Monday, August 25, 2014


I feel like all I do here is complain about the hard times. Given that this blog is my place to work out what is troubling my mind or causing me to stumble, I guess that is to be expected. But what I have been complaining about so far seems almost insignificant in the face of the newest development in our family's life...

The middle child, the boy child, Jackson, is Austin's son. Jackson's mother, like my daughters' father, lives about 15 minutes away from our house (in the opposite direction, of course). All of which means we share custody of the children with our respective exes - one week at our house for all of them, then the next week they're all at their other parents' houses. It's a nice schedule that gives everyone a chance to be together while allowing Austin and me time to ourselves, much like we would have if we were a young couple just starting out.

Except things have gone seriously awry on the end where Jackson's mother is concerned. She has made some relationship choices over the last month (and more broadly over the last few years) that have led to her ultimately deciding she would rather focus on her relationship with her "boyfriend" than be actively involved in her son's life at a crucial time in his development.

(I have to stress that Jackson's upbringing until about a year ago was less than ideal and as a result he has rather significant anxiety, self-esteem, attention/focusing, and social/emotional problems, all of which impact his ability to participate and succeed in school despite (or in combination with) the fact that he is incredibly gifted academically. Cognitively he is well beyond where he ought to be. Socially and emotionally he is well behind where he ought to be and for most of his life has been incorrectly labeled as ADHD and subjected to numerous medications. It was not until earlier this year - already in middle school - that he stopped throwing violent screaming fits of rage and frustration.)

I know, having grown up with parents who split when I was about Jackson's age, how hard it is to understand why a parent might choose a new relationship instead of custody of a child, and how ultimately damaging it has been to my relationships with my parents. When I was thirteen my father moved several states away in order to marry a woman he re-met at a high school reunion. I barely saw him until I ended up living with him when, about a year later, my mother couldn't figure out how to help me overcome severe depression and instead decided to focus on her academic career. I felt abandoned and ignored by both of them for the majority of my adolescent years, something that haunts me to this day.

Knowing that my father or mother was several states away was a lot different than Jackson's situation will be. His mother is still living in the house in which he grew up, close enough that he can ride his bike there, with the man she is choosing over him. Jackson will still see her every other weekend and a day or two in between. But she is choosing, because her new boyfriend is isolating, controlling, manipulative, and has anger-management issues, to let go of her son in every important way and any way that matters to him.

It really worries me... what this will do to Jackson and what it will do to the rest of the family. I think I just need to focus on the long-term. It will, ultimately, benefit Jackson to be here almost full-time during the school year once he is over the shock and grief of being abandoned (for what I believe and I am positive he will correctly interpret as his mother being incredibly selfish, immature, irresponsible, gullible, and lacking in any kind of parenting morals, although I will NEVER say as much to him). He will continue to learn the skills he started to acquire last year regarding how to focus, learn, study, work, and succeed. He will continue to learn how to appreciate his strengths while acknowledging that areas of weakness are simply opportunities for practice and growth. He will learn how to recognize, understand, and act appropriately on his emotions. He will become a fine young man under the watchful and loving eyes of his father, me, and our amazingly hard-working family therapist.

But his mother? She has chosen a man Austin and I (from personal experience in an almost identical situation) believe is and has been emotionally and very potentially physically abusive to her and Jackson. All I can say is thank goodness Jackson will no longer be subjected to the manipulation, bullying, harassment, and violence his mother's boyfriend has brought to her house in the month he has lived there since returning from a year's absence overseas. She will continue to wander until she realizes the answers she needs are right there inside of her and until then, I wish her the best.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


"Come here."

"What?" Even though I'd heard him perfectly well.

"Come here!" 

"I'm doing my hair." Even though my legs are not at all involved in putting my hair up.

A pause. He picked up his tablet and started doing something else. I turned around.

"So every time you say 'Come here' and don't follow through, it's like the little boy who called wolf. Next time I'm going to wonder if I really have to pay attention and do what you say," I said.

He stood up, walked over to me, grabbed me by the hair, and guided me over to the bed, saying, "I said, 'Come here'." I grimaced when he got a good grasp of my hair.
When I was face down on the bed he said, "When I say 'Come here' are you going to listen?" 

I nodded and squeaked out a yes.

"Good. Give me a kiss." He let me kiss him then let me up. "Go do your hair."

I went back to my dresser and took my hair down to redo it. 

"That wasn't me that said that, by the way." I glanced back at him with my eyebrows raised.

