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I'm weirdly delighted at this card my grandma got Andrew for his birthday.

He didn't bother punching out and assembling the paper airplane, but I did!

"Maybe it's because she thinks of us as going to visit on a plane?" Andrew said when he'd opened the card and was telling me about the paper airplane in it.

It certainly makes me think of that, now.

I miss my grandma. It was nice to see her handwriting again. She doesn't do e-mail or cell phones or anything, but she used to write occasionally -- it's harder now, because of her eyesight -- and I wrote back, never often enough.

This time of year is often the worst for me missing people. One of the unexpected upsides of university is how much better I've handled the changing of the seasons because of it: I've been too busy to be wistful. But there are moments.

I'll write her a nice letter, thanking her for such a great card.
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Skype with parents My mom emailed to ask if I was around to talk to (I've trained them to do this because they don't understand that unlike them I don't have it running all the time) when she was talking on the phone with her mom and bored and wanting an excuse to get off the phone.

My mom using me as an excuse because she's tired of talking to her mom on the phone is the kind of thing that convinces me my parents have an impermeable irony shield.

Like this week they also sent Andrew his birthday present with a card that basically said vegetarians make shit cakes. When their daughter, the person who'd be making Andrew a cake if he was going to have one, is a vegetarian. And...you'd really have to struggle to make a cake not vegetarian? I told Twitter about this and Twitter thought my parents were mean but they're not, they just...don't think about things like this. Plus they sent him chocolate, which is nice but since he's Not Eating Sugar I, the vegetarian, had all the sugar-filled chocolate-covered aspects of the birthday the card wished for.

My dad asked what my classes are so I told them and predictably they didn't care about the others but when I got to Arabic they were stunned and I think my mom is probably a bit nervous of this. My dad came around to it pretty quickly, making the point I'd guessed one of them would in an attempt to normalize this new fact: "You could probably get a job doing that!" because learning Arabic became such A Thing in the U.S. after 9/11; the government needed a lot more people who could speak it. Whereas I really don't think the UK is going to give me a job involving Arabic that could go to any one of thousands of native or otherwise more fluent speakers, but whatever.

Dad also asked "which one?" and knew there were different kinds of spoken Arabic, which honestly I was kind of surprised by (though the only places that he could name that he thought spoke it were Iraq and Iran, oh dear, see also previous point re Arabic being The Language of Terrorists).

So I expect that'll be all kinds of fun conversations at Christmas, though it's sounding like my aunt's partner is expressing no enthusiasm about visiting us for the holiday this year, so now I have reason to hope it'll be a lot less overtly racist as he's the Trump troll of the family. There are plenty who voted for the guy but he's the only one who seems to delight in talking about it, or at least did last year and since my parents have just been to visit them and said "We didn't agree about a lot of things" I can only presume that continued. Though then I think she was talking about who got to pick what they watched on TV so it could've just been about that!

And I can always hope Trump is impeached by Christmas, anyway.
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Here's a little clip of me and Gary from the BBC Breakfast twitter account.

I've had lots of nice messages from friends, family and even the people from Scope I talked to on Friday about this. Most of them have been about Gary.

I'm a bit sad my own family can't see me on TV -- while also kind of glad because they Don't Think of Me as Disabled and I'd worry they'd think I was complaining -- but I thought maybe I'd see about finding some nice stills from the video and getting them printed as proper photos for my family's Christmas presents. Seems a bit self-absorbed but I'm sure they'd like it. They don't have many pictures of me anyway. And none of the dog!
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So my mom's sister -- the nice one who moved back to Minnesota to look after my grandma who couldn't stay in her house on her own -- has cancer. All my mom's told me about it is "she'll need surgery as well as chemo."

My grandma, meanwhile, has just been told she has macular degeneration.


Nov. 19th, 2016 12:58 am
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Andrew and his mom went to a gig tonight so she's staying overnight.

When they got back we sat at the table, her smoking cigarettes and sharing her beer with me (the bag she brought with her seems to contain clothes, a tablet so she can listen to the radio all night, and cans of lager; I approve of all of this), and we all talked about progressive politics and how great Gary is and other good stuff.

And then we had to go to bed, so I checked on Gary and closed the door to keep him downstairs...but it wouldn't close! It was stuck nearly-closed. This extraordinary thing had never happened before.

