making happy: to absterge

Dear Internet,
April is clutching winter to its bosom with the bony tips of its fingers and won’t let it go. I decided that I’ve had enough waiting for the signals to move on to the next season and decided to force the signs myself.
I’m referring, of course, to spring cleaning. Mainly my closet.
For the last couple of years, I’ve been steadily working on minimizing my life, with the emphasis on not buying crap. The projected I started in 2013 and planned to continue in 2014 has been fairly successful. In addition to credit card debt being way down, I’m making smarter choices on where my money is going.
While I may not be gorging on shopping sprees as I once did, it has not erased the fact that I own a lot of stuff like clothing and accoutrements, all with varying sizes and fits. My weight has remained within a 10lb range within the last few years (and I am still at my heaviest weight ever) but of course, when I’m at the higher end of that range, clothes do not fit as well as they do at the lower end. Footwear wise, while my second ankle surgery was over a year ago, and it is two years this summer since the first surgery, my foot has yet to stabilize in size and I’m stuck, still, wearing a limited range of shoes.
This whole project is about curating a personal style that represents me, regardless of weight and mobility. In my case, my style has barely changed since my early ’20s: T-shirts, jeans, a cardigan of some type, and Chucks/Docs.
And there is nothing wrong with my style, I’m rather fond of it actually, but there are times when I need to play at being a grown up and that is when I start failing. This past week I had an all day interview for a position in California and I needed to pull together interview outfit(s) that I can wear with panache while staying true to my aesthetic. But with having so much crap, I often forget — very easily — exactly what I own. So the goal was to pull together several outfits to wear without spending a dime on new clothes.
How could I do this? What I needed was an app that could replicate for me what Cher’s closet in Clueless did for her, except with less building construction.
You’d think this would be easy, yes? We’re deep into a world now that revolves around having an app for just about everything, the ability to catalog and mix up outfits from our existing closets should be a piece of cake.
Well, not exactly. This has been a to-do on my list for a couple of years to find such a creature. I started searching in late 2012, early 2013 for an app that could do the following for me:

  • Run natively in iPad/iPhone
  • Allow me to add/edit my own photos
  • Sync between devices
  • Allow me to organize by type/season/etc
  • The app didn’t have to be free, but it should be reasonably priced AND it should have been updated recently
  • A calendar to show what outfits I wore, when

There was hardly anything on the market that matched my criteria. The results of the same search in early 2014 was not much better.
While there are dozens of apps for the iPad and iPhone individually, the list for both was scant. While you can run iPhone apps on iPads, I rejected most of what was available due to inability to sync between devices, last time the app was updated, and if it was geared more for shopping on sites and creating outfits from those sites rather than uploading and creating your own. There were two choices: Stylebook and My Fashion Closet
My Fashion Closet has not been updated in nearly two years, you could not add photos from the camera roll, and overall it was poorly designed.
Stylebook, however, was actively being updated and enhanced. It was well regarded in the fashion blogosphere. It was attractively priced ($3.99) with no surprise in-app buyins.
I decided to give it a go.

My cardigans bring all the boys to the yard.
My cardigans bring all the boys to the yard.

The first thing this app did was cement how much shit I own: 17 cardigans?  24 dresses? 10 pairs of pants of all flavors? 14 pairs of tights? I have not added in shorts, shirts (of any flavor), skirts, shoes, leggings, and other items. I’m kind of afraid to, considering I organized my t-shirt pile the same weekend I started cataloging my closet and it is at 178 t-shirts and counting.
The second thing it did was force me to start culling items that were damaged, I have not worn or do not like from my closet. I found myself fixing repairs on rips and loose buttons, cleaning items that had not been washed in some time, and finally creating a pile of stuff to donate.
The third thing this app did for me was to show just how much flexibility my wardrobe actually was and that was a big surprise. The weekend I started using the app, I was also able to pull together a weeks worth of outfits without any repeats (which tend to be mainly pants). I was able to pull together three distinct outfits for the interview (and yep, packed all three).
Because I still have so much left to catalog, I decided to break it up so that it is not overwhelming. It took me about 6 hours to scan, edit, catalog, and organize nearly 80 items. I decided the best way to handle this is by scanning in items in chunks, and with my t-shirts, as I wear them. My new goal is now wear all t-shirts in my collection at least once before repeating them, which should take a little over six months.
When I mention this project, people think I’m slightly insane for cataloging my closet. But they are also slightly intrigued as well.
But this app is not perfect and it needs some under the hood fixing to make it perfect.

  • The syncing between devices only happens when you turn on “Wifi Accept,” which works by transmitting between like devices on the same network. Why not take advantage of iCloud to do this for you for the automatic sync? Wifi Accept is cumbersome and clunky.
  • iPad version does not work in landscape mode.
  • Image size does not scale well when building outfits. In theory, all items should be the same size once they are added into the database, but this is not true. One of my interview outfits, the tights are 3x the size of the dress and the cardigan is miniscule in looks mode.
  • Creation of categories and subcategories is not intuitive nor easy to figure out.
  • Editing items also not intuitive.
  • Sizes are not saved, but brands are. This is a pain in the tuckus when adding an item, sizing for brands varies (and I wear both men and women’s clothes so I need to be able to differentiate that).
  • The controls to manually edit images is flighty and seems to be hit or miss, even with their tutorials.

