Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New Short Story: "Dunk-A-Cop"

I wanted to share my most recent story with all of you. It's about a cop. I hope maybe your and your spouses/significant others might relate. I was inspired to write this when I attended Relay For Life and saw the local police had set up a booth and a water tank and were inviting people to play "Dunk-A-Cop." I wanted to write about a police officer doing this, and convey him as a sympathetic, compassionate, giving person who also has a sense of humor and is willing to humiliate himself for a good cause. But he is also thinking about the lack of appreciation he gets from the community, and the various sorrows and disappointments he has been up against. I hope he comes through as a real human being, even though you only get a glimpse of him in 1000 words.

Here's the link:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My first short story

Just wanted to share that my first short story is up on my Tumblr blog, I drew the inspiration from my Catholic parents and sisters and some of the tensions and frustrations my sisters and I felt at times when we reached young adulthood. Drop by and tell me what you think!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Secret to a Good Marriage

I realized something this morning which I will call "The Secret to a Good Marriage." Anybody who's married knows you can't boil a marriage down to one point but this point, I think, might go a long way... If there's something you feel you are not getting from your partner, it's a good bet he/she feels the same way. That's not infallible of course--men and women do have different needs sometimes--but when it comes to getting time, support, encouragement, space, we really both have these needs. If I am not giving those things to him, how will he know to give those things to me?

I've been sad lately because I want more encouragement. It seems like JT can barely drum up enough interest to grunt, "Cool," when I tell him I scored a $200 freelance writing job (for a library science publication) and that I've made a promise to myself to try to write one short story a week for the next year. The other day, I set up a Tumblr website for it too--please feel free to visit and show me some love: I don't have much up on it yet but I'll post my first story middle of next week. Anyway, I was proud of myself for setting writing goals and so far meeting them, and I wanted some encouragement. Instead he kept me up all night with his worries about money, and said he wants me to get a second part-time job.

So I spent all day yesterday applying to other part-time jobs that might allow me to continue to work at my present job, as well as applying to full-time jobs. I was sad I didn't get any writing done. I wanted him to give me some time to write when he got home. But he says I am being selfish. From one point of view, he is probably right. I'm asking for support or sympathy when he's overdue for a medal. Still, calling my writing selfish is a low blow. That one comment will give me enough fodder for years of writer's block.

We argued about this for fifteen minutes, and while I was trying and failing to convey what it is I want from him, I left the baby in her room. I come back and she got into a container of petroleum jelly. It says to contact poison control. JT was LIVID. He said I was a stupid mother. Yeah, I probably deserved that too. JY was fine, Poison Control says there's no danger. She went to sleep and I spent the night on the couch.

It still hurts, but I've been thinking: maybe there's something I should learn from all this... It wasn't until a few minutes ago that I realized, if I don't want him to be so insensitive about my feelings and goals, I should take his feelings and goals into greater consideration.

Let's face it: every day that I congratulate myself for getting up at 6 am and writing for two hours, is a day that JT had to get up at 4:30 to drive 50 miles to his job in the jail. He got an offer for that full time jailer job, but it didn't give him much cause for elation because it won't pay anywhere near what we were hoping for. He's sad about that, and worried about money. He's still working in a hospital one day a week and is just exhausted.

I have to do something about our financial situation and I have to help him so that he is not working so hard. I am not going to get the "attagirl" or emotional support I am craving if I do not learn how to give that support to him. You have to give in order to receive. While I was complaining about writing, he brought up a good point, that he hasn't had time to practice his guitar in ages. I need to make this a priority. I need to get out his guitar and carve out some time where he will get to sit and play and I will take care of JY--I need to encourage him to do it because he is a good musician who needs more encouragement.

Last night I was feeling sorry for myself that I am a blocked writer, and that my husband contributes to my block by telling me I am selfish. But what have I done to help him unblock? What have I done to make his life easier? I am going to do something about this. I thought this was the year I would work on myself and my writing, since school is finally over and I have my master's. But perhaps instead I should take this year to work on my marriage, make my husband happy because he deserves that.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Going Full-Time

At the moment JT is pulling another long shift at the police station jail, working fourteen hours, only to come home, catch a little sleep, and go to work graveyard at the hospital for the next few nights. Me, I just finished washing a ton of dishes after returning home with JY from grandma's house (wayyyy far away). Before that I was working 6 hours, and before that I was celebrating my graduation.

Today my coworkers threw a party for me because I recently finished my master's program (yay!!). One of them expressed polite regret that I will now be out looking for a better job. I would hate to leave them too, since they've been really good to me, but that's not all I'd hate to leave. I'm applying for a great full-time librarian job that recently came available in a nearby city. I was excited at first, but the more I think about it, the more uneasy I get. If it was offered to me right now, I'm not sure I would take it. I'm not sure I'm ready yet to surrender my dreams of being a stay-at-home mom.

