Tuesday, April 21, 2009

So, I decided....

....to hide. In Colorado mountain resorts.

But first, an update on Son: Son saw the psychiatrist the other day. It seemed to help. I saw the man size up Son before they went back to his office. He took in the shorts and leather coat ensemble (in 70+ degree weather), the stringy hair, the baseball cap, the unshaven face, the iPod firmly inserted in the ears. But Son came back smiling.

Two little girls, about 2 years old, were running around the waiting room. Psych said to Son, "You used to be cute like that."

Son said, "Yeah, so I hear. But I was a weird kid."

Psych looked at me. I said, "He built a catapult of Tinker-Toys when he was 18 months old."

The man turned a shocked look on Son. "Wow."

So, Son asked me to take him to lunch. I did. He told me some of the superficial things they visited about, but didn't dive deeper. He seemed up-beat. Later that night, we'd made dinner and called for him to come down. As has become the norm, he did not appear.

In a few minutes, he came down the stairs and said, "Uhm...lunch didn't set so well with my stomach. So, I'm letting it calm down before eating anything else. But I knew you'd made a dinner I'd like, so I wanted to let you know why I wasn't coming to eat."

You coulda knocked me over. That's the most communication we've seen from him in weeks, and it was actually considerate. Wow. I'm praying it's a new trend.

Okay, so back to me running away for a few days....

It wasn't a complete run-screaming-into-the-woods moment. It was planned. I had to attend a conference in Vail. I know, what a hardship, right? I've never been there, but a company-paid visit to a place with "resort and spa" in the name sounds like a good idea.

I'm still sorting out the Ranger situation. One thing is for sure(well, among others) -- when he's with me, I'm pampered and cared for like at no other time in my life. As corny as it sounds, he makes sure I'm cocooned in love. So, we planned this getaway together. We left a day early and stayed at the Lodge in Glenwood Springs, right by the hot springs pool. Ranger is a regular fish when you get him near water, and he's been dying to get me in the water, too. So, he was ecstatic!

I'm self-conscious in a swimsuit. I haven't worn mine in years. Even being 60 lbs lighter, I'm self-conscious. So, I tried it on, and it's a little gappy at the edges. I figured out how to adjust it, but still wasn't so sure about being seen in public in it. I mean, Colorado seems full of healthy, pretty people. I'd get a look at that pool and see how covered up I needed to be.

So, Tuesday morning, we head down the road. I have my playlist of songs I want him to hear all keyed up on my iPod. He assures me we won't have a repeat of the Vegas trip, where he dismissed my playlist. He realizes that I put as much thought into my 60-song list as he put into his 300-song list. He just has more music than I do.

We can't check in until 4:00, and Glenwood is one hour away. Hmmm....time to kill. Ranger gets an idea and we head south, in the direction of Aspen. Instead of heading to the tourist trap, though, we take a couple of turn-offs and end up wandering among the little towns in the mountains. Blink and you'll miss 'em, folks, but they're worth a stop. Or maybe a weekend getaway. Hmmm....

I'm particularly fond of the little town of Redstone. It's on the Register of Historic Places, apparently. For me, it just smells like the mountains. Has shops and terrain to explore, and a little general store for your basic needs. Now all I need is a secluded cabin nearby and I'm a happy Blogget.

Redstone was established as a mining town, for the coal mine workers. By the highway, you see this row of dozens of coke ovens, for the coal. These are over 100 years old! Click to see bigger pics.

A little further down the road is the thriving community of Marble. As you get closer, the name becomes obvious. Huge blocks of beautiful marble are scattered alongside the road. People have mounted mailboxes on them. The town has one restaurant, a barbecue place. It was closed for a few more days, until the summer tourist season starts. You can take tours of...what else?...the marble quarry.

And someone had a sense of humor.

Ranger, being the rock hound he is, was ecstatic! We're certainly going back to explore. We drove through the smaller roads that wound through the aspens, past some local residences that made me incredibly jealous.

Some had cute names.

Some had the ruins of previous homesteads.

Their stories intrigued me, and I wish I knew more about the place. Something to research when I fired up the laptop at the hotel.

We also stopped along the way to explore Hays Creek Falls. It's a little turnout in the road, but has the most spectacular waterfall. I have a bum knee and couldn't climb to it, but Ranger could. You see him climbing here, and it give you size perspective with the falls.

