The Road to Spring Coulee

“It was so risky and so scary, and yet at the same time, so beautiful. Maybe the truth was, it shouldn’t be easy to be amazing. Then everything would be. It’s the things you fight for and struggle with before earning that have the greatest worth. When something’s difficult to come by, you’ll do that much more to make sure it’s even harder -if not impossible- to lose.” 

Sarah Dessen, Along for the Ride

Writing has been really difficult lately

I took a little time off to deal with some sudden life changes, and now I feel like I’m stuck. There was a period of time where I couldn’t bring myself to open my computer. I’d write little snippets in Notes on my phone, but nothing sounded right. I had trouble forming coherent sentences. Too much shit has gone on this year… I’m backlogged. My mind can’t handle it. I have so much to process and so many unresolved feelings that my brain is in a constant state of bufferingI am happier than I’ve ever been before, but positive change still requires processing. And now, even though I’m writing again, I feel like I’ve lost my voice. I never intended on taking a break for this long, but… this fucking year, amiright? 

Write –> delete. Write –> delete. Write –> save for possible future use, but we all know I’ll never look at it again. Just like the 15,000+ photos I have on my phone.  That’s too many photos, Megan. Get your shit together. 

Some days I will compose perfectly “written” blog posts in my mind. Usually, it’s when I’m standing at the sink doing dishes or exploring the property, searching for treasures. If I immediately try to make the words permanent and transfer from brain to computer, phone, or paper… they’re gone, poof, like they never existed in the first place. Frustrating. 

Treasures

Nothing sounds right. Nothing looks right. I’ll spend days working on a piece, re-read, immediately hate it, delete. How did I do this before?

Just… bear with me. 

If you’ve read all 12 of my blog posts, you know that a) I lost my job in April and b) there were a few uncertainties and unknowns regarding my future. Also, c) hey… thanks for following along! The biggest source of my unknowns was this giant blaring mystery of not knowing when I was moving. At the beginning of the year, Markie Mark had decided to finally take the leap he’s been dreaming about for years and pursue agriculture. He grew up farming and raising animals, and in the 8 years we’ve been together, his desire to return to the land hasn’t faded one bit. I fully supported his dream, although location was my only argument. I really wanted to stay in Montana. He did his homework and spent most of his free time researching possibilities. In March, he discovered a 9600-acre organic grain farm roughly five hours north of us. He called, he visited, and it quickly became clear that these were our people

Toward the end of March, the flooring jobs he had lined up came to an immediate halt because of that whole pandemic/quarantine thing. You know the oneThe one that hasn’t just magically disappearedSince farming is an essential business, he ditched me and went north to help with Seeding Season. We were already discussing our transition before he left, and a few weeks later, I drove up to meet the owners and look at potential housing. At this point, it was just a matter of getting us a place to live. The farm owners were in negotiations to secure us the property we looked at, but because everyone was busy with seeding, everything was left up in the air. 

During this time, I’d also been dealing with Mika and Daisy’s refusal to eat dog food. Daisy had been diagnosed with kidney disease in January, and in March, she stopped eating not only her prescription dog food but all dog food in general. A week later, Mika stopped eating her dog food. Ugh. What they chose to eat one week or one day, would frequently and quickly change the next. I found myself constantly cooking and trying different foods, desperately attempting to get them to eat something. For the most part, it worked. I was always able to find at least one thing they’d eat. For a day. And then they’d refuse it the next. They became known as “the picky bitches.”

Daisy and Mika. The happiest, pickiest bitches.

When I returned home from my farm trip in April, I started overthinking and overanalyzing their quality of life. We made an appointment to check in with the vet… not only did I want to get a professional opinion of their status, but also make sure it was acceptable to feed them whatever. Even though both girls still had life, spunk, and enjoyment, I was so concerned about their new-found aversion to food, I started to convince myself that “this was it.” My heart was broken. I only wanted what was best for them. 

“The shadows of life add depth and dimension to our journey, like route markers along our path. They are never intended to dominate our life with darkness, neither do they determine our ultimate destiny.”

Anthon St. Maarten

The day before the appointment, I lost my job. Terrible timing. I felt like I was about to lose one, if not both, dogs the following day, so this was just a giant kick in the teeth. I already knew my time there was ending, obviously… I was moving. But with everything going on, that was my one support system. A shitty support system, yes. At work, I felt like I had friends and people who actually cared about my life. Ha. You think you know someone… the fakeness ran deep within that company. I learned the hard way, again. The number of times I’ve been through this, you’d think I would have known better. But no. It was pretty stupid of me to believe my boss and coworkers were actually being genuine. But instead of properly communicating with me, as I had done with him since the beginning of my employment, my boss chose the route of cowering and hiding. What are we in elementary school? Seriously, the level of bullshit was incredible. Don’t get me wrong… I’m not mad I lost my job. It was an easy way out and the company was a shit show. I knew I was leaving eventually, plus, it’s just a job. What really wrenched my heart was the way it was handled by people I thought actually gave a shit. It was the fact that I was already emotional with the potential loss of two of my dogs. The fact that my boss ignored my questions, hid from me, and didn’t respect me enough to explain the situation. He didn’t respect me enough to say goodbye, give thanks, or show any amount of support. He had lied directly to my face and told me I was safe, weeks before. I should have known better. Honestly, he did me a favor in getting me out of that place. I just wanted the mutual respect of honest communication that I always gave him. So, instead of feeling free and recognizing the gift I was being given, it felt like a betrayal. Good riddance.

Luckily, the following day at the vet went much better than expected. She recognized the amount of life still present in Daisy and Mika. She instructed me to “feed them whatever,” emphasizing that she didn’t care what they ate, as long as they were eating. Okay. I can do that. And now, I had unlimited time to be able to find something to their liking. And it required unlimited time because it was hard. But, they ate. And they maintained their happiness, energy, and enjoyment. 

For two months, the status of our move stayed unknown. I tried to focus all my energy on the girls, giving all my love and commitment to their end-of-life care. It was not easy. I was massively sleep-deprived, but I’d do anything to make them more comfortable. I knew they were on the last few pages of their life story. Death was closing in. 

In June, we finally got an answer regarding housing. The place we had looked at in April was a go, move-in set for July 1st. Everything felt like it was in limbo two months, then BAM… go go go! Mark returned home for a few weeks to finish up his last few flooring jobs and I began packing up the entire house, while still trying to keep the girls fed and content. Some days were harder than others. At this point, my only goal was to get the girls to the farm. I knew they’d love it, bringing peace and happiness to their broken and deteriorating bodies. I really wanted them to be able to reach “farm dog status” before they died. Amazingly, they seemed to be doing a bit better in the months I was home. Daisy had her occasional bad days, but the good ones far outnumbered the bad. 

As I worked on packing up the house, Mark took loads of crap to our new home. How and when did I accumulate all this stuff? Why is it in my home? Stop hoarding, Megan! When he was finished with his flooring work and said goodbye to the industry he’d been in for 6 years, he ditched me again to go do his final flooring job: refinishing the floors in the new house. I finalized the packing and in mid-July, we said goodbye to our house in Three Forks, moving on toward our future. The drive was a little over five hours, and by the time we made it to our new home, I was exhausted. We had some friendly neighborly help unloading, as well as a very quick introduction to the number of bugs we’d be dealing with. Living in the middle of nowhere farmland has so many perks, but also 500 trillion bugs. It’s a good thing I transported three batches of Baby Quinoa (aka baby orb weavers), along with 12 adult orb weavers. What? If you thought for one second that a semi-normal thing like moving would actually stay semi-normalish, you’ve got another thing coming. I’m insane, to the core. I didn’t leave that shit behind in Three Forks. So, yeah. I packed up a bunch of spiders, put them in coffee cans, and drove them up with me. I would have packed up the bluebirds, too, if I could have. God, I miss those Bluebies. I also demanded Mark pack up the compost I had spent years working on. I’m not about to give up that shit. That’s black gold! Shout out to Markie Mark, who transported the babies, 6 adult orbs, and scooped all my compost into five 5-gallon buckets. I’m so thankful to have someone who fully accepts all the obsessions and insanity that radiates from my being. Love you, Poo. 

Baby Quinoa adjusting to their new home.

From the very first day of residency in our new home, I could tell this was it. This place is magical.  Even though I still struggle with anxiety and depression (because it never goes away… MeSsEd Up FoR LyFe!), I’ve never been happier. I’ve never felt more drawn to a place before, like the Universe aligned perfectly with my life and made. this. shit. happen. It’s like a never-ending playground of exploration, collecting, and observing. And as the life slowly creeps out of the girls, I know this is the right place for them to live out the rest of their days, as short as it may be. They get to run and explore with me, chase bunnies and deer, roll in the grass, sunbathe, smell all the smells, pee on all the things, and when we are outside, excitement oozes from their weakening bodies. I knew they’d love it. I knew it would give them a brief glimmer of happiness before the inevitability of death, as all three of them will die of failing kidneys, most likely before the year has ended. 

I have a lot more to say about the dogs, but for now, I’m going to leave it at that. It’s deserving of its own post. 

The move, in general, went a lot smoother than our last, but it wasn’t without its difficulties. However, considering it only took roughly four months from finalizing the decision to completing the transition, I’d say it was a win. We ended up getting three offers on our house in Three Forks within a relatively short period, and most everything regarding the sale has worked out to our benefit. We are getting the exact amount we wanted for it in order to pay off Mark’s business debt, and our agent has been A M A Z I N G in helping us with everything since we now live five hours away. Mark goes back on Monday to sign the final papers and then we’ll wash our hands of that craphole. I don’t really think it’s a craphole. I loved that property. The house definitely had its issues, but I really did love living there. It was a great transition home and I’ll miss aspects of it, for sure. Honestly, I thought it would be more difficult to leave that place. I’d only been to the new property once prior to us moving, and even though I was excited about new experiences, I was still unsure. I didn’t realize I’d fall so deeply in love with it. 

Our new house rests on 40 acres and it’s owned by the Hutterites, aka the Hoots. They call it Spring Coulee, because of its location, so that’s what I like to call it. Yeah, our home has a name. No big deal. The Hoots still use the bins and one of the shops, but for the most part, they could give two shits about it. It’s not part of the colony and it’s too far away for them to care about keeping the land. Hopefully, we can use this to our advantage when it comes time to negotiate a trade or purchase. We really want this place. No one has lived here for 10 years. It’s a lathe and plaster house, which I think is super cool, but Markie Mark wants to tear it down and build a new house if we ever get the opportunity. It’s got issues, too, but it’s an old fucking house. I find myself less upset when shit leaks or squeaks than I was at the other house because this house has character. It feels more like a home… our home. It’s the perfect place for an isolated introverted hermit creep like me. It’s roughly 40 miles from town and 10 miles from the Canadian border (miiiiight just come in handy in the relatively near future). I’m not sure the exact distance we are from each neighbor, but they are far enough away that I could walk around outside, naked, all day, and no one would see me. Unless the Hoots or FedEx/UPS drop by. Which might be weird.  And awkward. However, our house is 3 miles down a dirt road from the main road, so luckily I’d have enough time to see them coming, run back inside, and hide. Which is exactly what I do. Not the naked part, though, just the run and hiding part. And then I peep through the windows and spy on whoever stopped by. But, for the most part, no one stops by. I’m left to my own devices. Just pure isolated bliss. 

