The Best Laid Plans…

I had it all planned. I would mail the invitations and send a polite, but firm, text message to my mother, simply stating that too many bridges have been burned and she is, therefore, not invited to my wedding. I’d find a way to subtly mention the presence of security, so she knew that if she were to show, it wouldn’t be overlooked. Perhaps I’d even blame my dad, claiming he said he wouldn’t come if she did. After all, the only reason he claimed he was joking when he did say it, was because my step-mom yelled at him. Sure, I hadn’t worked out the details. I hadn’t really told Jake or Gail that she was texting me more lately, trying to mend fences, but I figured I’d let all that be Future Belle’s problem.

I had it all planned, more or less… until she showed up at my new job, unannounced, uninvited, and unwelcome, seeing as how we’re not open and are still a construction zone. When she said my name, I genuinely thought that this could not be happening. Not even she was demented enough to think I’d want to see her at the new job I didn’t tell her about and that it was appropriate to disturb me during my first week, when we were still surrounded by construction workers. I turned, and there she was, with her kicked puppy look, the one that always reminds me of a sad Kathy Bates, the reason I can’t watch movies with Kathy Bates. She stood at the walker I knew she’d been using, despite having informed me specifically that the doctors have told her again and again that there is nothing physically wrong with her… emphasis on physically.

Me: “What are you doing here?”
Her: “I just came to see you.”
Me: “We’re not open. You can’t be here.”
Her: “Okay, I just came to say hi.”
Me: “You have to leave. This is a construction zone.”
Her Husband: “Alright, we know. We just came to say hi.”
Me: “You have to go. Now.”

The director of the system had left only hours earlier. I can only imagine what he’d have thought if he had assumed I’d invited my, apparently invalid, mother to tour an unopened library. Fortunately, she and her husband left before anyone but the construction workers noticed, leaving me shaking. I never know what I feel when I see her… anger, pity, longing? This time “ambushed” ranked pretty high, as I typed out a text message to her. It was cruel and hateful and I was angry, but even in hindsight, I can only think how she refuses to respond to any other expression of my wishes. I have asked to be left alone (particularly at work), in every other way I can fathom, so the only thing left, it seemed, was to be ugly… or reprimanded professionally. I pressed send, terrified that her husband, Victor, would return to berate me for it.

Mental illness receives the most blame for who my mother has become, of course, but I place Victor second in that column. My mother has always been… embarrassingly weak. Even when she was young, she was a chameleon through and through, adapting her personality to those who surround her. With my dad, she was convinced she wanted to live on ten acres and spend her money on boots and livestock, neither of which ever gave her any real benefit. After things went south there, she let herself be completely absorbed in having young children, both dressing and acting like a child in many ways, from oversized Tweety Bird t-shirts and fanny packs, to childish humor and  hobbies. Perhaps that was part of the cause of the divorce, not necessarily the effect, but I’ll never know. Then, she met this weird little man, who wears a conductor’s hat, lives in isolation, and makes his money from odd jobs and pyramid schemes, both of which naturally required her money, before she quit nursing to watch Netflix and self-diagnose herself on WebMD all day. This was the same man who convinced her to leave me and move in with him my senior year of high school, the reason she couldn’t “afford” my college application fees, the man who frequently tells her how horrible everyone in her life has been to her, increasing his isolation of her to only his home, where he plays into her contrived illnesses and doesn’t allow her to drive.

I think, often, about how different my mother would be, had she married someone even remotely normal. Perhaps she’d still be working, exposing herself to the outside world and the people in it. Maybe she’d share some random hobby with him, like disc golf or traveling with Renaissance Fairs. Maybe she’d still exist, period, because she is simply a shell of herself, today, and a poor one at that. Gone is the woman who insisted we wear my Gramma’s matching Christmas outfits for the family photo… who volunteered to chaperone every field trip and supplied cupcakes for every class party… who took me out of daycare just because she had the day off. I don’t even recognize her anymore, but I miss the woman she was.

In a weak moment, I called Jake and shared a touch of my mommy drama. I often joke with him that he can’t know the magnitude of it all until after we’re married and he’s trapped. I immediately regretted telling him. Despite my willingness to share everything else, I find I want to keep this particular pain from Jake. I left work just a few hours later and spent the evening ignoring his calls and crying over the horrible text I’d sent my mother, thinking that a man so respectful of his own parents was far too good for me. I thought about watching the home videos I have on a disc, but I know they would just make me long even more for someone who’s gone, and I’m not that masochistic. I thought of my wedding day, of dressing with only my Gramma and bridesmaids by my side, of the whispers from those who will never understand and I cried. I thought about having no mentor for marriage and motherhood and I cried. I thought about how I can’t do all of this without the mother I had at 7-years-old and how I’ll never see her again and I cried. I reread my text message and I cried.

Stop coming to my work. Period. I cannot talk to you. I’m working. I choose not to see you when I’m not working and forcing me to see you when I am is completely inappropriate. I didn’t tell you I switched libraries for a reason. Don’t come see me. Just assume that you are never invited to any part of my life. My wedding. The births of my children. Stay. Away. Do not respond to this message in any way other than to respect my wishes. I am not discussing this or anything with you.

The best laid plans… well, maybe not “best.”

I have to live with a boy.

I have been single for six years, y’all… and in many ways, it has been glorious. For six years, I’ve binge watched teen dramas on Netflix, crocheted sweaters for the dog, eaten dinners of sweet potato fries and maraschino cherries, and decorated my entire apartment like the set of Babes In Toyland every Christmas, right down to the hot pink tree. In fact, anyone who’s spoken to me for a minimum of 11 minutes is aware that pink is my favorite color, as evidenced by my office supplies, electronic devices, shooting range gear, and even one of my guns. A close second to pink is glitter, as also evidenced by my office supplies and every craft project to which I can apply bling. I am just unapologetically girly. There is no age limit on a neon pink North Face or Laura Ashley bedspread and more than once, when I’ve failed to find something in pink, I’ve crocheted or sewn it myself. As I plan my life with Jake, I’m not sorry that it’s so resembled a Delia’s catalog for the last six years… because now I have to live with a boy.