And he got these lovely close-ups of the water:

Checkin time was coming, so we headed back up to Glenwood and the promise of hot springs relaxation. By this time, though, relaxation wasn't an issue. I was breathing mountain air. Ranger was holding my hand and softly crooning love songs to me. I settled deeper into my seat, let the breeze blow on my face, and let it swep away the things that elevate my blood pressure when I think about them.

We checked into the hotel. Incidentally, they'd pissed me off a couple of days before. I made my reservation and asked for a fridge in the room, to keep my insulin cool. I told them why I needed it. They responded by saying I'd have to purchase a more expensive room in order to have the fridge. Okay, lemme get this straight....diabetics can only stay there and have insulin refrigerated if they book the more expensive rooms. Lovely.

So, the room was....okay. It was nice. We had a small balcony that overlooked the hot springs pool. I stepped out and checked out the view. Well, what I was really doing was checking out the bodies at the pool. I wanted to see how self-conscious I needed to be among the beautiful people of Colorado.

Know what I found? Bodies that shouldn't be in bikinis, but were anyhow. Sagging, wrinkled, aged, cellulite-ravaged bodies. My self-consciousness melted away a bit. Obviously, no one was worried about themselves or others. And I learned. Quit worrying about how you look to others. Ranger thinks you're beautiful without a stitch on, Blogget. He thinks you're beautiful when you're feverish and stuffy and mucousy. Get into the swimsuit and relax, kiddo.

So I did.

We strolled to the pool. I checked out the shop there, looking for some campy souvenier. Oh! A towel! Perfect! Big, fluffy, white, with the pool logo....and $40. I'm not paying $40 for a towel. And I'm not paying $60 for a purse, no matter how cute, so we headed to the dressing rooms. I changed and rinsed off (as they request), and stepped out to see Ranger.

He smiled. His eyes moved over my suit, and my form. "You look so lovely," he said. I smiled, feeling ridiculous about feeling relieved.

You actually have two pools to choose from. The smaller one is hotter, and nearer the spring's source. The bigger one is cooler, in many ways. One end has slides and diving boards. This is where the kids and families gather. Then, it has lap lanes. This is where the exercisers gather. Then, the pool becomes still and tranquil. This is where the floaters are.

We stepped into this part of the pool. The sky was overcast and the breeze was cool. We glided into it, Ranger going all the way under as quickly as he could. My fish. We half-waded, half-swam to deeper waters. The water is dark and salty, full of minerals. Good-for-you stuff. We got deeper and Ranger swam to me, coming up under me. Gently, he swept me up into his arms, floating me, carrying me like a groom carries his bride over the threshhold.

I dropped my head back, soaking my hair in the water. I slowly kicked my feet and let my hands drift. He bobbed me a little, making waves, floating me to the deeper end of the pool. I looked at the clouds. I soaked in the warmth of the water.


Ranger dropped his arms, and I swam away. He followed, doing underwater flips beside my lazy breast-stroke. I flipped onto my back and watched him, kicking slowly to keep moving along. I do love him.

"Ready for the serious stuff?" he asked. We made our way back out of the cool-pool and crossed over to the hot pool.

Dang, it's hot!

This is the therapeutic pool. They warn you not to stay in it more than twenty minutes. We sat in the bubble-chairs for awhile, then followed the path of the steam to the hot-hot end. Benches are there to sit on, your back just feet from the spring's source. You can feel the flow of it into the pool, if you put your feet over the right places on the bottom. We lingered our twenty minutes, then hauled our bodies from the water. Your limbs feel heavy with relaxation, as the heat has permeated to your bones. My back felt good. My knees felt good. We showered and headed back to the hotel to collapse.

Well, not exactly collapse. Okay, we intended to collapse. The balcony door was open, letting the breeze stir the sheers. We stretched out beside each other and made love. Then....I was starving.

When in Glenwood Springs, there's only one place to satisfy an appetite that's gotten so worked up. Juicy Lucy's. Probably the best steakhouse in the state. No kidding. Steaks for dinner and creme brulee for dessert. The most professional wait staff anywhere. Perfection.

I couldn't sleep that night. Asleep. Awake. Asleep. Awake. I was relaxed, full, and happy. I have trouble the first night in a new place, anyhow. It was a rough night, though, and I was not ready to get up in the morning. I checked my conference schedule. I needed to be at a luncheon at noon, an hour up the road. I climbed back in bed and let Ranger wake me up properly.