I eventually discovered he'd left his Dentastix treat between the door and the frame, seeming for all the world as if it'd been intentionally placed there to wedge the door open so he could sneak upstairs to sleep with his humans. That's some dog, that wonder dog.
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So remember my aunt with the severe burns and the broken ankle full of pins and plates?

I got an e-mail from my mom yesterday that just said she
has blood clots in her lungs. She is now at st. Mary's hospital. Depending how fast the clots dissolve as to when she gets to come home.
This is the whole e-mail. So it's left me with more questions than answers, starting of course with What?! Fucking WHAT?!

I mean, I guess if it's "when they dissolve she comes home" that means they will and she will. Mom doesn't seem worried at least. And...I guess it's a break for her and her sister who had been having to alternate spending a few days at a time with my grandma and this aunt, both of whom now need looking after; hopefully she'll get better care for the things already wrong with her if she's in a hospital (though if she's at St. Mary's (in Rochester) she's a long way from the specialist burn unit she had been visiting (in the Cities)!).

But...blood clots in your lungs sounds really bad? Why has this happened?! Are there any other complications from whatever's caused them, or likely to be?

And most of all Jesus when can my family and particularly my aunt catch a fucking break?!


Jul. 22nd, 2016 12:07 pm
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My mom's wonderful ability at writing e-mails:
We will try on Sunday to skype.  Dad has his colon test today and then there is [my aunt, Mom's sister].  She got burned from boiling potato water and broke her ankle, which she needs surgery on.  She is at a burn unit in the cities.  We are going tomorrow to see her and see what is going on.  I was at the hospital last night till the transmitted her to the cities burn unit. 
And this is all I know, except for the Skype call, which ended up being on Tuesday. (I still don't know a) why my dad's having a colon test or b) why I need to know this.)

My aunt got discharged from the burns unit more quickly than expected -- apparently despite severe burns on her torso and groin, she hadn't had to take a single prescription painkiller she'd been prescribed. (Which is a bit of a shame really as my mom had to pay for them! Their other sister paid for a little mobility scooter to help her get around while she can't walk. Apparently Medicare didn't see fit to pay for these things. Useless fucking American no-healthcare system.)

She's had the operation on her ankle: a plate ans eight pins are now holding it together. I thought the ankle must've been related to the scalding water incident that caused the burns, but apparently my aunt says not? My mom assumed they were related too and I'm confused as to how it might have happened otherwise but I guess there's no point wondering.

This is the aunt that moved back to Minnesota to look after my grandma after my grandpa died, because she couldn't manage alone. So my mom and the other sister have been taking it in turns, a few days at a time, to stay there and cook and clean and care for both of them.

My parents are taking my aunt back to the specialist burns unit some time today, to have dressings looked at I think (but I get all this like third-hand from my mom so I never understand what's actually going on with my family's health crises).

Once the burns are sufficiently healed and the cast is off her foot, my aunt is apparently going to need lots of rehab and therapy in order to be able to walk properly again. She's been through a lot (my mom, who doesn't believe in TMI, shared some grim details with me), and she's got a lot more to get through.

And she's so nice. She made the summer vacation that I had to go on with my family last year bearable for me. Having spent her adult life halfway across the country, she and I share the We Got Out and We Know There's a Bigger World Out There mentality that separates us from the rest of our family, who never say what they're thinking, eat fresh vegetables, or have a beer without it being a big deal.

She's also the one who's best with newfangled things like texting and e-mail (I think her daughters trained her better than I or my cousins managed to get our parents up to speed with this kind of thing...though my parents' new iPad has meant I'm now afflicted with them wanting to Skype all the time). So I really should get in touch more.
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Spent a nice evening with Andrew's two sisters, him, and my parents. We got takeaway pizza (yay leftovers for tomorrow morning!), a couple bottles of wine and played Apples to Apples to Apples -- a new game to my parents but one they took to really well, my dad eventually tying Andrew for the win -- and generally had a great time and reminded me why family can be good and cozy and fun and sweet, everything that family visits can be.

Apples to Apples is a game that rewards knowing who you're playing it with, and it was sweet to watch how often my mom picked the card my dad had chosen.

Sound facts

Mar. 4th, 2016 12:50 pm
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I just found this as a note on my phone, saved several months ago. No idea why I wrote it. Figured I'd share it.