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I don’t just have to live with a boy, y’all. I have to live with the male equivalent of myself. For every pink glittery item I own, Jake owns something that was once alive and cute. Three years ago, when I was dancing to Taylor Swift with the dog at 2:00 am, my future husband was getting up to shoot something for funsies. My life is to the Victoria’s Secret Pink store as his is to Bass Pro, and as we discuss decor, I’m pretty sure we’re going to have to live in adjoining duplexes like some kind of fundamentalist Mormon family.

It all began a few months ago, when I started thinking about getting new bedding. I realized that such a potentially pricey purchase should really be mutual, considering the fact that we’d probably be married in a year, so I started quizzing Jake on bedding sets and color schemes. Jake being Jake, was so confident in his opinions, that I started to agree with his choices… only to later realize that I didn’t like his ugly beige and brown boy bedding at all. So, naturally, I obsessed over it for a good week, sending Jake approximately 30 different screenshots of what I considered reasonable compromises until he gently suggested that I was acting insane, since we didn’t have to worry about this for a thousand years. Point taken. I really was borrowing trouble.

Over the last few months, however, as we’ve browsed department stores, musing over wedding registry options while Christmas shopping, decor has come up more and more. Each time, when I would start to get frustrated with how often Jake vetoed even my most neutral color suggestions, he’d brush it off as he always had, stating that we had plenty of time to decide these things. I’d usually respond with a joke about how we’re going to have to have separate bedrooms with an adjoining door. Admittedly, the communication breakdown here has been pretty mutual. Now, though, I’m wearing a ring. We’re choosing a venue and date this week. Jake’s planning to rent a place in Jackson in the next couple of months and I’ll of course move in, so I won’t have to commute an hour a day from Shetland. I’m contacting photographers and Etsy designers and cash bar services and we are running out of time!!!!!!!

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On Saturday, Jake and I went to Hobby Lobby, where he vetoed clock after clock and picture after picture and any color not on the brown spectrum.

Jake: “It’s too nautical.”
Me: “How is it nautical? It’s nautical because it has a weather vane on it? Why don’t you show me one you do like? You have literally said no to everything here.”
Jake: “How about this one?”
Me: “The one with cardinal directions on it is “too nautical”, but one wrapped in sea rope isn’t? Fine. How about you live in your batcave for the rest of your life and we don’t get married?!?”

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Of course, he took my hyperbole as another joke, rather than genuine frustration.

Jake: “What’s wrong?”
Me: “We don’t like any of the same stuff.”
Jake: “Stop saying that. We do, too.”

I tried, y’all. I tried to bring it up rationally… ‘cept with the batcave comment, but he’d literally down voted twenty previous suggestions, so I feel that bit of exaggeration was warranted. Regardless, I put it all aside that night and planned to enjoy our time together. Jake, however, had a touch too much to drink… such a touch, in fact, that I lay in bed at 1:30 listening to the sounds of crashing as Jake sang the Whoville Christmas song Fahoo Fores and promised myself that if he survived his shower, I’d kill him. I was, indeed, ready to do just that when he was too out of it to roll away from me and stop snoring in my ear, ultimately landing me on the couch for a few hours. I mention this to set the scene of an exhausted Belle (all due to Jake), because the next evening, as we were looking over my Amazon wedding wish list, he nixed some brightly colored measuring cups to which he’d previously agreed and I lost it.

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Jake: “What is wrong?!?”
Me: “Marriage isn’t me living in your mancave with sex on tap.”
Jake: “I don’t think that. Don’t say that.” 
Me: “You hate everything I like! You veto everything and you hate all color!”
Jake: “I don’t hate color. I promise, we will have color in our house.”
Me: “No we won’t! You say that and then you say no to every single color I choose! I’m gonna give into everything you like, and I’ll be miserable in your hunting lodge and no one will even know I live there!!!!”
Jake: “That’s not true.”
Me: “One time… I asked you to choose a color of towel and you… you… you chose beige!!!!!”

 

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Me: “I love color and I don’t need everything to be pink, but I want my home to feel like I live there!”
Jake: “It will.”
Me: “No it won’t. I’m marrying one of the bad people from Pleasantville! I don’t want to live in Pleasantville!”

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Jake did his best not to laugh at my ridiculous melodrama and held me as I cried. I told him I worried that I’d end up in the same situation as my brother, having no say and no place in my own home. I reminded him of every time he’d insisted we would have color, but brushed me off when I asked him to tell me which ones he liked. He apologized for making light of my questions at Hobby Lobby, when I pointed out that we actually don’t have months and months to find common ground. Through my tears, I reminded him that I had tried to bring this up rationally and calmly and he’d scoffed at me.

Jake: “I do not scoff.”
Me: “You do, too. You scoff like a little old lady looking at ear guages.”

In the end, he again promised me color and to listen better when I tell him something’s bothering me. He swore to me that I would be comfortable in my home and people would know I lived there. We both promised to communicate better, because for better or for worse, I have to live with a boy and he definitely has to live with a girl.

 

 

 

 

Please, congratulate me on my engagement!

I got everything I ever wanted this past week. On Sunday, Jake and I went hiking. He found a pretty waterfall and hugged me from behind. He pretended he was trying to point to something in the water and asked if I saw it. When I couldn’t see anything, he wrapped his other arm around me to show me the ring and asked if I could see it now. Ignoring the ring, I turned to hug him.