I ended up running late for the luncheon. Go figure. About 30 minutes outside of Vail, my boss texts me: "Are you here yet?" Oops. I just about ran into the hotel lobby to get checked in, so Ranger could unload the things from the car. I about tripped, though, when I looked around.

The place was gorgeous. Quite possibly the most gorgeous hotel I've ever been in. It was everything you think a mountain lodge would be. Wood, leather, stone gorgeous. The clerk was smiling at me in a way that said, "You are the most exciting guest I've ever seen and I'm completely overjoyed to help you."

I handed her my reservation and gave her my name. "Oh, I see you're one of our rewards members," she said, tapping away at her computer. "We thank you so much for your loyalty, as we know you have a choice when you travel." Tappity-tappity. She handed me my room keys. "We have a lovely room for you with a mountain view and balcony."

Mountain view and balcony. I love those words.

I strolled back out to Ranger and the valet. The parking is valet only. The valet wrote down the room number and my name on the tag. "Okay, Mr. and Mrs. Jones," he said. "I'll meet you upstairs with your luggage." Ranger shot me a look. He was assumed to be Mr. Jones. I laughed, and hoped he thought it was funny, too.

Ranger assured me he could get everything from the car, and shooed me away to the conference. I got checked in and went to the luncheon, just in time for the keynote speaker. Whew. My boss was busy visiting with someone and didn't see me slip in. Double whew.

As conferences go, it was a good one. I learned a few new things, like the educational applications of Twitter, Ning.com, and how cool the GE Smart Grid virtual holograms are (if you haven't taken a look at Plugintothesmartgrid.com and tried the hologram thing, you gotta!). We saw a cool demo of a 3D environment for education. Cool, but too pricey to be useful in this economic climate. I stated that to more than one over-zealous vendor. Listen, bud...when we're being asked to cut budgets, telling the administration we want to spend money is a tough sell.

Another thing conferences are good for are door prizes. This conference does them during the breaks. So, they hand out little numbered tickets -- a new ticket each drawing. I memorize the number and tuck it in my name tag, so I can do other things. Like make myself a cup of coffee or eat my snack. I'm standing beside this one vendor named Nick.

"What's your number?" says Nick.

"136688," I answered, without pulling out my ticket.

"You memorized it?"

"Yeah," I said, then saw his look. "It wasn't a hard one. It starts with 13, which is a number that follows me around, then just two 6's and two 8's."

I won a shirt.

"Wow, that's amazing. So, what's with 13?" asks Nick.

I explained the whole weird thing. The number literally follows me. It started when I was about 5 and was number 13 on my softball team. Since then, it's everywhere. Any drawing, I have a 13. My house has 13 steps in it. Right now, my parking tag number adds up to 13. My office key is inventory #1613.

So, the next drawing happens. I notice all the tickets start with 13 now. It's that way throughout the conference. I hear Nick say, "Watch....she memorizes it." I won a CD and a tri-color highlighter.

Next drawing, we're at the final luncheon with my boss. Nick is sitting beside me again. They call my number and I get up. I won a mini-microscope. Behind me, I hear this:

Boss: "She didn't look at her ticket."

Nick: "No kidding, right? She memorizes it."

Boss: "Seriously?"

Nick: "Yeah. She's data-driven."

So, I've jumped way ahead. Back at the ranch...I mean, back with Ranger, he's having a ball with our hotel room. The beds are just doubles, but he doesn't care. Makes for good snuggling!

"Look at this!" he's saying as I come through the door. I'm in our foyer. Foyer. I hang up my jacket on the rack, and walk in. The place is gorgeous, like the lobby. The bathroom is huge, and marble. The beds are fluffy and fold me into sweet softness when I stretch out. We have a balcony that looks right at the ski runs. It's sunny and nice outside. Not too cold, but that changes.

We get hit by a major snowstorm that week. No one can go east of Vail. Skiiers are flocking to the town for the end-of-season celebrations, as huge snow falls on them. Five floors below us, we hear revelers enjoying the outdoor hot tub, and lots of beer. Lots and lots of beer.

Ranger brought many soft, silky things for me to sleep in. We cozy up and sleep with the balcony door open. We watch the snow fall and keep each other warm. While I'm in the conference sessions, he's building his web sites for the business he's starting.

