Kiss5Tigers

The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.


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Last Day in Hutchins

Tomorrow is moving day, tonight is my last night here.

I am definitely ambivalent about it. This has been my home for 5 years now and it’s sad to leave. On the other hand, I’m looking forward to new adventures.

I am almost all packed. I have one load of laundry left to pack. It’s clean and in the basket, just needs me to fold it and pack it. I need to pack the bathroom but I can’t really do that until I’m done with my morning ablutions. I will need access to my toothbrush and contacts after all.

I need to remember to get my laundry supplies out of the laundry room. I also need to remember some of my stuff from the kitchen. That smoothie powder that I don’t like. Maybe V will like it.

There is a chocolate cake for me and milk to wash it down. That will be nice tonight. And I have a chocolate bunny waiting for me.

Yes, I bought bunnies for everyone this year. White chocolate for L, milk chocolate for F, and dark chocolate for me. I think we each believe we got the best of the bunch.

I have turned in my house key and the mailbox keys. L gave me back my food stamps card. I owe F for 2 months of phone bill. I’m trying to think what else.

So about noontime everyone will show up, friend and boyfriend, and daughter and boyfriend. So there will be 5 of us loading up from here and with V there will be 6 of us unloading there.

I wish I had something profound to say. I feel like I should acknowledge the occasion in some way. I’m melancholy and sentimental; I think they call that maudlin.

I have completed the Trust Based Parenting course. I feel rather empowered by it. They advocate a lot of the way I raised E, so apparently I had some good ideas. Of course we will be working with older kids so a lot of the tools they gave us won’t apply, but a lot of the thinking behind it will.

For example, respecting the young person as a person is important. She has certain rights, such as the right to privacy. She’ll come to us with a past, with a story that is her own. It’s not my business to tell her story, even though I am likely to be excited about the new relationship. Is that the right terminology? Because this is a relationship, hopefully a therapeutic one.

This should be an interesting job, challenging and fulfilling.


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Moving Forward

In so many ways it feels like life has come to a complete halt but in other ways it’s still moving forward.

It’s spring in Texas. Bluebonnets are out along the highway and I saw a lovely patch of Indian paint brush the other day. I haven’t seen anybody stopping to take the obligatory annual bluebonnet photos that are a Texas tradition, but that is likely to be due to rain as much as social distancing.

Pumpkin the cat has had a litter of 4 kittens. Daughter now has 14 cats in her house: 2 of her own, 1 of her boyfriend’s, and 4 that belong to her roommates plus 2 litters of kittens. One litter is actually old enough to go to new homes but the person who wants them lives in another state and travel is restricted right now.

We had a meeting at Dunbar House with a potential client. She seems like she could really benefit from 3 – 6 months of assistance while she gets her feet under her. And she seems pretty motivated to move her life ahead. The drawbacks are that she has a dog which she simply could not bring with her, and she has a significant other who she would like to stay with. We can’t take in a couple. In fact, I said to V today, we should let it be known that there is no dating within the household. I just see that being a bit of a problem.

I am still planning to move on the 18th. I picked up boxes from a friend today. It was so weird, both of us with masks and afraid to actually chat about anything because of risk of exposure. I just totally appreciate the boxes. I should be able to finish packing now.

I am finding all kinds of cool stuff in my bedroom as I pack. I mean, I knew I had it. I just didn’t know where it was exactly.

I need to do much laundry in the next week. Charli the kitty has been peeing in my laundry again so I need to get that handled and packed. If I can just wash and pack that will be easiest.

I have no idea where I’ll be putting stuff once I move. So much of it is art supplies. I need to actually use art supplies instead of just buying them. I hope to have an opportunity to make some art once I move.

So yeah, things are difficult and strange, but on the other hand the situation is changing even as I write this. Slowly but still shifting. Slow is not staying still, so that’s good. Hopefully things will be different before too long, in a good way.

I feel pretty optimistic today.


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How Fast Things Change

Yesterday felt like life was all uncertainty, and today feels completely different.

First of all, I talked to Shepherd Inn. We figured out that the current shelter-in-place orders are going to be extended. That’s not a surprise to me, really, we are still getting increasing numbers of cases in Texas so there’s no reason to think they’ll let the orders lapse any time soon. Also, unofficially, the state government is already discussing extending them past April 3.

