Sentimental Spices and Soup Mixes

This August marks the 4-year anniversary of my Oma’s death. It’s weird because I still feel like she’s not really gone. I have to keep reminding myself: no, really, she’s dead. Been for a while now.

Eight years ago is when we started to face that we were going to lose her for good. For four years she went on a rollercoaster of “fine” to “at Death’s door, holding the knocker aloft” while my mom spent most of her life in Vancouver instead of Powell River, sleeping in the car, on the recliner, leaving Major, the dog, with me or taking him with her and keeping him on the down-low as much as she could, just so she could take care of her apparently dying mother. Doctors did nothing, instead prescribing so many conflicting medications it’s honestly a miracle they didn’t poison Oma to death. “It’s just diabetes symptoms,” they’d say, as we spent another week getting ready for her passing. It took those four years for her to finally get a diagnosis, in the summer of 2010: leukemia.

By then, it was hospice time. Oma spent the last weeks of her life at Crossroads Hospice in Coquitlam, finally happy because she could actually ask for pain medication and receive it without being treated like a junkie. (No, really, they treat everyone looking for pain meds like junkies, even 90-something little old ladies who are obviously in so much pain they can barely walk into the doctor’s office.) Mom and Opa spent the last days with Oma — I was in Powell River holding down the fort.

When it happened I got the call a little before 8pm. I had to scramble to find a way down to Vancouver by the next day so I could see Oma’s body before they cremated it. I needed that closure, which mom understood, so she had them hold on till I got there. I had to catch a ferry to the Island, drive down to Nanaimo, spend the night on a couch at the place I’d be living come September, and then get up as early as possible the next day to catch the first ferry over to Vancouver. I was sleep deprived and empty inside. I couldn’t feel any grief. I couldn’t feel anything.

I’d been taken to this threshold so many times but never brought over till that moment. All my grieving was bottled up inside me and it felt like it could never come out — like I’d shoved the cork in so tight, so many times, that I was stuck with no release.

It still feels that way, though I am slowly releasing the grief. It comes out in little bits, every so often. That first year I would randomly cry a lot. I don’t so much anymore. I still have to search for ways to let go of her, little by little. I still am aching to find closure, pushing my shoulder against an old wooden door that sticks on the stones, creaks with every movement, giving centimeter by centimeter over more time than I want to give.

June the 6th, after spending an all-nighter on a Pinterest binge of boards dedicated to DIY, organization, and unfucking one’s habitat, I decided to finally deal with the table of spices and soup mixes and gods know what else in my kitchen. All stuff I’d brought over from Oma’s old place, where it had sat since well before she’d died. Stuff she’d bought (or mom had bought for her). Groentesoep packages — what use did I have for vegetable soup with directions all in a language I can barely decipher on a good day? Why had I kept this stuff so long? I should have thrown it out when I first moved into Oma’s old place.

Easy answer there: sentiment. I couldn’t get rid of the various packages of Knorr soup, bouillon, soup mixes bought at the Holland Shop, or expired spices because they had belonged to Oma. They were evidence that she once kept a thriving kitchen, eight years or more ago. They were evidence of my childhood spent in that kitchen, making things with her, whether actual edible food or a soup made from almond soap (I was maybe 6 okay — it smelled good).

These things were evidence of a lifetime spent at Oma’s house, eating dinner with her — they were evidence that she’d been there. And if I threw them out, I was closing the door a little bit more. Letting out some more grief. I wasn’t ready to do that.

Until twelve days ago.

I released the grief that was stuck in those soup packets and spice bottles. I’m not sure how I feel right now, but it’s better than empty.

-Katje

I’m an aunt!

Yesterday Mr. Katje’s sister had her first child, and he and I are now officially uncle and aunt. I’m looking forward to being Cool Aunt Katje who introduces the little tadpole to Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, and all the other myriad fandoms of which I am part. I’m sure Mr. Katje will help me in the engeekifying of our nibling, especially as it comes to Magic the Gathering and other incredibly dorky pursuits (because nibling must be adorkable as well as adorable). We’ve already bought the kid a Batman costume. Because always be yourself — unless you can be Batman. Then, always be Batman.

I haven’t yet met the nibling in person, but from hir pictures ze looks a bit like a gnome. Which makes the gnome hat I’m knitting much more appropriate.

We’ll probably head over for a visit this weekend.

