Saturday, February 21, 2015

50 Shades of Stuff....

I'll admit it, I read the trilogy. I did. I read Twilight and I read 50 Shades of Grey and I've read Story of O, and Anais Nin's erotic novels Little Birds and Delta of Venus. I've read Barbara Cartland and Elizabeth Heyer and Anne Rice, and a whole slough of other romantic and erotic books. I also worked in a Women's Health clinic for about six years, and I'm an adult with a child and another on the way, let's just say that I know what sex is and can be like, both good and bad.

I know my hard limits and I know my soft limits. I know my preferences and I can communicate those with my partner and he listens and communicates back and I listen. I love that conversation is often described as intercourse, and that sex is as well. If things are going well, a good conversation can be quite stimulating. In the course of my long dating life (from 16 through my 30s) I've certainly had physical/emotional relationships that I'd describe less as intercourse or stimulating and more as, well, not like that.

There's been a lot of hoopla about 50 Shades of Grey lately, the grammatical mishaps, the "oh geeze"s and the "inner goddess" and the "stalker" and about what the BDSM community is "really like" versus the portrayal in the books. I've never officially been in the community, but I've known people who were/are, I've been invited to participate, I've researched, and I'm adventurous. Like most things in life, if you're going to work together with someone you need to be able to trust them and vice versa and you should always do your best to make wise choices about your relationships.

Your mileage may vary, however, my general advice is that if you want to explore your kinky side: do your homework, communicate clearly, prepare mentally and physically, and be safe. You don't want to end up in the clinic needing x-rays to find something you've lost, or stitches, or anything like that. There is sometimes a fine line between pleasure and pain, and between safety and injury. Make sure that you and your partner both know what your mutual barriers are and that it's okay if your barriers change occasionally, just communicate.

Honestly, the 50 Shades of Grey contract was fairly tame compared to what I was expecting when I started reading the book. It's mostly what normal people expect of each other, the only thing really shocking about it was that it was codified and went a little farther into nutrition and exercise and finally into non-specific punishments, than normal relationships tend to. Once, when I was very angry at him I threw a glass of water on my then-boyfriend, now-husband. He was... quite displeased. I haven't done it since because it's definitely on the list of thou must nots. If we made a list of all the unspoken do's and do not's, it'd put this little contract to shame. :D

Perhaps another reason that the contract wasn't shocking for me, is because after I had my first son, when I started dating again, I came up with a list of things I wanted out of my next, and hopefully last, real relationship. I never really wrote them out or anything like that until now, but this is basically what I had when I started dating the man who became my husband. Despite the fact that I was terrified to do so because it completely exposed me to rejection, I shared the list with him. I do not regret it.


Holly's WYSIWYG Dating List (~2011)

1. I am a working mother and my child comes first, this may mean cancelled dates or interrupted phone calls and activities.

2. I am not your mother. Take care of yourself for me (financially, health-wise, life-goals, etc.), and I'll take care of my son and I.

3. I am here for a real relationship. If you want something casual/booty call-like, there are lots of other girls out there. We can be friends even if there's attraction there. I know myself well enough to know that I can't/don't want to do no-strings sex. Just be honest about what you want. I'm here being as honest as I can be because I'd rather blow this up now and have you run than to potentially have drama later.

4. I won't waste your time. If I don't see long-term potential, I'll call it off quickly. No harm, no foul. Please do me the same courtesy.

5. I co-parent with someone I don't get along well with at this time. I am doing my best to work with him on a polite and business-like basis. To that end we have a facilitator we see regularly to help us work together better but this is and will be a long-term stressor, and there will be days that I will be completely wrecked from dealing with it. You can't fix this for me and it will be frustrating. If you're not ready to be in a relationship with someone who has a kid and an estranged co-parent, get out now.

6. I don't want drama from this relationship. I've got plenty of that already due to the whole co-parenting thing. If you want to play games and have drama, there are lots of other girls out there. I am not interested.

7. I don't have time or energy to take on high-maintenance people. If we choose to seriously date, I will make time for you and I will do my best to be awesome to you, but I won't always be awesome. I am a mom first, I work hard, and what's left of my time and energy has to be split between my sociable introvert space needs, and you. I can only guarantee some good times and some not-as-good times.

8. We will not always agree. I will do my best to always fight fair and to treat you with respect and dignity. Please do your best to offer me the same.

9. When it comes to physical things, let's both go get tested and let's not give each other any nasty gifts or surprises. If, at some point you feel the need to explore other options sexually you should alert me ASAP (before you do any exploring) so that I can make good choices for myself.

 a. It is normal to feel attracted to other people during a relationship. I know and accept this. It's the actions that one takes upon feeling attraction that can be problematic.
 b. For my part, I am bad at sharing the people I am in a relationship with and, thanks to some folks who came before you, I have some major trust issues. Certain behaviors and clusters of behaviors will trigger these issues more than others. I am working through them, but I am not always going to be a "cool girl".
 c. I will never purposefully do anything to trigger jealousy from you, because that falls under playing games/ inciting drama and is utter crap.

