15, 2007 - Long one, get ready
If I thought, in some moment of naiveté,
that life was going to slow down, suffice it to say that I was wrong.
I have been tremendously excited (and that has not waned) about the return
of the kids to school. They are thrilled, I'm thrilled, life is
Yet the harvest continues and to
bring in the harvest, you have to go out into the field and work and sweat
and cuss and wish you were doing anything else but harvesting, regardless
of the rewards to come.
Today is the first day I've been able
to completely enjoy having the house to myself. No, I didn't crank
up the Bob Segar and slide across the floor in socks and underwear, but it
was very close.
I spent the day cleaning and doing
laundry and posting other people's writing (I was very far behind on that)
and chatting on AIM with Sherry. Not a bad turnout of a day, really.
The kids will be home in an hour, all
flushed with the happy and ready to loll about a good while until time for
I am awaiting the loll. I think that
having invested some good cleaning time in today, tomorrow should be a
good loller. I had a lolling day last week where you just loll around and
don't do jack shit. Eric called me around 2pm and asked what I was
doing and I told him just that: I was lolling around not doing jack
shit. When he got home, he was a little taken aback by the state of
the place and I reminded him of what I'd done all day...or rather not
It reminded me of a wall hanging my
mother had in her kitchen. I never forgot it. This was back in
the early 70's or so and she had gotten really heavily into Artex. I
wonder if they still have that. Let's see together...
something on it. It was called "liquid embroidery" and you would
use these little roller paints to paint by number on these sort of
cheesecloth transfers. It was just a big ol' ton of fun.
Anyway, one of the things she made and stuck a dowel and braided string
through was a wall hanging that said:
I know the house is such a mess
You hardly can get through it.
You wonder what I do all day
Well, today, I didn't do it.
Mom was really good at lolling around
not doing jack shit, especially since she was in and out of the hospital
so much. She just kind of got used to it. I'm not sure which
one of us got it right, her for employing it as a lifestyle or me doing it
as an occasional vacation.
Mama's house was always a mess.
I remember that once every couple of months, my dad would "clean house,"
which meant that he started in one room of the house (our house was
single-story) and start sweeping anything in his path into a giant pile.
He didn't stop until he was in the last room, the living room, with a
giant pond of debri in the middle of the floor. Then, everyone was
supposed to congregate in the living room and start picking up. He'd
tighten up the pile every hour or so and we'd pick up and put away, pick
up and put away.
We did not have one of those
'everything has a place' houses and so picking up and putting away pretty
much entailed finding a place where whatever we were holding would fit.
By the time I'd been gone from home
for 5 years or so and came back, Mom had actually created a second layer
of "things" in her house. There were shelves against the walls that
she had her stuff (her "pretties") on and then there was a second row of
shorter shelves and sideboards and such around that with more stuff.
Since the house was only about 1400 or so sq feet, it was like walking
through a labyrinth to move through the house.
She was a funny old broad, that one.
She could sew like mad, making incredible stuffed toys and Barbie clothes
and other doll clothes and she also made most of my clothes. We had
very different opinions about what a young girl should be wearing when I
was in my early teens. I finally got a pair of blue jeans my
sophomore year and I was over the moon. I think I actually have a
photo of them. Let's see...
They had some wear marks on them when
I got them (Goodwill), so Mom put patches on them for me. I also got
that pea coat you see there and was sooo proud of it. That was
around 1975 or so, I guess, so I was about 14.
Yes, I was Kathy back then.
Kathy Chapman. My grandfather couldn't say Katrina, my given name,
so it morphed into Kathy and Kathy it stayed for 35 years.
That seems like a million years ago.
I can't remember how that girl felt or what she thought or what she wanted
in life. I remember feeling very trapped. At that time
in Kentucky, you went to college, you went into the coal mines, you got
married or you went into the military. Women weren't much in the
military at that time and neither the coal mines or college appealed to
me, even though I had a couple of scholarships. I would have only
been doing it by default because I couldn't think of anything else to do.
I'd been taking care of my brothers since I was ten with Mom in and out of
the hospital constantly and Dad firmly ensconced in the gender roles of
I remember how much I hated my life.
Two years later, it was hardly an
issue any more. I had Joe, my first son, and not long after, married
Paul and we moved away to Guam where I really began to hate my life.
I spent most of my life doing things
I didn't want to do with people I didn't want to be with and getting
results that made me even more unhappy.