That’s all. I’m an aunt. Mr. Katje is an uncle. It’s pretty cool.

-Katje

When a Parent Becomes a Terrorist

Trigger warning: abuse, stalking, disordered eating, self-harm

Abuse is like terrorism. It is terrorism. When you’ve suffered abuse, you can spend years living in fear that it — that your abuser — will come back.

I cut my father out of my life on my 26th birthday. I’d tried for years to have some sort of relationship with him, but every time we got off the phone I wanted to binge-eat again. Every time he dropped by unexpectedly, I spent the next several hours double- and triple-checking the door locks, my heart threatening to pound itself out of my chest.

I’d spent my childhood afraid of him, and when I became a teenager that fear didn’t go away — it just became tempered with rage. When I entered college, I tried to let go of the rage. For a while I fooled myself into thinking I had.

I hadn’t. I’d just masked it; convinced myself my relationship with my father was good now. Never mind that no matter what I did, nothing was ever good enough for him. Never mind that every visit, every talk, every email exchange with him was full of venomous barbs, the same verbal abuse that had kept me down since I was a baby.

(You think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. He started his verbal abuse the day I was born — and never stopped reminding me of exactly what he’d said, because it was hilarious to him.)

I’ve spent most of my life thinking I’m ugly, stupid, smelly, a waste of space, a worthless daughter, a mistake (his word, not mine). I was hammered with those beliefs falling from his lips like the word of god.

He was always angry. You never knew what would set him off. To be near him meant walking on eggshells. Something might be a lighthearted joke one day but would have him shaking me and screaming in my face the next. His temper was completely unpredictable.

He was worse when he drank scotch, which mercifully happened not that often. But I knew, if that amber liquid was in his cup, to keep my mouth shut and avoid him until he’d slept it off.

During the separation, the endless divorce, I began to fear he’d murder my mom. I started doing anything I could to keep him happy — because I believed if he was happy with me, he’d leave her alone. Of course, keeping him happy never worked; I never knew what, exactly, would keep his mood level, and I have a deep rebellious streak that I cannot seem to tame no matter what I do. I’d always slip up, and he’d be angry again.

I’ve lived with the fear that he’d kill my mom for almost twenty years now. He hates her, though she never did anything to him.

He thinks she stole me; he thinks she brainwashed me to hate him. She didn’t. She didn’t need to — I needed no help in cultivating an unhealthy-to-me amount of hate for the dude who donated the sperm to make me.

The night before my 26th birthday I got a letter from him in the mail. It was full of more abusive statements. It left me in tears on the floor of my bedroom.

Then, in the perfect clarity that comes when you’ve cried out all the moisture in your body and you’re sure you’re going to die from the pain in your heart and you transcend that into a perfect numbness, I realized it was time. I had to let him go. I had to cut him out of my life.

I’m sure he thinks he loves me, but that’s not good enough. His “love” is toxic and abusive. His “affection” puts a shard of ice in my heart, encases me in fear.

After I cut him off — sending him an email telling him I never wanted to speak to him again, never wanted to hear from him, that he was effectively dead to me — he spent a year stalking me online, asking my sister (his other daughter) to get me to talk to him, sending me messages on Facebook and via email.

I, of course, felt terrible — I’d been well-groomed by him.

People wonder why others don’t leave abusive relationships, whether those relationships are romantic or familial or platonic. “It can’t be that bad if she won’t leave him,” people will say. Or, “She’s obviously abusive; why won’t he go? Why won’t he help himself? I guess he’s weak and stupid.”

The people who wonder this have never suffered abuse. If they had, they would know the answer as to why people don’t go, and they would know it has nothing to do with being weak or stupid, or the abuse “not being that bad”.

Abusers know what they’re doing (on some level; not necessarily consciously). They’ve done it before. They’ve picked up their skills either from practice, or from having it done to them.

Abusers also often come from an abusive background. This is why it’s called the cycle of abuse — people repeat roles that played out earlier in their lives.

Part of the abuse cycle is grooming. Grooming is what makes it possible for people who say “I’d never be with someone who abuses me; I’d get out right away” to find themselves trapped in a long, abusive relationship.

Because abusers never start out as terrorists. They start out funny and charming and smart. A bit into the relationship, you might notice a bit of a temper, but that’s normal, right? Everyone gets road rage from time to time–the food at that restaurant was really bad. Besides, they made up for it right away. They apologized for yelling. They brought flowers.

