Tag Archive | marriage

Lone Jellyfish, Candy Apple Redhead, Happy Holidays, and a Weekly Photo Challenge

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In a tank full of jellyfish, we watched as this lone jelly moved gracefully away from the others

It has been far too long, but I am popping in to wish you all a very happy holiday season.  Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, or warmest wishes for whatever holiday you might celebrate.

The boys and I celebrated a lovely (but exhausting!) Christmas together.  They both made special cards and scoured the house and found items to wrap up and place under the tree.  Picture that scene from one of my favorite Christmas movies, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  [If you haven’t seen the movie, you should.  My sister and I loved it so much as kids that we watched it more times than I’d care to admit.  As a result, we can recite the script verbatim, complete with accents and inflection, also something I only admit sparingly.]  Aunt Edna arrives at Clark’s house with two gifts.  One box is leaking and the other is meowing.  Old Aunt Edna doesn’t have much money (and is a bit senile) but still wants to give gifts, so she has wrapped up jell-o and her cat.

Thankfully the boys did not giftwrap the dogs this year.  [Yes, they wrapped the little one up last year.  She did NOT like it.]  They gave me chocolates from the cupboard, one of my favorite winter scarves (which was a relief because I thought I had lost it, but it was under the tree the whole time!), and a few other special items they found.

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“One of these birds is not like the others”
The photo doesn’t do the vibrant red hue of this red-crested cardinal justice. What a beautiful bird!  [What is a photo of birds doing in this post?  Trust me, there is a reason.  Read on…]

They gave their dad some things we were able to procure together, like a nice Columbia fleece and some of his favorite candy.  They also made homemade ornaments with their photos on them and special cards to accompany their gifts.  And they wrapped up a handheld showerhead we had gotten a few years ago for their bathroom.  Their current cheap showerhead leaks so much that their is minimal water pressure when they shower.  It takes them forever to rinse their hair.  So we acquired the new one from our struggling kitchen and bath supply business.  It’s lower quality than what we normally sell, so we decided to keep it for ourselves and figured it should solve the boys’ bathroom dilemma.

The only problem is that my husband hasn’t installed this unopened self-proclaimed “easy installation” faucet in the three years it has been sitting next to their bathroom door.  You are probably wondering why I haven’t just done it myself.  Believe me, the thought has crossed my mind a thousand times.  But I can’t manage it because I can’t lift my arms over my head thanks to the bilateral mastectomy & axillary lymph node dissection surgeries.  [Of course it would have helped to have continued my intense physical therapy sessions instead of failing to show up one day because I was too tired.  In my defense, I did call them to tell them I would reschedule when I felt better.  That was 2 years ago, though.  Woops!]

The boys thought that if they wrapped up their new showerhead and some of the other home improvement items that have been gathering dust, the jobs would get done.   I even caught them wrapping the curtain rods from their bedroom windows!  I had been really sick for months when we decided to remove the curtains, rods and their anchors so we could paint the boys’ room (ocean colors with freehand waves and plans for ocean creatures).  I had just started the painting when I had to go in for biopsies on both breasts and lymph nodes. The biopsies confirmed the doctor’s cancer diagnosis 24 hours later, and the diagnosis and more biopsies and scans were immediately followed by my first lymph node and powerport implantation surgery and intense chemo until I was ready for the mastectomy and full-blown lymph node removal surgery 5 months later.

Needless to say, I could not reinstall the curtain rods because of the “not being able to raise my arms thing,” so the twins still have no curtains up in their room.  Part of me thought, “good for them for wrapping up their curtain rods!”  But they know their father all too well.  They said they were sure they would have to wrap all of those things up again next year because (I’ll paraphrase, but it was something like this) “Dad doesn’t care about our curtains and showerhead and smoke alarm batteries and blah blah blah… because they are not the internet or a video game.”

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I know, I know. You are saying, “WTF, another bird? What does this picture have to do with the holidays?”