Yeah. I know that last sentence sounds like the strangest, most upside-down, backwards sentiment in light of everything that the feminist movement has achieved for us... But it's true. I don't feel like I get to spend nearly enough time with my daughter. I spend a lot of time in the car, carting her around from one grandparent's to the next. (And they both live REALLY far from us which makes it harder.) I cherish my days off with the baby, and use them to get other things done, like taking care of the house, making dinners, buying groceries, doing laundry, etc. I might even spend one of those days with my husband (if I'm lucky). But even with all that time, it never feels like enough. If I work full time, most of the time I spend with my daughter will be spent in a car with her strapped in a car seat and out of reach. It makes me want to cry just thinking about it. Sure, there'd be weekends. There'd be bedtimes too. But I'd never be able to shake the worry that I'm missing out on her childhood, that her grandparents are raising her instead of me.

JT wants me to take the job. He is hoping to get hired full time in the jail (he is already in the background stage right now, just finished his polygraph). It would be a really great job, as I said earlier, and I'd be doing what I want to do. What I just got a master's degree to do. But I was never unclear with my husband that I wanted to work part-time and get a good hourly rate, and that I wanted to spend as much time as possible raising our kids. My plan, hatched early in our relationship, was that I would get my master's in order to enable me to make good money part-time and then maybe work full-time once our kids are in school. But right now while we're still in this transitional phase, I have to try for any job I can find.

So I don't know. Maybe some of the mommies out there can give me a shot of reality, remind me that it's not so bad working full time and being a mom. Tell me that you haven't missed out on anything, that your kids turned out just fine. Maybe some of my fear comes from the fact that my mother worked so hard--and resented it every day of her life. I don't want to end up that way.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Be the unwritten blog."

This Zen saying was penned by one of my ex-boyfriends, in an effort to teach me a virtue he felt I was lacking in--the virtue of living my life without feeling a constant need to write about it. He was a Generation X-er, and couldn't understand my Generation Y attitude toward total self-expression on the Internet.

Since my teen years and early twenties I was an avid blogger, member of discussion forums and user of social networking sites. I know this seems dangerous to a lot of people, but I felt like my online self was a natural extension of my actual self, and had few qualms about sharing any feelings, thoughts, or experiences of a personal nature on the Internet where anyone could find them. My ex constantly cajoled me to keep these things private, but I didn't share his concern for privacy. Blogging my life made me feel more alive.

I do think it's a Generation Y thing, but maybe not applied universally by everyone in my generation. My husband, born the day before me, has certainly had an extensive relationship with the Internet (he's had several MySpace pages, a Facebook, his own website, and he met me through an online dating site), but he claims that he doesn't write about anything "personal."

Recently he was sharing another blog of mine with some of his coworkers, a blog where I post photos and videos of our daughter and updates on her growth for friends and family. He let his coworkers look at the blog because it's the best collection of our baby photos.

Well, a while back, I had mentioned in a post to this blog that JT and I were arguing a lot, and it was seeming to affect the baby's mood. I know I've mentioned that here too, and I don't remember why I wrote it there. I think I just wanted my friends to support me and to know I was going through a rough time. And I also wanted to record everything for future reference, I don't know why. Sometimes it's good to look back on hard times and reflect on them when things are going better. But now, months later, his police station coworkers read that post, and remarked to him, "I don't think your wife should be writing that on her blog."

When I heard that, I felt mortified, humiliated, like I was guilty of something terrible. JT seems to feel betrayed by me. And I feel betrayed too. I thought I had freedom to write what I want. Now I seem to be expected to censor myself on everything. Otherwise I'm a bad wife or something. I feel like somebody called me a rat or a snitch or a liar. I feel like I can't be trusted.

JT says I haven't been making a very good impression on people lately. A few days ago while I was sick with a fever and cleaning up our messy kitchen, JT called me from work and I yelled at him over the phone about how exhausted I was. His coworkers overheard, and he hung up on me, to "save" me from making a fool out of myself. Why? Why can't I just be understood? Why can't he just tell them, "Excuse my wife, she's sick with a high fever and I left her a house full of cleaning to do"? Why can't he say, "Honey, you're yelling so loud everyone can hear you. Why don't you call back when you've calmed down?" I mean, a "heads up" would have been nice!

I just feel horrible. I don't want people to think JT is married to a horrible person. He deserves a great wife and deserves not to have our dirty laundry aired for everyone to see. I don't ever mean to hurt JT's reputation--or feelings. I don't want to hurt his job prospects either. Sometimes I think I should delete everything, and surrender to the deafening silence of real living.