Overall, even with the problems, I’m extremely happy with this app and how it is changing my perspective of clothes and fashion, and especially giving me room to play with my existing closet. If you’re looking for a cheap way to recharge your wardrobe, this is a great low-cost investment that allows you to play dress up without spending a dime on new clothes.
P.S. This morning when I walked out to grab the newspaper, I saw crocuses sprouting in the front yard, their shoots a defiant shade of green against the brown mire of the leaves and yard. The gods, it seems, have also had enough of this dreary year.

This day in Lisa-Universe:2013, 2012

Magic, dreams, and wonderful, gorgeous mistakes

20120101-174339 For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working on variations of this post, with versions that ranged from HERE IS MY RESOLUTION LIST to 2011 WAS OMGWTFBBQ.
2011 was just such an odd year and even the thought of recounting what was learned and experienced over the last 12 months seemed ridiculous – is this not the reason why I have a blog in the first place? All of those versions of a year end post seemed relevant as well as moot. Blame it on being a librarian and our stereotype love of lists, even though I’ve argued (to myself) that keeping a list of resolutions on my website would be public shaming into doing them, the truth is, I almost never end up finishing the projects I set out to do. I dream SO BIG and in the end, there are only so much of me to spread around.
And if I confine to you an open secret, many of my resolutions do not change from year to year, and I think that is the one thing that keeps me running is knowing that I have not, and probably will not, fulfill all that my heart desires – but I’m okay with that. Because I desire so much, that I want to accomplish so much, that there is only so many lives (well, one) that can handle all of the dreams I’ve set out to do, so therefore I must never, ever die (or get old, but that is neither here nor there).
When I was reading Neil’s Tumblr over the weekend, I came across his post on his New Year’s Eve benedictions of past, that for one, the image above, someone had turned into a poster of sorts.1 And as I was reading his other benedictions of the past, I realized, yes! This is what I need! It is not about lists, goals, and tick boxes but it is all about magic, and dreams, and wonderful gorgeous mistakes. That we break out of our day to day existence, and to live, to hope, to dream, to dance, to be silly and lovely and all the wonderful, magical things that can only come from a life that has been lived.
And that I do hope this year is filled with wonderful, gorgeous mistakes, that kind that make the best stories to tell, so that I can not only learn from them but also to share them, to engage, and to laugh and mourn over things that were incredible and things that were not so incredible.
So to you, my dear friends, I raise a toast to you on end of the very first day of 2012 and say to you that I love you and I hope the year is one of dreams and love and everything you could possibly desire and so much more.
This is my 2012 wish for you.
1. He did not have attribution for the image in his post, but I would love to find out if such a poster does exist!

The Fragility of All Things

Someone who had been an integral part of my past (I’ve known him for more then half my life!) has come back to me again, through the ultra convenience of Facebook. It was a struggle and a challenge this spring when he contacted me, working through what I was feeling as our last few encounters were fairly messy. I was pretty brutal to him the last time, he was brutal to me the time before. The pattern was always the same, whenever we met.
What has been most intriguing about these textual encounters is how much my own perception of myself was sharpened from the presence of a simple Facebook message in my inbox and the conversations that followed. Things I said to M. nearly a decade ago, explanations of my then life choices, are now crystallized. What’s striking is that I knew then, superficially, why I did things the way I did but it was only now, nearly a decade later, that the full realization of those actions are finally being fully understood.
Rationally, I know that I have always understood the reasoning, but it is obvious with a decade long follow up that I was perhaps afraid to vocalize the truth. I will also shamefully admit that I have not had big thinks in a really long time, most of the what goes in and out of my brain has been fluff and candy these last few years. In my youth, I used to write about my big thinks, streams of unconsciousness that would flow unencumbered but in the last few years, it has been far too painful. I wonder, now, if much of my world would have changed if I had not become so afraid?
The surprising thing about this textual relationship is that it challenged me in ways I did not expect. I knew, for example, why I married TheHusband: I love him, he makes me laugh, he challenges me to be a better person, he knows when to let me be fanciful and when I need to be grounded.
But what I did not really realise until that week just how clearly the TheHusband sees the inner me, the one that hardly anyone ever sees; that at the core of it all, really, is my extreme fragility. That my purity of heart, nobleness, and honesty is covered by the wrapping of obnoxiousness and brassiness to the rest of the world, shines like a beacon to TheHusband. He knows that I bruise easily and this is not a strong thing or a weak thing, and it is not a taking care of yourself thing, it’s a soul who’s a little too not of this planet kind of thing.
M. also saw that side of me, but the key difference is that TheHusband lets me grow and contract, whereas M. still sees me as a 17 year old and he would never let me get beyond that and could not accept the beyond that. This is why M. and I would never work, why we’ll never work, and why we’ll always remain a fond memory of a story and never a temptation of beginning, but always the heartbreak of the end.
There will always be a story of M. and I, that will never change, but that is the has been, while with TheHusband, it will always be the will be.