This is what the snow looked like from our balcony:

We went to dinner with my boss twice. The first time was with one of our instructors. They started talking about a survey that was done on our campus recently, about our distance education program.

"You were mentioned quite favorably," my boss said to me.

"Really?" I said. I hadn't heard about this survey.

"Oh yes," said the faculty person. "I think you're due for a title change."

"I think so," my boss said. "How about 'Queen'?"

I'll get the new business cards ordered.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Understanding my place

I got a text from Greg the other day.

"So, they offered me a management position," he said. "I'd be at a new store in Houston."

Okay, so this is exciting. Greg has a chance to move his life forward, get something steady, and start living the way he wants to.

"That's great!" I typed back.

"Yeah," he said. "My family is there, too."

"I assume you're taking it?"

"I'm debating."

What?? What is there to debate?? He has nothing but misery in Lubbock.

"What are you debating?" I asked.

His answer was long in coming. "If I go there, will I see you again?"

You could just hear the brakes squealing in my mind. I shouldn't be that big of a factor in his decision-making process. I'm not that significant in his life. Or am I?

Apparently so. Outside of anything romantic, I'm still the only mature adult friend he has. And he's also apparently not willing to go without that. Even though he sees me once every six months now.

"My ex lives in Houston," I said. "I'll still go with the kids when they see him."

So, Greg packed his things and moved to Houston. Where he promptly went to a different Friday's than the one he's managing....

....and got food poisoning.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The tough post

So my folks and son left about two weeks ago to go help my sister get her house ready to sell. They're back now, but those 10 days they were gone were bliss. Except for the fact that I promptly got sick. I mean sick. I haven't been that sick in years. I haven't had a fever for a week now, but I'm still coughing up a lung every 15 minutes, and I have no energy.

Ranger and Daughter took good care of me, though. For a few days, it was like we were a family. Very happy to just be together. Daughter was ecstatic. Son was not there, and that was a good thing....but I'll explain why later.

I was still sick when I got a message that they had decided to move my office again. I'm in the IT suite now, which a little closer to appropriate. It's a weird-shaped triangular space, but my crap will fill it nicely.

Still I have a lot of ground to cover still, so here goes. I'm stalling. This is the post I've been avoiding because it's a rough ride. Make sure your seat belts are securely fastened.

It started the day I got back to work, after my glorious Spring Break with my daughter. I got a call from Ranger.

"Can we have lunch today?" he asked. His voice sounded strained. Something was wrong.

"Sure," I said. "What's wrong?"

A pause. My heart sank. He didn't say "Nothing's wrong!" so my gut reaction was right. The pause meant it was something bad.

His voice got small. "I'd rather talk to you in person about it."

Okay, see, you can't do that to me. I start to panic. I obsess. What can it be? Another woman? He's leaving me? He's moving away? He's been jobless for awhile, doing things here and there to stay afloat. He applies and applies, but there's not much to be had....as anyone who watches the news knows.

So, I say so. "You can't do that. Please tell me what's wrong."

He paused again. I heard him sigh. "Okay. I got a call from a Federal Marshall. They want to prosecute me."

I got a chill up my spine. My mouth went dry. This shit just doesn't happen in my life. I don't hear these words. "What for?" I asked.

Another sigh. "Theft of public funds. From the mail place."

Do you all remember that fiasco? They had $10,000 in inventory and transactions missing, but they're also the world's worst at managing their books. So, upon hearing this, I'm instantly furious.

"You've gotta be kidding!" I said. "You said they messed up their own end-of-day balances all the time. What evidence can they possibly think they have to do this?....." I was in full furious tilt, but Ranger stopped me.

"Sweetie," he said softly. "They have video evidence. I did it. They got me."

I think I stopped breathing. My heart stopped beating. "What?" I finally said, in disbelief.

His words were coming in a torrent. "They'd cut my hours back so bad, when they'd promised more. I thought I'd borrow some and put it back when I got more money coming in. But they did an audit before I could. It's not near the amount they're saying. Not even close to that."

I sat silent. I didn't know what to say. I was trying to breathe again, much less think and speak intelligently.

"It was stupid," he continued. "I knew it was. I thought if I did that, then I would be able to stay near you. And now I've ruined my life."

