Monthly Archives: June 2013

Back to Reality

RealityIt is five thirty in the morning on Thursday, and it is almost time for me to start getting ready for work. My vacation is officially over. The past few days- since Monday, I guess, I haven’t really done anything special, at least not the way most of us would view things. But to me, these hours have been the most important of my vacation. I have gotten to write every single day. I worked on my book, and this is my fourth blog in as many days. You probably have no idea how big of a deal that is to me, so let me just tell you- it is HUGE.

I feel like a real asshole when I complain about my “real” job, because it has allowed me to have the life I dreamed of just a few short years ago, when I was still living in a shitty apartment in Sparks, Nevada, trying to figure out how in the hell I would survive from one paycheck to the next. At that time, all I wanted in the world was to make enough money to stop the fear that was constantly gnawing at me, enough money to put some space between me and those freaking bill collectors so that I could stop having an anxiety attack every time the phone rang. All I wanted back then was that, and to be able to move home. I was so tired of the high desert and the lack of green, so tired of all that open space.

One by one, I crossed each of those things off my “must-have” lists. For the longest time, I was happier than I had ever been just to pay my bills and still be able to fill up my grocery cart with anything I wanted at the store and not have to keep a running tally in my head to avoid embarrassment at the register. Today, my life is good. I live in a place so beautiful that people come from all over the world to visit here. Sure, my house is pretty run down, but I have it at a bargain price (for this area, anyway) and both my daughters have their own rooms. I am a five minute stroll from the beach. I am not rich, by any means- that child I added to the mix, not to mention the dog and the three cats- have sucked up quite a bit of my money…But still. There are women who would love to have the life I have. Shoot, I love to have the life I have!

The funny thing about dreams, though, is that they change. Once you get to where you want to be, if you are anything like me, you immediately start looking for the next level. That is where I find myself today. I will get up in a few minutes, get in the shower, get myself to the job that helped me make all this possible, and I will try to do my best, and to have gratitude for all of my blessings.  I know, though, that this is not how I want my forever, the rest of MY ride, to go.

When I sit down here, at my little tile topped table that my mom loaned me a gazillion years ago, in this little breakfast nook, surrounded by windows and skylights letting in the light of the new day…this is my favorite time, place, and thing in the world. When I pass four hours writing, like I got to the other day, it feels like half an hour. Four hours at my “real” job can sometimes feel like twice as much. I feel so guilty saying this, because I owe my employer so much for giving me the means to a better life, but sometimes it feels like torture. Like eight hours of absolute torture. And that makes me feel really sad.

Still, I am one of the lucky ones. Some people feel exactly as I do, only they don’t know what else they want to do. They don’t have that one thing that makes four hours fly by in the blink of an eye. They haven’t yet uncovered what they are passionate about. They may have the same dreams of buying a big old house and restoring it from top to bottom, of long, unhurried vacations with their kids, of travelling the world, but they have no idea how they will get there. Because I have this thing inside of me, this imagination and these stories and this need to let them out…it’s almost like I have a bridge between me and everything I want. Or, at least, all of the tools and supplies to build that bridge. It is up to me whether or not I will put in the effort to do it. Hmm…I never thought of it like that before.

I am going to go to work now, back to my reality. I am going to have a great attitude, and show my gratitude by being the best employee I can be. But I am going to be back here, right here in this spot, tomorrow and everyday after that, working on that bridge. That, I can promise you.

Have a wonderful day.

Not Your Mama’s Broken Heart…But it Sure Feels Like it.

broken_heart3I’ve been going through one of the hardest break-ups of my life, recently, and it isn’t even my own. It would be so much more bearable if it WAS, I think, because at least then I could be an active participant, rather than this spectator on the sidelines, watching helplessly as my beautiful daughter finds her way through this age old struggle. Everyone goes through it. Everyone one of us has loved and lost. It’s just part of life, I KNOW that…but what I didn’t know was how devastating it would be to watch your child go through it. Another thing I wasn’t prepared for was my own feeling of loss- I’m not sure if I should count myself as lucky or not that I really, sincerely LOVED my daughter’s ex. We ALL loved him. My MOTHER loved him, for Pete’s sake, and she has rarely been able to muster a crumb of enthusiasm for any guy I’ve ever dated.  That ought to tell you something.

Josh wandered into my life about a year ago. I believe he wandered into my daughters life a little before that…according to her, she wanted to make sure they were really “together-together” before she introduced him to me. When I finally did meet him, I was prepared to despise him. I wanted to- I even tried to- stay ambivalent, keep him at arms length. But he was so damn personable! He didn’t mind talking to me, even though I was technically the enemy, as the mother of the girl he was making out with all the time. I’m not going to lie, that part made me want to puke, and I tried to pretend they were like characters from a Disney movie, sweet and chaste. But I’m not completely stupid. I just wound up liking him in spite of all that.

