Out of the OMGcon and into the Hypericon

I’m just not feeling it today. I haven’t been feeling it for a while now. In my heart of hearts, I know what it is: even if the clients can’t understand I’m quitting, I’ve quit. I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to do my own thing. Period.

They come and they ask for another cover, please, and I just don’t wanna. We need the money, I know we do especially after the last sick fiasco foisted upon me by germ warfare, but I’m annoyed that in order to find time to write my novel or work on The Heavenly Bride I have to fit it in late at night when I’m done working for everyone else. My bills are relatively paid – well, better than they used to be. And dammit I want to stop. I just want to stop.

Last weekend was OMGcon, and even though the air conditioning in the convention center freezes the shit out of me we had a good time. We got to see a lot of good people, some familiar faces… we laughed. We sang. And it was over before it felt like it started.

This weekend is Hypericon, in Nashville. The drawback to having two conventions back to back like this, other than being a little tired and feeling burned out, is that OMGcon saw a bit of unusual success for me: I sold out of books. I mean, I really sold out of books… and I wasn’t expecting it. Which means my stock that I’d meant for Hypericon is gone. I don’t have enough time to restock. I’m just a little bit concerned, to say the least.

I think part of what’s contributing to my outright feeling of meh is the amount of rudeness I’ve been dealing with lately. Now, I’m not the perfect Southern Belle. Yes, I serve sweet tea and there are certain hospitality rules I live by and expect those around me to at least respect. I am Southern, after all. And being as the last time I was annoyed to the point of being emotionally drained at someone for their lack of hospitality and respect they were from the same geographical region as my current issue – Chicago – I suspect my issue is largely a culture conflict. But culture conflict or no, if I’m the host and you’re the guest then it’s up to you to be a good guest just like it’s up to me to be a good host.

The first time this happened I was an exemplary hostess. I fed my charge. I gave my charge a free ride cross country to get where we were going. I gave her a free place to sleep. And even after she’d backstabbed me and I decided to leave the event early rather than continue to deal with the abuse, trauma, selfishness, stolen property, and various other bullshit I made sure she had a place to sleep. I gave her my friend’s tent (with permission) and happily went on my way.

In return a little consideration would have been nice. I got none of it. In fact, she even portrayed me as the bad guy and made things more difficult. How’s that for gratitude? I haven’t talked to that person since, I would never recommend her to work with, and would be quite happy if she were to die right now.

This time, just like the last, I’m going out of my way to pick someone I invited up. They asked if they could bring someone else along. Sure, I said. That’s only imposing a little bit. I can take it.

My bills are paid, which means money is tight. (Funny thing about paying bills. It doesn’t mean you’re rich. It just means you’re responsible.) So when booking a hotel, I calculated how far away the event was and decided to hold back on booking more than necessary. I was given attitude on the part of my guest for not booking that extra night, because driving in the morning “would make everyone tired”.

I had learned from the first incident, though. I stood up for myself right away, and explained that yes I drive a reasonably new car and am paying for a house. This doesn’t mean I’m rich. It means I’m responsible, and the hotel was expensive. So I needed to be careful with what I did here.

Some of the negotiations for everyone’s schedules have been done on the part of the other half, with me not being fully informed. But somewhere along the way, as I tried to think of how I could make things work without my husband I had him ask if perhaps our guest could meet us partway out on the day of the convention or something, to shorten everyone’s driving time. Can’t do it, was the response. Okay. I understood. No problem. We’ll figure something else out.

That something else turns out to be driving Friday morning to the convention and leaving Sunday night. Will pick up our guests on the way out, no worries. They’re only a tiny bit out of the way and I don’t mind.

Then I’m told my guest is thinking of having someone pick them up during the convention so they can do something, probably on Saturday (usually the busiest day). My husband said incredulously, “Wait, they couldn’t work with us with getting a ride even an hour from their house, but they can be picked up in Nashville the full 3 hours from their home to go DO something?”

Maybe that was a schedule conflict, I let it go.

As far as my guest knew, I was leaving Thursday night to set up. The plan at that point was to pick them up on Thursday. I hadn’t communicated things with them yet because nothing was concrete. So they asked me a few days ago if it was alright if I picked them up on Friday instead, because they wanted to wait for their other half’s paycheck so they could have money. This comes after hearing them mention constantly about how their other half won’t give them any money. Fortunately their request didn’t put me in a bad position because I’d just been given the set up schedule so I was able to tell them that it was all good. However I was also thinking, “How fucking inconsiderate! First they get upset I won’t get an extra night at the hotel on Thursday. It’s a good thing I didn’t book Thursday! Now they want my husband to drive THREE HOURS ONE WAY out of his way on Friday to pick them up for the sake of their convenience – after which he would have missed the first day of the convention!”

