Monday, 30 December 2013

Once a Rogerson, always a Rogerson

Something that has become more of a conscious consideration since my family have been here is whether or not I will - once I can initiate divorce proceedings, which in North Carolina cannot be done until a year after official separation - change my last name back to 'Rogerson'. I've been reflecting on it for a while without the presence of my closest blood relatives, but having them here has thrown the question into sharper relief.

I've pushed aside the very basic practical considerations: given that applying for removal of my Green Card conditions, proving the bona fide nature of what was my marriage, and then looking towards (all being well) going for US citizenship, the paperwork aspect of the task doesn't intimidate me at all. There's plenty of company for one extra form or clause in the divorce decree, and I'm very well versed in contacting the DMV, Social Security Office, and all the utility companies to change details like this. According to Jackie Pilossoph, author of blog 'Divorced Girl Smiling', it's not actually all that much of a hassle anyway, either.

The reasons why I might do it are mostly pretty obvious:
  1. I love my family very much, and I always loved being a Rogerson. Being an 'official' part of that group again would give me great joy and satisfaction.
    We're quite good.
  2. Taking my old name back is a form of independence that may make me feel freer to continue my life as a single, self-sufficient woman under her own name. 
  3. The name is also shared by several other (albeit more distant) fantastic family members, who I again identify and celebrate being connected with. 
  4. The name itself suits my shorter first name and total lack of middle name, if we're just going for basic aesthetics. 
  5. The last name 'Lloyd' is shared only by my ex-husband, and not any extended family with whom I have a connection, so there's no link to a group of people, emotional or otherwise. 

The reasons why I might not, though? Pretty much the exact opposite, in a way:
  1. I love my family very much. I'm still, quite clearly, a Rogerson - even if not by legal name. There's no way I have ever felt less a part of my wonderful Fantastic Four just because I changed my last name. So does it matter?
  2. Taking my old name back might be seen as a fresh start, but only if I want to create and can truly identify with a new girl under that name. There's a possible element of shame, responsibility, or explanation involved too, to some degree: having to have the people in your life (personal and professional) adapt or revert to using your maiden name again, because the marriage you wanted so badly failed. It's a very obvious marker, at least at the beginning of the process. More than that, though, while I love my family name, moving to the States and learning to be, rather than to seem to be is all tied into the name I now bear. I do not regret coming here and the reasons why I did so, and nor do I regret who I have become. I actually quite like the woman - and she's pretty self-sufficient and strong just as she is. 
  3. This I will explain in the same way as point #1. I'm not in any way less connected to other Rogersons simply because I quit the name for what was, at the time, a very positive and loving reason. 
  4. The amount I care about both my names being short is negligible. Also, the joke nickname 'Eviloid' has been born of the new surname I adopted, which is pretty awesome as well. 
  5. Sharing a name with just Ben isn't something I especially want going forward, but at the same time, I also don't mind too much in some ways. It's also my name. It's something I chose. He didn't give it to me, I took it. The choice to keep it or rescind it is also mine, either way.

This isn't something I have to decide until later in 2014, and I intend on giving it a lot more thought. Another option, of course, is to pick a new name all my own (although I think that NC law actually prohibits that, unfortunately, at least as part of the divorce paperwork), so I could probably have some fun with that! One thing is for sure, though: Eve Rogerson has been here all along.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Red, Gold, and Green

My family arrived today. My beautiful, amazing friends took the day to be with me and us, to brunch and to anticipate and celebrate, to pick up and transport, and to drink Champagne and toast with us when we returned to my house. I'm pretty much beyond words at the moment, as I'm so happily overwhelmed by the wonderful fact of those incredible friends, and the joy of both renewed connectivity and much-needed familiarity of being next to my kin. I feel it in my heart and my blood and my breath that I'm recharging already, and I'm so excited to be able to be with them. It's true all the time, but especially now.

So, rather than gushing further (moi?!) tonight, I'll leave you with some multimedia captures from the day, which are mostly thanks to the bloody fantastic Cassie and Lesley. Firstly, Cas got a bit up close and personal with her camera in my face, which was contorted in contained excitement knowing that Mum, Dad, Sam, and Wren had all just landed:

Waiting at arrivals, not at all bothered.
Okay, maybe a little bothered.

