TW: hunting story, includes uncensored blood and swearing
Started 2018 with the flu, which resulted in Alice’s appendix getting inflamed and then removed. When she didn’t quite get better, she was diagnosed with Graves disease in February.
In March Bailey went out of town with Gaston to visit family and missed her bus back home. Eventually she sent us an email saying she was cutting off communication and not to look for her, and threw her $800 phone out the window of the car on the highway. That was a nasty episode where we didn’t know if we needed to file for divorce or custody and still didn’t want to do either but our world capsized just as we were getting ready to move, which we’ve been dreaming to do for five years. At this point the trolls will say something about mother nature righting itself, it’s not godly to be polyamorous, she was hearing from God and doing the right thing, something shortsighted. What happened was she had an episode while visiting family and they talked her into leaving us. April she finally came back, though she still asked to have her own space. John was returned to us, and for a time she preferred to couch surf and did some self exploration and we created a visitation schedule for Gaston. Chris contacted me on social media asking how I was doing. My response was conversational and then he stopped corresponding. “I bet your mom found out from Bailey’s mom about what’s going on and told him. He’s probably trying to see if he can convince you to leave, too,” Ed speculated. Unfortunately I don’t think he was wrong. Bailey got help for her mental health and things have gone more smoothly.
In June, Ed and Bailey went out of state to do a construction job to supplement our income for a few weeks. We also were on international news and radio for being a unique family structure in July. We have our problems, but we’re still known in the poly community as being uniquely well functioning. When Ed and Bailey got back from their trip, Bailey moved back in but still preferred sleeping in a separate bed.
In August, Ed, Guinevere, and I went to dinner with Chris to make peace.
In September our landlord leased the house without much heads up, so in October our family of eight couch surfed for a week until the next house was ready for us to move into. I went on that trip in November and still have a few posts to publish about it. December was full of birthdays and deadlines, but I also tried to take it easy and read what I wanted when I wanted and not force deadlines on myself. I’d been really good at meeting them, but going through my journal I’ve realized that the desire to feel more at peace has been a constant theme. I’m also really nostalgic for rain.
Starting in February, I published 8 fanfics, two of which were written in December of 2017. I’m on the second draft of a novel I’m calling The Specimen. I read some lore for Magic the Gathering, Trollhunters by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus, The Time of Contempt by Andrzej Sapkowski, Sunshine by Robin McKinley, Wicked Lovely by Melissa Mare, and am still reading ZERoES by Chuck Wendig and The Door in the Hedge by Robin McKinley. I’m realizing now that either I don’t keep good enough track of what I read, or I need to read much more.
Personally I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. I already set enough goals for myself to add to my to-do list, and already strive to be the best I can be. I hope more opportunities arise to make everyone in the family hand knit/ crocheted presents, and I’ve been taking advantage of having a functioning oven and space to bake from scratch.
My method for writing includes mentally excluding myself with the ideas I’m working with and shunning everything else that might taint the atmosphere I’ve created in this room of my mind palace. (Sorry, Discord friends.) I’d done this for months working on Labyrinth and Light Clad. Fortunately I timed my work so that I was at most a day late publishing chapters, conveniently on holidays, and when I had writer’s block for a particular chapter, I went into an adjacent room in my mind palace to crank out flash fictions. Once I finished Light Clad, I needed a break, which turned into working on an OC project for NaNoWriMo. Now I’m convinced I need a break from writing, which this time means reading all those books that waited for me to be done with my projects and subsequently researching writing styles and flavors.
I asked Tunafishprincess to recommend which book from the library she sent me to start on. She gave me the “poor description” of each story. *This one is a vampire romance, this one has fairies if you need ideas for world building, I think this one has dragons.*
*I could use a romance,* I figured. So I read Sunshine by Robin McKinley. I was giddy with the portrayal of the “romance”- normal people would not deign to call this romantic, but this is my $#!+. I kept raving to Alice as I progressed in the story. When she and I watched Phantom of the Opera, we gasped involuntarily as the phantom whipped off his cape with a flourish when he stepped from his boat to his underground lair where he composes his masterpieces. I knew she’d have a respect for a kinda shady but not evil, powerful love interest. She threatened to borrow my book before I finished it if she couldn’t find her borrowed copy of R. R. Martin’s Fire and Blood.
I fell in love with the world building, the execution of first person and limited perspective, the character development, and the dynamics between the main characters. Ever since taking theatre arts class in high school and having the magic of movies ruined, I developed a habit of glimpsing behind the scenes in works I consume and can nevermore separate the art from the artist. After watching Trollhunters, I followed the writers and artists on Twitter and bought Guillermo del Toro’s book and watched his other movies I could afford to. After reading Sunshine, I found out that Ms. McKinley has a blog and had to check that out. It’s what I wanted my blog to be like. I’m still combing through it while I watch kids and clean house. I got as far back as Black Friday and came to the realization that she converted back to Christianity right around the time that I became a born again Christian. I don’t think I’ve picked a favorite author to idolize (I might have, but I tend to forget these things), so can I pick Robin McKinley? Her blog is how I want mine (if she can use that many footnotes, I can use that many parenthesis, right?), I admired her writing style for Sunshine, she knits, gardens, studies Kanji, plays bells (is that the right verb?)- basically where I want to be once the Smith family finally outgrows the kid rearing phase.
