Darkness Is a Cannibal

I remember walking up the stairs to Robert’s apartment, determined to end the hateful stalemate that was immoveable, static, a mountain or a moon, and I walked up the stairs trembling and I would end it. I would end it if I died.

I remember most of it like snapshots, the way you remember things that happened when you were a very small child.

I remember the police walking up to our door, and why? Could it have been just because my daughter Abbie was at my house and her dad, Robert, was angry about that? It seems unreasonable, but then everything was unreasonable.

I remember opening the door to them, the way they stood back, one on each side of the door, hands hovering over their holstered guns. One officer asked, “Do you have any weapons?” and I answered, “We’re Mennonite,” a ridiculous answer for what felt like a ridiculous question.

I remember my stepson taking his little brother into his room, trying to protect him from seeing police in the house, and is that a memory, or is it a hope? The police said we may not close any doors, and that may be invention, too. I was underwater, breath held, heart paused, and one officer asked Abbie, “Are you OK to be here? Are you safe here?” and she glared (did she?) over his shoulder and said yes, yes, she was safe, she was fine, and they asked to see papers. They wanted to look at papers with signatures and official seals: is she mine? Is this girl flesh of my flesh? Is she my heart, my soul, my waking and dreaming life and all the hopes and heartaches I have lived? Did a judge, a lawyer, some official person declare her to be so?

Many days or weeks before, but maybe after, I called my son Jacob. It was December, his 18th birthday. “I never have to see you again, Mom. I’m never going to talk to you again. I don’t have to anymore and you can’t make me,” and the world was flat and I was flat and you were flat, too, and the phone burned to dust and someone was there, but who? Who was there? Someone held the parts together because the parts stay together and life goes and we are not flat, except we are. We are flat and so very, very sad.

Later, but not much later because I was leaning against the window in my bedroom and the window was very cold, and I rested my forehead against it and felt the coldness and the coldness kept me tethered to the flat, flat world, and Jacob was on the phone, in my ear, and his voice came out to me but it was carrying his father’s words. I don’t know most of the words anymore. I heard them 1,000, or 10,000, or maybe 1,000,000 times, if you count how often I heard them while I slept and when I made dinner and while I drove, but I don’t remember all of them. I heard them on a little silver flip-phone, and over a Palm Centro, and on a Droid X, and on a Samsung Note and occasionally even face to face. I heard them and they stabbed me all over, each one a tiny piercing needle and I cried until I was a husk of corn, stripped, withered, ugly. Wasted. Useless.

I remember walking up the stairs to Robert’s apartment, determined to end the hateful stalemate that was immoveable, static, a mountain or a moon, and I walked up the stairs trembling and I would end it. I would end it if I died. I would end it if he killed me. I hoped he would kill me. I hoped he would kill me 9 times and burn me down, flat me on the flat earth in the emptiness of life without them. I would die, I would hurt and I would die and it would be so right, so holy, a most perfect thing. I would not live without them anymore. I would not look outside to see some official person with a weapon or a clipboard come to decide about me. I would not watch for the cars with the official seals on them because he hoped I would lose not just the two children we shared, but my other children as well. I would not cry myself to sleep Jacob Abbie I want you I miss you life is empty everything hurts come home come home come home to me I love you so much and I’m flat and everything is burning and still I go to the grocery and pay the gas bill and watch cartoons with your brothers and where is the ground? Why does it buck and curl under my feet this way? I can’t love you this way. I can’t. I can’t. I’m flat. We’re all so flat; there’s nothing but the hate he cultivated and the hate has made us all flat.

I remember hearing my husband murmur to our youngest son, “Stay here with me. Mommy has to cry for awhile, but she’ll be OK,” and our little boy’s voice, angry, asking, “Why are they so mean? Why don’t they come back? Don’t they love us?” and I covered my head with pillows.

I remember walking up those apartment stairs the most. Crumbling concrete stairs, itchy gray wool socks on my feet, and a mild Albuquerque winter day, and I knocked on the door. Robert came to the door and I was ready. I would push my way in, force an end, stop the stalemate and surely one of us would die or sleep that night in a jail cell, but I would end it. I would breech this unbreechable thing with a broken jaw or a pair of handcuffs. Finally, I would see it through to the end.

All those times when he sent official people to my door: nod, nod, no sir, no weapons, yes ma’am, we have food in the kitchen, see? No sir, we don’t spank, yes ma’am we have a pediatrician. We are good, do you have that in your official papers? I am their mother, do you see here where the judge signed? Do you see where some official person with an important title said that these are people I have permission to love? Do you see this seal? This date stamp? This envelope, this name, this signature? I have no weapons, nothing useful except this phone, this hateful phone and these ears to hear and these eyes to see and my regret to keep me awake at night.

But the memories. I remember opening the door, so many times. I remember answering the phone. I remember mistakes, recriminations, allegations, and the cold, cold window against my forehead, and the world dark on the other side, and darkness is a cannibal and hate is a ravenous monster and they ate connection, cohesion, coherence, and left me with these snapshots. I moved the mountain. I breeched the unbreechable, and when I celebrate, I also cry, and I am more whole and more broken, both. I read and sleep and walk and wish that Robert could hurt, and pray to forgive. Forgive him, forgive them, forgive the nameless others, forgive me.