Panic in the Streets of Grand Rapids: Conversations about mother (part iii)

To support NaNoWriMo this month, I’m finishing the 30+ odd drafts laying about and posting them through the month of November.
Part I: Conversations about mother
Part II: Conversations about mother (part ii)
I felt fine in LA and in Phoenix (no minute or heavy stress attacks) as I drove but somewhere around Las Cruces, NM I began to have a major panic attack. It was late at night, I was stuck between two semis and the 10 had turned into single, each way lanes coupled with high cement shoulders due to construction. To top this wondrous night off, it was raining and raining hard.
I began to panic.
I couldn’t stop, I couldn’t breathe and I was freaked out of my wits.
This stepped up the racing thoughts that any second I was going to careen into the cement shoulder, hit a semi or get run over by the semi behind me. After what seemed like hours but was probably only mere minutes, I pulled off the road when I found the first mom and pop motel where I grabbed a room for the night. Even by taking myself out of what I thought was a dangerous situation, my heart wouldn’t stop racing. I made deals, bets, begged, cajoled, pleaded and bargained with whatever deity was above me to make this end. Nothing happened. I paced my room, smoked a million cigarettes and did everything I thought of in my power but I could not calm down.
The situation was made more intense that while I was no longer freaking out about my impending death on the 10, new thoughts would appear about my situation. I was in the wilds of New Mexico! Alone! With hardly any money! No one I know for hundreds of miles! With a crap cell phone!1 I was literally thousands of miles from my destination, alone, nearly broke, and frightened and scared.
Common sense roused its stately head and forced me to go to the mom and pop of the mom and pop hotel, to explain in very poor pidgin Spanish, that I felt like I was unable to breathe because that was the first thing I could think of to tell them. I could hear the crackling of Spanish on the radio in the make-shift lobby as I spoke. I remember how warm the night felt against my skin and how the air hung with wetness from the recent downpour. I must have looked like a crazy person, standing there, begging for help in a reasonable voice while my heart raged on and clearly, able to breathe.
EMTs shortly arrived thereafter and gave me oxygen, which upon my first inhale I immediately calmed down. They found, just as the ER docs found a few weeks before, nothing wrong with me. Healthy as a horse. It is like once the attack has been fully addressed in some manner, it decides to leave as quickly as it sprang up. Instead of being thankful to the EMTs for the reassurance, I remember feeling chastened. Slightly ridiculous that I called them out in the middle of the night for a panic attack. Also a little stupid, a little insane and a whole lot of embarrassed.
Moments of lucidness during my attacks, when I knew I was fine and I knew I was not in harms way were always felt to be made like disappearing bread crumbs along a well worn road by the panic. It is a struggle, still in the now and sometimes almost daily, to differentiate between the world colored by anxiety and the world in which is real. It is an exhausting struggle within my brain to fight for what could be potentially destructive behavior as compared as to what is termed normal behavior.
I do not know.

1. Back in ye olde times when cell phones were bricks, on analog service and you paid by the minute.

invasion of the barbarians: safe space

To support NaNoWriMo this month, I’m finishing the 30+ odd drafts laying about and posting them through the month of November.
I wrote a charming man sometime in 2008, but never posted it. I wrote a companion piece, Friends don’t let friends waste wine when there’s stories to sell over on LiveJournal within a day or two of a charming man, but that one I posted with glee. Why I posted one and not the other, I have no fucking idea. It is what it is, but it’s important to note that they were written the same day or within days of the other.
These two pieces are related to the the piece below, which I wrote sometime in late 2010 when I found out by sheer happenstance, almost right before TheHusband and I moved back to Grand Rapids, the TheEx was living and working in the Royal Oak area where TheHusband and I were still living. While nearly 2.5 years had passed since TheEx and I had seen each other at the time that I wrote the piece, I spent my remaining days living in the area on high alert that either he was going to find me or I would see him and kill him.
My idea, I believe, in writing this piece was to convey several ideas; namely that no matter how much you work through the pain and tragedy, no matter how much you can forgive, you are still always carrying around shrapnel of that hurt. And all it can take is just a very small trigger to bring the full experience back to life again. The second idea was that I felt, even selfishly, that I had pissed around Royal Oak, marking it as my own and how dare he come to MY land and disturb MY world. Irrational? Fuck yes, but I am thinking that I wanted to write that no matter how far you have come from somewhere, there is always at least something that can send you right back to that space, if not physically, at least emotionally.
The end does not finish cleanly, which I’m leaving as I wrote it last year. I remember now that I struggled so much writing the below, even without having read Friends don’t let friends waste wine when there’s stories to sell.
It’s been 3.5 years since that night when the events of a charming man/Friends don’t let friends waste wine when there’s stories to sell take place and I have not seen TheEx.
I hope I never see him again.
[This post may contains verbiage and/or descriptions that may be triggering to those who have suffered physical, sexual or verbal abuse. Educate yourself: Globally, 1 in 3 women will be abused in her lifetime. ]
I am a survivor of:

