Thursday, June 14, 2012

Another story is told

My friend has passed.

I can't say much at the moment because I'm kind of reeling.  Wrapping my head around a world without him in it is something I'm not at all ready to do.  I can't begin to imagine what the silence of this night is like for his wife, who thought they'd grow old together.  I've spoken to his mother, who is unimaginably heartbroken.

I just keep thinking of the line from James Taylor's Fire and Rain:
"...But I always thought that I'd see you again...."  I took that for granted, and I do regret it.

For now, this is all I can say:

This is my friend.

This is my friend a month ago, on the cover of smbNation magazine, as one of their top 150 influencers.

He passed away this evening, from cancer.  His wife and younger brother were beside him.  He was 44.

I promise to remember, my friend.  And I promise to smile and laugh, but I can't promise to not cry when I miss you.  

I will tell the stories, and keep them - and you - alive.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I don't get it....

Why do my exes keep cycling back?

Old BF has taken to challenging me to word games.  He used to do this when we were together.  My favorite game was Quiddler, which is like Scrabble in card form, with lovely Book of Kells art on the faces.  Funny thing is that I've never played Scrabble, but I get the idea.

So, how did that game go for him?  Well, let's take a look at that.  I've been a newspaper editor, writer, curriculum editor, and researcher.  I love language.  On the other hand, he reads dictionaries for fun.  Seems like a good match-up for word games.

Seems like.

Isn't.  But seems like.

Poor man never won a word game with me.  

So, five years after we finally broke up, what happens?  A little app called "Words With Friends."  I hadn't heard of it before he challenged me.  I was surprised to have a message from him, but I checked our the game anyhow.  I decided to accept the challenge.  And I've been wiping the floor with his ass ever since.


"You're beating him by 300 points, " Daughter said.  "I'd say you were being mean, but it's him."  And he keeps asking for it.

So, why is he doing this?  I have no answer. I just don't get it.

The calls for Ranger have slowed.  That's quite nice.  I'm almost to the end of the contract for that phone, so I can get rid of it soon without paying to get rid of it.  That will be nice.  For a long while, old memories would hit me and I'd see them in the light of the things I know now.  The feeling of foolishness would consume me for a bit, but I'd come to grips with it.  

The words I wanted to say to him would sometimes play through my mind, and then I'd resolve them.  Initially, I'd feel frustrated that I'd not have the chance to say them, then I'd feel better to realize that they'd go unsaid because I'd never seen him again.  And I do like that thought, of never having to look at his deceitful face again.

I got one of those calls for him yesterday.  They didn't want the numbers, but promised to remove mine from their calling cycle.  Soon, it was lunchtime.  It was hot outside, so I decided to eat at my desk.

In awhile, I thought I heard my coworker returning.  Footsteps came to my door and stopped.  I waited for her to come in.

But she didn't step in.  

Ranger did.

"Hi!" he said, like we were best of buddies who chatted daily.

"Hello." I said.  All those things I wanted to say?  Frozen.  Seized up in a rush of very unpleasant surprise.

He was holding two books.  A cookbook I'd once given him and a small red book.  I recognized it as another I'd given him.  It's one of those fill-in-the-blank books that you write all manner of sweet, loving, intimate things to your lover.  They do the same for you, then you trade.  I have the copy he gave me, trying to decide on an appropriate way of destroying it.  Now, I laid eyes on the one I'd given him.

As he stepped in, I could smell the stink of the heat outside on him.  Ugh.

"I'm having to move," he said.  "A lot of stuff has to go into storage, so I'm sorting through it.  I came across these."  

He held out the cookbook, but I didn't move.  "You gave me a copy of this a couple of years ago, but my kids gave me one for Christmas.  I figured you'd like the extra copy, since I know you liked it."  

Again, I didn't move.

He held out the little red book.  "And I found this.  I didn't want to throw it out, but I also didn't want anyone to just come across it in storage.  So, I thought I'd give it to you, to do with what you want."

"Okay," is all I said.

He set the books on my desk.  "Well, there you go.  How are you doing?"

"Just fine." I said.

And he left.

I sat there staring at my computer screen for awhile.  I hadn't realized how much comfort I'd actually taken from the thought of never seeing him again.  The sight of him made me feel stupid all over again.  To look into the face I'd believed for so long, so foolishly...well, it's not a good feeling at all.

I looked at the books on my desk.  The little red one had some greeting cards stuck in it.  That's when I had that terrible moment when you realize what you should have done.  The scene would have been much better if it had played out this way.

"....I didn't want to throw it out, but I also didn't want anyone to just come across it in storage.  So, I thought I'd give it to you, to do with what you want."

He'd hold the book out to me.  I'd take it from his hand...and toss it into my trash can.

That's how it should have played out.  Shit.  I hate missed opportunities to be clever.

Over the next few hours, I thought a bit about what he said.  Moving.  Things going to storage.  How could he possibly move someplace smaller, with less room for his stuff?  He was living in a minuscule trailer.  And how would someone come across my book, in his storage?  He has to be concerned with someone else accessing his stuff without him.  Most likely, yet another woman he's lied to about me.  The possibility exists that he's finally being sent to jail on the child support issue.  

It's wrong, but that thought kind of makes me feel better.

Again, though, I don't get it.  Why do they come back?  I didn't need those books.  He could have just thrown out the red book and not come to see me.  He could have done something else with the cookbook, too.  Why see me?  I don't get it.

In any case, now I have both red books.  I think our little family needs to use the backyard fire pit to make s'mores again.  