Jake: “Will you marry me?”
Me: “Yes. I will. I love you.”
Jake: “I love you, too… more than anything, not just the normal amount.”

He didn’t get down on one knee. I wasn’t entirely surprised, having known that he wanted to make it official before Thanksgiving. After I said yes, he called into the woods for “Steve” to come out, asking if he got the pictures, because he knows how much I hate the falsehood of staged proposals and he can’t even take a marriage proposal too seriously. It wasn’t Disney, but it was still perfect, because he’s perfect for me.

I called my Gramma to ask if I could bring my fiancé to Thanksgiving breakfast. She completely missed the change in title and went straight to fretting about not having enough time for breakfast and dinner, until I interrupted her to ask that she repeat what I’d just said. She started to congratulate me, then abruptly stopped, saying that you’re not supposed to congratulate the bride.

Me: “Why not?”
Gramma: “I don’t know. They just tell you not to.”
Me: “Who?”
Gramma: “People. They say you’re not supposed to congratulate the bride.”

Naturally, the librarian in me was curious about the origins of this old wives tale and had to do some research. It didn’t take long to find a pretentious wedding site, adorned in classic floral, detailing the long forgotten edict stating that congratulations are indeed considered tacky, when directed at the bride, for they suggest she’s “won” something. While it’s completely acceptable to share this sentiment with the groom, verbatim, even the Emily Post Institute emphasizes the risk of implying that a bride is to be congratulated on “catching” a husband if one forgets the more proper sentiment of “best wishes.” Alright… aaaaand? Why is it appropriate to congratulate Jake on his prize, but not me on mine?

As this blog will attest, I spent years wading through the sea of crap that is the modern dating world and I sure as heck didn’t do it for the joy of being stood up, having my career insulted, my faith mocked, and being solicited weight loss pills. No. I was searching for a husband. I was praying for someone kind, funny, hardworking, intelligent, opinionated, affectionate, strong, and moral and I found him. My whole life, I’ve never felt like the most important person to anyone, and little did I know that that had all begun to change a year and a half ago, when I sat across from a complete stranger I’d met on a free online dating site that was primarily utilized in procrastinating and assuaging my own boredom. Now, I get to spend the rest of my life with the most important person to me and my very best friend. I’ve gotta say, I absolutely hope all of my friends, family, and blog readers will stumble when it comes to this etiquette – which is particularly strange, since it stems from a time when a woman’s primary purpose was to bake and breed – and congratulate me, because Jake is absolutely a prize worth celebrating.

To the Women Who Tried to Ruin My Career

At 25 years old, I’d just begun my career as a real librarian, in my current system, when I excitedly accepted a second job at the neighboring library system. Within two months, I was informed that I wasn’t “a good fit” and that I’d worked my last day there. I was never late. No customer ever complained about me. I did everything I was asked… except go to my immediate supervisor’s house for spaghetti with the rest of the team, share Pinterest recipes, and sport an “I’m With Her” t-shirt. That’s right. Instead of valuing diversity in her staff, this woman sought employees who were just like her, a modern day Heather willing to abuse her power to the detriment of the community she served.

In time, I realized that not being “a good fit” was quite flattering and ultimately the best thing for my career, because it allowed me to hone my skills within my own system. Even in that beloved system, however, there once reigned a Regina George… the girl who poured the pigs’ blood in Carrie… a Cersei Lannister, of our very own.  Indeed, this woman was… psychotically vindictive, in the truest sense. She ruined careers when people mispronounced her name. She permanently transferred librarians to branches across the city, with less than 24 hours notice and no explanation. She planted her favorites in positions of power and pulled their strings like the fucking Puppet Master. She even tried to keep my boss at the West Side Library  from hiring me, because I’d had a poor interview for a different job. It was a joyous occasion the day Cersei pissed on the wrong boots and was demoted. It was downright freeing when she and many of her minions retired soon thereafter, to practice augury and gnaw on the bones of kittens.

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I’d like to think these women are the exceptions. The rhetoric these days would have us believe we’re are all far too evolved from a half century of breaking glass ceilings and opening our own pickle jars to still be facing such deliberate workplace sabotage. It remains true, however, that one of a woman’s greatest battles toward professional success is simply… other women. Perhaps this is evolutionary and stems from a time when we each tried to prove ourselves the most valuable gatherer, in an effort to snag the best hunter, but we are long overdue to pull up our big girl panties and crush our baser instincts.

Had the aforementioned Heather and Cersei had their way, I would be… well, I don’t know exactly, because I can’t fathom the goal behind destroying the career of a random 25-year-old fresh out of grad school. Maybe they knew every detail of the devastation that would result from their actions. Maybe the fantasy hadn’t extended that far. All I’ve ever known for sure is that there was something broken inside these women, which required them to tear down another to feel accomplished. Now, years later, I have a simple message for them:

Thank you. Thank you for showing me the worst possible scenario of who I could be as a professional woman. Thank you for inspiring me to be better at a job I hated than you were at a job you treasured like the One Ring. Thank you for the strength it took to build people up, despite the fact that I spent my lunch breaks crying in my office. I could’ve let the wounds of others fester, with the reasoning that I didn’t cause them, but instead, I worked to heal those around me. I could’ve scoffed at the personality traits and communication styles that differ from my own, yet I worked to not only understand, but translate. I will have been a manager for eleven months, to the day, when I step down into my new position as just a librarian, at the East Side Library. I’ll leave the North Side Library in the city, to work in the tiny town of Jackson, under the same library system. I’ll rarely see these people again… and I’ll be leaving them better than I found them. If I’d never cried from the abuse of powerful women, I might never have made a difference in the short time I was one myself and for that, I am thankful.

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I’ll never be his #WCW.