  • Physical abuse
  • Attempted gang rape
  • Several date rapes

This in addition to physical, emotional and verbal abuse at the hands of several partners.
Do I have your attention now?
I need for you to know the background in order to understand the various levels emotions that are going to spill out. In “normal” circumstances, finding out an ex-lover is living in your city is typically nothing to note. Finding out the abusive, predatory jackass you were once involved in, whom you thought lived far, far away, is another. Realising that you’re dedicated safe space has been invaded, even if unintentionally, can be traumatizing. If the safe space isn’t really “safe,” then where else do you have left to go?
Now let me begin.
A few years ago I met and dated someone I thought was the bees knees. I have referred to him, on and off, in the past as TheEx. We met, we fell in love, we lived together. Shit got bad. Shit got worse. Shit got downright awful.
The stereotype of what they say about abusers is true: They are charming, sweep you off your feet as if you were ever the only one and you have NO IDEA they are manipulative, controlling abusive assholes until your knee deep in their bullshit and wondering how the fuck you got here, because you’re a smart girl and you’d NEVER be blindsided by this shit. And then there is a slight humiliation to the whole thing because you thought you were “better than that” and by “better than that” I mean you thought would not fall for such trickery. You are, of course, wrong.
I knew TheEx had “problems” with his ex but his spin was the marriage had gone bad, there may have been a little something but it was a one time occurrence. TheEx was under advisement of several medical and psychological doctors, so how bad can it be? He’s getting help, right? Pish! It was nothing! Merely a trifle.
TheEx, of course, spun HisEx as the crazy bitch from hell and that in the grand scheme of things, he was the spurned one (of course). Even his mother would jump on this proverbial bandwagon that HisEx was a money grubbing harlot, low class with no talent who hurt her baby boy. Sure, TheEx has problems! But, who doesn’t?! And he’s under medical and psychiatric care so it’s not like the problems are being addressed! Who am I to worry!
And the fact that HisEx, after the divorce, not only left the state but would not give TheEx her address or contact info under any reason should have been a big red signal, but it wasn’t. Because the seeds had already been planted by him, for weeks at this point, about how he was scorned one and etc. And he so pitched the woo to me that I scoffed at the circumstances. Naive, I know. But my reasoning was that I had been involved myself with crazy people and while not abusive, there were some levels you just do not want to cross. I put HisEx in that category.
My burning hatred, which is now simmering embers but could go up at any time, can be best explained in this post on LiveJournal, which has been private for the better part of two years. It was public for a short duration, after it was written, and then made private a month or two later.1
1. The striking difference of my LiveJournal (before I started x-posting blog entries from here to there) and anywhere else was the easy, openness and laxness in which I wrote. Most of which was due to having security controls for each entry individually rather than an all or nothing setting found in most social networks. I could freely discuss my sex life, which I did regularly, without ramifications since I could privatize those entries. Upon beginning my MLIS program in 2008, I locked down the entire journal from public view to prevent any kind of “misunderstandings” about the content.