Then, they filmed the moment that Mum and I saw each other:

I make no apologies. Not even to my broken feet.

After we got home, I took a quick shot of everyone saying hi. You know, to prove they're really here and I didn't totally dream it. 

Around my table! 

They're really here, and I couldn't be happier.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

New year's Eve

Disclaimer: Probable incoherent introspection with a side of gushing

While I have almost always been blessed with the most incredible of friends in my life, it's a relatively new thing to me to have community within a group of friends - a larger contingent of people who all know each other and interact on a deeper, emotionally open level within that group and sub-groups thereof. Of course, connectivity is something I thrive on (NOW KISS!) so this pleases me no end, and I feel so lucky to be surrounded by love in this way.

Aboriginal symbol representing
community or home - a necklace
from my sister-in-law
I cannot work out whether it is the stage in my life that I'm now in that has been the main contributor to this change in relationship dynamic (becoming more able to love this way and actively seeking it out), or a cultural difference in how people interact in NC, or simply the amazing individuals that serendipitously happened to have been around at the point at which I moved to the Queen City. It is this community in part - a very significant part - that has made me want to stay in Charlotte and not return to the UK despite other, important and previously-considered-permanent, aspects of life here not remaining the same. These wonderful humans have made this place a home; they have enriched my life here with their time, care, humour, generosity, kindness, and passion for our shared lives; and as well as that (more than, as it's not all about how they relate to me!) they are simply brilliant in and of themselves - each one a joy to experience and a privilege to know.

So, I can't partial out whether my internal changes resulted in being able to be in this kind of friendship family, or whether being around people who love wholeheartedly was a virtuous circle of encouragement that kind of needed each of us for it to have happened in the first place, thus causing the aforementioned changes and making us who we are now. I don't suppose it really matters, but suffice it to say that they have enabled me to hold on to the core concept of who I am while also allowing me - patiently, and without judgment - to explore what I might become in this new land of Eve. Gosh, that sounds like the title of a terrible novel, doesn't it? 'The New Land of Eve'.

...I'm okay with it.

Mรกs fuerte
What I'm trying to get at is that it's taken me some weeks of processing pain in a way that I can understand, really feel, and try to move forward from, but my friends have protected me in myriad ways while I've been working out where my heart is. And while I can't say I'm fully okay or will be (what does that even mean?), I haven't felt pressure to be any way at all, plus they have showed me that deep and enduring love by choice is very much possible even while I'm in the middle of struggling with the exact opposite. Loving profoundly (outside of family) is not just an emotion or a gut response; it is both a decision and a verb, and certainly not an impossibility. Having that faith maintained has been essential and I am so grateful to them for it.

One of my beloved sister-friends put it best, saying that my cognitive processing would be fast and I would work out that I would pull through and know it on a deep level, but that my emotional processing would be slow, messy, and frustrate me because it wasn't as organized and efficient as my rational side. She knows me too well! That is precisely what has happened, and that dichotomy has actually been the source of most of my distress in trying to recover. There are two issues with this bipolarity, the first of which is the basic fight I have in me not to be miserable. I am not a sad person by nature, or at least have not been since the latter half of my twenties, and "wasting time" being low and literally aching with pain seems such a waste of the brief sneeze of time we get on this planet. But sometimes you really do have to let yourself feel it in order to move through it. The other issue is that having a few good days and happy things happen is wonderful, but the sudden and ostensibly inexplicable crashes are then even more exhausting, and all-encompassing on particularly bad days. They are getting fewer, gradually, but nevertheless remind me that taking care is necessary (of myself and others), and that I currently cannot predict myself as well as I used to. Which is also okay.

This post is dedicated to all of those people who believed in my strength and helped me start to find it again - you know who you are. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your unwavering support has been the making of my resilience. 2014 is fast approaching, and this new year's Eve (Geddit?! Sorry.) isn't someone I don't like, even if I'm not sure of all of her yet. I'm still capable of loving and appreciating love, whether directly or vicariously. I'm still surrounded by beautiful souls - not abandoned or forgotten, but in fact shown an inordinate amount of care every single day. I'm still exuberant and joyful and appreciative. I'm still willing to take risks, even if I'm significantly more scared about some things than I used to be. I'm also (consequently?) more excited about not knowing what the future holds. I'm venturing out of comfort zones. I'm writing more. I'm considering lives that aren't mine right now and wondering about how they might fit if I tried them on. I'm still a Rogerson, and I get to recharge over the holiday with my remarkable family who bring such complete warmth and light (5 sleeps and counting!). And then I get to step forward into the next 365 days' expat adventures as a woman who is sometimes brave, sometimes scared, and sometimes both, but always hopeful, and always willing, and always open. For that I am unspeakably thankful.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