I have just the kindling.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fine. Be that way.

Apparently, Ranger keeps giving out the number he had on my cell account.  I can't cancel it without a hefty penalty until October, but I'll take care of that then.

In the meantime, I have to wonder why he keeps doing this.  All I did to him was take back the property that belonged to me anyhow.  But he also has that bizarre ability to spin lies until he begins to believe them himself, even in the face of irrefutable evidence.  So, I have to wonder what the tale is being told about me that he thinks doing such things is a good idea.

A few weeks ago, I got several voice mails from his ex-wife.  I don't keep that phone on me, so a bunch had piled up before I got them.  The messages were not for me, but for him.  So, I decided to do the nice thing and let her know he no longer had that number, and that I didn't know how to reach him.

That opened the flood gates.  No only did she respond that she never wanted to hear from me, but she called my message a "pathetic attempt to feel close to him by contacting [her]."


I reminded her that I was responding to her messages, suggested she delete the number from her contacts, and informed her that her number was being blocked on my service.  Then, I blocked it.

Oh, and I pointed out that if I wanted to be close to him, then I wouldn't have threatened him with a restraining order if he came near me, my family, my home, or my office again.  Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, crazy lady.

Then, I had a thought.  I wrote it down and waited for the next errant phone call.

No, he's not at this number.  No, I don't know how to reach him.

But I know two people who do.

Here's the number for his probation officer...and his ex-wife's number.

Stick. Pipe. Smoke.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Stories to be told

1984. I was a sophomore in high school, half way to my 16th birthday. I'd become editor of the school newspaper rather quickly and suddenly, so I spent all of my lunch hours in the Journalism room, working on the next edition. Alone. I always was a bit on the fringes.

One day, the door to the darkroom opened. The boy who stepped out seemed to be as surprised to see me as I was to see him. Apparently, he thought he was spending his lunch hours alone, too.

And thus, one of the greatest friendships of my life began.

Twenty-two years later, we stood at the door to that room and looked through the window. Behind us stood his wife and my kids. "That's where it started," we said, smiling at the memory.

Many stories filled those intervening years.

Back in 1984, we were complete nerds.  Okay, we still are, but we were teenage nerds.  I remember that he had a party and my folks were very concerned about this boy inviting me to a boy-girl party. Yeah, I know; it screams "overprotective."  They were.  So, they pulled up outside the party house to drop me off. 

"Whose car is that?" my dad asked, pointing to the old, yellow bug.

"That's his car," I said.  Then, we spotted my nerdy friend coming to greet me.  My dad seemed to relax on the idea that this guy was going to maul me at any moment.

That year, he wrote in my yearbook: "By next year, I'll get my braces off, change my name, and clear up my face! You'll never recognize me!"

We spent lots of time together during high school.  We watched endless marathons of Ernest movies and commercial reels ("KnowwhatImean, Vern?").  All the Monty Python we could get our hands on.  We sought out the most off-beat music, and he even made some of his own.  I wrote an article about his garage band.  

One evening, his mom asked me to join them for card game night.  I said, "I'm really bad at card games."  She said that was nonsense and dealt me a hand.

A few minutes later, she said, "You weren't kidding, were you?"  Yep, I was that bad.  Still am.  But I'll kick your ass at a word game.

Right after high school, he auditioned for and earned a spot in a touring musical company.  I got postcards from all over the world.  Funny thing was that the postcards were often of little podunk airports, in the middle of nowhere.  

One day, I got a postcard with a Garfield the Cat cartoon on it.  But the captions were all in German.  I stared at the picture and finally said aloud, "I don't know what this says!"  I flipped it over to see my friend's handwriting: "You don't know what this says, do you?"  He signed it, "All feet are the same!"

When he got home, we had a big celebration, and he showed all of his slides from the road.  It was bittersweet, though.  He'd decided to go away to college.  

I missed him terribly, but visited now and again.  Of course, he came home for visits, too.  And it seemed we developed a pattern: when one of us became romantically interested in the other, the other one would be dating someone.  Back and forth we went, for years.

We loved the movie Labyrinth.  We'd throw quotes at each other all the time.  I loved it when I'd come home and find a message on my answering machine (yes, this was before cell phones):

"One door leads to the castle at the center of the labyrinth.  The other door leads to...bum, bum, bum, bum...certain death.  Ooooooo...." Click.

He had his grandmother make some vests for him.  They had four buttons and three button holes.  Their entire purpose was for people to say to him, "Look, you're unbuttoned," so he could reply, "Dangit!  I lost another buttonhole!"

Delightful silliness.

I have a series of pictures from one of his trips home.  He decided to replace the brake system on his VW van himself.  He and another friend bought a "For Dummies" book on VW maintenance and set to work. I took pictures of them getting covered in grease and dirt, in their shorts and long tube socks.  What's funny about the pictures is that once they took the socks off, you could see they were clean from the knees down.  

They decided to rinse off.  As they dragged out the hose, they spotted me with the camera.  You could see the collective lightbulbs come on, and I knew I was in for a soaking.  Suddenly, his mom burst from the front door.  "Blogget!  Blogget!  Come quick!  I need your help at the store!"

And so she saved me from a royal drenching.

Going to the store with his mom was always an interesting time.  She kept this mental stash of mysteries and puzzles for us to solve as we shopped.  Definitely kept us entertained and out of trouble.  Clever woman.

So, eventually, we married other people.  On my wedding day, his mother came to me and said, "We always thought it would be you and our boy!"  What do you say to that?