In any case, we decided to postpone me moving in until the middle of the month. I don’t think orders will change then either, but since the place is due to open on May 1, I don’t know that I can wait any longer to settle in. I think it’s important that I am not arriving at the same time the girls are, for the sake of stability. So this is good. I feel more grounded about that.

V also asked me if I want to work, which I do. So she is going to set something up for me that’s part time at a food bank. Part time is perfect for me, since this will be physical work and I am not used to that. I need to figure out how to use an app called ShiftSmart because that is how I’ll get paid. It’s only $10 an hour but I have bills I need to take care of, I need the income. They pay by the day, with about a 3 day lag for the first check.

Monday morning I’m going to pick up my daughter and we’ll go pick up my meds at Parkland. Then J and I will arrange a way for me to pick up boxes from her. Probably she will put them in the yard and I will drive by to get them.

While I’ve been packing, I’ve been finding all kinds of cool stuff. I mean, I knew I had it, I just didn’t know exactly where it was. No, really, I’d forgotten that I had some of it. But that’s okay! One day I will have a studio room and I’ll be able to organize stuff so I can know what I have and where it is. Just getting things boxed up is my goal for now.

So I’m feeling a little better about things. I have a plan for the next few days. Shower in the morning and get dressed since that helps me feel human. Something about putting on pants and a bra makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something, gives me focus.

Sometimes all I need is a little sleep and a new day to have a new attitude.

And you know, things are going to be okay. It’s all going to work out somehow and it’s gonna be good.


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Selfish or Lazy

I had a run-in with one of my roommates today. She is frustrated by something I don’t do, which is mostly because it just doesn’t occur to me.

“I know you like to blame it on your bipolar, but I can’t tell if you’re being selfish or lazy,” she said.

Now I try very hard not to blame character flaws on being bipolar. Taking on too many projects, shopping too much, yeah those are bipolar. Not watering the pets, well, that’s just not thinking of it. Since my roommate handles it most of the time, it just hasn’t been on my radar.

So that brings us down to selfish or lazy. I don’t think it’s selfish. I’m not thinking of myself ahead of others, I’m just not thinking. It’s not a case of “that task is beneath me” so much as “oh, is that something people do?” Although I will own that there are a few times I feel like, that really isn’t my problem. But if I am asked to handle it, I generally do.

Like vacuuming. I don’t think the carpet looks bad but my roommate sometimes does. He won’t ask the other roommate to do it, but he’ll ask me. He asked me the other day with her in the room, and they were both so gleeful. “You have to learn to vacuum,” he said. “You have opposable thumbs, you should be able to work a lighter and run the vacuum.” (My inability to work a lighter is an on-going source of amusement. To me as well.) I know how to vacuum. The sound of the vacuum cleaner is very difficult for me. I grit my teeth the whole time it’s running. But it has been decided for me that this is my chore, and I don’t want to be responsible for it. Someone must vacuum while I am deployed for work. Let that person continue doing it.

Anyway. I’m not mad, just saying.

So my roommate is irritated that I don’t change out the pet water, more so because my cat dips her paws in it and that tracks in cat litter. I don’t blame it on my bipolar or on being selfish. I can’t even say I’m lazy about it, because it isn’t a decision to not do it. I simply don’t think of it. It doesn’t occur to me to water the pets. Now it has been brought to my attention. So my solution is, I will change out the water while I am making breakfast. The toaster takes 5 minutes and I am standing there with nothing to do, I can change the water.

I said as much to my roommate. It defused her anger. She seemed surprised. I suspect she is ascribing motives to me that just don’t exist. I am oblivious in this matter more than intentionally avoidant. It’s not that big a deal to me and it’s huge to her, so I can just add it to my list of morning tasks. Like scooping out the cat box every time I go to the bathroom. If I lived alone, it would be scooped maybe daily, maybe 3 or 4 times a week. But one of the roommates kept complaining about the smell so I scoop it more often. I don’t understand why cat poop in a cat box smells and cat poop in a trash can doesn’t, but whatever.