New house… who dis?

Leaving the Bluebies and Neighborhood Murder Cat behind was difficult. I felt genuine sadness I’d never seen them again… these creatures that had brought me so much joy the past two years. But I’d be damned if I left my spiders behind! I wasn’t sure what the spider situation was like at Spring Coulee, so I had to guarantee I’d have my cat-faced orb weavers widely available to satisfy my weird obsession. I’ve lived in a house with no orb weavers before. It sucks. What am I supposed to stare at all day?!? I did discover the property already had cat-faced orb weavers, along with some bridge orb weavers, but most of them hung out around the outbuildings and barns. Only bridge orb weavers were present around the house. So, hopefully, that will change next year with the addition of 1500 cat-faced beauties. They have a harsh winter to get through, so I know many won’t survive. Godspeed little spiders.

As far as cats and birds… there’s no Murder Cat prowling around outside, which is probably a good thing considering the Hoots put a bunch of mouse poison in the buildings. I have yet to see a dead mouse just laying around, so I suppose that’s a good thing. I do not like poison. I mean, who does, really? MuRDERS, that’s who! We still get mice inside, but I found these really awesome wooden traps (Tomcat brand) and they work SO GOOD. We throw the dead mice in the tall grass behind the house and I check on them frequently, observing the decomposition process. Nature is truly awesome. We’ve got carrion beetles and those things are the fucking coolest. Sometimes when I check on the dead mice (and that one random dove that looked like it died in flight), the bodies have mysteriously disappeared. Hmm. Such mystery. There’s a ton of birds, deer, bunnies, coyotes, porcupines, badgers (although I have yet to see one), rattlesnakes, and my favorite… GREAT HORNED OWLS! I do miss my bluebirds, but if I had to give them up for anything, owls are a worthy trade. I have so much to write about regarding the owls, so that will be another post. There was also an incident with a rattlesnek… another story worthy of its own post.

The point of all my ranting is this: I was nervous and slightly terrified to leave our old house. I had created a space of comfort and obsessions and I wasn’t sure what was going to be waiting for me up north. As I’ve said before, I’m terrified of change. But, change can also be a good thing, and in this case, a very good thing. We faced our fair share of obstacles this year, but we endured and persevered. Both Mark and I are happier than we’ve been in quite some time. This place just feels right. Sometimes you gotta suck up your fears, accept that you can’t control the outcome (whatever it may be), and jump into the unknown. We don’t know what awaits us… and it very well could change our lives forever. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but sometimes… it IS.

“The laws of nature remind us that no matter how long, seeds do grow. Push through long enough to see your seeds grow.”

Andrena Sawyer

Self-Sabotage

“There is stability in self-destruction, in prolonging sadness as a means of escaping abstractions like happiness. Rock bottom is a surprisingly comfortable place to lay your head. Looking up from the depths of another low often seems a lot safer than wondering when you’ll fall again. Falling feels awful.

I’d rather fucking fly.” 

Kris Kidd

One of the many reasons I started this blog was my ability to utilize it as a tool for accountability. My peers could now assist in holding me accountable for writing because I’m clearly not capable of doing it on my own. I mean, I am, technically, capable. I just suck at it. I know writing is good for me. I know I should write for me and only me, but I also know myself well enough that I know I’ll start slacking off without someone holding me accountable. Writing for yourself is nice, but what’s the point if no one ever reads the dumb shit that comes out of your messy disaster of a brain? Yes, I can do it on my own, for myself. But it’s better when I know someone actually gives a fucking shit about the stuff I’m creating, or lack thereof. Someone to check in after three weeks of no blog posts to say, “Hey, what the fuck? I need you to write.” Lucky for me, I have that accountability. She’s a really great person and I’m so appreciative of her friendship. So, BOOM. Here I am. Writing.

I’ve been in a strange place the last month. Lost in my head. And I’ve known the entire time that I should just sit down and start writing, but I’ve been avoiding it. Part of it has been conscious, and the other part subconscious. Every morning, I tell myself, “I will write today.” And then I find a million different distractions and excuses of why I could not make it happen. I know what’s happening. I’ve been here before.

Self-sabotage is a dirty bitch.

I mean, sabotage in general is pretty nasty. Intentionally fucking up someone else’s shit? Okay. But self-sabotage? Actively seeking to fuck up your own shit? Harsh, man. I’ve been known to self-sabotage a relationship or two because I didn’t feel I was deserving of the type of love or affection I was getting. I didn’t feel I was worth love or kindness or anything nice. I’ve said in the past that my brain is broken. I have lots of proof my brain is all sorts of fuckered.

I’ve been trying to organize my thoughts the past few weeks and too many things keep happening. I’m in a state of constant distraction and I have a hard time focusing on simple tasks. I’ve spent so much time overthinking that my brain now feels stuck… like it’s running on a loop at 1000 mph and I can’t get it to slow down enough to write one stupid post. Even when I do get in front of the computer, I can’t seem to slow my brain down enough to get a clear thought. How much caffeine am I drinking every day? It’s literally taken me three days to get this far. Good god.

My internal battles with self-worth and overthinking would be a hell of a lot easier to deal with if I weren’t so cozy with little Miss Self-Sabotage. I know I should write to help process my feelings, help me understand why I’m feeling the way I am, and just to fucking vent about the bullshit that is going on in my life and the whole goddamn world… but I know it will help, and therefore, I avoid it. Perhaps self-sabotage played a little part in why I stopped writing after my mom died… not just because I had lost my cheerleader, but also because part of me knew it could help and I didn’t want to be helped. Maybe I wanted to suffer. Maybe I thought I deserved misery and I was avoiding all roads to recovery. And maybe, part of me wants to continue to suffer in misery. Why? Because that’s what I’m used to. It’s comfortable. I’ve been depressed and miserable for so long that it’s become my “normal,” and any amount of healing or change in emotional well-being is still a new concept and absolutely terrifying. Of course I want to heal… but I’m still dealing with these constant internal brain battles in an attempt to rebalance my emotional scales. I still have to convince myself that change is a good thing.

And change is a good thing. I already know this. I already fight for this, especially now, with everything that is currently going on in the world. Change is essential for growth and progress. So why is it so hard for me to grasp this concept internally and on an emotional level? Why do I so desperately seek to destroy anything good that comes to me, any progress, happiness, healing, or positivity?

“I wish I could change everything about myself but it’s just—it’s too late to do anything, that’s the problem. It’s all so fucked up, and I just don’t who I am anymore, you know? Like, who is this person who made all these choices that I just have to live with? I look back at that person and I hate her, I hate her so much for what she did to me, that person is like my nemesis, my worst enemy, but the problem is, that person is me.” 

 Kristen Roupenian, You Know You Want This

My self-sabotage isn’t just about the attempt to maintain my “normal” state of misery. We also seek to destroy what we hate… and I carry a ton of self-hatred. I’m unsure at what point it was born, or why it came to be, for I am still unraveling the mysteries of Megan. But I know the self-hatred exists. It affects my confidence and worth, and therefore it affects how I speak, act, and present myself. I constantly feel like I’m either not enough or I was “too much,” which then leads to many sleepless nights with a brain that refuses to turn off. I’m a very open person and I tend to overshare in social situations. I also judge myself harshly, and when I am allowed to settle back into my quiet introverted hermit life, I tend to sit and criticize myself for how much I opened up to people when it might have been better if I had stayed a little more reserved. I feel stupid for how I may have acted, even if no one else thought I acted abnormal or out of character. For me, in my eyes, I should have been better. And instead of taking it as a learning experience and saying, “I will be better next time,” I simply just tell myself I’m worthless, stupid, and continue to feed the self-hatred.

You may be reading this wondering why I continue to engage in self-sabotaging behavior, when I fully recognize what I’m doing. Good fucking question. It’s probably one of the reasons why I desperately need to go back into therapy, but that’s another thing I’m actively avoiding. Sometimes I know immediately when I am sabotaging, and other times it’s buried and it takes me a bit of digging and self-analyzing in order to reach the conclusion of why I haven’t been able to succeed at anything. I’m constantly learning. And I have learned that I continue to self-sabotage because of two reasons: fear and control. I’m terrified of feeling different. I’m scared of success and positive emotional change. Things that are different are unknown. And things that are unknown, I have no control over. Because of the lack of control I had with the traumatic events that shaped my childhood, I now try to control as much of my life as I possibly can. Because I don’t want to feel that way again. I don’t want that feeling of hopelessness that I can’t do dick about. If I am left feeling hopeless, it’s because I had control over that situation and I made myself feel that way. It hits different when you make yourself feel it versus someone or something else. You can own it.

I have control issues.

I attempt to control literally everything around me. Every relationship, how people feel about me, perceive me, how coworkers do their work, how the dishes are done, and the bed is made… I could go on forever about all the little details in my life that I try to control. I’m the primary communicator in many of my friendships… the one that checks in and tries to keep the friendship going, coordinate get-togethers, and attempt to maintain control over the health and quality of the relationship. How many of my “friendships” would be lost if I stopped reaching out? Do they really qualify as a friendship then? I constantly put energy into keeping these relationships going, when many times I just need to let them go and walk away. I don’t know the difference between a true friendship and the people who come into your life briefly to teach a lesson. Most of the time, I don’t learn these lessons until it’s too late, and I’ve spent too much time and energy trying to keep something alive that died a long time ago. But at that point, the pain has already settled in and begun to start eating away at my self-worth, further feeding the self-hatred, self-doubt, and fear of failure.

I recognize my behavior. Even though I am actively sabotaging myself, my goals, and many of my relationships, I am also actively trying to be better. I’m trying to do better. I’m making the effort to recognize the behavior as I see it, correct it, and move forward instead of letting it manifest itself further into destruction, hatred, and judgement. I’m working on letting things go, letting people go that no longer serve a purpose. If they don’t want to make an effort, then I’m no longer going to put the energy into the relationship. I’m tired of being ghosted by people who I thought cared about me. I’m tired of caring about people who don’t give two fucks about me. Why do I give them my energy? All it does is create more self-doubt and judgment in myself, thinking there’s something wrong with me, when in reality, it’s them. I was just never that important in the first place. I was never a priority, and therefore, they should not be a priority for me.

It’s funny. This whole time I’ve been so focused on being in control, not realizing how much control other people have on me. I try so hard to manage how people perceive me, terrified of their judgement, but then that perception ends up having this massive domination over how I live my life. It’s one of the things I’ve never understood about myself. Why do I care so goddamn much what other people think? Why do I fucking care? It’s none of my fucking business what they think. Ever. I spend way too much of my time worrying about bullshit that’s not worth worrying about. I’m giving too many of my fucks to the wrong things.

