring himself out as a private contractor. Over the years that he had his own business (when I met him) and then worked for the St. Louis companies and his most recent job, he developed a lot of contacts interfacing with the factories and suppliers. He's in a good position to represent these people to manufacturers, and I think he's going to mine this resource. This may work really well for him, because he has a low-key persona that people trust and like. It's like he's born with some of the personal characteristics that the salesperson gurus encourage would-be sellers to cultivate. This will also free him to work on projects that interest him and give him the independence he's missed. So if the economy improves, he should do well. Of course, it means a less reliable paycheck.

The garage is essentially done. What remains are the niggly leftovers that the builders don't seem too eager to come and complete. We also need to come up with some kind of shelving system so there's a place to put all the garage-things that continue to languish within the walls of the living spaces. Gary seems to have run out of steam on this too, but he's been working hard to prepare for his new venture. He has some plans for developing what was going to be the shed-like lower level storage area in the garage into office space.

Having him working from an office at home is a big change for me. It was less noticeable over the summer break because we were both working very hard on the house. If he's able to find an income we may later look back on this time as having been fortuitous that he was laid off when he was since it gave us the time to tend to that enormous task. Now that the boys are in school he's focused on the "chalice"--my writing time. He continues to be unaware of how I've structured the work of the home around the time that the boys are away so I have this time clear to write. He sees me in the chair with the computer and sees this as "all" I do. He doesn't see that the image of me in the chair is created by the effort I make outside of that chair, to create that shape and space. The house functions so well that its functioning disappears as the currency of "work". He doesn't see the details, and the mass of them, that is takes to create the blank background against which me-in-chair appears. He doesn't know when the boys' meetings at schools are, when medication needs to be refilled and how far in advance the doctor's office must be called in order for the prescription to be written in a timely way so that I can pick it up or have it mailed so I can get it to the pharmacy so it can be stocked and filled before our supply runs out. He doesn't know when Scott's glasses are broken and how to coordinate a trip to the optometrist with school pick-up because the glasses have to be adjusted to the size of his head...none of these things sound like much in and of itself, which is why I have a hard time when I attempt to justify that I am not 'just sitting around' on his dime. It's the mass of these details, and the intimate acquaintance with them, which is a part of the skill that I bring as contribution, and I am perfectly entitled to my writing time. I'm done with justifying my existence and instead go to the dojo when he is home. Then I don't have to shake off the feeling that every moment I am in the chair is confirming something to him.

The owners of the dojo have been kind enough to offer me work I can do in exchange for a monthly membership here. There are things I miss about writing in my own home, which I love, but this is an entirely acceptable substitute.

I had had a hope that he and I would not be going through another Christmas season as a (in name only) married couple. I don't think I'm going to meet that self-imposed deadline. Merry Thankoween time is not a good time to introduce divorce when there are kids in the equation. Other uncertainties have to do with Scott's adjustment to his new classroom at school and the fact that their after-care provider just resigned. If Gary is going to be operating from a home office there's the possibility that he can share in taking Scott to school and pick-up, but his job will probably entail travel. These are important details to work out, and clouded with uncertainty right now. I'd had a vision that the boys live full-time in the house, with Gary and I rotating from either some other place we share (buy a condo? rent an apartment?) or not. This could be complicated by his basing his office/business at our house. Even if the "office" is fairly isolated from the house, on days it's "my turn" to rotate, would I feel comfortable knowing he's there? There's still the possibility that we create a separate space somewhere within the premises themselves and so live 'separately' under the same roof, and avoid the expense of a 2nd (or 3rd) domicile. If I was employed, and with the use of the dojo, we could probably effectively separate ourselves even within the same house and life wouldn't look much different to the boys than it does now.

So far Gary refuses to engage any discussion about divorce, separation, and how we're going to cooperate to make this work in a way that's best for the boys. I think I'm going to have to pull this train by myself; if anything happens it will be through my efforts. The mystery is, will he come along quietly, or will it be hard.