The first time I told Jake I loved him, it went a little something like this:

Me: “You make me really happy.”
Jake: ::silence::
Me: “Does it freak you out, when I say stuff like that?”
Jake: “What? No.”
Me: “Would it freak you out, if I told you I loved you?”
Jake: ::laughing:: “No.”
Me: “I love you.”
Jake: “I love you, too.”

In the beginning, neither of us was particularly eloquent when it came to sharing our feelings. Jake told me he loved me, in the simplest of ways, with no flowery language. For a few months, that left me feeling pretty insecure and I tried my hardest not to demand clarification, cuz you know, we all hide our crazy.

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The one time I did ask if he really meant it, it didn’t go over so well when Jake got defensive and stuck his foot in his mouth.

Me: “It’s just… I always say it first. You only say it back.”
Jake: “You never give me the chance! Every eighth word is ‘I love you.'”

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For realz yo, Jake is at the top of the list of people who are not allowed to speak at our wedding.

Over time, however, I came to realize that Jake truly meant what he said, despite how simply he said it. I didn’t have this epiphany because of the right frequency or combination of words, either. Instead, I concentrated on looking for other evidence of his feelings … and it became blatantly obvious that he loved me.

The night I called Jake crying, because being an adult is hard and he abandoned his hunting trip to be there the next day was probably the earliest proof. When he told me he couldn’t wait to spend the weekend together in another state so he could introduce me to all of his friends was further confirmation. Of course, when he scheduled a ski trip to celebrate the end of my Gardasil shot regimen, which meant we could finally have sex… coupled with the very fact that he waited eight months to get laid, I was convinced. I knew without a doubt, that Jake loved me, even though he’d never shared it via cute text messages, a “no, you hang up first” back and forth, or through the most modern and ubiquitous medium: social networking.

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That’s right, y’all. In the year and a half that Jake and I have spent together, the most public validation of his feelings he’s given has been by letting me change his relationship status after three months. Now, as an active Facebook user, I’ve posted  many a status and photo with the world, about the fun we have and jokes we share, while managing to keep the emotions light. Jake has never protested, and has made it clear he doesn’t mind… but he’s also never returned the favor. In fact, unlike my high school friends who share little “this song describes our love” links on each other’s wall, Jake saves all of his appreciation for what we have for me and me alone.. and you know what? It feels far more genuine.

When I see that girl from high school tell her husband how wonderful he is, assuming it’s not a birthday or anniversary, my first instinct is always to wonder why I’m reading something so personal. When those sweet, misspelled text message screenshots show up in my feed, I cringe at being included in such intimacy. That feeling increases tenfold when I look at photos of the actual engagement or a video of a pregnancy announcement. It’s like public affection is the sixth love language and the sentiment doesn’t really mean anything unless it’s seen by 236 people from high school, that summer working at the water park, and the sorority you rushed but ultimately decided not to join. After all, if he says he loves you and your family in North Dakota who you haven’t seen since you were nine didn’t read it, did he really even say it?

On the contrary, Jake’s private little Eskimo kisses, his hand on my lower back when we’re in public, his hugs from behind while I’m cooking, the way he grabs me for a last cuddle before I go to work, are solely for me. He’s not showing off for the aforementioned 236 people when he insists I stay in the car while he gets gas. He’s simply showing me that he loves and cares for me. None of my friends or family will ever know, until they see it for themselves… and that’s okay. I will never be Jake’s #WCW, but I will never wonder if the only reason he expresses his love, in his way, is because everyone is watching. There are still times when I ask, point blank, if he loves me more than anything. He gives me the assurance that of course he does and because no one else can hear it, it means that much more.

 

Reigning in My Crazy

If you haven’t been following me since I was a graduate student, you might not be familiar with the fact that I can be a little high strung. Okay, so maybe that was also apparent when I started dating Jake… and then when I started sleeping with Jake… or when I got my new job… or when I realized how much I hate my new job. Know what? Not that big of a mystery. As much as I’d love to be able to, I simply cannot describe myself as a laid back person.

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I want to, at least occasionally, be the girl who’s up for anything, who just goes with the flow when plans change… and I have been at times. I was that girl when I talked Gail into getting tattoos on a whim. I was that girl when Gail called in the middle of the night to tell me Terry was stuck in a ditch two hours away and I went along for the ride, entertaining her by reading aloud from satirical reviews of Fifty Shades of Grey. I was that girl on all those impromptu nights out with Catherine. I was even that girl when Jake wanted to go on a weekend ski trip in February, with little notice and having never skied. Lately, though… lately I just haven’t been able to muster up the gumption to be that girl, at all.

You see, I wouldn’t say that 2016 has been bad. It’s just been in a constant state of change. When I was 21 years old, I moved for the 10th time in two years. Every time someone knocked on the door, my heart leapt out of my chest, because I was certain my ex-husband had gotten us evicted again. After I left, things settled down a bit, but life wasn’t exactly what I’d call “steady” as I worked two jobs and attended graduate school. When I graduated, I was promoted to half time librarian and my pay at the library nearly doubled, but I was still dependent on my substitute teaching check. The harrowing world of dating wasn’t exactly a balm to my nerves, but I was no longer a student, so it was still an improvement. Then, I met Jake and was promoted to full time Supervisory Librarian. Finally, I would have the chance to settle in and get comfortable… except that’s not what’s happened at all.

Jake is wonderful and everything I’ve ever wanted, but his work schedule and the distance have been an endless battle. I thought his quitting the oil field might free up some time, but until he gets a job in the city, he spends his weekdays in another state working on the Granger Ranch. As for me, $50,000 a year in one of the cheapest states in the country sure has been nice, especially with all that health insurance, but… I hate being a manager. Here I am, almost one year from the announcement that I’d been promoted and everything was falling into place and I’m back to my “please let me get the job” prayer mantra.