But every time I get close to bringing myself to delete my blogs or website, I recoil. I feel frustrated, incensed that somebody who doesn't know me thinks they have the power to decide what I should or shouldn't write about. I just think these people were overreacting. It's none of their business if I want to write honestly about my marriage. I should be allowed some place where I can express myself, where I don't have to be some law enforcement officer's idea of the perfect wife.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Since we moved farther away from both my parents and JT's, babysitting has been a bit of a problem for me. I was sick this past week, and couldn't get any help with the baby. My parents were out of town. JT's mom doesn't drive. I was too sick to go out to her. I really needed somebody to help with JY, and told JT I want to get a babysitter. It's hard driving 80 miles roundtrip to drop JY off at her grandma's every time I have to work, and being sick, I was just not up for that. JT absolutely refused. He says JY is not to be with anyone other than our parents.

His parents have told me the same thing: that I should please not leave JY with anyone other than them or my parents. To be honest this makes me feel the same way most people feel when their in-laws tell them how to raise their children: irritated and controlled. But they have a reason to be concerned: they trusted somebody once who turned out to be abusive.

This past experience, coupled with JT's background in police work, makes him really jaded about babysitters. I tell him that all my friends and relatives use babysitters and day care services and don't have any problems, but he won't listen to me. So I have to keep schlepping out there to his mom's or my dad's, with no other alternative.

It's just another example of how we think totally differently sometimes. When I'm sick, especially w/ a fever, I don't like to drive, I don't like to work, I don't like to do ANYTHING except lay in bed until I get better. But my husband makes me feel guilty. "I never miss work unless I'm dying," he said, and he took on some extra shifts. I'm like, "but you're getting sick too! You should stay home." And he looks at me like I'm crazy and like I just said money grows on trees.

So all week I was stuck at home, cooking, cleaning the house, chasing around a baby, and not getting much rest. And all I wanted was for somebody to take care of me. It's been hard being sick and needy around somebody who is so hardworking and persistent even when he's getting sick himself. Especially because he's never home, and when he gets home, he just wants to be left alone.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Back From The Dead

I have to preface this blog with a big apology: I am so sorry I fell off the face of the earth for seven months. As you can guess these months have been a hellish roller coaster ride for me, but I didn't write about it. Even despite all the caring and generous support I have gotten from the wonderful LEO ladies who read my blog, I just had to walk away from this blog for a while. I don't know why. Mostly it was a lack of time, which I'll get into later. And partly it was from feeling totally lost and just trying to focus on other goals. So why am I back here now? Because, for the first time in seven months, I actually have some good news to report!

But first, the past seven months of our lives deserve some explanation:

After JT got fired, we quickly realized we would not be able to afford our expensive apartment. We broke our lease and moved in with my parents. They were very generous to us, and gave us their master bedroom which was big enough to fit the baby's furniture in too. They gave us so much help with our little Youngling, and so much patience and compassion. But it starts to wear on everybody after a while. We lived there for almost six months.

JT was not happy. Actually he was spiraling down into a serious depression and wasn't himself at all. He was changing the whole orientation of his life. He was used to his identity as an LEO and police recruit, and used to being the provider for us. Then suddenly he was telling me to quit school and get a full time job. He went back to school himself for a few months, hoping to get closer to getting his bachelor's. For a while he decided to leave law enforcement forever and become a physician's assistant. This path would have taken him five or six years at least but he felt like it was the only way he could make the kind of money he wanted to make and do the kind of job he wanted to do. He drove a long way to a community college twice a week and took English, Psychology, and Algebra. He excelled in his classes for the short time that he was there.

JT got a job working graveyard shifts on-call at a hospital as an EMT, and this gave him back some of his sense of self worth as he performed CPR on emergency room patients and helped save their lives. As difficult as it is collecting human waste and doing catheters and such, JT likes that job.

I did not quit school. I knew it was not a good idea for me to quit school when I was within a year of finishing my master's. Instead I pushed my own graduation date up a semester and took on a heavier course load to finish quicker. I continued to work part-time at the library, but continued to search desperately for full-time library jobs. I applied for some, but was mostly rejected, or just didn't hear back. Without my degree there isn't much I can do. I worked very hard on school. That's another reason I couldn't blog at all--because I have a guilt complex that comes up any time I set aside studying for something else. I can't do it. I have to do my schoolwork, first and foremost. This got very difficult, because even in spite of all the help my parents were giving me, it wasn't enough. I just had that much work to do. On top of my homework, tests, lectures and readings, I had to write fourteen papers on different topics in library science and put it all into a website of my own creation, as part of a kind of "culminating experience" project to make me eligible for graduation. So I started bringing Jedi Youngling over to JT's parents once a week. They'd play with her all day and I would study all day, and I actually started getting more done.