If I was the memorial service for a friend of mine who used to be a coworker long ago I ran into another former coworker who says the company she works for needs help. I'm wary of this company because it's for-profit--responsible to share-holders. It's a national chain, but fairly new in this city. Therefore, it has not developed the critical mass it takes to become a well-functioning outfit and has a lot of growing pains. There is an on-call agency here that needs help, and I'm thinking that when I'm ready to seek employment that will probably be the direction I go.

Scott's school needs a lot of help. One criticism I've had of it is that it seems to attract a lot of free spirits, grasshopper types, and not a lot of Little Red Hens (who do the work of baking the bread, and have problems finding people'll help, but no problems finding someone to partake in the benefits). I can't criticize those who have benefited from the hard work of the small core of parents who are the ants, since in a way I've been among them. In the year and a half that I've had Scott there it seems that there are the same people over and over who run the fund raisers and do the very difficult day-to-day work to make this school function. It has a great vision, but not a very large base from which to accomplish it. It's a vicious cycle because people like me who see such huge need may also, like me, be turned off by the fear that when I approach to help I'll be sucked into this under-resourced whirlpool of need and be one of those few ants that everyone else lets do all the work. The teachers and administrators, and the parent workers, run entirely on altruism. Teachers are penalized for being there; since it's a charter school they don't get the same public-school funding the regular schools do. They are there for the vision of creating a democratic school, which produces self-directed, independent-thinking, responsible, and contributing people. And they want to do it by having a curriculum that is NOT one-size-fits-all, is humane, and respects the differences of each child.

It's weighing on me that it's becoming time to step up my contribution.

So I have all these pieces. I know I'm getting a divorce. I know Scott's school needs help, and probably Connor's too, for that matter. I'll probably need employment and there are some choices. The option for working for an on-call agency has some drawbacks, since I'd be going to various sites and having to learn their logistics over and over again. There's also the uncertainty as to whether or not they could keep me employed consistently enough to make a living. Still, it would be a good gradual re-entry, and I have some hopes for some work opening up in the future that I could give myself more fully to. A friend of mine I used to work with in home care works for them, and it sounds like good, heart-fulfilling work. I don't know how my employment, the possibility of travel with Gary, and two young children at two different schools will fit; I don't know how the dwelling situation will fit.

I do think it's very likely that I'll be hosting Christmas again this year, and going through one final act of living an outside that doesn't match my inside.

Nearly two years ago when I began to write this blog the variables and choices filled me with despair. I had no idea how to reconcile them, and they all seemed to be in conflict. It's odd how in a lot of ways that hasn't changed, but in other ways, it has. I feel happy, and optimistic for the future. And that doesn't seem to depend on knowing how this is all going to unfold. And, since I am entirely medication-free, I know there is no chemical source for this.

And, in terms of the message of Clair-cognizance, I would guess that means I'm on the right path.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dreams and musings

A week or so ago I dreamed that I was leaving Gary
and buying a house next door to a man who lived in our old neighborhood before we moved to our (now) pink house.
I'd had a short-lived crush on this married man with 3 boys a few years ago.

Last night I woke at 3 am
with a dream where I'm renewing my vows with Gary in some sort of hotel conference room. I'm in a dressing room immediately next door getting ready and Gary's mother is late. She finally arrives and is getting ready. We are polite but not warm. We've been waiting for her, but then I realize I don't have any stockings. I have the dress I was originally married in, a beautiful vintage gold dress my mother wore when she was pregnant with me, to an officer's wive's-club dance (it was not her wedding dress!), back in the mid 1950's. It's not full-length, but strikes me at mid-calf. I consider just going through the ceremony bare-legged, but I can't quite accept it. So I go to the little gift store next to the dressing room (glancing into the conference room and seeing that people have gathered and are sitting uncomfortably in the chairs. I remember the service was supposed to be at 12:30 and it's nearly 4:00, oh holy shit now it's me keeping them waiting. I'm sure there'd be nylons in the gift store, or maybe some leg make-up. I'm not finding any stockings though I do find a curious plastic envelope with something that looks like it could be stockings and some of those peculiar faux-beaded ballerina-type slippers that often go with elderly-lady robe-and-nightgown ensembles. I realize I don't have my shoes, either and so I should buy this. I ask the clerk to pull the flesh-toned stockings out just to be sure they're full-length, and it turns out they are only about shin-high. The clerk asks me if I've looked "upstairs" (is this a hotel, or a hospital?). She doesn't know if they'd carry stockings up there either.