I wish I could say that I did
something definitive to be happy, but it really was a very fortuitous
series of coincidences. By March of 1996, I'd been divorced from
Paul for a couple of years and remarried him for 2 more. We were at
a production of "The Sound of Music" put on by our son's high school drama
department. There was a group performing before the show called "The
Swing Kids" that consisted of high school kids swing dancing wearing zoot
suits and such. They were all just grinning like possums and looked
so happy that within a couple of minutes, I just completely burst into
tears, big ugly choking sobs right there on the bleachers of Mountain Home
High School. I realized that they were dancing with a joy I'd never
felt. In my whole life, I'd had isolated incidents of happy, but I
had never felt real joy. My life had felt like a series of tasks I
had to perform, repeatedly disappointing the people around me and never
really succeeding at anything. My husband loved me because I loved
him, but didn't like me as a person in the least. He was always
looking for someone better, praying for a bridge out of the marriage he
was in. He divorced me for two years and we remarried because he
couldn't find anyone else during that time and he was very lonely. I
didn't know that, of course. At the time, it was dressed up nicely
in plenty of affirmations of how much he'd missed me and loved me and he
probably thought that he did. We were filled with promises of how
different everything would be, but within a couple of months, we were back
into our old patterns again.
So I cried on the bleachers.
That night, I prayed a lot and did a
ritual in which I asked for joy to come to me. I wanted to have a
life where joy was the predominant feeling instead of an occasional fluke.
It's funny how we get so focused on the end result that we do not give any
good thought to the trip that will take us there. After I made that
wish and fervently asked that God step in and fix my life, everything I
knew completely fell apart.
Remember, that The Sound of Music was
in March. By June, Paul finally found someone he liked and who would
have him, so he left us for her in July. Evidently, he'd been having
a phone relationship with her for some time (she was at another base and
he went on assignment near her and that was that) and many lies later, he
was gone. It was singularly the most painful thing I have ever
experienced and the worst part of it is that there is no closure.
He's never really been sorry for having done that and never *got* the
personal destruction that adultery and abandonment causes. Somehow,
I ended up being the bad guy in that and still am, presumably because I
didn't smile and wish him well and consider his happiness first.
I spent a year facing a lot of facts
about me and about Paul. Reality showed me that he was such a
different person than I thought he was. My filters had been up for
so long that who he really was never even got into my brain. Until
then, he'd been the man I created in my mind and hoped he'd become.
At that point, I didn't even know the
person I would become, mostly because I had been so busy remaking him and
he had been so busy remaking me. Somewhere in there, right after he
left, I became Katrina again for the first time since I was just a few
weeks old and Kathy just "went away."
Joe, Delena and I relocated to
California because there was no.way.in.hell I was going to live out my
life in Idaho. To this day, if I need to get to some place on the
other side of Idaho, I will take the long way and drive around
Idaho to get there. Ditto Utah. Don't ask.
David and Josh stayed with Paul to
finish out the school year. That summer, (we're up to more than a
year after that fateful wish now and not a hint of joy in sight), the boys
came out and it was so good to see them. They had just turned 17 and
15 then. While they were in Idaho, I felt like a few pints of my
blood and a good bit of my heart was missing. It was physically
painful to be away from them.
I had my family together, but I was
working all the time and we didn't have enough money to live on by a long
shot. We were all completely miserable, except for Paul, who was
basking in his retirement from the military, having finally moved in with
his beloved and started his new life with her.
All through this, from just after
Paul left, anyway, Eric was my best, best friend. He lived in the
barracks on the Air Force Base where I worked, which was only about 2
miles from our house. My kids loved him and I loved him and we
always looked forward to the couple of nights a week when he would stop by
to hang out. When I lived in Idaho after the divorce and before I
moved, he would call me at all hours of the night and we'd talk forever
like girlfriends. We'd both be exhausted at work the next day, but
we talked about everything under the sun and he worked hard to keep me
sane. We very rarely talked about the divorce or financial trouble
or any of the difficult things going on. We talked about everything
BUT that. When Paul and Natalie, his new lady, came to our house to
see the kids, Eric made a point to be right there with me and he kept me
Life moved on.
In September, Eric's squadron was
shipped out to Saudi Arabia for Desert Storm and it was a really hard few
weeks without him around. He called me from the plane phone
(remember those?) as the plane was taking off. I missed him already.
We burned up the phone lines over the next two months. I worked
graveyard shift on the military switchboard and he worked for the
communications squadron, so even in Saudi, he could get a call through to
me. We emailed like mad and I was surprised by how much I started
haunting my email program, waiting for his letters.
After about 6 weeks or so, we joked
about getting married when he came back from Saudi Arabia. What
would we do if he got orders and was sent away? What would we do if
one of us fell in love with someone? How would we explain such a
deep friendship with a person of the opposite sex? What if they got
all territorial and did the "me or them" thing? As soon as we
started talking about getting married just so we wouldn't have to one day
give up the friendship, things started to move quickly. His squadron
got word almost immediately that they were being sent home early.
(?!) They actually had the shortest tour of any group who went over.