Other half reacted by saying, “They are the GUEST. We’re not at their convenience. They’re at ours.” Well, that sentiment is partly correct, and gets the gist across.

The most recent fiasco was just a couple of days ago. I was asked, “Hey, when are you going to be here to pick us up?” I didn’t know. I was hesitant to give an hour or time, because when someone asks that question it usually leads to upset feelings when life and traffic are assholes and I’m even a little bit late. I said, “When I get there.” So they pressured me. I explained, hey. I wasn’t sure. I knew I wanted to leave early, but I never get out the door when I plan it no matter how hard I try, and I just didn’t know. So they pressured me some more. “When do you need to be there,” they asked. “I want to be there by noon, but the way things go I might not get there until 1,” I replied. Finally they said, “Fine. We’ll just be ready for you by 9 o’clock and wait.”

Okay then. I’m good with that, told them so. And then I asked, hey… do I have your up to date phone number so I can let you know when we leave? No response.

Maybe they went offline. I dunno… but my patience ended in that moment. I haven’t even gotten to the convention yet and I’m already dreading it based on past experience and the constant red flags I’m getting here. Are all Chicago people this way? I gotta ask, cuz the only ones I’ve ever known are turning out to be pretty consistent in this behavior. Only Chicago people may reply to that question, please.

Ever since that moment in which I couldn’t give the answer they wanted to hear, all the other half and I have gotten from our guest has been one word replies to anything we say to them. And it’s usually just a trite and short, “Okay.”

I have an Illinois friend who recommends I dump them, just tell them I can’t pick them up or something. I can’t do that. I invited them…. and all I want is for them to be good guests. I’m going to feed them, and water them, and I’ll even call them George if only they’d be a little considerate.

But the truth is if things can’t lighten up, I’ll be forced to dump them for the sake of my own self.

Still I hold on to the hope that the red flags are false flags. In person, my guests are nice people and I enjoy being around them. I am hoping that, while they’re in person, that will hold.

But let this post be a lesson, as most of my posts are geared to be. I take my job as hostess very seriously. Apparently God even smote an entire city of their lack of hospitality. And I’ll do what I can above and beyond the call of duty to be a good hostess. However, taking advantage of my good will makes you a jerk – and in my middle age mindset, you’ll quickly become a jerk I avoid.


Dedicated to all those parents out there, estranged from their little ones


It’s that time of year again; the time when she normally would have been buying wrapping paper, picking a cake, and digging all the presents and little things she’d managed to get through the year out of their hiding places. Her children’s birthdays were only a couple of weeks away.

She wasn’t doing that this year. She hadn’t done it for the past two years before. Not since the youngest had moved out. For her, they were gone.

When the break had first been made complete – this break that started as a crack and had slowly been getting bigger despite her best efforts to be nice, to be fair, to be the good one – she crawled away to lick her wounds and grieve for a while. In a couple of months, she felt brave enough to send birthday and Christmas cards to their address up north. At first she didn’t get anything in return, which she expected. Then one day her eldest contacted her by email to thank her for the card, to complain that their father wouldn’t help them with transportation so they could get jobs or go to college, and to say hello now and again.

She knew better than to get hope from that. She’d read posts on forum after forum, all from other estranged parents. The story was always the same. The children come back to you briefly, and then the other parent gets wind of it and before you know it another heavy hand has been dealt and the children don’t speak to you anymore. For those estranged parents it was like their children had died. The cruelty was just that complete.

For her, though, it’s not like the children are dead. Rather, it’s like they’ve become a part of him, that man. The cheater. The abuser. So she doesn’t cry at night that they might as well be dead. She sits, instead, at the kitchen table drinking tea and licking a wound that will never go away. She’s been wronged, and she knows it. She also knows there’s no way to undo it. The kids could come, sure. They could sit at her table with her and talk about the weather. But she’d know, as she should have known before it happened, she could never trust them to talk about more than the weather.

So calculatingly she chooses not to buy gifts and cards this year. She almost did. She did last Christmas – sending the carefully chosen gift cards out with care and no expectation of return. Two months later the eldest contacted her again, but it was a short message. They’d moved before Christmas, it said, and although they did get their cards they’d only just gotten them last week. They’d been kicked from the house they’d shared with their father’s girlfriend and her parents. The eldest couldn’t give her the new address until “the drama died down”. They’d lost their job because of this and didn’t have a way to get a new one. But if Mom wanted to send another card in the future, she could just send them to the old address and they’d get their things eventually.

That was over a month ago.