I've had enough time to muse that the re-vowing is a mistake anyway. There's no life to it, we're just going through the motions. I really don't want to do it. It's hardly worth these machinations I'm going through of considering the various dilemmas: go upstairs in case there are stockings in that shop? But keep people waiting potentially even longer? What if I can't find that store? I'd be wasting even more time and not gaining anything. But I still can't see my going through the ceremony barelegged. Should I call the whole thing off? But these people have been waiting so long.

I wake with this dilemma and realize my dream self had not considered it a viable option to cancel. The ceremony was on a par with one of the everyday 'necessary' shams such as, "Fine, how are you?" or "I like that haircut." It was just easier to get through it, classic go-along-to-get-along.

The day that preceded this dream saw me joining two friends, Toni and Marti for breakfast. Toni is recently divorced after 23 or so years of marriage to her college sweetheart and 12 years of burning for the man who is now her boyfriend. I haven't met him, but she describes him as a man that women gravitate toward. This is a source of major anxiety for her. She's a woman who has always been envied in our group as having a perfect figure (petite height, but blessed with long, muscular legs, and, as Marti once said, "Not one speck of mis-placed fat!"). She's bearable because she herself doesn't see how gorgeous she is. Still, she's over 50, and there are many beautiful women in the world, many younger, and they all seem to find their way to her new love. So she's always in fear of losing him. We'd been deep in conversation about some serious issues Marti's been having with her husband, and her son from her first marriage when we'd arrived at the restaurant. I'd jumped out to secure us a place on the long waiting list and when I caught up with them again the conversation had switched to Toni's fears about losing Richard. That's essentially where the conversation stayed for the rest of the morning.

She no longer, at least, wears make-up to bed. But the other night she realized she'd left her curling iron at the office where she works; 9:00 at night and she decided she had to go and get it so that when the morning came she'd be able to plump up her wispy bangs before he'd see her. The office is at least a half hour away and across a toll bridge. Of course she couldn't tell him the reason for this excursion and he wasn't buying her attempts to distract him. He finally asked if she had a boyfriend there. She gave up then and didn't go. I told her I hoped she'd left him with a shadow of a doubt about whether she did.

Richard has a sister, who is married, to a man who is an education snob. It is very important to him that he went to a prestigious school, as did his wife, and Richard, and Richard's ex-girlfriend. Toni went to an "acceptable" school, for a year.

I realize I've known this woman for nearly 30 years now and I don't know what path her higher education has taken. I knew she'd met her (ex) husband in Bozeman, so I assume that she went to Montana State, since her home town's not far from there. I had no idea how long she was there, or how she'd ended up roommates in Spokane with Marti and what school they'd gone to. We'd all been out of college several years when I met them. (And we all came to Portland in the same year, late 1979 or 1980, through separate paths. It was only by coincidence that they'd met again; I'd met them through a boyfriend that was friends with them.) I do know that she graduated at the top of her class in the local community college's dental hygiene program.

But apparently this won't pass muster for Mr. BIL, who probed her credentials early on. When he heard she'd been to school in Montana he assumed that was her alma mater, and she allowed him to believe it, without baldly lying.

So she was going to be joining Richard and family at a concert in the Columbia Gorge and heard from a friend of hers she'd graduated with from the local hygienist program. Pat was going to be at the same concert, and was thrilled they'd see each other. Toni was terror-struck. Her true educational well-spring might be revealed!

