The Looking Glass

In one of those mood swings that swing upward, I looked out the window as we drove, thinking of how good God is and the ways that I’ve been blessed. I’d rub it in his face. Why was I thinking about my ex? Must have to do with talking around the fire earlier, when we shared stories about instances where we’d been on drugs and done stupid stuff. (We excludes me, I’ve always had a resentment towards substance abuse.) I had no personal story to share, but I identified my ex as a druggie. I guess that led my thoughts to where I was now and where I could have been if I stayed with him. I wished he could see how much happier I was without him, and that the reality of it would hurt him enough to let me go and never again enter my life or thoughts.

Why was I thinking about my ex?

The real reason: I have a radar that goes off when he’s about to do something stupid like try to contact me. That night as I was feeding Guinevere I checked my Facebook, which is my ritual to stay awake despite the onslaught of sleep-inducing hormones. Yay, I have messages! Wait, who’s this…

Hey im with damien, i heard from e that your having problems. Just wanted to make sure everything is ok please reply and let me know your alright.

…not that Damien, is it? I looked at the name of the messenger again. Yeah, I think that’s Damien’s best friend. I looked at his pictures to make sure. Crap. My ex is Facebook stalking me through his friend’s account! I asked who E was, I couldn’t remember any faces but I knew a few Es. I got the response that she was a coworker of mine where I used to work. What else had she said? I told my husband that Damien was still stalking me, and read to him the message, wondering whether it would be most effective to say nothing in response or to brag about how much my life has changed for the better. He recommended the latter.

I haven’t worked there for 5 months.

I’m doing very well, even had a baby.

I had a baby. I moved on. Burn. But it didn’t feel like enough- Damien had called for months after we broke up, weeping and begging me to marry him. I needed to make sure this ended. It’s been two years. Our relationship only lasted for two years. This should be over. I had a sick desire to send a link to my chronicle in a message and then block him on Facebook. Here’s your magic mirror into my life. Watch me be happy without you, growing further and further away from you. Here’s my last letter to you:

Damien Wake,

I don’t hate you. I don’t necessarily regret being with you. But I don’t need you anymore. I imagine that you needed someone to be there for you like I was at the time that I was. By now I imagine you have embellished your memory of me. I think I gave you the nurturing you needed to see that there is something worth being sober for, and a clear path through the smoke showing you that a better direction was available. You could have taken it. I hope by now you did.

You don’t need me anymore, either.

Remember how you could never understand me? I do. You could see in my eyes that there was something I needed to say that I wouldn’t put in words, and you didn’t know what. Now I have complete conversations where Ed does all the talking, and Bailey looks back and forth between us wondering how he could discern so much from looking at my eyes.

You didn’t buy me a journal for my trip to Europe or write me letters like you said you would. You’d forget all your promises or change your mind about it completely, indifferent to the hope I’d harbored. You were also indifferent to my dislike of drugs, and abused yourself, drinking so much you threw up blood in front of my house (you don’t remember that, do you?). You stood me up for Mary Jane and her friends, many many times. Indifference is the opposite of love.

You didn’t love me.

I kept the fire going. I called and called to wake up your hung over @$$. And then I walked to your friend’s place where you were staying to wake up your hung over @$$, glaring at your car sitting pretty in the driveway. I gave you flowers and wrote you letters. I struggled to make you want me. I burned and burned until I burned out.

Don’t forget that Edward was the one who picked up your sorry, drunk @$$ off the side of the road when I called him at 3 in the morning. You couldn’t keep a job, you couldn’t keep a place, you couldn’t keep a car, and I’m surprised you’ve kept your life. That said, there’s no way in hell you could have kept me. Since I’ve let you go, I’ve flown. I have a job, a career, a home and a family. My husband is the caliber of man that can support and please three women and raise many kids.

Oh yeah, and you cheated on me.

I don’t hate you. I don’t need you. I don’t want you. And I forgive you.

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Entangled

Alice had curly hair. It took an afternoon of snipping rags, an evening of twirling her wet hair and tying the loops, and a night of letting it dry. The next day, bouncy locks.