Do you want to know why I continue to self-sabotage? Because that’s the one thing in my life I truly have full control over. That’s it. I have control over whether or not I write, make goals, succeed, or fail. I can’t control other people, as much as I try. But by self-sabotaging, I’m able to accept the negative outcomes, knowing I’m doing it to myself. I’m controlling my own failure.

I’ve been trying to be more unapologetic lately, so I’m definitely not sorry for whatever this post has turned out to be. It’s taken me 9 days to write and it’s a fucking rollercoaster. I don’t know what it’s turned into from where I started, honestly. But this is what we’ve got. This is where I’m at. I don’t know how to make long-term goals, avoid self-destructive behavior, and prevent myself from drowning in my obsessions, but I’m fucking here. I’m living every day and trying my best to improve. I acknowledge my faults. I know I’m not perfect, even though I have lived the majority of my life attempting perfectionism. I’m a recovering perfectionist. I don’t want to strive to be perfect anymore, because there isn’t such a thing. Perfect doesn’t exist. I am human, I make mistakes, and I have flaws. I am working to redefine my “normal” and rebalance my scales. I am trying my best to learn from my imperfections. And as long as you learn something from your mistakes, then they aren’t failures… right?

Change is a good thing.

Orphan

“Loss pushes us to difficult places where we have not been before. We often question whether or not we have the courage and stamina to survive the pain. However, we often are given gifts that tell us that we are not alone and that we can withstand the journey.” 

Susan Barbara Apollon

When I was a child, I used to write stories. My mom loved them. She loved reading them and she was always so encouraging. I don’t know what made me start writing or why I wanted to be an author. I haven’t been very good about consistently writing over the years, but I never fully let go of that dream to write a book and be an author. Her encouragement never left me.

This is the story of how I became an orphan.

I lost both my parents when I was a child. It wasn’t at the same time, in some freak car accident, like many of my high school classmates oddly assumed. They were separate occurrences, four years apart. This happened when it was highly unusual for younger people to die. When my father died, my sister and I were the only children at our school who had lost a parent. Kids made fun of me for not having a dad. Four years later, it was a little more common, but not to have lost both parents.

My father died in February 1991. I had just turned seven years old. He had a very rare autoimmune disease called aplastic anemia in which his body stopped producing enough blood cells. I don’t have many memories from this time, and most of them are blurry. I barely remember my dad, even before he was sick. I don’t remember what happened when he got sick or even how long he struggled with it, but according to his death certificate, it was six months.

I remember a nurse that would come to our house. Once, my mom opened the garage door to find him smoking when he wasn't supposed to. And then there's the memory of Thanksgiving when he wasn't supposed to eat the cranberries. I'm not sure why. I just remember cranberries being this thing. And you know what happened? He ate the cranberries. I remember walking down our long carpeted hallway, bright red and blue flashing lights flickering across our living room curtains. I don't know why I associated it with the cranberries. I don't even know if the cranberries was a thing. Maybe that's what my 6-year-old brain gave me to deal with what was happening around me. 

He ended up back in the local hospital and then at some point he was transferred to Stanford Medical Center. They set our mom up with an apartment at the hospital and we stayed with our grandparents.

Things I remember about staying at my grandparents house: my grandma would gently caress my ear at night to help me fall asleep; they had one of those huge metal bed attachments that you put under the mattress so children wouldn't fall out of bed and I loved it; I could fit completely inside the nightstand, close it, and hide; my grandma made the best scrambled eggs, peanut butter & jelly, and tunafish sandwiches; they had mixed nuts that you had to crack with a nut cracker and a candy dish sitting out on the coffee table; and this huge front yard with cherry trees. 

One February morning, our grandparents woke my sister and I up to inform us we weren’t going to school that day. Instead, our aunt and uncle would be taking us to see our mom and dad. I don’t honestly know the last time I had seen either of them, I have little to no memory after Thanksgiving up to this point. I had a birthday, I guess. We lived in Sparks, Nevada, which is just outside of Reno and had to drive to Stanford, California. We got ready, left, and stopped at Burger King for lunch.

I don’t remember much about the hospital either. My memories are muddled. Apparently, my 7-year-old brain had made up some crazy memory that I lived with for years before a family discussion revealed I was asleep in the apartment when my mom had received the phone call that my father died.

The hospital nurses were really nice to us. They drew pig faces on the surgical masks while we waited to see our dad. I caught a glimpse of him through the window in the door and I hardly recognized him. I thought he was Grandpa. It was like he had aged 50 years in two months. He was pale and skinny and had lost all his hair. Who was this man? That's not my dad. When it was our turn to visit him, I could barely look at him. I didn't know what to say. There was an exercise bike in the room that I took comfort in immediately and focused all my attention on. I began to fiddle with the bike as my sister and this stranger talked like everything was normal. They were making plans for when he got out of the hospital. Someone asked me if I had anything to say to my father and all I could manage was to barely whisper, "I love you."

This is where shit gets weird.

The family split up for dinner. I went with Dad's side of the family to a restaurant and Mom's side stayed at the hospital and ate in the cafeteria. When we finished dinner, we drove back to the hospital. It was late at that point, and dark. As we drove up to the curb outside the hospital entrance, I saw my mom standing outside with my sister. I approached her and noticed she was looking up at my dad's room window, tears running down her cheeks. I whispered, "Did it happen?" and she nodded ever so slightly. I crawled into her arms, buried my face into her shoulder, and cried. 

That’s my memory. That’s the memory I carried with me for twenty-something years and truly believed that’s what actually happened in the end. In all actuality, after dinner, we went back to the apartment and I fell asleep. My mom got a call saying he had died. He was 39 years old. A month before his death, he had a bone marrow transplant, which weakens the immune system. But you wanna know what actually killed him? Mold. Fungus. Aspergillosis. Fucking mold. And that’s all I know. You wanna know something else I know? After all these years, I still feel like a giant pile of trash for not saying more to my dad before he died. Writing that memory sucked. And even after all these years and all the therapy I’ve been through… I still don’t know how to deal with my emotions and I still look for that damn exercise bike to distract me from focusing on the actual thing I need to. Glad to see I’ve made no progress in 29 years!

The story of my mom is a little more complex because I was older, I have more memories (although still boggy), and I was closer to her. My sister and my dad were best friends; my mom and I had a similar bond. We snuggled. My mom wanted a baby to cuddle and my sister would have nothing to do with it. Then I was born. And I was all about it. Ask me to cuddle now and I will cut you. Ask Markie Mark. So, our family links were set and everything was good and then people started getting sick and dying. What the fuck, life?

I don’t know timelines because I was a small child thing and I’m bad at absorbing information when I ask family. But at some point, my mom got breast cancer, I think it was around age 35? She had a lumpectomy and went through chemo and radiation treatment where she actually ended up with severe radiation burns on her breast. I know this because it affected our snuggles. Occasionally, I would accidentally smash her sensitive boob when climbing into snug position and she had to remind me to be careful of said boob. So, cancer happened. And lupus also happened. She actually had issues with her cancer treatment due to her diagnosis of lupus, scleroderma, and another autoimmune disease that I’m too dumb to know right now, or ever. Lupus is a long-term autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own normal healthy tissue. I’m uncertain when it started attacking her brain, but after my dad died, she started deteriorating quickly.

She was slipping. She was nodding-off periodically throughout the day, during conversations and such. She was still working and still driving. One day, I was sick and went to work with her briefly in the morning. She only had a few things to do. We went home and I crawled into her bed to go to sleep. She had forgotten to do something at work and asked if I wanted to go back with her or stay home and sleep. I opted to stay home and sleep. Hours later, I awoke to my grandma sitting on the bed next to me. She's taking me to their house. My mom had been in a car accident on the way to back to work that afternoon. She was okay; she only had three broken ribs. Luckily, no one had been injured (she hit a parked car). The accident was her fault... she fell asleep at the wheel. 

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened had I opted to go with her that afternoon. Could I have prevented the accident? What would have happened if I was asleep? She got a careless driving ticket. She pled guilty but hoped for pity. She felt that if she lost her license, she would lose her independence, too. Before the accident, she had seen her lupus doctor concerning her issue falling asleep. They ran some tests and she was diagnosed with lupus cerebritis. At that point, her brain was so damaged she had the mentality of a 9-year-old child. The day of the accident, she was finishing stuff up at work so she could go on medical leave. Inevitably, after the accident, she was placed into a Rehabilitation Home for six weeks to prove that she could continue doing basic tasks like feed her children, cook food, use a stove properly, and take medication. But it wasn’t enough. She became so obsessed with some things, like couponing and folding linens so neat and perfectly, that she would forget to feed her kids. Most of the time, we would just make ourselves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So, our grandparents sold their home and moved their RV into our backyard.

I remember walking in and seeing my mom sitting on the guest bed of my grandma's house after the accident. She was still visibly shaken and seemed confused. Her head was down, like she felt utterly defeated by her illness and she couldn't understand what was happening to her. I see the image of her now and I understand what was going on. Then, I did not. I knew my mom was sick but I did not understand the extent of it. They tried to explain it to me. In the Rehabilitation Home, we discussed living arrangements for my sister and I if it reached the point my mom could no longer care for us. My mom made it very clear she did not want to lose her daughters. I did not want to lose my mom. I did not understand the seriousness of her disease. But I helped out when I could. I made sure she ate. I made sure she took her medicine. I made sure she was warm. She lost her pinky finger due to a cut and poor circulation and she had to re-learn how to write. Her skin got dry and itchy and she asked me to scratch her back almost every night. I hated it and I hated her for making me do it. And now I hate myself for not appreciating those moments more. 

Do you see a theme here? I wasn’t able to fully grasp the trauma I was enduring in either of these cases. Do you know why? Because I was a child. I was a child in the middle of a bunch of adults that were dealing with their own trauma… so I was pretty much left to my own devices. And I didn’t have any devices, so I created them. I did the only thing I knew how to do: I shut down and withdrew. I didn’t have anyone to talk to… so I talked to my stuffed animals. I sat alone in corners and hid under tables. And then when adults finally wanted to talk to me, I had already shut myself completely down and I refused to talk to anyone about how I felt. Because I didn’t know how I felt. I locked it down. I put up a wall. I went inward. And 29 years later, here I still sit. Inside. Behind a wall. Therapy has helped loosen some bricks and the wall is getting weaker, but I still don’t know how to deal with my goddamn emotions. I still don’t know how to express how I feel most of the time.

In the Summer of ’95, my grandparents decided to take my mom on a little vacation to revisit her home state of Washington. My sister and I were going to be dropped off at our cousin’s house in Felton, CA for two weeks, and they would pick us up on the way back to Reno. Keep in mind, these were the cousins we had ultimately decided would care for us in the event my mom could no longer do so. After two weeks, we received a phone call.

I was given the phone. My grandfather told me we would be staying with our cousins. I'm sure he said a lot of other things but I wasn't listening. I started to shut down. They were abandoning us. But then he said something that brought me back online. "I'm going to let you talk to your mother." He instructed me not to mention the move to her. They wanted her to believe it was her decision. I did not like that. I did not want to listen to my grandfather. I did not want to live with my cousins. All I wanted was my mommy. My mom got on the phone and I immediately started crying. I told her I missed her and I did not want to live there. The phone was taken away from me. 

