Monthly Archives: May 2014

That Voice You Heard…It was Mine

In somewhat of a rush, I opened the door and immediately spotted him. Neatly dressed in neutral business attire and carrying a clipboard, he advanced rapidly, a carbon copy of so many uninvited doorbell ringers. His heart must have skipped a beat – I was outside and he was at the end of my driveway. No waiting to see if someone would answer, no door to be slammed in his face. To him, I was potential. A potential sale? Potential convert? Who knows? I was the mark he was waiting for, practically delivered up on a silver platter.

I locked the door and turned to see his first step onto my driveway. He was coming and I needed to make a decision. Whatever he was selling is out of my reach financially and that’s assuming I even wanted or needed it. Not to mention, I was already in a rush so being a wimp and allowing his pitch was not going to happen.

Before his second step onto the driveway, I looked up, smiled, and said, “Nope,” in the most assertive, yet friendly manner I could.

He smiled back, “Nope?” and nodded.

I nodded back and said, “Thank you,” as he proceeded to my neighbor’s.

Once upon a time, I would have been afraid of hurting his feelings or just too damned weak to say I wasn’t interested. That didn’t happen today. I was firm and assertive, while still nice.

I’ve spent my life eager to be kind and fair toward others. I’m drawn to being a nice person. Self-sacrifice for another’s benefit is as deeply ingrained in my psyche as my physical heart is ingrained in my body. Unfortunately, these traits played a significant role in allowing my husband (and others, sadly) to take advantage of and hurt me for so many years. I struggled with coming to terms with that. Would asserting myself or choosing my needs over someone else’s desires make me into a person who was unkind, unfair, or, gasp, not nice?

Today, I proved to myself that it wouldn’t. I am still nice, even without giving something up.

What’s more is that the guilt pangs I keep feeling serve to remind me that I did not lose myself during the divorce and there remains a long distance to travel on my survivor’s journey.

Couponing Like a Pro…Not

I’d like to say that this post touches on the broke part of my theme, but it really illustrates it.

It’s the end of the school year and one of the kids needed about $75 worth of materials for big projects. It’s also the end of the month and not one of the months that left anything for extras. This is a recipe for difficult choices. My child needs these materials, but the only money we have was already slated for not quite enough food.

There are options, of course. Go drop the $75 and figure food out later. Borrow the money. Ask for the materials. I didn’t really find any of these options palatable.

The first thing I did was go coupon hunting. Most of these items were coming from a specific store which happens to post online coupons and mail print copies to regular customers. I combined both and went hunting. It took two trips (so that I could take advantage of online coupons twice), but I managed to get everything for under $40.

I still had to spend food money on these materials, but a $40 hit is easier to absorb than a $75 hit any day. I’ll just stretch what I do have a little farther and try to be a little more creative. It will work out.

Why I Don’t Hate Weeds

I like to maintain a fairly neat lawn and I work on balancing my gardening style with aesthetics. Okay, I want to maintain a fairly neat lawn and balance my gardening style with aesthetics. It does not seem to be happening so far this year. Despite that, I want to come out in defense of a few maligned plants, aka weeds. My truth is:

They (Usually) Aren’t Hurting Anyone

Okay, so I do chop and pull anything that can cause pain or discomfort. I’m looking at you, Burdock and Thistle! However, most weeds are just sitting there, chilling. They can’t really be accused of harming the soil or lawn. They’re just there, doing their own thing, right alongside your grass.

They Tell You What’s up with Your Lawn

Clover, dandelion and plantains everywhere? You may just have some really compacted soil. You could also be running low in available nitrogen and calcium while holding onto plenty of potassium. Knotweed is alerting you to acidic soil (Hello, blueberry lovers!) and ground ivy wants you to know that things just aren’t draining very well.

They Can Help Repair Soil Problems

Clover doesn’t just tell you that your soil may be deficient in nitrogen, it actually sucks nitrogen out of thin air and deposits it into the soil when the plant decomposes. So you can mow and leave adequate slow release fertilizer behind without cost or any of those pesky runoff issues. Dandelions may tell you that your soil is lacking in available calcium, but they are masters at getting it. A single serving of dandelion leaves contains 10% of your daily calcium requirement. You don’t have to eat them if you don’t want to, though. Yank them out (their roots have already wiggled their way deep, breaking up compacted soil) and compost them.  Wanna do some lazy vegetable gardening? Skip the composting and mulch your tomatoes with freshly clipped dandelion leaves.

Biodiversity Isn’t Just a Farm Thing

Nearly everyone knows about the dangers of monocropping in large farms. Consider this on a smaller scale. Clover feeds grass as it decomposes, effectively eliminating the need for chemical fertilizer. It also attracts bees, who get to work pollinating food crops and producing honey. Wild mustard attracts ladybugs which devour plant killing aphids and serve as food for dragonflies and birds.

All in all, weeds are just plants. Dandelion arrived in North America thanks to European settlers who cultivated it for consumption and is making a comeback in salads, jellies and artisan wine. Purslane was once an American staple. Amaranth was a staple crop for the Aztecs. It seems that one generation’s weed is another’s food. With climate change looming on the horizon, some of today’s hardier “weeds” might just be tomorrow’s staples.