Evening that day she sighed, “Charlie, I don’t know how you do it.” She was chopping vegetables for ramen-noodle stir fry when I crawled out of bed from my spontaneous nap. I stared at her blankly, groggy and confused. She elaborated, “I have to keep reminding myself I can’t run my fingers through my hair.” Her shiny curls cascaded down her shoulders.

“Oh yeah. I can only do it after I brush my hair while I have conditioner in it.” She complained that Bailey still tried combing her fingers through it, which is breaking one of those unspoken rules about having curly hair, causing it to frizz. We went back and forth with the other challenges that come with curls. She acted out the girl’s reactions to her new style, and despite Ed’s displeasure with her changing it up (he loves our hair long and natural), he still complimented her about it.

“How do you do it?” she went on.

“I leave it alone. It took me a while to learn that you can’t tame it, you have to let it do its thing. Don’t control it. It’s like a woman.”

Later Ed and Bailey were having a discussion in the bedroom and Guinevere needed to eat again. I took her with me to the bathroom where Alice was showering, so I could chat with her while nursing the baby. “I have so much more respect for you,” she groaned again, head achingly bent forward as she tried to tug the hairbrush through conditioner saturated, matted hair. “I don’t know how you do it.”

“I brush it out before I get it wet. I thought of telling you, but I didn’t know if you would need to since it’s not naturally curly…”

“Thanks for telling me ahead of time.” She tugged some more. “I don’t think I can save this, I need scissors.”

“Let me see.” I don’t get knots nearly that big. I tried pulling at opposing parts to get it loose, but it was doomed. Still, I didn’t want to go across the house topless to get scissors. “I saw nail clippers somewhere that they didn’t belong, but I can’t remember where now.” I looked around the toilet where I was perched, wondering if they had been on the floor.

“Oh, I remember, they’re just outside the door.” I looked down at the bundle of joy in my arms and imagined trying to maneuver around with her. “I can get it,” she offered. “No one’s out there, right?” We each took into account that the boys had gone to a friend’s birthday party. I unlocked the door for her with my one free hand. Her hand was tangled into her hair. She ran out real quick and we each were hit by the realization that there were a lot of windows. Whoops.

The Baby Whisperer

She cried. And cried. She’d been fed, burped, changed, and swaddled.

“What’s wrong with her, is that the ‘pick-me-up’ cry?” I asked the baby whisperer.

“Yup,” Edward answered. The four of us lay in the dark, silently pleading for sleep to come.

She cried.

“Check to see if she peed.” He must’ve heard a change in her inflections.

Her diaper was saturated (again), but the second I laid a hand on her she went silent. She’s crying for mommy to love on her. I changed her and lay back down.

“Who’s good,” Ed bragged. And then she cried. The Ladies giggled.

Still she cried.

I got up again, walked back to the basinet, and she stopped. I lay back down.

Silence.

“What did you do?” the baby whisperer puzzled.

“I gave her a pacifier.”

Falling in Love Many Times Over

Edward and Alice play this game where they rate strangers on how attractive they are, using agreed upon guidelines that include not just physical appeal but also personality. Edward pointed at a woman standing near the lunch line, looking for a place to sit. “What about her?” Instead of a saying a number between one and ten, Alice waved over at the woman and invited her to sit with them. This is how I first met Edward and Alice and many other friends in college, who were sitting at the same table. We were the table, the loud group that people occasionally stared at, that had to move tables and chairs to get most of everybody together, the reason they made the silly signs that say, ‘please don’t move the tables and chairs’. Edward really likes to be around people, so much so that he’d been having trouble getting to the gym because not having a workout buddy killed his motivation. He invited me- I found out he’d invited a lot of people before- and I accepted. He lived close to me and was cool with carpooling to school afterwards- no more two hour bus trips!