So we’re down to lazy and I don’t think I can even own that. Lazy to me is an intentional decision to do nothing. I am very seldom doing nothing. I am often doing things that don’t look important to the people around me — like writing this blog instead of emptying my suitcases — but that’s a matter of personal priorities, not laziness. Yes, I am comfortable in my bed with the suitcase on part of it, I don’t know why that’s a problem for my roommate, but it is.

The biggest thing that looks lazy I think is the state of my bedroom. It’s bad, I know it’s bad, but I don’t even know where to start. I get in there and look at it, and get overwhelmed and walk away. Lazy isn’t the word for that. I know it needs to happen, I just can’t seem to find a plan of attack. Though emptying the suitcases will make a difference, I’m sure. This is an example of me being avoidant. But I am doing other tasks, so it’s not lazy.

In other news, I joined a gym today. I will start tomorrow. I had to buy new sneakers because the inner soles are pulling up in my old pair. I guess I need to throw away the old pair, come to think of it. But yeah, I needed sneakers and a lock for the locker. I’ll pack up a bag in the morning and go before group.

I need to get out some of my received mail and take a picture of it for This Zine Has Issues. I wrote a piece for the second issue and the editor asked for the picture. I’m published in the first issue, woot woot! Now I need to reply to the letters.

I should hear by the end of the week about the 911 operator job. I kind of hope I don’t get it, because I want to do other things. But if they offer it, I will take it. I might just make it through the training and decide it’s not for me.

I am still owed a check from the job at Michael’s. I got the first check and the last check, but I am missing the one in the middle. I need to call them about getting a copy of my pay stub anyway, so I’ll just ask about getting another check.

Ah, the 10,000 things that shape daily life. Tomorrow is Monday, a new week with new things. And I will do them. I have a list and I will stay on track. Happy Monday.


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The Bed Bug Saga

About 2 years ago, a friend and I took a road trip. A couple of months later, we both ended up with bedbugs. We assume we both picked them up at a hotel while we were on the road.

My friend noticed the bugs right away and took steps and hasn’t had a problem since. Good for her!

Me, now, the bugs don’t bite me, or I don’t welt up when they do, so it took me a lot longer to notice there was a problem. (Mosquitoes don’t bite me either, I assume it’s blood type or psych meds or something I eat that renders me unappealing.)

Plus when I first noticed them, they were under the cats. I thought they were some kind of flea. I kept treating the cats to no avail.

Soon enough the bugs migrated throughout the house and became a problem for my roommates. We spent a long time working on getting it under control. I bought a LOT of bug death, since it was my fault that they got into the house.

For many months we have been bug free. But they are back.

Both of my roommates have complained of being bitten. I have no welts and haven’t felt itchy. However, the roommates’ response to this is, I must clean my room.

Because I am now the epicenter of bugs.

Today I spent several hours working on my room. I took the bed apart and sprayed (no bugs in the mattress corners, which my roommates were convinced I had). All the bedding is in the wash.

Spray the hallway, says my roommate, because they migrate.

You know what else they do? Lay eggs in the beds and soft furnishings of the house. Eggs that hatch in that location. Bugs that think of the sofa as home, not migrants from my room.

Oh, but they could be hiding between the dresser and the wall, say the roommates. Spray your whole room. Maybe you should spray up near where the walls and the ceiling meet.

So I have done these things. I figure, there are 2 possibilities: Either there are no bedbugs in which case I’ve done no harm. Or there are bugs I’m not seeing, in which case I’ve addressed the issue. And in either case, the roommates feel heard.

When they go out of town in a couple weeks, and I can sleep on the sofa, I will bug bomb the room. Which I do quarterly anyway. Just because.

So this is a cautionary tale of sorts. Don’t get bedbugs. They are nearly impossible to get rid of, and the reputation is even harder to shed.


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Deployment, Demobilization

Several days ahead of Hurrican Dorian, I got a deployment request to a processing center. I took it, of course, I haven’t been deployed in a year. But I was not excited about it.

I used to work at the processing center, and I became a reservist so I could keep helping people without having to be on the phone. Choosing to do a job I left seems counter-intuitive, but unemployment will do that to you.

I really don’t care for phone work. There are too many rules and guidelines about how to do it, and too much micromanaging. I know how to get the form filled out and get people assistance (assuming they qualify). I don’t want someone grading me on how many times I say the caller’s name during the conversation. And that has been a common metric in at least 3 places I’ve worked.