I can't remember how our conversation led into this story. She may have been telling me this by way of filling in a background for some other story. I listened in disbelief as she related that she'd called Pat to tell her about Mr. BIL and to ask her to please not reveal that they had gone to the local community college together. She said, "And Pat said, 'oh Toni, that's ridiculous! You shouldn't care what that guy thinks!' " And then when they did run into each other at the concert, and Mr. BIL had asked how they knew each other, Pat had said, " 'Oh, at school' ", almost as if to emphasize it!" Toni was angry with Pat.

I can't help it; my head kind of lights up with the implications of stories like this. I was imagining that it must have felt almost like an affront to Pat; if Toni is attempting to deny her/their education as if it's something to be ashamed of, then to ask her to cooperate in its denial...well, that is a bit of a tall order. And by god, that did seem to be what Toni was asking her to do. And if Mr. BIL is this kind of education snob, my bet is that he can smell an evasion and will be hot on its trail.

So it was because I was startled and not thinking straight that I kind of burst out with, "Why don't you just disarm this weapon with the truth? Just brazen it through: 'I graduated from a community college ' ?"

"Well, he won't respect me. And I can't stand it if he doesn't respect me."

"But...then his respect for you is based on something you're not."

"Yeah. That's just what Pat said." She's shifting around in her seat now, looking in the glove box, shuffling through her purse. I can tell that Pat must have been critical, and this must have hurt her. "I can't stand it if he doesn't respect me."

"But...what's the worst that can happen if he doesn't respect you?"

"I can't stand it. I don't respect myself, and so I can't stand it if he won't respect me either."

"But..." I didn't know how to put into words the realization that she was assisting him in judging her. That she was believing herself that she was so repugnant that risking a quasi-lie and having it exposed was more acceptable then just telling the truth. "But... then you always have to live in fear."

Well, that's how I live my life, I guess." Defensive. This may have been as close to angry with me as I've ever seen her.

It's odd to me that it's easier for her to tell this truth about herself to me; that it is more important to her to maintain a false pretense and risk being called out as a fraud than to stand by a simple fact about herself. If she could say, "I went to a community college and what of it" to him in the same tone that she just said to me, "I'd rather live my life in fear because I don't respect myself--and what of it" this torment would be done.

I would have found it much more difficult to say that I didn't respect myself.

I said, "Well, I respect you. I think you're an admirable person, and a true friend with good character."

It ended there, but I was troubled for much of the rest of the day.

I was troubled that it may have seemed to her that not only was she feeling afraid, but I was telling her she was flawed for feeling afraid. It sounds like she feels flawed anyway, and I certainly didn't want to add to that. I wrote her an email to tell her that I understand that she's afraid and that I respect that she's making the best choices she can make.

When I slept on it I had the dream about renewing wedding vows. And I see some parallels. In the dream I too was going through a lot of gymnastics on behalf of the sensibilities of others. Not-going through with the ceremony seemed on a par with detailing various ailments instead of simply saying "fine" when someone asks how I am. It's allowing a fiction to continue unchallenged.

We're heading in to a holiday season again. I'd hoped to not go through another one under the pretense of us as a married couple. Parents are coming to visit under our roof. I'm not trying to promote us as a perfect couple, or even as happy. For my parents and his, status quo is more than plenty.

When I told Sharon the dream about buying the house next to the man I'd once had a crush on but had reconciled myself to the boundary that married men are entirely off limits and was glad when it had burned out--she said, "It's like there's something in you that can't quite let yourself see yourself in a different pattern yet. Even though you leave a bad pattern (marriage) in your dream, there's still a way it's perpetuated by moving next to someone unattainable. How's that for torture?"

Similarly, in my dream last night I'm about to go through with a status-quo preserving ceremony that's merely wearying everyone.