He once came to visit me when I lived in Missouri.  My daughter was a baby, and I wasn't in the best place physically or emotionally.  The pregnancy had been rough, and my marriage was beginning to fall apart.  I've always regretted that he had to see me like that.

We've kept in touch, and I'm friends with his wife.  He founded a successful computer company.  About a year ago, he became ill.  Cancer.  He keeps everyone informed of his treatments and progress through a blog.  When his illness keeps him awake, we play word games via our phones.  I thought I should feel bad about mercilessly kicking his can at the games, but he wouldn't want me to go easy on him. He started new treatments recently, with chemo and radiation, and sounds positive on most days.

You know, maybe it's the writer in me, but I tend to see life and death in stories.  Those to be told, those being told, and those that have been told.

He had an oncologist appointment the other day, and decided it was time to be honest with everyone.  So, I learned the raw truth today.

He's going on hospice care.  He's visited a cemetery.  His story's end will come in a matter of weeks.  They're trying to make him comfortable.

At this moment, I can't wrap my head around the idea of a world without my friend in it, without his words and his thoughts and his heart.  I remember so much, and I feel desperate to cling to it all.  I want to say that it's not fair, but I know the answer to that.  Nothing is fair.  I don't want to lose him.  I don't want his wife to lose him.  I don't want his mother to lose him.

Repeatedly over the last couple of days, I've heard the song "Fire and Rain" by James Taylor.  It's one that always stabs at my heart because of one line:  "...But I always thought that I'd see you again."  It reminds me of my cousin, who was lost almost 21 years ago.  Now, it seems like it was warning of another such loss coming - I always thought I'd see him again, and I doubt I will.

Jacob tells me, "Don't grieve yet."  But I'm in shock.  The memories are coming fast, and I want to experience and express them all.  My dear friend. We're in each other's hearts.  He loves silly things, like three-button hole vests.  He loves yellow.  And I want to tell his story, and never forget.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Conference A-Go-Go

So, you all hear me talk about my big conference every Fall.  Back in 2007, that's where I had my little fling with SC.  In 2010, it was held at Ole Miss.  The woman I've referred to as Droopy Dog (the one who tried to start gossip about SC) gave a presentation to the Board there, to host the conference at her school.  They're in a little town in Illinois.  The presentation went something like this, in true Droopy Dog form:

"We're really not sure how you'd get here.  You can fly to St. Louis and rent a car, but it's a long drive.  There's a small airport near us, but their planes aren't very good...."

"We have a new Motel 6 you can stay at, but we don't know how we'd get you to campus for the meetings.  I guess you'd have to have your own car."

"We have a great barbecue place for the big Friday dinner.  It's won awards and stuff.  But I don't like it."

The president later said she wondered if she was the only one hearing how ridiculous this was, until she looked across the table and saw me "rolling [my] eyes uncontrollably."  She'd never seen me do that before.

The woman sitting next to me shielded her mouth as she turned to me and whispered, "OH MY GOD!"

When Droopy Dog finished, a strange silence fell.  Someone broke the silence by turning to a colleague from Minnesota and saying, "Didn't you say we might be able to come to your school?"

He looked baffled.  "Come to Minnesota?  In November?"

Yes, the presentation was that bad.  But he agreed to go ask his boss.

And that's when I did it.  I said I could talk to my boss, too.  I did, and he liked the idea, but not for 2011. Too much going on.  2012 would be better, he said.

So, at the next board meeting conference call, I was prepared to report that we'd submit a proposal to host in 2012.  I was sure our friend in Minnesota would come through for us.

"Sorry, guys," he said.  "My boss said no go on the conference."

My cell phone lit up.  It was my pal at Ole Miss.  The text said, "DO NOT MAKE US GO TO ILLINOIS!  TELL ME WE CAN COME TO COLORADO!"

So, I spoke up.  "My boss said we could submit a proposal for 2012, but I can ask if he's willing to bump it up."

"I can help with whatever you want," said my pal at Ole Miss.  "We just hosted and have all kinds of things to help since it's such short notice."

"Why don't you all want to come to Illinois?" said Droopy Dog's voice.

I honestly don't know what the answer was.  But I can tell you this - it was the last time I've heard from her.  At all.

So, we put together the proposal.  At the next meeting, it was approved.  We sent out the announcement and put up the conference registration site.

Guess who was the first person to register?  It was SC.  Immediately, I got a text from him.

"Are you staying at the conference hotel?"

"No, I live here.  About six blocks from the conference hotel."

"Oh.  So, if I want to make an omelette in the middle of the night, I can come to your place to do it?"

WTF?  Really?  Not only does he know all about Jacob, but I am completely aware that he recently remarried his ex-wife.

"Only if you don't mind cooking for my boyfriend, too.  I live right behind his house."


So, on with the planning.  It's a three day conference, with additional pre- and post-excursions to local attractions.  It all fell in my lap.  Even the stuff my boss said he'd do.  Oh, except for the part about scouting wineries for our excursion.  He did that part.

Let me say that where I live is the perfect spot for a conference.  It plays host very well.  Everything fell into place perfectly.

And SC was one of the first to arrive.  He was among the group going to the "Early Bird Dinner" on the first night.  I was in the lobby with the others when he showed up.  Now, since the last time he saw me, I've lost about 60 pounds.  He did a bit of a double take when he saw me.  He gave me a hug and said, "You look good.  I mean, really good."  I smiled and thanked him, and we all headed off to a great dinner.