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Life certainly isn’t as stressful as the days of packing up all of my belongings in four hours, before the landlord calls the police. It’s not even as stressful as working two jobs and relying on the Almighty for health insurance. A surprise middle management position, major relationship milestones, months of illness, a year and a half of schedule conflicts with the love of my life, Jake’s unemployment, and now both of us applying for new jobs, however, does not a laid back Belle make… and I’ve gotta admit, my crazy’s becoming harder and harder to hide.

A few weeks ago, I lay on Jake’s bed, distraught:

Me: “Everything’s in flux and it has been for so long. I just feel like there are no constants anymore.”
Jake: “I’m a constant.”

The only reason he gets away with putting his foot in his mouth so often, is because when he does say the right thing, he nails it.

The next weekend, Jake walked through the door as I announced:

Me: “I’m getting an elective C-section.”
Jake: “Please stop reading those articles.”

After a weekend of arguing about C-sections versus natural birth, I ended up in tears and Jake finally asked the obvious question.

Jake: “Why are you so upset about something that’s not even happening for at least two years?!?”
Me: “Because you told me just last week that you’re absolutely opposed to elective C-sections and I agreed with you. Then Catherine and Laura both told me that natural childbirth will rip you in half and to definitely get a C-section. You have such a big personality and you’re so opinionated that I figured if I started arguing about it now, I’d have a better chance of winning!”

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Jake: “Okay, I promise you that when the time comes, I will consider all of the options, if you’ll promise me that you’ll stop reading those articles.”

He also has the patience of a saint.

My irrational fear of eventual childbirth all started when my (former) OBGYN brushed off my birth control side effect concerns, despite my months of pain. Fortunately, though, I had better luck with my new chiropractor… after my hip popped out of place the morning of Jake’s birthday… because I bent over to pick up a pair of shorts.

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One of the things no one ever really talks about, when they’re busy glorifying living alone, is how much it sucks to be hurt or sick and not even have the luxury of company. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something about being alone that amplifies any and all ailments… though apparently not nearly as much as finding out that I didn’t get that job I wanted.

I admit, the day I found out that I didn’t get the Cherokee job, I hit a breaking point and had something of a meltdown. While Jake is great at being supportive in person, he’s simply at a loss when his verbal skills are the only arrows in his quiver. Through a haze of pain, I babbled incoherently into the phone about hating my life, which I’ll admit was needless melodrama, but days earlier my hipbone was tucked behind my tailbone while I grimaced through a fishing trip. I’ve been under a lot of stress y’all.

Here I am, though, with an empty uterus and realigned spine, declaring that I will take the rest of 2016 in stride!

I will stop working myself up over Future Belle’s problems!

I will do my best to accept that the ever changing landscape that is my life these days, will ultimately lead to something good!

I will stop taking advantage of the fact that Jake is experienced in the management of high strung, over-achieving women!

I will reign in my crazy and I will force myself to enjoy my favorite time of year, because I will be that girl who goes with the flow!

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How Alcohol Poisoning Reminded Me How Good I Have It

Jake and I had a great day on Saturday. We went to a festival in Springfield, ate fried food and candied nuts, watched Netflix, and then walked around the park to make up for the calories we’d consumed. We had a pretty low key night ahead of us, when I checked my phone to see that Catherine, Laura, and Gail were calling me out for a night on Catherine’s patio. I’d promised I’d come, even last minute, if they sent me the invite and Jake, in all his good ol’ boy charm, was game, especially since Gail’s Terry would be there, so he wouldn’t be the only cock in the hen house. Conveniently enough, we’d just been to the liquor store and were more than prepared for this BYOB with whiskey and coke and the small bottle of Strawberry Smirnoff I’d bought to mix with Fresca… only I’d forgotten the Fresca.

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I remember a great deal of the night. I remember Jake arguing politics with Catherine. I remember sitting in the grass with Laura, talking about her marriage. I remember making fish sticks when we got hungry drunk and walking around the block. I remember teasing Gail about her newfound veganism and Terry about their five year engagement. I remember playing on Catherine’s daughter’s swing set. I’m so glad I remember all of that, because I had a great time… until I didn’t.

You see, I also remember judging my shots without a glass and drinking straight from the bottle. I remember wondering why I wasn’t feeling it more. I remember feeling good and drunk and then thinking I really didn’t want to be any more drunk, but that I didn’t have to worry, because the bottle was empty anyway. I remember Laura realizing this and making me stick my finger down my throat… Jake trying to carry me inside, after Laura’s failed attempts to rouse me… and throwing up. I remember that last one the most. The rest of the night was just a blur of pain and humiliation… and apologies, because y’all, I am a grown ass woman. I have no idea what I was thinking. I haven’t even been close to that drunk since the summer of 2011, when Gail, Malik, and I decided to mix shrimp and peach vodka to celebrate my new apartment. Even then, I had an excuse in the fact that I’d lost about 60 pounds and had no concept of my new tolerance. I’m 29, not 19. I don’t even get drunk enough to be hungover anymore, let alone lose the ability to stand or speak. I’m not that girl. I chase chick beers with water and ibuprofen, not vodka with vodka… and thank goodness Jake and my friends know that…

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… because through all the misery and mortification, what I remember most clearly was Jake and Laura working to get me inside and clean up any mess in Catherine’s house, all while assuring me that I didn’t have to apologize and it was okay, that I’d be okay, because losing that kind of control is terrifying. Ashamed, I begged them not to laugh at me or tease me. Laura spoke in motherly tones while cleaning up vomit. As I dry-heaved, Jake held my hair, rubbed my back, and told me over and over again that I didn’t have to be sorry or embarrassed, because he’d done far worse. The two of them sat in the kitchen sharing their own cringe-worthy drinking tales as I fell asleep on Catherine’s couch.