Because I always opened the door.

Graduate

Jacob called me on a Friday morning a few weeks ago and asked, “Hey Mom, can you come pick me up at Job Corps? Like, now?”

Job Corps, where Jacob has been living and studying for the past year, is a federally funded education and training program for people ages 16-24. Students earn a high school diploma or GED and train for a career, all at no cost to the students or their families. It’s a great program for lots of reasons, and I’m sure it works for different students in different ways, but for Jacob it’s been perfect because he needed some independence from his family but he wasn’t ready to be on his own. Job Corps provided a bridge between family dependence and independence.

I drove across town to pick him up, and there I found a sturdy, confident young man surrounded by luggage and wearing a hardhat and tool belt.

In his backpack, he was carrying his diploma, the verification of one of the many things he has accomplished in the past year.

Once upon a time, when I was not much older than Jacob is now, I wanted to have a baby, and that baby has taught me more about myself and this world and God than almost any other person on this planet.

I learned early on that there are almost no joys in life so great as seeing one’s child feel proud of himself for an accomplishment that has been hard-earned, and Jacob has had much to be proud of, being born as he was with a tremendous will to conquer. When he was two, he decided that he would learn to turn a perfect somersault, and he did nothing but turn somersaults for two days until he could do them with ease. Likewise, when he thought it was time to learn to ride a bike, he ignored banged-up knees and scraped palms and tried, tried, tried with determination until he rode without a wobble.

When we went for our tour of Job Corps and one of the teachers told the gathered group of potential students, “We’ll try to help you every way we can, but lots of kids don’t finish the program,” Jacob leaned over and whispered in my ear, “I’ll finish, Mom.” And I knew he would. I never had any doubt.

Once upon a time, I wanted to have a baby, but what happened instead was that there was this whole, extraordinary person. Congratulations, Jacob. I hope you’re so proud you bust your buttons. I hope, too, that you know that even though you’re a man now, I’ll still sing the humming song to you whenever you want.

I love you to the moon.

Truncated Motherhood

The setting of a great hope is like the setting of the sun.
The brightness of our life is gone.
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I had a therapist about a year and a half ago who gave me a hard time for maintaining Jacob and Abbie’s bedrooms when they had been gone so long. “It’s not healthy,” said the therapist. “You have to accept that this is what has happened in your life. Your kids are gone.”

I knew the instant she said it that she was wrong. In the darkest months and years of our alienation, when those kids and I could barely speak words to each other, those beds were the only invitation I could extend to them. The space I reserved for them in my home was proxy for the love they could not hear me speak. When Abbie came home, after the angst and anger were finished, she told me that she always knew she could come back, knew her bed was there for her, and even when she hated me, knew she was welcome in my family.

Jacob will be 19 in just a few weeks. He hasn’t lived in my house for nearly 5 years (and it may be nearly 6 years but the math is far beyond me now), and tonight, for the first time in 19 years minus 52 days, there is no bed for him here. I boxed up his few things and put them in a closet, took his bed to the donation center, and had his dad come get his drumset. With Abbie, I have experienced a miracle, but if there is a miracle with Jacob, it will be of a different sort.

This truncated motherhood is unnatural. Wrong. Jacob was the brightest part of my life, and in five long, excruciating years, I still have not learned to be content with his absence. I don’t know exactly what kind of pain I would be feeling if Jacob was still my son in all the ways, instead of just in the biological ones, as he moved into his adult life, but I know it would be different. He is mostly a stranger to me now. He is the person who made me a mother, a boy-man I find endlessly and intensely fascinating, but he is not really my family anymore. I won’t give up. I could never give up on knowing my magical, enchanting son, and to other parents suffering the horrors of alienation I always say, as long as our children are alive, there is hope. But what hope I had for a relationship beyond a perfunctory one is very small now.

He hasn’t lived with me in a long time, but tonight, for the first time, he really doesn’t live here anymore. There’s nothing for it except to breathe into the pain and pray that some day, we will all be healed; that eventually, I will lay down my grief and walk away from it, even for a little while.

But for tonight I am on my knees, screaming I love him I love him I love him and begging the universe for just one more chance.

Please.

Today, Forever

One day, a young woman (a girl, really) had a baby. The prettiest, sunniest baby of them all, he tucked so sweetly into her shoulder that she wept with joy.

The next day, the woman saw that the baby was a man, and he had made a decision. She helped him pack a bag and drove him to the place where he would start a new adventure.

She hugged him goodbye and her head tucked so sweetly into his shoulder that she wept with joy.

Walking away, the spring wind lifted her hair and she gasped.

I didn’t know it would happen so fast.

 

 

The Ugly Familiar 7: Choking on the Ashes

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 3.1 (except it’s less of a part and more of an interlude)
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
If you haven’t read parts 1-6, that’s OK. This one stands pretty well all by itself.

Peek with me into a house and observe the family therein.

There’s the dad, young and handsome, laughing at two tiny children who are splashing and playing in the bath.

There’s the mom, also young, and she would be pretty if she didn’t look so tired and puffy, getting small jammies out of dresser drawers.