Okay, there's a discrepancy I haven't ever pointed out. He's referring to his job search, which has had to expand past this area. But that didn't happen until after he left the mail center. He was looking for another job at that time, but it hadn't expanded to that.

"Is it a felony?" I finally said. I really don't have any experience with this kind of thing. I'm at a complete loss.

"Yeah," he said. "I won't ever be able to be a park ranger again. I let myself compromise my principles, and I've really ruined my life."

Okay, so I didn't realize he still wanted to be a park ranger. But that's a discussion for another time. It's a moot point at the moment.

We met for lunch. He's seriously depressed, and understandably so. I'd had some time to think, in the meantime.

First things first, though. He was to appear in court on the following Friday, in Denver. He'd been assigned a public defender. He'd already looked into bus fare versus gas costs and they washed out. The bus schedule didn't work out, though. Buy a ticket, get there at 2 AM, and just hope there's a seat for you. Often, there isn't. Not a good option when you have a court date.

My folks and Son were leaving for my sister's on the same day Ranger had to go to Denver. I wished I could go with him, but I have a daughter to take care of. I told Ranger he couldn't let his depression over this take over. He had to keep moving and keep thinking. I can't do it for him, and I won't. He knows how I had to "babysit" Old BF, and that it's a bad place for me to be.

"I'll try," he said.

"No," I said. "You'll have to DO it. I really try not to tell you what to do, but I'm going to now. If you're going to have my support in this, this is what you'll have to do."

He blinked at me. He'd never seen me in full Bossy mode before. But I was at the end of my rope. I'm not coddling this. I can't. I have to admit, I was angry. I have my hands full enough with trouble with Son and what his moods do to our household. I don't need to be dragging Ranger along, too.

So, I talked about getting ahold of his lawyer. I told him what he needed to ask and what needed to be done. A, B, C. He might have done something wrong, but he shouldn't be held to task for things he didn't do. Go through the video evidence. Make them prove the amount, and take responsibility for that.

He nodded. Okay. Sounds good. You're right.

Then, we talked about getting him there. I didn't know it, but he'd already sold some of his things, to get the money he needed to go. He'd handled that. I was relieved. I needed to see that. I needed to see action on his part, and not just moping on his ass.

Then, we talked about his joblessness. The time had passed for sending applications and waiting to be called. "I need you to be aggressive about this," I said. "I can't do it for you. And even if I could, I wouldn't."

"I know," he said. "It's hard for me to be that aggressive, though."

I shook my head. "That doesn't matter. You have to be. You don't have a choice. I've watched you be passive so far and I've let it go, but no more. You either swim now or sink."

He heard me. He agreed. He would go talk to a friend of mine with a computer business. My friend does in-home "how to" help, but he gets more calls for things he doesn't do. These are things Ranger can do. It's not his favorite, but the referrals will be instant income. He agreed and made the call, and set up a meeting.

But the buzz in the back of my head kept going. He's a felon now. What will the future be like? For now, we need to get him through handling this. He showed me the rest of the week that he was stepping up to the plate with this situation, and not making me handle it. He's aware of my burdens, aware of having added to my stress, and feels bad about it. So, he's handling it.

And I think he knows the only thing keeping me with him right now is that I love him so very much, and that he loves me in a way no one ever has. But if he pushes me more, I'll break.

So, I make it through the rest of the week. Mostly, I'm having to deal with Son. He's moody and difficult. He's gotten behind in his schoolwork, and I'm pushing him to get it taken care of. He's been playing video games instead of doing his work. Lovely.

"Let me handle it," he says, angry. He's already tried telling me it's none of my business, but that doesn't fly. As you can imagine.

"I can't just turn it over to you," I say. "You have to show me you can handle it before I can back off. I let you handle it so far, and you have missing assignments. If you want me to treat you as a mature and responsible person, then you have to act like one."

The day before they are to leave for my sister's (and the day before Ranger goes to Denver), I have to take Son to a chiropractor appointment. He hasn't been in a long time, and he's stiffened up. Not good when he's about to go help move things.

He's being belligerent about going. He's belligerent about everything, though, so I just press on. I'm so tired of dealing with how attached he is to being angry. I tell him to quit being difficult because he's about to push me too far.

Son has several "weapons" in his emotional arsenal. Why he wants to piss me off, I don't know. Maybe it justifies his own anger in some way. I'm not sure. But his iPod is one such weapon. I have told him, "When you plug into your iPod when we're together, it offends me. It's rude to me. Stop it." And if he does it anyway, I know he's trying to offend me. We've talked about this ad nauseum.

