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Wednesday Words: a barbaric yawp

After spending over a month with contractors, tradespeople, and even a random mother-in-law – who does not belong to us – in our home, I think it’s safe to say that we have seen it all in our dusty house.

ALL. Remember the mother-in-law.

Steve and I built this house together thirteen years ago. Neither of us can think of a single disagreement we had over anything. We were also newlyweds so perhaps that had something do with it.

Thirteen years later we were three weeks into a renovation that he was largely absent for – I’m at home during the day, he’s at work. Fair enough.

Except it is not fair. During the construction of our home I dealt with no one other than the builder on very rare occasions. But this time around it was me dealing with the contractor, the trades, and the mother-in-law.

I might be a tad bitter about her. More on that later.

Why isn’t it fair? Because women are not treated the same. The same contractor would question and discount my input just to turn around and call Steve – who we explicitly instructed was not to be called because his days are busy enough already; oh, and because I’m a capable adult who takes care of a house, often on my own.

Because I was a woman alone in a home with bunch of guys, I set out to be nice and establish myself as the owner present in the house. I learned their names. I told them good morning and good bye in the evenings. I commented on their work. I smiled. 

That last one was my big misstep.

We all know the anecdotes of men asking women to smile for their Diet Coke as they pay at the gas station. Or the rise in popularity and criticism of RBF – resting bitch* face.

I wish I had more RBF – I shall speak with my Botox lady next time – and less southern politeness. Sadly, being polite gets you run over more than it makes a friend – especially in these situations.

We had a terrible tile crew and even after it was fixed, it wasn’t. That was my breaking point. This is our last house and I’ll be damned if I’m going to have a backsplash that is two shades of grey. 

Steve emailed his concerns to the owner and received a response full of excuses. I also sent a separate email detailing the unfinished work that was part of the contract and had been paid for.

Guess who didn’t get a response to their email?

Here’s where things really went sideways.

But first: Steve is a wonderful man. He is progressive, supports my attempts to smash the patriarchy, and he is right along side me in raising a strong, capable, questioning, and independent 16 year old daughter. We don’t have defined gender roles in our home – it’s more about me being short and him being tall. He takes care of the tall things; I take care of the short things. And even better, we enjoy doing projects together. 

But he is a fixer and after me trying to explain just how bad it had been to be treated like this in my own home, he offered up this solution:

I could email the contractor from Steve’s email address telling him all the things that were horribly wrong with the situation. Such as: the attitudes toward me, trying at every turn to pull something over on me, the intimidating and pushy behavior, and the mother in law.

Holy hell, if I owned a sword it would have be out and I would have been standing on a rooftop for all to hear:

I refuse to only be heard by a man because he thinks another man is behind the words. I sound my barbaric yawp! – Walt Whitman 

Ok, I didn’t say that last part. But you get the point. So did Steve. 

He sat down and calmly composed an email, never to receive a response. But the words were out there in the universe and for the first time I think he got how I was feeling. 

We have since had more issues and this morning we had a leak from the stone in the fireplace after it rained. I texted the contractor and I kid you not, I received a thorough mainsplaining on how a leak is water escaping from a crack.

Astounding.

So here I am today and I have a lot of questions and misgivings about society. We treat genders, races, and religions with disdain for not being like us. We take advantage of situations, intimidate, demand, and tell females to smile for a stupid Diet Coke. 

We adapt and develop RBF. We learn that politeness is often dangerous. And we yawp until men see our perspective from the rooftop. 

Why? Here’s a hint: it’s not to be heard. That’s not the problem because believe me, they hear us. It’s because men taking on badly behaving men is the springboard to change.

They listen to each other when it comes to certain issues. But very few will tackle this one. And before men get scared, this doesn’t have to involve protests and signs. Simply calling out the bad behavior would go such a long way. 

Not immediate change but if enough say something, enough will pay attention.

So… the mother-in-law. This is the part that actually grieves me. She was downright nasty to me. She lied to the owner, her son-in-law, took a check we left in good faith – because we had to leave – without completing the work and called me a liar over something so stupid. She was by far the most defensive, the most deceitful, the most vicious, and the one looking to get away with the least amount of quality work for the money paid.

When women turn on women, we take a years of steps backwards. We un-do efforts by men to treat us with respect and their efforts stop. And when men say nothing to their male counterparts, women just become shrill and difficult. It’s a circuitous mess.

Steve tells me every night that I’m his favorite sound in the world. I have questioned that of late but he swears it’s still true. But until people start treating people with respect, I’ll continue with my occasional yawp but far away from remodeling projects.

The painters are here next week and hopefully I’m not continuing with a part three but instead telling you about the time this week that my rabbits turned themselves blue.

Oh, and by the way, I hope the mother-in-law, her son-in-law, and family had a wonderful Thanksgiving together last week. 