The dad lifts the older of the two children out of the bath and towels him off. The boy runs across the hall and into the bedroom where the mom is waiting. He flings his tiny body onto his bed, howling, “To infinity…and beyond!”

“Silly boy!” the mom says, and she reaches for him, pajamas at the ready, and he grabs her arms, pulling her to the bed with him.

“Read Sam, Mommy! Can we read Sam?”

“Again? Jacob, we have tons of books! Let’s read a different book, OK?”

“No,” and the little boy shakes his head firmly. “Read Sam.”

“OK,” the mom sighs, “but jammies first.”

The little girl comes in then, all pink pudge and halo of ginger hair. She climbs onto her brothers bed, imitating his shouts with her own, “Ifity! To ifity!”

They are beautiful children—healthy and exuberant and sweet. The mom puts a diaper on the little girl and helps both children with their pajamas. She reads Green Eggs and Ham while the boy sucks on two of his fingers and the girl sucks on her binky.

The mom tucks the little boy into his bed while the dad tucks the little girl into hers. They pass each other in the hall, switching rooms so that she can kiss the little girl and he can kiss the little boy.

The dad goes to the couch in the living room and turns on the television. The mom moves past him, to a desk in the den where she turns on a computer. She connects to the internet and spends an hour on UseNet, reading and responding to messages on boards about depression, marriage, politics, and parenting.

At 8:00, her husband appears in the doorway. “Hey, you wanna get it on?” he asks, and she turns to him, fear and disgust plain on her face.

“I…” she begins, but he interrupts her.

“God, you make me sick. How do you think we’ll save this marriage if you won’t give me the one thing I want? Why the fuck would I want to touch you, anyway? Look at yourself! Look at you!”

She does. She looks down at her stained shorts and sloppy t-shirt and her face is desperate and despondent for a moment. She slumps in her chair.

“Jesus, you don’t even try,” he says, shaking his head. “It’s a good thing the people in that goddamn computer can’t see you or they’d tell you to go fuck yourself.”

“Like you’re any better,” she says, standing and moving toward him. “What the hell is that? Wanna get it on? Is that… what? Romance? Love? You haven’t said two words to me since you came home from work!”

“Whatever. I’m sick of talking to you. Why don’t you just get the fuck out? If you won’t have sex with me there’s no point. Just go away.”

“Fine,” she says. “I’ll get the kids.”

“Like hell you will! You won’t take my kids out of this house!” he shouts, and one of the children cries out. He blocks the woman’s path so that she can’t go down the hall to the bedrooms.

“I’m taking the kids!” she screams at him. “Move!”

He laughs at her, shoves her backwards into a bookshelf. She looks stunned as books and photos thump to the floor. He is nearly nose to nose with her, shouting, “Those kids are mine. I’ll tell the judge you’ve been in the nut hatch and you’ll never see them again! You could just kill yourself right now and no one would give a shit. You’re crazy! Fat and crazy! You disgust me!”

There is another cry from one of the children. The woman makes another attempt to push her way past her husband and he shoves her again. This time she lands on the floor atop the books and photos.

She sees the phone amid the clutter and grabs it, running for the back door as she dials. “Dad?” she says into the phone, stepping onto the back patio. “I need you to come over right now.”

She waits on the back patio until she hears her dad’s truck in the driveway. Walking through the house she sees her husband, still standing sentry near the opening to the hallway. “My dad is here,” she says.

He shakes his head and smirks at her a little, then sits down on the couch and turns on the TV.

When her dad comes into the house, the mom picks up the children, one in each arm, and takes them to the car. She buckles them into their seats and drives the six blocks to her parents’ house. She sings the children back to sleep then lays, listening to her babies’ breath, until dawn. She does not cry.

At breakfast, her parents ask her, “What happened?”

“Just a fight,” she says.

“You should go home after we eat,” her mom says, “before it turns into a big deal.”

“Yeah,” says her dad, “the longer you wait the more uncomfortable it will be.”

And so she does.


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What else could I write?
I don’t have the right.
What else should I be?
All apologies.

Withouting

For context, you might want to read this first.

You know what sucks about being sad? Besides the sadness, I mean.

It’s the all-consumingness of the thing.

(Spell checker doesn’t care much for the word consumingness, to which I say get over yourself, spell checker! I have bigger problems than you!)

No, what really sucks about being sad is the way it uses up all my energy to live my life around it. Do the laundry without getting overwhelmed by the fact that none of Jacob’s and Abbie’s clothes are here to be washed. Make dinner without crying into the soup because Jacob and Abbie are almost never here to eat with us. Watch TV/read a book/go to the movies without becoming despondent because I don’t know what Jacob and Abbie like to read and watch. Enjoy the family who is here without succumbing to obsession over who is not here.

That’s a whole lot of withouting.

The thing is, when life goes really, really wrong—when it diverges dramatically from even the vaguest expectations—the disorientation is powerful. Up? Down? Where? Who? Gravity works sideways and the sky turns bile green. Eating makes me hungry and sleeping makes me tired.

But then, worse, is sometimes I’m OK. Or worse yet, I’m happy.

What kind of mother is happy when her children have rejected her so violently?