Andrew's just answered the phone and said "hello?"




"Does sound have a weight? No."‎

‎I think that might be an even better phone call from his dad than the time he rang to ask Andrew who the singer is that wasn't Roy Orbison.
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...the more we give honest answers to "How was Christmas?" the more people say "Why don't you just get your parents to come to the UK for Christmas instead?"

And it's starting to remind me of that time we had no internet or phone service for a month because of multilayered cock-ups between two or three different telcoms, and days and weeks into this whenever Andrew or I offered any kind of update or gripe about this, someone always said "You should tweet them about it, that really helped me/my friend/my uncle/my niece's monkey when they had a problem..." And I was just like, "We are so far past that now..."

Thanks for wanting to help but really. We know. We've thought of this, and if it was going to work it already would have.
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Today I taught [personal profile] magister and his dad that no, his parents are probably not going to Nebraska on their cruise.

Turns out it's New Brunswick.
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I got the most amazing Christmas present from Andrew's mom today.

The first thing Andrew took out of the big shopping bag containing our presents from his family was labeled for me and had a printed note taped to it that said "No 1 - open this first" in big letters.

It was a little box full of littler things: cotton buds, double-sided tape, hairspray, a bag of nuts (as in "bolts and..." rather than the foodstuff or...any other kind of nuts), pipe cleaners, a few other things...each with another printed* note taped to it, with a picture of something Christmasy (ranging from snowmen to the Christmas poo from South Park), saying stuff like "the polite thing to do is smile and say thank you" and "at least it isn't another Christmas jumper." One of the best things about this was watching Andrew's brother sitting across the room from me start out confused and amused like the rest of us, but with each pound-shop-esque item I opened, each note I read promising all would become clear later, his bafflement seemed to escalate into a frenzy of just being absolutely desperate to know what the hell was going on here.

I had a lot of presents to unwrap. After that first box of utterly random items there was a bag with different colors and sizes of balls of yarn, and a pair of knitting needles. This was intriguing. Finally I opened the last package (with its "No 4 - open last" label plastered over the wrapping paper).

And all did become clear, because it was the instruction booklet for a knitted chess set kit. The cotton buds and hairspray and double-sided tape are all things the pattern requires.

But to wrap them up separately and make me open them first was absolutely genius, and kept the whole family entertained for quite a while. Andrew's mom was so organized she even put an empty plastic bag next to where I was sitting in which to collect the huge volume of wrapping paper I was about to accumulate. And Andrew and his brother and sister and parents seemed to have as much fun watching the gradual strange process unfolding before them too, so it's fun for the whole family!

Now I just have to see if I can make the damn thing! It's a big step up from the triangles (hats) and rectangles (scarves, though I also once made a jumper entirely out of rectangles) I usually stick to.

* "Mum just got a new printer," Andrew's sister said in explanation when she saw me examining these little notes.
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So yesterday people are turning up for the wedding feast/party and milling about with drinks and such (I have now tried Pimms! it just tasted like cucumbers...) and I find myself close enough to where [personal profile] magister is standing that I hear my name so wander a bit closer and find him laughing at something someone-I-can't-remember-who-it-was said. She explains to me that she was just telling him "we'll have to get you married off", so I hide my startled open mouth behind my hand, but can't keep from giggling, and the more I think about it the funnier it gets and it takes a while for me to stop laughing.

We hadn't really thought about how this poly thing might complicate things. I only got told once that I'm probably called Janice (close enough...) and that I live in Brighouse, but people seemed to have the rough idea that we lived together and have been together possibly longer than we have. James rightly didn't want to scandalize or confuse his relatives on a day that was supposed to be about his sister, and it wasn't really a problem, but that 'we'll have to get you married off" line is still making me giggle for so many reasons.

This is the second wedding I've been to since my own and the first one I enjoyed. Probably not being invited to The Actual Wedding helped. But also enough time has passed now I think that my own doesn't make me so sad any more (I'm happy I'm married, but everything about my wedding was miserable and I hated it). I was a little wistful hearing the father-of-the-bride speech, but I realized this is more because I couldn't imagine my dad doing anything like that. I'm mostly content with the alternatives that choice and circumstance have led me to, but sometimes I I do get a twinge of longing for convention.