And too, I look at yesterday. I went for a later-than-I-wanted-to breakfast at a place that was farther away than I wanted to go, which was far more expensive than I wanted to spend, and took more time than I wanted to devote. Each step that I conceded made it more difficult to not concede to the next one. And this is a parallel with what my friend Toni must be facing. I wasn't trying to impress my friends that we were financially better than we are; I suppose I would have liked it if they'd been sensitive to it without me having to overtly call it out. Each stage where I didn't object added more momentum and made the next objection harder. I didn't fear they wouldn't respect me, but I did fear the discomfort of that period where several people want different things, and aren't sure how to stay present to negotiate it.

I guess my dreams, and life's synchronicities are telling me I'd better not cancel my therapy sessions yet.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

First you got the 'tah'

...and I really want to follow with the "dah", but I'm blocked at every turn. Hopefully the day won't escalate beyond these minor

...I just opened the laptop and reflect a bit on the irony of reading the above in the emergency room at St. Vincent's Hospital. It's about 2 hours after I wrote that.

At the time the nuisances I was coping with were:

Gary left with Scott to take the new light rail line down to Clackamas. It had seemed that Connor wanted to go, but then he opted to wait for a phone call and the possibility of an overnight guest.

Sigh. I wanted him to go...I have a bit of a cold and some quiet time was appealing.

Later yet: 9:03 pm

Yish. What a day. Trying to not dwell on what could have been...

OK. Connor decided to stay home. While dealing with that I decided to download the pictures from the Canon in order to get the latest taken of the house where the trim in front has been completed. That was to be the "dah!" Gary told me I could remove the data card from the camera, plug it in to his laptop, download it, and email the picture to my laptop. This was a better alternative than directly plugging the camera into my laptop because Gary has 380 pictures in it from his last trip to Asia that my i-photo program has to churn through, even though I've instructed it to not import them. It's time consuming and so cumbersome it's hardly worth going thru just to obtain 2 or 3 pictures of the finished house.

I go in the office. I remove the data card; find the slot in Gary's laptop, turn it on. Up comes Gary's 2 accounts, one for personal, one business. It wants a password.

Why did Gary tell me to do this if it was password protected and he didn't give me the password?

I stare at the clue, trying to think like Gary. What could the hint postn be referring to? All I can think is post-9/11. I pick up the phone and call him. He didn't take the cell; I hear it ringing in the other room. I sigh and turn off his computer. I pick up the camera to replace the card and see the battery is absent. I look for the battery charger and see the battery and the indicator light on it is amber. Sigh.

So I decide to go try to pull the data off an old mac desktop we have had since 1999. Some of my earlier journals from St. Louis are in it as well as a bunch of pictures I scanned in. Lots of emails. Gary keeps wanting to get rid of it and I want to get the good stuff first. I can't seem to find a disk that it will read and allow me to transfer; I decide to try a thumb drive.

The tower and an enormous monitor are crammed into the boys' closet downstairs. I pull them out and reinvent the wheel on how to connect them. Then I stare...there is no obvious "on" button. I run my hands over the tower, the keyboard. I feel like a chimpanzee as I turn the tower from side to side; lay it down and look at the bottom. What's worse is that I know there's a way to turn it on because I went through all this before stumbling upon the secret the last time I tried to retrieve data. I give up and go to look for the manual. I look in the TV room which was once a rough workshop before we partially finished it (and before we ran out of money) when we moved in 4 years ago. The shelves are blocked by all the heavy table saws and other garage stuff that have been sitting there since we cleaned out the shed in preparation of moving it before starting digging the foundation for the garage. I see a keyboard and wonder if that's the key to turning the thing on. I can't reach it, and I can't get close enough to climb up because of all the junk.

I've been thwarted so far at every damn turn.

It takes a tricky maneuver to secure the keyboard, but I finally have it. I take it into the bedroom and plug it in, but still have no clue how to turn it on. I'd really hoped to not have to look for the manual again. It seemed I'd seen it everywhere, stumbled over it, until I actually needed it.

I'm ready to give up. I take one last look at the back of the tower and push something that looks like a screw hole up by the cable that connects it with the monitor. The Mac-tone rings. OK; I got it on; I watch expectantly. What comes up is the crude image of a disk with a question mark blinking in the middle.