But I did a brave thing, and stood up for myself. There is a 50-mile radius that is considered local, ie. close enough to commute. The system showed me at 45 miles distant so I was considered local. Now my odometer said 51.6 miles and GoogleMaps said 52. I decided to see what would happen if I was reclassified.

While I was waiting, I had a day that I left the house about 15 minutes later than usual and I ended up 45 minutes late to work because of the increased traffic.

If you’re in DFW, let me describe my commute: I start on 45, I cross 20, loop 12 twice, and of course everything backs up when I get on 75 heading towards downtown. I cut over to Walton Walker to get to 35 north. I cross the tollway, 114/183 to Irving, 635, George Bush, and the lake. And oh yeah, there’s construction. A friend said, “I am worn out just hearing about that.”

If you’re not in DFW, know that I travel through downtown at peak rush hour and cross all the major highway intersections that slow down.

I did hear back that I was approved for travel, so I took a hotel room in the town where the processing center is. It made all the difference. I was able to get enough sleep and even have some time to unwind in the evenings. With the length of the commute, I was getting up at 4 in the morning and getting home about 7 at night. No time for anything but driving and work, no recovery from the day’s stress. Being in the same town made a huge difference.

It lasted a whole 5 days. Hurricane Dorian did not hit the US as hard as it could have so my particular skill set wasn’t needed. I did get a lot of training though, so that was good. Met up with some friends from other deployments. Made a few new acquaintances. Shout out to Stephanie and Susan, Annie, Haydee, Linda, Jeffrey, Mitchell, Maria, Carmon, Shontoria and Iromara.

I hope they deploy me again soon. I want to get out into the field again. I need to gain some skills to get my crew lead qualification and I need the field to do that.


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Borrowing Lives

I came back from vacation, was home for 2 – 3 days, and immediately headed out for a house sitting gig. The biggest part of the house sitting is actually dog sitting. The dog is an adorable little pug named Biscuit. She’s a real sweetie.

But it occurs to me, here I am sitting in a 3 bedroom house taking care of a dog. This is not my life. In my life, I rent a room from a friend and have cats. This is someone else’s life, I’m just borrowing it.

This isn’t my real life. I don’t live in a place this nice — in fact, I don’t live in a house, I live in a mobile home. And that’s mobile home not manufactured housing, with wheels under the floor and everything. This is a real house with a yard in front and back and a driveway. Mail comes to the house. They get a daily newspaper. It’s completely different.

I get to try on this life for a few days. Just long enough to see if I like it or not, then change. Some things about this life I would do differently, but they are superficial. You know. different decorating or other food in the pantry. But those aren’t big.

The house is comfortable and homey. I have been given free range of the place, except for the area where the remodeling is happening, and that’s fine. I’ve been watching tv in bed which is a real luxury for me. I don’t have a tv in my bedroom — where would I put one? — and I don’t pick the programming very often at home, it’s more my roommate’s taste. Which is fine, I’m not complaining, I have Netflix on the computer and headphones if there’s a real dislike for the chosen programming.

In other news, I have acquired cruise crud. Probably airplane crud, actually, since it started after I got home. I have a lovely chesty cough and some congestion. I did buy cold medicine and it seems to be helping so at least there’s that.

I also did a video interview today. It was my first one. I don’t like it. I don’t like seeing myself in video, I don’t like hearing my own voice. I suppose I’d better get used to it, since this is probably the wave of the future. It seems like one more layer of complication before actually meeting with people about a job, one more time when they can dismiss you without ever really experiencing your energy. Just a video. Just another recording. Bye. No notice, just ignore. I am not pleased about this development.


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Hoarding Taskforce

I went to my Recovery International meeting this morning and got invited to stay for the Hoarding Taskforce meeting. So I stayed.

It’s a community meeting with everyone touched by hoarding. So it included EMT’s and other emergency personnel, code enforcement, public health, adult protective services, animal control, and of course individuals who deal with hoarding disorder. I was surprised that a crime scene cleaner was there, because they also do clutter clearing, as well as several people who identified as organizers, which I understand to mean folks who organize someone’s stuff.