I eventually got over it and started adjusting to my new life. I liked my cousins and we had a lot of fun there. Don’t get me wrong… it was still very difficult and I missed my mom very much. I never got to say goodbye to any of my friends in Reno and I didn’t have many of my belongings. But it was the first time in my life that I had a blank slate, a new beginning, a fresh start. It was like running away and starting a new life. And I kind of liked it. I get a few other opportunities in my life to run away and start over. This was just the beginning.

The first day of school was hard. Sixth grade, new school, new town. I didn't know anyone. I was terrified. I wanted to cry. Tears filled my eyes. My cousin walked me to class and stayed with me until I was comfortable. It didn't take long for me to adjust and make a few good friends. There was a group of seven of us that did everything together. I started piano lessons and got into 4H. I rode my bike everywhere. I helped care for the family animals which included chickens and a pig. My sister and I started therapy. We flew to Reno for a weekend and visited our mom. I started opening up. And I felt like things were going as well as they could. 

Things were going well for me. For my sister, they were not. She was struggling, silently, or at least unknown to me. Part of it was my fault. I was too busy making new friends and bonding with my cousins that I forgot to check in with the person who should have been my priority. I was just trying to figure out how to survive and so was she. And her vision of survival did not involve staying with our cousins… it involved moving to San Diego to live with our godparents.

Our godparents had been nixed out of caretaker possibilities because our godmother had a severe back injury and resulting medical problems. Our cousins, on the other hand, had five children (one of them adopted) and a big farm house. Our godparents didn’t have any children, nor any experience raising children. However, my sister truly believed there was a reason why our parents had chosen these two people to be our caretakers and insisted that’s where we needed to be. Conference calls were made. Discussions were had. No one asked me what I wanted. A decision was made. Two months into the school year, we were uprooting again and moving to San Diego.

I wasn't ready to start over again. I wasn't ready to leave my new life behind. I started shutting down again. Getting quiet. Withdrawing. I no longer had any desire to participate in any extracurricular activities. No more bike rides. No more social interactions. Back to the girl sitting in the corner with her stuffed animals, talking to herself. The first day of school was even more terrifying. My godmother stayed with me for half the day. I ended up with a single friend who I held onto for the remainder of my time at that school.

We moved to San Diego on Oct. 26th, 1995. By Thanksgiving, our mom wanted to come visit but our godparents thought it might be better if she waited until Christmas, giving us more time to adjust to our new home and giving her a longer period to visit. We agreed… it made perfect sense. I didn’t see any problem with waiting another three weeks. My mom was incredibly upset, but she made her flight plans and bought her ticket for December 17th.

I talked to her a couple days after Thanksgiving and it was upsetting. I'm not sure if there was much of a conversation. She fell asleep almost immediately and I didn't understand what was going on. I spent the next several minutes screaming "Mom!" into the receiver, with no response. Finally, I hear my grandfather in the background ask my mom what she's doing. I'm terrified, still thinking something terrible has happened while I'm on the phone with her. She wakes up, apologizes, and explains that she fell asleep. My terror quickly turns to annoyance as I still don't fully understand the seriousness of her illness. She has to go. Good, because I don't want to talk to her anymore. How could she fall asleep on me? During our conversation? Her little snug bug? I'm hurt. I want to cry. We quickly end the phone call and I'm not even sure I say "I love you."

That’s the last time I spoke to my mother. The week after Thanksgiving she ended up in the hospital. She had been vomiting up bits of brown that she assumed were chocolate because mama had a sweet tooth. Then they realized it was blood. They admitted her for pancreatitis because they didn’t have a diagnosis and they weren’t sure what was wrong with her. If I remember correctly, there was a lot of switching back and forth between different diagnoses in those first few days, but I’m not really sure why.

Saturday, December 2nd, 1995 
My sister and I woke up and walked into the kitchen to discover a post-it note on the counter from our godparents: 
Out running errands. Be back shortly. Don't eat breakfast... we are getting donuts!  
My favorite donut was chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and nuts and I hoped they would bring back one of those. Otherwise, a plain cake was just as good. 
We sat around for sometime and flipped through the television channels trying to find something to entertain our easily bored little minds, waiting for our breakfast to arrive.  When they finally got home, everything seemed normal. They seemed normal. I got up and poured myself a small glass of milk, ripped off a paper towel, and picked out my favorite donut... because of course it was there. We sat down on the barstools and got ready to bite into our delicious cake breakfast. Our godparents had positioned themselves into the dining room chairs. 

"Before you start eating, we need to tell you something." 

We set our donuts down and swiveled around in our chairs. Something had changed. Their faces were different. They no longer seemed normal. Everything was not normal.  

"Your mother passed away early this morning........." 

I couldn't tell you what the rest of that sentence was. I stopped listening. Blood immediately rushed to my ears and face. My eyes welled up, blinding me. My heart started making its way to the top of my throat and I felt like I was choking. My sister's muffled wailing was barely audible over my brain repeatedly screaming those four words: your mother passed away. I was shutting down. I no longer wanted my donut. I no longer wanted to exist. All I wanted was my mom. And she was gone. 

“Losing your life is not the worst thing that can happen. The worst thing is to lose your reason for living.” 

Jo Nesbo

She was 43 years old. She died at 2:45 am from an upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage due to gastric ulceration. Basically, she had ulcers no one knew about and she bled to death. Alone, in a hospital, without her daughters. The one thing she feared more than anything was losing her children and her own parents turned on her. They separated us from our mom at a time when she needed us the most. She would have never recovered from her disease. But I think once she lost us, she completely gave up. She felt she had nothing left. It had been two months since I had last seen her. We went to see the movie Philadelphia (I know, super weird for a kid, but my mom loved Tom Hanks and I loved my mom). Two months since our last hug, our last kiss, our last snug. I wish I could have been there for her. I wish I could have comforted her and told her everything would be okay. I wish I wasn’t such a brat and I told her “I love you” more times. I wish I could have written her a thousand more meaningless stories for her to love and cherish. I wish she knew she could never lose me and that she had nothing to fear. And I wish she knew that I will forever be her little snug bug… no matter what.

“All the sorrows of life are bearable if only we can convert them into a story.” 

Isak Dinesen

The pain never truly goes away… it just gets a little quieter over time. It shouts at you constantly, always nagging, always there. You get used to it. You learn to live with it. You mute it, but somedays it breaks through and destroys you. And over the years, the shouting lessens and it becomes a whisper. And then it turns to guilt because you don’t suffer as much as you used to. But the pain is still there. It will always be there. We all have our pain. We are all broken. We all suffer. We are all dealing with some unknown bullshit, trying to make it to the next day. We are all just trying our best to survive. Writing is my current way of survival. It’s a form a therapy: it allows me to build upon my childhood storytelling and grow from it. I stopped writing after my mother died. I stopped writing stories and I started focusing on different career paths. I lost my confidence and ambition for storytelling because I had lost my biggest cheerleader. I had no desire to survive. I did not understand that writing could help me grieve. It could help me heal. I never truly lost my love for writing because I never forgot my mother’s encouragement. I suppressed it for years and now, with some helpful nudges, it’s finally coming back. I remember her words. I remember her love. The passion is returning. And one day, I will heal… because my trauma does not define me. I get to choose what defines me… and in this moment, I choose to write. Unapologetically.

“Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave bereft
I am not there. I have not left.” 

Mary Elizabeth Frye

Crescent Lake: A Liquor Story

“If all of our sins, bad habits, and poor choices were permanently inked into our skin like tattoos, we would all dress quite modestly.” 

Richelle E. Goodrich, Slaying Dragons

This week, I’m still avoiding the shitty post. So, here’s another distraction! A short story on why you should never (never!) eat an excessive amount of Jell-O shots. Let’s begin!

This story takes place in September of the great year 2015. I was actually no longer in the employment of the liquor industry because of a few reasons. First, I had decided to quit because of horrible bosses. Yeah, they do literally ruin everything. Second, because of said horrible bosses, I had figured out a way to take some time off to “work on my creativity” or whatever that was supposed to mean. Basically, I was gonna try to write. Kind of what I’m doing now. (Spoiler Alert: It did NOT work out.) So in July, I had resigned and left the place I loved so dearly behind. Peace out, Bitches! I was still very close with my liquor store family, but after I quit, we didn’t hang out as much. I mean, this is very typical when you leave a group… even with the best intentions of nothing ever changing, things change. It wasn’t just me, either. The group was growing up and making progress with their lives. It was good. Luckily, we had one last opportunity to completely fuck our lives up with absolutely mortifying memories that none of us really remember.

At the liquor store, we had a tip jar. For a long time, I don’t even know what we did with the tips. Honestly. But at some point, we started pooling the tips in the cash drawer to save up for “something big” of our choosing. When it got big enough, the manager would let us choose what we wanted to do with the money. We ended up with over a grand at some point, and it was voted that we would rent a cabin at Crescent Lake for a few days and have a giant liquor store party. You could stay for as long or as little time as you wanted. Because I was a part of the tips, I was still able to participate in the activities, even though I was no longer employed and the owner was not speaking to me at that point. Heh. The cabin was rented and we set the dates for September. I don’t remember exact dates. That’s asking way too much of me.

The owner provided all the booze we could ever desire and he made a huge Costco run to buy all the food we would ever need, so we literally just had to bring what we needed for the night/nights we were staying. Not everyone could stay the entire time because some unluckies had to actually go back to work slinging booze. Sucks to suck geeks!

We were all looking forward to hanging out again and I think we all had pretty high expectations for this cabin. Friends, food, liquor, swimming, sun, and relaxing for a few days… you know? It was bound to be fun, whatever the outcome. The day of arrival, my liquor store bestical and I showed up early in the evening. We were the first ones there because I have massive anxiety and I didn’t want to feel weird showing up after everyone else. We waited for the “responsible” coworker with the money to get the key so we could check the place out. It was your standard lake cabin, I guess? I’d never rented a lake cabin before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. It’s… basic. But they provided all the basic necessities. Bedding, kitchen shit, whatnot. We went down to the lake and walked around for a bit until a few other people arrived. I spent a bunch of time looking at rocks because that’s what I do to pass the time. Don’t judge me. I don’t think we really knew what to do in the beginning. I guess we probably waited around gossiping and playing around on our phones. I’m assuming we had our phones at this point. Later on, our phones magically disappear and there’s no evidence this night ever took place.

Because no photographs or evidence exist from this night, I had to steal this image off of the internet. This is what I imagine the beach looked like. It’s the same lake, so… good enough.

After some time, the boss man and manager arrived. They were dating. It was weird. It made things complicated. Ew. But that’s a story for another time. The important thing here is they arrived. And with them, they brought… life! And death. So much death. But not literal death, because fuck, what kind of story do think I’m telling here? Let’s just say death in this case is bad decisions. SO. MANY. BAD. DECISIONS. But hey… that’s alcohol for ya, amiright?