* I strongly dislike the word “bitch”. It’s demeaning but that’s what the face is called – for now. 

 

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Wednesday Words: construction therapy

…and Steve’s worst idea ever. Stay tuned!

Want to expose every crack and weakness in your relationship all at once?

Remodel your house.

What started as an I’ve got this – boldly proclaimed from my mouth – quickly became a slow descent into I AM TRIGGERED.

And I don’t use that term lightly because that’s a giant pet peeve of mine. People should be able to freely and genuinely say that their body, their emotions, and their past are all colliding at once.

It’s very messy.

Between tradespeople looking at me like I had two heads, insisting I had plumbing work done that I did not have done, calling me a liar, aggressively asking for money, to me throwing them out of my house – I was over it after 3 weeks of this all day, every day.

Oh and my favorite, being asked a question, giving an answer, and them texting Steve, IN FRONT OF ME – thousands of miles away – because they didn’t like my answer.

I’m three feet away from you and I know what I want. I also do what I want in case you’re wondering.

We finally got most of the work done and fired the original contractor. But that didn’t fix my mental fatigue over having people in my home for three weeks treating me like an idiot.

Oh, and I’ve failed to mention – we started all of this the day of opening night of Chaney’s two week run of Elf the Musical.

All the jazz hands. And other hand gestures.

We remodeled the two guest baths, all the floors, the kitchen, the fireplace and the only room we left untouched was the master bath because we have bigger plans that we want to do right the first time.

Enter Steve’s worst idea ever.

One night we were laying in bed commiserating over the layer of dust that now functioned as powdered foundation for me when Steve wondered aloud, “what if we took the wall and door down that separate the toilet from the rest of the bathroom?”.

Me: So you want to turn our bathroom into a prison bathroom??

I’ll get right on putting a drain in the middle of the floor tomorrow. Easiest remodel ever. 

We got a good laugh out of it and despite everything, we are thrilled with the results of both the remodel and the improvement in our ability to communicate. We also laugh a lot about all 5′ of me standing on the landing of the stairs to throw the tile crew out of our house – hey, higher ground is needed when you’re short.

And now that’s being remodeled to add a podium for me to stand and regularly address the family.

Everyone wins.

Painting the rest of the house happens on December 16th and then we are done for awhile.

But Steve is still getting soap-on-a-rope for Christmas.

 

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Wednesday Words: The Joy of Syntax

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Have you ever felt like a second person narrator in your own life? What is a second person narrator? Here you go:

This point of view is the least common of all three persons, mostly because it’s the hardest to pull off …. You’ll recognize this point of view by the use of you, your, yourself with the absolute exclusion of any personal pronouns (I, me, myself). The narrator is the reader. It’s tricky, but it can be done.

This sounds like the parenting life!

The past four years of my life have felt like they happened to me. Multiple situations completely out of my control but demanding every bit of strength I had.

Severe mental illness, physical assault, death, grief, angry and grieving teenagers, a traveling husband, a third teenager who slipped through the cracks, sexual assault, PTSD/anxiety/depression, police interviews, suicidal ideation, therapy appointments, psychiatrist appointments, loss of a hobby, loss of a passion, being used, disrespect, entitlement, addiction, lost dreams, lost friends, a new school, brighter days on the horizon…

How are you feeling? What do you need? How was your school day? Your orthodontist appointment is tomorrow. The school called about the assault on you. You have therapy tomorrow. Did you take your meds? Are those boys leaving you alone? You can’t drink as much as you are. You can’t do drugs in our house. It’s time for you to be an adult. You love high school?! You have overcome so much. You are fierce.

You get the point.

The definition of the second person says that it can be tricky but it can be done; it’s  exclusively you, they, them. That is 100% accurate and correct; it is tricky.

The exclusion of  I, me, myself is a dangerous way to live. It happens but it’s not without consequences. You miss what’s happening in your actual life while trying to stay on top of everything else that is moving so fast.

It took four years but it caught up with me. Don’t worry because I’m ok. I have a great therapist. And a fantastic husband.

I’m writing again. And in my research, along with my favorite “Ferris Bueller” quote, I found the antidote to living in the second person: change the point of view. Tell my story and flip the script to the first person POV where I can ask for help, I can say how I feel, I can put boundaries in place, and I can tell my story.

Please don’t take this as me making it all about me. Because every good story has a balance; multiple perspectives and plot lines. And if the book is good, they converge and tell a cohesive and relatable story. But it takes everyone, even the antagonist(s) to create a rich plot. Because without adversity, there’s really no story arc and it results in something flat and boring.

Our life has been anything but boring. Would I change anything about the past 4 years? Probably not. I certainly have learned from these years and for that I’m thankful.

But I’m also really, really thankful that what our family wrote doesn’t resemble a horror novel and something closer to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.

