The creepy nun announcement

Back around the time I was born, my dad’s mom was a nurse, and she worked with a certain nun.

Now, in my family, the truth is always a bit twisted and shaped, so there’s a lot of rumor about the place of this nun in my family’s life, but at least one of these stories is that my middle name was after her to appease my grandmother. But then, my middle name is one of the most common female middle names you could find, so who knows.

What is sure, is that she was close friends with my grandmother while they both lived in that town, and that for my first birthday, the nun and/or all of the nuns gave me a stuffed dog.

I still have that stuffed dog to this day. It became the security animal that I carried everywhere.

So, years back, maybe a decade or so… There was an event that was being held at a Catholic retreat center in town. I ended up on their website and I noticed on their staff page that they listed this nun.

So, some years later, after my grandma died, I ran a search for the retreat center to find the page again, and I sent the nun a couple of emails.

I don’t really know what I was expecting. I’m thinking I may have even written about it here at the time. But in any case, the nun and I exchanged about two really short casual emails in about 2011 or so.

There’s been no other connection between this nun and I. At all.

Enter today… And Google Now.

Google now is an app on Android phones that comes up frequently, as it’s trigger is sliding up from the bottom of the screen, so it’s easy to do accidentally.

It’s Google’s idea of a personal assistant… But it’s honestly creepy. It tracks where you go, finds patterns, and is scary with how accurate it can be on offering you driving directions and times.

It literally learned the small group location and time for when my daughter babysits in just two weeks, and offered me the best route on the right day at the right time the third week.

It’s sometimes also crazy on what it pulls up on articles that it offers based on what it thinks I want to see. I was researching different litter box types, it offers me articles about litter types and shelters offering kittens the next time I open it. That sort of thing.

So today I open it, accidentally. And the first thing on the page is the nun’s obituary.

Google now has never given me an obituary before.

And yes, it was kind of nice. Not that it matters much, but our family likely wouldn’t have known for a long time otherwise, and one aunt in particular was glad that I let her know.

But the more I think about this, the more creepy it becomes.

Because, obviously, the obit didn’t list the nun’s email address, and her email was with the church, not with Gmail.

But somehow Google knew that this obit, just published today in a metro area of a half million people… Was the one that belonged to the nun’s email address.

And was sure enough about it to show the announcement to contacts that she’d only emailed twice about 5 or 6 years ago.

It’s impressive, I can’t deny that. And useful.

But that still makes it no less creepy to realize the power it holds is capable of connecting real life to virtual, even when it isn’t someone using Gmail to give them access to all of their mail.

It’s not like I expect privacy, or even that this is the first time they have creeped me out.

But still… This is just a different level somehow.

You all read my blog. Google knows that, I’m sure. From my Gmail, Google knows all about me as far as the names I used on things like hotel reservations. It also knows where I drive, and my online habits from my phone. It’s entirely possible that if something were to happen, and my obit were published, that Google might be the one to tell you about it.. without my family even knowing this blog exists.

Let’s face it… Google might even know from the end of phone traffic even before the obit was printed.

I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Church of the pirates

So, after the story a few posts ago about all the work for the church decoration, I figured it would be nice to have pics on the same place, and to show you the scale of what I was talking about.

So, as you first approach the building, there the huge parking lot. In this lot, every single light post now has a pirate flag waving in the breeze.
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This honestly makes me laugh every single time I’ve pulled up to the building since they put them up, as the church is right across the highway from the entrance to two different major highways.. and I can only imagine how many countless number of drivers are seriously wonder what the deal is with the church with pirate flags.

Which of course is probably really the point of the flags, hoping they will investigate and find out that there’s a month of movie based services going on and decide to see what’s up. But I’m sure a lot will just remain a bit confused and never check into it. Lol

Then, there is the mast in the main entryway.
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Yes, that is a telephone pole lashed to the roof.

Golf cart in front is one of two that shuttles the parking lot to drive people to the doors and back… And the mast is more than twice as tall as the cart.

Going inside…

The lobby is rather ship-shape.

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That would be part of a boat, hand built by volunteers.