A charming man

To support NaNoWriMo this month, I’m finishing the 30+ odd drafts laying about and posting them through the month of November.
Late summer or early fall of 2007, TheEx and I made the joint agreement to apply to grad schools together. The plan of attack was to apply to schools that offered programs for both of interests (he, urban planning; me, library and info sciences). We made plans, contingent plans, and back-up plans for almost every possible outcome.
Except for breaking up.
I mention this because on in August of 2008, TheEx moved to Ann Arbor to attend U of M while I’m moved somewhere in the general Detroit area (location undetermined as of yet) to attend Wayne State for my MLIS program. Over the course of the summer of 2008, shortly after we broke up, we’ve started hanging out once or twice a week by going to movies, seeing concerts, and having dinner.
After a few awkward steps of figuring out the deal with how to proceed with the fallout of the break-up, since I came back from the U.K. in mid-June of 2008, things have gone fairly well. We see each other when we see each other, I honestly didn’t think twice about the arrangement (And no, I’m not kidding myself.) and just thought that things being as they were, I was/am okay with the set-up.
And for the better part of that summer, I was told over and over and OVER again by everyone and sundry that I was making a huge mistake. I was making things worse by continuing to be involved with someone when the healing process of the break-up had yet to begin. I was putting myself on the line for something that may or may not ever pan out, regardless of which direction. I sought out therapy (paid and friends), walking, knitting, trips, yoga, doing sage cleanses, and seeing a palm reader. (Who, incidentally enough, predicted the break-up two days before it happened in which I poo-poohed her decision. I thought everything was fine between TheEx and I, only to find out said two days later, it clearly wasn’t.
And I’m stubborn.
I ignored the commentary from well-meaning friends, because if I was okay with how things were going, then isn’t that the main concern? And if I could reconcile the past and put forth energy into the future with being friends with him, and was totally okay with that, isn’t that what it is ultimately all about?
And lastly, I had already thought long and hard about the probability of him seeing someone else, thus, knowing I wasn’t going to be happy about it (more so with my ego over anything else), but you know, I’m an over educated woman of the ’00s, I’ve been around the block a few times, I know how these things work. You meet someone, you date, it ends, you grieve for X amount of time, you move on.
But how the relationship ended, why it ended and the after math were different from prior relationships I have ever been in and thus, I had no road map to work from. I made mistakes in the beginning of the break-up, lost some footing and floundered once or twice, but I always quickly regained my steps and I made sure to always put myself first before anything else.
Because he was leaving G-Rap (more than likely for good), we decided to get together for one final hang out session. Change is afoot and change is never really easy, as we all know. I picked him up and we opted to head for dinner at a place we’ve frequented before and for ice cream afterwards; a typical TheEx and Lisa evening. Dinner was fine, we were having a good time talking about our upcoming school plans and walked over to grab ice cream afterwards only to discover the line was too long. We then opted to head to another favorite place, walking there from his current adobe and enjoying the same brand of ice cream with very little wait.
As we’re sitting outside, he totally getting into his mint chocolate chip in a waffle cone and me attempting to eat a very messy soft serv Twist dipped in hardshell, TheEx brings up that he has to talk to me about heavy topics.
“Is this about the New York Times billing?”, I inquire while ice cream drips all over my hands and onto the ground.
“No,” says he.
He then launches into what now sounds like a pre-rehearsed monologue about how he may begin dating in three weeks, three months or three years and I need to be happy for him. And if I’m not happy for him, then the onus is on myself. (I’m paraphrasing the later, not the former.)
I’m stunned.
I toss my now soggy cone into the garbage and attempt to collect my thoughts but I find that I don’t really have anything to say. Prior to our meeting, I had thought of some things I wanted to say to him this fine August evening but decided that by doing so would be pointless, some things were just better left unsaid. I just assumed that our relationship, with the change in geography and lifestyles, would eventually peter out and we would go on with our own lives in much different directions. I had maintained the relationship for most of the summer by almost sheer force of Lisa-ness: Most of the planning, getting together and encouraging friendship was my idea. At some level, he really is an ultra-cool guy but he’s a loner, who barely sees anyone outside of his family even when he was working and had cultivated work relationships. Most of his friends, his longtime friends, lived outside of the city or even the state. Those in city are busy with their own lives, as people are wont to do. Our social life when we were together was cultivated by my social circle, not his and when we split, he moved back into hermit mode once again.
And we talked about this, his lack of making the effort for anything when we were together as a couple and later, as we attempted to build a friendship. A lot of the decision process in regards to social activity always tended to lay on my shoulders and I was growing more frustrated as our intimate relationship grew and later our platonic relationship and he said he knew that was a problem with him and he needed to “work on it.” Whatever the hell that means, I’m now guessing.
We stumble over conversation for a bit and it was getting difficult to talk while people were coming in and out of the ice cream store. I requested that we head back to his place and sit on the front porch to finish this discussion. We walk back in silence and I’m attempting to formulate my thoughts but I find that I’m angry? Pissed? Upset? I can’t name the emotion that is bubbling towards the surface. Other than a drunken faux paus I made last weekend when we were at a wedding together, I had not made the moves towards him romantically — I can’t handle a romantic relationship with anyone right now. Yes, deep in my heart of hearts, perhaps I did want us to “date” again but when things were better, when stuff was more settled and I could handle knowing what I know and reconcile all of this together. Dating him now would be too easy, it wouldn’t be worthwhile for me emotionally to go through all of this again.
I know this, rationally and logically, I have gone over this a gazillion times with my shrink, my friends and with myself. I know a lot of things about why this relationship wouldn’t work, why I would ultimately would not be happy and why I am doing nothing but beating myself up against the wall. But there is something, something I cannot name that pulls me to him. When he calls or when I’m around him, I’m like a 15 year old girl. Call it love, call it infatuation, call it a crush but one thing that is agreed upon by people who know him is that he is a charming man.
I don’t know how long we “talked,” an hour? More? Less? I keep trying to put together the conversations, stilted.
“I did not or have not felt romantically towards you all summer and I have no desire to pursue a relationship with you now, or ever.”
“Did you fall out of love with me,” I asked.
“I guess, if you want to call it that” says he.
“Are you still attracted to me,” I venture further. (Masochist, I am.)
“That’s irrelevant,” he responds. “I cannot be in a relationship with you because I cannot commit emotionally or physically with you or with anyone. I do not want to get your hopes up. It doesn’t feel good, for me, to think that way.”
The above was written sometime in late 2008, before TheHusband I got back together and when I was still reeling from the aftermath of my relationship with TheEx. There is quite a few more posts about TheEx lurking about my draft box, hundreds of words that I cannot bear to trash and that need to be made public to the world.
Update: September, 2013
I haven’t spoken to TheEx or seen him since the above conversation took place five years ago. Reading this now, one would think the relationship broke off due to any myriad of usual breaking off reasons. TheEx and I broke up because he hit me. We broke up because he has a long history of physically assaulting his women, which I had found out via happenstance when we were still together of the depth and breadth of the assaults that lead to police charges and jail time.
TheEx is also Bipolar, with various other mental ailments but on a much larger, and more dangerous, scale then I could ever be. Whether or not his physical abuse is tied to his mental issues is a blurred line, but despite the 2x a week shrink he was seeing by the time we met and the rainbow of drugs in his life, these treatments were obviously not enough.
I thought I could change him, having just come off my time in behavioral therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder. I thought I had changed him. I was wrong. After he had hit me, and the furor had died down, and he had moved out, I wanted to immediately protect him. I wanted to comfort him and tell him that it was a one time thing and would never happen again. I wanted to forget he had hit because he would never do it again, previous history of police charges notwithstanding.
His close friends and his family all blamed the brain disease – this wasn’t TheEx! This was the chemical problem that lead to these problems. It didn’t matter it had been going on for nearly 20 years, that he had run ins with police and safety departments, and so forth and so on. This wasn’t him!
While I was the victim, they turned him into a martyr. I was shut out from his family, from his friends who had offered up phone numbers in support “in case something happens,” and treated as a non-entity when I called for help. He was back to being protected and that is all that mattered.
I was pretty angry after we broke up, ever more so after those close to us disavowed me. I was the one who was abused but he was the one who must be protected. I wouldn’t go to Ann Arbor, where I knew he was living for fear of running into him. I found out a few months before TheHusband and I were to move from Royal Oak, he was now living there and then I found it difficult to leave the house for fear of seeing him.
In some ways my life was crippled because of this and I have yet to find the freedom in letting go.