I won’t answer that. I won’t touch the question, because I know it’s OK for me to be happy. I know I won’t save my relationships with Jacob and Abbie with my misery, but some primitive part of me rebels. The same mother-instinct that compelled me to respond when my babies cried; to protect Abbie from the girls who bullied her in 3rd grade; to find Jacob on that awful night last year when no one knew where he was; insists that I must stay unhappy. That instinct is hard-wired, fundamental, and very, very hard to resist.

Worse, what if writing brings me joy, but I believe I don’t deserve joy? What if I think I deserve to be punished?That instinct is also a piece of what keeps me away from my computer and the stories I love to write. How can I write about the latest news in pediatric mental illness, or that funny thing Brian said, or my grandma’s story of the time her sister was hit by a car, if I can’t think of anything but Jacob and Abbie?

What a tangled, ugly knot. The woman with the letters after her name says I should try that thing people in 12-step programs do: act as if.

Does it hurt that I’m alienated from Jacob and Abbie? Fuck yes it hurts. But what if, for part of everyday, I acted as if it didn’t? What if I just set the pain aside for awhile and let myself think about something else?

Do you think the sky would be blue again?

The Ugly Familiar 4: Give Yourself Away

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 3.1 (except it’s less of a part and more of an interlude)

We all grow up with rules.

I’m not talking about the regular rules that our parents speak aloud – no running in the house; don’t sing at the dinner table; if you wear your tap shoes in the house you’ll scratch the floors and you don’t want to know what will happen next, young lady!

I’m talking about the underneath rules, the ones that make it impossible to get along with your in-laws because you don’t know their rules and they don’t understand why you don’t know them because they make so much goddamn sense and everybody knows this is how people with an ounce of common sense/human decency/intelligence behave and what the hell is the matter with you?. They are so deeply ingrained that we can’t see them without a shock of some kind – a family crisis like an addiction, divorce, or someone deciding to go to therapy.

The most important rules in the family in which I grew up are tightly related:

  • Thou shalt not be needy.
  • Thou shalt not seek attention.
  • Thou shalt not feel sorry for thyself.
  • Thou shalt blame thyself for all things.
  • Thou shalt solve all problems with guilt and shame.
  • Thou shalt seek to absolve thyself of misdeeds and mistakes with perpetual regret.
  • Thou shalt seek to absolve thyself of others’ misdeeds and mistakes with perpetual regret. (See previous rule, “blame thyself for all things.”)
  • Thou shalt cultivate shame vigorously, hanging thyself on all available hooks.

Of course, these are not the rules my parents intended to teach me, but they’re the rules I learned.

Hence, I don’t know how to talk about my marriage to Robert because I don’t have much practice. If your familial tradition causes you to scream internally, it’s all your fault how could you do this you are such a goddamn loser what a waste why couldn’t you make it work what is wrong with you, it’s damn hard to take a step back and start sorting out the parts that are not your fault.

I’ve been sitting on this story for weeks, unable to find my way in. The internal screeching is loud, insisting that I rise above; take the high road; be the bigger person.

Also, every time I think of something that happened in our marriage that hurt me, I think of something that I did that, somehow, caused me to deserve it. This should probably come as no surprise since that’s how Robert and I fought when we were married, except that back then I was saved the effort of thinking of the thing I did that was worse than the thing he did because he did that part for me.

Clear as mud? Yeah, it doesn’t make much sense to me, either. How could it? I make sense of my life with words and stories and I have denied myself this story until now.

Since Robert moved out on July 4, 1997, I have carefully engineered a neutral narrative of the relationship that was central to my early adulthood. I have said, “We were far too young to get married,” “We brought out the worst in each other,” and “We didn’t have the tools we needed to make our marriage work.” I’ve spoken about my first marriage as if it happened to someone else; stripped it of its emotion and meaning.

To be clear, I am in favor of dignity and integrity. I’m proud that, post-breakup, I didn’t go out and talk trash about Robert to everyone who would listen. The cost, though, was the truth. In telling the story of our marriage in neutral terms over and over again, I denied myself the healing that comes from telling my story. My truth.

And you know what I say about he truth: it ain’t about the facts.

My story doesn’t match Robert’s, but that doesn’t make it wrong. It only makes it mine, if I will claim it.

My story begins with the rules that shaped my psyche. To say that I arrived at my first wedding (all of 22 years old) with low self-esteem would be an egregious understatement. More like the weight of my shame was roughly equal to that of a Volkswagen I wore strapped to my back.

I viewed my life not as something to be lived, experienced, and enjoyed, but as an exercise in contrition. Every moment was an apology for my very existence; every aspect of myself (body, mind, spirit) in dire need of reformation.

Robert concurred, which probably explains why our marriage sort of worked in the beginning. We agreed that I was broken and he was the savior who could have married a better woman but chose me instead. Repairing my faults – depression; tendency to gain weight (though at the time we married I had never been truly fat); messy habits; inability to cook; love of books and reading; devotion to made-for-TV movies; interest in politics; affection for very long showers; desire for education; and refusal to even try to understand why Robert and so many others thought Seinfeld was funny – would be my project. By conquering them I could become, if not worthy, at least acceptable.