I found out about a workbook called Buried in Treasures. I understand you should get the 2nd edition because it includes new diagnosing guidelines from DSM 5. (DSM 5, or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual version 5, is the handbook for diagnosing mental health issues in the US. I don’t know if the ICD or International Classification of Diseases manual put out by the World Health Organization, known as WHO, includes mental health diagnoses.) If you are interested in the topic, you want the most up to date information. One of the host organizations offered free copies of the book to the group, so I signed up for it.

The presentation was about long term care and hoarding. The idea is, people usually enter the system for other mental health reasons but the hoarding gets included along the way.

So, using me for an example, though I don’t claim to be a hoarder. I am bipolar. When I am manic, I shop and I am disorganized. When I am depressed, I don’t clean. That leaves a very small window for dealing with my accumulated possessions, which I often find overwhelming. I could easily enter the system by being bipolar. I could have needs that I can’t meet myself, that can be supported by community agencies. In dealing with the shopping and disorganization, I would also have to face any hoarding tendencies. Though in reality I may fall into the category, based on guidelines in the DSM. But I would need to examine that more. So I might get long term care as a bipolar person, and it might include a certain amount of housekeeping since I am apparently bad at it. And in dealing with the housekeeping issues, we would have to deal with hoarding.

Now there was one very vocal lady there, who pretty much insisted that non-hoarders don’t understand. She is probably correct. She wanted speakers who were certified for working with hoarders, for example, not simply people who had experience with hoarding. She also endorsed the book, which the hoarding support group is working through. She passed around her copy, a hard-used book with underlines and highlights. I know because I flipped through it, looking for a section she hadn’t used that I could look at without invading her privacy. I couldn’t find one.

So now I have a new area of mental health to explore.


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Well World

I had brunch with my friend R today. We went to a place called Henk’s which is behind the Half Price Books flagship store. HPB was having a tent sale that looked amazing but I hardly need more books. I have no place to put them! Henk’s is a German diner. I had the Polish breakfast, which is pretty much eggs and fried potatoes with Polish sausage. It was good, especially the potato, which I miss terribly while I am low carb. (I can’t in good conscience call myself keto.) R had blintzes, which he said were like eating dessert, and a reuben.

We talked about 10,000 things, as friends do. R works in community education for mental health. He teaches Mental Health First Aid mostly to educators. Eventually the idea of a healthy society came up.

R is gay, no children. He is also an atheist. He tells this to people in his presentation because he believes it is useful in helping educators to sit with situations they might not agree with. Now my atheist friend went on to tell me an interpretation of the Biblical story of the Good Samaritan which I thought was pretty interesting. Yes that sentence is knowingly ambiguous.

If you’re not familiar with the story, it basically goes like this: A man gets mugged and beaten up on the road to Jericho. The thieves leave him for dead. Several people pass the man and ignore his plight, including people you’d expect to help him, like religious leaders. Finally the Samaritan walks by. This is someone who is looked down on for his ethnicity. He sees the man in distress, takes him to an inn, and pays the bill for the man to stay until he recovers.

Jesus asks, who is the true neighbor? And it becomes a story about how to treat other people. But like most parables, there are other interpretations. My friend R says, this is a good example of appropriate care, both care of other and care of self. The Samaritan did not take the man to his own home, and he did not allow the man’s needs to derail him from his task in Jericho. He did not try to help the man directly, instead he took him to a place where he would be cared for appropriately. He paid the bill, which apparently was not a hardship for him. So, says R, we should be willing to help out others while also taking care of ourselves.

Another friend of mine has an issue with paying school taxes since they don’t have any children. I say, pay it. One day those young people will be in charge and I want them to be basically educated and hopefully able to think for themselves. I will live in a world they shape, I am invested in what these people are like. I don’t own a home so I don’t pay property taxes which includes the school tax, but I don’t begrudge the schools money. Money makes a better school, better schools make better people. Can we do it on less money? Well we keep trying and we know what public education looks like, so I suspect we can’t.

What does a healthy society look like? I don’t claim to have the final say on that, but I do know a few things.

Yoga moms are not the face of wellness even though they are the face of wellness culture. They are what could be called “the worried well”. That is, for the most part they are doing just fine and don’t need to worry in general that they will become unwell.