Jedi Youngling was the only one of us who flourished during this difficult period. She had so much family around, and developed really strong bonds to her grandfather on my side and her grandma on JT's. In addition to grandparents she had aunties around often and they and their friends lavished tons of attention on her. She learned to stand, walk, clap her hands, and do so many other things while she was at my parents' house. She turned one year old, and we threw a huge birthday party for her at the park. Lots of my friends and coworkers were there and they gave her beautiful clothes and toys. All things considered, she was doing pretty well.

But she wasn't sleeping on her own anymore. JT had started bringing her to our bed to sleep and this formed a new and dangerous habit. Personally, I'm not a believer in cosleeping. I think there's enough research that shows babies sleep better when they can wake up at night and self-soothe and be back to sleep in minutes. When you let your baby sleep with you, she doesn't learn that skill. JY used to know how to do that but pretty soon became reliant on mommy and daddy being with her. I insisted to JT that her doctor said this was not a good idea. But it quickly got to where she wouldn't sleep on her own and we had to bring her to bed just to stop her crying.

All of this was very difficult on our marriage. Between the graveyard shifts, the parents down the hall and the baby who rarely slept in her own bed, we were not able to find much time for intimacy or togetherness. Just when we needed most to support each other and grow together, we hardly ever found a chance.

After applying for the 10th library job with no interview, and after things became more tense with my parents, I broke down and begged JT's dad to talk to him and do something to help us. He did--he talked to JT and he wore down some of JT's resistance to getting other jobs and getting us out of my parents'. He also talked to the chief of police for his city, and that chief of police was one amazingly smart guy.

He went to a convention where all the chiefs from all the cities in SoCal were gathered, and walked right up to a table where he knew one chief was hiring and another chief sitting at that table happened to be one of JT's former employers. He said, "Hey, you're hiring for a temporary jailer right? I know a guy who would fit the job description." And he proceeded to tell them about JT. Suddenly JT's former employer perks up, and says, "Oh, that guy used to work for me! Yeah, he was the best! I'd hire him back if I could, but we don't have the budget right now."

So I'm sure you can guess what happened next: after hearing glowing recommendations from these two police chiefs, the hiring chief of police at this other department gave JT a call. Within a few weeks, he was the temporary jailer there, and was getting full-time hours while training.

There was an opening there for a permanent full-time jailer, and JT was invited to apply. About a hundred other guys applied, including some guys that were former employees with that department. We weren't sure what would happen there, but we decided to go ahead and move out of my parents'. We took a leap of faith. We found a really nice little house (a duplex) in a city in the Inland Empire that's farther for JT's work but a good commute to mine. And JT loves this area--he wanted to live here because it's very safe.

We moved here a few weeks ago. There are still lots of things we're looking for and haven't found yet. But we have our own home again and after getting through the hectic move, we're starting to relax and mellow out again. JT left school, and was happy to do so to work at a police department again. His sense of self returned to him. We both took pride making our new home nice. We celebrated both our birthdays recently and I made him a sign in big letters: "Happy Birthday to a World Champ Dad!" (I wrote it in orange because JT is a Giants fan and they won the world series.)

As could be expected, Jedi Youngling wasn't totally happy about the move at first. She would freak out every time we laid her down to change her diaper, probably frightened by the high pointed ceiling in her room. I started reading a great book to help me get her back to sleeping in her crib, Sleeping Through The Night by Jodi Mindell, Ph.D. I started her on a new bedtime routine which involved bathing her, changing her into pajamas, reading to her, singing and rocking her, and putting her in her crib and walking away. She naturally resisted at first, and I had to let her cry but checked on her every few minutes. But it got better, and for the past week she has slept in her own crib and has not awakened once during the night.

I also started reading some books that helped me to start healing our marriage. I read Surrendering to Marriage by Iris Krasnow, I Only Say This Because I Love You by Deborah Tannen, and Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus by John Gray, Ph.D. The first book was more to help me recognize that my marriage was good and worth fixing, and the other two were to help me learn better patterns of communicating. After applying these insights about how women unknowingly talk to men in ways that are perceived as controlling, I am transforming the way I talk to JT and am noticing awesome results. I mean, I already had a wonderful and loving husband. We just got so beaten down by life this year, we needed to take some time to realize how many good things we do have. I learned how I could talk to JT in a way that is more appreciative, trusting, and accepting. JT's reading Men Are From Mars too, and we talk about it now and then and compare notes. He's getting a lot out of it too.

OK, now that I've explained all of this, my good news! The good news is that JT was #1 of all the applicants for that permanent full-time jailer position, and is going through the background investigation now. He continues to work there part-time and also works at the hospital once a week. I'm so glad that he has found this new police department, because I hear they are really fair and good to their employees. They discussed the possibility of sending JT to the academy at a later date so he might still become a sworn officer in a few years!

So I just have one more thing to say: I am so grateful for all the support I received from you guys while JT was in the academy. I hope that after my long absence, I will still enjoy your trust and support. For both me and JT, a new career and a new life is just beginning. Hope you'll join me again.