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And yes, I unapologetically admit to being Jeanie.

Isn’t writing amazing? What surprising thing has it taught you about your own life?

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Wednesday Words

No, I’m not on fire. At least not for the sake of other’s comfort.

Anymore.

Last night after dinner my husband asked me about taking care of some rather mundane tasks that belonged to other people; other adults to be exact.

My gracious response was, “I’m not doing it. I’m tired of doing shit other people are supposed to do.”

No kids or animals were around to hear my sparkly words so at least there’s that.

His response was actually gracious. Because he is a very smart man. Well, actually he just said, “ok.” But whatever. Still a smart guy.

However, I do think my abrupt answer speaks to where a lot of women are coming from these days. Especially women with one or all of the following: jobs, families, pets, household responsibilities, personal care, etc.

We have been told we can have it all and in the process we have set ourselves on fire. Or worse, we have let others set us on fire for their own gain. They have taken advantage of our warmth.

Now we are left burned. And hurting. Yet life moves on.

Kids still need to get to school and activities. We have careers we show up for with smiles on our faces. Our homes need to be clean-ish. Our families have this crazy expectation to be fed. Even our pets want treats every time we walk in the door, even if it was just to get the mail. It’s exhausting.

So Sunday evening, after a particularly trying weekend, the thought crossed my mind:

What if I just stopped talking?

I spend a lot of time up in my head with my thoughts but this was a weird one, even for me. It’s now Wednesday and I have finally figured out what that my silence would ideally achieve.

If I stopped talking, people would see me.

They would have to look. Forced to make eye contact. Forced to read expressions. Forced to make gestures… some probably not so nice if we’re being honest.

We don’t see each other anymore. Our noses are buried in electronic devices. Even as we are rushing from activity to activity or chasing the next big promotion, we are texting and emailing instead of seeing the other person.

And this lack of seeing others; I don’t believe it’s a female specific issue either. But because I’m a woman, this is my own perspective. And because this is me, I’m going to tell you what I, along with most women, long to hear:

I see you.

I see your frustration. I see your tears. I see your hurt over the destruction of addiction. I see your worry over your kids. I see the times you clean up messes made by other adults you are supposed to be able to count on. I see your struggles because we all have them. I see the well-intentioned fire you started to keep others warm and I see the harm it is doing to you.

It’s time to stop the madness. Put the fire out and help another woman put her fire out as well. Because there is more than one way to generate warmth. Community instead of competition would be an excellent place to start.

Build a different kind of fire. One that illuminates and allows us to see and support each other. We can all do better.

And one last thing, take a look in the mirror and see yourself. I did that this morning and saw a woman doing her very best, and purposed to keep talking. Without as many sparkly words.

Maybe…

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Top 10 Tuesday: Villains

TTT-NEWTop Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Today’s list is all about villains. And not just the awful ones but also my favorites, best, worst, lovable, creepiest, most evil, etc. This took some thought because I tend not to dwell on the bad guys but here goes!

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Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

  1. Hanna from Baby Teeth (Zoje Stage) – My pick for the creepiest because a psychopathic 1st grader who is sweet while plotting to kill her mom is definitely creepy.
  2. Mary B. Addison from Allegedly (Tiffany D. Jackson) – Mary is in foster care after going to jail for killing a baby her mother was babysitting. Did she do it? Did she not? Either way her story was sad and made you love her for her resiliency.
  3. Adele from Behind Her Eyes (Sarah Pinborough) – Adele is a favorite because my goodness, she pulled off the plot twists of the year for me.
  4. Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre – Any man who has a crazy attic wife is going to be the brooding, sullen type. But offers to take Jane to the moon made him odd but endearing.
  5. Cathy Ames from East of Eden (John Steinbeck) – Any woman who destroys people for fun ranks up there as most evil.
  6. David Melrose from Never Mind (Edward St. Aubyn) – A father like this guy who does unspeakable things to his son ties with Cathy Ames for most evil. By the way, the Showtime series Patrick Melrose based on this book series was fantastic.
  7. Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – This one seems obvious. Who hasn’t had a Nurse Ratched at some point in their school career? Ok, maybe not that bad but you know what I mean.
  8. Serena Joy from A Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood) – I am hesitant to call her a favorite but the balance she struck between heartless and cruel and trapped like the other women certainly made her a fascinating and complex villain.
  9. The White Witch from Narnia (C.S. Lewis) was one of the first villains I remember reading about when I was a kid. I have fond memories of this series and see her as one of the more harmless villains.
  10. Caillou from My Great Adventures – This one was a toss-up between the kid from The Giving Tree and Caillou but in the end, Caillou won out. What parent doesn’t see this kid as a villain? I know he was banned in our house a long time ago and I will still ban this book all day long.

Who are some of your favorite villains?