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About this blog

This is Bree's journal talking about how life changes, and how you grow with them (probably with the occasional freakout, I'm good at panic mode too!).  Life has been hard since day one, and not doing it alone is the key!

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Just rambling.

By Briannah,

I think I grew up a bit more somewhere along the way.  I'm at the post-stressout phase and tired, but Nikki's wish to leave isn't as scary as it first was.  I still have a lot of fears, but I think they're valid fears.  What if he can't get a job, the unemployment rate in Ohio is still bad, what if we can't sell the house, what will my mom do since my son is moving out of state next week and then we're leaving too (I know, on the one hand she's pretty much made her bed with me, but on the other hand it wouldn't make Grandma happy for me to just not care if she were still alive, so mixed feels).   Now I'm actually kinda getting worried that this new life is really starting to sound GOOD and something will happen and I can't have it.  Grar.  I"m so silly sometimes, huh?  Two days ago freaking out that this was a thing, now freaking out if it can't be? LOL

At least I'll have Siri to help me find my home without the embarrassing call to anyone having to admit I don't know how to find my new home, please give me directions!   And someone who knows the town well willing to show me around and share the local info. 

I did a lot of work, my house is starting to look kinda naked and weird.  Even if we can't go, the overhaul of the house will still occur and that will be massively easier without all the clutter.  So it's not wasted.  Well, I'm off to work some more.  Working hard at night so I can spend afternoons with Nikki.  :) 

So more talking occurred, and it seems that making moving the focus is pretty much the desired outcome.  Which will mean a lot of job hunting on Nikki's part, and packing/cleaning/repair work on mine.  And a discussion that I'm not overreacting if Nikki wants this to happen.  Now is the time we have to do all the preparation work, so that if things do fall into place we are ready and not having a financial crisis making this happen.  So Nikki got on board with my 'we prep now, since either way it will work out whether we go/stay" and we started today.

The cons:

  • Having to sell a house.  My paralytic terror that no one will buy this hosue and how to we afford two.  I know I could rent it out, but that is scary too.  LOL
  • Potentially having to separate for a while, I live up here he lives there during the week.  Having to stay with my mom most likely, I hate being alone in the house at night.  Like possibly phobic level hate, still trying to work out what my issue here is. 
  • Living in a strange place.  Even though I moved here from New Jersey, I spent summers here with my grandparents, so was already very familiar with the town.  This will be the first time in my life I move to a place I'm unfamiliar with.
  • So much work to prep this place for sale and move.
  • Won't be able to hop up to the Toledo zoo every time I get a whim.

The Pros -

  • One of my closest friends lives there.  Getting to hang out with her irl more instead of phone/virtual will rock.
  • Distance between me and the last of my relatives in the town. 
  • Lower mortgage payment, they got hit hard by the housing bubble bursting and didn't recover as well, so we have quite a few options that lower our overall expenses and open up more fun things.
  • Nikki possibly getting a job with normal hours and not having to get up at o'dark of the morning.
  • A larger city increases the likelihood of meeting people with common interests.  And if I'm remembering properly there was a trans group down there for Nikki.  I have to look that back up, I may be confusing it with the city an hour further down the highway.
  • Shaves two hours off our annual summer drive to join the friends, and two hours off the biannual cruise drive.  Could possibly restore cruising to annual despite my not working. 
  • Bigger population area means more pokemon in pokemon go.  (I know, I'm a goofy nerdgirl). 
  • It's 45 minute drive to another group of our friends, instead of an hour and a half. 
  • If it's still available after we sell this house they had a great house for a really good price.

So obviously doing whatever we need to do to secure a new job for Nikki there and moving is in our best interests.  I just wish you could push a button and just be settled and done with it.  So many things can go wrong with this 'new life' idea.  He may not get a job, the house may not sell forever, trump may blow us all up, another back to the stone age storm could blow through the state.

Wish us luck I guess.

SO....Nikki turns to me today and tells me that he's seriously job hunting in Dayton, has done research in the cost of living and it's lower and the salaries are the same as here so we can live better.   And he has a pocket ace in the hole, he's looking to move to the town that one of my closest friends lives in.  And apparently the child knew before me.  *headdesk*  After a lot of talk the current consensus is this is something Nikki is fairly serious about and we should actively work towards.  He did say check back in a month after his Zoloft takes effect again (the holidays are the worlds crappiest time to have to find a new doctor, that took FOREVER.)  But both his and my meds are now refilled.  And I have a new inhaler while I'm pocking at ancient carpet padding. 

On the plus side, I did see a $50k house that is near my friend, cute, and has an acceptable yard.  That is less than our current house, but a little bigger, adn lower mortgage. So this could be a really good thing financially as well as letting him find a job that he doesn't have to get up a o'dark of the morning.  There is more to do in Dayton.  It's a city vs. a large town.

And I'm completely freaking out.  Moving is the seventh circle of hell.  And I have a paralytic fear of real estate business.  I wanted to have a meltdown, but I kept my Bree calm and started researching what is involved in all of this.  Said close friend was called to explain to me how taxes work when you sell a home.  Because I have ZERO clue how that all works and it's something I should vaguely understand if we are potentially selling our house.  She's good though, she immediately new that while that was key information I was looking for, it was a cry to be saved again by my dear friend. And she gave me some links for Nikki to find a room to rent until I/we finish this place and sell it off, we think just a single room rental from someone is probably cheaper and more realistic financially until we sell this house. 

So renovations have not turned into potential sale prep.  I had a limited information talk with my mother, and arranged to start storing things in her basement. Whether we go or stay, I need to pack all non-essential things up so that we can work without tripping over things.  (Yes, this might have been prompted by me getting hit in the head with something that I knocked over while sorting books for the C-bus trip next week).  I just left out the possible fleeing town to start a new life elsewhere. 

I feel VERY unsettled and will until a decision is made to move or stay.  I can't just not worry about it, it's a Big Thing that is going to be on in my brain all the time until decisions are made and completed.  I feel both the possibilities for improvement and cringe at the sheer amount of logistics of making it actually happen. 

This all came outta left field, but just writing it out feels better.  Here's hoping for new things I guess.

So much for best laid plans.  Thanks to a sick cat spewing over the ENTIRE staircase top to bottom, Nikki and I had a quick meeting to figure out how best to deal with this mess, and the staircase IS on the renovation RENOVATIONS HAVE BEGUN!  I repeat, they have begun! This is not a drill!  Grab your emergency breathing masks!  *laughing*  At this point it's easier to just start early and toss the carpet than to clean that up, poor cat really didn't have a good night last night.  The vet thinks it's lingering damage from his starvation period, he's never been quite 'right', and while all cats are puke machines to some extent or another, this one apparently aspires to be an Olympic specialist in the sport. 

So...we did not get a pleasant surprise under the carpet, I admit I had a silly hope maybe it was nice under it, it wouldn't be the first time a homeowner removed carpet to find something pleasant underneath.  But it wasn't a horror show either, it is just a set of aging painted stairs in need of cleaning from sitting under slowly disintegrating padding.  Then probably it wouldn't hurt to trowel on some wood putty to smooth out all the nicks and tack holes from the carpet, and we can paint them so they don't look quite so bad.  The good news is that they do seem to be in decent condition, and the website I saved on how to redo them doesn't look like it will be necessary at this time, unless, of course, Nikki drives that hammer through them into the basement or something. 