To celebrate my turning 29 for the 11th time, we held a small party here at Throbbing Manor last Saturday in which I invited close friends and new neighbors. The turn out was good, last person was kicked out shortly before 4 AM, we ate party left overs for days and I did not, unfortunately, wake up in my own puke as I have been known to do before.
TheHusband, who is not so much socially awkward but that he hates people, wanted “TheHusband time” on Sunday, the actual day of my birth, to balance out all the socializing he did the night before. With TheHusband off doing whatever it is he does when he’s alone (namely, reading the interwebs, listen to podcasts and watching sports), I figured it was a good time to start unpacking boxes of books and journals for my office that I had not seen in years. Our living room bookcases finally arrived a few days before and in the process of unpacking and organizing those, I discovered more stuff for my office and I knew, likewise, that more items would be in the boxes marked the office that belong downstairs.
[In contrast to the recently arrived living room bookcases, my office bookcases have been here for months and I’ve not done a thing with them. Boxes in the guest room have been silently waiting for me to unpack them. The glare of the unpacked boxes is much like the glare of the pug when she thinks you’re up to no good.]
officebookcases-small For the better part of that Sunday afternoon, I spent time reading old journals dating back to my teens and 20s. Some entries were difficult because it was clear I thought of myself as being this sophisticated teenager when I was obviously so wholly naive. Other pieces were just sad in that back of hand to the forehead type of way and others were painful just for the memories they stirred. In addition, I also ended up reading some of the short stories I wrote through high school and it seemed that a lot of them ended the same way: someone dies a violent death. It’s pretty clear some things never change.
As I was reading, sorting and unboxing, I thought of these papers in several ways:

  1. As an archivist and with that in mind, how future generations are going to look at my work and attempt to figure out chronological order and such. Also how to preserve these materials in their current state AND move them digitally? Seventeen year old Lisa did not think to buy everything on acid-free paper. Seventeen year old Lisa was also hugely romantic.
  2. Collection fodder for story telling and telling of stories. I’ve long known I have had a habit of writing down bits and bobs on scraps of paper, which I’ve now collected into a folder with hopes to turn them into something solid instead of just collecting random bits of paper.

Re-reading these old tomes of mine sent me into two equal, but separate, trains of thoughts: I have accomplished much, have had experience and seen much of the world that most do not. Go team Lisa! On the flip side: Jesus Christ, I’ve pissed away a lot of opportunities, I’m soon to be officially old and there is still so much work to be done. Will I be able to get it all completed? Recently, my lovely friend John wrote an interesting spec on his own life plans and the fluidity of his life plans (from game Reindeer to game Caribou) as things in his own life have changed. This got me thinking about my own life and how I plan for the short term, not the long term. I have game ThinkAboutItTomorrow! TheHusband gets on me about this quite a bit whenever we talk about moving to Europe. He points out that if we go abroad every year, as I want to do, our chances of getting a home across the pond will either take longer or cost us more. Logic does not bode well with my own reasoning. I’m about instant gratification, I could be dead next year from a car accident and where will my savings get me then?
Since we’ve moved into Throbbing Manor, I’ve been having this minor existential crisis, of sorts, on a near weekly basis. But after reading John’s post, I began to wonder: If I spent more time living and less time wondering about this life I think I am supposed to be living, how different would my life really be?
Interesting thought.