So we moved into our lives, the contract signed and sealed but unacknowledged. My flaws were my demons to conquer if I was to earn my place in the home of the man who deigned to marry me.

He had done me a great favor by marrying me, so I set out to make the best of it.

And then there was this:

I had finally done something right, after all.

Robert and I both fell extravagantly, unreservedly in love with our Tooter (no one called him Jacob until he was three). He was pure light, all soft-sleepy sweetness and milk-drunk joy.

Our love for him was so large, it erased everything else. For a time, I was (almost) everything that Robert and I thought I should be.

For a little while.

Part 5

Grief Is an Emotional Tsunami and Integrity Sucks but Being Syndicated at BlogHer Is Pretty Cool so I’m Calling Today a Wash

I was doing pretty good.

No, really. I was. Not great; after a many-months long depression, I wouldn’t expect to bounce back to some kind of happy-chirpy version of myself. No only would that be unrealistic, but everyone who knows me would be bug-eyed with confusion and amazement, so that sounds a little freaky.

I’m not happy-chirpy under any circumstances. It’s the reason I’ve never had a job waiting tables.

Oh, also? I turned 40, which was hard for a few months but by the time my birthday came I was totally OK with it. I’ve always been too old for my age (not as in cool and worldly, but in that certain ultra-serious way that teachers love and other kids despise), so in a sense, I’ve been waiting around for 40 years to be the right age for myself.

So anyway, I was doing pretty good. I decided to declutter my house and deal with the dust bunnies and cobwebs, both literal and metaphorical, and I was feeling pretty good about myself. Carter and I sat in the sun to read books and my grandma finally has some new bottom teeth (she lost the old ones which made lunch an interesting affair) and we made chicken on the grill and life was moving along, much improved.

Then? A bump. Shaped, unsurprisingly, like my eldest two children and their father. The insult on the injury is the sliver of integrity I cling to lest I never sleep again. That damn integrity is like an internal Nurse Ratched that prevents me from spilling the whole sordid story right here.

Damn.

I think that on my eightieth birthday, I will quit both integrity and flossing. Stay tuned. I expect it to be very exciting.

In the midst of today’s scab-of-grief tearing pain, one of my recent posts is syndicated over at BlogHer, which is very cool. Come over, say hello, and tell me you love me.

Even if you don’t, tell me anyway.

In the Olden Days

When I was a little girl, I loved to ask my mom, “What was it like when you were a little girl in the olden days?”

And I was sort of kidding because I did, in fact, know that the 1950s were not the olden days, but I did love to hear how life was different for her than for me.

But the differences? Minuscule. My mom was born in 1948. I was born in 1971. Life for the average family didn’t change much in the years between her childhood and mine.

There was television, of course. My mom’s family didn’t get a TV set until my mom was in junior high school. We had a black and white set in my earliest memories and got our first color set in 1977. My mom always wore a dress or a skirt and blouse to school; we were allowed to wear pants (but not shorts).

Aaand that’s about it. I mean, really, why was I so interested? I’m sure my fascination with Little House on the Prairie played a part, though I was well aware that my mom was much younger than Ma Ingalls. Who knows? I was curious; I hoped there would be vast differences.

I was in middle school when life started to change, though it didn’t seem especially dramatic at the time. But much as they didn’t seem dramatic, they were, and the world my kids are growing up in is drastically different than the one that I would have recognized as an 8 or 12 year old child.

My dad bought a calculator; we got a microwave oven; there was a new gadget that could answer the phone when we weren’t home; there was a phone that didn’t need a cord.

How bizarre is it that some of those things are now, themselves, obsolete?

And so it went. One new something, then another new something, and then? In 1983, my dad brought home a computer.

Not that it was especially exciting. It was a Kaypro 10, a gigantic beast of a machine that boasted a 10 megabyte hard drive. Yes, 10 MEGAbytes.

I know, right? I have half-a-dozen devices around here with hundreds or thousands of times more capacity than that huge machine had, all of them the size of a deck of cards or smaller.

Also? That machine had one disc drive for 5 1/4 inch floppy discs. Those old floppy discs usually had a 360 kilobyte capacity.

Which leaves me to wonder: why bother? The machine was huge but was little more than a juiced-up calculator/typewriter hybrid.

So get this: pathetic as that tiny 10 megabyte hard drive sounds? It was one of the first computers to ship with a hard drive at all. The next computer we had was an Apple IIe, which had no hard drive. The operating system was on every program disc.

No shit.

The Apple was a major upgrade, though, having (as it did, wonderfully) two floppy disc drives and…

Whoa. I was about to geek out and tell you about the IIe compared to the Macintosh we got in 1984. Let’s just skip that because I’m not a real geek.

Oh, and the printer. Don’t forget about the printer, loud as a typewriter but super-fast (Heh; it’s all relative, isn’t it? I doubt a dot matrix printer would seem fast now.), and with all those lovely strips of paper to peel off the sides when the printing was finished.

My kids love stories about that Kaypro 10. How archaic! How olden-timey! How ridiculous! Because really, they are mocking me. Their faces say, “How foolish of you! Why were you duped into believing that something so silly was innovative and exciting? Why didn’t you just hold out for the good stuff? The iPods and the cell phones?”

