Earthy, With Hints of Floral

Last night, we had my favorite agnolotti (which is prissy for ravioli) for dinner. It's nothing too exceptional; just some frozen thing you can pick up at any old King or Queen Soopers for like $5.99 a package, but it's really good. It's filled with a blend of ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, Romano, and the very final moments of my marriage. 

For the first 16 years of our life together, he'd been home for dinner, on average, one night a week. I'd never been able to cook dinners that included him, and I'd never had help getting the kids settled for the night, because that's just not how the restaurant industry, or addiction, works. We wives and children to chefs and GMs are widowed and orphaned by Open Table. Add vodka and wine to that equation, and we were lucky to see him at all from Tuesday morning through Sunday night.

The new job he had taken in 2011 had him home for dinner three or four evenings a week, which was new for us - and quite nice in a normal-life sort of way. It wasn't very good in the hide-the-drinking-while-the-family-sleeps sort of way, which - as these things are wont to do - caught up with us with a vengeance eventually. 

The thing with co-dependency is that we want to believe so badly that we will twist and warp reality to make it believable to us no matter what pesky facts lie in our way. He had more late tables than any GM in the history of restaurant management, his drawers would never, ever balance, he'd have to work on national and corporate holidays when no one else is the entire company of hundreds was working, the makeup bags under my seat of the car were left by thieves digging through the car looking for change or ironic Robyn Hitchcock cassettes - and I'd find some way to believe it, always.  

I'm still not sure if I believed it because I didn't want to face the reality of what he was doing to himself and by proxy me and my children, or if I didn't want to face him when and if I called him on it. I'm still not sure it actually matters. 

So when he started working mornings, when he started coming home to us at night, I found a way to believe that we'd found the answer to our prayers. He was with us during the one time he could drink himself stupid; ergo, he couldn't drink himself stupid anymore. That's called science, bitches. It's logic. I beliiiiiiiiieeeeeved it. 

And I had hope. For him, for us, for my children, for his insane dog, for all of it. There was hope for the first time in a very long time. 

Because that's how addiction to addicts works. 

So this one night - after almost a full year of pure hell in which I had watched, listened, and smelled him nearly kill himself with vodka, watched my kids realize for the first time that their father had a problem, saw him physically hurt one of our children while he was drunk, saw him repeatedly emotionally hurt another child, dodged fists that went through doors instead of my face, asked for divorce, was denied a divorce, endured his long bouts of depression followed by long bouts of rage, given up all hope of saving him or leaving him - after all of that he got this job that made him feel useful and challenged amd secure again, one that had him home with his family more nights than not almost like a normal person, one that I convinced myself could keep him from drinking even though it was a wine bar and he had every key to it, and this one night I decided to bury the hachet, be a nice human being, make him a nice dinner, wear something cute, and welcome him home like I always imagined wives welcomed their husbands home at the end of a long day in a world that I didn't live in, but wanted to. 

So I made this dinner he'd never had before, this agnolotti (which is prissy for ravioli), and a big old salad that had all of his favorite salady-type-things in it. I put on a skirt and my nice makeup. I straightened my hair. I dabbed some perfume on. Then I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And he never came home

He never came home because if he couldn't drink at night, he was going to drink during the day, dammit, and drinking during the day means drinking during work and drinking during work at a wine bar means blacking out at 11am and not remembering anything until 7pm that night, across town, with no idea how you got there, were your car is, or how you are going to fix this. 

Because you can't fix this. Because this is your rock bottom. And it is mine, too. 

I sat on my corduroy double-wide arm chair that I loved more than just about any other earthly possession, the one I had to leave behind when we made our abrupt exodus from Texas because we didn't have enough money to rent a truck big enough to bring it, or any of my living room furniture that, I was told, was "just stuff" I "need to let go of". I sat on that chair under the warm orange glow of the table lamp I also don't own anymore and most of everything inside of me died.

It's funny how quickly fear gives way to anger, then humiliation, then resignation. 