"What? Who was it?" Austin looked like maybe he was afraid I'd been taken over by aliens.

"It was a helpful little Domestic Discipline elf, helping you out. It wasn't me." I smiled and turned back to my mirror. He laughed and went back to what he was doing. 

Friday, August 22, 2014


I have't told Austin about this blog yet. It seems like a more useful way for me to process things if I don't have to second-guess myself when I am writing, wondering what he might think about it. But it also allows me to write things without having to consider what he might think about it. Kinda like a two-edged sword, I guess.

Of course, now that I've written this, I will most likely tell him about it tonight. He knows, from long experience, that I work things out with words. He has read parts of my old blog and has mentioned that he found it extremely useful. I can tell he has picked up some techniques and phrases that I've experienced in the past so knowing what's going through my head now seems like it can only help.

Yesterday was... Well. Awful. Let's just leave it at that. Even worse than the day before because it wasn't just me in a bad mood, it was everyone in the family. All five of us were angry, annoyed, hot, frustrated, and just about at wits' end with each other. Austin got home late from work because of unforeseen problems with his commute. I lost my temper with my older daughter for pushing me too far on something we go around and around on almost every day. Dinner was late because Austin was late so everyone got too hungry. The two younger kids got in a huge argument that resulted in tears all around and me and Austin arguing in the garage (that has become our go-to spot for anything louder than a normal conversation since our house is too small for any real privacy for disagreements or punishments). A decision Austin made earlier in the day ended up with all of the kids displacing their anger toward him onto me and me being as equally frustrated at them. I had to deal with my ex-husband in a setting I hate, discussing topics over which he has become ridiculously upset in the recent past...


It was a mess.

Austin ended up separating me and the kids, giving me and them good talking-tos in turn, and exhausting himself trying to keep everything from just exploding. I came *this close* to being spanked for talking back to him about his decision to take the kids to ice cream but in the end he opted for a very cogent and forceful lecture instead. I was left at home alone (as an introvert I require alone-time to settle down) while he took the kids out (they needed to be distracted and have the pressure of being in public to get back on track), figured out fitting consequences for everyone (the boy will be doing the younger girl's chores for two days for saying some pretty awful stuff to her; the girls had to make me breakfast in bed for being disrespectful to me), and got the kids off to bed by himself.

Austin has stepped up to not only Head of Household but also parenting in an amazing way this last month. He has created a whole new picture of how we should operate as a family and has worked incredibly hard to make sure everyone starts heading in that direction. The lives of the five people in this house are so complicated - I can't even begin to explain it all - and I know how much effort trying to keep everyone on an even keel takes. Austin not only choosing to commit himself as an equal partner (what I'd been requesting for several months) but then putting himself directly in the line of fire as the leader of the family means as much to me as our engagement. His actions are a very real reflection of his thoughts and feelings, something I haven't often experienced in my life.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


I could very easily blame it on the weather. Or lack of sleep. Or the dog. Or the heat. Or the kids. But the bottom line (no pun intended) is that I was in a really bad mood, I didn't take care of myself, and I was my typical rude and disrespectful self to Austin yesterday evening.

One of the ongoing symptoms from a rather overwhelming bout of depression I experienced during the winter is insomnia. I normally take half of a sleeping pill to help me get to sleep, but more importantly, to help me stay asleep. Monday night I had the brilliant idea of not taking the sleeping pill to see what would happen. Well... that was not the smartest decision I've ever made. Probably actually not the smartest decision I've made this week. I ended up waking up at least four times and feeling my shoulder pain much more intensely than I usually do. So, come time to get up I was already tired and hurting and it just went downhill from there.

By the time Austin got home I was in a state. I do need to take a moment to point out that he called to tell me he was on his way home so I started the more complicated part of dinner so he could help me when he arrived. He didn't come through the door until at least 15 minutes after he said he would, I was trying to juggle too many things by myself, and I was pissed. I would barely talk to him and when he did explain what happened he said he stopped to talk to a neighbor on his way into the house.

Austin and I have discussed before how much I count on him to say what he means and mean what he says. If he gives me a specific time frame for something I will generally double check with him to make sure he really means it, just so I know I can count on him. Making stops on the way home without telling me is something we have talked about many times, as recently as last week, so I felt especially frustrated and disappointed when it happened again.