After the appointment, we needed to go to the grocery store. ironically, it was a stop to get things Son needed for the trip. Ranger was coming over to help my dad load the trailer with stuff to take, so he met us at the store to get some things of his own.

Before we got to the door, Son had the iPod plugged into his head, blaring. He walked way ahead of me, ignoring me calling to him. Ranger's face tensed, but he didn't say anything. He makes a big effort to not get between me and my kids. They have a dad. They don't need another.

I got the things we needed and went to the checkout. Son made an appearance and actually helped put things in bags. Ranger was at another checkout. He'd catch up to us.

As we walked to the door, Son said something. With background noise, though, I have trouble hearing people if they aren't looking at me. He wasn't.

"What?" I said.

He kept his head turned and said whatever it was again.

"What?" I repeated. "I can't hear you."

"Yes, you can," he turned on me. Angry, nasty, venomous. "Nevermind."

At nearly 6'3", he knows he can be physically intimidating. He tried to bow-up over me and make me back down. I don't respond well to that. I'd had it. My temper broke. I chewed his ass out as we went out the door. "I'm here, doing you a favor, and all you can do is act like a complete butt?" I deliberately didn't say "ass." I thought about it, glanced at the old woman following behind him, and decided "butt" was better. Ranger was coming up behind the woman, and saw the trouble brewing.

We got in our respective cars and headed to my house. Ranger was ahead.

Son was still pushing me. He cranked up the iPod louder, practically in my face with it.

"You can either turn it off or I'll throw it out the window," I said.

"Oh you'd like that, wouldn't you?" he sneered at me.

I thought for a moment. "Yes. Yes, I would," I answered. "So just give me a reason. You use that stupid thing as a weapon. You deliberately offend me with it, even when I'm doing you a favor. That's really stupid. Why would you want to piss off the person who makes the life you have possible?"

Then, I made mistake #1. I said, "Idiot."

Now, I have never, ever called my children names. I don't know why this came out of my mouth this time, but it did. Was I overstressed? Maybe.

He got in my face and said, "Dumb fuck."

Then, I made mistake #2. I'm driving and he's in my face, calling me a dumb fuck. So, I slapped at his head. I remember thinking, if I knock his hat off, he'll have to bend to get it and will get out of my face.


That's when the first punch hit me, in the face.

I think I hit back while I was trying to pull the car over. I was afraid his hitting me would put us in oncoming traffic.

I remember seeing my glasses on the floor. I remember turning towards him so I could put up both hands. His hat was off, so I grabbed his hair and pulled back with all my might. He stopped hitting me, but his fist was raised. We were nose to nose, and I said the only thing that came to mind.

"If you don't put your fist down, I'll pummel the shit out of you." I didn't mean it. I could never do that to one of my children. But I had to get him to back down and stop hitting me. He looked into my eyes for a moment. I saw the shadow of doubt cross his face as he glanced and saw how close I'd gotten. He wasn't sure I couldn't hurt him. He put his fist down.

However, as I spoke, I noticed something else. Blood splattering his cheek as the words came from my mouth. I glanced in the mirror and saw my teeth and lips bloodied and swelling.

So, we turned to a battle of words. Ranger texted and said, "Did I lose you?" They were wondering why we weren't home yet. I wiped the blood from my face as much as I could. I didn't show Son how shocked I was at the amount of blood on my hands.

Ranger was helping my dad in the driveway when we got there. I kept my face down as I went past them. Son went in and started yelling at my mom about what had happened. I wasn't sure if he was lying deliberately or if he didn't really remember what happened. He was saying he was defending himself. He has stuck to this story, to this day.

However, it was a little hard to believe it when he's unscathed and I walk in, with blood on my face and hands. My mouth was swelling badly. It would turn purple the next day. My ear was swelling. That whole region would turn dark purple and swell so much my ear stuck out like Baby New Year's. Bruises would appear on my chest and arm.

It's a good thing I got sick the next week because going to work like that would be very difficult.

Ranger texted when Dad wasn't looking to see why Son wasn't coming out to help. I replied, "Shhh around my dad. Son hit me. We're having a problem."