He came home in November and we got
married later that week. I kept thinking he was going to back out
and we'd end up playing the slots and having fun and going home with
nothing changed. But he didn't.
Not long after we got married, I
started melting down with a lot of fears and insecurities and left over
crap coming out and he was right there for me every step of the way.
I had to learn how to be a couple (after being married for almost 20 years
to someone else) almost as much as he did. Sometimes, I am surprised
that we made it through. Soon, we had six kids in the house, three
in their teens, Delena as a kindergartener, a toddler and a baby and us
with an income of under $30,000 a year.
It was so easy, but it was so hard.
We stayed best friends all the way through. That never did go away.
About five years into our marriage, I realized that I was really, truly
happy and was staying that way most of the time. What a process it
was! I looked back on the night that I made that wish for joy and
truly marveled at all of the destruction and pain and releasing and
sacrifice that had to happen to get me there. I guess I expected to
wake up the next morning filled with the joy of life and glad to be
breathing. Now, more than a decade into The Eric Experience, I have
a life I never could have dreamed of before. It's not what everyone
would love, but it's what fills up my spirit and makes me grateful to have
gotten this far. It was worth 40 years of traveling to arrive in
this place and now, at nearly 46, to be well and truly happy.
I do go through my phases of
depression, usually menopause related or when my life is doing something I
really don't want it to do and the things I do want to do are getting
pushed aside. I think it's mostly related to a fear I have and can't seem
to shake that this is all very fragile and temporary and that it will
disappear in a flash.
But like Eric says, even if we lost
everything today, we could always say we had it and not many people can.
This year, life has gotten even
better with the addition of really great friends. When I was walking
with Andrea today, she was talking about friends in High School and how
they change who you are and define you in some ways. "You
know, you really never have friends like that again." I thought
about what she said and realized that I never really had friends like that
then. This year is the first year that I've had a pile of
really wonderful people in my day to day life who I dearly love and look
forward to seeing.
That was a difficult process because
just like I had to learn to be a couple with Eric, I also had to learn how
to be a friend (at 45, that's interesting, I can tell you). This has
been such a clarifying year and I am grateful to be able to look back and
see the process of change at work again in my life. It makes me wonder if
maybe that old wish isn't still in process. I never did put an
expiration on that, I don't think.
Some times are hard and others are so
exquisitely perfect that I have to close my eyes and breathe to make sure
it's really me feeling and experiencing what's going on.
When I think about the person I was
before Paul left that last time, I don't even recognize myself.
Remembering the things I experienced during those first 35 years or so is
like thinking about experiences someone else told me about that happened
to them. A lot of it is hard to remember and that bothers me since
the memories of my three precious little boys and some with Delena are
mixed in there. It's like having a computer hard drive that your
system doesn't want to access. You lose the virus, you lose the
files you never use and you lose the valuable things too.
I'm not completely without memories,
of course. They're there, but many are faded or with the focus on
something other than what it should have been, like a photo that is
focused on the letter opener on the desk instead of the beautiful people
standing beside the desk.
I am so grateful to have the
opportunity to do differently than I did and be different than I was.
One regret I do have is that the changes were primarily created by
external forces, whether or not they were manipulated by Divine
Providence. I feel like a pinball who was bounced here to this
happy place, even though it took a lot of work, inside and out.
That tells me that it's The Dorothy
Syndrome. I had the power all along and I could have created my own
happiness all along if I'd had the courage to step up and make changes
myself instead of waiting for fate to do it for me. I could have
clicked my heels together and found who I really was if I'd just had the
strength to claim more for myself and believe that there could be more
than what I was experiencing.
I was just too afraid to move.
When your hand is on the hot stove
and your flesh is burning away, it doesn't really matter where you go,
just that you move and fast.
Maybe if I'd recognized that, it
wouldn't have taken so many years. If, when the process of the
deconstruction of my old life began, I'd been more gracious about what I
was losing and had trusted in where I was being led instead of crying and
wailing and beating the ground with my fists, fighting change (the very
change I'd asked for without knowing it) all the way, perhaps I could have
eased the process for all of us.
Or maybe not. Maybe everything
happened right on time. I'll never really know.
I was talking to a lady I know about
faith last week and remembered something a dear friend from long ago with
whom I am no longer in touch said. She was talking about how God
tests us and refines us through difficulties and her interpretation of
that situation was that she said God takes us into counsel and says, "Are
you willing to give up everything for a promise of nothing." If we
are willing to do that, we have faith.
Had I not been forced to give up
everything for a promise of nothing, I don't know that I would have made
the changes my life needed for joy to find me. After Eric and I got
together, it took me a long, long time to figure out how to actually want
things in my life. I'd been reacting to others and to circumstances
for so long that I had forgotten, if I ever knew, how to be a force in my
own life. He taught me how to do that and how to close my eyes and
feel the flow of my life and tell what is off track, where I need to back
up and re-evaluate.
