I’ve Moved!

I’ve moved my blog over to a new ad-free wordpress.org site! You can find me at

www.AllisonJWaters.com

 

Check out my first new post on the site about when I thought I had killed my favorite dog!

https://www.allisonjwaters.com/2018/02/03/the-time-i-thought-i-killed-my-best-friend/

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All of the Feels

It always happens that right after I tell my therapist how great I’m doing I have a shit storm of a week. This time I felt so confident in how life was going I didn’t even schedule another appointment!

My life is a roller coaster and this week has been riding though loops. I feel both amazing and terrible all at once. I’m feeling joyous, excited, motivated, energized, while also feeling terrified, shameful, sad, hurt, and anxious. I have all my plans and all my doubts all wrapped up into one little me.

I know a big part of it was going on thyroid medication.

I’ve spent the last two years basically feeling like crap all the time. Very low energy, slow metabolism, anxiety, depression, nonspecific pain, and just feeling down for no apparent reason. A few months ago my new doctor finally helped me find an explanation, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a not uncommon disease, and especially not surprising considering my family history of autoimmune disease. I knew someday one of them would catch me. My thyroid function isn’t actually all that terrible (according to the labs), but being the sensitive person I am, just it being a little off has affected me in big ways. So my doctor put me on a very low dose of synthetic thyroid hormone.

After a few weeks of being on my new daily pill I started feeling amazing! I was calm and comfortable in my own skin. I was motivated and energized. I felt like a new me! But a few weeks later, as the hormone built up in my body, it was too much. I started having anxiety again, but it felt different, it was more like hyper active anxiety instead of depressive anxiety. For several nights I did not sleep well and the days in between were the worst, tired but unable to rest and full of anxious energy. I emailed my doctor and after talking to me she decided to discontinue the meds. I’ve only been off a few days and it takes time for the hormone level to come down, so hopefully in a few more days I’ll start to feel more “normal” again. Whatever that means. Then we will be starting a small dose of “natural” pig thyroid to see how I do on that.

At the same time as all this I’m changing my diet. I’m totally gluten-free at this point and working toward grain free, for the month of January I’m going to attempt to follow the autoimmune protocol. If nothing else I know that will help my blood sugar, gut issues, and overall health. Eating more veggies and less sugar is never a bad thing!

I don’t know what it is about telling my therapist that life is great that always proceeds a rough week. Maybe thats the cycle of life, life is always going to have ups and downs so inevitably a period of a few good weeks will be followed by lower or more difficult period.

I do feel like I need to go in less often regardless. I’ve learned so many tools and I’ve used them well this week. I know the things that help me and ground me. I’ve been doing yoga, skateboarding, reading, writing, breathing, and it helps! Talking to Ace has been really important as well, sometimes I just need to get my thoughts and feelings out into the world and he’s been a fantastic listening ear this past week (not to mention all the great sex).

I don’t feel like I’m done with therapy, its been huge in my personal growth and I never want to stop growing, but its nice to look at my life and see that some of these things are becoming habits. I can see better when I’m anxious and what I need to do to help myself though it. I feel more confident in my own skin and like I’m more often doing the best I can with what I have. Looking at my life and seeing growth is an important step sometimes and right now I’m taking a little breather from therapy and focusing on my physical health.

“I’m Going to be a Writer!”

The past few months have been an exercise in patience as I wait for a potential space for Stronger Skatepark to be ready for occupancy. As of this writing there is no date in sight, as the owners of the space are slowly jumping though legal hoops before the city will grant them the permits to begin construction on the ADA bathrooms they need to be approved for occupancy. Long story short, this space will not be available for several months.

In the meantime I found another potential home for the park in Milwakie. It is much closer to my home and needs far less work before we can move in. This space has kept me up at night again, fully renewing my passion for this project. I can’t sleep becuase I’m designing ramps in my head, thinking of the best way to make a 7500 square foot space both friendly to beginners while being big enough and fast enough to keep veterans like myself entertained during the long winter months.

Its been a full two and half years since I started working on Stronger. Its been over a year since I started looking for buildings. I honestly thought that getting funding would be the hardest part, but it hasn’t been. Finding a building has been exponentially more difficult. Strict occupancy rules and high fees in Portland have pushed me to neighboring cities, where empty large spaces are in short supply.