So, in my ongoing quest to improve the new budget and live better on what we have now, and my growing fear that Trump is going to throw us back into 2009 or worse when all the jobs vanished, I have been working on one of the biggest expenses that IS mutable, unlike the mortgage, internet, etc.  And that  Most advice seems to always stem around don't eat out, cook yourself, but groceries are stupidly expensive, and the whole process of fitting cooking into a busy life isn't that intuitive. Add in a rage issue with planning like I talked about earlier (I know, I'm nuts sometimes) and not eating out doesn't REALLY fix the issue. 

SO....I have found two solutions that work for me, and want to share them with the other potential cooks who want to get a handle on their food expenses, especially with the prices of food going up all over the place now.

The first is going to sound dumb, but is your friend.  It brings you to a HUGE amount of cooking blogs and food sites that you might not find just googling, and offers pictures of foods  you might not have been exposed to before but could be interested in trying, and an easy place to 'pin' things to look at later.  MOST of all, it's free and no need to spend money on a cookbook, make one in your computer.

Then, start a free account at

This site has a pro paid version, but most of the features are available in the free version, there are just ads you'll have to ignore.  Or there's another one that is $5 a month, I forget the name but I could find it again if any one wants it.  I prefer free because my goal is both organization and spending reduction, but if someone is just organization, I think the other site looked a little spiffier.   The free one seems a bit more awkward to use than the paid one, but it's not overly difficult once you poke at it a bit and figure it out.

So how this site is affecting my goals - It allows me to import recipes from websites, and enter my own.  So I'm bulding up a catalog of everything I actively cook now and want to try.  Sounds like just a cookbook, I know.  But then it has a meal planner option where I can easily create a two week plan by going to the recipes, clicking 'add plan' and it asks me for the date and breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack.  And then I can also add it to a grocery list that I can then print out or put on my phone and take with me.  It considerably cuts into how LONG it takes to meal plan, and those advice sites are right, I am reducing the amount of money I'm spending on food by planning everything and living on a 'schedule'. 

Yes, I have some internal resentment of the time it takes to plan things and losing my rights to whimsy, but I am slowly countering that with the fun of having money to save for the big things we need and to spend on entertainment because the food budget is shrinking.  I'm wasting less, spending less money, and spending less time trying to figure out what to do for meals or what my 'mood' is.  I'm not entirely sure now that my issues with giving up the 'freedom' to do whatever I like whenever I like isn't some form of my add or self-destructive part of the dismorphia disorders trying to control my behaviors, or if it's a normal emotional reaction.  I really can't tell. 

And I'm sharing this because I have picked up on that there are people here also struggling with money like I do, and maybe this can help someone else like it helped me.  Maybe not.  But I have a perspective that the legion of every day things I wasn't taught growing up which did NOT magically morph into this mythical 'well this is just common sense, you should have figured this out the minute you became a grownup!'  Some people do figure things out they weren't taught and their brains have no reason to conceive of, I don't dispute this.  But just as many are like me and these basic living skills don't magically pop up in our minds and we need to be exposed to them to learn to utilize the strategies to improve our lives and counter the others we were taught. 


No one here will be surprised when I mention my need for information to make ANY life choices, small or large, and vacation is not an exception.  I really don't understand my head here.  Researching the options = fun and entertainment to my brain, but actual specific planning sends me into a tailspin of resentment for my time and energy being sucked into the process. 

So I'm always reading new things about everything I'm into, including cruising, and I like to read those 'things I wish I knew" and 'get the most of f your cruise' type articles, and I did learn a few new things, like despite neither of us like fish Nikki and I are going to try a bit of sushi for the first time ever, we never knew that the Tamarind (one of those you pay extra to eat at places) has no extra charge at lunch, only at dinner.  So we agreed to try it, if only to put a stop to all the 'how can you know you don't like it, you never treid it!  Best place to try suspicous new things is on a cruise, where they will bend over backwards to find you something you like if you don't like the new thing.  It doesn't always work out great, on the Royal Princess i tried the cheese mousse.  It sounded okay on the menu...but on the plate in front of my I nearly lost my nerve.  It smelled like rotten feet, and it visually looked like baby poop.  Other people all around were me eating this thing though, so okay...but no, it tasted like my nose tells me baby poop would too.  I can't believe I ate that. *Shudders*

So this article is all about getting the most for your money, and has 10 tips, and 9 of them I already knew and vetted, but the one I hadn't tried said that booking through your cruise will cost you up to twice as much, and you get less.  The author then mentioned three third party tour services that guarantee on time return to your ship (because that is one of the big things, a ship will NOT leave you if you are booked on a tour THEY sold you, but if you are on your own they will leave you on time because every minute over costs them thousands in fees at a port).  So I googled the websites, and started looking around, and that author must live in Colorado and have taken a break when they wrote this one point on the list to smoke somethine, because not only was there not more variety (Really, shoudln't there be more OPTIONS at least if these company specialize only in tours where a crusie just vets enough to keep its' passengers happy?) they ALL cost more.  Not one would have saved us any money, and it had LESS options, the rain forest we  are going to tour through the ship cruise in Puerto Rico (El Yunque) didn't appear in anything at all.  If I'm being kind I'm going to assume the author has possibly out of date information, and the cost trends have shifted, entirely possible if a service gets big enough with enough loyal customers they stop undercutting the competition to get started after all and start looking to increase profit.  At worst that author was going to sell us all out. 

Follow up on that information, this world really is out to get us all. 

So usually my add and natural personality has us living very by ear.  Planning is SO not my thing, and it has been an herculean effort to start developing that skill.   But the staycation and vacations after peak season are important to Nikki, downtime after that crazy work schedule, so I'm trying to be more organized about it to further reduce the stress on Nikki. Easier said than done, but I'm definitely making headway. 

I have a menu list for staycation, no more arguments about what to eat.  We have this weird dynamic there, where Nikki apparently believes I won't eat ANY food so he's not going to choose anything and that responsibility is fully upon me (complete with complaining when I do pick) and I have an inherent emotional pushback against "whatever you want" that stems from a sense that relationships should be about both, and I emotionally hear "whatever you want" as "I don't really care, pick something and shut up so I can go back to forgetting about you for a while".  I've tried communicating this to Nikki, but no change in our patterns from that side yet, so I'm trying harder on mine to be different.  Avoid the entire context then and pretend it doesn't happen I suppose.

As for vacation, I have already done the budget, booked the cruise, booked the excursions, booked the hotels (except hotel B, I want his input on it since there are options half the price of our preferred hotel brand in the area and it is just one night) on a planned we are driving from home to destination a day one, and destination a hotel to hotel b that is right by the marina day 2, and then from 2 to the parking which I have already prebooked.  And booked the hotel we always use on the way home.  Two stays on the way there because we arrive in Florida at night, one becuase it's fine to arrive home at night. :)   So this will remove the everyone is tired, cranky, and really wants out of the car fighting over finding a place to stay that usually occurs trying to find an open reasonably priced room Florida.  Nikki often doesn't want to prebook everything because he likes the flexibility of driving and stopping at will, but it's really not working out so well.  We're going to try organized.   And under budget.  Black Friday got us a good deal on the room, so did prebooking the hotels, and the parking area we use always includes on free day if you pay in advance instead of at the lot(and I signed up for their parking rewards card, every 10 days you earn a free one, and the credits supposedly never expire).  And then I put all the paperwork into one of the old travel clutches they used to give you when you went on cruises (now everyone is just supposed to print their documents, I know it's cheaper and all, but I really miss the little thrill of getting that clutch in the mail with the formal tickets, luggage tags, and welcome aboard brochures to leaf through!).  Fortunatly I had saved one, it's a great way to keep the pass ports, all travel papers, and such all in one place and make it easier on the trip. 