They also cannot comprehend not knowing a thing, but wanting to know that thing, and waiting to find out about that thing until they could learn about it from a book in a library. “But what if you really wanted to know and wondering was making your brain all itchy? What did you do? There must have been some way to make the computer find out for you, right?” they ask. Then it is my turn to make a mocking, how foolish of you face.

Imagine it: computers that could not talk to other computers; computers that only knew what they knew and nothing else, unless you used magical indecipherable coding language and told them something else. They can’t imagine it because they don’t see the point.

I considered telling them about web 2.0, and how it didn’t used to be this way, how the internet used to be more like TV or books and less like…what it is now.

I fear I will strain their eye-rolling muscles with that, so I’ve skipped it for now. They can’t conceive of the internet when it was all pages to advertise Tide and paid-subscription sites for newspapers. I assume they’ll take a class in college where they will study the bad-old days of web 1.0.

I assume, too, that they will laugh until they pee.

One time, I tried to tell them about card catalogs. It was like I was describing the time we lived in that cave next to a family of wooly mammoth. “Wouldn’t the cards get lost all the time?” they want to know. “The librarian couldn’t have typed all those cards, right? Because that would be ridiculous,” and we went round-and-round for 20 minutes and they refused to believe me.

Until I showed them a picture of a real card catalog by using Google image search, because of course Google knows these things and ordinary old (emphasis on old) moms do not.

They are unconvinced when I tell them that we didn’t know that electric typewriters (so wonderful, compared to the manual on which I learned), Walkmen, and cordless phones weren’t the greatest things that technological innovations could ever give us.

My Walkman really did seem like the greatest thing ever. The annual family vacation got infinitely more tolerable after my Walkman came on the scene.

I’m suddenly compelled to sing songs from the soundtrack to the movie Footloose.

My children? Suddenly compelled to come to my office door and roll their eyes loudly.

Yes, loudly. If you do not yet have children of an eye-rolling age, just trust me: it can be done loudly.

Carter is the funniest, though (and also kind of my favorite because he does not yet roll his eyes). The older kids at least remember VHS. Spencer gave Carter an old VCR and a stack of VHS tapes, but Carter can’t get the hang of calling them “tapes.” He calls them “the big square movie discs.” He also can’t get the hang of rewinding them; he’s never had to do such a thing before and the whole concept just escapes him. “Where’s the menu, Mom?” he hollers, jabbing buttons on the remote control. “I can’t start the movie without the menu! Here, you push the menu button. It won’t work for me!”

As bad as the card catalog conversation was, the “we didn’t always have remote controls” was worse.

When I told them that, during my entire childhood, we only had 4 (5 after we got Fox on UHF) TV channels from which to choose? They looked at me like I had an extra face on the front of my head.

Last time Carter and I went to a thrift store, he discovered a display of vinyl record albums. He asked me what they were and I said, “Those are record albums. It’s how we listened to music when I was a little girl.”

“Oh!” says my boy, “so they’re olden-days CDs!”

And yes, of course they are. He understands the albums better than cassettes. I showed him the little recorder I used in college, how you could rewind, fast-forward, play, and record. He pulled the cassette out, tugged on the tape, and destroyed the thing like some kind of alien that insists on eating rocks and smelling everyone’s ears.

Hello? Am I alone, or were we listening to tapes and watching movies on VHS not all that long ago?

Things have changed and continue to change. That doesn’t surprise me. What shocks me is the rate at which things are changing. When I was a kid and I wanted to talk on the phone? I went to the desk in the family room, sat in the chair next to the desk, and dialed. Not “dialed” in the sense that I pushed some buttons and called it dialing, but actually spun a dial around in a circle, YANK went the little metal piece, chucka chucka chucka it went back to start.  Then, I was tethered to the desk for the duration of the conversation.

I remember exactly what dialing the phone felt and sounded like. I loved dialing the phone and was a little sad when everyone started switching to phones with buttons.

Now? My kids use very different phones, in very different ways, in a decidedly un-tethered fashion. They don’t even have to talk!

Also, I’m here to tell you that the jokes on the internet and TV about adolescent girls and their lightning-fast texting fingers? No exaggeration whatsoever. I wish there was a way to test Abbie’s WPM rate on her phone. It’s unreal.

I don’t mind that things are changing. Most of the changes, I like it all very much. It would be nice, though, if my kids didn’t act like I’m a complete idiot when I tell them how things used to be.

That, of course, is not new at all. Kids of a certain age think their parents are fools.

Some things will never change.

ETA: My dad* tells me we never owned an Apple IIe; we went straight from the Kaypro to a Macintosh 575 all-in-one. So now I am corrected, as are you. Everyone wave hi to Wendell!

*My dad? A real geek, not the fake kind like me. We’re very proud.**

**OK, facetiousness aside, we are very proud, except that he only uses Apple machines. This makes him, as a computer expert, pretty much useless to me because there is no way I can afford to buy Apple computers. (That was two links from this, my very influential blog. I’ll probably find a Macbook Air and an iPad in my mailbox tomorrow, right? Because I would totally break my no-product-review rule for that shit. Look, two more links! Apple people? I prefer black devices to white. But I’ll leave it up to you.)