We unloaded all the food and drinks and stocked the cabin. Basics first, people! Then we started cooking up some food. Burgers and brats and stuff like that. Then, we made some drinks. (Oh, who am I kidding? We made the drinks FIRST, duh!) And I suppose it started off like any typical liquor store party we had before, except, then… the boss man brought out some Jell-O shots. Cool. We like Jell-O shots! So we started eating them. Just sitting at the picnic table, eating Jell-O shots with a spoon. Bad decision #1. At some point, I decided to eat one or two single burger patties. No bun. Just the patties. Maybe one had a slice of cheese on it? AND THAT IS LITERALLY ALL I ATE THE ENTIRE NIGHT. Bad decision #2. I was feeling okay. A little buzzed, but doing okay. Having a good time with my buddies, drinking, eating Jell-O, laughing, talking shit, hey where’s my phone? After some time, we realized we ate the entire tray of Jell-O shots. Alright. Oops. Our manager then proceeds to inform us that they weren’t just regular Jell-O shots. They were Everclear Jell-O shots. Hmm. Probably a nice little detail to have known before we ate the entire tray, but okay. This calls for another drink! We didn’t have any shot glasses. All we had were red solo cups. So we took “shots” of Tito’s vodka in a red solo cup. Bad decision #3. It was not a shot. It was a lot of vodka going into my mouth hole and I’m pretty sure it was that exact moment I instantly blacked out. I don’t know what happened after that.

I ended up in the bedroom. I’m pretty sure I made it there on my own, because I knew I was not in a good state and needed to lie down. Blackout-drunk Megan is semi-reasonable, generally, and I usually know when things are going downhill and what I need to do. I also usually desperately call out for Mark in a child’s voice because I apparently turn into a toddler when I’m blackout drunk. Things weren’t peachy for me in the bedroom though, either, because I obviously felt like I was going to hurl and I tried to make it to the bathroom, which was directly across the hall. Spoiler: I didn’t make it. Instead, I just puked on the door. And I guess I figured that was good enough of an effort so I turned around and puked on the bed. Then I laid down in my own meat vomit and passed out.

At some point, I woke up just enough to hear two of my coworkers find my meaty vomit (surprise!) and they were either so drunk or just fucking rad enough to clean it up for me. Good peeps. Then I passed out again. A lot happened that night. Boss man and manager left shortly after (or before?) I blacked out and spewed meat vomit everywhere, so that was cool. A bunch of other craziness happened that involved skinny-dipping, a group shower, and the toilet getting broken. Sorry I missed out on that. I slept off my Everclear drunkenness and woke up somewhere around 1 am. Amazingly, things had calmed down by then but there were still a few people awake. I covered up my meaty mess so I didn’t have to sleep in it the rest of the night because I was still drunk enough where I didn’t want to deal with it. I got up, ate some pizza rolls, and then went back to sleep.

The following morning, it was The Shame Show. No one wanted to stay any longer than they had to. I took the comforter outside and flung off as much meat vomit as I could and then tried to clean up as much of the remainder smell left over inside. Luckily, I had a small can of Odoban in my backpack, although I’m not sure how good of a job it did. Oh, those poor cleaning ladies. Only one coworker decided to stay the rest of the time, bless his heart. He packed up all the remaining food and booze and split it up between those who wanted it. The rest of us bailed as soon as we could. We wanted to try to forget the remaining 5% memory we had left of that night as quickly as possible. It’s probably a really good thing none of us decided to take pictures or keep our phones on us during this entire endeavor. I imagine multiple phones would have been lost and a few of us would want the evidence of the night burned. I don’t even know where my phone was the entire night. Maybe phones were lost. I can’t fucking remember. Oh, liquor. You did us dirty.

“Why must this be so mortifying? Oh, that’s right. Because its my life.” 

Tessa Dare, Romancing the Duke

So that’s it. Looking back, it’s hilarious. At the time… fucking mortifying. But, even the following day I could laugh pretty heavily about vomiting meat all over a cabin. I mean, that is pretty funny. And compared to some of my other coworkers, pretty minimal on the embarrassment scale. Not nearly as funny as breaking a toilet, though. I mean, have you ever been so drunk you broke a toilet? That’s a pretty solid memory if you ask me. Regardless, the lesson here is this: Don’t ever eat a tray full of Jell-O shots with a spoon. Especially if they were made by your ex-boss who hates you. They could have been made with Everclear and that is NEVER a good decision.

Speedy’s 4-Day Camping Adventure

“Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.” 

Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke & Bone

I’ve been working on this shitty post for a week now. And you’ll know why I say it’s shitty as soon as I post it. It’s been shitty for me to write and it’ll be shitty for you to read. Ha! You’re welcome, Blog World.

While I get my life together with this other post, I figured I’d take a break and write something else. Give myself a little mind break. So, for your reading pleasure…the second installment of The Speedster.

This week, we are diving into a short little story about the time I lost him because waffles. Yep, that’s right, waffles. It’s not some pet name or anything… it’s legitimately waffles. Like, the food you put in your mouth at breakfast time. Or whenever. Because honestly you can eat those delicious checkered pastry things any time of the day. I don’t judge.

Onward!

This story takes place after we moved out of the duplex, so Speedster did not have his fenced yard. We actually did have a fenced backyard, but it was a giant and terrifying thing I did not want to release a tortoise into. We owned a .55 acre lot and the house sat about midway in between. That gave it a pretty sizable front and backyard. The backyard was fenced, the front was not. We had a small fenced side yard that we let the dogs do their business in because I did not want to pick up poop in the huge backyard. I’m lazy. Also, if you recall from a previous post, the dogs eat dirt and do other naughty things when unsupervised in the yard, so the less space, the better. Obvi, we would let them in the back for supervised playtime, but. . . o k a y. This post is about Speedy. Turnin’ back around.

I let Speedy into the backyard on one occasion and lost him almost immediately. We had about 80 ponderosa pine trees and we weren’t very good about upkeep. He likes to burrow. Pine needles. You see where this is going. So I did not release him back there again. Plus, the fence we had was wire and I knew he could easily escape if he wanted. The neighbors had similarly huge yards. What a disaster. In my very intelligent mind, I figured it would be better if I let him roam around in our unfenced front yard that had ample grass, dandelions, clover, and sunlight. Such good roaming grounds. But no fence. He could just… waltz the fuck off. Or pimp walk the fuck off? Whatever a crippled tortoise does.

So I tagged the bitch. In duplex days, I put blue painters tape on his shell so I could find him more easily. In this house, I figured I would need something extra with all the grass, so I stuck a bright post-it note up like a flag and secured it with blue tape. I still lost him. But he was more easy to find. Sometimes.

I don’t have a picture of the post-it note cause I suck. But I swear it was a thing.

Most of the time I would only lose him temporarily. Like, for a few minutes. Or twenty. There was that one time we had a liquor store party and I forgot I put him outside. Then I was drunk and it was dusk. Like, pretty dark. Luckily, I had a bunch of other drunk people with me and we conducted a drunk search party for Speedy. We found him after about twenty minutes. He was in the neighbor’s rhubarb. Silly Speedy.

On Monday July 4th, 2016 (yeah, I know the exact date because it was a tragic day I will never forget), I was home alone, it was a beautiful day, and I decided to let the Speedster out to get some sun. Then, I decided it would be a great day to make waffles! Who doesn’t love homemade waffles? Yeah, I have a waffle maker. And that shit takes time. And I get really into cooking. So, I made waffles. And I was SO distracted by the waffles, I completely forgot I put Speedy outside or that I was even a tortoise mother. At some point, I went to the window and stared at the neighbors who were leaving in their RV. This had to have been at least an hour, if not more, after I put Speedy outside. I don’t know though. I got really into those waffles and I don’t honestly think time existed that day. So, these neighbors caught my eye because they were leaving their house in their RV and they just stopped in the middle of the road. No one got out. They just pulled out of their driveway and then stopped. And waited. For a good minute or two? And then they left. It was weird. I remember seeing them stop and I was like, what are they doing? Remember, I’m a hermit creep so I hermit and then just spy on everyone like a creep and avoid social interactions like a total freaking creep. Creep. But, I have social anxiety and I refuse to socialize with my neighbors so if I don’t spy on them how will I know the happenings of the neighborhood, huh? Tell me, how?!!

The RV left and I shrugged it off like they forgot something or they were just being weird. And I went back to my life of whatever else I was doing that day. Because honestly, I don’t remember anything else other than waffles. At some point into the afternoon, I remembered I had a tortoise named Speedy and that I’m the most irresponsible tortoise owner known to man and I put him outside that morning OMG SPEEDY! Obviously, I ran outside and searched for him EVERYWHERE. All of his spots where I previously found him. Nope. High, low, front yard, backyard, neighbor’s yard, rhubarb, under rocks, under the porch, car port, fence line, garden, under the car, EVERYWHERE. I walked along the street and checked out the neighbor’s yards. There was a trailer across the street I looked under. I asked my next door neighbor to look in his yard and he helped me. Nothing. I could not find that little fucker. I was devastated.

So, I drafted up a sign and posted it on the street posts and Craigslist. I felt so defeated.

The next day I had to go back to work. My heart was still broken. I told my coworkers and they were all very sad for me and hoped I would find him. I went home that night and continued my search for him, hoping maybe he moved or came home or something. I dunno… I don’t know tortoises. This continued for three more days. I looked for Speedy in the morning, went to work, came home, and searched for Speedy until dark. I looked on Craigslist Lost and Found ads. Someone had emailed me about a lost tortoise but it wasn’t Speedy. Kind of crazy how many lost tortoises are out there, huh? Yeah, I’m not the only irresponsible one out there. Ha! On Wednesday, I met the owner of the shop and trailer across the street and asked him if I could look behind his shop. He was very kind and gave me permission to do what I needed to find my little tortoise dude. Unfortunately, the guy didn’t upkeep his property very well because he just used it for work. And behind the shop was a literal fucking jungle. If Speedy was back there, I had doubts I would find him. I looked around for a bit and went home defeated.

“What you perceive as a failure today may actually be a crucial step towards the success you seek. Never give up.”

Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway

Friday July 8, 2016: After work, I asked my neighbor if I could look in his yard again. There’s a lot of hiding spots so we looked thoroughly. He gave me a yard stick to help with tall grass and noted I could tell if Speedy had been through an area because the grass would be disturbed and flattened. With no luck at his house, I went back through the front yard with my new yard stick. Then I got an idea. I had suspicions that Speedy walked across the street because of that whole weird RV thing. Did the RV see him walking across the street and stop there for a minute to let him cross? It’s a good thing he had his post-it note flag on, huh?! The timing would have been about right. It makes sense. And if he did, he would have gone for the most lush area available to him… THE JUNGLE. Where I could never find him. Bastard. I grabbed my yard stick and headed across the street to the shop. At the top of the hill, the grass was above my waist. There was a clearing and path leading down the hill so I started walking down. I saw some deer laying at the bottom of the property. Then, I noticed a disturbance in the grass and I remembered what my neighbor told me. I stopped walking and turned left to follow the disturbance. I wondered if this flattened path was from the deer. But I continued to follow it anyway. I walked several feet before I started noticing some familiar looking dandelion patches. I inspected them. Huh. These dandelion patches have bites taken out of them. Speedy looking bites. I continued my gaze further up the path from the dandelions and what do you think I saw? A happy-go-lucky Speedy tushy. Just merry along his way, pimp walking through the jungle, wet-ass post-it note still taped to his shell. Happier than a merry-fuckin’ clam. Like nothing was wrong in the world and he didn’t just abandon his mother for four fucking days! Yeah. He just took a little camping trip across the street. NO. BIG. DEAL.