I've even improved my packing skills.  We pack a small seperate duffel bag entirely for the hotels so we don't have to mess with the big luggage.  Just grab our litle hotel bag and carry on for the ship (becuase this usually has our electronics and toothbrushes), quick and easy.  We started doing that last two cruises, and it worked wonderfully.

So I'm apparently teaching my brain the value of organization little by little.  The big successful vacation improvement emotional behavior reward is starting to spill over into other things, planning meals and shopping off a list instead of just getting food in general I"m familiar with and trying to wing it. 

There is some internal emotional blowback of course, I can't quite overcome the resentment of all the time it takes to plan everything out.  I know rationally that I'm actually saving time, and stress, but emotions don't come from rational thinking.  If they did, this would be a much easier place to live in.  But it's easier to deal with those resentful feelings knowing that I'm getting something out of the work.

And the lesson I learned today, if it's this hard to push myself to improving my behavior and actions on a thing that isn't hugely emotionally invested, I need to have more patience with the world no matter how much I hate bullying and segregation and oppression, because how much harder is it to change the feelings that create that.

So..had those amazing flourless chocolate cakes before.  They are awesome, I love them.  Something that awesome had to be can make a version with three ingredients and it's awesome.  Basically it's like a really chocolately dense souffle, made from eggs, chocolate and butter.  That blows my mind.   I have a tendency to overcomplicate a lot of things, and simple things blow me away. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I require some chocolate chips to make a cake apparently.

Scary wind.

By Briannah,

It's shaking the house, and the fence was just at a really odd angle to the ground.  ti's a six foot wooden privacy fence, not a little flimsy decorative fence I mean.  I'm glad we had the roof finished last year from the windstorm that tore it up and made it look like someone ran a giant sander over it, because I think chunks would be gone tonight and smacking the neighbors house.  Don't like the neighbors, but I still don't want their home to get hit by my roof chunks.  

One year I got hit in the head with a flying green plastic turtle shell, you know the little tykes turtle shaped sandboxes?  We were coming home from class and in the couryard of the apartments and the wind just lifted the shell top right off it and winged me.  At the time it sorta hurt, but in restrospect now it's sorta funny when I think about it.  Nikki called that sandbox Angry Gamera the rest of the time we lived there.  And the big tree in the back field had cracked, and it was a sort of nearly spherical shape after it broke off the trunk, and I remember another day watching it roll around on the ice like the worlds biggest tumbleweed.   And what had to be a really inexperienced plow driver was trying to plow UP the angle of the small lane back there instead of down from bigger road to the next bigger road, and got royally stuck because of all the ice and the angle, and the tumbleweed hit his plow truck.  It was a weird night.

Its funny that moments you haven't thought about ever get called back without warning with the right stimuli.  Thank goodness neighbors on the other side landlord was finally forced to fix the chimney, or I'd be really worried right now.

Cold Weirdness

By Briannah,

Watching Unusual Suspects while waiting to get sleepy(Deadly Women auto qeued this) and I think the cold medicine is making me wonky, but the murder victim's name is Brianna, and despite it being a pen name, it's really creepy to keep hearing "And he murdered Brianna..."  Mr. Plus Turtle says he'll defend me though.  :) 

I'm not sure I like cold medicine anymore.  I couldn't take anything for years, most of it contains pseudoephidrine, and you can't mix that with the daily powdered asthma control inhaler I was on for years, so I just got used to colds and dealing.  Aspirin if my throat was really unhappy cuz I'm kinda wimpy.  But I don't have to take Advair anymore for like three years now, so I took the NyQuil pills Nikki offered me, and I just feel loopy.  I don't think I feel better, I think I just care slightly less that I don't feel good from the medication. 

So.  It took me 12 years of alarm clocks, schedules, and struggles with insomnia and exhaustion to get my body to a roughly midnight to 8 am sleep schedule.  Where I still needed the alarm clock, but most days I woke up without it or just before it went off.  But there was that knowledge that it wasn't fully reliable and I had better have that thing set so I didn't get fired. 

And it's taken roughly...four weeks to end up back on my native 4 am to noon sleep habit.  And now I get tired around the same time every night.  I am asleep within a half hour generally of hitting the pillow, I still get the occasional insomnia I can't sleep for a few hours, but it's been twice in the last three months, not four times a week like before.  I don't need sleeping pills four outta seven nights a week anymore.  I sleep solidly around 8 hours.  I no longer have this exhausted desperate need for a nap in the middle of the day anymore.  I occasionally do enjoy a nap, but it's not the same I need one every day or I fall apart in the evenings. 

Why am I talking about this?  Because many people kept telling me that sleep schedules are easily adjusted, and completely overlook the physical effects side of changing it.  Evolution has NOT caught up with our modern lives.  We evolved multiple internal sleep clocks as a survival tool, someone in the group was always awake to alert the others to dangers.  But a tool that worked for us for thousands of years didn't just vanish.  I'm not saying it won't evolve out.  Our brains a whole still are, the shapes of cars in the last couple of decades has been added to the 'instant recognition of a basic shape that is not a threat moving around us' reflex.  That was a fascinating article, about how we subconsciously identify threat vs. harmless by overall silhouette shape, and what has been introduced to that catalog in our brains.  Even for children and people who don't drive, because they are such a common thing in our world now.  But people in places where they are not have not added the shape.  Sorry, got off on a tangent.

Night owls unite.  We just are what we are.  And if you're like me and just can't adjust to the day shift world, do try to find a night shift somehwere, you're body will be happier for it.

There are some broad tendency (probably from social upbringing) differences between men and women.  And one of those differences is staring at me from catching up on Deadly women (and other forensic shows, I have some weird obsession with forensics, I don't even know why).  This is in regard to premeditated murder, not heat of the moment kind where everyone male or female has just lost their minds for a minute.

When a guy is going to kill you, most of the time he just does it, and fairly quickly upon deciding it has to be done.  When a woman is going to kill you, it reaches some insane levels of crazy detail planning and some really long term patience.  And we tend to like poisons in general.  Sometimes accidents, but we seem to have picked that up from the guys who often try to use accidents to cover it up and in a general sweep (or at least what cases they decided to feature) we really like poison.  Not suprising I guess, we know a lot about them in our day to day role as keepers of the house.  Very few women don''t know the dangers of the household chemicals and pest controls we use.

Why do they still get caught?  Because male and female murderers share a similar thought processes again; most of them don't think or plan beyond the actual murder to what to do with the body and evidence. 

I'll just not kill anyone and make my life easier both without all the time and mental effort required to plan and then physical effort to carry out and clean up and the jail part. 