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It’s big and stable enough for kids to play on it, and whole families to get pics taken on it with some of the folks dressed as pirates.

Not the project we worked on, but seriously impressive.

To the right of the ship is the hospitality area… Aka tavern.
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Most of these pics were taken while I was waiting for kiddo after the 4th service, so things are mostly picked up.

But this area usually has lots of things of coffee, teas, and water, and snacks, which right now included bags of popcorn and a candy area like for ice cream places to put various candy into little paper cups.

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Table area usually has a lot more tables than under tavern management… Lol
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On the other side of the random boat in the room, they really went to town…
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And across from the town, was the pond, complete with live plants and living goldfish in the water
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It looks kind of small in this pic, but that bridge is big enough there are pics of about ten grown adults standing on it for pics.

The kids area was kept less scary, with a Jake and the Neverland pirates theme… Which is apparently a loosely Peter pan based cartoon aimed at young kids.

Giant map hung on the wall
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You can see the dotted map lines that went all over the building in the floors in some of the other pics.

Also a dock area instead the kids area doors, where they could take a pic with an actual Jake!
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Which happens to have Boo inside the big cartoon head. Lol
(Borrowed pic, she wouldn’t cooperate with mine…)

Between the two areas, in the area where the main bathrooms are, was the project where we were helping most of the time…
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The cave!

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Complete with pirate treasure!
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My favorite parts are the humor though…
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And, I did mention this is the bathroom area, right?
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You see all that rock? Covering all 4 walls plus both sides of the entrances going all three directions… On the whole section of the lobby, in strips 40 foot tall?
Textured painting in two different shades of grey to get the look. 3 entire 1,000 foot rolls of yard-wide paper…
Let’s just say I’m sick of rock painting… And think we needed a sick figure chasing a buffalo somewhere. Lol

So… In case you might have thought decorating a lobby wouldn’t be much work spread over a week… But it’s all volunteers coming in, bringing their tools and skills and ideas and whatever else they’ve got.

It’s a bit extreme… But it’s awesome, and fun, it gets people involved and meeting others that they otherwise might never talk to, and the whole series brings in a ton of people who usually wouldn’t go to a church thinking it’s boring or whatever.
Life.church sets attendance records in July​for this series each year, when it’s generally one of the slowest church attendance times of the year most places.

But not without a whole heap of a lot of criticism!

This link goes to one of the other campus locations  showing a video walkthrough of their full wizard of Oz themed setup, which is awesome!

But man, the comments by some of the critics…

Ah well. I’m sure my grandmother would have been appalled too, but then, jeans in a church would have been a scandal in her world.

But there’s plenty of churches around for the little old ladies to feel comfortable in.
Churches reaching teens, and the ones chased off by legalisms and cruelty under the name of religion, and writing the whole God thing of because the little old lady church is boring and had no appeal to them?

Not nearly as many of those types of churches.
And if pirates, candy, and popsicles gets them to give it a chance, I’m ok with a place that scares off the ones who are perfectly happy and getting their needs met with the more traditional vibe.

That and I’m getting really spoiled to a 1pm service time. Granted, still have to drop kiddo of for the 830 since she works the kids area, but still… Lol

Insecurity and dreaming

As it has been for years, moving as soon as possible financially was on the agenda.

And with being made full time, after a few months bill recovery, the time was near.

We’d spent a few weeks with my rushing home from work, picking up kiddo, then rushing off to the apartment complex of the night to check it out.

At this point, we’d decided. Location very close to work, huge complex with 36 buildings and 3 pools, literally straight across the street from one of the major parks we go to fairly frequently, and straight around the corner from another from the other side of the complex.

I’d run the numbers. Tighter than I’d like, but workable.

I’d actually even already dropped off the application at this point.

My overall feeling was that it has taken me 12 years to get back to where I was back when… A 2 bedroom apartment in a big busy area.

It still felt like a huge step from where we are now, a house with a ton of very major issues and with extra issues from family drama from being down the street still.

But my feeling was sort of that I’m so far behind even where I was back when my daughter wasn’t in school yet.