By the time he came in the door, without a car or a job, I had already put all the children to bed sweetly and calmly, I had already cleared the table of his wilted salad and hardened pasta, and I had changed out of my skirt and sweater into the oversized sweats that had room enough in them for me and the waves of alternating panic and rage and sadness ebbing inside of me. It was over; the dream I had clutched in the palm of my foolishly-determined fist all those 16 years was finally over, and I'd finally, with finality, let it go.

He has no idea what happened to either one of us that night. I've never spoken of the details of that night with him, or with anyone for that matter. He never found the car he lost that night, and he never found the job he lost that night, and I never found the person I lost that night, the one inside of me that was willing, always, to give one last chance, to find one last reason to believe in him, in us, in that reality. 

On January 25th of this year, I made that same dinner again for the first time since that night, this time just for me and my children. I wore a skirt, I put on some makeup, I dabbed on some perfume, and I quietly counted the distance between that place I was a year ago and the reality I ended up living, 365 days later. 

Now we have it again on the seim-regular dinner rotation. It still tastes a bit like brown corduroy and grace, which will always be a bittersweet thing to swallow, but I think I am finally at the place where I like the taste of what is done, and what is becoming because of it. 

Nachos, Eventually

I watch Superbowl for the food. 

Since 1996, I have lived with a man who will watch anything so long as it's A) on TV and B) involves at least one ball. I have endured bonded with him over more rubgy, football, golf, billiards, cricket, futball, bowling, hockey, ping pong, Klootschieten, baseball, basketball, and Tour De France than any woman should ever be asked to. 

I'm not actually with that man today, or any other day anymore, but I'm still "watching" the Superbowl, because it's important. Why it's such a big deal I may never really get, but I appreciate it for what it means to us as, like, Americans or something? I don't know. Maybe it's the closest we can get to shoving gladiators into amphitheaters with lions and tigers and inmates, or maybe it's just because dudes get to be unapologetic dudes for one whole day. Whatever it is, it matters to us, and I support it.

From the kitchen. 

Today, actually, I am supporting it from the bar of a hotel in San Francisco while eating what can only be described as the worst mussels the world has ever known, or ever will know, and chasing them with chocolate everything while a woman who has amazing for 1992 hair screams at the bar TV like she has any clue what's happening on it aside from muscular men in latex and HD.

I actually look forward to making food for Superbowl Sunday every year because it gives me an excuse to hide in the kitchen and not have to watch 10 minutes of action! packed! excitement! crammed into four hours Superbowl is something of an event, and events are special, and special means I get to show people I love them, and I show people I love them with sauté pans, and that explains The State of My Hind Quarters. But this year I don't even get to make my grapes with onion dip because it's their dad's day to have them and I'm on a business trip. 

Not one to be bogged down with pesky details, I got my Superbowl food fix in, just a wee bit early. 

Gratuitous and totally unrelated product plug, simply because it's true aside: That gooey mess of a picture was taken on this damn HTC Windows 8 phone that against all my better judgement and hipster-reason I am coming to love. #Troop8X #HTC8 #shutup

I made those nachos the night my new babysitter was supposed to come over and learn the layout of my house and how to properly feed and water my precious whittle puppay, but she had to reschedule because uterus and so we were left alone, just the four of us, with a tray the size of the Strait of Gibraltar full of that nonsense.

Worse things have happened. 

And the whole entire point of this post was how to make a tray the size of the Strait of Gibraltar full of that nonsense but it takes me a while to get to the point because shut up. Here's the recipe:

 

  • Brush a few (let's say three) chicken breasts with olive oil, a bit of taco seasoning, and some Emeril's Essence Creole seasoning (or whatever spicy mix you like), bake them until they're just done and chop them up into not-sissy-sized cubes.
  • Take a really big serving tray, like, say, the one you serve your en-tire Christmas dinner on. Smear a whole bunch of heated refried beans onto the tray. 
  • Dump your favorite kind-of-thickish tortilla chips onto the tray, smooching them into the beans so they'll stand up a little bit (don't use those fancy super-thin white chips, they won't hold what's coming next) (for this, I usually use Mission tortilla chips) 
  • Sprinkle your not-sissy-sized chicken chunks all over the chips, making sure most fall in-between the chips.
  • Do the same with a mess-a black beans, rinsed and drained.
  • Pour your favorite chili verde over all of that (or half of that, if you have little kids who will keel you when they see that you've ruined nacho night with *flavour*
  • (If you through a pork butt in a crock pot with some water and big ol green chilis and some seasonings for about 8 hours, you will have your own chili verde. If you don't want to do all of that, Safeway makes a pretty decent chicken green chili which they sell in their fresh soup section near the deli.)
  • Dump all of the cheese on top.
  • Bake until you can't stand it anymore.
  • Eat. All by yourself. After the kids go to bed. No one is judging you.
  • Live long and prosper.