On a side note, the Smiths have been kicked out of literally half a dozen churches, so services and what-have-yous are foreign concepts to me still. I have a relationship with God, but it doesn’t translate well to anyone outside of it, so it’s personal and intimate and I might make references that I hope don’t make me sound like a kook.
Recently I betrayed myself. Ed hasn’t been paid to start a construction project for over two months, and financially, we could feel it. Alice came down with graves disease (I need to give a cliff notes version of the last 12 months, I’ll get to it) and hasn’t been able to work a full 40 hour week for quite some time, and Bailey isn’t at the mental state to keep a job right now. I’ve used up all the yarn I was gifted except for Bernat baby blanket yarn (how I’ve come to loathe thee) and have been asked by colleagues if I can make them Vancouver Fog fingerless mitts in time for Christmas.
“I’m out of yarn.”
“That’s okay, I’ll get you some.”
Never happens. Not only that, for some reason no one thinks it’s worth $15 a pair, and are unwilling to Google similar products and realize that I’m offering a discount.
One day started with a conversation with Ed that he wasn’t sure he could afford the gas to pick me up from work, so when a colleague asked if I could make 6 pairs of gloves before Christmas and put a $20 bill in my hand, I asked what color. Ed borrowed gas money from a D&D player and my money went into the first skein of yarn for the commission and potatoes for dinner. “Once again, our hobbies put food on the table,” Ed praised. My stomach still churned at the absurdity of the price I charged, but I tried to appreciate the truth in his words.
Same colleague agreed to give me $10 more for materials and asked if I could add 2 more pairs to her order. I took the opportunity to explain what each pair is worth and so far I’d only charged $5 each. I perceived her as being rude about charging for more than the cost of materials. My New Year’s resolution is to never again sell myself short like that. I’ll put $5 worth of effort into each pair because my sanity needs some help (which simply means doing half the ribbing, one less pattern repeat, not splicing ends before I weave them in [though taking short cuts also feels like self betrayal <but in my defense, I’m still cabling, and therefore this is still worth more than five bucks of effort>], and not cramping my fingers by knitting obsessively the way I would have if I were making presents for my thirteen kids [which I can’t afford to do this year, and the time this commission will take has ruined any chance of scrounging something together before the holiday]) and hope I’ll have the money to reimburse her for what I didn’t get done with by Christmas.
Usually if someone’s the black sheep of the family, they’re naturally predispositioned to not care about the fact that they’re the black sheep.
At least, I think that’s how it’s supposed to go. It’s still unusual being around people who have been around your biological family more than you have and wonder, how much have they told you?
It was surreal.
There were times that I felt like something corporeal and mindless, just existing. I caught on that I was dissociating- I haven’t done that for years. It used to be referred to as daydreaming, I think people who knew me growing up thought that I was oddly spacy. Now I could recognize it for what it was. I reverted to my work persona to talk when I didn’t feel totally up for talking so that I came across as functional.
Mom picked up my sister’s best friend after my daughter and me, and I listened to the two of them swap stories as I focused really hard on existing within my body within the moment. I jotted down notes in my diary app when mom said things that I had wondered about or that might be nostalgic so I could process it later. I noted the name of the restaurant Chris takes us to sometimes, usually when he has something important to discuss with us and he expects there to be guests at the ranch, or else he just wants to soften us up by taking us somewhere new. I also took notes on any little reference to our extended family, though it seemed just as dysfunctional as it had always been.
Mom has projects. She lives in a fixer-upper she remodeled in a tiny town, and raises chickens and goats and her three dogs. Ever since my parents divorced, she’s kept an average of three dogs at a time. She also gardens. I think it’s because we’re Latino, but she insists on growing peppers. The Best Friend asked about the tamales she made. The chicken tamales were made from a chicken she raised herself. The carne, that is to say meat and chile, tamales were wild venison and store bought pork.
Hold up. Everyone in that car had Mexican heritage. My mom stopped herself after she said “carne” to explain it the “white way”. My mom’s been Americanizing me my whole life, no wonder I can’t speak Spanish! I felt a bit betrayed at the discovery, since the only family I feel that I can claim to know is primarily Mexican. My sister rebelled against it in her little way- she’s an adult now and recently decided to refer to mom as “ma”.
It was otherworldly driving up the dirt road that made up Chris’s drive way (to his ranch house. He has a residence in the city). The same stretches were chewed up from abuse that had been caused during the rainy season, sometimes by driving, sometimes by wild hogs, as always had been. The next generation waited impatiently in the backseat for us to get to our location. “Mommy, are we almost at the ranch?”
“We actually are at the ranch. We’re almost to the ranch house.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.” How strange to have this display with my daughter, sitting beside my own mother.
We pulled up to my second home that I hadn’t been to for years. I immediately wondered if Guinevere was going to be traumatized against hunting when I noticed my sister’s (who else’s could it be?) buck strung up in the yard to clean. Guinevere’s being introduced on that note. Gotcha.