There's a heart ticket train on the way

Most of my lovely QE readers are good friends in real life (much as I appreciate that there are quieter, lurking internet friends and strangers who jump on board here and there - hello!) and have been part of the last few months of big change and almost-year of difficulties, so will already know what this post is going to say. I've been trying to work out quite what to put in light of the sensitive situation, the lack of privacy on the internet, and my enduring intention for this blog to be as open and honest as it can be about my experience in America.

Given those points, I'm going to put it plainly and without many details: Ben and I formally separated at the beginning of September. It was not my choice, nor was it expected. It has been a hell of a year and, although things have evolved and gone back-and-forth emotionally, we do not intend to get back together. We are still on good terms as and when we see each other.

I won't be writing about this again except for in the context of me staying in the US and how my journey may continue here. I appreciate that this may be a rude awakening of a post, and it may seem odd to mention it and not explain further, but I hope my reasoning makes sense to anyone reading. I am lucky enough to have the most incredible family of friends here (who have carried me through this time in every possible way, and I cannot express my gratitude and love enough for that), my gorgeous pups, a lovely house, and a fantastic job. I am okay. My amazing family and friends in England have been wonderful in their support, constant availability regardless of time differences, and understanding that I (USCIS-willing) intend on staying in Charlotte. I have a home here, and my heart senses that this is where I want to be.

I'll leave you with what is probably my most deeply-loved proverb, a quotation from the movie 'Strictly Ballroom', and a mantra that I continue to try to live by. Being braver has brought me so many beautiful things that I do not regret, and would not have been lucky enough to share and experience had I been too scared to try. Always try.

"Vivir con miedo es como vivir a medias." - A life lived in fear is a life half-lived. 

Friday, 20 September 2013

Miserable Morton

This post was started around 2 weeks ago. Due to moving house and various other amusingly-timed crises, I'm getting around to finishing and posting it now.

It was actually a chiropodist named Durlacher who first described the agonisingly painful condition, known as "Morton's Neuroma", that my left foot has been experiencing for the last month. So perhaps this post should be named "Dour Durlacher"rather than blaming the mysterious Morton. It's not even a true neuroma either though, so as far as nomenclature goes this is a pretty useless moniker. Let's start again.

The description of the condition is at least accurate: the problem is characterised by pain and numbness, due to irritation of an intermetatarsal plantar nerve. Of course, what it doesn't detail is that the pain is of the type that makes you feel your foot is on fire from the inside, and that the tingling and numbness goes all over your foot, not just around the inflamed area. It also doesn't explain how such a little thing (literally) can totally incapacitate a young and relatively healthy woman.

I am, as you might guess, pissed off. It's been almost a full month six weeks since my last run. It's been a prolonged period of pain in general. After just over a week of said pain not improving, I went to see a doctor. This is the first time I've actually been in need of anything other than a regular check-up appointment, and getting examined and treated for something unknown is like financial Russian Roulette here: my insurance does cover a good deal, but it's always fun to find out just what they won't cover, and that doesn't become apparent until after the appointment - it really adds to the stress of already feeling worried and painful. He diagnosed me via X-ray, to eliminate the possibility of a stress fracture, and squeezing my foot in various ways to see where the pain was. From there, he knew that it was the nerve that was the problem, and prescribed me rest, 800mg of Ibuprofen three times a day, and metatarsal pads for my shoes (no heels allowed).

That's a lot of ibuprofen.

Mmm, anti-inflammatory.

For out-of-shoe metatarsal support.

In-shoe metatarsal pads.

The lack of running was the main focus of my frustration during my first two weeks of rest and a "no exercise" mandate. It made me sad, frustrated, anxious, and angry. I went from running five times a week to no running. I couldn't help my lovely Bertie relieve some of her anxiety by running with her. I'm perfectly aware that I'm slightly addicted to the feeling of achievement, freedom, and strength that running has brought me. Anyone who's read this post, or seen this board, or has heard me ramble endlessly on about how much I bloody love it (!) will know that, too.