Cherry is the Best Flavor of Metaphor

I love Twizzlers. I LOVE Twizzlers. they are the perfect (for me) candy. They are not too sweet, not sour, not bitter, they don't taste like chemicals, they don't leave grainy or gritty or sticky residue in your mouth. They're versatile: you can untangle them or chop them into little pieces or suck on them until they melt or nomnomnom a whole bag in one sitting. They're great for movies because they last a while and they don't melt all over your hands. You can use them as a straw if you have 7-up and some time. (Do not try this with milk; trust me on that one.) They don't get too terribly stuck in your teeth. They're delicious. 

I love Twizzlers. I LOVE TWIZZLERS. And I can never eat one again, for as long as I shall live. 

The moment I eat a Twizzler I will be on the floor having something close to a seizure. You see, there is something in Twizzlers that just doesn't work with my body. I'm allergic to red food coloring and there is not a single thing I can do about it. I can love Twizzlers with all my heart and it doesn't matter. They hurt me, every stinking time I try, no matter what I do to prevent it.

They can't help it, either; they are who they are and I am who I am and we simply don't work. 

I ate them for a long time anyway, because the pain was worth it. Eventually the pain stopped being worth it. Eventually they were the bell and I was the dog - every time I saw them my head started to hurt, my body clenched up, and I braced for what was coming. Now I don't try anymore. Now I keep my distance and simply remember how much I loved them, once upon a time.

Sometimes if my kids leave a pack laying around, I'll pick it up and take a long, deep inhale. I love the smell of them still. Enough time and distance has made me able to enjoy, nigh savour, the smell of them and every happy childhood memory that smell brings back for me. (Except that milk bit. *shiver*) Sometimes when I'm having a weak moment, I want to lick one of them, just to test the waters and see if maybe, this time, after all this time...but I know what will happen, and I resist.

I've licked enough Twizzlers to know that the end result never changes. I can't will myself out of this reaction I have to a perfectly fine-for-someone-else piece of candy.

We simply don't work.

We never will.

So it goes. 

This post that, while entirely true, has very little to do with candy, is brought to you by the letters M.E.T.A.P.H.O and .R, a healthy dose of DayQuil, and this very lovely post on BlogHer.com. Because this would have made a hellofalong comment. 

What I Haven't Got

Winter's change is the cruelest of all, for me. It is frozen and dark and offers no glimmers of hope, except those that twinkle reflecting off the frozen tundra, mirages in the desert of our lives holding out the distance sparkle of solace where the reality is that there is none to be had, and it is cold, and there is a long way to go before there will be warm, golden light.

Everyone is writing their end of the year posts this week. The best books they've read, the coolest places they've traveled to, the best pictures they've taken, the best goals they can think of for themselves in 2013 - this is the week that pretty much everyone looks in the rear view mirror, checks their blind spot, and changes lanes along the highway of their lives. People woke up on Tuesday - maybe refreshed, maybe hungover, maybe pregnant, and stared down a new day and a new year with the determination to do/be/write/love/act better.

More. Bigger. Differently. Something. 

These are the moments for which I hold my breath and wait for time to pass. These are the days I pray for forgetfulness or distraction. These are the times I wish I wasn't, and didn't, and won't. 

My year isn't ending yet. My year ends on January 7th when my entire world did. It ends again on January 25th, when the new house of cards I'd spent 17 years meticulously building up came crashing down. My year isn't restarting yet.  It begins anew on January 9th, just like it has every year since 1992 when I was shoved headfirst through an airplane jetway and into a brand new life. 