I think if we can do that effectively
on an ongoing basis, we are rarely asked that fateful question, "Are you
willing to give up everything for a promise of nothing." But when it
does happen, we have to be willing to let go and learn to fly (fast -
because the rocks below are sharp and want to eat you).
I know a lot of you already knew this
story, but for some reason, I felt compelled to write it all out again,
whether it was for my own benefit or someone else's or for no real reason
There are likely a LOT of typos up
there, but they will have to stay because I don't really think I could get
through reading it all and reliving it again. To say that I'm
a different person now than I was then is quite an understatement.
There is so much about my life that had completely unfair effects on
innocent people and that is a hurt I will carry forever. Like Maya
Angelou says, "You did what you knew how to do and when you knew better,
you did better."
I want to keep doing better.
But I want to do it in a tiara.
August 8, 2007
You know, I had
quite a conversation with my friend, Sherry, who was concerned about my
urge to change the look of my journal. As those of you who read me
back in the "Nonsoapy" days know, I get bored really easily and like to
sling around a new web design pretty often just to keep me inspired.
Sherry liked the old one, which
was here, saying it made her want to take a
breath every time she saw it. It was pretty and all (why I picked it in
the first place), but I needed some new juice in the juju machine, so I
went with this.
I should say that I settled for that because it was just the best thing I
could find without spending a day looking.
Then today, a friend of mine sent me
this pretty rainbow photo and I figured it'd work out just fine. I
hope Sherry likes it. I'll have to poke her with a stick and find
Life is good. I can definitely
feel the pending wind-down in progress and that is quite a relief.
Kids go back to school on Monday. Eric is all finished with the
Mormon project, which means that I am all done with the mail carrier
business for now. I'm slowly getting back to something like my old
Founder's Day is coming together
nicely and everyone is doing their part to make it a success, but it's
still more than a month away, so we're not in any kind of manic phase
about it yet.
Delena is moving her room around into
what should be a more manageable arrangement. She's eager to start
school and see her friends again.
I found the movie "The Cable Guy" in
the marked down bin at Walmart for $5 and bought it, knowing Delena had
never seen it. I was pleased to see that not only was it better than
I remembered, but that Delena really did like it. Next comes
It's a tight month because I
overspent on Delena's school clothes (she was buying "pretty" things
instead of her usual t-shirt and jeans, so I had to go a bit mad with her)
and we bought the boys new bikes because theirs were completely falling
apart and up here, if you ain't got a bike, you ain't shit, plus I had to
pitch in a good bit for the EOS web expenses this month so the site didn't
crash into oblivion, but hey! I have complete faith that if I'm
incredibly frugal, it'll all work out. Most of you have been with me
through some real financial crises and know that this isn't even on the
chart compared to the "bad times." Having the guy down the street
that worked for the food bank bring you the food the homeless people
didn't want that day... THAT was a bad time. Having a job cleaning
houses for my property manager where I scraped dried maggots off of a
refrigerator for $15 an hour minus cleaning supplies... THAT was a bad
time. This is a vacation comparatively!
I ramped up the energy and got the
house pretty clean today in that underneath cleaning way that I so seldom
do. It will be a good way to start New Life on Monday.
Not much is lined up for the weekend.
Friday is Burger Night. We only have 4 more to go. The summer
went really fast. Saturday night, the Fire Safe Council is having a
fund-raising BBQ and we are both working that. Eric is the emcee and
I am helping Robin, the K-2nd teacher at our school, serve the food.
Sunday, I think we may go see The Simpson's Movie.
Now that Eric will only have the mail
to do, which takes him from about 8:30 - 3:30 every day (but 6 days a
week), he'll have lots of free time to start on projects for upping the
equity of the house in anticipation of our refinancing experience in
October (prior to the enormous balloon payment that is lofting around
waiting to land on us like a flying brick shithouse). He plans to
build two storage sheds, turning the old one into a meditation room and
exercise room so I can get all of the equipment out of the house.
He's going to enclose the front
deck/porch (very nice!) and extend the back porch into more of a patio
thing. He's making sounds about fencing in the rest of the property,
but I'm not convinced that's something that will happen this year.
He's also painting the house.
The kitchen gets redone in September
(also re: refinancing) and there is rumor that I might actually get
a *gasp* dishwasher! My kitchen is the size of a postage stamp and
this will open it up a bunch more and use the space better. Plus,
I'll get pretty, handmade cabinets from our local artisan, Bob.
The good news is that because my
kitchen is so tiny, it doesn't cost much at all.
So now I'm off to play pinochle with
my buddies. Life is good and getting better.