Still cold ridden, but Nikki fed me chicken soup, I have my plush turtle, my favorite Halloween microfiber blanket, this cushy recliner, my Ipad, and more episodes of Deadly Women to entertain me while my head feels like it weights a few extra tons.  I think I'll make it.  :) 

Tangent - this is why that commercial for the flu shot is so stupid.  They keep showing this commercial showing people missing out on life moments because they are sick, and they imply that if they had their flue shot it wouldn't have happened.  So while hopefully they got the flu strains in the shot right this year and I won't get the flu (because I got the real influenza a couple of years ago, not the stomach 'flu' or heavy cold 'flu' people associate with the word and I heartily respect flu now, and now understand why it can kill people) it doesn't save you from other ailments.  Colds, strep throat, GI infections, etc.   In other words, flu shot taken, but plush Mr. Turtle has job security anyway.   Don't show us a birthday party with a woman who looks like she has a cold, advertise how many people actually died of it last year (because they did).  I totally respect death statistics when considering if I should get a immunization.

Get your immunizations folks, let's all live!


By Briannah,

I have Nikki germs.  Decided to share the cold germs with me, ah the joys of marriage.  MEH! 

I'm going to go whine at my favorite stuffed turtle for a while. 

Nikki's passport has wandered off somewhere, again.  And I"m only 60 percent sure mine is still where I remember it being.  I honestly think these things are alive, aware they are at the end of their lifespan, and Really Angry about that.  (I have to renew them next year, and I never renewed them before, and I'm disproportionately freaked out by official things I've never done before).  And I still have to organize excursions (we like to have them ordered and paid before we go, the less we spend on the trip the less we risk whatever they call that when the numbers get big and you start spending like crazy because it seems a little unreal.  There' sa name for the psychological effect but I cant' remember it.  Reason number two we're postponing Assateague til next year when we're not planning to cruise.  I'm super excited to share all my memories physically with Nikki though of that island.

I'm really excited that there are beaches in my future.  I really miss living on a coastal state.  I lived in the center of the state, nearly the real center weirdly both north/south and east/west so I wasn't right on the coast, but depending on the winds some days when it was warm the sea winds were strong and blowing in ward you could get whiffs of the sea even as  far inland as we were.  And of course, an half to full hours ride depending on which beach was desired and a coupla bucks of parkway money (and I'm so odd, I know, but I loved throwing money at the little funnels and going, it  always struck me as hilarious!) and some really frustrating circling trying to find a parking spot later and you could be on the beach.  :)  I would love to be coastal again.  Even though I have recently learned there is actually a sand crisis on pretty much every beach on the world, and everyone is angry at Africa for not sharing their sand, i guess from teh Sahara?  Crazy right?

Heck, I have this silly wish to go home, and live in New Jersey again.  Surprisingly a lot of the people from my childhood and early adulthood are still there and in touch.  But it's crazy expensive, and impractical.  But that's what dreams are for right?  I'm such a cliche, I spent all my time in Piscataway wanting out, and now i just want back in.  Go figure.   It's one of the two places I dream of living when I'm not focused on making where I actually live more pleasant, the other being with the palm trees and lizards in Florida.  I wouldn't be sad to have warmish winters.

Speaking of winter, we're in full swing yo you mode here.  It's rained or snowed ever day for roughtly 9 days or so now.  The sky is angry, and it's mostly been cold, with a few abrupt swings to the 60's.  WEATHER GONE WILD! 

Oh, and I have to share this so you ladies can all be weirded out with me.  We're out driving, and definitely in town proper, when suddenly...PIG!  A real live, sorta goofy looking, black pig in someone's lawn.  I can only assume it's their pet, but it was outside in an unfenced lawn unattended.  So I guess it's a well behaved pig?  I'm going to guess a female Vietnamese potbelly pig on the basis that it was vaguely shaped like one of those and had no tusks, but I have zero pig knowledge so feel free to laugh at my identification attempts.  It was just so bizarre and unexpected.  And this is from a someone who lives here, where there used to be a guy who kept a bear in a dog kennel by the river. 

Ya know, the more I talk about it with you guys, the more I realize my life is sorta weird.  Even by my standards.   Pull up a hot chocolate (or beverage of your choice) and enjoy the weird with me.  Share your weird.  It's fun!

So.  Nikki and I talked it over, and are going to start working on the actual renovations after the cruise, so around April.  (Vacation!  I can't wait!)

Prime issue #1 - asthma.  Most of the things we want to do involve a lot of particulate dust matter, I can NOT be in the house with that all closed up in the winter, so it has to be in the spring when it's warmed up enough to open the house for at least 20 minutes (the amount of time I'm told it takes to recirculate the air on the average house).    And preferably the entire time work is ensuing so fumes and dust can go outside and not into my admittedly overly delicate lungs.  (I already have the face masks to further protect them in place!).

Issue #2 - the kitchen will be unusable for at least two weeks most likely.  So my plan is crockpot cooking on indoor weather days and grilling outside on outdoor days.  I have enough crockpot and grill recipes to easily make this not a hardship. 

So that is why we're waiting to actually start things.  So right now it's research and decision phase.  This went from a hey, we can afford to fix the counters babe comment to a OMG we can fix it ALL!  Or at least as much as we can do in spring and summer.  :)   Which brings me to... power tools.  I feel wholly unqualified for this.  And I have a sort of conspriracy theory mindset about most powered items, from kitchen appliances to tools to electronic devices, that they're made to fail to keep siphoning my money.  I don't know if it's just paranoia on my part (Dad did a GREAT job of convincing me that everything I touch turns to trash) or if it really is that bad with the corporations now.  But since I have more free time than Nikki, I'm going to try to dive in and figure it out.  At the very least I need some sort of power sander and power saw.  There was this power saw on youtube I saw a while ago, it was sort of a tool box looking thing, that could reconfigure in a great many ways to be a variety of powered saws meant for people who wanted to work on things in small homes like apartments and no garages to house a workshop.  I own a house, but we have no garage, and the basement floods when the river does so it's unlikely that it would work out to try to turn it into a workshop.  As it is I made homemade shelving outta concrete blocks with wooden slats that I put rubbermaid tubs on to get any storage out of it at all.  The concrete blocks stand up well to the water and are cheaply replaceable if they do start to erode for some reason.

I feel REALLY outta my depth.  Just between us girls here, I'm freaked out of my mind to touch anything in the house, thanks to Dad's lingering voice in my head.  But I'm going to plunge ahead, read and reread the tutorials, and practice small projects to test the skills.  Nikki said I should make a doll house when I mentioned that to him, and test it all out on that.  LOL  Then he's like when you're done you can sell it on Etsy.  I can't tell if he's serious or kidding me.  LOL

Sometimes I wish I'd only had Grandpa growing up.  His is the voice that whispers in the back of my mind I can do anything.  I think I would have been a very different, unhappy person without his influence in my life. 

Have any of you done any major do it yourself remodeling?  Any knowledge you'd like to bestow upon me?  I'm determined to reject both my dad's thinking that I destroy everything and his teachings that this sort of thing is for men only.  We women can do anything!   Roar!  (Okay, maybe more like a squeak, but whatever, right?)'s fun that it's something Nikki is into to.  I like doing things together, and our tastes coincide on a lot of things, more than they used to because he's more open about what he actually likes these days!   He does have an unfortunate color palatte sometimes though... 