10. I am old enough that I mostly know what makes me happy and I don't want to have to try to guess at what makes you tick. Tell me what you want and how you hope to be treated and I'll do the same. This applies to your "love language", your birthday and/or holiday gifts, even down to how you like your eggs or steaks cooked. I want to make you happy, it's easiest if you know what makes you happy and can communicate that clearly to me. Let's set each other up for success.


For some reason, after all the discussion around these things, and my "this is a business discussion" tough girl act around them, he didn't run. He was thoughtful about it all, and had his own things to add. I'm pretty sure that most people would've bailed. In the past, before I became a mom, I myself, might've bailed if someone had come to me early in a potential relationship with a discussion like this.

After my son was born, I finally had a reason to be completely honest about what I needed and wanted and what I brought to the table. I didn't want any more unhealthy relationships because I didn't want my son to have them as an example, and I wasn't afraid of being alone anymore. Then, I finally found someone, or he found me, worth the risk of being truly vulnerable with.

I think it's similar for people in any kind of relationship. If you're in a healthy relationship, the communication is clear between yourself and your partner, in body, in words, and in actions. It takes work to get the communication to that point, and to keep it there. Constant recalibration is involved. Healthy relationships can look very differently from each other depending on the people involved, and what works for some people won't necessarily work for others. This is good and okay. One of my girl friends likes to say, "There's a seat for every butt," and it works for this.

My general thought on erotic/ romantic novels and books and things is that they're written to keep people interested. This means that the characters often do things they ought not to do. That sex is rendered clean, without chafing or accidental injury or funny sounds, and intensely orgasmic every time for everybody involved (ha!). The characters react to their circumstances and each other in ways that may or may not be healthy, and they encounter conflicts that we ordinarily might not come across in every day life due to the author's perfectly designed circumstances for his or her characters. Honestly, by contrast, a healthy relationship might be kind of boring to read about in some ways:

He said what he meant, she understood and replied exactly what she meant. They fact-checked their most recent argument on Wikipedia and he was right: the moon does rotate and revolve at exactly the same speed. (Usually she was right though and he knew better than to rub it in. He just smiled at her as she growled at him.) They were faithful to each other. They took turns making meals and cleaning up. Sometimes, the kid, who was still little, wanted his mom to come to the bathroom with him, and sometimes, the kid wanted to go to the men's restroom with his stepdad. On school mornings there was rush hour to contend with. She drove faster and more aggressively than he did, so if they were running late to get the kiddo to school on time, she'd drive and he'd talk to her because if he looked at his phone while she drove he'd get carsick. He usually drove though and she never got carsick. Thursdays were trash days. Recycling every other Thursday. There were farts and sneezes, and coughs and burps, and sometimes co-sleeping, but mostly not because the kid kicked a lot, and every day, twice a day, someone fed the cats and fish.

See? Kinda boring, right?

(Not to me. That's a little snapshot of my life and I love it. :P)

Life is a choose your own adventure story. Don't take a fantasy novel too seriously. Just have the best relationships you can have and if you're worried about other people taking fantasy too seriously, communicate clearly and respectfully, and let it be. All of us are on a journey, some of us just have to go the long way around.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Baby 2

In a few weeks, my husband, son, and I will welcome a new member to our family.

The new baby is healthy and big. He's due the day before my birthday and, if he's born around then, he'll be a Pisces and a Goat/Sheep just like me (not that I'm a horoscope believer, but I thought it was interesting to note). He moves and kicks and punches a lot, rarely gets the hiccups (my first son had hiccups a lot), and despite being much more tired with this pregnancy, I've had fewer problems in some ways with it than I did with my first son: more physical (e.g. ankles and hand swelling, sciatica pain, more heartburn, more stretch marks, etc.) and less serious issues (e.g. no passing out, no liver/gall bladder failure, no gestational diabetes, etc.).

I'm definitely still of the opinion that pregnancy is far from a beautiful experience and I'm looking forward to being done with it soon even though I'm dreading the labor and delivery and the sleeplessness that will follow. It's an interesting dichotomy of feeling: anticipation and trepidation, that I know will persist throughout the life of this child.

With children, so far it seems that every step in their growth is both more and less challenging than the previous. My first son has been an amazing teacher for me and I feel like I'm a pretty good mom to him. Through no fault of his own, he's brought up things from my past that were unresolved and I've had to deal with, heal, and grow through those things. I feel like a better human being for having been his mother for the past few years and I look forward to our future together and only occasionally mourn the past and even then, only some aspects of it.