Many of my good friends arrived later, wanting to go out for a late dessert and drinks.  The nearby Irish pub still had live music going, so we headed that way.  SC had gone back to his hotel, but texted to find out where everyone went.  When he got there, he managed to slide into the seat beside me.

At the end of the night, the group's ticket was placed in front of me.  Everyone leaned over to see their totals.  As SC leaned in to see, I felt something strange.  Then it became insistent.  It was his hand, gripping my thigh and moving upwards, into unwelcome territory.

I tried not to jump and make things conspicuous for the others.  I put my hand down to block SC's wanderings.  A few excused themselves to go to the bathroom before we left.  SC turned to me.

"Maybe I shouldn't be doing that."

"Right. Maybe not." My tone was not at all welcoming.

"Should I remove my hand?"

"You should."

"Okay, but you should come to my room.  I have some new music you should hear."

Seriously?  What a jerk.

The next evening, I was at dinner at a pizza place with other conference goers.  SC found us there.  I was sitting beside my pal from Ole Miss, and she was quite put out when SC worked a chair between us.  She told me later that she wondered why he was sitting so close to me, invading my personal space.  So, I told her why, and told her about the pub.

"What an asshole," she said, in that delightful Mississippi drawl.

Another friend (from Colorado Springs) overheard one of his repeated invitations for me to come to his room.  So, we explained the situation to her, too.

"What an asshole," she said.  Between the two of them, they decided that I would not be seated anywhere without the two of them taking up the space on either side of me.

You gotta love good girlfriends.

As we piled in vans that night to go to the big Friday night dinner, my Colorado Springs friend saw SC climbing into the van I was driving.  She made him sit behind her.  She spent the whole trip to dinner asking questions about me and Jacob.  Loudly.  Just gotta love her.

That was a stellar night.  Dinner at a winery.  Live entertainment from our theater department.  Perfect weather.  As people smiled and laughed, my boss came to stand beside me.

"You really pulled this off," he said.  "People are really having a good time.  This is a great group."

And I was early proud of myself, truth be told.  Months of hard work, and it was working out.  No disasters.  The following week, my boss actually asked when we could host again.  He wants us to be very active with this group, and support my activity in it.

SC did not relent, until the last day came and it was obvious that I was not accepting those invitations.  We haven't talked about it.  I just let it be.  Let him go home to his wife, knowing there was a line I wouldn't be crossing.  Jacob means a lot to me, and I won't put that on the line.

As we gathered for one last dinner, several people came to me to thank me for putting on a good conference for them.  I was flattered, and oh so happy that they'd enjoyed our little town.

The past president, who had seen me rolling my eyes at that meeting one year ago, pulled me aside.  "You're on notice," she said.  "Be prepared to be president, as of the next ballot."  She was the first of a few to say that.  It kinda scares me.  But to have their respect feels awfully good, too.


Looking back through my posts, I don't see anything about the man we've come to refer to as Dingus.  One of my favorite faculty members refers to him by this name, and she flat refused to work with him.  No wonder because he's a bit of an idiot.

In short, he's a Dingus.

Now, if I'm mistaken and I have written about this coworker, please forgive my repetition.

This all started with that never-ending search, the one that my pal from New Jersey made me look like an idiot over.  After the third round, we had to hire someone.  I was a little nerves about the choice because I wasn't sure how well a non-native English speaker would work with our faculty.  I could see potential problems there.  But that's not a very politically-correct or popular thing to I kept it to myself.

His job had two functions: help work with the faculty on instructional design (to take some pressure off of me) and help create media enhancements for online courses.  Red flags went up when my boss asked him what he'd need to help faculty record little video intros to their classes.  He listed a $5,000 HD camera, expensive editing software, and a green screen.

What the fuck?  We're talking web cam talking head videos.  You should have seen my boss's face.

He also insisted that he needed a tricked out iMac.  That he got.

Initially, I shared my office with Dingus.  I could see and hear everything he spent time on, including his negotiations with the cell phone companies for his new iPhone service.  And I about bought the boy a Kleenex box to stop the constant snot sucking that went on, between the slurps of his hot tea.  I could not have been happier when they moved us to new offices.  Until I saw the offices.

Cracker box portable buildings, with tiny office spaces in half of the building with the other half being classroom space.  Our paper thin walls did nothing to block the conversation on the back row of the classroom.  That was enlightening.

And I was still about 10 feet from Dingus.  Watching him move in was kinda awesome.  He disconnected all the fluorescent bulbs, brought in his own ambient lighting, and hung curtains.  He was told to make the videos work with a simple video camera, until the rest could be justified.  Still, each day, I watched him shut the door (like that did any good) and play with Second Life, listen to terrible jazz, and not actually do anything on the to-do list.

My boss kept asking what he did all day.  I didn't have much to report.

One day, I was working away in my little closet-sized office, and I smelled smoke.  I stepped into the tiny hallway and asked someone in another office if they smelled it, too.  They nodded.

Good God, I thought, this flimsy wiring has finally caught fire.

I flung open Dingus's door to warn him and was hit with a wall of the smoky smell.  "Oh my God," I said. "Do you smell that smoke in here?"

From beyond the haze and the bad jazz that hung in the air, he turned and gave me an indignant look.

"THAT is incense," he said.  "And it smells GOOD."

I scowled at him.  "I thought the place was on fire. It smells like smoke."

He huffed at me.  "Are we not allowed to burn things?"

"No, " I said.  "Generally, the facilities folks frown on fire in our offices."

He put it out, and was put out.