Conversations About Mother (part i)

My brother and I are not on cordial enough speaking terms to the effect that we do not meet up, speak/text or are even Facebook BFFs. Our only connection is in regards to our mother, and even then contact is either brief moments filled with monosyllabic conversations or heated arguments that result in a lot of shameless threats thrown from both sides.
TheHusband, who finds my brother to be a gigantic asshole and refuses to allow him to step foot into our home until my brother apologizes for several unsavory things he’s said to me, did agree that any kind of “family” gathering should be done in a neutral location to keep the drama to low murmur. This is done to appease mother who continually harps and makes noises on “Why can’t you all just be civil to one another?” whenever my brother and I begin to bicker. Mother, however, seemingly and innocently forgets that much of my brother’s and I intolerance of each other has been started by her in some way and additionally while complaining about our sibling behavior, chooses to ignore the fact that she’s not spoken to half of her own brethren (she is the eldest of seven) in nearly five years for various infractions only known to her (and of which she can never explain when asked). Regardless of historical nods, my frustration levels skyrocket whenever a tentative olive branch is swung out to greet him, my brother will consistently denounce any kind of gathering, neutral or otherwise and effectively cock blocks any kind of civility I attempt to share when planning “family time,” regardless of how desperate my mother is to have it.
Therefore to save my sanity and have less dealings with my brother, family celebrations are now split in half for mother, who spends half her time with me and the remaining with my brother.
It is no surprise for this past Mother’s Day, I told mother that she should make plans with my brother first and then we would do our plans around those plans with my brother were made concrete. A day or two later, she tells me that she and my brother were having a mid-day meal at the retirement villa and that after, she’d like to come to our place to hang out while TheHusband and I gardened, followed by meal and game playing (Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit). Because it was her day, I also told her to pick the meal which to her meant giving me the breakdown of a four course (but very simple) meal, which TheHusband and I shopped and prepped for the day before. As mother no longer drives due to neuropathy in her feet caused by diabetes, additional timing is taken into consideration when scheduling events with her. I made it very clear to her that due to my work schedule the following day, it would need to be an early night and that since dinner would take about 1.5 to 2 hours from prep time to table, we would like to eat in the later afternoon with her tucked up back home at a fairly reasonable hour. She agreed.
With surface history of the dealings with my brother mentioned, I was not surprised upon receiving a call from my mother an hour before I was to pick her telling me that my brother could not make it to the mid-day meal (of course) and that instead, he was picking her up in the mid-afternoon to go to a party that was being held in his honor (his birthday was last week). With no thought to our feelings, plans, or prep for the meal she informs me that she’s going to this party. I asked her to call me if she was going to be arriving later then 5pm so we could plan accordingly. She in fact didn’t call until 6pm and was terribly surprised to find out that no, I was not picking her up and no, we were not having dinner as planned and in short, no, we’re not celebrating Mother’s Day with her. I made mention to dropping off some items of hers at her house the following day and hung up.
The following day, I kept to my promise and dropped some goods off at her apartment that I had ordered for mother from Amazon. Mother looked emotionally beaten and was clearly visibly upset. While I sat ramrod straight in a chair, pissed at how rude she behaved the day before, she proceeds to tell me with fat tears running down her cheeks that my brother spent the most of their time together the day before berating her for her behavior. Why was she not fast enough with her cane? Why is she so slow? Why is she not doing a million things at once like she used to do? My brother then apparently bragged that the people who were throwing him the party considered him as a second son (their own son died in a car accident in October 2010 and he and my brother were quite close) and that he wanted to be adopted by them. My brother is 32. On Mother’s Day, my brother used his time with her to talk about her failings, her missed actions and how horrible she was as a mother and did absolutely nothing else.
I struggled with two things that day: One how best to approach mother diplomatically in regards to her own fairly atrocious behavior and secondly, to not get caught up in the mother/brother drama that has pervaded me for nearly my entire life. I succeeded in the first but failed in the second.
This is a gloss over the day to day workings of my immediate family, which accounts for the partial disjointedness of the writing when attempting to explain in the shortest amount of time possible a second in a dysfunction that has been ongoing for decades. Much like that day when I sat ramrod straight in the chair, upset and angry for her behavior towards me, I could feel the undertow pull of her laying down the guilt no matter how much I fought against it. The unspoken listing of her wants and needs, rejecting the possibility that she’s ever done anything wrong is strong. How dare I criticize her when clearly my brother offended her the most with his behavior? Obviously, she should not want to live if we both think she’s the most horrible mother in the world!
I realised then I had two options: Instead of writing short stories where the mother is always violently killed, I would end up murdering my own OR I could start writing publicly about my family to get the tale out into the open. At the very least, it will keep me out of prison. At the very most, it will serve to help articulate years of feeling inadequacy for being born and save me thousands in future therapists bills.

Five minutes in heaven

Solarium cum yoga studio.