Then we raised our glasses in a toast to the bride and James jogged my elbow just as my glass touched my lips, sprinkling cider (we were using a lovely dry fizzy cider for champagne) all down me and, worse, making me laugh which caused more ripples in my drink that sloshed onto my borrowed posh clothes and up my nose. Yes it would be nice to do everything "right" but that's never gonna be me, and at least I was laughing.

The food was amazing. My hopes were not high when I found out it was a hog roast, but everything else was vegetarian, and there wasn't a thing I didn't devour --lentils and beetroot, new potatoes with chili flakes, green beans with some very light orangey dressing, butternut squash with a bunch of lovely stuff I don't remember (everything was really well labeled but I couldn't see the labels so James read stuff out for me and I basically forgot everything immediately after I was told), including some kind of actual nuts. And gorgeous moussaka! If aubergines were always like that, I wouldn't have to work so hard at trying to like them (I taught myself to like mushrooms cos they're in so much veggie food and that worked so well I'm now trying courgette and aubergine, with less success so far). I basically ended up eating two platefuls because James gave me his and went back for more moussaka.

Oh and our table won the quiz, much to my astonishment (not least because James, who set it, was told by his mother to fix it so someone (I can't remember who but I think it might have been the person who called me Janice) won because he'd put a lot of effort into it). We might have been at something of an advantage what with the bridesmaids being at our table so they could answer all the "how did the lovely couple meet?" kind of questions. I wasn't even paying attention because, never having even met them before, I knew I'd be useless. But my ears pricked up at the first line of Pride and Prejudice and then there was a question about Jane Eyre and the bridesmaids (and, I think, partner of one of the best mans) were dead impressed with me for knowing these things. They said if we won it'd be down to me, and indeed no one else wanted to take the wine and chocolates home so I've got them.

I had a nice drunken conversation with the Australian bridesmaid, who seems to live some kind of complicated bi-hemispherical lifestyle, about how hard, but also nice, it is to have two places you belong. James's sister said at breakfast this morning that I'd apparently made a good impression on her, which really surprised me because it turns out losing my inhibitions only makes me talk a lot of depressing garbage these days (well, it still makes me want to kiss girls too, so there's hope for me yet), so it's nice if baffling to hear that I wasn't too off-putting anyway.

I needed a brilliant weekend, to get me through the week now ahead of me. I'm glad I got it.


Apr. 10th, 2014 07:14 am
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My cousin's wife just had twins.

They're called Isabelle Mavis [Mavis being my grandma's name, which will be very odd for the poor baby as it was odd even when my grandma was given it] and Elizabeth Kate [Kate is their mother's name, so fair enough there, and it might be a name with similar history on her side of the family as Mavis is to my cousin's].

I do hope my cousin and his wife don't mind when everybody immediately calls them Izzy and Lizzy. Because it can't just be me who thought that, right?
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I feel a bit like a new parent home with a baby: every day is so different from any previous. I find it really hard to believe we haven't even been here a week yet.

Yesterday was the day I put the microwave on top of the fridge to reclaim a bit more of the extremely limited counter space in the kitchen (that the fridge and the microwave are not even in the kitchen should give you some idea of the limitations). And the one where I first hung clothes outside to dry (do not buy clothespins from a pound shop; they are too flimsy to be any good for anything), and thus naturally where I had to run outside in the drizzle collecting them again before they got too wet. It's the one where the internet was connected, finally (though the phone still doesn't work). It's the one where Andrew first saw a mouse, and got the stereo working after saying for months he was definitely going to measure up and order a belt to replace the broken one on the turntable.

It was a day not like any other day, and no other day will be like it. Just like Tuesday, and Monday, and Sunday, and Saturday. And this is why they all seem like they've lasted about a year.

I have been working so bloody hard. Not just to pack, and unpack, which has been so much work for me that I have to remind myself that I still need to think about cooking and laundry and doing the dishes and all this normal stuff, too. I have hardly spared a thought for work in a week, which is really bad. I was hoping that'd improve today now that I've got the internet back, but it turns out the new CRM my boss is making us use because he's heard of it (after having asking me to look around and find what's good and then deciding he didn't like it because it was "weird" and open-source and he hadn't heard of it and it didn't automatically do everything he wanted it to, even though he had only the vaguest idea of what he wanted to do) won't even let me log in, so that'll be a fun conversation with my not-as-techie-as-he-thinks-he-is boss tomorrow.