Aside from the personal annoyances, his work in general was a day-to-day struggle.  Each time my boss followed up on a project given to Dingus, the guy acted like it was a total surprise that he was supposed to do something.  He also couldn't understand that his job was to to control what our faculty could and couldn't do.  He kept trying to implement ideas to force them to use his designs, which didn't actually function most of the time.

Instead of making those little videos, the faculty suddenly got an email from him, announcing a new workshop.

"How To Create Your Avatar."

Again I said, what the fuck?

So did the faculty.  One of them called me.  "What the hell is an avatar?  And why do I need one?"

"Calm down," I said.  "You don't need one.  Don't worry about it."

When he'd been with us close to a year, he had his first review.  Afterwards, he came to me and said, "Wow, that was rough.  How did your meeting with the VP go?"

"I've never had a review with the VP," I said.

He looked baffled.  Apparently, he'd gotten raked over the coals.  This did not bode well for Dingus.

During that year, some significant decisions were made about our program.  First, we searched for and chose a new system to deliver online courses.  This transition would be a HUGE undertaking, to migrate educational materials, create new ones, and train everyone.  Second, we would adopt some national standards and develop an internal review process for online courses.  Again, huge undertaking to get that training out and get courses up to speed.

Third, we decided to host a national distance ed conference.  Remember that one I go to each fall?  Yep, it came to our place in 2011.  That will be a blog entry in itself.  Suffice it to say, though, that I was gonna need some help with this, and Dingus was expected to be that person.

So, what did he do?

He quit.

That set me up for six months of hell.  I've done all the transitioning, implementing, and conferencing.  I've worked constantly - all day, after hours, weekends, holidays.  Exhaustion has been a constant companion.  I've about lost my mind a couple of times.  The stress has been unbelievable.  But I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel now.

See, a nice footnote here is that 1) I now have a greg iMac in my office, and 2) we ended up redoing the search and hiring a rather nice woman, who is sharp, personable, and actually helps me with what I need to do.

So much so, that I am currently on vacation.

The absolute end of Ranger and Blogget

Of course, Ranger and I have been romantically over for a long time.  I maintained contact with him for a couple of reasons; he owed me money and he had one of my phones.  He kept promising to reimburse me for part of the Missouri trip.  That was part of the original deal, but then he just didn't get the income he expected.  The bold truth?  That financially obliterated me.  I incurred debt related to that and relied on his word to help with it.  My mistake, and I admit it.  I feel completely stupid for that, and many other things now.  More on that later, though.

He had one of my phones because we'd moved his cell phone to my account.  It was cheaper that way, and he reimbursed me for the $20 a month it cost.  He continued to do that after we split up, on the understanding that he'd be getting his own phone when he started receiving disability.

One day, he shows me this picture of a tiny baby, hooked up to tubes.  He tells me about a family he met while doing community service hours - a woman with a teenager daughter, who was the product of rape, and the daughter was pregnant by a rapist.  Tragic.  And he's been helping them out with the woman's younger children while other family crises were happening.  Noble of him, yes?

The baby is born premature and ill, thus the picture.  He helps while they spend time at the hospital.  He tries to date the woman, but she stands him up to go home with a guy she met at the bar where she and Ranger were supposed to have their date.  A few weeks go by, and the baby dies.

Here's where it really gets weird.  Ranger is totally devastated by this.  He starts talking about the funeral. He's supposed to create a slide show for the baby's funeral, but the baby's mother and the guy who thinks he's the father can't agree on the music.  Did you catch that?  The guy who thinks he's the baby's father.  I thought the story was this was a rapist?  Changing stories are big ol' red flags.

So, Ranger makes this slide show.  A half-hour slide show about a newborn who lived only a few weeks.  And he's totally torn up over this.  "I'm going through something really difficult," he says, one evening when he's looking for sympathy from me.

I said to him, "When you say that, it sounds like it was one of your own children."  I said it to give him some perspective, but as I said it...something new occurred to me.

Was this his baby?

The pieces of things he said, and other contradictions, began falling into place.  I have no way of proving it, but my gut says this fits.  It's the only way his behavior at the time makes sense.  The baby's mother is 16.  The whole thing makes me nauseous.

Time to sever ties with Ranger, debt or no debt.

I start telling him I need the phone back.  It's time for him to have his own account.  He stops answering me.  No texts, no calls.  I try emailing.  No answers.

Coincidentally, I start getting emails that someone is trying to request a new password on my cell account.  Yeah, coincidentally.  I let the cell company know about this, and they tighten the security on my account.  No changes can be made without talking to me specifically.

I go into my account and restrict that phone.  I block all texts and data access, and allow only phone calls to and from my number.

Guess what?  I get an email.

"I'm in Denver looking for work.  And my phone won't work at all!"

No shit, Sherlock.  I wonder how that happened?

I told him how that happened and why.  You can't take off with my property and ignore me.  He says when he'll be back and says he'll return the phone then.

That date comes and goes.  Nothing.

So, I call up the cell company and let them know, that phone has been stolen.  They shut down service to it.

I send Ranger an email.  You're carrying around a phone that's been reported as stolen.  Good luck with that, especially if your on-probation-ass is caught with it.

The next day, I'm at work and go to talk to my boss.  I'm away from my desk for about 10 minutes.  When I get back, there's a box on my desk.  The phone is in it.

Does that creep out anyone else?  The timing is too coincidental.  He almost had to be watching me, to find a moment when he could slip in without talking to me.

Coward.  Asshole coward.