In making roads on my inner self (more deets coming in another post, soon), I decided to spend five minutes in the morning just being.
For someone who comes from a long line of Type A personalities, who can’t leave her bedroom in the morning before making the bed BEFORE DOING ANYTHING ELSE (this also includes making said bed with dog and husband in situ), just being is hard. It means I have to reject the voices in my head that are whirling dervishes, I have to reject the twitching of my body to go do something, anything; it means resisting the urge to open up one eyeball to peer around the room. It means being still for the sake of being still.
Originally I planned on 15 minutes but if the mediation game on the Wii and yoga classes have taught me anything, I have not yet earned that freedom to do 15 minutes. Five I can be grateful for and accept, which I did wholeheartedly. Wednesday, however, was not amused and decided that if momma was going to sit on the yoga mat in the middle of the room, she was going to go sit on the new leather couch across from momma, the same couch she’s been barred from a million times over.
This morning’s ritual was slightly painful in learning to be still and reject everything around you, including internally, which creates a lot of energy in doing. When the timer went off, I slightly scowled. This should not be a game, there is no competition.
Another lesson I must teach myself that it is for the inner good and the prize is living longer, better, more meaningfully. I may not have sat as silent as I wished this morning, but I can only continue to try to be better than I was before. (Yes, yes, that in and of itself is a competition, but shhhh. We’re in denial.)
This evening, while baking cookies, I found myself with a few extra minutes on my hands. We had finished dinner, kitchen was cleaned and I was just waiting for the batches of cookies to be completed. I had 00:05:53 left on the clock – enough time to walk to the mat, sit down and try this mediation thing again. Wednesday joined me as well, but this time instead of shedding all over the purple leather couch, she laid down in front of me, protecting me while I sat lotus-style with pretty hands on my knees. This time it was far easier than in the morning. I imagined white light around myself, the dog and the house. I paid attention to the sounds going on around me. The sound of my breathing, the sound of Wednesday’s snort breathing, the sounds of my Of Courtly Love and Bawdiness Pandora station playing in the kitchen. I listened to what the house was saying, what the world was saying.
My mind began to clear. There is still whirling dervishes of thoughts but those were held back against the tide of light. Even for a few seconds, it was nice to just be.

The “To:Be” Project: An Intro

Manneken Pis, Brussels, May 2010

I’m currently ensconced in northern Michigan, in an area known as cherry countr y, prepping for an interview I have tomorrow. This prepping may or may not include spending 15 minutes cursing while I rolled my hair in soft curlers this evening, but alas, there will be no images to support that statement.1 A couple of years ago, in talking with my friend Rakesh, I asked how he got to be involved with so many different hobbies and seemingly master of them all. He said that he picks one new thing a year to learn. Simple, yet brilliant. I personally am far too “in like” with so many things that while it is okay with having these multitude of interests, I’m scatterbrained all over the place. I can talk smack about a lot of shit, but in essence, I’m mistress of none. And this got me thinking.
Orange chocolate balls. Heh.

In the last couple of years, I’ve started cultivating a few hobbies to see what I thought of them – cooking and knitting were but a few. The more I started working on these hobbies, the better I (obviouly) got. It started back in 2006, when attempting to impress TheEx, I made from scratch a Dark Chocolate Flourless Torte. What surprised me the most about this was that for someone whose idea of cooking was take-out and prior baking experience was box cake mix, the torte turned out to be a huge success. There is something about baking that makes me incredibly happy and most of all, a sense of accomplishment, “I MADE THIS!” kind of thing. Last holiday season I gave out baked goods that were also all made from scratch (not a boxed item in sight or KitchenAid mixer in sight!2) to various and sundry people.
Doctor Who iTardis iphone/ipod cozy, v1.1.

But I digress.
I then realise what I wanted to be, really, when I grow up, is a Renaissance woman. A punk rock Martha Stewart who can not only can her own goods,  speak several languages, keeps bees, put together and tear apart a car, herd pugs, play a musical instrument (well!) and at the end of the day, can out geek them all. So like Rakesh, I choose one new thing a year, master it and then learn the next new thing and this is how the “To: Be” project was born. These “things” can vary wildly from baking, knitting, learning a new language, writing a novel, or fulfilling a long held desires like taking race car driving lessons and ultimately, race cars.
Thus, a trend you may have noticed here as of late is that there has been loads of posts that have been popping up with titles like “To: Travel” or “To: Consume” or “To: Something.” These posts serve to not only chart my progress on these things that figure largely in my landscape but also to show off my accomplishments and also my failures. I mention this as in the last few weeks there has been a influx of new readers to The Lisa Chronicles, much stemming from search engines, mailing list discussions, and link backs to posts on the So, You Want to be a Librarian/Archivist?. While I have several posts in drafts format that need to be posted on that very topic, The Lisa Chronicles, is not just about the librarianship/archives world. There are many fine blogs and websites out there whose sole purpose is to cover just the librarianating/archiving world, I’m just not one of them.
I am stressing this point because I’ve received a number of emails from lovely readers who keep asking when I’m writing more on the So, You Want to be a Librarian/Archivist? topic, which I am and will be, but that is not the main focus of this site. All posts chronicling The To: Be Project will be sorted out from the main herd and available in the header at the top of the page for easier access. And now that I’m out of tea, I bid you a good night.

1. Seriously, my hair isn’t even THAT long (a titch past shoulders) but it is thick. I swear to Nigel that these hair curler maker people think the average woman has 10 hairs on her head. Tomorrow should have interesting results.
2. Justin and I currently live in 600 sqft apartment and our kitchen is galley style, 6′ long and 3′ wide. So, no KitchenAid mixer until we move and yes, I used every available desk/table space during the 2-3 day bought of baking.