I really want a holiday. I really really want a holiday. And I don't see how I'll get anything longer than a weekend away here and there -- and I've already had a couple of those this year and now might have to wait until BiCon in August.

Now that we're at the new house, too, my parents' visit is looming over me. I can't help but worry what they'll think about everything. Or say. I'm trying to decide if what they'll say will be worse, because it will negatively impact me right away, or if what they'll think is worse because the ramifications of their silent judgment might not come out for years -- like when my mom told me she hated to think of me drying trousers on radiators, years after she'd have last seen that.

When Andrew's family turned up with furniture for us on Sunday, the very first thing his dad said when he walked into the house was "You'll have to replace the carpet!" He kept at it, "You have to get new carpet, Holly," as matter-of-factly as if he was saying "You have to breathe oxygen to stay alive." It really irritated me. I hadn't noticed anything wrong with the carpet, not compared to the squillion things that do need sorting out -- damp, roof, mice, radiators, curtains, shelves, furniture... -- and what the hell kind of way is that to greet someone's new bloody house? Not least because, having owned the house all of a week, it's hardly set up to our liking (as the wallpapper in our bedroom will attest!) and it's not as if we're perfectly happy with everything. I actually had to ask Andrew and James later that day, after everyone else left, whether I was going mad or just being too blind or something and there was really something awful wrong with the carpet. They said it was a bit dingy, but no, there was nothing really wrong with it.

I'm sure I was overreacting because of the immense mental, emotional and physical stress I'd been under (and I ended up with a migraine that day, too, which never helps) but I can still remember how enraged I was at this harping on about the damn carpets. And I'm really worried at this happening one million times while my parents are here. Because at least this house fits the basic idea of what houses are like, for his parents -- it's a perfectly okay mid-terrace two-bedroom house -- but to my parents it will be tiny, and too close to the other houses, and weird, and...a house that I know they'd never put up with. And I worry they'll feel sorry for me because of that, but conversely that they won't be able to keep from pointing out how weird it is and how they couldn't live like this. The fridge is next to the kitchen rather than in the kitchen! There are hardly any plug sockets! The backyard is so tiny! And right next to other people's! And these are just the ones I can anticipate... The ones I can't, like the carpet or like drying clothes on radiators, are always the worst.

It reminded me of something my friend Jon told me the other day, about when he bought his first house and his mother came around and started trying to nitpick things, and he said, "mum, look, I value your opinion but when you're here you're in my home and I will do things my own way." At the time I nodded along politely, but already on our first day here I found myself really feeling it. Lying side by side in our new bed that first night, Andrew and I were chatting about new-house things, and he said I should tell his dad that we're replacing the carpet with laminate which is more expensive so it'll take us a while to get it. I wrinkled up my face and told Andrew I didn't really want to do that -- I wasn't sure it was true, for one thing and for another, I thought this is none of your damn business, do I tell you how to fix up your house? should suffice (albeit in politer words, like "We've got a lot of things to think about sorting out in the new house," something vague that can be repeated, unchanged, until he finally stops talking because that's my only real goal here, to make this stop). I know he means well; I know he thinks that since we've never had a house before we don't know anything, and in many ways that could not be more true. But also: this is not helping, and it can fuck off.

I've been a bit surprised at how adamant my reaction has been, actually. I'm still not feeling happy or excited about this new-house lark, but I am feeling something about it: maybe protective of it, and starting to identify with it, to the extent that unhelpful criticism like that gets my hackles up. And I think buying a house marks a change in parent/adult-child relationships, too; anything that puts us on a more equal footing with them makes their unsolicited advice and opinions, however well-meaning, chafe a little bit more. It must be weird for the parents, to have this person that you started out doing everything for, to ensure their health, survival and comfort, one day turn around and snap at you for your innocent comment about the carpet (or the girlfriend, job, car, choice of college, friends, drinking habits, etc.). It must be weird to go from dictating a small person's life to remembering there are limits to your power and influence eventually.

And of course my parents and I have always been so crap at that parent/adult-child dynamic anyway, that no wonder I'm kinda dreading their visit.