We are the people with whom you are trying so hard to keep up…

That’s right. We’re the Joneses. If you’re trying to keep up with us? Aim higher.

I think there are two ways that people start personal blogs like this one. The first one is, a person makes a plan, chooses a topic, sets it up, makes it pretty, gets it all in place, and launches it. The second way is my way. I thought, Hey, I’d like to have a blog! So I got on the trusty ole’ computer and threw together a blog and started writing. I gave no thought to anything, really, except the writing itself.

So as No Points for Style has gained readers and become more important for me and my emotional well-being, I thought, Hmmm…maybe I could spiff it up? Perhaps I’ll do a little of the pretty? And now that the blog isn’t something newcomers can easily read from beginning to end, I probably need an introductory page. So, although a full redesign is still in the future (I’m doing it myself, folks. That’s right; I’m diving right into the code. If I’m not back in 2 weeks, send in a rescue team.), here, for your reading pleasure (or pain; your choice), is everything you need to know about Carter and me and our family.

I’ll introduce the people in the order in which I met them. I met me first.

 

I’m Adrienne and I live a life of leisure. Truly, the luxury knows no bounds. For instance, we own two couches. I pretty much lounge on them all day and all night.

Oh, wait, before we continue with the people, you have to see where I live. There is nothing like the sky in Albuquerque.

This is the view from my office window. It takes my breath away. Those are the Sandia Mountains, which is why pretty much everything here is called Sandia something or other. My dad works for Sandia Laboratories, my mom worked for Sandia Hospice for several years, I went to Sandia High School, and Brian and I used to be members of Sandia Presbyterian Church.

Here’s me in 1988. When I was a teenager, the vent fan in my bathroom would get so clogged with hairspray, my mom had to take the whole thing apart and clean it with shampoo every 2 or 3 months. The ozone layer directly above my parents’ house is just the tiniest bit thinner than in other places. True story.

You haven’t really met me until you know that I like to read, and not just blogs. I like books, the kind with covers and words on paper. Do not tell me that such a thing will not exist in the future. That will make me cry and why would you want that?

You also don’t really know me until you know that I’m a slob. Not a hoarder or a pack rat, but an ordinary old slob. Single exception? My books. I like to arrange them and look at them when I’m not reading them. These shelves are not jammed nearly as full as the ones upstairs in my office, so I can keep them pretty.

I like tattoos. I have lots of them. (People who haven’t seen me since high school are choking and sputtering right now. Breathe, my friends. I was 30 before I learned to fly my freak flag, but it was in me all the time. In me, I tell you.)

I own this kick ass lamp. I know you’re jealous. I’m sorry, but I can’t help you with that.

This is Jacob, the boy who made me a mother. Isn’t he the handsomest thing? Aha, but what you can’t tell is that he is pretty much the world’s funniest person. No, really. When he’s on stage, the actor who delivers lines after him always gets a raw deal.

When he was four years old, Jacob was waiting in line at the bank with his dad. Picture it: people doing banking business, which is Very Serious Shit, speaking in hushed tones and observing all kinds of social conventions that Jacob hadn’t learned yet. He had a question, so he spoke up, nice and loud. “Daddy, Jesus doesn’t want us to eat our poop, does he?”

Here is Abbie, my only girl, and how I managed to produce such a devastatingly gorgeous creature I’ll never know. However, don’t even look at my girl if your intentions are not honorable. She has a dad, a stepdad, four* brothers, and me, and every one of us is quite willing to take you out to the parking lot and use harsh language on you if we have any suspicion that you are a member of the Not Nice People Tribe. Understand me? Good.

*By the way, you will only meet three of those brothers here. She and Jacob have a much older half-brother, their dad’s eldest son.

Abbie was such a fiercely independent and stubborn baby, she potty trained herself. One day right around her second birthday, she tugged on her diaper and said, “No, no backu! No mo’ backu!” I told her she could wear panties if she put all her pee and poop in the potty. She had exactly 3 accidents in the following week and never had another one.

I had Jacob in December 1993 and Abbie in December 1995, and their dad and I split on July 4, 1997. (Side bonus? Independence Day has a whole new meaning for me.) How did I get to be divorced with two babies at the ripe old age of 26? I would consider telling you those stories if they didn’t make me sound like a complete ass. (Edited to add: Ass or no ass, you can read those stories here.)

I was single for a few years, and then I met this guy:

That’s Brian and he is the bomb. For one thing, while I am living my life of leisure, he is working his ass off. He’s up and out the door to work before I even turn over and scratch my ass. He works himself to the bone all day at a job I don’t even understand (laser something-or-other), then comes home and doesn’t even complain about my sloppy ways. Also, he doesn’t mind if we eat spaghetti for dinner four times a week.

But the best thing about him? He’s even crabbier than I am. No, really! Back when he used to sell suits for a living, most of his coworkers were middle-aged gay men. They used to say to him, “How is it possible that you’re not gay? You’re such a bitch!” And it’s totally true.

Also? He sometimes makes quilts, but he does it in the garage because it’s manlier that way. I mean, come on. How could I not love this man?

We met in February, 2000 and we married in August, 2000. That was a stupid, stupid, stupid decision. Thank God it panned out because I would look like an even bigger ass than with the first divorce if it hadn’t.