However, I also found that I couldn't do much of anything: walking was a strain and the pain was immediately returning as soon as I did even the most minimal of tasks (walking to and from the car, for example). I actually started this post pre-house move, so during the move saw me not being able to lift much and having to take frequent breaks made me feel pretty pathetic, not to mention ungrateful to all the people helping (I know they'll tell me to shut up, but still, the feeling is there).

Resting did not do the trick. Even two weeks of pretty much no exercise at all (ugh), and the same pain would return as soon as I did pretty much any kind of activity involving my feet. Walking from the car park to work required an ice pack at the end of it. It was just silly. So, I decided to see a specialist. I went to an amazing sports doctor near the new house, who did further diagnoses and ended up prescribing a steroid injection to help reduce the inflammation, cold therapy, and more rest. He also told me only to wear supportive flip flops (specifically Teva brand, the Mush II model - he went to the extent of looking them up online, finding a good price, and telling me where to buy them!) to ensure my foot was not restricted and the base of my foot had support. The follow-up would determine whether I needed another shot or physiotherapy.

Post-steroid shot. My foot bled a lot.
Cold therapy is essential.

Now, I'm generally pretty good with pain. My mindset is that it will pass, and the pain you choose to put yourself through is usually preferable to pain you might experience if you don't take action. The shot itself was not painful, but the anaesthetic injection prior to the shot was very disconcerting. It felt so strange; not a simple painful experience but a horrible, internal pressure inside my foot. I shudder thinking about it. However, the doctor warned me that it would feel great for about an hour (because of being numb for around that length of time), and then the anaesthetic would wear off and it would be extremely painful. I shrugged that off as something not to worry too much about, as my foot had been in so much pain for a good while that I couldn't imagine it not being that way. I'd also read stories of runners having the shot and being right as rain within about 48 hours, pain-free and ready to start training again.

I couldn't walk at all for the first few hours. I could barely stand. The pain from the shot wasn't like the burning, tingling pain I'd had before, but more like someone was trying to break out from inside of my foot by pushing the tissue apart. This lasted for almost the whole weekend, and ice was the only thing that brought relief. Lesson learned: steroid shots are not a cure-all, and not an easy route.

Since then, I've been to physiotherapy, been walking more, and been better able to push through the day in general. I have daily stretches to do, including one that involves me simply balancing on one leg (I look like the resident office flamingo at work), and I've also had custom orthotics fitted to my running shoes. I'm never allowed to wear heels - which I didn't much anyway - and any shoes without under-foot support or with narrow toe boxes are banned. I have to build up my exercise gradually, with short walks and gentle cross-training over the next 1-3 weeks. When I feel confident about that, I can start short runs, and go from there. The goal is to get back before the pain starts up, to make sure the nerve is not being irritated again. 

While this is frustrating, I'm not longer impatient or angry. It is entirely possible that I'd not ever be able to run again were I not to listen to the doctors' advice. More importantly than running, just living every day in a world where I have to, for example, weigh up my basic need to go to the bathroom vs. the pain it will cause me to get there has given me a small taste of what it would be like if I hurt myself permanently - and what it must be like for people who have had to deal with this and much, much worse their whole lives. I feel very grateful that there is hope.

Today, I went for my first "proper" walk with my altered running shoes. It felt good. I don't think I'll ever be totally pain-free again, but the nerve didn't flare up and I got back home without feeling I overdid it. The girls were patient with me needing to be slow, and we had a lovely time looking out at the lake by the new house. 

Here's to the next step. 

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Just to love, and be loved in return

Staying in the hospital for tests and vaccines
A year ago this weekend, I came home with a skinny little brindle puppy. A 'foster'. A 'trial'. She had been abandoned on the doorstep of the vet where I then worked with nothing but half a bag of chow, an overly tight flea collar, and the crate she was dumped in to her name - another thing she didn't seem to have. She sat crying outside the front door of the hospital from about ten minutes before we were due to open. We thought that someone was stood waiting by the door for the minute we turned the key so they could drop their dog off (not an uncommon occurrence when people have to get to work!) but the crying just continued. When we opened the door, there she was, alone, crumpled into a crate with the aforementioned half-bag of food by the side of it. When we opened the crate, she was nervous but friendly, and crawled out to sit with us on the doorstep.

