Category Archives: Challenges

I’m not your Mary Sue.

I recently ended a 23-year “friendship.” I don’t regret it, but I think the details might be instructive for others who are tolerating manipulators out of kindness or habit, so I’m sharing.

The conflict began when I decided to boycott a Peter Yarrow concert after learning about Yarrow’s 1970 conviction for molesting a 14-year-old backstage. My then-friend (I’ll call him “Andy”) inexplicably took exception to this, and when I noted that Yarrow’s victim was about the same age as my students — of whom I am extremely protective — Andy announced he didn’t give a damn about my students.

If you don’t care about my kids’ safety, we cannot be friends. Period. So I replied, “You are dead to me” and blocked him.

That was the end of the conversation, but it wasn’t the beginning. It wasn’t even the weirdest part.

Andy had a crush on me when I was 19. I wasn’t interested in dating him, largely because his perception of me bore no resemblance to reality. It felt as if he’d seen my face, written some fanfiction about it, and then confused me with the Mary Sue he’d created in his mind. Every time I tried to explain that his perceptions didn’t match reality, he refused to listen and insisted I was [insert litany of flattering adjectives that don’t apply to me].

It was awkward, and I was never quite sure how to respond –especially when he paired his compliments with remarks about how unattractive he was. At the time, I read this as insecurity. In retrospect, it looks more like manipulation: The more self-deprecating you are, the more people will coddle you.

Despite the awkwardness, we became friends — or, at least, I was friendly toward him, and he fawned over the Mary Sue he imagined me to be. I’m not sure that constitutes friendship, but it seemed to make him happy, and it wasn’t costing me anything.

Two decades later, Andy started this weird habit of stanning for celebrities accused of sexual misconduct — whereupon he was confronted by the cold reality that I wasn’t a fictional character he could control; I was a living, breathing, thinking woman whose opinions did not necessarily match the headcanon he’d dreamed up to go with my face.

When I said I wasn’t going to buy Peter Yarrow tickets, Andy immediately accused me of hypocrisy, asserting that if Hillary Clinton or Dianne Feinstein pulled something like that, I would fall all over myself to defend her. (Yeah, I don’t know what a couple of female politicians have to do with a folksinger molesting a kid 48 years ago, either. The logic probably works better if you’re drunk.)

When I asked him whether he honestly believed I would give somebody a pass just because I agreed with her politics, he said something that really clarified the nature of our long “friendship”:

“…i (sic) do believe that about you … . I think your politics ranks (sic) above all, because I DO know you.”

Andy does not, in point of fact, know me. AT ALL. He never has. He just knows a character he’s invented with my name and face, onto whom he has projected wishes and whatifs for 23 years. And when he finally had to confront the fact that I am not that character — when he finally had to choose between the real Emily and his imaginary friend — he reacted by saying something that was certain to end our friendship immediately.

I don’t appreciate being manipulated into being the bad guy, especially publicly. But I also don’t need someone in my life who prefers a fictional version of me to reality, and if he insists on dreaming up fanfic about me — well, let’s just say that I am MUCH more comfortable as a villain than as a Mary Sue.

Emily

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Mission accomplished

We finished paying off our dead Subaru this week.

*Breaks finish-line tape*

*Spikes football*

*Circles bases while pointing at sky*

*Does touchdown dance in the endzone*

*Sends a “Dear Subaru: t(-_-t) ” note*

Now that we’re all done paying off a station wagon that doesn’t run, we can pour those resources into retiring the loan we took out to replace the sewer line last year after the roots of the neighbor’s tree grew into it and clogged it up. (I still don’t understand why I am legally responsible for damage caused by somebody else’s tree, but I’d like a word with whoever made that rule.)

Emily

Sunday Self-care: Funny Farm

We were driving down Route 66 in Granite City, Illinois, one spring afternoon in 2004 when the thought came out of nowhere:

It’s going to be a good summer. It’s going to be an interesting summer. It’s going to be a really good summer.

That summer, we moved to Tulsa.

I was driving down Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico, one winter afternoon in late 2012, thinking — as I often do — that we should just move out there and be done with it, when the thought came out of nowhere:

Hang on. I’ve got a better idea.