I wax and wane in my involvement in my own social media for the project, feeling like a failure as I have nothing to post. I’m still here working away at this, but it just hasn’t materialized yet. Having the support of my ramp designer and builder has been absolutely key to my not giving up. As I apologize for dragging him to yet another space, and asking him so many of the same questions again, “Would this space work?”, “Can we fit a mini ramp in here?”, “Would we need to put in our own flooring?” he reassures me, “Its fine, I don’t mind at all!” and “I think you are doing this the right way, taking your time to find the right space.”

It doesn’t feel right to me, I want results, I want a tangible skatepark. The one that fills the gap Portland still has; something larger than commonwealth, friendly to beginners, clean, safe, and close to town, a place to hold contests and other community building events, a place where the skate community can gather under one roof, a place that can bring us together. “Together we are Stronger” thats the whole idea. This has been needed in Portland since before I lived here, since Department of Skateboarding closed its doors in 2010.

Along with the frustration of the slowness of my vision to materialize is my frustration that I don’t have a career to be working at while I’m waiting. In the past I’ve been a children’s pastor, a nanny, I’ve worked in my families restaurant, I worked in a skatepark as a teen, I’ve worked with animals in several capacities, and currently I’m hustling in that new gig economy, primarily delivering food with Caviar.

To be honest, I don’t hate it, I actually like it. I spend hours driving while listening to podcasts and music. I’m introverted and often feel refreshed after a shift, spending five or more hours almost totally alone, with only a few short words to restaurant employees and customers. I’ve learned that usually customers don’t want to talk to me, and that is just fine. But its not paying the bills, the hours are limited, and I’m working almost exclusively when my child is not in school, evenings and weekends.

While driving I often find my mind wandering away from whatever podcast is playing and I start thinking. I can spend a lot of time thinking, planning, finding problems with my plans and ideas and refining them and suddenly realize I need to start my podcast over completely. Gui Raz has been droning on in the background for thirty minutes about art art and I didn’t catch a damn thing, I’ve been exploring every career possibility in my head.

After a lot of thinking and probably not enough research I’ve decided to try and develop my writing skills and look for some freelance writing jobs. Its a skill I already have, and one I feel very comfortable in. One of my earliest jobs was writing for a website, with weekly live call-ins to an internet radio show. I was 13 and it was 1999. Each week I would write about something related to skateboarding, usually a review of a product sent to me, or an overview of an event happening at my local skatepark. I would report on demos coming to town, contest results, new skateparks opening, and I got paid in lots and lots of free stuff. I loved it.

In high school, I was consistently praised for “my natural wiring voice” and in college I continued to excel at writing, without trying all that hard. Honestly, I’m excited about taking some time to refine my writing skills further. I’m hoping that I can attempt to develop these skills and make some money along the way and maybe some day have a real career I can lean on when my crazy passions aren’t panning out as hoped.

Again, long story short, if anyone knows any writing gigs that would fit my interests and passions (skateboarding, alternative education, spirituality, personal growth, small business) please send them my way, or throw my name out there. I’d appreciate it. I’m officially throwing my name out there!

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I wear glasses now, so you know I fit that writer stereotype. 

Safe in this World

There is a little girl, she’s scared, angry, alone.

She’s angry at the world, the world that took away her father. The world that says she needs to be different, needs to be more “like a girl”, needs to like pink, and dresses, and dolls.

She’s drawn to blue, and red, and sports and dinosaurs. She likes cars, and motorcycles, and construction equipment. Tonka trucks and tricycles make the best toys.

More than anything else, she is lost and alone, with feelings bigger than she thought were possible. Feelings that are too big for her and for anyone else. Feelings that make her family upset, feelings she must learn to control and hide, now.

There is no where safe in this world.

As she grows she becomes better at pretending everything is ok, while feelings of rage and despair bubble just out of view. Feelings that are still too big for her small body and worried soul. There is nowhere safe to take these feelings, so she continues to control them the best she can.

There are some places that help her feel right, but these things aren’t for girls. Sports. Big strong movements like pedaling a bicycle, throwing a ball with all her strength, kicking a bag or a board, pushing a skateboard. These things calm the storm that is always hiding just out of view, at least for a few sweet moments.

The girl is the only one at the school father’s day event attending with an uncle. The only one at the childhood support group with a dead parent. The only kid pulled from class to see a consoler.