It's a nice phone, so I decide to activate it on my daughter's line.  Before handing it off to her, I decide to make sure it's clean of all of Ranger's stuff.  Good thing I did.  He left several months worth of nude and pornographic pictures of himself and other women on the phone.  Some were dated from before we split.  Some were really young-looking, too.

I reset the phone to factory specs.  Daughter is over-the-moon happy with it.

To avoid extra charges, I had Ranger's old number reactivated on Daughter's old phone.  The contract runs out in October, which I will let quietly expire.  Instantly, I start getting calls and texts and photos from all sorts of women.  Some are asking why he hasn't contacted them.  I explain to each one who I am and why he doesn't have the phone anymore.  And I start hearing the stories.

Many of them met him online and then spent "romantic" weeks and weekends with him.  Then, he stopped communicating with them.  He got sex and money from them, then dropped them.  His job-hunting trip to Denver?  Not job-hunting.  It was one of these rendezvous.  All I can tell them is, I'm sorry, and go get tested.

What a class act.  There's absolutely nothing redeeming about this man.  He's complete scum.  I'm so ashamed of how profoundly stupid I've been.

I've spent months having flashbacks to times that were not what they seemed to be.  Good times that now seem to be little more than a ruse.  He also got what he wanted from me.  Bled me dry in several ways.  It's going to be another few months before I recover financially from all the ways he took advantage of me.  I've found ways he's stolen from me, too.  Materially, financially, intimately, self-respect.

This is hard for me to see, what a fool I've been.  It's completely humiliating.  It makes me sick on so many levels.  I'll never see him again, but the scars are there.  Jacob is so sweet to hear me rail against all of this, and still hold my hand, say he loves me, and that he understands.  We do that for each other, actually.


Would you like to have a major life change happen to you?  I mean, something out of your control?  Like, say, losing your job?

Then, date me.

Old BF couldn't find a good job.  Ranger couldn't keep a job (although, theft tends to do that).  And now...well, poor Jacob was hit by the curse.  

Here's what happened.  

He's quite the devotee of Twitter.  It's how we got to know each other, so that's no surprise.  When he'd go off on there, though, he made sure to keep it anonymous.  No names.  No places.  Nothing to identify the object of his wrath.  So, one day during a break at work, he tweets something about someone spitting on the floor.  

In response, he gets a message from an HR person at work, saying he's being negative, and they need to chat about it.

He texts something to me about possibly being in trouble, but it's middle of the week, and they only fire people on Fridays.

I was home for lunch, and suddenly, there's Jacob on my doorstep.  

"So, I guess I didn't have to wait for Friday," he says.  Yup, he got fired for what he said on Twitter.  Over a decade at that place, and that's how it ends.

Now, they do have a policy that an employee cannot be held responsible for things said outside of work.  And Jacob did find a legal precedent for a possible suit against them.  And tweeted about it.  That might just explain why they spent the next few days making sure his details and money got settled quickly.

But there you have it.  Time for a new career.

Long story short, he had money coming to him that would allow him to float for awhile and try his hand at a few options.  He researched the potential earnings and set about getting started.  First up - amateur porn.  Namely, shemale cam porn.

You guys are well aware of my hangups with fidelity and such, so when this idea first came up, you can imagine how I reacted.  Kneejerk was not a pretty sight.  We argued for two days about it.  Then, he put it in perspective:

"Do you really think I'd rather rub one out for some guy in India than be with the woman I love?"

Okay.  Point taken.  In the end, it's not about intimacy.  It's about turning your assets into income.

The third floor attic space of the house became the studio during the day.  Of course, none of this went on with children in the house, so it was sometimes hard to maintain a consistent cam schedule.  However, the income proved to be not quite as promised.  Jacob spent a lot of time looking at other cam t-girls and wondering how the hell they stayed so busy.

One was particularly puzzling.  We called her Snot Girl.  One day, he's showing me some of the other t-girls, and we notice this one.  Quite pretty, sexy outfit, and convincing as a female.  Her chat room has a fair number of patrons, chatting with her.  As we're watching, she sneezes.  Into her hand.  Then looks at it.  And wipes it on her sexy black stockings.

The room goes silent.  And empties.

Jacob looked in on her another time, to find her nose mining.  Ugh.

Eventually, Jacob found that he was making more money on referrals to the cam site than on being on the cam.  So, he moved on to the next career option: writing.

I won't go into all the details, but suffice it to say, he's found some level of success writing articles on-demand, fiction, and erotica.  We've discussed some ideas that I wish he'd push a little more - things that I personally feel he has a niche for - but that's up to him.  He's been doing well, and his writing is well-received.

Trouble is that freelance writing is a tough career to get off the ground.  And as a recent (very recent) financial crisis has reared its ugly head on our horizon, he's had to find another way to bring in more immediate funds.  So, within 24 hours of the crisis, he has three interviews and a very real possibility of being hired before the week's end.

That, in itself, illustrates one big difference between Jacob and Ranger or even Old BF.  He is a man of action, when needed.  Resourceful and determined.  No excuses.

And I love that about him.  I don't have to solve problems for us all.  He's reliable.  We are partners, in every sense of the word.

Thursday, February 02, 2012


That's the best way I know to describe my daughter.  She astounds me every day.  She's very confident and sure-footed about where she wants to be in life, and keeps a steady eye on that path.  She's quite realistic about what is good for her and what's a distraction.

That said, she's also aware of her own tendency to procrastinate and be...scattered.  She inherited her father's ability to leave a trail of stuff in her wake.  You can read her daily activities by the trail she leaves.  For me, it's still a good trade-off: messy for unusually level-headed.