I got a wet washcloth and stepped out on the back porch. Son eventually came out and said, "I didn't mean to hurt you." He apologized. I asked if he realized that if he'd done that to anyone else, he'd be in jail. He said yes. We talked.

After Son went in, Ranger came outside. He was worried beyond belief. He wiped some blood I'd missed. He looked inside my mouth. "Looks like hamburger in there," he said. He held me and I cried, and cried. It didn't help the swelling at all. He was angry and protective, but he stayed out of it, knowing his intervention wouldn't help. It might actually make it worse. He was torn, though, with his feelings of needing to protect me from my own son.

I dodged everyone the rest of the night. Later, I comforted Daughter. She slept in my room, afraid to be across the hall from her brother. I had to be on a conference call the next morning, so I got to the office early, kept my door closed, and used a lot of makeup. It hurt so much to talk. I kept ice on my mouth, to keep the swelling down long enough to get through the call.

Greg called early, though. I didn't answer. The more I talked, the more it swelled. I texted back and told him what happened, and why I didn't answer. He asked if I'd called the cops. I said no. He made me promise to do so if it happened again. I don't know if I can. The conversation made me feel like a stereotypical abuse victim, making excuses for why I couldn't call the police.

My folks and Son left while I was at work. I'm still at a loss. My mom told me he repeated to her that he was defending himself. She said, "Really? Show me your bruises." That made him stop.

Now, three weeks later, we have superficial conversations. I don't know what to do about it. I'm so weary of tiptoing around his moods. I won't do it anymore. If he wants to act nasty, he can do it alone. My mother says things like, "We need to ask his opinion or he'll be mad..." or "If you do such-and-such with Daughter, you have to do it with Son...." No, I don't. His need to be angry isn't going to rule the household. His need to be nasty to me isn't going to earn privleges. I'm not coddling this.

I feel very protective of my daughter, at the same time. She's very scared of her brother. She shouldn't have to live that way. I want to take her away from it. I'm working on improving my financial situation so that I have that option. Son will be 18 soon, and he can choose where he wants to live. Odds are, it will be with his grandparents, where his behavior gets lots of attention and coddling.

Ranger gets angry when he hears that Son has repeated his "defending myself" story to someone. "Oh yeah, right," Ranger says. "That's why I spent the next week being careful to not hurt her bruises when I put my arms around her. Why I had to be careful not to hurt her ear when she cried on my shoulder. And why I had to kiss her carefully so I didn't touch the swollen side of her lips."

Ranger had to go to Denver that following day. It hurt him to leave me like that. His court date went well. His defender is making them prove the amount. They aren't pursuing jail time. We'll see how it pans out.

We'll see how all of it pans out.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Spring Break cometh (and goeth) too soon

For some reason, our Spring Break comes earlier than everyone else's. Maybe it's because people here are more worried about catching good snow than catching good waves. In any case, Spring Break came quickly on the heels of the Lubbock trip.

I decided to take a trip to Salt Lake City with my kids. The youth at church were planning a trip there at the end of Spring Break, to go to the open house of the new temple in Draper, Utah. Daughter very much wanted to go, so I thought it a good opportunity to go back to SLC and do all the things we missed last year when we went.

However, Son is rather belligerent about all things spiritual right now. I think it's his brand of rebellion. He'll go, after much trouble and arguing, put for a hour, then he leaves in a good mood. Rinse and repeat, one week later. He also had to take the SAT that week, so he took the excuse to not go with Daughter and I.

Well, he's actually belligerent about all things. Period. He's developed a nasty disposition that seems to revolve around either (a) pissing someone off deliberately, or (b) manipulating someone into taking him somewhere to eat. It's wearing, really. Each day, I have to find a way to not get pissed about something offensive he's pulling. I think it's a control thing with him. If he can make you mad, then he's exacted some kind of control. It's making me nuts, though.

Ranger was a little sad that I'd be gone again so soon, and for so many days. But he know the importance of my relationship with my kids, so he hands over the GPS and kisses me good-bye, and waits for updates.

Daughter and I had a plan, of sorts. We'd go early on a Tuesday. Sight-see until her friends arrived on Friday, when we'd all go to the open house. We'd drive back with the caravan of giggly gal-pals on Saturday. And a good time would be had by all.