We had a quiet Christmas Eve.  I worked on finishing Christmas cards between appointments.  I’d been up until 3 or 4 a.m. for the few nights before, writing personal notes on the cards (and reapplying for health insurance).  I mailed a stack each day for those 3 days.  So when I was finished with my appointments at the hospital, my husband and the boys came to get me and it was a relief to stop at the post office to mail out the last stack of cards.

I was glad to be heading home after a long day.  I was tired and had a lengthy to-do list that had to be finished before Christmas the next day.  But my husband’s bad mood won out and when something set him off, he decided to punish us by parking the car and refusing to take us home or to relinquish the keys.  We sat for over an hour like this.  Luckily, I keep warm blankets in the car (it’s really a minivan) during the winter, so I gave the boys a couple each and they alternated reading and playing DS (handheld Nintendo games), while I worked on the Christmas cards that didn’t need to be mailed and finished my insurance paperwork.  It was 17 degree F and snowing but I dared not challenge him too much because I’ve learned that it isn’t worth it when he is in one of these moods.  And I honestly didn’t think he would keep it up for that long.

We sat until the kids and I couldn’t wait to go to the bathroom.  So the boys and I got out of the car and walked to a nearby grocery store to use their restroom.  When we got back in the car, the boys insisted that we go home.  We were going to Christmas Eve Mass at 7:30 (which they were not looking forward to earlier in the day, but were now begging to go home for) and we were still 30 minutes from home and had to eat dinner and get ready to go.  So he reluctantly drove us home.

We barely made it home to eat, and I didn’t have time to change out of my wet clothes (a byproduct of a day full of hot flashes — a gift from my hysterectomy) and then ended up getting to church late.  For as often as we go to church (not often at all!), I don’t think we should walk in late.  We hadn’t been in weeks and filing in while everyone was seated and the priest was watching us walk in the door was not a good way to return.  But the service was nice.  And we ran into my aunt and uncle (and my cousin and her boyfriend), so that was a good surprise.

Christmas was nice.  I was up until about 4 writing long notes in books and special cards for the boys and helping Santa get things ready (he left notes for the boys and personalized their stockings, etc.).  Comet even left a note and explained how he was sorry for leaving a bit of a mess on the front step — he left some chewed up carrots from the plate we left out for the reindeer and some droppings that looked a lot like raisins that had been soaked in warm water to plump them up.  [Yep, reindeer poop.  Since the kids had been questioning the Santa thing all of a sudden, the big guy had to step the proof of his existence up this year!]

And then the boys were up and ready for Christmas morning at 6:30.  Thanks to the kindness of a family at church who “adopted” us, and to the generosity of the boys’ teachers and school, we had gifts to put under the tree.  There were even gifts for me, including several giant packs of paper towel, toilet paper, Lysol wipes, and laundry detergent.  Such amazing angels who knew exactly what we needed.  Despite the events of the day before (and so many days before it), I couldn’t help but feel thankful for the good people in my life.  Such a stark contrast to my marriage are the relationships I have with other people.  Thank goodness, or I think I would have given up a long time ago.

We rounded out the day by going to my aunt and uncle’s to spend the afternoon with my family.  We hardly ever get to see them, so it was good to be together.  And then we moved on to Christmas dinner and dessert with my husband’s mom and dad.  It was a busy day and we didn’t get home until late, but it was really nice.  And I was glad we were able to have our own little Christmas in the morning and then have time for both sides of the family the rest of the day, so Christmas felt complete.  And I know the boys enjoyed the time spent with family.  They fell asleep on the way home, though they were up again at 6 a.m. to build their new Lego sets!

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Hmm, I was hoping to have this post serve double duty as a photo challenge post, but this week’s challenge topic is “Joy” and I think this post is just not joyful enough to qualify.  So I will improvise.   While I missed The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge for last week, I might as well show you the photos I would have designated for that post.

Titled “One,” the challenge asked that we show:

“photos that focus on one thing.  Maybe you’ve got a stark photo of a single tree silhouetted against the setting sun, or a lone sandpiper wandering the beach as waves crash.  Perhaps you’ve caught your mother sitting by herself in a moment of quiet contemplation.  Maybe you saw a basket of wriggling puppies, and got a photo with a single fuzzy face in focus.”