And how bizarre to see everyone here like I blue-scadooed into a photo album. The last time I embraced these people, they clung to me sentimentally like I was a brainwashed member in a cult and my mind was just beyond saving. Now, after going without contact for around three years, the warmth of their embrace felt justified, and I could return it.
And the dogs! Rocky and Onyx came up to me for pets! The German Shepard I’d never met and I mutually greeted each other politely but distantly. Onyx, on the other hand, kept shoving her snout in the way of both my hands. Rocky lifted his head patiently over her when she got in the way. Rocky? Patient? “You’re tame,” I marveled at the crazed boy. There are stories. Seeing Onyx is like seeing a kid matured. They have that same recognizable personality and distinct features, but there’s a bulk to those features, because organic creatures have a tendency to grow bigger over time.
Everyone fawned over my child. Guinevere has a “pixie” cut since she experimented with scissors and not enough people could recognize the likeness to Labyrinth’s Goblin King. And then she had this hat I made with cat ears, a denim jacket, and Dora crocks. She blew everyone away with her quick wit, intelligence, courage, and manners. My mother had her help in the kitchen. You know, that thing she did with me growing up, she was doing with my offspring. Trippy stuff right there.
The power was out when we got there. That meant the water pump was offline, too, so we couldn’t properly wash the champagne flutes to celebrate our reunion, regardless that it was just after noon. “Chris, why aren’t the lights on,” my mom asked.
“Obviously because the power is out.” They’re endearing with each other, but so often Chris plays off of my mom’s naivete and one can’t be sure if he’s being his eclectic self or making a joke, like when he asked her to get saffron from the dollar store. I know that one’s a joke.
There’s a paper lamp the shape of a star in the same corner as my mom’s painting commemorating the passing of her ex. It illuminated when I entered the room, a warm orange glow that took me back ages like when the torches are lit in the opera house in the opening scene from Phantom of the Opera. Another nostalgic token is the scones Chris brings from Gucci-B (slang for the upper class grocery chain). The orange cranberry scones are the best, but he also gets the cheddar bacon. This time both packages were bacon cheddar, but one was labeled orange cranberry. Mom joked about warming it up in the microwave, if only the microwave worked. By this time the power had been on several minutes and she was the last to find out.
“Someone failed their perception check,” I jested. Ed would have laughed. Alice and Bailey would have gotten the joke. Oh, right, nerdy humor isn’t universal. I held my hands up to call focus of the conversation so I could learn how to better conduct myself during this trip. “Hang on, who here plays tabletop role playing games?”
“Plays what?” My sister’s boyfriend frowned at the question.
“It’s okay, don’t worry about it, then.”
“No, like, are we talking Pathfinder? D&D?”
Oh my god I’m not alone and my sister is surrounded by like minds. Yes!!!
I was so taxed processing what went on around me that it all kind of blurred together, and I was constantly exhausted. What a relief that I wasn’t riddled with anxiety throughout the trip like I had been growing up. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?
Chris invited my sister (Alexis) and me on a “drive by” while mom took Guinevere to learn to use her new fishing pole Aunt Alex got for her. It’s slang local only to his ranch that refers to lazy hunting. We take one of the vehicles on a slow drive through the expanse of his territory where we look out the window for things we’re allowed to hunt and chit chat in soft voices. We do this throughout the rest of the year just to explore, but those trips are referred to as “drives”, not “drive bys”. There’s a road with a particularly large live oak that drapes a large branch over the road just high enough to drive under. My mom took the liberty of hanging up a tire swing beside the road. Chris offered that we could park so Alex and I could cavort.
She and I rocked the tire this way and that and then offset our balance and careened around and around.
“I figured out how to control the spin!”
“No, I figured it out, you’re still throwing us off balance and I’m countering it!”
I suppose siblings never cease to quarrel, they just learn to smile while they do it, if they mature. While we veered and attempted to smack each other against the branch, we bragged to each other that we each found our first grey hair earlier that week, that must mean we’re real grown ups, and then laughed because Chris was there witnessing the madness. Still collaborating to build our momentum, we also swapped stories with our experiments starting and stopping smoking and whatever else crossed our minds until my hands were blistering and my legs were shaking. I don’t think Chris intended us to be parked so long, but I’m sure he didn’t regret it.
I’ve been meaning to get back here, I promise. I took the liberty of constructing a list of excuses to justify my neglect. Just because this site had been collecting cyber dust does not mean that I’ve been idle. I’ve grown rather courageous, actually, even if I’m still not as bold as I’d like to be. The Smiths actually made it to international news for being polyamorous. I was portrayed as a sort of stray that was adopted out of convenience, which humored me, especially because the spotlight shined on me least, to my relief. See, I can’t be without courage if I’m on the news, right?
This has been the closest thing to a vacation I’ve had since 2013. The In-laws were not residents to our state until exactly 6 months before they filed the law suit in order to establish grounds to ask for temporary conservatorship of Alice’s daughters, and when they were eventually granted joint conservatorship they moved back to their original residence across the country and filed the lawsuit again over there, dissatisfied with the verdict.