On a completely regular day, my daughter’s phone was messing up while we were out doing Pokemon, and so we stopped across the street from a coffee shop while she used wifi to help the game reload, as it takes a lot more to load than to keep running so it would be fine once loaded.

As we waited, we discussed the building we were parked in front of, a historic area of town that’s the edge between the downtown area and the artsy entertainment district.

I pointed out the awning covering the door that lead to the lobby for the lofts upstairs, and explained a bit how loft apartments above storefronts work.

And that they tend to be very upscale and expensive… Places for business executives from downtown to be close to the entertainment.

Now, in this area and the entertainment area, there’s probably at least ten major buildings of loft apartments. It’s the major revitalization push to keep the area from just being dead between the two zones.

And the cheapest one bedrooms in the area are double the cost of the two bedroom we were moving to. So glancing at prices on website charts, I wouldn’t have looked further.

The very next day at work, I got asked a question that lead me to hunt for an answer, and one page I opened that wasn’t the right answer turned out to be a list of companies that had gotten tax benefits from the city while building in exchange for offering a tiny percentage of their units at reduced rates for low income.

By the fact that I’m mentioning it, you know what building was in the list, one of very few that I recognized that were not senior housing or section 8 projects.

Web research showed they only offered a few reduced units.

I called.

That usually have a wait list that runs about 6 months depending on turnover for the reduced units.

I honestly intended to move towards wait list for after lease was up at the apartments by work. 6 month lease was more expensive, but might work on timing.

As it happened, they had one reduced rate apartment open.

With the office hours​, we couldn’t see it until the weekend, so we set up an appointment.

Only to be told late Friday that that had an application pending for it now.

I asked to come see it anyway, just to be looking towards the future. So we did.

Very nice place. The bedroom views are a bit weird, mostly towards another part of the building with a roof between the two. But the front ones are nice, and I’m sure they picked the least nice ones for the reduced rate.

The rent for it is actually $100 less than the one we’d applied for already.

We both liked it a lot better than the current winner.

So two weeks pass. I’m playing phone tag with our new apartment manager, and getting really annoyed that I’m supposed to go in and sign a lease Saturday and I still haven’t gotten anything at all nailed down from him or even seen the apartment rather than their model.

I got the email Friday afternoon that the pending application at the nice place hadn’t gone through.

It was open again.

I’d actually already filled out the very extensive paperwork with plans to submit it for wait list, but hadn’t yet. So it was turned in first thing the next morning.

It’s been two weeks of waiting. And waiting.

And I’m extremely nervous.

Because this place is very nice, way above what I would have dreamed of getting into anytime soon in my life.

It’s where I want to be.

And yet, I feel so…

So much like a loser?

The income guidelines are very strict, requiring at least 3 times the rent in income while also being below 50% line on the median income for this county.

I’m within it, by only about $100. And so I’m nervous they will use some weird calculation and I’ll be disqualified.

The credit guidelines are also strict. I know what that are, I know that my junk is all far enough past that while my score is trash, the stuff is too old and of the wrong type to count for what they would count against me.

But that one bill from years ago reports as delinquent every month, even though it’s so old it will drop off my report next year. What if they don’t look close enough to notice that it’s actually old, and don’t tell me why to let me point it out?

What if my former stepdad, the landlord here, tells them lies and tries to sabotage when they call him as my only landlord in the last decade?

What if they are secretly judging that the fat chick single mom and the teenager with brightly colored hair are not quite the match for their much higher paying usual clients, and decide to make things lean such that they can look for a more usual applicant that will blend in better?

Suddenly, it’s an occasion for a million insecurities to come to the surface and convince me I’ve failed.

Until today I was pretty sure by the silence that I’d been declined and they were just sending me a letter instead of calling.

Well, today is a day under two weeks of the processing phase. And today I started getting texts from my references (former coworkers, as requested) that they were getting called.

I stopped and realized that the Friday afternoon email I got that the other person was not approved, was two weeks after that had submitted their app.

And I did not get a "nope" email today.

I’m cautiously hopeful.

And still honestly a lot more scared than I should be.