Then you notice that the temper gets lost more often and the time between it and the flowers or reconciliation becomes longer. Yet the time never takes too long, always coming just when you think you might have had enough. Then you think to yourself, “No, I am really loved. People sometimes just get mad.”

It’s a process, grooming is. They get you used to a cycle of behaviour wherein they abuse you and then they apologize. By the time the really bad stuff starts — the stuff that anyone would look at and say, “That’s abuse” — you’re already tightly ensnared in the web.

My father groomed me for years. I’d get the abuse, and then I’d get a reward for suffering it. I began to believe the rewards were proof he loved me, and the abuse was just his clumsy way of expressing his love.

Even if that’s true, it’s no way to live.

So I felt bad after I cut him out, because the rewards had trained me well — always to think about him, about what I was doing to him, about what a bad daughter I was.

I kept the inner voice telling me I should let him back into my life at bay, and held out for a year.

Around my 27th birthday, I decided to give him one last chance. It would not be without conditions.

I wrote out a lengthy letter, outlining the conditions I expected him to meet if we were to have any sort of father-daughter relationship again. I was very, very clear, resolutely firm on my boundaries (which were very narrow — they must be, with him: he will take any widening of boundaries as a sign of weakness, inviting a fresh invasion).

He responded with a message that broke several of the conditions outright.

That did it. I was satisfied, finally, that I had done everything I possibly could have to save the relationship, to save him. I was able to put that part of myself, the part that whispered in my ear But you’re not giving him a fair chance! to sleep. A deep sleep from which it will never wake up.

I gave him more than enough chances. I gave him more chances than he deserved. Him, the man who doesn’t believe in giving people second chances, because “Screw me once, never again!”

(Everyone is out to screw him. He is paranoid and delusional.)

He didn’t stop stalking me. Sent me a message around Christmas. Tried to friend my best friend to stalk me via her profile.

A while ago, my mom was sleeping in the other room and I was just dozing off. She had a nightmare and screamed out in the night. I woke up in a tearing hurry, convinced I’d find my father standing over her and the dog, a smoking gun in his hands. He’s done it–he’s finally done it–he’s killed her and now I’ll kill him ran through my tired, fear-soaked brain.

Of course, Mom was fine. The dog hadn’t even stirred, which tells me there was no real danger — he’s pretty good at distinguishing. His nose would have alerted him to a stranger far before my mom would have shouted in fear.

But this is the terror I live with, every day.

My father knows where I live.* He says he doesn’t, because he’s a liar, but the place I live has been part of my mother’s family for over twenty years. I spent most of my childhood here, visiting my Oma. He knows where it is.

In late January, I started receiving calls from the intercom downstairs — you can tell it’s from there because of the double-ring. The messages were silent (if I’m not expecting anyone, I wait for it to go to message so I can see who it is before I answer — this is part of the terror). They came every day at the same time.

I was scared to leave my house. Coming up from the car with a load of stuff, I would be on hyper alert, waiting to hear my father’s voice down the hallway, and ready to bolt back to the car if I did, tearing out of there in an effort to escape to anywhere else. I was convinced he was waiting downstairs to charm someone into letting him in, just as he used to do in the bad old days in the throes of divorce.

It turns out the calls weren’t from him but I lived in terror for weeks, afraid he’d come by for a “visit”, to “talk” to me about “this silly silent treatment”.

It’s much easier to keep at bay those voices in my head that live by virtue of the grooming I’ve received when he’s not physically near me. Faced with him in real life, I don’t know what I’d do. Cry, likely. Scream, probably. Attack him? Maybe. Tell him I was wrong (when I wasn’t) and let his toxins seep back into my life (which would eventually kill me)? Definitely possible.

This is what abuse does. It turns life into a battle against terror. Every day, until the day he dies, I will fear him. that he will come back to hurt me again, to kill my mom — to finish the job he started when I was a child, to destroy me completely.

My father is a terrorist. I am always on red alert.

~~

*I am in the process of moving, but I am not fully out of my old place. Midpoint next week I will be settled in my new house, the location of which he is ignorant. I will finally feel safe in my living space again.

Ragnarok, day 2

Ragnarok, day 2

It is still snowing like whoa over here. Stopped briefly yesterday in the late afternoon/early evening, but when I woke up this morning it was back in full force.

The world is ending covered in water. Fenrir has eaten the sun. ARISE JORMUNGAND.