I took this picture as soon as we got back to the house so I could let everyone know I found him. Doesn’t he look so happy to see me? Hahahahaha.

Needless to say, I don’t think he was happy to see me. I’m pretty sure he would have been content living out the rest of his days in that terrifying jungle until he’d get run over with a lawnmower, or made it far enough down the property line to make it back onto the street and get run over by a car. Honestly, I don’t know what would have happened to him or where he would have gone had I not found him that day. I don’t want to think about it. The only thing that matters is I found him. I never gave up on him and I never lost hope because that’s what you do for the things you love. I felt defeated and discouraged on many days but it never stopped me from continuing my search. I maintained my determination and never let go of that goddamn desperate hope I could find the little bastard. I was over-the-moon relieved I found the little tortoise dude… and he was okay! It was a traumatic enough experience for me that I upped my responsibility game after that. I made him a little wired flag with a return address, in case he ever left the property again, and it was way more visible than a post-it note. I also left myself several post-it notes throughout the house that said “SPEEDY” so I would never again forget I was was tortoise mother when I was too distracted by food. Most of the time after that, his visits outside were supervised, but when I did leave him unsupervised, it was only for very short periods of time and I would always makes sure to check on him repeatedly. See? I can learn valuable lessons sometimes. I still allowed him to roam, but I learned to be a little bit more responsible of a tortoise owner so we didn’t go through this again. I mean, I get it. Fourth of July Weekend is for camping and shit… but the least he could do is ask permission next time. Kids, you know?

The Pinkies

 “There is magic in this sad, hard world. A magic stronger than fate, stronger than chance. And it is seen in the unlikeliest of places….It lives inside every human being ready to redeem us. To transform us. To save us. If we can only find the courage to listen to it. 

It is the magic of the human heart.”

Jennifer Donnelly, Stepsister

I may have mentioned in the past that I like animals. I’m actually unsure if there exists an animal I do not like. I mean, probably, but off the top of my head, I can’t honestly think of one. I try to live my life without disrupting too much of the natural balance or local wildlife around me. Obviously, sometimes that can be hard. Neighborhood Murder Cat disrupts the local wildlife by murdering my birds, but she also helps keep the rodent population down, which I am thankful for. We live on a nice little piece of property in a lesser populated area. There are several empty lots surrounding us, and therefore, we get quite a few mice in our shop and basement. We have three cats that are indoor only, because, well… the birds. For about a year, we had the cats living in the shop to help control the mouse population out there. They had their own little Kitty Condo with a fenced-in outdoor enclosure. And they did a really good job with the mice.

Neighborhood Murder Cat

In February 2019, my eldest cat, Zeke, passed away. I had him living inside the house, and after he died, extreme guilt poured over me for the other three cats living in the shop 100 feet away (or whatever it is… I’m a bad judge of distance). At this same time, we noticed we were having an increase in mouse activity in the basement and they were being super sneaky about getting around our traps. I don’t generally like traps and I don’t generally like killing mice, but I also don’t like it when I find mouse poop or bird seed in my clothes. So, we moved the cats into the basement.

I assumed the cats were doing their job. We would still find mice in the traps, but we would also find random spots of blood, an occasional organ or foot, or the rare whole corpse. I always feel like a Cat Crime Scene Investigator when I find blood. Where did this come from? Is this from a mouse or did one of you get into a fight? Is there any evidence of a struggle? Organs? Feet? Is there a mouse in the Murder Box? Oh yeah, the Murder Box. One of my cats has a Murder Box. It’s a cardboard box that he puts his murderings in, or does his murderings in? I don’t honestly know what occurs in the Murder Box. I do know that when I throw the Murder Box away, he just makes a new one.

Murder Box.
Yes, I do photograph everything in case I need future evidence.
Case in point.

I don’t know where this post has gone but this is not where I intended. Alright. So. The cats were killing mice. All was good. Everyday, twice a day, I would check three locations: under the water softener, under the bathroom sink, and the machine room (which is a little Harry Potter-type room, but it’s not underneath stairs and all that’s in it is our furnace and some space for storage). In these locations, we have several traps. Occasionally, mice will not die when they get stuck in a trap and then Markie Mark will have to come in and assist because I cannot handle that kind of stress in my life. On three occasions I have been alone when this has happened. I don’t want to discuss what happened with the one. I will tell you, Lady Luck was with the other two and we’ll leave it at that. End of story.

I guess maybe there was four occasions. But there was a special occasion, and this one was very different, for several reasons. And I mean… several. Like, specifically… five.

In June of 2019, I came home from work one evening and did my normal check of all the locations. When I walked into the machine room, I immediately saw her. She looked terrified. Only her foot had gotten stuck in the trap. Okay, how do I deal with this? Then, I saw the other thing. It was just a small blob… this little pile of pink sitting next to her. Oh no. I moved closer to get a better look. Oh no. Five pinkies. All alive, all moving. OH NO. That was literally all I could think to say. Seriously, how do I deal with this? I can’t even deal with one mouse, one adult mouse, and Mark isn’t home. What the fuck am I going to do with a mother who stress birthed and the resulting babies? Well, what do you think I did?

Stress birthing is dirty business. The black specks are trap plastic she chewed off in her attempt to get free.

I made them a Tupperware nesting home. I drilled holes into the lid. I added paper towel, wood chips, straw, and dryer lint so mama could make a nest. I added bird seed so she could eat and a shallow lid of water (I read that I wasn’t suppose to do this because mice drown themselves but these are wild mice… how do they drink in the wild? Clearly not from bottles, right?) Yeah, yeah. Again, I am the crazy woman with the baby mice and the spiders in my room. Whatever. Stop judging.

Mama did good and took to nursing her babies right away. She made a little nest and nursed the shit out of those pinkies for two weeks… the exact time she needed to. She didn’t leave them at all for the first week, and then after about 12 days, she started getting antsy. I don’t think she ever stop being terrified of me. Every time I opened that lid, she was so scared. All she wanted was to get out. Looking back, I feel bad. I didn’t know. There was no way she would ever get comfortable with me. So as soon as she could, she started sneaking away from her babies, jumping up on the handle indent, and little by little, started chewing a hole in the plastic. She did it on the underside so I didn’t see what she was doing until it was too late.

Obviously, I checked on them morning and night. But a lot of times I just assumed everything was good and I tried not to disturb them too much. I peeked in, saw a pile of fur, and closed the lid. So, I’m not entirely sure when she escaped. In the evening, I would change out the water, inspecting more thoroughly. That’s when I noticed the hole. Oh no. I gently lifted up the top of the nest to look for a mama. Just five little babies wiggling around. OH NO. Fuck. Like, literal fuck. She abandoned her babies?!? It’s okay. Calm down. Maybe she’ll come back. Leave her like, a ramp or something. I did. I totally made her a ramp. She did not come back. Do you know why? Wanna take a guess? Yeah, you do.

She didn’t come back because she fucking died. My cats murdered her. And they were kind enough to leave the evidence behind so that I knew. I found her, two days later, behind the broom. She was completely intact, which is why I knew it was her. That little trap foot. Poor girl. She went the wrong way. Should have gone out the wall hole. Well, I guess now I’m a mouse mother.

I did some googling and… lucky for me! Mice only need to be nursed for two weeks. Mama did her job before she bailed and died. Unfortunately, she didn’t get to train them on how to actually be mice and survive the world. So that kind of left me in a predicament. What the hell am I supposed to do with five baby mice?

I continued to feed them bird seed. I added some cheese and dried/fresh fruit on occasion. I added some more dryer lint and paper towel. As they got older, they started building tunnels in the wood chips and straw. They mostly always slept together. They weren’t afraid of me and I was quickly becoming very attached to them. But I was also quickly coming to the realization that I needed to make a decision about what to do with them before it was too late. There were five of them and at some point, in the very near future, they were going to start “doing it” and making more babies and then I would really have a problem.

I had them for five weeks before I decided they were old enough to potentially survive on their own. I took them out to the back part of our property where there’s a bunch of trees and places to hide. I made them this super useless area of hay and bird seed and dried fruit that they very quickly moved on from and never touched and I cried when I released them. They sort of stuck together for a minute before going their separate ways. And probably lasted a whole 45 minutes before getting killed by Neighborhood Murder Cat or a hawk or something, I dunno, because they didn’t have any survival skills and they grew up in a Tupperware. Ugh. I’m the worst.

Be free, my children!

“As long as there’s light, we’ve got a chance.”

Poe Dameron, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I have absolutely no idea what happened to my five little mice children after I released them into the world. I would like to think they lived out their short little mice lives in the empty lots around our property, or maybe somehow made it into the shop where there’s no longer the threat of cats. Of course, if they did survive, that means they probably bred and created more mice, which becomes more of a problem for me, and yes… I understand the contradiction. But you see, I truly believe that everything in the world, no matter how big or small, deserves a chance. And even though I had set up those traps to kill the mice coming into our basement, I still believed that the situation was not only unfortunate, but could be slightly remedied. Those pinkies didn’t understand the world they were coming into, and they didn’t deserve for me to take their lives as soon as they were stress birthed. They may have died as soon as I set them free that day, but at least I gave them a chance. And that counts for something, doesn’t it?

The Unknown

I haven’t wanted to write. The Grey Meh has consumed me and I spent the majority of the day sitting in front of a black computer screen, staring at dust particles having a dance party in a beam of sunlight. Have you ever done that? In all honesty, I do that a lot. Perhaps not specifically involving dust particles in sunlight, but just sitting and staring… and thinking. Many times there’s this blankness in my mind and I just observe my surroundings. I zone out a lot. It’s this tricky little thing that makes me look like I’m thinking, but I’m really not. There are thoughts ping-ponging around in my brain, but I’m so zoned out, gaze locked entirely on this Cheez-It box, that I don’t even know what those thoughts are. It’s tricky… and I know it’s tricky because I trick people constantly with it. I’ll find some place to direct my eyes, do this nervous tic where I either rub my thumbnail or my lips with my index finger, and someone will ask me what I’m thinking about. Ha! Nothing! Fool. So, a lot of that bullshit going on today.