How I Became an Unwife

So, WordPress has this really cool Daily Prompt feature and today’s prompt just happens to tie into one of the central ideas behind this blog’s name.

Once upon a time, I was a suburban wife. If you asked any of “our” friends, I had it all. Kids, husband, home ownership, middle class income, the freedom to be a stay-at-home-mom. “Our” friends would have told you this because that was the image we projected. To “our” friends, his version of my life was the only perspective they had. It was the only one that mattered.

Becoming a stay-at-home-mom was his idea when it happened. That’s not to say that I hadn’t considered it or wanted it previously, especially when I was stressed out by trying to balance family and work, it was just that I had never pursued it and never would have on my own. Then, it happened. I was staring down one of those situations that we in the sandwich generation tend to face. Work sucked. I was trying to manage parenthood, a parental emergency, a shitty job, and the expectations of a husband who was always there to tell me which ball I was dropping. When he suggested that I stay home for a while until I could get everything else into balance, I saw it as an opportunity. A chance to catch my breath and get my life back together. I left my career and my connection to the outside world.

Over time, he systemically eliminated my friends and my family from my life. His friends became “our” friends. His family was “our” family. I didn’t need the others. They weren’t really good for me. Slowly, I became an extension of him. I stopped being me and became his wife. Nothing of my own. Nothing on my own. I was his wife. Nothing more. What more could I want to be anyway? I was his wife and the mother of his children. 

As the years passed, most of me faded into oblivion. I learned to anticipate his moods – and to take corrective measures to prevent the consequences of those moods. I learned that it was my fault if we made it to the consequence stage. I learned to recognize when he was going to refuse to listen to anything I said. I learned to not stop talking anyway. There were consequences if he realized that I had stopped talking because he was ignoring me. It was my fault anyway, if I had anything to say that was worthy of his attention, he would have been paying some. And now I was making him look bad.

I lost my voice. I talked about what he wanted to talk about and said the things he wanted to hear. Sometimes, I’d forget and express my own thoughts. Sometimes, I might even get away with it. Other times, there were consequences that snapped me back into line. Words came out of my mouth, but I was just a vessel. It was not my voice you heard.

We ended up in marital counseling. It was grueling. The counselor kept trying to force me to speak unscripted, either unaware of or without regard to the consequences. He would be “supportive” when we were in the office. Please speak up. Please don’t hide your true self from me. That’s what’s wrong with our marriage. You won’t talk to me. Then we would leave and I would be alone with him. The supportive husband I had just met in the safe room disappeared and the domineering husband I had known for years returned. And he was angry.

And he stayed angry.

And the counselor wanted me to find my voice. To speak up for myself.

And he got angrier.

Unsurprisingly, we divorced. I uncoupled. I separated myself from him. I am no longer an extension of him; I am my own. For his part, well, things are a little weird. He hasn’t let me go. I mean, he hates me, he hates my fucking guts, but he still can’t let me go. And he still can’t let me be heard. He has told all of “our” friends what a monster I am. Since the divorce, he has had a series of failed relationships. Some with women the exact opposite of me. Those don’t tend to last very long. The ones that drag out seem to be with women who are like me, only “better.” Women who are silent not just out of fear, but out of fear, belief in rigid gender roles, and religious adherence to female submission. Women who are the me he wanted me to be, physically, mentally. psychically. Women who are not going to leave no matter what he does.

In the years that I’ve been on my own, my voice and I have reconnected. We’ve gotten to know each other again. It’s still not natural for me to speak up or speak out, but I make the effort now. Even when I’m afraid. I’ve spent a lot of years afraid; it’s not easy to unlearn. But I make the effort. Sometimes I stand there while the injustice of a situation eats at me and a person tries to intimidate me. And I think about what I am accepting by remaining silent. Then I choose to speak up. I make the choice to stand up for myself. It’s not easy and sometimes it feels like it takes an eternity, but I do it. And I survive each and every time.

I survived years of his abuse. I survived his vindictiveness. I survived his cruelty. I survived his hatred. I survived his love.

I survived the first time I broke the silence. And I will survive it over and over again until I can speak freely. I’m the only one stopping me right now.

“Aww crud. I always thought by this point in my life I’d be the one making the prank calls.” ~ Phillip J. Fry

New blog, first post, yay!

I guess I should give a quick intro for anyone stumbling into this little piece of cyberspace:

I’m a mom in my 30s.
I can pass for my 20s.
Most of my friends are in their 40s.
My body likes to act like its in its (my) 50s.
Sometimes, I swear I think like I’m in my 80s.

I try to be a good person and put good out into the world. I’m no Mother Theresa, I have far too many flaws and enjoy swearing way too fucking much for that. On the other hand, I have seen a lot of ugly and bad in the world and I feel like I need to do something to balance it out. You know, like volunteering at a soup kitchen after watching a Quentin Tarantino flick. Or participating in an anti-gun violence campaign between roles in his films. Something like that.

Hopefully, this blog will put some of that good out into the world.