I’ve tried to hedge my daughter’s hopes, in case, but every conversation with her shows all the more how nervous I am without a concrete reason.

When she asks "why would they?", I can’t answer with anything that sounds like a good reason.

I just expect them to… Because, well, it’s me.

Such a contrast in mentalities between kiddo and I that I can’t even explain to her why I expect to be declined for being a loser, even knowing we qualify.

Even knowing it’s what I really want, I’m too scared to even dream for it just yet, while she’s planning her bedroom layout and sending me pictures of futons she wants to eventually get for it.

I’m now the one annoying the previously selected apartment manager by not responding. I don’t know that I will be brave enough to close that door until I have the key in hand.

Either way… It’s time to go home.

Double invited leaders?

So, when last we left the blog.. lol

As I’d mention last spring, we changed churches.

It’s a change that has remained, even as the church has exploded in size. It now runs more than double what it was when last mentioned, now running 4 services each Sunday, with kiddo serving in the kids area for three of them and for one of the parenting themed small groups during the week.

I’m not sure I’d say that I’ve bonded there exactly, but I’m comfortable there anyway. We’ve sort of gotten grafted into the family of one of Boo’s friend/maybe more… Who is one of the groups that takes over three rows and Mama in charge has everyone in a place and so I’ve sort of decided it’s best to just go with it. Lol

Most of the staff know me, but if asked who I am, probably every last one would answer "Boo’s mom" and have to take a minute to remember my first name 🙂

Anyway, there’s a story here.

So, the church does this big thing in summer where they decorate the lobby of each campus into a different movie scene for a series that’s based on current movies. It’s a really big deal, and they all really go all out on it at all of the locations.

At ours, each staff member has a project area they are in charge of, them have their main team, then there are a lot of folks who will kind of float wherever something needs done to help with things like painting, cutting, glueing, etc. So we have always gone to this category, working with whoever needs us. We also kind of help out on other random things that come up, like filling color powder cups for the youth group color wars.

So, a couple of weeks ago, my daughter tells me that instead of just the week of building, that there is another night the week before that we need to go to.

That wasn’t what all the info was saying.

So she tells me that she was talking with the youth pastor, trying to get him to give her the theme, and he told her they were doing a night that wasn’t announced, but that he needed a lot of help on painting.

Given my daughter tends to be a bit of a wound up extrovert, I tried to determine if she had basically invited herself. From her version of things, it didn’t sound like it. So I figured that the early night was probably just to keep the chaos down, and that maybe the youth pastor was just doing his team of teens.

Because we aren’t exactly the people I would think you would pick for your team for this kind of thing.

Later, I’m with her while she is asking about staff member about a question she’d sent them on Facebook.. and they ask her about the build. She mentions we’d been invited by the youth pastor, and he tells us he could use us on his team too if we find ourselves not busy.

Ok, now this one, I couldn’t deny. She did not in any way open into it, but it was pretty clearly an invite.

So, I’m expecting to come in to a night with all except the floaters going strong.

I’m not expecting to walk in and find that there’s really only about 30 people.

Out of the church of like 3,000 or so.

There are no other teens on his team, as he introduced us to the other members, and tells them we will be doing painting. Ok, that’s what kiddo had said… Good so far.

So we work with two of the other team members for the night on getting the best strategies and tactics and plans going, as this area had literally 4,000 feet of meter wide paper needing covered in two layers.

No big deal.

And then the first night of build week starts. The workers are all there. And suddenly this went from "painting" to "leading, instructing, and organizing the painting".

Somehow I hadn’t really caught that part of it until about the time we were introduced to the group working in our section as being the ones leading the area.

The next night, the other team member wasn’t even able to be there.

Let’s just say this was an interesting week. A leader is about the last thing I’d volunteer for.. and while my daughter has much more of the personality for it, are sometimes lacks the focus.

It was both filled with moments where it was really cool to see my kiddo step up even while leading a group of adults on a task, and frustrating at others when things didn’t go quite a well. And my thoughts are about the same on how I did, moments I would like to hit myself for and completely erase, and moments I pulled it off even while feeling like a completely awkward duck.