She doesn’t care about dresses, or make up, or hair, or dolls. But she does start to care about boys. The boys she finds special don’t find her special back. They always prefer the girls with the cool clothes and the done up hair and make up and skirts. So she keeps doing the things that bring fleeting peace, until there is only one thing that matters. Skateboarding. It is all consuming. Nothing else matters. Not school, not family, not even kicking things, only skateboarding.

The girl starts to find people she can trust in this new world, but the boys she likes, still don’t like her back.

She finds a family that treats her as their own, a man she trusts like a father. Until one night, when he treats her like an object. She is frozen in fear as his hands move up her legs.

Again she is reminded, there is no one and no where safe in this world.

Years later, she has found another family that again treats her like she is a loved member of their own family, until she starts thinking too much, too differently. Once the difference is too much, it cannot be overcome. She is no longer worthy, becuase of the way that she is, the way she acts, the way she thinks. What was once acceptable is no longer.

Again she is reminded there is no one and no where safe in this world.

I want to hug that girl. I want to tell her, there are safe people, and you’ve already found one. He’s still learning how to be good at it, but he will learn, and he will be there. He can handle all of you, even the dark parts, even the sad parts, even the broken parts. He will be there by your side while you dig into the feelings left buried for all those, he’ll love you as the skeletons come out of the closet. He’ll help you make the family you’ve so often hoped for. The one that can handle and love you exactly as you are.

You, will get through this. There are safe people in this world. You will find them.

The Treehouse

The treehouse was at first an idea preposed by a friend of my son’s. One of several boys who spent many days of summer with me. They started building it on our anniversary. By building I mean they put a bunch of random pieces of wood up on our mulberry tree. I told them upfront that we were having a vow renewal under the tree that evening, and I would be taking down the wood and they would need to rebuild their fort at a later date. They were agreeable to that. Yet, in the days after they didn’t get back to the idea idea and the tree sat empty.

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July 21, 2017

But Mark has not let go of this idea for a tree house. He’s been talking about it regularly and has created plans. He told me very clearly that this was a project only for kids to work on. “No one who is 15 or older is allowed to help!”

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Mark’s tree house plans. At the top is a picture of a hammer, a nail with 14 next to it to indicate he will need 14 nails, a tool box and a diagram showing where the major elements will go. 

Recently Mark (nearly 7) and Vincent (8) began work on the treehouse again with occasional help from Isaac (4).

Mark has his own set of real tools he is allowed to use whenever he wants, he can use my tools with explicit permission and supervision. He’s used his own tools enough I don’t feel the need to closely supervise him. I trust he will be mostly safe. We’ve had a lot of lessons, including a time he cut himself with his own saw and learned why we are careful with the saw.

I respected his request for no adult help as long as he followed a few rules.

  1. Be smart with your tools, especially the saw.
  2. Don’t leave tools or nails or screws laying on the ground.
  3. I’m allowed to veto any design that I believe is unsafe for people or the tree.

Mark agreed to these terms and set to work. Its been very slow going, but he and his cousin are very persistent. A six and an eight year old attempting to put screws and nails though solid wood into other prices of sold wood with only a screwdriver and a small hammer is a slow process. They have sawed a few of the steps for the ladder and halfway attached one.

 

This is self directed education in action. These kids had no adult say to them “Hey how about you go build a tree house!” This was entirely their idea, their plan and their effort. How sweet will finishing that tree house be when they know they did it with own hands? What might they learn if they don’t finish? What will they learn if they do eventually ask for adult help?

All of these possibilities are fantastic life lessons. Right now I’m glad they are becoming more confident using tools, learning what works and what doesn’t work. I see them experimenting with how to set up the wood to saw it, how to get a screw started though a peice of wood. I see them working together (one day even with a four year old helper.) one person holding the first run of the ladder while another attempts to drive a nail in. They have already spent at least 8 solid hours in the yard over the course of three days working on this, retiring to the swimming pool when the afternoons get unbearably hot. But the next opportunity they are out there again working hard.

Give kids the tools they need and the freedom to use them and they will do great things all on their own.

Writing Practice Works

I want to share with you a piece I just wrote in my journal as an example of how powerful writing practice can be. I sat down thinking “I have no clue what I’m going to write about, so I’ll start with that.” Somehow it took me deep down to the depths of my soul and back up. I’ll let you read it for yourself.

Disclaimer: Dear “friends” that may read this, this is not about you specifically, it is about no one specifically. It is an exploration of my raw exhausted self. Feel free to PM me if you want to talk. 