Here’s why: I got a job. Three weeks to the day of being unemployed and I got not one, but two, job offers from the only two places I had applied. Seriously, life? Like, I have three dogs that are on death’s doorstep, I’m finally starting to get into the swing of this whole blogging thing, I still have a million things I need to accomplish at home that I’ve put off for two years, and I’m potentially moving at some point in the very near future. Not potentially… I WILL be moving. The thing is… it’s very much a giant hideous unknown. Like, so unknown there’s literally no guesstimate. Could be a month, or two, or four, or six, or a year! SO FUCKING UNKNOWN. How am I supposed to plan anything with this or be expected to get a job? How unfair is that to an employer if it does end up being two months? And if it is two months, I would have much rather stayed unemployed. And if it ends up being a year, well then I guess it’s a good fucking thing I got a job, huh?

I was fine with the unknown and going with the flow when I was at my last job. I was settled in, I had been honest and communicated this unknown with my manager (which killed me in the end, but lesson learned I guess), and I was happy working day to day until there was a known. But now, I have to start all over and it just seems very unfair. Plus, I’m either honest and potentially lose the opportunity, or I’m not honest and continue feeling like a guilty piece of garbage. So, I’ve been spending a lot of time sitting and staring and wondering what the fuck I’m doing with my life.

Also, who am I? Like, seriously, I don’t even know. You know when people ask you to describe yourself, all I can ever come up with are things I like or what I’ve heard other people say. Describe yourself: I like dogs and I’m smart. (I don’t actually think I am smart, but for some reason, others do.) What is my honest opinion of myself? How do I describe someone I don’t like in an unbiased way? Why am I like this? Why do I hate this post so much? I really miss therapy and I hate myself for not getting back into it immediately when we moved to Montana. Bad move.

I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. I feel like I’m slipping. Grey is turning darker and everything is getting muddy. The hole is getting deeper. I had this brief glimpse of something that could have been and now I have made this decision to turn around and go back to the same shit I’ve been trying to escape for years. It may only be temporary… but why? Why do I make these dumb decisions? I could have sat on it. I could have waited. He gave me that option. I could have been honest and told him the unknown. I’m not sure where any of my decisions have gotten me except sunk further into the mud. And now things are getting tight and it’s getting harder to breathe. And I did this to myself.

There is a high probability I am overthinking everything and nothing will be as bad as I am making it out to be. I will start to feel like I am suffocating in depression mud, I will start working, and then realize it’s not that fucking bad. Or the opposite will happen and I will be totally correct in all of my anxiety, everything will suck, I will get completely engulfed in depression mud, and you will never hear from me again. I dunno… I guess we’ll see.

God, what am I even doing with my life?

*I’m not sorry for this post. I know, it sucks, but I told you… you get the bad with the good. And sometimes you just gotta write a shitty post to clear your head, ya know? Also, I wrote this post yesterday and sat on it for a day. I still hate it, but I don’t hate it enough not to post it. Now I’m going to write about something better, like baby mice.

The Speedster

“Tortoises are not very fast, as everyone knows, but they make up for their slow speed by being very determined. And if you turn your back on a tortoise, thinking they will just hang around like a lazy cat, you are in for a surprise.” 

William Herring

I have a tortoise. He’s a Russian box tortoise and his name is Speedy.

I came to acquire Speedy many years ago when I was dating his owner at the time, J. We’re still good friends and I keep him updated on Speedy’s life. He had gotten Speedy from his uncle some years before, where Speedy had lived inside a garage in LA for ten years. J and I started dating in 2006. He was originally from Hawaii, and in 2008, he decided to move back to Hawaii. Obviously, he couldn’t take Speedy with him. I mean, he probably could have, but why, when there was a perfectly good caretaker right here who loved animals and already knew how to take care of him. Right?

I don’t really know how old Speedy is, but from the information I have, I guesstimate he’s in the range of 30 years old. He looks it, too. Old fart. He’s doing good, though. But, let’s be honest… the dude’s been through some stuff. From 2008-2014, Speedy was allowed to free roam in the backyard of the duplex I lived in (during warmer months… tortoise dude hibernates in the winter). He would spend most of his days roaming in peace, doing happy tortoise stuff, eating weeds and sunbathing. It was fully fenced, and I had bricked off any low spots to prevent escaping. This didn’t work all the time, and there were times I had to do the tortoise walk of shame to the neighbor’s house to do Operation Speedy Rescue. Or just hop the fence and quickly retrieve him without getting caught. Occasionally, there would be a dog on the other side that thought he was some type of rock that needed to be heavily scratched and bounced upon. But, those times were rare, and my dogs never touched him. They were so used to him always walking around that they fully ignored him. But then, a thing happened.

Dude loves dandelions.

In the summer of 2009, one of my best friends came over to visit one afternoon with his dogs. These dogs were not used to tortoises. Perhaps had never seen a tortoise, and definitely not used to free roaming tortoises in the backyard. I was not used to having to “watch” dogs in the backyard and didn’t even think about the fact that Speedy was out there. We were inside for a good amount of time, distracted by the amazement of technology, while the dogs were outside playing. At some point, one of us thought to check on the dogs. When we looked out the window, we saw one of his dogs with something in his mouth. Oh no. I forgot about Speedy. My heart sank.

We ran outside and quickly got Speedy out of the murder grip. Luckily, so lucky, so freaking lucky… he was still alive, and with very little damage. His shell was still intact and had no damage other than a few minor scratches. His body was fine, no bleeding or cuts, except… one foot had been chewed off. Super sad face. He wasn’t bleeding at all from his newly created stump, which was good. It was just… fleshy. The whole experience was very traumatic, I’m sure more so for the Speedster, obviously, but for me as well. Holy crap.

We found his foot. It was really sad. So, we did what any logical person would do in a situation like this… we had a funeral for his foot and we buried it. Then we took Speedy inside, washed him up, and we superglued the fuck out of his stump. And you know what? Superglue is the shit. His little leg healed up great. The superglue fell off after awhile, and he had a perfectly healed little stump underneath. And the whole experience seemed to do nothing to the lil’ guy… he went about his day and life like nothing happened, except now he has a super awesome pimp walk. He also had to adjust the way he eats because now he can’t tear food with that leg; it took him a lot longer to figure that out than you would expect. And honestly, with all feet intact, tortoises are a lot faster than you would think; his newly acquired disability did nothing to stop his speed nor his determination to escape. He was still able to dig and burrow himself completely underground so I wasn’t able to find him, freak out, and think he had escaped somehow into the neighbor’s yard. We have fun.

Old man and his stump.

I moved out of that duplex in 2014 and haven’t had a fully fenced yard that Speedy can’t easily escape since. I miss that yard… for Speedy. I’m sure he misses it, too. I’ve lost him a BUNCH of times, but I’ve luckily (so lucky) always found him. I’m an irresponsible tortoise owner. But, I know he likes to roam, and I like to give him that. Sometimes I just start making waffles and I forget I put him outside. You know how it is. Our house in Montana has a very escapable fence, so we built him a Speedy-proof tortoise corral: completely wired in so he can’t dig out and predators can’t get in. Unfortunately, that means he doesn’t get the brightest sunlight, or the best roaming grounds. So, I’ll occasionally let him out on a chaperoned “tortoise-walk” all over our property. When he’s not outside in his corral, he stays in Casa Kiddie Pool; it sits on a coffee table so it gets some natural sunlight through the window and also a nice view of the bird feeder (that he probably can’t see, but I give it to him anyway). Casa Kiddie Pool was born after we moved out of the duplex and we didn’t have a fenced yard for him to roam around in. For about two years, I let him free roam around the house because he seemed pretty happy doing that, not realizing I was preventing him from getting the precious UV light he needs to survive. Yeah, I’m an irresponsible tortoise owner.

I started this post wanting to talk about Speedy’s 13,000 mile road trip across America. Or the time I lost him for four days because waffles. But then I realized before I write about any of that, I had to obviously do an introduction post about the time he lost his foot and became Speedy, the 3-legged tortoise. He’s not really 3-legged, though. It’s more like 3-footed, I guess. Specifics, jeez. It doesn’t matter. What really matters is that he went through this traumatic experience and overcame it like a badass. Overall, he’s had a pretty interesting life for a tortoise. Also, did I mention he has a super awesome pimp walk?

Fred and the Baby Spiders

I have a thing for spiders. Yeah, I said it. I’m one of those people. But I have my reasons.

Disclaimer: This post contains images and descriptions of spiders.

My infatuation with spiders developed some years ago when I lived in Oregon. Over time, I have become more open to different kinds of spiders, realizing that most of them are harmless and more terrified of us than we are of them. But my love for them started with one specific spider: The Orb Weaver. Specifically, the Cat-faced Orb Weaver (Araneus gemmoides). And there was one particular spider that started it all, and her name was Fred.

I lived in a duplex in Oregon for 9 years. It had a very small laundry room with a door leading out to the garage. There was a window in this laundry room. Fred found her way into the laundry room at some point and started to build a web. I did not think this was a very good move for Fred. She was still smallish at this point in her life, so I moved her gently, and placed her directly outside the laundry room on the window. She apparently liked this location very much, because she set up shop and lived out the rest of her days there.

Fred as a beautiful young woman, showing off her mad web skills.

Now, I named Fred before I knew Fred was a female. But then obviously I couldn’t change her name, so Fred it stayed. When I met Fred, I was going through a bout of terrible insomnia. I was also a smoker. So I would spend a lot of my nights and early mornings smoking cigarettes, watching Fred tear down her web and build a new one. It was fascinating. If you have never taken the time to watch an orb weaver work… I highly recommend you do. It’s delicate, rhythmic, therapeutic, and the result is really beautiful. It’s weird, I know. I was going through this really shitty time in my life, and I bonded with a spider. Thinking about Fred still makes me want to cry. Obviously, this spider never talked to me, never gave me advice, and probably never knew I even existed. But she gave me something. A connection? The ability to disconnect temporarily from my surroundings? Maybe. I don’t know what it was… but she gave me something I needed to survive that summer and move on with my life. She was my friend.

I watched Fred’s life cycle that summer. I met her as a young women, I saw her mate (and eat her partner!), I watched her get all fat and pregnant, and then when it came time and got cold in the fall, she disappeared to lay her eggs and die. I searched for her body for days, hoping to find my friend, wishing I could bring her inside and revive her. But that’s not how it works. The next year, we had some Fred babies pop up here and there, but no one really stuck around. And a few years later, I moved to a different house.

Old and pregnant Fred. The day after this photo, she disappeared.

The story of Fred happened in the summer of 2011. Every Spring, in every house I’ve been in since, I start the search for orb weavers, looking for my new Fred. In 2017, we moved to Montana. Apparently, orb weavers LOVE Montana. The first summer we were here, I was blessed with my first orb weaver above the back door. I watched her lay her babies and the egg sac is still there (sometimes, the babies never hatch sad face). Last year, it was an orb weaver Mecca. I had coffee can babies, 11 mature pregnant females, and an unknown amount of adolescent/teenage Orbies hanging around the perimeter of our house. I was only able to observe one female lay her egg sac (another round of coffee can babies!) and because she stayed with the babies, I thought I could get her body for preservation sake. Generally, they die within a few days after laying their eggs. She had been completely covered in snow. I brought her inside, and she was still alive! Barely, but alive. She didn’t do much, so I put her back out with her babies and continued to check on her. After weeks, she was still alive. It was insane. Like, the sheer determination in this woman. Or her energy reserve just hadn’t run out yet… I don’t know. I don’t know spiders. But then, probably the most traumatic and tragic thing to ever occur in my spider loving life, occurred: My dog ate her. So, that’s the end of that story.