I woke a few hours later to find Jake in the kitchen and told him I wanted to go home. After 30 minutes of gathering my stuff, we headed out, before Catherine, Gail, or Terry woke to witness my shame. Jake helped me up the stairs and onto the couch, where he was once again unbearably sweet to me as I recovered from just that short trek.

Me: “I’m so sorry. Thank you for being so nice to me.”
Jake: “You don’t have to be sorry.”
Me: “Will you be nice to me tomorrow, when I don’t feel good?”
Jake: “I will always be nice to you.”

Still drunk, I showered and changed as sunlight filtered through the window.

Me: “I’m so sorry. Are you going to break up with me?”
Jake: “I wouldn’t dream of breaking up with you.”

That afternoon, Jake came into the living room to find me with a throw-up bowl in my lap, texting Laura a thank you.

Jake: “How are you feeling?”
Me: “Bad.”
Jake: “Well, the good news is, you don’t have to worry about how many calories you ate, yesterday.”
Me: “I’m embarrassed.”
Jake: “Oh, I’ve been much more embarrassed. Do you remember what you drank to make you so sick?”
Me: “All of the vodka.”
Jake: “Were you just drinking straight from the bottle? Did you think you were a saloon owner in an old western?”

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There is no way I would’ve had more than a fourth shot, had I been using a shot glass, let alone a sixteenth.

Gail texted to ask what time I’d left that morning and I realized that Laura hadn’t told anyone about the events of the previous night. She’d kept my humiliation private. Jake spent the rest of the day watching Harry Potter with me and taking brief breaks to check on the Cowboys game, as I failed to keep down pretzel sticks and water… and wondered how I got so lucky to have such amazing people in my life. Those two are both getting homemade peanut brittle this weekend.

Being Single is Hard

I’m not single and I haven’t been for quite some time. I met Jake last June and I wouldn’t have called myself single past August or so. As Jake and I move closer and closer to marriage, shopping for rings and spending more and more nights together, though, I’m starting to realize how much harder it was when it was always just me.

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I’ve shared, previously, the number of blogs, articles, and comments I’ve come across on the difficulty of marriage, which are usually followed by new parents telling me I ain’t seen nothin’ yet. I have a lot of friends who have been sharing this article on the difficulty of parenting on Facebook and I applaud the author for choosing not to discuss how easy everyone else has it… because that’s all I ever hear about being young and on your own. I don’t know if everyone is simply looking at their past through rose colored glasses or if young, single people feel pressured to insist that their lives are fulfilling in every way, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually heard or read a discussion on how truly difficult it can be to be alone.

Now, I’m certainly not pitying those enjoying the single life and the freedom that comes with it. I had a great time going to movies alone and enjoyed many all night Vampire Diaries marathons over the sound of a whirring sewing machine, when I was single. When Jake visits his parents or goes to Wellston for a few days, I even try to remind myself to enjoy the last chances I’m going to get to be, well… a little bit single. It’s a great time… but it’s also a tough one and no one ever gives anyone credit for the strength it can take…

… to be the sole earner.

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As a single woman with an advanced degree, my entire adult life has been something of a financial struggle. In college, I was married to a man who refused to work, so perhaps I had a skewed view, but everyone remembers those years as the Age of Ramen. After I received my bachelor’s degree, however, that stage had already ended for most of my classmates and not because they got jobs, but because they got married.

As I entered graduate school, more and more of my high school acquaintances were choosing to stay home with their babies. These women posted funny YouTube videos about how their friends without children knew nothing of responsibility as I worked 13 hour days and came home to finish a research paper while eating off brand spaghetti rings, because who am I, the Queen? I still don’t buy the name brand. I paid for everything on my own, from my rent, electric bill, and groceries, to the rare nights out with Gail. Student loan payments, car trouble, chiropractor visits, that time my phone was stolen, my $70 asthma inhaler, trips to the vet… they all fell to me, while my peers showed off their new houses and $300 highchairs and longed for my stress free life.

As a successful young woman, I can’t discuss money when sharing my desire for marriage and family, without giving people the impression that I just want a man to take care of me. The women I’ve mentioned above had their own financial hardships. I understand that, I do, but they weren’t solely their burden or responsibility either. When you’re on your own, you’re the only one available to talk yourself out of that designer purse or that second drink, because you’re the only one funding the inevitable emergency. At the end of the month, it’s just you and whatever remains in your bank account. While this is a really great learning opportunity, it’s also really scary. It’s almost as scary…

… to be the sole everything else.

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American culture has grown strangely proud of poor time management skills, with everyone from stay-at-home-moms to childless professionals competing to see who can claim the least amount of free time. Never was this more apparent than when I rushed home from a substitute teaching job to take my dog outside, before heading to the library, where I worked circulation until 9:00. When I’d get home at 9:30, it was often to an apartment that looked like an F1 tornado had hit it.

When you’re living with another person, it’s easy to take for granted the things that get done with little to no effort on your part. When Jake and I are married, whoever gets home first will start dinner. If one of us has more free time in the week, we’ll help the other out by doing the laundry, vacuuming, or mowing the lawn. If the Internet goes wonky, there will be two people who could potentially take the morning off to wait for the service call, and two people to compensate for any lack of income that might cause.