At the time she read the message, stood up, and paced a while. It hurt, it really hurt, but more than anything it pissed her off. That was their father talking, even if the eldest didn’t mean to sound that way. She knew, though. Oh yes, she knew intimately every drama queen move that man made. She knew the over-complications and the excuses. It was always something with that man; some excuse not to work or improve upon his situation. A short while ago she’d noticed the eldest was turning out the same way.

It had been that way since the man left her, she’d mused. He’d never held down a job. There were no school photos. Visitations were always at his convenience, to the point that she found herself cancelling family plans for his last minute demands on  more than one occasion. There were times he chose not to visit at all because he had a party to go to. He never wanted to give her an address to where he was at, as if she were going to do something to him in his sleep. Well, he always was a little paranoid – and charismatic. He once had several people convinced that he was terrified of her when – the secret truth – he had come at her with a knife one night because he’d heard a rumor.

Knowing what she knew, she blocked her eldest child from further contact that day. She’s cried a few times since then, but there’s no going back.

“There were people behind you, watching,” the youngest had said to her one day while barely hiding the amusement. “You were just getting on to me, and I was like keeping my face straight cuz there were all those people staring at you in the hallway.” The event had been a typical one for many families. The youngest had snuck to school in clothes that would make a whore blush. Mom had caught it and come down to make the youngest one change. Which meant that everyone and their nosy brother had witnessed the exchange in the school hallway.

But more, she realized that her youngest had taken on this very frightening trait from that man. It should have been a red flag, but she had trusted her child so completely.

Sometimes the TV shows heartfelt scenarios with battered women being defended by their brave sons and daughters. Seeing them makes her cry, because that never happened for her.  Not in twenty years.

In twenty years the kids loved him so completely they adopted more from him than she could consider healthy. To them he could do no wrong. She wasn’t interested too much in portraying him as the bad guy through the years, but a little fairness was certainly in order. It angered her when the eldest came to her, blaming her because they didn’t have their social security card because that man had said she was keeping it from them. (Couldn’t they just get a new one themselves?) Or when she was accused of only wanting child support – that was just plain ludicrous. Hadn’t she voluntarily lowered the payments twice and then had the case closed??  It bothered her to the core when she found out that man and his mother were both going around telling people she was “unstable”. It still bothers her. Wasn’t she the one working her ass off to support the kids with no child support?

She overlooked all the times that man couldn’t be bothered to make an effort. She ignored the snide remarks that man’s girlfriend said on occasion and merely redoubled her efforts to be friends. For the kids’ sake she put up with a lot, no matter how much it hurt, because divorce counselors and other people in authority had told her that was what she was supposed to do. Be fair. Be nice. Don’t try to estrange the other parent.

Too late, she realizes that what those idiots had told her was how to be the bad guy and lose everything. Should have been wicked, she mutters sometimes. Not that she had it in her to be like that.

Should have taken them away to a far away state and never returned. Maybe then, she thinks, they wouldn’t have adopted his philosophies on how to treat her. And, possibly, others like her in the future.

So the birthdays have come, and for the first time she doesn’t lift a finger. She grieves, yes. She grieves. She knows there are estranged parents out there who would be furious at her decision. And there are a lot of ignorant idiots who blame her for not rebuilding the bridge.

She’s estranged from her children, but it’s her children that have made it impossible to be anything more.

Her eldest has blamed her repeatedly for the divorce. That man was the one who cheated on her. That man was the one who gave her a black eye for the first time in her life. That man was the one who had her so isolated that when he left she literally only had rags to wear.

When an ex-boyfriend threw a bowl at her head, her youngest said it was her fault.

When that man screamed curse words at her over the phone because she couldn’t make immediate arrangements for the visitation, the youngest was on his side.

There are so. Many. Times. that come up in her memories when there’s no getting around it: the biggest thing the children learned from their father was not to respect their own mother. Their mother is a punching bag, something to be taken for granted. So unwittingly they carried on their father’s abuse agenda as willing pawns, as is the case with most estranged parents.

When breaking the cycle of abuse you have to make sacrifice. You have to walk away from people you love if they’re hurting you. You have to love yourself enough to be strong. Others on the outside will blame you. They always do. They only see simple equations where the higher maths of the heart are lost.

But that doesn’t mean not buying those cards doesn’t hurt. Staying and being strong hurts.

She sits at her kitchen table drinking a glass of milk before going to bed. She doesn’t look at anything in particular, but she’s not staring off in the distance either. She’s just there, nursing her wound.

In her heart of hearts she makes a wish. It’s for her grandchildren, the little ones she’ll never get to meet. She prays deeply that her children’s children are taken away from them. If there’s any justice in the universe, she whispers, then my grandchildren will not know their parents.

Take them away- so that they can truly know love.