We cruised online travel sites for a deal on a snazzy hotel, near the sights in downtown Salt Lake City. The place we stayed last year had gone up. No deals to be had and I'm not paying $219 a night! Finally, we found the Radisson, which is about a block from Gateway Mall in one direction and Temple Square in the other. Perfect. I just had to make sure they had hot cocoa via room service, so we'd be sufficiently spoiled. Double perfect.

So, off we went, early on a Tuesday morning, bee-bopping down the highway with the tunes playing and singing at the top of our lungs.

Son barely raised a brow to say bye to us. I'd double-checked with him the day before. "Are you sure you don't want to go?" He sneered and said no. I stayed awake a good bit of the night worrying about him. He's started to see a therapist, but I don't know if it helps. It's too early to tell.

We made our first stop in Wellington, Utah. It's a cute little town, with over-zealous cops who interpret speed limits very strictly. We went into the big truck stop to use the facilities, get fresh drinks and snacks, and call Ranger to let him know our progress.

"Why does he want to know that?" Daughter asked.

"Because he wants to make sure 'his girls' are safe," I said.

She smiled big. "I like that," she said.

We saw lots of snow, but none on the roads. Daughter started getting excited as we hit the freeway at Spanish Fork and headed north to SLC. The GPS guided us straight to the door of our hotel.

I love this GPS thing. I like to pre-load our favorites destinations, so they're easy to call up when needed. My list included:

* Our hotel.
* Our favorite Mayan restaurant. The one with the cliff divers.
* Hard Rock Cafe.
* Squatter's microbrewery (they brew their own root beer and have a killer artichoke dip!).
* Heritage Park.
* The address of our meeting place on Friday, to see Daughter's friends.
* The nearest Wal-Mart.

We checked out the cushy room, stretched out on the cushy beds, perused the menu, and decided to go shopping at Gateway Mall. It was a cool, clear day, so the walk was lovely. I'd forgotten that the crosswalks in SLC all have a big "LOOK" painted in front of them, with eyes for O's and arrows pointing both ways. I don't know why that's so amusing to me!

Gateway Mall is a long outdoor mall, with a water feature with the SLC Olympic symbol on it that plays to music every few minutes. We watched that and cruised the shops. Pretty quickly, my daughter spotted her ideal souvenier shop - Build-a-Bear Workshop.

Now, we've been in Build-a-Bear wannabe shops, but never a "real" one. We went in and she zeroed in on a soft bunny to make. As she worked on it, I picked out a scruffy dog for Ranger. It kinda reminded me of him. I was going to make a "rock hound" for him. I sent Daughter off to find an outfit for her bunny.

I heard a squeal and looked up to see Daughter's delighted face as she rushed to me.

"Look!" she said. She held up a little outfit on a hanger. Only in SLC. It was a Mormon Missionary outfit.

Here's the finished product:

Elder Bunny.

He had a busy week. We now have a whole series of pics of him in front of SLC sights, having dinner at the Lion House, working out at the hotel gym, and taking a nap. She posted them online so her friends could keep up with her activities that week.

It was a glorious week. Daughter discovered a new favorite treat. Creme Brulee. Each night, just before bedtime, we ordered up creme brulee and cocoa. Wow.

And we talked. Oh, did we talk. About boys and why she is glad I won't let her date until she's 16. About school. About family. About her brother. About Ranger. About me marrying Ranger and having a house of our own. About being a unique personality. About being a "woman of quality." About how excited she is to take Seminary as a class in high school. About music. About how much being a mom means to me. About how we prayed for her to come to us, when it wasn't supposed to be possible. About the day she was born. About what I wish for her and Son. About everything.

We went to the cliff diver restaurant. They'd changed the menu and her chile-pepper pasta was gone. It was still fun, even if it kinda skewed the experience to eat a hamburger among the Mayan "ruins."

And one night we got all geared up for the Hard Rock Cafe and headed out...to find it dark. The sign was gone. No Hard Rock in SLC anymore. Dangit. So, we went to Squatter's. Their root beer is wonderful.

After spending Friday afternoon and evening with her friends, Daughter asked if we could just drive back on our own Saturday. Just us. No caravan of gal-pals. One last day of just the two of us, before we went back to normal life.

Who could resist that?

So, we took our time leaving SLC. One more look at Temple Square. One more lunch at the Garden Restaurant, high atop what used to be the Hotel Utah, a beautiful view of Temple Square from our table.

Then, home again. Bee-bopping down the highway with the tunes playing.