I’d been struggling with finding my independence. I dreamed of moving out of my mother’s, but with the economy as it was, I couldn’t even find a job. Edward hired me to babysit so he could take the Ladies out. Plural? Yes. Shortly after I started working out with him, he wanted to introduce me to a friend that he and Alice had made in art class. It was Bailey, who I went to high school with and met at an art contest. At the gym, Edward would tell me about their blossoming relationship. And by ‘their’ relationship, I mean all three of them had a connection. Alice and Bailey were affectionate with each other too, and I thought that was cool. When he told me about it, my responses were those of a dude, so he nicknamed me his dude friend with boobs. To me it was an honorable title. It sounded like ‘that’s right, I chill with the bros’. Spring break Edward wanted to plan a big camping trip with a lot of people. For reasons I ended up being the only one outside of the family that could make it. We drove out to a state park and pitched tents, fished, fired- all the awesome stuff, including a cake baked in the fire to celebrate Bailey’s birthday. For convenience I showered with the ladies, and I was surprised at how comfortable I was being naked in front of them. However, I became less and less comfortable around Edward. I wanted to avoid touching him, I wanted to avoid silent moments, I didn’t even want to be alone with him. The indescribable tension that came with this newfound discomfort built up so much that it finally formed into a thought that could be put into words, and those words had to be shared. One night I tried to get Edward’s attention without the Ladies (a name he gave them) or the kids hearing. “I need to talk to you.”

“Okay.” He waited.

Through gritted teeth I mumbled, “alone.” Yes, I was asking this guy to speak to me alone, away from his wife and girlfriend.

We walked away from the campfire, and when I got the guts to give those words voice, I finally said, “I think I’m supposed to be part of your family.” He was shocked, but remained composed, even used the words “If I marry you,” and then the tension melted. I felt like I was just talking to my best friend again, even though we were talking about the M word. We were just so calm. But he said we had to see how the Ladies felt about it.

“It’s blatantly obvious she’s supposed to be with us.” Bailey was so convinced, like she’d seen it coming for miles. I turned to Alice and asked what she thought.

“I think you know what to do.” She had the voice of a sage. Or a jedi.

I prayed over it. A lot. Then when the time felt right, I told my mom I was leaving, and Edward helped me to move my things I’d had packed and ready to go for months, even before I knew the destination of where they were going. He’d even built me a trunk I’d dreamt to use for this event. It did take the Ladies (*cough* Bailey) a while to adjust, which meant I slept on the couch when I first moved in, but it didn’t take long for me to get promoted to the bed. Yes, we all cram into the same bed. King size is actually not that big, we realized.

Words

Excited about my new hobby, I looked to improve myself in skill and to take advantage of the pool of consciences I could reach out to by playing around in this post….

Which led me to this post….

Religion is a personal subject for a lot of people. Starting a few years ago, I joined that group of people, and so my response violated WordPress’s rules on comments. It was reeaaally long. But I couldn’t effectively abbreviate it, so I’m posting here.

A quick story on my background: I used to not like ‘Christianity’, didn’t understand it, didn’t get along with avid ‘Christians’ (I know now that it’s because they didn’t live it), and so practiced witchcraft and such until I was born again about 3 years ago. From this perspective, I’ll address these questions:

Why do we pray?

I’m so glad you (Tahaninelson) asked this question! I used to wonder this myself. My husband is the only Christian who helped me to have Faith, and he helped me to approach the Bible from the heart. Start with this- God made us in his likeness and in his image. What do we want most? To be loved. What does God want? To be loved, and that is why we are here. Jesus says, ‘Who of you when your son asks you for a snake would give him a serpent?’ (quoting from memory, pardon any inaccuracies). As our father, he wants to make us happy. He wants for us to ask him for things so that he can provide. Jesus says that the Father knows what we want, all we need to do is ask. That is why we pray.

Also consider Genesis 18:22-33, when Abraham pleads for Sodom. God, being all knowing, allowed for Abraham to ‘change God’s mind’ about wiping out the city. If God was so easily controlled by the words of man, he wouldn’t have told Abraham about his plan.

Why would I desire to go to Heaven?

On your question in regards to Heaven, this is harder to address because, even though Heaven is mentioned in the Bible here and there, I realized after reading it cover-to-cover three times or so that it gives very little information about Heaven, with most of the focus being on here with the living. The glorious thing about heaven is being with the Creator. When you get close to him and you feel the Spirit moving within you, you feel this high and hunger to be closer to him. If you know this feeling, you don’t question the motivation of being that much closer to him. And in regards to the change on Earth and the lack of it in Heaven- I don’t think there is a lack. I feel like there is a lot more to the story that we’re not ready to hear that didn’t get included in our ‘guidebook to the Universe’ (aka Bible).

Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry this is so wordy…

Growing Pains

It’s fun to be in uncharted territory, lost without a map. It allows for a lot of exploring, a lot of learning, and a lot of growing. In a family as large as our, it also causes growth pains. Today Guinevere turns 3 weeks old. She is my first daughter, but she has 9 brothers and sisters. All their names start with the same letter, like the dragons in the series “The Fire Within” by Chris D’Lacey. We were not trying to copy The Duggars, whose children’s names all start with J; we didn’t even know about them until a few months ago when we stumbled across their book in the library.

When I feel unwell I prefer to shut myself up away from people. The ladies pointed out that I was hogging the new baby and that her siblings were confused about why they saw so little of her. My hormones did not make this accusation easy on my ears, and I remained depressed and isolated, only now my self-esteem was hurting as well.

To be able to take care of the family while court fees drained our bank account, I needed to cut my maternity leave short. I had to go back to working full time and end my bonding time with my baby. Blame it on the hormones, but I felt like there was nothing to look forward to.

My husband could tell I was distressed. “What’s wrong?”

I’m feeling really insecure about the future. “Hormones.”

He frowned at me, not really buying it. He thanked me for my stability, which he finds comforting, and said that he needed me to be stable right now. And then he said, “Guinevere is not going to forget you’re her mom.” Tears swelled in my eyes.

“I needed to hear that.” Alice is the natural-born mother of us. Like me, there was a time she swore she wouldn’t have kids. Unlike me, she grew to absolutely adore children. (Not to say I don’t like kids- once I had Guinevere I wept 3 times over how much I was in love with her. I’m just not anywhere near as adoring as she is.) The Ladies all share responsibilities, but Alice specializes in looking after the kids and will be the one who sees Guinevere most while I’m working. As natural as she is at mothering, I had been afraid that Guinevere would grow closer to Alice than to me.

Edward frowned. “Look at Alice and the girls. Her parents are actively trying to make them forget that she’s their mother, and that hasn’t worked. Guinevere’s not going to forget you. She’s still going to be drinking your milk, and when you feed her after you get home, she’s going to get even more excited.” Having him paint a picture of my baby getting excited to be in mommy’s arms gave me comfort.

There’s no manual for life, and no one to ask advice from who can claim to fully understand our dynamic. All the same, our love for each other creates such a strong support network, so we have each other’s backs through thick and thin.

Our Struggle

“I am a foreigner to my own family, a stranger to my own mother’s children” Psalm 69:8

About two or three years ago I did a 180 and became a whole other person. Actually, I didn’t, but it looked that way to my biological family when I moved out to live with a grown man and his wife, ‘girlfriend’, and kids. My family thought I must have been brainwashed, my mom even read a book titled “Cults in our Midst” to feed her fears. I didn’t understand why it was taboo, I was in love and I was sheltered from the discrimination that the LGBTQ community suffers, being friends with many members. It runs in my family for us to up and leave when we feel like it, which I’d been preparing to do for a quite a while, being in my cautious nature to wait for the perfect opportunity. I could have sworn my family saw it coming- after all I had been griping about moving for half my life. However, everyone went into a panic, resulting in bribes one imagines only being offered in realistic fiction novels, an immediate family member getting arrested, my car getting sabotaged, and rare, awkward rendezvous half-full of small talk, half of uncomfortable silence, followed by hugs that last too long and melancholy reminiscing of when I was ‘normal’. One of my wives has exactly the same experiences with her family, save for the arrest. The other wife thought our families were a little crazy until hers went over the top and sued us for custody of our kids.

That battle drones on, and it’s ruled our lives for over a year now. It’s not even legally possible for us to be in the position that we’re in, and it’s been a long, freakish nightmare. We are saved by grace, however. As unlikely as it should be, we have food on the table and a roof over our heads; we have heat, transportation, clothing, and all the utilities. When we think we’re at rock bottom, we tell each other, ‘here it comes,’ and the Lord provides everything, just in time. We understand this to be a test from the Lord to refine and strengthen us, certainly to humble us, but also to help others like us, people who live fearlessly for what they love. Despite everyone’s efforts to tear us apart, we grow stronger together due to the hardships we endure.