And...he's going to make me my painting.  I found a gorgeous simple ocean painting, and I really really wanted it, but it's $300.  I know, not much for art, but I'm CHEAP until our debt is paid down, and then NIkki gets his electrolysys.  Or lasering.  I forget which he decided to go for, whichever.  HOWEVER...Nikki used to paint.  And hes' certain he can recreate the paintings for me.  :)  I did get him a lovely art set for Xmas, with a folding easel and the basic tools to get him restarted in his art since he expressed interest, it was so sweet for Nikki to offer my beloved ocean painting.  

Todays hidden lesson for me in all this, I let myself be powerless in many ways because I let people tell me I was, that all the things I wanted were outta my reach.  And I contented myself living in my means, and with what I had, and was happy.  But...I'm not powerless, and I can change it, fix it, make my life better.  I just have to work harder than someone who has the money to pay someone else to remodel.

Now here's hoping our house doesn't get hit by a car the day after we finish.  Cuz that's a thing, it happened to a family I knew, I was in the house at the time when suddenly a loud bang and the place just suddenly exploded into dust, like someone ran through banging dirty chalkboard erasers together at an insane speed.  The people who lost control of the car hit it so hard they moved the right side of the house six inches backwards off the foundation.  The bathroom was at an odd angle for weeks until the insuarnce arranged for cranes to lift it and right it and repair the broken parts, and you had to hold onto the toilet, it was crazy. 

It's been raining since New Year's eve.  And our life experience SO color our emotional reactions to things.  We always assume that humans think rationally, but rational thought really goes to problem solving, while life experience and subconscious go to the deeper choice and reaction issues. 

I always liked rain.  However, since 2007, if it rains more than one day I'm deeply uncomfortable and want to start moving everything I own upstairs.   Our town flooded that year.  It took somewhere between six and eight weeks of rain, no just a few days, but my brain doesn't care.  Its the conditions that created a situation which threw my world upside down.  And this was a MINOR flood, nothing like what goes on fairly regularly with the Mississippi river.  My basement flooded out and there was some danger potential, as the breaker box, hot water heater, and furnace were all in that water.  We had to carefully get a pump into it to get the water out without touching any of the water in case it was electrified, and there was a very real potential of fire form a situation like that I understand, but we had a shelter to go to if needed.  So it wasn't a safe situation, but it wasn't imminent danger of drowning like some people have faced. 

But all the loss of the things we had stored, all the cleanup, the worry about the structural safety of our house (especially since the basement stairs broke off and floated freely around down there), and the sheer amount of work after to clean it all up so we could get it professionally bleached (or whatever they put on it) to control the health issues of post flood sewage in the basement (I'm talking storm drains sewage, not the toilet ones).  There was no power for a week, that made cleanup hard.  And the whole town stank like you wouldn't believe.  So while it wasn't as bad as it is for others, it was pretty bad during the event. only happened once in the time I've lived here, and once when my grandparents moved here the second year I think, but now it colors my thoughts and feelings about the rain.  And it changed the look of my town.  Lost of neighborhoods are gone now, and just grassy fields left where they were.

Rationally, I know it's not a threat to me unless we start hitting the four week mark that I need to start thinking about it.  But the reality is that on that second day of rain, both Nikki and I start checking the river's height on the town page.  We start eyeing what to move upstairs.  Because brains and psyche are NOT rational.

It's a good reminder to myself to stop and remember not to expect rational thought from big issues from people.  It doesn't work that way.  We all think it should, but brains and emotions don't work on rational.  Rational is how to fix the leaking faucet, how to move the possessions out of the way of the flood.  The emotional brain provides the impetus to actually fix that faucet, and when to start moving those things.  And that part isn't rational, it's deeper in that rooted in a series of complex instinctive and learned behaviors related to survival.  Our brains haven't cuaght up with the modern world, and they still function on survival instinct every day.   That is where the fear of unknown and different comes from. 

It's why change is slow, and not fast.  Because we have to train our brains that those feelings aren't actually helping us survive or function better as a group.  Patience is they key.  It's not about rational thought and statistics, it's about countering that deep emotional instinct and life experience part to effect real change.

I confess, I'm being a bit cheesy here.  :)  I always kinda snubby my nose at the resolution thing, because people make them and then forget them January second in my cultural experience.  But there are things I want to do so here goes.

1) My kitchen makeover.  Aside from the fact that I found actual educational tutorials on how to do something about it all affordably, Nikki was actually excited about my ideas and has the skills I lack in the excecution.  And a thanks here to my Grandpa again for giving me the skills I don't lack, because he was always happy to explain what he was doing and teach me about it, and never really bought into the 'girls aren't into things'. 

2) Found a really low cost beautiful result flooring idea, that Nikki really loved so explore if this is a potential solution to getting the carpet out of the upstairs and off the staircase (the last of the carpeting in this house, carpet is really unhealhty, and when you are asthmatic and also have a mold/dust/fungi allergy, it's really bad for peeps like me) without having $8,000 to spend on it and again we have the skills between us to do it.  This ties into 3.

3) Keep working on the health makeover.  We are making progress, but it's easy to say hey, I fixed this one thing, DONE!  But the reality is good health really is a lifestyle not just fixing a problem, so...lifetime endeavor. 

4) Learning to better identify actual barriers vs. internal mental barriers.  My kitchen could have been fixed years ago, if I'd had the idea or information of all the possible options I have that are and have been affordable.  It honestly never occurred to me that there WERE affordable options, (three kitchen projects, two for under $100, and one about $300 will completely change the room and make the house much nicer).  I just assumed that it would need a full remodel with constructions and thousands of dollars to do anything about it.  I think I have this sort of house lack of knowledge and internal barrier thinking on a lot of things, and time to reexamine that and start educating myself not just on how to be a good person (that took a lotta self help thanks to that weird upbringing) and how to help Nikki's depression and such, but how to just do basic day to day living and better organization in going after things I want.

5) More cowbell.

So was trying to start sleeping a bit earlier so I'm up during the day, Nikki missing me chatting with him on twitter at work, but my body wants to sleep 4 am to noon.  And I went to bed at 1 last night, and failed spectacularly to sleep until 3.  LOL  So while I was failing I had my ipad and was browsing Pinterest, and found the home decor section.  Now if you all knew me and my lazy home decorating skills, you'd be laughing right now.  Hard.  But there were interesting things there, and...projects.  And Nikki loves the ideas I presented for the new kitchen look.  We're going to take the colors for the cabinets and walls from the laminate, so the room has a sense of cohesion.  I think I need to start pricing sanders, I don't see either of us spending hours on hand sanding our counters.

Projects that are more affordable to give my ugly kitchen a facelift.  My kitchen is REALLY ugly.  Other than the nice laminate floor we put in that looks like rock tile.  It has one faux wood counter and one white counter.  Both are dinged up to high heaven.  But Pinterest had a counter makeover using this 'feather coat' concrete stuff.  Sticks to any surface apparently, and I can add a faux concrete finish to my counters.  Both trendy and solves the mismatch problem.  Just a bit of troweling and sanding, no special skills needed.  The bag is like $15, and my counters are not big so one bag will do it.  If anyone else has a similar issue, or just loves the look of the concrete counters but doesn't have the money, lemme know and I'll post the project link in the comments.  AND it had a recipe for do it yourself chalk paint, which adheres better to smooth surfaces like cabinetry but it rather expensive paint, so I can deal with the ugly dinged up cabinet finishes and make the kitchen look cohesive without spending a ton.  The one big thing I'll need a couple hundred dollars for is a new sink, we've been looking to find time and money to replace that for a while.  Might as well do it when we have to take the old one out to do the counters so there is no 'edge' at the sink anyway.