Walking and leash training at the vet
Over the course of the next few days, she stayed at the hospital to be checked for the usual (worms, parvo etc.) and to get her vaccines. I texted a few friends who I thought might want a(nother) dog. While I was spending time with her, walking her in the outside runs and generally going in to the hospital to give her some attention, it made me feel bad that she didn't have a name. As you can see from her photo above, she has one green/brown eye, and one blue (if you can't see it in that one, try her Facebook page for, ahem, a few more photos). This is a rather convoluted link, but her eyes made me think of Elton John's 'Your Song' and the line:

So excuse me forgetting, but these things I do,
You see I've forgotten if they're green or they're blue.
Anyway the thing is, what I really mean,
Yours are the sweetest eyes I've ever seen.

This led me to the Moulin Rouge version, where Ewan McGregor's character, Christian, sings a passionately delivered, bellowing interpretation of that very line to Nicole Kidman's courtesan female lead 'Satine'. Yes, it's a tenuous connection! As it happened though, not only does she have heterochromic eyes, but she is also the softest dog in the universe and she's a bit of a tart when it comes to male dogs. So you can take your pick of reasons for her name!

Bringing her home was genuinely supposed to be a trial, but I knew I wanted her to be ours. I just wanted to be fair and give Ben the chance to say no! So I paid for all her medical care (I had her fully vaccinated and microchipped before we left the vet that Friday) and the supplies needed to get her started with us, so at least he wasn't totally put upon. Just, you know, quite a bit. I still feel kind of bad about that.

The first few nights in our house were, of course, a little strange for the poor girl. She wasn't used to having people around or being allowed to explore the house, it seemed. She found it hard to sit or lie down - resting when people were nearby appeared to make her nervous. Bertie and Satine absolutely loved each other though. They played and wrestled and generally had a ball. Satine also started to grow on Ben. She slept in her crate at night to start with, partly because we didn't know if she was house-trained but also because it seemed like that was the only time she would close her eyes and really sleep. By Sunday, though, she was curled up on the sofa with us and her eyelids started to droop. I was relieved to see she'd begun to trust us! And that was the start of her life as a lapdog...

Then there were two... 

TINY Satine. Sa-tiny.
Derpy, happy girl - even after a spay!

The first week we had her.

Trying to make friends with Wash.


She has good taste in films.

Satine is a joy - unreservedly
happy about simple things.

Satine has by no means as long a story as Bertie, because once she stopped being so nervous, she fit right in and never really gave us any major challenges. She doesn't have anxieties or separation issues in the same way B does. She didn't really need house-training after the first couple of weeks. She had some mild drama when she chewed open her rear dewclaw stitches (she had that removed at the same time as her spay) despite being both crated and wearing her cone - impressive! But that really has been it. She's a very docile dog who seems to just love being around people and being cuddled.

So what to say about our soft, silly brindle girl? The thing I would mostly note about Satine is how she is a big bundle of contradictions. She is dopey (or derpy, as that is the word we mostly apply to her) but actually very smart and trained remarkably easily. She is terrified of odd, unthreatening things (the wind, shoes when they come off your feet, the vacuum cleaner, dinner trays) but very happy to run up to large dogs who are clearly barking at her to go away. She is unbothered by being lifted five feet off the ground but pulling a chair out from under the table sends her skittering across the room. She is sweet and loving but stubborn and grumpy. She's quiet and calm but has a sudden hound dog wail that comes out when she's alarmed or nervous. She has long, elegant and strong legs but no spatial awareness. She runs like a greyhound but is as lazy as a lion (and hogs the bed, too). She's 45lbs and still thinks she's a lapdog. She is, quite simply, brilliant. I adore her.

Bed bug

He loves her now. 

Thank you, Cassie.

Garden derp. 



She is so good at this trick!

Sticks are her favourite.

Snow is also good.

Long legs
This is a seat, right?

Peaceful, beautiful, derp dog.

Satine, my sweet girl, I love you more than I could ever tell you. You are bewildered by odd things, you approach the outdoors with gusto, you cuddle and play as a priority, and you've made me smile every single day we've had you. We're so lucky you're part of our family. Never change. 

I can't help it. Sometimes she reminds me of Ed.