Despite the material from my previous post, I've had significantly less stress during this pregnancy. With my first son I was an emotional wreck (Maslow's hierarchy of needs was largely met with question marks) and I was still messily getting out of a relationship with his father; with this one, I know where we're going to live and how, and I have a wonderfully supportive partner.

It really makes a huge difference to know that when I'm going over the wall into the battle, someone is covering me. I'm also more confident in my abilities to survive and to thrive. Even if things were to go to hell in a hand-basket, I know that I am fully capable of getting us all back out. I did it once, I can do it again.

We had a baby shower this past weekend and it made things very real for me. This baby is about to be here. He could show up any day now. I think I have almost everything we need, but I'm sure there are things I've forgotten. It's weird how some days, it's still unreal that we're about to welcome a new baby, and some days, it's all I can think about. I guess that's part of pregnancy though.

I hope that I'll be a good mom to two boys.

I hope that my first son is a good big brother and that my second son is a good little brother.

I hope that my husband and I work well together during this time. It'll be the hardest thing we've done together, while admittedly, probably the best thing we've done so far as well.

Thanks for reading today. I hope that your day's journey brings you closer to your dreams.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Happy Chinese New Year

I'm not sure why I never seem to be able to settle into anything for very long.

There's something in my soul that makes me want to wander, to change things, to throw everything in the air, see where it lands, and then pick it up and rearrange it all. I'm constantly seeking improvement. Sometimes, that works out well, and sometimes, it results in moving backward.

Over the last year I've been to Canada, Washington State, Belize, and Oregon. I've changed jobs four times. I've started another blog and website in order to launch my own consulting business: virtual assistant, HR, etc.. I've also been engaged, and am now married. I've had five different health insurance plans. I picked up two new certifications: the SHRM-CP, and a Notary Public Commission. My husband and I are expecting our first baby in March. A second boy for me. It's been quite the interesting year.

While I'm excited about bringing this new life into the world, I'm also sort of burned out. I'm 35, almost 36, and over the last year, I left a really secure position with people I care about to take a risk on a startup that turned out to be a bust. Then, I got picked up and dropped by a second startup. I have a long history of long employment terms so encountering that kind of rejection, and/or failure of good decision-making, is pretty epic for me.

What I've painfully learned over the last 6 months is that startups are not a really great place for someone who is pregnant unless you're the one running the startup. Even if the hiring team says that they're a "family company" and supportive of pregnant mothers, that they'll support a decent maternity leave (during interviews I asked for 6 weeks of leave/work from home because no daycare will take a baby under 6 weeks and both times was told that it wouldn't be a problem, we'd work it out closer to the time) and that they want to make changes to their culture and things, it's quite likely to be untrue when you get down to putting action where words have been.

When I told one of my former bosses that I was going to leave my secure position to go work for more startups and that I wanted to have another baby pretty soon, he told me, "If you get pregnant at a startup, they'll fire you." I thought that that couldn't possibly be true. I mean, what a gross, backwards, sexist thing for anyone to do, right? Especially, if the leadership at the company were married with children themselves. But, as it turns out, my old boss was right and I was the one mistaken.

I mean, this is the tech scene (known for its treatment of women) and this is Texas (also known for its treatment of women). Even if I'm in Austin, the liberal blue oasis in the middle of the wasteland of red conservativism, I'll still find myself hired to do a job, not given the proper tools or support to do that job (e.g. at one I didn't even have a work computer for the first three days, and then I wasn't given access to the software I was supposed to use for weeks), marginalized (e.g. they stopped giving me assignments because they knew I'd be going on leave in a few months and I guess they thought that made me incapable in the present), not given the same due process that other employees at the same company got (e.g. while others got a write up and a performance improvement plan, I was only told "we're going another direction with your position" and no notes for improvement) and then fired a month before I'm due to bring a child into the world.

I'm pretty disappointed with the tech scene and startups currently, but I know that it has more to do with the failure of the leadership of these particular places, than it does with me personally or my health status, or all startups everywhere. I know that eventually I'll probably find my way back into those verticals. Startups and tech are exciting places to be. It's the only genre of work I've experienced so far where I was never bored and I felt consistently challenged to grow and change and be more. I am a hard-working, smart, talented, loyal person who's not afraid to start off at the bottom and work my way up. It only stands to reason that I'll find the right job or vice versa, when I'm ready.

It's easy for me to fall into depression at times like this, but I'm trying to look at this as a re-grouping time, a time to gather more information, to finish projects previously half-done, and to rest. It's hard for me, someone who's used to being really active and really busy, to not have anywhere in particular to be for the majority of the day. It's also hard to get used to actually having the time to do chores and small projects. I could very well write the great American novel over the next few weeks or months, or maybe a children's book or two. I've been volunteering some, and I'm also looking forward to taking on some contract assignments and get more exposure to different people and ideas.

The great thing about life, like Texas weather, is that if you keep moving and give it some time, it'll change. So, I'm working towards ensuring the changes that happen are the ones I want.