The point of this post: I'd just done...nothing.  In my head it was super expensive and out of my reach to do anything about it, so I just dealt with it.  But now, really starting to look around at things like this on the internet, I'm realizing that a lot more is actually under my control and fixable than I ever realized.  I'm about to turn 45, and just starting to figure life out.  It's never too late, and if you're a late bloomer go for it anyway.  I'm working on my total life makeover, mental, body, and environment.  The hardest part was to get up and start doing it, and not sit around and complain it's all out of my control.  I can't have my dream house in Jupiter, sure there are actual limits, but I don't have to miserable with what I have and can do something about making it better in small stages, and then someday I"ll suddenly be there, and realize I fixed things one tiny step at a time.  I spent my whole life thinking you had to be able to do the whole thing all at once or it couldn't be done, and that was a trap.  I climbed out of the trap, and Pinterest helped. 

That is SO weird. 

So. Monday was gorgeous all day.  SIXTY degrees outside.  We hadn't done the Toledo Zoo Lights yet this year, so I called Nikki at work to find out if he wanted to go, it was a work night but it's not terribly late.  Thought it would be fun not freezing to death for once.  So we get in the car to go, and it starts misting a bit.  Then it starts pouring.  It was the soggiest zoo lights ever!  We bought a great big red and white umbrella and were congratulating ourselves on dealing with the rain when the wind started, an we nearly blinded some poor dude walking behind us when the umbrella turned inside out.  After getting well and truly soaked, we stopped in the Carnivore Cafe.  They had turned the old cat house into a cafe and you can eat in the cages!  Silly fun.  And my hot chocolate lid fell off and poured all over me.  LOL 

It was the silliest night, but still, romance happened despite it all going wrong.  Just proves perfection is so NOT the key to romance. 

So we went up to Toledo to do some shopping for xmas, much more selection up there than our town, and our favorite calzone place is on the way, so awesome lunch.  And while we're shopping, someone calls out to Nikki, and it took me a moment to place him, but it was our former roommate.  Sweet guy, and it was lovely to catch up.  I said he and his family should come down and I'll cook a dinner, and we could make the details on Facebook.  He said he thought I'd quit using it, it got dark on my wall.  To which I replied my Dad getting on Facebook made it really weird...and he looked at me and goes, "Yeah, I saw all that.  I couldn't believe he was backtalking everything you said and did, and wondered why you talked to him at all." 

It was...a wonderful moment.  Someone not really all that vested in making me happy analyzing the interactions objectively, and telling me I'm not crazy.  After all the family gaslighting that I"M the problem (and even though you firmly try not to believe, it works it's way in when that is normalized since you are a child), it was really comforting that someone else was mindblown and not telling me that I have to forgive and accept my father because that's just the way he is.  Best Christmas Gift ever.  I had been all geared up to defend myself again...and just got patted on the head with a you did good sorta moment.

And I only have a few groceries and one more person to buy for tomorrow and I'm done.  WOOT!

Slowly Freezing

By Briannah,

It's SEVEN degrees outside.  Seven.  Seven is a TINY number when talking about degrees.  It's so cold in our back computer room that I think I could use it as an extra food freezer while waiting for the space heater to warm up the room.  (the kind that is like a little radiator with heated oil inside, not the kind you can accidentally poison yourself with in an enclosed space, that's important!). 

I'm torn between massive cleaning to keep my body moving to try to generate heat or a warm fuzzy blanket and burying my head in the sand til spring.  I have been having a blast since Nikki let me slip outta the workforce, but I have never been so appreciative of it until the reality of today, that I absolutely do not have to go outside in it, I will not be triggering any massive asthma attacks because I am staying inside, and I get to make the choice between blankets and a video game because Nikki is awesome and makes sure I have everything I need to survive the winters rather than my only option being yet another trip to the emergency room because I can't breath.  :)  Modern medicine has managed to control my asthma with every trigger but this one.  Cold sends my lugs into flying temper tantrums of lung rage that they then vent by trying to kill me. But it used to be pollen, dust, mold, exercise, sleeping, and well...existing that used to trigger it, so yeah, go doctors, you have improved my life.

This post has been brought to you by the letters c, o, l, and d.  :)

So between the cats and a very clumsy Bree trying to get the house ready for the holidays, I look like I tried to go ten rounds with a thorn hedge and a few with a hammer, but I'm making progress with everything.  A little triple antibiotic ointment does wonders for cat scratches by the way.  Ocean swimming does better, but I live a couple states away from that option now.  Oh, the days when I was only an hour away and could go all the time and soak up that wonderful water.  I don't know why it works, it just does.  

I swallowed down the lies the dismorphia whispers, and ordered non-stretchy pants in a 30 waist instead of the usual 34, just to see, and they fit.  I did lost more weight, and my pants are not in fact falling off my body becuase they stretched out, but because I stretched in.  Of course, my brain doesn't want to deal with it.  But you can't argue jean shorts sizes.  So then I had Nikki shop for me and got a few more dresses for the boat in the actual right size for me.  And I'm creeping up on my first goal, woman's size 24.  I started at 38, am slowly getting places.

I managed to organize with Nikki's dad and stepmom for an upcoming group vacation, that was fun.  The more people involved in anything the crazier it gets.  But we'll all be somewhere warm and nice on a boat for Nikki's fortieth.  :) 

The house is actually starting to get organized, and I have unloaded tons of junk that I don't have to deal with to keep it clean. :)  Developing new habits to overcome that rough upbringing I whine about. LOL   Some success.  Have learned to make some tasty new things, Nikki is pleased with my efforts on the culinary front definitely.  The living room is ready for the tree to come up tomorrow.   The front house is all done up in lights, a little guady, but hey, I live in a town that has SEVERAL impressively gaudy  houses so mine looks underdone.  Seriously, there are a couple so full of stuff you can't even see the grass under it all.  It's crazy. 

Counting the days til staycation for my birthday and our anniversary (18th), which coincidentally begins right after Nikki's overtime season ends.  Yay!  For four weeks it's basically been work, eat, sleep, and occasionally manage to notice I'm in the house and say hi.  LOL Worked four weeks strait without a day off, poor thing is exhausted.  I'm impressed that he remembers my name at this point!