After a few hours of edgy silence, Austin trying to take care of me by being sweet, me just feeling horrible in any number of ways, and Austin eventually lecturing me on how important it is that I speak respectfully and kindly to him no matter what, he'd had enough. When he got back from running a few errands (most of the time I sat in the car and either pouted, cried, or listened to him lecturing me) he directed me into our detached garage before we made it to the house and the kids saw us. I got even more pouty and hesitant when I realized what he was doing but he insisted. After another brief statement of how much he loves me and how strongly he is pushing me to change the way I interact with him he whacked my bottom a few times with his bare hand. He is strong enough and practiced enough that it hurt. A lot.

That was all I needed to start sobbing for real. Tired, hot, overwhelmed, frustrated, confused... I just sobbed into his shoulder and felt myself going soft in the way that only happens when I finally let myself surrender to Austin. It doesn't happen very often but every time it does I just wonder why I can't do it more often. Why does it take him getting really upset with me? Why does it take me being completely broken down by just about everything in life? Why can't I just let go and soften, surrender to him, whenever it is appropriate?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Rules and Requirements

(The funniest part of this post is that I had to stop halfway through writing it to go do some of these things...)

There are a few things Austin requested right off the bat, as soon as he really figured out how much I thrive on routine and accountability. Some of these go beyond the typical Domestic Discipline framework and incorporate more of the Dominant/submissive vibe. That's just how we do things around here...

When Austin calls to tell me he is on his way home from work I am to have the following completed by the time he gets home, approximately 8 - 10 minutes later :
- Have a pair of his shorts and a t-shirt laid out on his side of the bed, along with his flip-flops
- Have a glass of iced tea waiting for him on the kitchen counter
- Have his mail on his desk
- Any mess the puppy has made in the living room is to be cleaned up - pieces of cardboard I give him to chew on or toys spread around the room
- Be prepared to give him a kiss and pause my work to spend 15 minutes chatting with him, including updating him on my plans for the evening and next day.

Since I work from home the majority of the time it is very easy for me to start working some time mid-afternoon and forget to stop when he gets home. This used to lead to one of those downward spiral things where I was so focused on my work that he felt ignored so he chose not to pay attention to me which I, in turn, took to mean he didn't want to talk. Often it would end up with both of us feeling slighted and annoyed without either of us ever meaning to offend the other. Now when he calls I finish up what I'm doing, figure out what I need to complete before I go to bed, and glance at my schedule for the next day.

Other things I am required to do:
- Be in bed by 10:30 pm, ready for him to rub my shoulder to help it feel better, with lights out at 10:45
- Wear my perfume every day because he likes the way it smells
- Ask him or one of the kids to scrub the kitchen counter so I don't irritate my shoulder
- Speak respectfully and kindly to him, no matter what

That last one is the biggest and most pervasive rule. It causes me the most problems and is the only thing that has earned me a negative consequence thus far. It is definitely an area I need to improve and one that continues to bother both of us in many ways. It has always been very easy for me to slip into annoyance, frustration, anxiety, or criticism and Austin isn't putting up with it any more, much to his credit.


The largest part of my identity comes from being a mother, homemaker, helpmeet, and partner. I consider them all one and the same - my "home" identity, made up of all the things I do for, with, and to my family.

Recently a health problem I've had for nearly half my life has progressed to the point where it is now interfering with my ability to fully carry out the tasks I see as integral to my "home" identity. My right shoulder has bothered me since I was in college but now it hurts enough that I went to the doctor and got an x-ray. She diagnosed mild osteoarthritis in two of the shoulder joints based on bone spurs and my history of chronic pain. Most likely there is damage to the rotator cuff as well, which just adds to the almost-constant pain.

Long story short: I can't go to the grocery store by myself because I can't maneuver a cart full of groceries. I can't do a full day of chores around the house because I end up with my arm in a sling for the next two days to alleviate the pain. I can't run the vacuum cleaner or make the bed by myself. I can make dinner most of the time but often I rely on the kids or Austin to help lift heavy pans (when feeding five people there are often large, heavy pans) or chop vegetables. Austin made a rule the other day that I can't scrub the counters because it hurts too much. I am to ask him to do it or get one of the kids to help.

I have to admit to feeling rather "less than" as a mother and fiancee based on what I see as my limited usefulness in an arena where I used to function almost perfectly. My house has never been spotless and my sink almost always has dishes in it, but the family was fed and had clean clothes to wear when they needed them, the house was livable and pleasant, and I knew I was capable of taking care of just about anything. Having been a single mom for eight years, I learned to count on myself for anything other than moving furniture or installing my giant window A/C unit every summer.

