Life Forensics:


Because the unexamined
life is not worth living

  August 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 good.

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 bed.

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 done.

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... Well, here's 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:

Dear Mate,

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 the pre-1980's.

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." 

That Winter, Joe, Delena and I relocated to California because there was 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 upright. 

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 at all.

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.

Be Particular,

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 out.

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 life again.

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 "Highlander."

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.

Be Particular,

Name: Katrina Rasbold
Location: Grizzly Flats, California

I am a happily married broad of a particular age who lives in a rural mountain community on the edge of the El Dorado National Forest.  Grizzly Flats was once a thriving mining town (think "Deadwood"), but is now a quiet, remote town with a few hundred year-round residents and several city folks with a country home up here where they come to rough it a few times a year.  No more saloons or hotels or livery stables, just an unmanned fire station, a 2 room schoolhouse, a ranger station and a post office. 

It's heaven.

I am a writer and webmaster.  I am also a rural route mail carrier and a student of life and the world around us. 

I deeply honor all religions and whatever (harming none) path others use to reach God and their most sacred selves.  I completely reject the premise that there is one path/ one religion that "fits all" and is the "right" one.  Just as people speak in different languages to one another, I believe God also speaks to us in different languages.  God knows us well enough to understand that our spirits vibrate on different levels and must be accessed in different ways with different words and practices. 

Mike Rowe ("Dirty Jobs"):  "Are you a religious man?"

Septic Tank Cleaner:  "No, but I am a spiritual man."