This time I do give up and go into the laundry. The catbox has been used, obviously many times. I'm already aggravated with Connor who had picked up the phone when it rang earlier, expecting his friend. Instead it was for me, and he thrust it at me when my mouth was full. I said, "find out who it is and tell them I'll call them back". Instead he pushed it in my face. Now I was seriously irritated and again told him, in full hearing of whoever it was on the other end to QUIT and find out who it was and tell them I'd call back. He spoke into the phone, and then hung up without finding out who it was.

One of Connor's jobs is to clean the catbox. I asked him to do so and he said OK. Then nothing happened.

I was so wishing he'd gone with his dad.

I went upstairs to take him to task and found him lying on my bed. He said he'd fallen on his skateboard and hit his portable rail with his back and banged his elbow again.

His elbow.

A few days before Labor Day he went with a buddy to an indoor skatepark. In his zeal to ollie the '7 steps' he flung himself down them again and again, falling and banging his elbow in the process. That night he had an enormous swelling, and the next day we took him to his pediatrician. X-ray revealed no broken bones and the most likely diagnosis was a bursitis. The prescription was to rest.

Then the asphalt paving went in and the concrete floor of the new garage was cured enough to use. Skateboard heaven. The buddy he'd hoped to have over tonight was to help him try it out.

He couldn't resist getting a little foretaste while waiting for the call.

So, as I was talking to him in bed the phone rang and it was my friend calling back from earlier. She's from Idaho, and working an on-call physical therapy position at the coast, but was in town and wanted to know if it was ok to come up.

She'd probably been here about 45 minutes when the phone rang again. I was deep into a story for Cheri that I can't even remember because Connor interrupted me. When I sternly told him I was talking he asserted himself, insisted this was a justified interruption. One of his friends was on the phone and he and his dad's car had either been towed or stolen from a soccer game and could I come and get them. I excused myself and got on the phone and talked with the dad.

They were at the Delta Park soccer field, probably about 20 or 30 min away. He was supposed to be at a wedding, that very minute, and everyone he'd tried to call was at that wedding. I ascertained where in the park they were and asked where they needed to go. He said his mother's house in Tigard. I gulped...that was a REALLY long way. I excused myself for a minute because Connor was complaining about his arm, and when I got back on the phone I suggested just taking him either to his house or to his ex-wife's. Then I got off the phone with him and went to say goodbye to Cheri.

We said our goodbyes and uneasily I heard the phone ring a few more times inside. I went in and Connor was grimacing and saying his arm really hurt. I was startled when I saw how much the swelling/deformity and discoloration had increased. He was asking me for codeine. The phone rang. It was his friends' dad, saying I didn't need to come after all because he'd gotten hold of his ex-wife who was on her way. So that freed me to take Connor to the ER.

So far the best thing that had happened this day, besides a good cup of coffee, was the satisfaction of Cheri telling me how much she liked the color of the house when the next door neighbor was in earshot, having gotten her mail.

The next best thing was that his arm still wasn't broken, or dislocated, as the swelling had led me to fear. It seemed unlikely it was dislocated, given his description of how he'd hit it, but I'd feared a painful procedure for him. Instead, he raved over the "hospitable" time he'd had: cocooned in a hospital bed once we got a room inside the ER, complete with full cable TV and getting wheeled in it into x-ray. We left with strict instructions for NO SKATEBOARDING for 4-6 weeks, and injunctions to rest it.

It was a very busy ER and we moved through relatively smoothly. Still, it took about 3 hours from walk-in to walk-out.

What a day.

Here is the "dah" *

*Except for the fact that on the east side of the house the painting under the eaves is yet to do. The ground falls away steeply there, so the ladder set-up is crucial and tricky. We've done the painting ourselves, but I'm not averse to letting some fearless college kid do it. Otherwise I fear it may be years before this job is technically "done".