So now you see why I have a photo of a lone jellyfish and two oddly placed bird photos here.  Thanks for bearing with me!

Here’s one more:

Easter cupcakes pink breast cancer thirties 30s 30's thirties kids twins mom motherhood loss art show bird one daily post weekly photo challenge mastectomy

And I promise to come back with the JOY photos from this week’s challenge.  Full disclosure — I’ll tell you that I’m in a “Tell it like it is” frame of mind so I can’t promise that the text will be overtly joyful.  But I can promise you honesty and I hope that’s good enough!

Until then, thank you for reading and for giving me an opportunity to share my thoughts, light and dark.

My warmest wishes and appreciation for you all…

p.s.  If you would like to participate in The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge, just click here for a list of challenges or here for the current challenge, “Joy.”

The Devil is in the Details…and my Bed

Snapped this photo of a piece at the school district art show.  Not sure if I agree with the sentiment, but the flames are fitting at least!

Snapped this photo of a piece at the school district art show. Not sure if I agree with the sentiment, but the flames are fitting at least!

What’s that old saying, “The devil is in the details?”  That phrase has cycled through my head many times in the past couple of weeks.  Followed by silent conversations about how that’s not the devil’s only hangout.

The week or so before last was, to put it mildly, a week from hell.

The best way for me to explain what I mean is to just tell you what has been happening.

On Saturday, June 29, I asked my husband to come to bed at about 3:30 a.m.  This is around the time when he normally decides go to bed.  He is either on his tablet surfing the Internet or playing video games until the early morning hours.  Every night.  I honestly don’t mind the video games.  I really don’t.  But I don’t have the same feeling about the tablet.  When you are repeatedly told that “this tablet and the Internet are my life,” it makes it hard to see it coming into your bed at 3:30 in the morning when you are not feeling well and would just like to get into bed with your husband at a normal time and feel like there isn’t something more important in there between you.

This night was no different.  Except that when he brought the tablet up and proceeded to get into bed with it, I asked him if we could just have one late night (early morning) without it.

A few seconds before, he had taken the clean socks that were sitting on the bed half folded and shoved them all onto the floor.

As I bent over to pick them up and put them in the basket, I made the “Can we just have one night without it?” comment.

A split second later, I was seeing stars.  He had taken his pillow, and with a significant amount of force, was swinging it back and forth at me, smacking me in the front and back of the head.  The force was enough to knock me down.

My ears were ringing and I was in shock as I stood back up.

He looked at me angrily as he climbed into bed, turned the tablet on and put his headphones on, cursing at me all the while.

I was shaking as I thought, “It’s now or never.”  You see, I had decided a few days before that the next time he hurt me or one of the boys, I would get him out, come hell or high water.

I would have welcomed a flood that night.  But it was hell that came instead.

I have been asking him for as long as I can remember to leave when he flies off the handle.  But he always refuses, stating that it is his” fucking house” and that he is not going anywhere.   We bought the house together after both contributing financially because I had a pretty good job as well.  I worked really hard and had been saving since I was a teenager.  And in the past few years since he has been out of work and we have been running a small business together, it has probably been me who does the lion’s share of the work.  And, honestly, ever since his job loss and my cancer diagnosis, we have been swirling in debt together.  So even he, with his nasty comments, can’t convince me that the house is “his.”

Normally, I beg him to just let me stay in the house with the kids until I die, and to be left in peace with them.   I tell him I will take care of the mortgage.  And then he can have it when I’m gone.  Of course I don’t know how much time this will be, but given the details of my diagnosis, I know it can’t be forever.  So I think it sounds like a good deal for him.  I pay the mortgage and take care of the kids.  And then he gets it all in the end.  And no one has to know about how he’s been treating us.