Aha! But he came with this person:

That’s my stepson Spencer. If you see him on wheels (any kind: bike, skateboard, rip stick, whatever), get out of the way. He is a fiend on wheels. But the most important thing to know about Spencer? Best brother ever. Really. It can be pretty difficult to be Carter’s brother, but Spencer is amazing with him.

When Jacob and Abbie were little, my mom always kept Superman pajamas for them to sleep in when they spent the night at her house. The first time Spencer spent the night at my folks’ house (he was not quite 3), she found the pair that would fit him, put them on him, and attached the cape. He zoomed around the house for a few minutes, chasing the other kids and giggling, but suddenly he came to his dad, teary and sad. “Daddy, my cape is broken!” I’ll be darned if he wasn’t right. That kid couldn’t fly a bit.

That’s our wedding picture. Jacob was 6, Abbie was 4, and Spencer had turned 3 just 2 weeks before the wedding. Isn’t that picture sweet? When I see it I always think, “You people have no idea the shit storm that’s coming.” And it’s a good thing we didn’t know; otherwise we’d have said to hell with that! and run for the hills.

But in the beginning, it was all sweetness and light. And how could it have been otherwise? We were so very in love, and look at those gorgeous children!

On our first family vacation, Brian and I were complimented several times on our children’s excellent behavior. The irony is almost too painful to admit, but I was so proud of myself for the way those kids handled themselves. I had much to learn, but my teacher hadn’t yet arrived.

Two years after our wedding, on July 24, 2002, Carter joined our family. Our lives, which were already pretty complicated what with blending families (10,000% more challenging than we’d imagined it would be) and job and financial difficulties, turned into a nightmare. If you don’t know his story, it’s mostly what this blog is about. Carter has issues.

He screamed all day and night, but does that me he wasn’t cute? Oh no it does not!

These days, he’s a pretty good sport when we want to play the Dress Up Carter game.

He smiled, but rarely. He didn’t laugh. We tried to maintain our senses of humor by referring to him privately as The Little Fucker. Jacob’s nickname was Tooter; Spencer was Froggy; Abbie was Sweetie Petey Pie. And Carter was The Little Fucker. My dad liked to say that first child or twelfth, Carter was destined to be someone’s last child.

The screaming was hard on them. Brian’s and my relationships with Jacob, Abbie, and Spencer were changed forever. Damaged. The destructive force of a child’s disabilities on his or her siblings, parents, and all the relationships in the family is indescribable. We can never return to them all that they lost. I hope that someday, they will understand that we would have done for them everything that we have done for Carter.

Jacob and Carter still play the drums, but Spencer has moved on to the trombone. I love that because the trombone is so fun. For me, I mean. Also, it freaks out the dogs and that’s funny.

The big dog is Lolly. With the exception of a severe excess of enthusiasm, she’s the perfect dog. All our dogs love the whole family, but they all have some favorite people. For Lolly, it’s Jacob and me. She’s my companion. I would take her everywhere I go if she didn’t get motion sick and barf all over the car. She’s approximately as dangerous as a newborn kitten, but she looks scary and when I walk her people swing wide around us. Near as we can tell, she’s a shar pei/hound cross. We adopted her two years ago when she was about a year old.

The pug is Doodle. She’s dumb. How dumb? Well, for one thing, she eats rocks. We’re constantly digging them out of her mouth and trying to convince her to eat proper chews, but we’re fighting a losing battle. I fear her teeth will be gone by the time she’s 6 years old. I have never met such a wacky dog. She’s like a tiny, furry humor machine. We got her when she was a pup from a local breeder. She loves Brian and Abbie the best.

Oh, by the way? Here’s an extremely condensed version of my dog lecture: There are only two places to get a dog. You can either adopt from a shelter or buy from a reputable breeder. Spay or neuter your animals, and never, ever support puppy mills or irresponsible breeders.

And then there’s Blossom. We adopted her just about six months ago, but at 8 she’s the oldest in the pack. Lolly and Doodle love their people but are also bonded to each other. Not so for Blossom; she’s all about the people. She is a fluffy ball of love. Wherever I am and whatever I’m doing, she’s never further away than about 4 feet. She’s also a big fan of Spencer and Carter.

You’ve met everyone who lives here, but I want to introduce two more.

That woman in the front is my friend Kim. Why is she dancing in a tool shed? I can’t answer that. I don’t drink and rarely understand the drunk of the species. We’ve been friends for over 20 years but she doesn’t read my blog. Payback is a bitch.

This is my grandma, Margery Mae Jones. I just thought you should know that I come by my smart-ass ways and doofy sense of humor honestly. Yesterday, I found out how much I love her. My sister Erin (who is her primary care provider) is out of town, and Grandma was in terrible pain from constipation. Erin talked me through a manual disimpaction. Does that sound bad? In reality, it’s so, so much worse. But after it was all over she felt something like a billion times better, so totally worth it.

My Twitter friend @GeekyLindsay awarded me this Best Granddaughter of the Century trophy, so of course I’m very proud. Also, glad that Erin will be here to do it next time.

This is my family, and these are some of our stories.

Welcome!