When it was just me, every day, working two jobs, I was lucky if I had the energy to microwave dinner, let alone clean up the kitchen or do the laundry. Thank God I didn’t have a lawn. Two years ago, a day off of work to wait for a service call could ultimately have been the difference between being able to afford that Internet or not. Even something as simple as company has become a given, now that I’m in a relationship. It’s easy to forget all those times I ran to the drug store sick or went home after a bad day to an empty and lonely house, now that someone’s available to pick up the prescriptions and cuddle up to during bad Netflix movies. It’s almost as easy to forget how hard it is…

… to have to face the unknown solo, with a smile on your face.
Zetus lapetus, dating sucks. If there is one aspect of being a single twenty-something that none of us feel compelled to talk up, it’s dating and that’s because no one looks back on it fondly… unless they just didn’t do it for very long. I remember getting ready for what was unsurprisingly another dead end date, with Gail’s help, a few years ago. She told me how, although she loves Terry, she sometimes misses that feeling of anticipation and excitement. In hindsight, I’ll admit, there were times when it really was exciting. Toward the end, however, it was just… emotionally exhausting.

The entire time I dated, I felt like I wasn’t allowed to admit that the one thing I wanted more than anything was a loving husband and children. I didn’t want them immediately or solely, but it was a goal of mine to be well on my way by the time I was 30. For some reason, I was supposed to leave something so important up to “fate” or “timing,” while being told my career goals were only subject to effort… even though the former was dependent on how one random person felt about me and the latter hung on how several very specific people felt about me. As a result, not only was I terrified that I may never attain what mattered so much to me, but I felt like I wasn’t even allowed to discuss it, for the sake of all womankind.

Not every woman shares my priorities. Some focus more on career or travel or general life experiences, but most people want to eventually find someone to love and care for and with whom to make all the big life decisions. There was a time when making all of those decisions by myself was freeing. Eventually, however, what I yearned for was a little less uncertainty in the world, some assurance that I would eventually put down the roots I wanted with someone I wanted. In your twenties, there are a thousand unknowns in your existence and when finding someone is no longer one of them, you feel a little more grounded, because you’re not facing the other 999 alone.

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I look fondly on the time I spent single, because I made a genuine effort to enjoy it while I could. I had a great time thinking only about me and bettering myself and my career. My Gramma once commented on how exciting it must be to have my whole life ahead of me with all that freedom and all those decisions yet to be made. She was right. It was and still is very exciting. It’s also a lot to take on alone, because no matter how many amazing friends and family members you have, it’s not the same as being in a committed relationship. I don’t doubt that being newly married, having young children, or raising teenagers is stressful. I imagine every stage has its battles and tears. I just get really tired of hearing about how the post college, pre-marriage stage isn’t one of them… because going it alone is, quite often, really very hard. I hope I never forget that.

The Horrors of Being a Manager That No One Ever Shared

I hate being a manager.

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Before I became a supervisory librarian, I was confident that while official management might be an option several years from now, I wanted to spend some time as a librarian first. Managers can make damned good money, but they’re also the ones who have to deal with personnel issues, fill out paperwork when the police are called, and spend a crazy amount of time in meetings. While that wasn’t off the table entirely, I at least wanted the chance to get my feel for the challenges a librarian faces, before trading them in for new ones of a higher pay grade.

I’ve detailed previously how drastically my position has changed since I started in January. What was advertised as a librarian position with some supervisory duties has, quite literally, become the opposite. I am a manger first, a manager second, and a librarian if there’s time. Now, I’m not gonna lie. At the time, I was exhausted and disheartened by working as a half time librarian and substitute teaching when I’d had a master’s degree for two years. I can’t say with certainty that I wouldn’t have applied for the supervisory position, had I known what it would become… but I can say I’d have only had myself to blame when I realized just how much I hate being a manager… and all the horrors no one ever mentioned.

It’s Us against Them.
I always assumed my boss at the Westside Library didn’t join us for Taco Tuesday, because it would be awkward to mix business with pleasure. You can’t reprimand someone for using inappropriate language, if they’ve heard you use the phrase “bucket of cunts,” over a bottomless basket of tortilla chips. I felt for her, because she was the only manager at our branch and it looked really lonely from the outside. Now, I realize that she wasn’t lonely. She was just perpetually ready for battle.

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In my system, the circulation clerks and library pages are almost as quick to snarl when someone blames the group for the actions of an individual as they are to make sweeping generalizations about how “management doesn’t care/understand/listen.” People constantly air their grievances about how management is a clown that eats children and they do not make exceptions. While I’d hope none exist in my system, I’m certain there are supervisors looking out for number one, too busy stressing about their own duties to care about how anyone else is coping with theirs, maybe just mad with power. I’m just as certain that I’m not one of them.

The only thing I hate more than being a manager is the fact that I hate being a manager, because someone at every level of staff, from the library pages to the system director, has told me that they hope I have my own branch one day. I refuse to read management theory and put my employees in little boxes labeled by some arbitrary personality test, because I consider these no different than delineators such as gender, race, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation. Humans are complicated and we need to stop stereotyping them as a management technique. So, I read my employees and accommodate their individual work and communication styles. I address each and every concern. I champion my staff and they champion me… until they write about how much Management sucks… and it all feels like a wasted effort. No matter how hard I try, I’m still The Man and they still feel like cogs in the machine.

I’m rarely the one who can solve the problem.
Maybe they feel like cogs in the machine, because we’re all cogs in the machine. When someone brings a problem to my office, more often than not, I can’t actually solve it. If I’m lucky, I can set up some kind of committee and delegate tasks, helping the staff to feel involved in the decision making process, while simultaneously addressing the issue. If not, as with personnel issues, I can start doing paperwork. If I’m particularly unfortunate, the staff member causing problems won’t be under me and I can ask their manager to start doing paperwork… confidentially, of course, so I can’t actually clarify this with the person who brought the issue to my attention.