I was very glad for the time the other team person was there too! Lol

But the entire thing still sort of baffles me. Kiddo is kind of used to having her pick of friends, and being the one invited to multiple things at once, of always having something going on with someone.

I’m very much not, and never have been. And fully realize that even in this case I was pretty much a hanger-on addition on kiddos coattails.

But still just so very weird to me.

But I did notice through the week how different things are from a year ago. We are known.

Even when kiddo wasn’t with me, staff are comfortable joking around, teasing, being playful. Sneaking up behind me quietly while I was trying to put my hair in a bun. Just relaxed stuff that wasn’t there nearly as much a year ago, towards us anyway.

The funniest one to me was one night after we left, and my daughter had left her skateboard at the building. She was thinking that she might have, and then I watched a new Facebook video about the build that the campus pastor had posted… In which at the end, one of the worship team skates behind the pastor on a skateboard. Yup, board had been found! (and I didn’t get the full details, but apparently some of them were teasing her riding around the building after she messaged them on Facebook about the board.. and have now decided that they want one.)

That the staff are comfortable enough knowing that we would completely just laugh about it and find it hysterical rather than getting upset… Is a whole lot more than we ever connected to the leaders at a church that at it’s most had maybe 1/10th of the members, and attended for the better part of a decade.

I’m thinking the move was well made.

Just don’t ask me when I’m on the spot trying to teach and assign things to 6 new people I’ve never met before, right as my kiddo has now decided that she’s hot and is going outside for a bit.

I’m glad the week is over. Lol

Friends and safety net building

Ok, I know I came off a bit harsh in that last round.

I wasn’t meaning to include anyone who doesn’t comment, or anything like that. It’s more just a frustration with those that I’ve called friends, but since come to think I was probably wrong in using that word.

Honestly, I think a lot of it still stems back to aftermath from the messy breakup. I’m sure I’ve probably gone into to this some even on the okay public stuff since then…

If, when I needed you, you seemed to almost deliberately become an added issue rather than a help… And I made it through anyway… Then do I really benefit much from having you in my life in the calmer times of life either?

It sounds really incredibly petty to start judging friendships by what I get from them. But, doing as much of an objective balance as I can, its super obvious that balance is not my strength here.

Instead, I tend to go three ways…

1. Relationships where I’m very much the weaker one and end up more in a child role. Not always a bad thing with the right mentor sort of friend, but easily twisted if not.

2. Relationships where I’m the one doing almost all of the relationship work. This isn’t give and take, it’s more like 80/20 at best. Most of these completely dropped off after the breakup when I had nothing to give and no initiative to be the one doing the pursuit.

3. A bit more distant. A bit between friends and acquaintances. Most of the time I don’t really have a good reason why these ones never really developed deeper, or have anything against the person… For whatever reason, it just never did.

What I’ve found in general… Looking at each one… Is that I actually have more benefit and less negative sides with the third group.

For years and years, with group 2 as my primary target, I was ok with spending 80 in effort to get 20 in benefit. It was 20 I didn’t have before. It was a much wanted 20, even if it wasn’t balanced. And generally, there was an element of pretending both of us were all in.

To be perfectly honest, it felt like the best I could do really.

But when I realized the 20 could be 0 when I tried to call on it… I realized I could live with 0 from them.

And when the 80 stopped flowing out because it wasn’t there, when it did come back more, the 20 just didn’t seem worth the effort of spending my 80 anymore.

With group 3, I may be getting only 20 in the first place, but I’m also only spending 20. Really, in a lot of cases, I’m probably a lot closer to 15 or even 10 with this group, focusing all my efforts on the other two.

So with group 2, there’s almost a twinge of bitterness, or maybe offense is closer to accurate. My 80 was freely and willingly given, with the circumstance being what they were. While I was frustrated with the 20, it’s not like it was news to me.. I’ve been venting about it occasionally for years on here.

But, even so, it’s like, that’s all my 80 was worth bothering with to you?

I think, tracing back more, that part of why I was ok with it came out of the earliest rounds of trying to recovery from a dysfunctional family.