Pregnant Orbie trying to find a place to lay her eggs.
Orbie with her babies, before my dog ate her. What a good mama, leaving bugs and shit for her little babes.

Winter happened. And all my precious Orbies either died or hibernated or whatever they do when winter comes. After the first snow, I found 8 bodies of adolescents that didn’t make it, so I know a lot of them died. That’s why spiders have so many babies… because most of them won’t survive. It’s a hard life out there, ya know? But now it’s almost May, and that’s the time when everything starts coming out again, because, you know, it’s getting warmer.

A few weeks ago, I noticed a spot hanging from the ceiling by the bathroom door in our bedroom. Upon closer inspection, I recognized the shape immediately. Oh blessed day! An adolescent Orbie had survived winter and decided to set up shop in my room. Obvi, I have good spider juju. They know. She apparently did not like that location and bailed, moving to the corner of the room by the window. Obviously a smart move because: 1) that’s very close to where I sleep and 2) the window, duh. She hung out by the closet for a couple of days and I waited for her to make a web. They are more active at night, so one night, during one of Daisy’s middle-of-the-night-pee-excursions, I used my phone’s flashlight to check out the area. You wanna know what I found? Yeah, you do. Another Orbie! This one was much smaller, more babyish. It was chilling on the blinds. Blessed with two! Two orb weavers in my room? By my window? In my corner? Oh my lord… they know.

The next morning, the bigger Orbie had disappeared. I was devastated. I searched for her everywhere. Web trails, evidence, something… anything. I thought perhaps she had gone down the vent and went into the basement. Nope. For days, I searched. Every morning and every night. No sign of her. She left me. Which is understandable… a bedroom probably isn’t a great All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet for bugs. I didn’t blame her. The baby was still too young to understand, but she’d eventually get smart and leave me, too. It was inevitable.

Coffee Can Babies. I was out-of-my-mind delighted when I found these guys.

For the next few days, I watched the baby move from the blinds, to the corner, to the wall. I would check on her at night when I let Daisy out, and she would be busy walking little baby butt strings along the top of the wall. You do you, baby spider. She seemed to have found her spot, and the fact that she was making a web confirmed that she was here to stay. Haha, you dumb bitch.

Wednesday April 22, 2020:
I awoke to the most marvelous thing! The bigger Orbie that had vanished from existence last week has reappeared. She is back in her corner by the window and she even grew a little. Getting thick. I don’t know where she went in her little hiatus or what she was doing, but she’s back and everything is right in the world…

Wait…

WTF…

Now the baby is gone?!? Okay. I cannot be a spider mother. I cannot handle this kind of stress. I’m officially throwing in the towel. I quit.

Thursday April 23, 2020:
Baby has returned! My life is complete! I have two Orbies in my room, safe and sound. Both have made webs, both are eating (I’m a crazy person and I may be literally finding bugs outside to throw in their webs), and all is right in the world.

I realize how crazy this post sounds to a lot of people. I have two spiders living in my bedroom, literal feet away from my face when I sleep, and I’m finding bugs outside to throw in their webs inside instead of just relocating them OUTSIDE where they probably should be in the first place. Yes, you’re right. And at some point, I will relocate them outside. Because I know they won’t be able to survive in here for an extended period of time. Plus, they’ll need to find a mate and make more babies, and that obviously can’t happen in here. So for now, just let me have my moment and be a spider mother. I already know I’m crazy. But honestly, I don’t care. Because I’m sitting here right now, thinking about my life in this moment, wondering why, again, I have attached myself to some random spiders. I am one of those people… but I really only love orb weavers. I don’t kill spiders, but I won’t just let any spider build its web and exist in my bedroom, 5 feet from my sleeping face.

It’s Fred. It’s always been Fred. She gave me a gift… that unknown gift of survival. During the darkest points of my life, when I need a connection, a focal point, that familiar rhythmic and therapeutic dance… there she is. It’s why I continuously search for replacements, hoping for the day when my therapy will resume. My future is unknown. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life. I lost my job. My dogs are dying. Things are grey. But here and now, I have two tiny friends. And for the time, I can occasionally disconnect from all the daily unknowns and bullshit, check in with my Orbies, and life seems a little less grey.

I rarely name Orbie’s anymore since Fred. Usually when I do, they leave me almost immediately. This was Montana Orbie #1 after laying her eggs, one day before she died.

Liquor Adventures

I wasn’t going to post anything today.

All the topics that are currently sitting in my mind’s queue should probably be started earlier than 8:13pm at night. I’ve had too much coffee, too little water, and an adult beverage so as you can probably assume… I’m doing great. Plus, this room smells like dog farts thanks to two dogs that refuse to eat their prescription food and, therefore, a diet that consists of whatever-the-hell-I-can-get-them-to-eat-today. I think I’ll have another adult beverage. Wee!

I suppose since I’m drinking, I’ll talk about my life experiences with drugs and alcohol. Well, let’s leave it at alcohol for now. Because reasons. Is alcohol considered a drug? I think perhaps I read that one time. I’ll have to google it.

I was not a typical teenager. Don’t get me wrong… I had issues. I had childhood trauma and I went to therapy and crap like that. But I didn’t really rebel or socialize or have many friends. I never went to parties. I rarely asked to go hang out with the few friends I did have. I basically went to school and I came home and studied. I apparently was so unlike other teenagers, that my guardians thought there was something wrong with me and put me in therapy. You know what it was? I’ll give you a hint. I’m an introvert. I also have anxiety, and a lot of it. I just prefer to hang out by myself. I like being alone. It’s nice to occasionally go out and have social time with one or two (or even a few!) confirmed individuals, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that every. single. time. I make plans with someone, deep down inside, I hope, wish, and pray, they cancel. I love my friends, and sometimes I really need social time, but there’s this bad bitch inside me that just screams “PLEASE CANCEL” every time I make plans. I don’t know. She won’t shut up.

I didn’t start actually drinking until college, thanks to my college roommate. She showed me the ropes. She also introduced me to gin, which at the time, I thought was a disgusting thing to put in your body. It was literally liquid pine tree. Who the fuck would drink that? I think most of the time I stuck to Mike’s Hard Lemonade, cause I was a classy college bitch. But to be honest, even in college, I didn’t drink much… compared to others. We had our moments, but it wasn’t a super drunk fest all the time. I just wasn’t that interested.

I moved to Oregon after college and still kept drinking to a minimum. I would have the occasional drink, but I never frequented bars. I didn’t love beer and I didn’t really love any liquors so there really wasn’t a “drink of choice” for me. Wine has aways been an okay choice… but white or rosé. I can’t do red. I can’t drink it without making that face (you know what I’m talking about). And that, folks, pretty much sums up my booze life… for years… until I started working at the liquor store.

To give you a time frame, I moved to Oregon in December 2004. I lived there for 13 years! WOW. I started working at the liquor store in June 2014. So, my life was p r e t t y b o r i n g for 10 years, eh? Nah. I had good times. Alcohol isn’t the answer, people! But it IS fun. And working at the liquor store was indeed as fun as it sounds. It was so fun, in fact, that I’ll probably end up doing more posts about working there. Top 2 most favorite places to work EVER. Terrible bosses ruin everything.

When I got hired, I literally knew nothing about alcohol. I think I had stepped foot into a liquor store maybe twice before. I didn’t know the sizes of bottles (what’s a fifth?), or the different names (handle?), and I especially knew nothing of brands and types of liquors. Especially especially what they tasted like. How the bloody hell was I supposed to sell this stuff? Lucky for me, liquor basically sells itself! Occasionally, you’ll have the customer that comes in for a recommendation, but there are enough regulars and people who know exactly what they want, that you just have to be there to take their money and restock the shelves. There was also enough customer/employee chit chat going on that I was able to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations, so I learned quickly what to properly recommend if asked.

Because Oregon has state controlled liquor sales, we did not get an employee discount. Sad face. But we did sometimes get “breakage.” These were bottles that were messed up somehow; fucked up labels, broken caps, broken bottles, etc. and could not be sold to the public. The state would come in a write these off and then we would “throw them away.” Obviously, the ones that still had liquor in them and were perfectly fine other than a messed up label or a broken cap, we would keep. After awhile, the employees would divide up the stash and take what they wanted. Free liquor! And this is how my liquor collection was born.

My baby liquor collection, when it very first started. The cabinet underneath soon became full of bottles, too. It got BAD.

After a few months, I realized that I needed to up my game. Customers would ask me for recommendations and eavesdropping would only get me so far. So, I started buying my own liquor. I would buy random things I wanted to try, stuff I knew was popular and wanted to try, and also liquor that might come in handy for future use (aka a lot of liqueurs). **Side Note: The liqueur thing was a bad move. Most of my bar stock right now consists of liqueurs leftover from this time in my life. I can’t get rid of them. No one wants them. I don’t use them. My best advice for anyone: NEVER BUY AN EXCESSIVE AMOUNT OF LIQUEURS. End Side Note.**

It’s a shame I never had my life together enough to get a proper photo of all my liquor together as a happy family. This mess is the best I have.

Buying my own liquor gave me three things: It gave me the ability to try new brands/types of liquor and, therefore, give appropriate recommendations to customers; it gave me the ability to figure out what I liked; and it gave me such an extensive liquor collection at home that I basically had a full bar… which made my house, the house. LIQUOR STORE PARTIES! We had a good team; we all worked well together and we partied well together. We were all friends. There was very little drama. Shocking, I know. But, it was a good team. We fit well together. That’s hard to find in life. I still have group text messages on my phone that I refuse to delete because I don’t ever want to forget that time of my life. And honestly, there are big chunks I did forget because I experienced black out drunkenness on several occasions, but that’s maybe a story for another time. Everclear jello shots? Don’t do it. Bad choice. Take my advice!

I only worked at the liquor store for a year, but it was one of the best years of my life… and I don’t say that lightly. I met some great people, I made a few lifelong friends (one who I consider to be a best friend *flame*), I realized my love for working in the liquor industry (I’d do it again in a heartbeat), and I still have a stupid amount of alcohol because, of course, I’ve reverted back to my boring old ways of rarely drinking. But possibly the most important thing that came about from my liquor store days was this: GIN IS NOT A DISGUSTING LIQUID PINE TREE. It’s actually a very good liquor, and it’s become my favorite liquor. You just need to know the right things to mix it with to complement the flavor. You’ll be happy to know, I discovered my “drink of choice” and that’s a gin greyhound: gin and grapefruit juice. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend you do. Grapefruit juice complements gin really well. Way better than tonic, because fuck tonic. That shit is disgusting.

Celebrating my 31st birthday at my most favorite place on Earth (at the time). That’s a genuinely happy Megan.