She makes an impression on people, that's for sure.  Towards the end of last school year, she decided to join the school Art Club.  Just one of those "might be a good idea" thing, as she is an impressive artist.  She'd been accepted as a graphic artist for the school paper, so being in Art Club seemed logical.  And might be fun.

So, she went to a couple of meetings.  Enough to cast her vote in the club elections.  A couple of weeks go by and...guess what?

She's the president.

Good golly.

Her dad just can't seem to wrap his head around her, though.  His wife (#3) once said that I shouldn't expect him to relate to her because he doesn't "get" art and music.  Really?  That sounds reasonable to you?  So, their conversations tend to be superficial and, consequently, he hasn't seen her in about three years.

Her last birthday was a big deal, though.  It was her 16th.  Sweet 16.  That's a milestone.  So, I talked him into coming here for her birthday, as a surprise.  That would be huge for her.  But what about the party itself?  What the heck was I gonna do to celebrate her 16th?

I racked my brain.  I wanted to do something themed with the things she's into.  There's that obsession of hers with Korean boy bands, but...uhm, no.  Then, there's art, literature, and writing.  I needed some advice on that.  I called my friend, the head of the Art department where I work.

I explained about my daughter's birthday.  My friend has met my daughter and was impressed at the time.  "So do you know of any art-related spaces locally that I can rent for a party?"

"Sure," she said.  "We actually don't use the campus art gallery all summer.  You can have that, if you'd like."

I was stunned.  That's a brand-new, gorgeous space.  Glass front and plenty of space.  It's part of the new college center on campus.  "Seriously?" I asked.  "How much?"

"No charge," she said.  "I'll even help you set up, if you give me a snack."  See, she has this theory about how much better the world would be if people just had more snacks.

I spent the next several weeks secretly going through all of the artwork I'd kept over the years and all of the sketchbooks Daughter has stashed...everywhere.  I collected enough to cover the walls of the gallery.  I made plans to swipe her latest sculpture for the food table.  I met with the campus catering services people to get plenty of food for a group of teenagers.  Our favorite bakery designed a bass drum shaped cake in her school colors, to represent her love of marching band.

All she knew was we were renting a room on campus for her party.  That way, she could give her friends some directions.  She had no idea that it wasn't just any room, but that she was about to have her first "show."

Her dad made his travel plans.  It was cheaper to fly into a neighboring town, and he wanted her to be at the airport when he got there.  But keep in mind that this was supposed to be a surprise.  So, I told her I had to go pick up a visiting professor and take him to the campus there.  Would she like to go and have a shopping day with me?

Why, yes, she would!  That's my girl!  Don't pass up shopping.

The day arrives, and she dresses to the nines for shopping.  Heels, skirt...the works.  When we get there, I tell her to have a seat while I check on the flight's arrival.  Apparently, it had already gotten there because from behind me I hear:  "What are you DOING here?"

He's leaning over the back of her chair.  She's staring up at him, backwards.  Repeating two phrases:  "You're my daddy!" and "What are you DOING here?"

She was blown away to see him.

"Isn't it someone's birthday?" he said, laughing at her.  "So give your old dad a hug."

As she stood, I saw his gaze go from her feet to the top of her head, which was well above his.  Especially in  heels.  His jaw dropped.  His eyes went back to the shoes.

"When did you start wearing those?" he said.  "I don't like that idea!"

Now, it was his turn to be blown away.  She spent the rest of the weekend making him feel that way.

One day, I was driving him back to where he was staying.  As we sat in the car, he said two things to me that about blew me away.  First, he said I'd done a great job with her.  Second, he apologized for all the crap he put me through when we were married.

That was a big wow moment for me.

He's still an asshole.  He proved that at the party.  More on that later.

Jacob, his Eldest, my folks, and I spent hours setting up before the party.  It was great fun.  Daughter's dad arrived.  Have I mentioned that he's a Rush Limbaugh devotee?  Yeah.  He sent conservative political books to the kids for Christmas.  Ugh.  And he was apparently quite disapproving of my young, tattooed, pierced boyfriend.

He said something to my mother later.  And spent all evening texting his wife and not talking to anyone.  Judgemental asshat.  My mother apparently told him to remember that this man treats me and my daughter well, and makes us happy.  So stuff it.

But on with the party.  Finally, the big moment arrived.  Daughter had met her friends outside and was walking in with them.  The rounded the corner, where she could see into the big glass front of the gallery.

"Hey," she said, pointing.  "What's my stuff doing in there?"


"That's my stuff!"


"What's my stuff doing in there?!"

Her best friend Alan was beside her.  He pointed, too.  "Maybe it has something to do with the sign in the window."  It was a mock-show announcement, with her name on it.

She about flipped.  Her friends walked with her from one picture to the next.  They started from when she was a very little girl, until now.  They listened to her explain each one.  Then, they sucked down wings, cake, and lemonade while playing board games.

One little problem happened.  The lemonade had some kind of grossness floating in it.  Jacob slung the dispenser over his shoulder, and we headed to the kitchen.  They gave us a new dispenser.

Which still had grossness.

Jacob slung it over his shoulder again and headed out.  He came back momentarily with a crate of sodas.  "They won't be charging you for this," he said.

My hero :o)  Saved the day.  While dumbass sat in the corner, texting his wife.  I still smile about that.