In recovery styled groups and counseling, there’s usually a lot of emphasis on building your own family, on building your own net of support.

Part of that is focus on it being a net, not a rope. Of not having all of your eggs in one basket, not expecting any particular person to meet any particular need as then you risked stability if something happened.

I think somewhere that gets translated into don’t expect much from anyone.

It translated into expect little, and try not to put too much weight anywhere to risk snapping the net. Give your effort towards building as much as you can, but don’t be heavy, don’t put your full weight on it.

It sort of translated into earning your keep, realizing that a friendship net doesn’t have to be there, so if they are allowing you the favor of letting you anchor a net string with them, you owe them.

But that’s the key.

That assumes the net functions, that the strings are anchored.

Strings that go loose the minute there is weight on them are worthless to any net.

And I figured out a whole lot of mine were only hooked rather loosely.

Being safely in a non-dangling state, it’s been time to do some trimming of strings that don’t hold weight and cost effort. Trying to avoid tangles in the rest of the bet while I do.

Not because I don’t want a net.. or that I don’t wish for one…Or that I don’t feel like putting in the work to build one. (I’m actually pretty jealous of those who have strong ones given to them and haven’t had to go through the effort of building completely from scratch).

But because it wasn’t a working one anyway.

A couple good strings left is much better than many stands of net to tangle around me while it dumps me on the floor instead of catching me.

Right now, I’m at the point that I would really say that I have no close friends right now. Friends, yes, but not anybody close, let alone getting into bff territory.

Oddly enough, rather than being upset about that at all… I’m finding that the break in effort spent and drama tolerated is rather nice. Saving my 80 feels quite worth the loss of the 20.

Mixed feelings of return

I have mixed feelings about this page… About writing on here.. About making things public.

On one hand, between this page and the open diary page that was before, it’s been an ongoing story, evolving as it goes and as each new chapter unfolds. A chronicle of what has been.

On the other side stands the stark reality. For a long time, this page functioned as a pathetic accommodation for so called friends who couldn’t actually be bothered to keep up with my life and my thoughts if it meant actual interaction with me.

This is a large part of why I stopped making anything public or hitting publish.

Let’s face it, if you never ever comment, but sometimes just randomly tell me your thoughts on mine at some random time instead of actually interacting, that’s basically reading as entertainment.

Either that, or stalking.. but given that I was willingly putting up with it..

I don’t know… But what I do know is that when I stopped easily providing, very very few were willing to make even minimal effort to seek out what was going on in my life.

And so have almost entirely been removed from that life.

But, with this few posts, it’s not too likely that anyone outside of the few remaining subscribers are reading anyway.

At one point in my life, I cared about who was reading, and the possibility of those in my real life reading and taking things the wrong way. To attempt to minimize the damage of a dysfunctional dramatic family and the possibility of ghosts of the past finding ammo to use against me.

This is not that time. This is the time of my life that I couldn’t care less what they think. If they are hurt or offended it whatever, good. They probably should be, and maybe it’s not that they shouldn’t be on my virtual page but actually that they shouldn’t be in my real life. (You know who you are, but probably will never understand why.)

And 15 years later, the ghosts have no real bite anymore.

I make no promises here. But we may see how it goes.

The tree of control

Once upon a time, when my daughter was 2, there was an unwanted Christmas tree.

Being a busy and broke single parent, and living in the most ridiculously tiny 250 square ft one bedroom apartment with a 2 year old, I had decided that a Christmas tree would not be happening that year. We wouldn’t be at home much on the holidays anyway, she was too young to miss it, and there was really little chance of toddler-proofing anything in that tight of a space.

I did actually have a small tree that I’d purchased for my room years before, but this just wasn’t the year for it.

My mother, always the first to question every decision I make just because I made it, decided to lay on the guilt heavy, making it sound like I was just the most abusive parent in the world for skipping a year of tree. I still didn’t have the time or energy to care, and had long since gotten used to the fact that she would never be any happier about my parenting choices than she’s ever been about anything else in my life and would just go on with more evidence in her mind on how awful I am.