I am still struggling deeply with knowing what to write and feeling like a failure for writing so little yesterday after setting such a lofty goal. Yet, I am determined to stretch and flex and build this writing muscle. It is an important exercise that I value. I believe it will help me be better and I value myself. I want to be better. I always feel behind on everything and why would it be any different here? I look around my yard, my house, my life, my business, my finances, nothing is where I want it to be. Everything is behind.

The laundry and dishes are chronically behind. I rarely meet my self-imposed goals and lately that crushing feeling of knowing I will always be behind has gotten me down. I’m tired before I begin. I have no idea what to do about it. I am merely observing it. I do know the part I value most though, life. When the apple tree was on the brink of falling I was there to prop it up. When the sequoias were brown and nearly dead I got the hose to them. When the “elm”, which we now know is a mulberry, was about to loose a massive branch, I got it fixed. I do whats needed in a crisis. But I don’t prevent those crises with daily care. I’m too busy caring for Mark, Ace, the dogs, and myself. Its a fucking lot. Then I have friends that constantly want to be social and thats draining. I feel like I’m not a good friend. I can’t fucking keep up. I have too many of them and my friendships feel shallow.

I feel shallow.

What depth do I have that makes me me? Why should someone want to be with me as opposed to any other clump of conscious cells? My good looks? My deep philosophies? My attitude? I just don’t understand who I am. I guess this is a classic dilemma. It is the thing that makes science so interesting to me. Just as it made theology once so irresistible. Maybe it can give me some insight into who I am and how to be better at being me.

I want to love harder, “friend” better, be more productive. I want my house and my yard to serve my life instead me feeling like a slave to all the stuff and responsibility. I feel like there is no way I can maintain my house without becoming a slave to that and having no time left to enjoy said house and yard. I guess thats why I’m so apathetic to its forever half finished state. I know. I know I want to enjoy it. If I make it what some part of my mind thinks of as perfect I won’t be able to do that [enjoy it] anymore. So I must live in the tension of done and not yet done so I can have those moments of enjoyment with my friends.

I really do love this place even with its constant rough around the edges unfinished look. I fucking love my yard. It is the perfect place for my son to grow up. Its so perfect it gives me hope that God is real and he game me this one thing. I’ve lost so much else and the struggle to pay bills is so fucking real, like I’ve never known. But I have this. I have [****] Ogden St. And even though I could rent out the yard or the garage for a decent amount of money I hope it never comes to that. I want this little escape in the city be for me, and for Mark, and for Ace. Not for money. Its too wonderful to be turned into a thing designed to extract a profit. I’ve buried two dogs here. I saw a solar eclipse here. I had my vow renewal here. This property chose us as much as we chose it. And its a perfect fit. I would be happy to stay here forever.


Again, I’m not sharing this for the content in and of itself, but as a personal example of how valuable writing practice can be. These thoughts were all just passing thoughts. I love my friends DEEPLY and appreciate my time with them. The point of sharing this is to say, just sit down and write. Even if you feel like you have nothing left to give. Even if you are so tired you should be in bed. You just might start your session feeling like failure and walk away crying in happiness because you love your yard so much, with maybe a little bit of nihilism in between.  You don’t know where you will go until you sit down and go. Just move the pen across the page. 

Writing Practice

I’ve been slacking off on writing the last few weeks, both here and in my various notebooks. In an effort to revive my writing practice I’ve committed to filling an entire notebook in one month. I found this challenge on reddit and it immediately resonated with me. It was presented as an alternative to NaNoRiMo (National Novel Writing Month) for those of us with no aspirations to write long form fiction.

I’m using my current journal as my notebook to fill, I’ve only been using it for a month and only have a handful of pages filled. I counted 133 remaining blank pages yesterday, which means if I shoot for 5 pages per day I will have a little wiggle room for the days I don’t quite meet this goal.

In order to meet the goal I’m starting up timed writings again. I set a timer for 10, 20, 30 minutes, and I go. No set idea about what I’m going to write about, I just move my pen and try my best to not stop moving until the time period is up. This has already generated some writing that is of a higher quality than I expected. A peice on some special times I shared with my Grandmother and a peice about the significance of my son turning seven.

I plan to take a few of my timed writings, type them up and edit them so I can share them here.

Writing really keeps me centered and sane like almost nothing else. Its the one habit I’ve returned to throughout my life in times of stress and times of happiness. So for the next month I’m really going to lean into it. I have until my my son’s birthday, September 18th, to fill a whole lot of pages!