**Objects are still redder than they appear.

***Driveway is steeper than it appears, but considerably flattened out. It had been gravel, the kind that people consistently dug ruts into as they'd spin their wheels trying to climb out.

Friday, September 4, 2009

How to piss off your neighbor

Remember this?

Which morphed into this?

Then this?

And that's when the fun began.

email: 8/20/09 21:20

It looks like you are experimenting with color on your house. Thought I would let you know we have large sized paint chips over here and I do a lot of color consulting work. I am happy to loan you our architectural paint books. L

L is an interior decorator. She is our next door neighbor. In the 4 years we've lived here we've learned that she is a person of great vision and ideas. Periodically she'll enlist the cooperation of the neighborhood, but she doesn't have the engine to see her projects through. She's a nice enough person and we've gotten along reasonably well. However, I've had a feeling of unease about her, because it often seems she has an agenda when she has approached us. Last year she said she and her partner were planning on some landscaping plants between our property line. She invited us to have some input in her choices and coordinate with some plants on our side. She said she could get us a nursery deal. It seemed like it could be a good idea, but, already acquainted with how she operates, and unsure of where our priorities would be in the fall, we merely affirmed it might be a possibility and figured it would blow over like most of her projects.

A few weeks ago she lent me some landscaping books with her choices highlighted and again invited input. Ominously, she sent an email implying that Gary had made an agreement with her about an overgrown lilac shrub we'd had to remove on our side of the line to make way for our garage construction. She seemed to be under the impression that there was an "understanding" about some sort of compensation to her for this. She seemed to be asserting this entitlement.

So, 2 weeks ago Gary and I stood up on the street level looking down at the house. He was in full buyer remorse mode and I was trying to talk him down a bit. "I didn't realize how pink it is" he said. "It's not pink! It's a warm color. You're having buyer's remorse, particularly because this is a flat grey light" (it was a cloudy day). Don't base a decision on what you're feeling right now! Wait and see how it looks to you at other times during the day, in other light. Haven't you ever been to the store and tried something on and loved it, but then hated it when you got home?" (Grumpily): "That's never happened to me!" In the midst of this our neighbor across the street, Mike, pulled over in his car to talk to us. "This looks great!" he said. "We're having some buyer's remorse" I explained. "Did she come over here?" (He meant L.) "No". Mike drove off. A moment later, from the mailbox, I heard her voice: "Did you guys get my email?" "No, I haven't checked this morning". "Well, would you like some paint chips?" Gary spoke before I could answer: "We have a million paint chips already."

E mail August 25 15:11
Subj: Hi, L
I've been kind of looking for you so I could talk to you if I saw you, but in the meantime just wanted to thank you for stopping by the other day with your paint samples. I know it took some courage to indicate that you thought our color choices might be something we regretted, and I appreciate the spirit you offered your help in. We were feeling a little uncertain when the full gray light of day revealed what we'd committed ourselves to and were in a bit of a quandary. We weren't in any position to change though because we'd already ordered the paint. But as we worked with it and looked at it we also decided we like it--which I guess is a good thing since we were already committed. Anyway, I hope you don't have any hard feelings toward us that we didn't take your advice. I realize you have to live with the color next door to you out your kitchen and living area windows. By kind of a neat coincidence one of the colors you suggested is an accent color we'd already chosen. That's interesting... Anyway, thanks again. D

Aug 25, 2009 2120
Subj: Re: Hi L
Thanks for your email. Yes it was difficult to come + speak with you
but I was spurred on by the fear of what
I now look at every day.

In the interest of making both of our households comfortable, I would
appreciate it if you and Gary would select
+ pay for some year round greenery that will buffer the view between
our lot and yours as well as soften the side
of your house as has been previously discussed and agreed upon.

Replanting with more visually pleasing buffers was the condition under
which I agreed to losing half of the lilac bush
as well as the fruit tree which, is a wreck and needs to be removed.
However, your new house paint color now
warrants a greater effort than replacement of a one tree and one shrub.