Homeless people are a sign that society is unwell. How can it be that we have abandoned houses and homeless people? Seems like a no brainer, put people into homes. And yet there is all kinds of resistance to the idea. You can no doubt think of some of the reasons: who wants those people in their neighborhood, why should we give a house to someone who is too lazy to get a job, or even when do I get my free house as a contributing member of society? So now we have to look at the factors in why a person becomes homeless, because very few choose this as a life path.

Any of the isms are a sign society is not healthy. Ageism, racism, sexism and others are rooted in fear; fear that somehow there are only so many resources around and if someone gets a piece of the pie, they are taking it away from me. It’s easier to scapegoat someone if you can make them a “them”, that is, not one of us. A healthy society knows we are stronger if we share the resources rather than hoarding them.

It was a good lunch, and a good conversation. I like my friends, they are good and interesting people.


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Ah, Dating. No I’m Not Doing It But I Might Wish I Was

Thinking about dating again.

Thinking I might like to be dating again.

It’s been a long time since I thought that.

But let’s be clear, I actually mean dating. It is not a euphemism for fucking. I am at a weird place where I really don’t care that much about sex. I understand it’s common for those of us going through menopause. Maybe it’s just not knowing someone I’m attracted to. Or the few who I might think are cute, aren’t interested in me.

Attraction is a funny thing. Physical is part of it. Now I have friends who thing people are good looking that I don’t agree, but I’d never say that to them. You think he’s hot, he’s hot. Not my version of hot, but that’s okay. And yet the most beautiful person can be ugly inside. And I’ve dated some people who were not good looking but their personality made them attractive. So sure, I have a list of physical preferences, but I’m not married to them.

My biggest part is my must-have list. Must have a job. I can’t tell you how many boyfriends I’ve had where I’m the bread winner. Nice if he has a career rather than just a job, but shit happens. Must have his own car. I used to say, must have his own place, but now not so much. I mean, by my age, people often move back home to take care of parents. I have roommates because with my job it doesn’t make sense for me to pay for an apartment that I’m gone from for months at a time. Handy is good, but if he isn’t handy, have the money to pay for repairs. Not everyone is good with cars, but getting the brakes done shouldn’t be a hardship.

Then traits. Let’s see . . . Smart. Doesn’t have to be highly educated but can’t be ignorant. Probably liberal or at least progressive; conservative would probably kill me. Some kind of creative life, whether it’s building stuff in the basement or playing guitar. Cat person, because I will have cats. Cares about people, so that would be . . . humanitarian? Some kind of spiritual life but not a fundamentalist or an evangelical. It’s just not my shtick. Be active. I don’t mean athletic but I do mean like to get out of the house and do stuff most days. I don’t want someone who spends every weekend crashed on the sofa “watching” football or NASCAR. I want to do stuff on the weekend. I’m not much of a sports person so that would be a bad match for him.

Be honest. I have been married to a manipulative liar, I don’t need that again. Be trustworthy. Be into me. I have dated that, too, where I know someone is settling for me. That’s no fun. But don’t be obsessive. I don’t want to live in your back pocket, don’t want you in mine. Choose me, don’t cling, I get claustrophobic. Trust me. I am not going to hurt you because I choose you. Fight fair. Arguments are going to happen, though I prefer to keep them to a minimum, but listen to my side, don’t just yell me down. My concerns are important too. Support me emotionally. I can support myself financially — I can’t support both of us — but I can always use encouragement. Be kind not just nice.

Teenage to adult children are okay but not required. Divorced is understandable. Pets are okay, even the unusual ones like reptiles or hedgehogs. Hobbies or interests are a good thing. Be a sci fi buff or a theater geek or a homebrewer or something. I prefer something I can share with him, but that’s not cast in stone. I mean, I want to spend time doing my hobbies and hanging with the girls, he should be able to pursue his interests and hang with the boys.

Oh, and I am back to the ex’es. Don’t lie to me. Don’t say things with the intent of deceiving me. Don’t be looking for the next girlfriend. Don’t put your vices ahead of me. Don’t mock me. Don’t put me down to your friends. Don’t ignore me. Don’t avoid me. I have had men do all those things. And they hurt.

I need to think some more, now, about what I bring to the table. Because otherwise I am just making demands, and that’s not fair.