But he says he would never let this happen.  That he’ll make sure I get nothing.  And he will not leave the house.  If anyone is to go, it will be me who has have to get out of his “fucking house.”

I know he feels he can wait me out and that he’ll get the house in the end anyway when I’m gone.  And I think he believes that the sympathy would end for him if he were to walk out the door.  He knows that no one would think he’s the doting and kind husband he has tried to lead them to believe if he were to leave and people were to know the truth about how he treats a wife who is not well and who has been through more surgeries and cancer treatments, complications and crap than I’d care to recount, even in a cancer blog.  So he has never left before.  Just created a path of destruction.  And I kiss his behind the next day because I just want peace.

But this night I was bound and determined.  I told him that I was done with being treated this way and with having the boys be treated this way.  I said that given what I had been through to just simply stay on this earth, I shouldn’t have to endure so much stress, or to live with the knowledge that the person I married doesn’t think I’m worthy of his kindness.  And that if he didn’t think I deserved at least this much, then he would do us all of a favor if he just left.  I told him I wouldn’t tell anyone what he had done if he just left.  And when nothing worked, I threatened would call the police if he didn’t leave.  He told me to go ahead, not believing that I’d actually do it.

After a couple hours of pure hell, I decided that if I didn’t do it now, I never would.  I told him that if he wasn’t willing to change his behavior, I had no choice but to call and I went for the phone.

He yelled, “If it shuts you the fuck up, I will go.”  He grabbed a bunch of things, including the tablet, and said he was taking the better car and leaving our older minivan with the flat tire and a mountain of problems behind.

He had been swearing at me the entire time and telling me how I was a bad mother and how my kids were going to be ruined by me.  He yelled all of the things that he knew would hurt me, along with plenty of “fucks.”

He said that I would get nothing, save for the ocean of debt we are swimming in.  He would take responsibility for none of it and would make sure I suffered.

And then he went outside to move the cars so he could get out of the driveway.  When he came back in, I started to back down, afraid of what would come next.  He continued to be nasty to me.  So I said that this had started because I made a normal request for the tablet to not come into our bedroom for that night.  And that, like every “night,” it wasn’t really night, but morning, when he was finally ready to get into bed with me.

He began to flip out all over again, shouting that he was the “fucking normal one” and that I had no right to ask him for that.  He told me to “Shut the fuck up” and threw the minivan keys at me and stormed out.

It was 6:00 a.m. when he finally left.

My mother had been staying with us for a few days at that point because she was in transition from her own divorce.  She heard everything from the next room (and from upstairs when we went downstairs), so when he left, she came to see if I was alright.  She said that she had wanted to call the police and had her cell phone in her hand the whole time.  She said she didn’t because she knew I would be upset if she did because she knows how I have tried to protect him over the 20 years I was with him and how I never thought I deserved the kindness plenty of observers over the years said I did.  I always stood by and protected him and his image.  And she knew that I wouldn’t have the heart to turn him over to the police that morning.  But she was appalled by the things she heard him yelling when our boys were just down the short hallway asleep (for part of the time, anyway).

I was sobbing.  And I never sob.

It felt horrible.  I felt horrible.

I was physically sick and just riddled with the fear of what his retaliation would be.  It was awful.  Almost as horrible as learning that I had cancer.

I will add more as I can.  Or maybe not?  I don’t know how much more I can bear.  I gave in and he is back in the house.  He vacillated between intimidating me and promising things would be so much better.  In the end, I couldn’t take the fear of what would come next any longer — I was physically ill — vomiting and shaking — and just felt so completely broken.  Plus I felt that I could give him one more chance.  I always like to give people the benefit of the doubt and despite everything, I wouldn’t have felt right about not giving him another chance when he made it sound like he was sorry and would change.  I have always been loyal to a fault.  [I still see the doctor who told me I was too young for breast cancer and whose office wouldn’t see me the next year when I’d lost my health insurance and was so sick because the cancer had now engulfed my breast.]   I felt like I had to give him another chance, despite what my gut was telling me.