Anyway. Today is my rest day after surgery — yes, my surgery was Wednesday, but I’ve been busy every day since. Probably been overdoing it a bit. I promised myself I’d spend today resting, possibly sleeping a lot.

I’m still in a considerable amount of pain, though it is nowhere near the amount of pain I was in when the teeth were still occupying my jaws. This pain is a healing pain, and it is annoying and slow to go away, but I can be patient and deal. I am now eating semi-solid foods, like omelettes and quiche and such, which does quite a bit to improve my mood.

Tomorrow I’m planning on posting something very revealing about my childhood/upbringing and being a survivor of abuse. It was an article I found very hard to write; I’ve been sitting on it for a few weeks while I decided if I had the strength to share it. I finally decided I do have the strength to share it, so it will be going up tomorrow.

Please note if the comments turn abusive I will turn them off. I might have the spoons to share my story, but I am not required to weather the sadism of trolls, nor am I required to weather people who will come to the defense of my abuser. (Yes, there are people who defend my abuser(s). Because abusers aren’t abusive to everyone; if they were they would not have any licence to operate, and they do.)

If you find these topics difficult to read about or triggering, you may want to skip reading the blog tomorrow.

Hope everyone has a great end to their weekend, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

-Katje

I was supposed to be travelling today

But I slept until 3pm, so that did not happen. (Too late to catch a ferry and actually make it home today.)

I don’t have much to write about today, and I’m very tired with packing up the car. So here’s another picture of my dog, being cute. (He’s upset, because he knows I’m leaving, so he’s curling up on my bed and looking cute in an effort to make me stay.)

Big bed wolf!
Behold, the big bed wolf!

The best Christmas gift ever

My mom always outdoes everyone else with her gifts to me. That’s fair; she’s known me longest and arguably knows me best. She always manages to get amazing presents that I absolutely adore.

This year was no exception.

We exchanged gifts on Sunday, the 5th — the second last night of Christmas, technically. My gifts to her were a huge hit, which made me happy as I didn’t have much to give her this year. Her gifts started out awesome and got steadily better.

There were a LOT of presents from her so I won’t share them all here with you, but I will share the four best gifts. (There are pics of the last two; I was going to take pictures of the others today but I was really busy and ran out of time.)

First, there were cookie cutters.

I love baking, and I don’t have any cookie cutters (apparently). I thought I did, but I discovered while burning the gingerbread cookies of doom last month that I don’t. Mom got me a set of Christmas-themed cookie cutters so I can now make Christmas cookies every year! (And when I get back; Ogre and I still have some gingerbread and sugar cookie dough we need to bake.)

Then — Crystal Head vodka with two skull-shaped glasses. This is amazing, and I don’t even care that the vodka itself doesn’t taste that great. I can now pretend I’m drinking out of the skulls of my enemies. That is the best thing ever oh my gods.

Wolves on an apron! HOW AWESOME IS THAT
Wolves on an apron! HOW AWESOME IS THAT

Third, to add to the cooking theme of the gifts, she got me an apron. Not just any apron — one custom made for me, with pockets, and designed with wolves. She has a matching one in a smaller size. I finally have an apron that actually fits! Huzzah! And wolves, guys. I love wolves.

Fourth…the pièce de résistance. This thing…holy hell. I was so excited over this gift I nearly wet myself.

A SLOW COOKER
A SLOW COOKER

That’s right. Mom got me a 6.5 QT Electric Slow Cooker. An All-Clad.

I have been jonesing for a slow cooker for ages. I want to learn to make delicious meals in it so that when Ogre and I live together he can come home and scoop dinner out of it and I don’t have to mess up my sleep schedule to make sure he eats right. Feeding my family is important to me. (And let’s face it, feeding me is important to me too.)

It comes with a recipe book that I’ve flipped through a little bit. The things in it look DELICIOUS.

I am so excited to get home and start using this thing.

How on earth did my mom manage to score this thing when we’re hurting financially? It was on sale at her local grocery store, where she had half a million points. She waited until the slow-cooker dropped in price and then went in and used all her points to snatch it up for me.

That’s right. She spent all her hard-earned points on getting me the best Christmas gift ever.

Bottom line? My mom is the best in the world.

A reminder to myself that forming good habits is always harder than I hope it will be

I broke the chain. I didn’t write yesterday.