Austin is doing his best to make sure I am taken care of until things get better. But that in itself is part of the problem - things are most likely going to get worse before they get better. I'm going to have to get to the point where surgery is the only option then spend however many weeks or months recovering from that once it's done. Until then my functioning will continue to degenerate, just like my joints.

This is mostly me whining and processing while trying to figure out how it fits in with our new relationship dynamic. Austin is fully aware of my limitations and most of his care of me centers around making sure I stay as healthy as possible, whether by icing my shoulder, getting to bed on time, or taking whatever I need to stay relatively comfortable. Before I would have mostly ignored his advice but now I am compelled to follow it, almost as a knee-jerk reaction to having someone filling the position of a dominant figure in my life.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


I was going to start at the beginning of time and explain how Austin and I ended up at this point in our lives and relationships. But I'm not. I'm just going to jump in with both feet, because that's how I know how to blog.

Today was not typical, mostly because Jackson (the middle child in our blended family) was out of town with his mother. When this happens Austin tends to do his own thing and I spend quality mom/daughter time with my girls. Everything was fine until late afternoon when we all converged at the house and Austin started reviewing his homework for an online class he's taking.

Then all hell broke loose because of a missing assignment. Austin has been very stressed the past week because of the usual factors - health, money, work, and family - so the missing assignment was pretty much the last straw. He started getting furious, banging his hands on his keyboard, cursing in front of the girls, and raising his voice in frustration. I completely understood his feelings but I have a really, really hard time with any type of physical aggression based on anger, especially when my girls are around.

To be clear, I am basically the textbook definition of a highly sensitive person.To anyone else Austin's few moments of frustration would have been nothing more than a brief blip on the radar screen. But I am just so finely attuned to emotions, especially Austin's negative ones, that anything even slightly out of the ordinary is extraordinarily distressing to me.

So I stood there watching him, having offered to help try to fix the situation but with him just needing to be angry and release some of his stress. I couldn't figure out what to do. I hate noise and fuss and watching him in distress. But I also knew he was upset and needed a way to get himself to feel better.

The "old" me would have raised my voice in kind, added to the drama and sense of volatility in the situation, and demanded he calm down or leave the house. The "new" me is trying to be more focused on supporting him, no matter what the situation, so I took a few steps back and sat down. I tried to suggest he go for a walk or take a shower or go swimming when he was at the height of his anger but he wasn't ready to let go yet.

These are the moments when I feel the conflict between wanting to wrest back control and knowing that in the long run I will be happier if I don't. We tried the version of a relationship where I was the one running the show and, while it worked well enough, it wasn't at all satisfying to my sense of who I am and how I want to feel in a relationship vis-à-vis my partner. I want him to be the man, to be able to see and feel and depend upon his masculine energy. I want to know that I am safe, secure, loved, contained, and protected. It's been a pretty steep learning curve on both of our parts and I still haven't fully absorbed or processed this afternoon so I'll let it go for now.

Welcome to my blog.


I am Gray. I was here in the blogosphere several years ago. You can find my prior life at Journey into Submission.

Now I am at a different place with a different partner and a different focus. Austin and I have been engaged for about a month, living together for about a year, and dating for about two and a half years.

I have two daughters, Chloe and Tabby. They are in those dangerous adolescent years between innocence and common sense. Austin has one son, Jackson, who is also dangerously adolescent but even more so because he is a boy. The five of us spend one week together then the kids go off to their other houses and it is just me and Austin for a week. We are all in school... the kids are in middle school, Austin is finishing up his first degree, and I'm working on my third and fourth degrees. Austin works full-time, I am employed part-time by my academic department, and the kids get paid to do chores. The dog is the only non-productive member of the family.

Just about the time we became officially engaged I requested that Austin start tapping into his male energy more strongly, embracing his masculinity, and facilitating my transition to nurturing the more feminine aspects of my personality. I started reading about Domestic Discipline, Taken in Hand, and Head of Household, something clicked into place, and I passed some especially insightful and useful blog posts on to Austin. He took to them like a duck to water, soaking up all of the essential details and embellishing with a few of his own, to the point where we are now.

I won't say this transition has been easy - I've been pretty much running the show for the past year and suffering both the agony and the ecstasy of keeping such a chaotic and diverse family from flying apart and wounding each other with shrapnel when things go wrong. I've paid the price in terms of mental health and was almost desperate for something to change when Austin was finally at the place where he could embrace the challenge of fully fleshing out his masculine identity. Always before he has been hesitant to become the leader for fear of alienating his female partner but this time I have practically begged him to show me how strong he can be so I can melt into the softness I so want to embody.