Hugs to everyone, I hope you all have a glorious holiday whatever you celebrate, even if it's just the celebration of a free day off, and hope everyone has great fun and stays warm if you're not lucky enough to live in the warmer places.  :)


I've had a friend for about a year.  Nikki and I met him online, and we all hit it off and became good friends.  Through the internet, they live several states away.  But still.  Ten years of chatting is a long time, and real friendships form.  So...several years ago he had a full on psych meltdown and vanished, and his wife reached out to me (thinking I was having an affair with him and he'd come to the other woman, unaware I was part of a couple and it wasn't like that) and she and I struck up a friendship because I was there for her while he was missing and the aftermath.  Then she was there for me after I was victimized with something else, and the friendship endured, back and forth every time something went crazy in our lives.  I don't have much in common with her as far as interests and hobbies, but we have a common ground of really bad ex husbands that left scars and the trials of life for us have been similar.  That creates a strong bond, even if we can't dish on the latest anime or tv show because we don't watch the same things.  Nikki doesn't have the relationship with her I do at all, she's just someone I know to him, but he's outraged by what is happening all the same because he's a good person who doesn't like seeing others hurt.  That makes me happy.  The rest makes me really sad.

So, as per the workings of our friendship, she reaches out to me because something stressy is going on.  And I settle down with a glass of coke zero ready to listen, offer any useful advice I may have, and just let her unload.  I had no idea what was coming.

My friend, my long term dearest friend who I trusted with SO many things in my head, he ATTACKED her and one of her CHILDREN.  *floored*  I was both completely stunned and not surprised at the same time.  I mean, I know the psych issue was bad, and I had been trying for months to talk him into getting into therapy, but you know, you can't force a person to get help.  You try because you have to, and I tried every logic and emotional appeal that I could, but it didn't matter.  And now here we are.  And it's gone into full on stalking like the kind that you see on the discovery channel tv shows because obviously she left him after the attack. 

And I'm just floored.  So I did giver her useful advice on what to do with a stalker, having endured that myself (although mine wasn't a relationship based stalking, mine was a crazy woman with borderline personality disorder), and tried to be what comfort I could.  You never see it coming, ya know?  Even knowing there were issues, there was nothing indicating this.  He'd had simple breakups with other women in the past, no crazy.  Maybe his condition degenerates with age?  I don't know.   No one involved would have ever dreamed this would happen.  And isn't that what they always say when you watch those shows?  It really is easy to be blindsided.  Even for people alert to odd behavior.  We were more worried about him harming himself than other people, and boy we were mistaken. 

But when I'm not trying to help her, I'm just sad.  Sad that someone I LIKED would be that kind of person.  Sad for the friendship that is obviously over, this is a huge dealbreaker for me given my history and the fear it's causing my other friend and the children (they are hers, not shared, so at least she can cut him out entirely and not have that complication!).  But...ten years of shared history and memories don't just vanish, and there is a mourning phase.  And sometimes I have an instinct to try to rationalize it away so I don't have to lose that.  I know better, but I do understand why so many people protect loved ones that might have done something, it's not that easy to throw away a person.  Especially parents. 

So...even though it's kinda hurting, it's a good life lesson in perspective about not really understanding other people's choices until you're in the situation and learn how your own feelings and life experiences play out in how you deal with it.  I'm not sure how I would react if it was someone ever closer to me like my child or husband, or one of my lifelong friends.  I guess it's not surprising we can never really know what is in another person given we don't really know what is in OURSELVES until we are confronted with something and have to go through it and learn who we are in those moments.  It's so important to make choice, and not just act on instince I think.  My instinct says he's ill, not his fault, but I realize this is a defining moment of who I am and who I'm going to be.  Nothing in that was okay.  He was alerted to the fact that he needed help, ignored it, and hurt someone.  Even if it was driven by the illness, he wasn't so bad he didn't know he needed to do something, he just chose to not deal with it, and someone got hurt. That isn't okay, and even if I'll miss him, I can't condone it by going on.  So that is who I am in this, the one who chooses to say not okay, and we're done and support the victim.  Yay morality. 

So it's crazy busy season at Nikki's job and he hasn't had a day off in weeks.  He MIGHT get one day next weekend, but it's also equally possible he'll work five weeks strait with no days off until the Christmas shutdown for the eve and day.  And while he's upbeat about it, all the overtime is paying for our next cruise this spring for his birthday and his dad and stepmom are going (I love his dad, his dad is awesome.  His stepmother stresses me out, shes a nice person overall, but she gets randomly weird without warning and creates really awkward and unpleasant moments out of nowhere and talks in a kindergarten singsong voice ALL the time).  So that keeps him going.

And in an effort to make his home time as great as I can, I spent an hour in the kitchen working on an awesome lunch.  I pan fried some boneless chicken in butter, onions, and garlic, then cut it up and tossed it with four cheese tortellini and dressed it with a roasted garlic alfredo sauce after I added some extra carmelized garlic and onions to the sauce, all the while baking some fresh bread.  I laid it all out on the table so he'd see it the minute he got him, and I went to the bathroom.  For a minute.  And when I came got miscreant thieving pooch was standing on a chair helping herself to our lunch.  And she absolutely knew better, the minute she saw me she immediately went into the guilty phase.  *headdesk*  So we went out and had a nice lunch, but all that effort.  At least there didn't seem to be enough onion to make her ill, onions are not healthy for dogs and I don't let her eat them.  It's impossible to watch this dog 24/7, she gets into things.  Two years ago there was an emergency vet run after she at THREE POUNDS of Christmas cookies.  Her stomach was SO distended she couldn't stand up when I got home, and did she stop eating them at some point?  No, she ate til they were gone and she couldn't stand up.  *shakes her head*   She didn't get to the bread, so we ate that for a snakc later, and I saved a bunch and sliced it up and am drying it out tonight to make french toast tomorrow. 

And...I was so mad.  I didn't do anything about it but whine a bit, but sometimes the small things just get to you, ya know?  People are always saying don't sweat the small stuff, but sometimes it's just about how you feel inside and not about the actual trigger of those feelings.  Nikki gets me however and didn't try to put down my frustrations or minimize the annoyance while focusing on figuring out what we wanted to do now that lunch was gone.  He has learned a LOT in therapy, and we have a connection better than we ever had before.  And he just lets me be me, even when it's irrational and disproportionate as long as it's not manifesting in a way that would harm someone.  They say people can't change, but the reality is we change every day.  Sometimes a lot, sometimes a little.  And when we spend an effort to change together, the pay off is huge.

We set a game day for Thursdays to just do something fun, connect in a fun way with no stress.  Mondays we have a conversation slot for anything that is on our minds, in a completely safe zone.  Anything can be said, and nothing is left inside festering.  Saturdays are hobby days, where I join Nikki for movies (he's way into movies, I'm not, but I bring whatever I want into the living room and work on it while watching the movie with him, compromise between my ability to just sit and watch something that makes my add crazy and his enjoyment of it).  And it sounds so silly, and it did sound silly even to me when I came up with the plan.'s been several months now, and it's working.  We don't stick strictly to the schedule, sometimes the talks are Tuesday for example and moves are Sunday, but they get done every week regardless of what day.  It flies against the grain of everything I had been taught by my family about how marriage works, and I was hesitant to bring it up to Nikki, but he and I were talking about it the other day and he loves it.  He doesn't always think to tell me things on his mind in the bustle of our day to day live, so cuddling up on the couch with a hot chocolate for talk time focuses him on letting me in, and gets me to open up a lot more than I do normally when I'm in the mulling it over phase.  And he can poke at the add and dysmorphia in that setting without freaking me out. 

Things can be worked out.  But only if you let yourself feel your feelings.  I guess my moral of the day to myself is it's okay to be stupidly angry that my silly grand romantic dramatic plan & presentation were ruined.  It's not about the dog behaving badly, or the actual food, but about all the effort I put into it and expectation of a romantic lunch time and making Nikki happy that got ruined.  It's okay to be mad. 