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Bigger picture problems are even less under my control, in the well-oiled machine that is a large library system. You’re upset that the dress code is more problematic for Black women, because they can’t wear head wraps? That’s a policy approved by the commission. You want an urban fiction section? That’s cataloging’s call, not mine. You want to move up, with the degree you received from an unaccredited institution? I’d recommend a smaller library system. You want direct answers from your immediate supervisor? I’d recommend a smaller library system. You want a fifteen thousand dollar pay cut? I’d recommend a smaller library system.

I’m the counselor from Freaks and Geeks.

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Before I became a manager, my Gramma would compare the title to babysitting. It drove her mad to supervise adults who couldn’t get to work on time or wear appropriate clothing or complete basic job tasks. That was in the seventies and eighties when efficiency and work ethic were emphasized. Now it’s all about “morale” and “empowerment” and I wish I could charge a quarter every time someone used either of those words. Years ago, Regina George ruled my library system and people’s livelihoods and careers were the casualties, so I’m not saying that I don’t agree that morale and empowerment are important… just that being responsible for them is exhausting.

I understand that change is hard for people, especially when they’ve been at the same branch, under the same management, for their entire careers, but I occasionally feel like I’m trying to motivate sullen teenagers… beyond my responsibility. There is a point when your unhappiness lies with you, not your manager. I can ask my employees about their lives and build strong work relationships. I can assign projects and tasks that will challenge them, pad their resumes, and make them feel valued. I can sit down with everyone for one-on-one meetings and truly listen to their concerns. If none of that works, though… I think our health insurance covers a few therapy sessions? I’m not being heartless here. I literally don’t know what to do about the level of discontent some of these people seem to feel!

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I never realized how miserable people in the library world could be, back when a good week wasn’t determined by the number of people crying in my office.

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A perfect week is defined as “just me.”

Call me self-absorbed, but when I was just a librarian, I rarely even knew what feuds were taking place and who was being called into the managers office for what infractions. I, quite literally, didn’t hear about some disputes for years and it… was… glorious! 

Now that I’m a manager, I’m involved in all of the drama and there is just so much of it. Even when my employees aren’t involved in a dispute, their workflow is directly effected, so it becomes my problem, when they come to my office and vent. Then, I have to alert the appropriate immediate supervisor, who gets upset over another personnel conflict, the terror that is addressing the issue directly… and I completely relate. Yet, if they don’t handle the problem satisfactorily, we have to involve our manager and there’s awkwardness between us. 

My worst day at the Northside Library, was the day I held a half naked drug addict until the ambulance arrived, while crying on the phone to the dispatcher. I’ve yet to top it, but the day I have to write up, or worse, fire anyone will be one of the worst days of my professional life. Most problem employees have legitimate struggles in their own lives and many of them are quite likable, personally. Their behavior is just unacceptable and unchangeable and a failure to respond is a discredit to other staff members and, in our case, the community at large. But… I just can’t sit and watch someone cry as I take their livelihood from them… and hopefully, I won’t have to, because I’ve officially set the balls in motion to move down. I suppose there is a silver lining: if I ever decide to be a larger cog in the machine again, I’ll truly be in the know.

Blogiversary and Last Birthday of My Twenties!

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It’s always easy to remember my blogiversary, because I started this blog on my 25th birthday. Today, I turn 29, which means I’ve hit something of a personal record in blogging. Not only have I been chronicling my life and personal soap boxes for four years, but I’ve done so consistently. I don’t think I’ve ever gone a full month without an update, even when I was working two jobs and going to grad school. Here’s hoping the anonymity I’ve employed allows me to do so for years to come and that I’ll have even more reason to celebrate each and every birthday, because I love birthdays. I don’t just mean my own, either. Nope. I’ve already chosen gifts for both Gail and Jake, each of whom I fully intend to celebrate with next month, despite the fact that the former finds birthdays only vaguely appealing and the latter insists that they’re downright juvenile. No one spends a birthday alone on my watch.

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My love of everyone’s birthday stems from the fact that my mother always did them up big, when I was a kid. Still, I always sort of assumed, that as I grew older, mine would lose their appeal, as everyone’s eventually do. I mean, my Facebook feed has been flooded with comments about how old we’re all getting since we were 24. I, myself, used the phrase “staring down the barrel of 30” just weeks before I hit 27, much to Gail’s horror. Surely, birthdays would lose their novelty in time.

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On the contrary, I have come to the very last birthday of my twenties and I could not be more excited about getting older… and this blog deserves much of the credit. For four years, I’ve been sharing every triumph, every failure, every heartache, and every cheesy lovey dovey thought with the 1,400 or so followers who subscribe to my blog. At times, I haven’t known if anyone but Gail was even reading, going off of likes and comments, but I’ve told the tale anyway, because I know one person who will always read and that’s Future Belle. I love to look back at the stories and thoughts I shared in a different time, as a different person. At 25, I never realized how much could change in four years, but here I am struggling to remember what it was like to be the single grad student rushing from one job to another, praying I’d have enough money to make it through the summer without substitute teaching. In another four years, I’m sure I’ll be looking back, wondering what it was like to go home to an empty apartment and have the entire evening to myself… and that’s just so exciting. 

At 16, if asked, I’d have predicted college, career, marriage, home ownership, and babies years ago, because that’s how it’s supposed to go in the South. Certainly, I wouldn’t have anticipated reentering the dating world after a divorce at 23, in tandem with starting graduate school. I wouldn’t have even guessed at the possibility of meeting the love of my life at 27 and still being unmarried at 29, let alone waiting until my 30’s to start a family. I’d have been horrified by what the timeline actually looks like.

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I have so many thrilling moments ahead of me, so much to accomplish and yet, so many achievements to boast. If my life has changed this much in the last four years, I can’t imagine how amazing it’ll be in the next four. Given the choice, I’d so much rather be 29 and where I am than 25 and where I was and I imagine I’ll say the same at 39. Being an adult, moving forward in life, just generally getting older is awesome!

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