That spring, we moved to Cape.

We were driving down Route 66 in Granite City one afternoon last February when the thought came out of nowhere:

It’s going to be a good summer. It’s going to be an interesting summer. It’s going to be a really good summer.

I wasn’t sure what that meant, but given my track record, I started bracing myself for major life changes.

I bookmarked the websites for several school districts in the Southwest. I bookmarked the New Mexico page on JournalismJobs.com. I kept an open mind. I listened for guidance. I waited. And while I waited, I worked.

I applied for a New Mexico teaching certificate. I looked into local possibilities. I gave serious thought to applying when two positions opened up in the Illinois newsroom where Ron and I met. And I spent a lot of time doing projects meant to make our house attractive to prospective buyers.

It is almost September.

We haven’t moved to New Mexico. We didn’t go back to Illinois. I didn’t change careers.

But at the end of this very interesting summer, I’m $6,000 closer to paying off my Subaru. I’ve redone the living and dining rooms. I’ve covered my porch with plants, installed new flowerbeds, covered an arbor with wisteria, and filled my home with mid-century furniture. Our bungalow looks warmer and neater and prettier than I ever dreamed it could. And I am content.

I suspected this might happen.

basil

One spring morning, as I was tending the garden, I thought:

You watch. This is gonna be like the Chevy Chase movie Funny Farm.

Remember Funny Farm? A Vermont couple bribe their cranky neighbors into helping them charm prospective buyers so they can sell their house — and in the process, they charm themselves into staying.

That’s basically what I’ve done. In trying to make my house irresistible to buyers, I’ve made it irresistible to myself.

arbor

I’d still swap it for New Mexico. And if I feel led somewhere else, I’ll go, as I always do. But for the moment, I am content — and it has, indeed, been a very good summer.

Emily

A little gloating

With the last Friday and Saturday of 2014 behind us, I can gloat a little bit about the fact that I’ve kept my New Year’s resolution: I’ve posted an entire year’s worth of weekly Vegan Friday and Eco-Saturday projects.

I wasn’t sure I’d have enough Eco-Saturday ideas to keep going after this year, but after I sat down and looked at what was left on my original list and went through some books and websites in search of other possibilities, I realized I had enough potential material to carry me well into 2015, so we’ll keep rolling with that tag until I run out of ideas.

Vegan Friday was a bit trickier, partly because my standards are high: If a vegan recipe is a pain in the arse to make, I’m not trying it, and if I try a recipe and it doesn’t taste good, I’m not posting it. That filters out a lot of recipes. It was a worthy project while it lasted, but I just don’t have the time or will to continue it for another year.

Instead, I’m turning Vegan Friday into Vegetarian Friday. Aside from an occasional batch of chicken posole or pigs in blankets, just about everything I cook is meat-free, so coming up with 52 different recipes should be easy, and staying in my culinary comfort zone should give me more time to stage photographs properly instead of trying to snap something with my iPhone on the fly because I just realized it’s Thursday night and I still haven’t come up with a good replacement for the vile-tasting-but-gorgeous Brussels sprouts I made Monday or whatever. It occurs to me that my light-therapy lamp and a couple of sheets of foamboard would probably go a long way toward making my recipe posts a little more Pinterest-friendly.

The vegetarian recipes should help advance one of my long-term goals, which is to reduce my meat consumption in a sensible, sustainable way. (I’m still sorting out the details, but in essence, I’m hoping to phase out one food category per quarter until I’m more or less vegetarian again.)

I have a couple of other projects up my sleeve, too, but I’ll share those once I figure out the details.

Emily

Technical difficulties

I had some intentions about blogging more this past week, but our Internet service went down after a storm, and it took nine days, umpteen phone calls and two Twitter conversations with AT&T’s customer service people to get somebody out here to fix it. In the meantime, we were reliant on our iPhones, and using the phone as a personal Wi-Fi hotspot is … well, let’s just say you don’t exactly get blazing Internet speeds with that approach.