Until I opened the door one night, carrying my daughter inside as we finally got home at midnight from my second shift job, and there is a Christmas tree set up in my apartment.

This is one of those cases that it really takes someone familiar with manipulative or controlling people to understand.

Because if you aren’t, it’s just "Oh how sweet, she was so sad about the lack of tree that she took care of it for you."

They don’t see the whole pattern of repeatedly and blatantly disregarding my wishes and trampling over boundaries.

It wasn’t even just about the total pain of keeping a 2 year old from hurting herself or destroying the place by getting ahold of the tree, which was decorated with small toddler-mouth-sized ornaments and those little icicle strands, pretty much the least toddler safe decorations possible.

It was about the fact that she completely ignored that I had decided that I did not want a tree in my home that year. That she had come into my home without permission while she knew I wasn’t home to protest and deliberately went against my wishes, regardless of the reason being really minor.

Completely ignored that my opinions were not the same as hers, had been very clearly stated, and should have been the final decision as to the state of my own tiny ghetto apartment.

Nobody I told saw it that way, so I stopped mentioning it. Maybe I really was just the ungrateful jerk who should have been happy at the sight of an unwanted tree. Maybe it really was just a petty thing that I shouldn’t have minded having my home redecorated without my paying for it or doing the work.

Just like later in the month I should have been grateful for the expensive gifts of a full kid sized kitchen and full sized train table in our 250 square foot apartment for a 2 year old.

I mean, they were expensive gifts, way more than I could afford, that my kid really liked. So what did it matter if they were completely impractical and taking up tons of what very little space we had? Maybe I was just the jerk for not being overjoyed.

The tree was pretty at least.

Much time has gone by.

My kid is now in high school.

It’s still just the two of us, we’ve still always been really busy during the end of the year, still never been at home on the actual holidays, and still been in fairly small places and often on even smaller budgets.

And so, that tree has never been replaced. It’s still made an appearance yearly, though often not until the weekend before Christmas. Sometimes it gets ornaments, but some years I don’t even bother and just leave it with the lights since its almost always dark any time we are home to see it in December anyway.

But this year will be the first since going no contact with my mother a couple of months back. And though I did have an invite from a coworker to join her very large family, I’ve decided that I’d really rather just do my own thing than to deal with an awkward room full of strangers on top of the regular emotions of grief over the loving supportive family that never was to be.

And so, randomly standing in Walmart, I made the decision that this year we will be having a live tree, and welcoming every last one of the dead needles making the dreaded mess on the floor that always eliminated it from my mother’s home.

But this is MY floor, my home, my holiday, my tree.

And it wasn’t until that moment, happily picking up boxes of new lights and a large container of brightly colored large plastic ornaments, that I really realized just exactly how much I resent that stupid tree of hers. Even after all these years.

The tree was actually a pretty tree, with fiber optic lights. Objectively, I do like the way it looks, and so in all this time, I never noticed just exactly how it really made me feel.

My daughter is thrilled with both getting a live tree and with my selections in new ornaments. And her opinion of our decorating is the only opinion besides mine that matters, and should have ever mattered.

And I’m thinking that we are both going to be thrilled with having a holiday without my mother telling my daughter she ruins every holiday.
Or sitting though the reciting of how horrible life is for my mom and how every body part hurts all the time.
Or the re-telling of stories that trash me bad enough that one year my boyfriend at the time was completely shocked that she would actually be telling them let alone acting like they were amusing and funny rather than accounts of abuse.
Or feel like gagging at the sudden complete change of character into her performance mode when my brother in laws family arrives later on and she has an audience that doesn’t know her better.

Maybe I’m ungrateful, maybe I’m petty, maybe I’m taking things the wrong way, and maybe a million other things could be true that I’ve been told over the years when daring to stick to my feelings when my mother doesn’t like them. But if I am, it’s my right to choose to be those things rather than whatever it is she thinks she wants me to be that day, so I’m sticking with my own feelings and decisions and enjoying it either way.

And this year… If the holiday gets "ruined" somehow rather than being the peaceful calm I’m expecting, well at least we will know we are actually at fault and not just being blamed for it.