You have every right to have a pink house but please consider that we
moved to Skyline Boulevard for the
quiet pastoral quality of life and to us now it feels like we have
been transported to a red light district. I suspect that
Melinda + Nolan are not too thrilled either but there is a sizable
amount of greenery between your two lots.

If the planting effort falls completely upon P and I, we are going
to be pretty upset.

Aug 26 1328
Subj: draft to L #4 Common area plantings
(message accidentally was my 4th draft, and fortunately the one that I felt best reflected what I wanted to say. I'd sent it to Gary for input and somehow it had been copied to L. Also fortunately, I was polite)

Hey, L, I've been meaning to talk with you about your plans for planting the common areas between our yards.

I think I may have given you an impression that we were on board as partners in developing this space. I should have been more clear in letting you know that I had a feeling that you and P might be a lot closer to the action stage then we are, since we've been preoccupied with our own project. I wish I'd told you sooner that I didn't think this was a good time for us, and since you and P seemed ready to proceed maybe you should just go ahead without our input. I'm fine with just about anything you put on your property.

As I said, right now we're consumed with our own priorities, and with Gary out of work and our budget tight, we're just not in a position to do landscaping as well. I'm sure whatever you guys put on your property will be fine with us.

In the interest of making both of our households comfortable, I would > appreciate it if you and Gary would select > + pay for some year round greenery that will buffer the view between > our lot and yours as well as soften the side > of your house as has been previously discussed and agreed upon. > > Replanting with more visually pleasing buffers was the condition under > which I agreed to losing half of the lilac bush > as well as the fruit tree which, is a wreck and needs to be removed. > However, your new house paint color now > warrants a greater effort than replacement of a one tree and one shrub.

I'm afraid there might have been a misunderstanding about any agreements we may have made? Since the lilac, or at least half of it, was on our property, I wouldn't think we owe you any compensation for removing the half that's on our property. I don't recall that we made any agreements about that, as you've mentioned in your last few messages. I'm sorry it changed your feeling of privacy, but you're actually more screened from our view now than before. Respectfully, I have to say that we don't owe you your privacy, at least insofar as to what we do with the plantings on our side. Similarly, when Melinda and Nolan removed plantings from their side that removed some screening, we didn't feel they owed it to us to compensate us or pay for other plantings. It would have been different had they removed things on our side, but what they did on their property was their business. If we don't like it we are free to plant screens or put up a fence or whatever, but we wouldn't expect them to pay for it.

However, if the apple tree is on your side of the property line and our project damaged it, then it would be reasonable for us to compensate you for that.

I just don't recall that Gary and I made any agreements with you regarding plants we needed to remove, or screenings for the new structure.

I'm sorry you don't like the color we've chosen. I guess one person's "Bordello pink" is another's "warm, muted, attractive". We've gotten very positive feedback from Boyd, and from Mike. Had Melinda and Nolan chosen a color that I hated, I wouldn't feel that the burden was on them to come up with the expense to change it or screen it to please me...I'd figure it was up to me to make changes on my side to help me live with it.

Since I got your messages I've been asking myself questions about what is reasonable to expect of neighbors and what they do with their property. Is the color of the side of a building your house looks upon the equivalent of the noise level at one house? I'm not sure where the line of reasonable is. I know I'd be talking to you if you had a dog that barked incessantly, or if you guys had loud parties that went late into the the color of a house equivalent to that?

Aug 26, 2009 1640
Subj: Re: Draft to L #4 Common area plantings

D: I will be having a surveyor out to identify the property line markers. Once I know this, we can determine whose property the fruit tree and lilac bush are on. There have been two or three conversations about planting - one before the removal of the fruit tree and lilac bush with Gary. Had we known that the outcome would be that we were on our own with replanting, we would not have agreed to removal of any greenery. Please return our landscaping books when you can. I will let you know what the surveyors have to say. L

Here's the cause of the fuss:

Please be gentle with me

Really, objects in this picture aren't as pink as they appear. It really is more red. It is, it is...