January marks the days of my mother - the day I lost her, and the day I left her forever. January marks the day I lost my husband and decided in my heart, if not my head, to leave him forever, too. January is not the month I reset or recharge or realigned; it is the month I die over and over again. January is a month of resignation, of giving in - letting go and letting whatever the hell will make this easier

...

But I am trying to change that. 

This year will be the first calendar year that I live start to finish intentionally, for myself, not in a way that I feel like someone else is making me live but in the way that I chose to live. I ended this year entirely too far over the edge of the precipice to let anyone pull me back into that old cycle, that old life that I keep setting myself up to live through and die from over and over again.  

I'm learning - no, I've always known, I'm trying to accept - how much of everything that has transpired is my own fault. I didn't make my husband drink-and-everything-that-comes-with-it, but he certainly didn't make me stay, either. I perceive requirements that don't always actually exist and customize my life around them, because I am a highly skilled, professionally groomed enabler, and that is what we do best. I've been so afraid of change that I found a near exact replica of my relationship with my mother and entered into a legally binding, contractual, lifetime relationship with it. 

Every January I mourn these losses that are in fact gifts. Twice in my life I have held my nose and stood tippy-toes-over a precipice, waiting and hoping for something, someone, god will anything just come shove me over? because I certainly have never had the courage to leap on my own accord. Twice in my life I have been given exactly that which I have wished for. 

And it is a gift. These weights I cling to are actually disguised wings. I just have to figure out how to use them to fly.

Day Two Hundred Seventy Eight

We're doing this thing right now that someone, I think it was Deb Rocks, described once to me as killing our relationship so thoroughly that we will never be able to rebuild it. This has all very conveniently happened over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and I will have more to say about that later. 

My blog turns eight in a few weeks. I've had this blog longer than I've had my daughter, and in those eight years it's become an issue with him more than once. It really became an issue last week, and I'll have more to say about that later, too. 

Sometimes you just have to take the fuel away from the fire, you know? So I shut my blog down on Christmas Day, because it wasn't worth the battle it was causing, and I'll have more to say about that later, also also.

But then my friend Elan asked me if she could use this post of mine in her 2012 Five Star Friday wrap-up post. I don't actually know how to make that post public, but none of the other ones, so for right now, the blog is back up. Because I am physically incapable of telling Elan no, shut up. 

So much of what I don't say it out of fear. I don't even know what I'm afraid of anymore, is the thing. I lost him, I lost my husband, I lost the man I thought at 20 that I would love forever and ever to a bottle of vodka and it didn't kill me. In fact, it worked out kind of nicely for me in the end. I realized after a really long dark time in my life that I was able to love, and able to be loved in return. Of course, entering into a healthy, happy relationship with my best friend 18 months after I asked for a divorce makes me an adulterous whore if you ask my husband, or his family, probably because he was too drunk at the time to remember me asking for a divorce which is, of course, completely my fault/problem, but you know what? So be it. I'd rather be a happy 37 year old adulterous whore than a miserable co-dependent enabling self-deluded trapped asshole.

But I'm still kind of afraid he's reading this, even though he's twice promised he would leave my blog alone and once demanded that I write about him on it so that I could resume being "a really nice lady" to his face, and I'm kind of afraid that he'll use it against me, even though I have been summarily forbidden from using anything against him that happened anytime before, oh, five minutes ago because i'm just a vindicate bitch who lives only in the past, you know? 

But I think I need to read day fourteen again, and I think I need to read days 1 and 22 again, and any of the other days which I mustered the courage to put pieces of this out here where they sit under the bright flashing florescent lights of the internet waiting to be dissected and picked apart and twisted and mouth-fed back to me by people who have never, it turns out, really given two shits about me at all. 

Why this continues to be a surprise to me is anyone's guess. Fool me once and all. 

So I don't really know what I'm doing next here, with this old blog that has seen this same story told over and over again. But for today, I know that a whole bunch of people who have written truly extraordinary bits of wonder on the internet are being celebrated here, and I'm so super humbled to be one of them, and everything else I have to say about this can wait until tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the day after that, when I am feeling less angry and more brave.