It also got stupidly cold here, so I caved and gave Nikki the thermal underwear and parka jacket I got as Xmas presents.  His old one was ratty and he's never liked shopping for boring old necessities.  He'll shop til the end of time for cool tshirts or dresses, but getting him to spend five minutes replacing worn jackets, socks, underwear, etc and it's like I just kicked his pooch.  LOL  I felt bad watching him freeze when I knew I had these warm things hidden away.  I'll have to get something else for under the tree now.  And it really did get stupidly, abruptly cold.  It's snowing.  And it was raining earlier, so I'm very happy today that I don't have to go to work and deal with the ice sheet hiding under the light powder dusting.   I need to make a list of staples I want to stock up so if we get any bad storms we can afford not to care about grocery shopping for a week or so. 

There is a seriously flawed cultural understanding of marriage in American society.  There is this collective assumption that every marriage functions the same, and our media reinforces that.  A giant wash of anything that doesn't look the same.  For a country of freedom we do that a lot, alienation of people who look different, behave different, culturally different, etc.  So much of this country really practices the 'freedom to be just like me' rather than 'freedom to be who you are in peace'. 

But the things I have come up in through two marriages 23 total years of being in a marriage (I'm pretty sure if I remember correctly I got divorced at around the five year mark, but had only actively lived in the marriage for nearly three so I get confused because the divorce was rather anticlimactic in the grand scheme of my life to be honest) that no one ever talked about or in any way socially or culturally prepared me is huge.  From the giant ones like mental illness(violent/aggressive - ex husband, difficulty functioning like everyone else me, my son), transgenderism (current husband), trying to navigate a healthy addition of a husband with a child, to small things like handling opposing wants, germs, boredom, and the day to day stress of close quarters living with another human being.  None of that really gets talked about.  Or maybe I just lived in a weirdly sheltered bubble.  But whenever my family, friends, coworkers, media, etc. talk about it they always play up all the 'pros', and gloss over or entirely omit the minutiae and human element of it all.  They make you feel bad if you're not living a Disney fantasy 24/7, which is ridiculous considering no one does. 

We live in a country with a HIGH failure rate of marriage.  And I do have to wonder if a large part of that can be attributed to the 'don't ask, don't tell' mentality we have about a lot of things, not just alternate sexuality people in the military.  There is so much talk about 'defense of marriage' out there in regards to treating homosexual couples equally, but they're not really defending anything.  Really defending marriage would be to talk about it in much more realistic terms, not setting young people up with these insane expectations from it, and yes, discussing all the varied forms of marriage, including same sex, polyamory, polygamy, romantic marriage, lifestyle marriage, etc. etc.  Telling them the truth that if you don't keep working at it, boredom does set in, not because you're partner or you are bad, but because that is how humans work.  Teaching strategies for the curveballs instead of letting people flail around trying to figure out what to do, it seems like every time anyone in a marriage (including myself) gets tossed a huge curveball there is no coping mechanisms in place and a lot of flailing around 'I don't know what to do!"(and I mean a general sense of "oh, things happen, I feel this and have to figure out where I want to go from here' not a a precognitive ready for everything vs. this isn't ever supposed to happen I"m the only person in the world and I have no social concept what to do at all!).   And the 'roles' and understanding of gender in marriages does more harm than good too, roles should be based on the individual personalities involved not the gender, and there should be freedom to talk honestly rather than expectation of people as a gender, example: when a guy cheats post new child because he's feeling neglected and unwelcome.  Why doesn't he talk about it with his wife?  Because he's been taught to never talk about weaknesses or feelings, and she's been taught to view any talk of such things negatively also.  Stay at home fathers face a lot of nastiness, while stay at home mothers are praised.  But not all women are suited for motherhood, and I think honestly most men ARE suited for fatherhood, they're just taught our weird almost hands off kinda cultural expectation of fatherhood.  We as a society here are SO invested in wanting everyone else to validate our life choices by making the same ones that it gets really ugly for people who are different. 

That 'defense of marriage' crap really bothers me.  Because we're not defending or promoting stable marriages, we're socially actively engaged in over romanticizing and cultural deconstruction of marriage.  The biggest threat to anyone's marriage is internal, not the gender of the married neighbors.  No one's lifestyle is threatened by allowing others to live their lifestyles, just their sense of being able to force other to be like themselves through legislations, media presentation, and social pressure is slowly being eroded, and maybe one day when we break past the legendary amount of things we don't talk about then a real defense of lasting relationships in all their forms for all people in equality like we talk about can happen.  And for the people who don't like a thing, they don't have to.  They don't have to embrace anyone they don't like.  But they DO have to treat those people with common civility, respect, and safety.  You don't have to invite the gay/ethnic/trans/religious/atheist/man/woman/children over for dinner and board games, but you do have to allow them to live peacefully and unharassed emotionally, physically, financially, legally, and socially.  It's what manners were invented for in the first place, so that people who don't like each other can go about their day to day live in peace around each other. 

Yes, I came out okay, more or less on top.  But how much better could I have done if married women before me talked about the realities of marriage to me growing up?  If the only media shows that talked about issues like boredom, insecurity, jealousy, neglect, lifestyle erosion of affection, etc. etc. were the ones where someone ends up dead?  If we didn't try to erase people who don't fit the mainstream culture and instead taught a calmer 'not my thing, thank you, but good luck!' response.   Some people are exceptional and say early on "I have a potential dealbreaker, let's talk about this".  There were three in my personal dating history, but most of them tried to hide them until serious investment figuring once the emotional/time investment was made they could force me into accepting it.  One I took the out for, I couldn't romantically get engaged in it, but the other two I didn't and the relationships failed for the classic natural reasons, our personalities weren't right together.  The ones that hid it assuming they could manipulate me into dealing, they were wrong, even Nikki.  Nikki almost didn't come out of this okay because secrets and lying are a hotbutton for me, but I gave him a pass because of the realistic world fear of violence, not just fear of the relationship ending.  But one more secret or lie I don't know about? We're absolutely done.   But I think about how much craziness and marital strife could have been avoided over the years if there had just been an understanding that 'flaws' and 'dealbreakers' (of any kind, I'm not making a judgement on trans here, I know my audience here may be sensitive to my wording here so I want to be clear, by flaw i mean things like my temper and inability to get anywhere on time and general inability to organize at all) are as much of a HUGE determining factor of the day to day of marriages as the 'virtues' and 'dealmakers' are, and so are the basic wants and needs of each person, even if society deems those wants and needs undesirable.  It doesn't make them go away.

The answer to how much better I could have done?  A lot.  I would have been a better person on the whole, and dealt better with my relationships in both a very real understanding of how to actually be IN them and deal with the things happening in them, to knowing when to say stop in a rational, positive manner, to realizing familial relationships are relationships and should be terminated if they aren't healthy way before things got as damaging as they are. 

The past can't change, but maybe we can make the future change, and leave a better, more open, and more realistic expectation of marriages for those coming up behind us and less emotional trauma (and murder!  Discovery channel certainly taught me how often marriage leads to murder) for them. And more equality and less alienation because that persons marriage doesn't look like mine. 

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