Though if Andrew's dad has anything to say about it, they won't be seeing much of our house anyway! He rang me yesterday and asked what I thought of his new plan, which was no longer to rent a narrowboat in Middlewich (where they live) but to go to Llangollen and rent a narrowboat there for the day. I love Llangollen (which, I kept telling him though it didn't stop him dadsplaining to me at all, I have been to, a couple of times, including on a narrowboat all the way from Middlewich!) but I was aware that he was talking about doing this on the Monday, having already monopolized the weekend my parents first get here, and for some reason he wants to take us/them to the Welsh Mountain Zoo too, and there's this mad London idea of my parents' to fit in somewhere...

I really think Andrew's parents should just take my parents on vacation and leave me out of it, but of course as they'll say a million times they're here to see me. But they're only here for a week, and it sounds like Andrew's dad's trying to fill it with Cheshire and Wales, neither of which I have any problem with, but I simultaneously don't want them to feel cheated out of their time in London...and don't want to spend any more time in London than absolutely necessary, because being a tourist in London seems nothing but miserable and expensive. Their visits here just get more difficult for me and Andrew -- we still speak of Cornwall like it's an evil curse word -- and I'm sure this won't be any exception. Apart from his dad taking over the whole week with his moronic plans, I'm also quite committed to going to London on the Monday because Andrew couldn't get the Monday off, and I see no reason to subject him to the misery of the sightseeing buses and the London Eye -- he hates London at least as much as I do, and if he's there I'll end up having to create more than usual of a buffer between him and the autistic-unfriendly world, as well as having to field a million questions from my parents (past examples including "does that pub you've never been to sell food?" and "why didn't we go to Whitehall and Trafalgar Square when we were in London?" when they have pictures that could only have been taken in those places).

In looking back at what I wrote about my parents' previous visits, I just realized that the one about the naked cyclists (which is a story all my friends seem to love; I'm amazed how many still remember it) contains possibly the most Garrison-Keillor like thing I have ever written:
My dad, as usual, was much quieter. "That's something you won't see in Minnesota," he commented mildly. I didn't want to argue; it'd mean admitting to knowing about things that go on in Minneapolis that they just wouldn't like me to know about.
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"Her platelets were so high," my mom says in an e-mail about my grandma. "We knew it would be a form of cancer and it is. Grandma has acute leukemia. It was caught early and is treatable."

There's a bunch of other stuff after that, vague details about the treatment that I know are really about how often my mom will have to drive her to Rochester. But I just keep thinking it was caught early and is treatable. I'm really glad that's the first thing Mom told me.

But fuck, I have no emotional or pragmatic spoons at all right now.

It was caught early and is treatable.

It was caught early and is treatable.
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I do try not to talk so much shit on Facebook, honest, but when Andrew's dad called tonight he happened to say "I do read your Facebook," I got this dizzying little whoosh of adrenaline.

While technically I know he does read my Facebook (that's the only reason I mention the house stuff there; it's actually the quickest way to tell him), I don't usually think about it. So when he said that, what immediately popped into my brain but Kat writing "CLITWITCHES!" And that, while I might not think anything of posting pictures of a male friend dressing up as a duchess, my father-in-law has a much lower threshold for weirdness than I do.

He won't judge me harshly or anything, he won't even care for any longer than the time it takes to scroll past these things...but still, it does paint CLITWITCHES! in a rather different light.
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This morning we found out that the house we were trying to buy has been withdrawn from the market. Andrew rang his parents to tell them...

And his dad asked if we'd found another house.

An hour after this one fell through! On the last working day before Christmas! Or did he think we should have kept up the house viewings along with Andrew's spending all of his free time at either the bank or the estate agent's trying to get this house?
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So many text messages I sent and received this morning that I sent one to [personal profile] magister that was meant for Andrew's sister. I didn't even realize I'd done it until he called me, all confused (because the text said I wouldn't see him today when I'd just gone to such lengths to arrange when and where and how I would see him this evening, not an hour before!).

I felt really idiotic, and mean (even though of course I hadn't meant to be!) but I also thought that it was probably better to send him a text for her than the other way around, especially because Andrew doesn't want his family to know I'm poly and thus (because while most of our texts are entirely prosaic, sod's law would dictate I'd mis-send one that'd arouse suspicion) much hilarity could have ensued.


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