I gave Daughter a lovely key pendant, with her birthstone.  In the card, I talked about how it represented the keys I hope I'd given her to go through life, and the keys she held to determining her own future.  A couple of months ago, her writing class had to do a poem.  Guess what she wrote about?  What that key means to her.  Still makes me misty to read that.

About a month after her birthday, her best friend Alan asked her out.  She'd decided to not date until she turned 16, so he'd waited for that to pass.  Everyone around them said, "About dang time!"

A couple of months later, though, things took a very different turn.  Kind of strange, really.  Alan told her about a recent relationship he'd had -- with one of their mutual friends.  A male mutual friend.  He told her he wasn't sure if he was gay or just bisexual, but he was working on figuring it out.

She felt awkward telling me about this, but needed to talk to someone about how to handle this development.  I explained to her that she didn't need to be uncomfortable with me, and that Jacob is actually "pansexual" - being attracted to individual traits rather than gender.  And that he'd also had relationships with men. That gave her some perspective, and a tool to use in talking with Alan.

Then, she got wind of something he'd said to another friend.  He's said he'd really enjoyed waking up with that male friend, but was disappointed that Daughter wouldn't do that.  Too true; she will not.

Then, he confessed that he wanted to date her to "know what being with a girl was like."  This hit her hard.  He wasn't so much interested in HER as he was in her gender.  Wow, that makes a girl feel special, doesn't it?

One evening, she breaks down crying and tells me she thinks she needs to break up with him.  "He's a great friend," she said.  "But a rotten boyfriend."

They'd had a conversation a day before, in which he'd had the brilliance to utter these phrases:

"I wish we'd be more intimate.  I'd hate to cheat on you out of boredom."
"So what do you consider cheating?  I want to know how short of a leash I'm on."

Again, charming.  Right?  We had a long talk about it.  She was pretty clear: "He shouldn't be with me if he's thinking about cheating."  I was glad to see that she has a clear idea of what a relationship should be for her, and she's not willing to settle.

So, that's that for the first boyfriend.  They're back to being best friends, and everyone is happy that way.

Today, she filled out her schedule for her senior year in high school.

When did that happen?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Where to start?

As usual, I'm WAY behind on posting.  And as usual, it's been a rollercoaster.  So, where do I start....

I'll take it a chunk at a time, updating work and private life, and what's going on with the people who are important in my life, too.

Spring break last year, Son went to visit my sister and fell in love with San Diego.  So, after the semester was over, he went out there to look into work and school.  He decided to stay.  He hasn't had luck finding work, but he's enrolled in school and doing fairly well.  He's also discovered surfing.

I recently learned that he had another reason for going out there.  He spent his last semester here getting pretty deep into the drug scene.  He experimented a lot, dangerously so.  I'd had my suspicions, but I just don't have the experience to really know the signs.  He apparently had what can only be described as a religious experience (seriously) that told him he had to put distance between himself and what was happening, and the people connected to it.  California gave him that.

Son and I have had a strained relationship since he beat the crap out of me a couple of years ago.  I wanted to give him a peace offering for Christmas.  Something that would actually mean something.  So, I sorted through all of the photos I had of him.  Every one.  Made me cry a lot.  I made a photo album for him, with notes on the pictures of the memories I had.  It apparently meant a lot to him.  He'd been afraid our relationship was shot, but that told him more than words could.  He even called my mom about it, saying how he wanted to fix things between us.  He told me that, too.  Made me cry more.

My mom is bugged that he's so far away.  She wants me to be bugged, too.  I'm not, although I do miss him.  But I want him to be happy.  I want him to find what makes him get up in the morning, what makes the world go around for him.  If he finds that, then I'm happy with anything he has to do to get there.

I also found out some things about his experience with our church that were upsetting.  For awhile, he'd been visiting with our bishop each week, for conversations that were supposed to be helping him get back on track.  He didn't talk much about what they visited about, but that was okay.  I figured it was his private conversations, and if he had something to say, he'd say it.  I also trusted that our bishop would let me know if something was happening that we needed to watch.  Neither said anything.  Then, Son just didn't want to go anymore.

Turns out that those visits were nothing more than disciplinary action.  They centered on Son being brought before a church council and stripped of what's called his "priesthood" in the church.  No counseling.  No help.  Just discipline.  And this was done behind my father's back, who should have been included in such a council.

No wonder Son didn't want to go back.  The man was supposed to be helping him figure things out, not using it all against him.

I got a taste of this myself, unfortunately.  I got a call from the bishop's secretary, wanting me to meet with him.  This always raises a red flag with me.  Finally, the bishop emailed me, to ask for the same thing.  I asked what it was about.  He said he wanted to see me because I'd moved myself and my young daughter in with a man to whom I'm not married, and that's a violation of the covenants I made when I joined the church.  And if I didn't want to visit with him, then he'd turn me over to the bishop who was in charge of the area I'd moved into, and he could take disciplinary action himself.

I wrote back and gave him my address.  I gave him Jacob's address.  Pointed out that they are separate houses.  Then I thanked him for believing the rumor mill instead of asking me for the truth.  And I haven't spoken to him since.

My daughter still loves the church.  It gives her a good foundation for making good decisions in her life.  She's happy with it.  I won't step all over that, but I can't look at those people without getting angry.

What breaks my heart is that I truly feel that God just likes to fuck with me.  When things are happy, he gives me the smackdown.  I can't take that anymore.

Speaking of Daughter, she's doing quite well.  I sure wish I'd had a level head like that when I was a kid.  She's the ultimate smart-kid-band-geek-kpop-loving-talented-confident-creative-person I've ever seen.  More on that in the next post!