It took a great deal of wrestling for me to share this or anything like it here, but I think telling you is the right decision.

Thank you all for reading and for helping me get through this without even knowing that you were…

Messed Up

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You’ve won another argument
because I have given up
I swore I wouldn’t fight back anymore
But I gave in this time
I engaged, I didn’t just let it go
Until I came to my senses, that is
But it was too late
How do you stop a freight train that’s barreling down the tracks?
You are unkind to me
Your words are bitter and seering
You have hurt our children
inside and out
You prefer things to people
but you turn on your charm so no one will see through your facade
And facade it is
It is not real
You are not real
But this is all painfully real
You are selfish
manipulative
indignant
Lies roll off your tongue
like raindrops off rooftops
Yet you will outlive me
You will see our children grow
And hold their children in your arms
And you won’t care
How could the universe have gotten it so wrong?

I Want Out… Right?

As we were driving home the other night, I kept replaying the gas station scene from The Bridges of Madison County in my head.  You know, the one where Meryl Streep’s character is sitting in the car while her husband is pumping the gas.  She sees Robert Redford, the man who has asked her to run away with him.  Redford is also the man with whom she has had an affair and with whom she could have a completely different life.  She reaches for the door handle, almost prepared to pull it and to run out on her life to begin anew.  Almost. She can’t do it.  With tears in her eyes — because she knows what she is giving up — her hand drops from the handle when her husband returns to the car and they drive away.

It has been a long time since I last saw the movie and there were parts of it I didn’t agree with like, um, the adultery…  But that scene in the movie has stayed with me.  For me, though, Robert Redford would not represent a man I’ve slept with (because there haven’t been any since my husband), but he would represent an opportunity for a new beginning, a different life.

This is an odd topic for me to write about because I would never have expressed these thoughts before.  It’s kind of comical, almost like I expect angry black crows to fall out of the sky and to begin attacking me or that I think a fiery explosion might wipe  my whole family out in an instant, simply because I’ve allowed myself to wonder what it would be like to have a life that isn’t so difficult and, dare I say it, painful.

I never had these thought before.  I grew up in poverty and was teased for it right up until high school started.  I experienced important and traumatic losses at early age.  I grew up without a Dad — after living with a Dad who was abusive and drunk most of the time.  And blah, blah, blah…  The point is, I have never been a stranger to struggle or compromise or death or pain or loss.  But I never questioned my life or my choices or how other people’s choices affected my life.  I never looked at any of it with regret or disdain.  It was my life, for better or worse.  If there was something I didn’t like about it, I would work hard to change it.

I didn’t have any real regrets…  Until I was in the midst of a chemo combo that made me feel like I was inches from death.  I was so sick and needed to be nurtured and cared for and needed a partner to hold my hand — or, at the very least, someone who didn’t feel the urge to fight and argue with me or the kids all the time.  And then when I had the bilateral mastectomy and the hysterectomy, I tried to pretend these surgeries didn’t bother me and that I could roll with the punches.  And I did.  I just handled the pain and the immense sense of loss that accompanied losing these body parts, especially to cancer and especially at such a young age.  But inside I longed for a spouse who would hug me and tell me that I was still pretty, still a woman.  I needed someone to tell me that he loved me.  I kept thinking that for years I had weathered all of the ups and downs of our marriage, his deceit, his mood swings and so much more — and all I really wanted were a few kind words and to be hugged.  But I guess some things are just too much to ask for…

So as we drove home the other night and I thought about how stressful the previous 36 hours had been because of his bad temper and his unpredictable mood swings, I looked at the door handle and thought, “I am done with living this way and I want out.”  I wanted out with all of my heart…well, almost all of my heart.

But I couldn’t do it.  Especially when the only place I wanted to run to (other than Hawaii) was my home… to change the locks.  Now it would be just plain silly to jump out of my home-bound car to run home.  Right?

So I am still here…

With the same locks…

With the same husband…

Thinking about what it would be like to be dealing with cancer if I weren’t married to someone who was rooting for the cancer to win instead of me.

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