I thought I might have some energy to pound out 411 words when I got to my mom’s place — perhaps not in blogging, but in something countable at least. A short bit of crappy fiction, a poem about my day, or a blog post for Monday morning that I could edit when I woke up. Maybe I’d even reach 750 words!

This did not happen. Yesterday was a day full of travel and it was a pretty shitty day on top of that. My car was too full for me to nap in the back seat on the ferry rides, as I usually do, so I was awake the full trip. By the time I reached my mom’s house, I’d been up for 13 hours. My brain was fried. I was ready to sleep right then but I forced myself to stay up, because I knew if I went to bed too early I’d wake up at 2am and be unable to get back to sleep.

Something similar had already happened on Sunday, even though I’d gone to bed late. I woke up at 4:30 and couldn’t seem to get back into slumber, to wake up when my alarm was set (6:30). I sighed and got out of bed and started to finish doing the laundry. I thought, briefly to myself, that maybe I should sit down and write my 411 words right then. I decided against it, thinking laundry and packing the car were higher priorities.

The thing is, I was only half right. Packing the car was a higher priority if I wanted to make a morning ferry, but I had 2 extra hours during which I mainly folded and hung up clothes. That wasn’t a priority — I didn’t get the house as clean as I was planning, so a little bit of extra mess in the form of clean clothes sitting on the couch wouldn’t really matter, in the long run. I could have stopped at sorting and then sat down to do my words.

I let my brain get the better of me in convincing me I didn’t need to do my daily words just then, and I ended up with a wordless day.

I suppose I could have sat down when I got to mom’s place and pounded out 750 words of nonsense on 750words.com, getting my count in and not breaking the streak, the chain. But that’s not the point of writing every day.

The point is to write something of substance. If the point were to just get the streak badges on 750words, or to pad my yearly wordcount, then I could just copy past several paragraphs of Lorem Ipsum and call it a day.

The point is to form a daily writing habit. 750words.com, Don’t Break the Chain, Get Your Words Out, Inking It Out, the spreadsheets those communities provide — these are tools to keep me on track. They are not the habit itself. The habit comes from me; the discipline comes from my own head — the part that’s not trying to constantly sabotage anything good in my life.

I let the saboteur win yesterday, and I regret it. I’m not repeating that mistake. Let January 5th, 2014, be the only day this year where I do not sit down to write something.

Every day, in every way…

I feel as if I’m simultaneously taking on too much and not enough at the same time. It’s an odd sensation.

On the one hand, I’ve been incredibly productive since the year began. On the other, I’ve noticed my tendency to get distracted is in full swing. Often I need to hit a point that’s just below overwhelm to actually accomplish things; if I have too little to do, I procrastinate, and if I have too much, I escape from the stress by doing anything except what I’m supposed to.

I cleared up some necessary things in the first few days of the year, striking them off my to-do list. Right now I’m looking at trying to finish cleaning my house so I can go visit my mom in Powell River. Yes, it needs to be spotless before I leave. Is it? Not remotely.

I worked as hard as I could yesterday doing this, as well as several other necessary things. (For example, writing every day — while a pleasure for me — is a necessary item. I view it as something I may not skip out on. Thus, I sat down to start a story and maybe write 750 words yesterday, and ended up penning just over 3,000. This morning I finished the story with another 1,144. It’s fantastic that I’m going so far over my word count goal, putting me far ahead of my current YTD goal for both Get Your Words Out and Inking It Out, but I need to reel it in a bit — if I expend too much of my momentum in one day, I often think to myself I can skip the next day. The point is to build up a steady habit of writing, not continue in the cycle of boom and bust.)

I think I’m just way too tired, physically, today. When I woke up this morning I could barely make it to the kitchen to get the coffee I so obviously needed. And my body did that thing it likes to do, again, where I went to bed at 10 pm so it woke me up at 3am for no particular reason. Luckily I was able to fall asleep again, but I slept in — instead of waking up at 5:30, I woke up at 6:45.

So I’m working on cleaning as fast as I can, but trying not to overtax myself. I’m having a big breakfast and moving as my back allows. I still have hopes of leaving by noon, which will put me at my mom’s place sometime in the early evening, depending on the ferry.

Here’s to continuing productivity, even if I would have rather stayed in bed a bit longer. Every day in every way, I chip away at my undisciplined self, reaching the productive adult I know lies somewhere within. Deep, deep within.