I came back to discover something has gotten screwed up with WordPress, and for God alone knows what reason, the landing page for this site gives an error message (although it has no trouble displaying specific posts — it just can’t find its way home). Not sure what’s up with that, and I haven’t had time to find out, but hopefully I’ll get it sorted tomorrow.

In the meantime, I’ve been cooking a bit (which means I should be able to get a little ahead on Vegan Friday offerings); gardening a bit (I harvested 21 cucumbers yesterday, and may I just say that Miniature White is the greatest variety ever?); traveling a bit (bizarre Memphis pictures forthcoming); planning to travel a lot (Tulsa next weekend; Ludlow in the not-too-distant future); getting sick; getting better; battling the forces of evil (mainly preparing my friends for my impending departure from Facebook and figuring out how many art supplies I can get at the hardware store so I don’t have to drive to St. Louis to sustain my Hobby Lobby boycott); and bracing myself for the massive creative outburst I feel coming on.

I’ll have an Eco-Saturday entry for you tomorrow. It will involve either homebrewing or culinary herbs, depending on which project I feel like tackling first.

Emily

March madness

I have no idea why, but for as long as I can remember, the middle of March has been insanely busy.

I think it started with junior-high science fair, continued into high-school musical rehearsals, grew into magazine design projects of epic proportions, and snowballed from there.

This year, after the Oklahoma Route 66 Association president earned my undying loyalty and affection by constructing a beautiful, shimmering Somebody Else’s Problem shield around the Trip Guide for the first time in nine years, I assumed I’d get to find out what March looks like to normal people.

Yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking, either. I know better than that.

With a reporter out on maternity leave and staffing issues reaching critical levels, I volunteered to cover for a designer who’s out on vacation this week … right before my editor decided to move up the deadline on a largely hypothetical project that of course began spinning wildly out of control the second it became real … and just when I thought I might be able to reel that all in and keep things from getting too complicated, I remembered I had a murder trial to cover this week.

The upshot of all this is that by 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, I had already worked nearly 40 hours this week, and I’ve got another 40 or so ahead of me before the week is out.

After all these years, I’m not even pretending to worry about it, because an 80-hour week full of utter madness is as much a sign of spring as the crocus blooming next to the front porch, the flat of tomato plants growing in the dining room and the ballplayers warming up in Arizona and Florida. I don’t know why or how it happens, but I’d probably freak out if it didn’t.

As soon as I get through this week, I’m going to treat myself to some new lawn ornaments. I’ve got an utterly hilarious idea for a little garden tableau involving a handful of concrete angels and a lawn gnome in pinstripes and Chucks….

Emily

Coming soon: New weekly features

In the interest of making this site more practical and taking it back to its roots as an erstwhile quasi-almanac, I’m adding a pair of new features for 2014.

The first new feature: Eco-Saturday. Every Saturday in 2014, I’ll post a tip for reducing your environmental footprint. We’re not talking about big, expensive projects like installing a solar array on your roof or a woodstove in your living room (although I highly recommend both if you can manage them). We’re talking about cheap, simple projects like making your own laundry detergent; upgrading to LED bulbs in the light fixtures you use most often; or using power strips to eliminate phantom loads. Most of the projects I have up my sleeve can be done in an afternoon or less, and all but a handful cost well under $20 apiece.

The second new feature: Vegan Friday. In the interest of reducing my environmental footprint, I’m going to try to incorporate more vegetarian meals into my diet. Full-time vegging isn’t a viable option at this point, but a weekly vegan meal? Yeah, I can swing that. To expand your culinary options and keep myself honest, I’ll be posting a vegan recipe every Friday. Most of these recipes will be quick and easy, and of the 60 possibilities I put on my master list, only six depend on ingredients you’re not likely to find at the average supermarket.

Oh, and I’m also working up a list of Folk Thursday possibilities so I can share a more diverse assortment of videos with you. Expect to see classics like the Freedom Singers, Leadbelly, the Weavers and the Kingston Trio, along with some lesser-known artists and quite a few non-folkies covering folk and/or protest songs.

If your New Year’s resolution involves being nicer to the environment, be sure to check back here every weekend in 2014. I’ll make it easy for you to keep that resolution.

Emily