I liked him because he sang along to “Bennie and the Jets” with us the first time I gave him a ride in my car. I liked him because he went with us to the pumpkin patch in October, and he wanted to know if he could pick out a pumpkin, too. I liked him because he was sweet to my two year old. I liked that he brought out the happy kid inside my surly teenage daughter, and I got to see her play again. I liked that he walked my dog for me, and helped with the dishes, and even took out the garbage for me from time to time. I loved that he looked out for my daughter- he had his dad drop him off at my house every morning at six thirty so that he could walk her to school, even though he didn’t have to be at school himself until nine.  One time, when they were fighting, my daughter locked him out of the house. When I went to let him in, I heard him start to say something to her, then he sighed, and said “I just can’t be mean to you.”

I guess I knew that they would break up. I mean, they are KIDS, really, really, young kids…the odds of them staying together were super slim. But it does happen from time to time, right? The thing is, I SAW them together. I saw the way they laughed, and the way they treated each other with such tenderness, and I don’t care how old you are, love is love. Those two REALLY loved each other. They would fight, and break up, then the next day it was like nothing happened. I stopped paying attention.

But the last time they broke up, it stuck. Josh went off the grid. They had a pretty serious situation, and I guess he was just done. That happens, doesn’t it? You get used to someone putting up with something, and then, one day, they just won’t anymore. I know I’ve certainly stood where my daughter found herself standing. It HURTS. And it damn near killed me to watch.  I’m not going to lie, I stepped over the line, and I tried to reach out to him, myself- he had just disappeared, and I was worried. I realize now there was probably more to the story that I didn’t know…but this boy was like a kid to me by the end, and he practically lived at my house. He didn’t want to talk to me, either. He just said he was too hurt, and he didn’t want to ever feel the way he felt, ever again. I had to leave it be.

Aisley has had her good days and her bad over the last month or so. She is learning all about the void left behind when someone you love is no longer there. She is learning all about the old cliche “Don’t know what you got until it’s gone.”. She is learning what it is like to have to really look at your behavior and not like what you see. I am not saying this is all her fault, don’t get me wrong. I am just saying she is going through what everyone of us goes through when a relationship ends before we want it to. And it is HARD, HARD, HARD for me to see. I know there is nothing I can do.

Josh came by for a second yesterday to pick up something of his. Aisley made me promise to stay inside so that she could talk to him. Of course, I agreed. Of course, I totally reneged, and had to poke my head out. He smiled and ran up to give me a hug. He came in real quick to say hi to the baby (who was not ready to be nice to him, I guess. She misses him, too.). I left them alone after that. In just a few minutes, Aisley was back inside. I asked if she was okay, she said she was. She said “I actually feel a lot better, mom.” Which made me happy.

I guess now I’ll have to start getting over it, too.

The Envelope, Please…

Beautiful-EnvelopesI know what you must be thinking- ‘Another post? So soon? How did we get so lucky?’

Well, let me tell you how- this is what I was wanting to write about yesterday, but the whole thing about my vacation came out instead. So, when I woke up this morning, I thought I would try to get back to this topic. “Yes, well, what IS the topic?” You may be asking yourself. Well, I am trying to get to it! Give me a break! It’s, like, 4:16 in the morning, for God’s sake. I am doing the best I can.

Okay, okay…so, as I mentioned in my previous blog, we just got back from vacation. Within the course of this vacation, I wound up doing several things that were on my list of things I always wanted to do- what some people may call a “Bucket List”.  But you see, for me, these things were very small, and I feel like only MAJOR things should be on my bucket list. Things like going to London, or going to Hawaii, or even my gigantasaurus goal of writing the next colossal best seller, which then becomes a series, which then becomes a movie, which then enables me to buy a massive old Craftsman or Victorian home in Santa Cruz, which I then  get to completely refurbish to my heart’s desire while simultaneously never ever having to work a “regular” job, ever again.  THAT sort of thing seems “Bucket List” worthy. Oh, yes, just envisioning it gives me more butterflies than my first love did…

Compared to those big ticket items, eating at Pea Soup Andersen’s seems pretty unimpressive, doesn’t it? But that was also a  dream, albeit tiny, of mine, and it is now one that I have achieved. Another was driving through all of the Southern California beach towns on Highway One, or the PCH, as it is called. Again, small, but accomplished, at least thoroughly enough to satisfy me.

So, while I don’t think these little dreams can hold their own in a “Bucket” such as mine, I certainly still enjoy fulfilling them. And while I still wish to keep my large dreams alive, I think they do deserve a place of honor, separate from the smaller ones. The solution I have come up with is this- keep the big dreams in the bucket, and the small ones in an envelope. Envelopes are small and portable, and you can keep them in your glove box, your purse, or even folded up, in your pocket. They are easy to carry around with you, anywhere you go, and the contents are still capable of astounding and delighting you- ever gotten an unexpected check for a large-ish sum of money? Well, then, you know what I mean.

On my “Envelope List” for now are several small, achievable, wonderful things- I want to go on a whale watching trip. I want to get my nose pierced. I want to go to Ft.Bragg and look for sea glass. These are just a few of the things…that’s the cool thing about Envelope Items; They are so little, you may not think of them all the time, but when one of them pops up, you realize “HEY! I have ALWAYS wanted to do that.”, and that is when you ought to take action.

Life is short, people. The older you get, the more clear this will become to you. It is your duty and responsibility to fill it with as much joy and happiness and LIFE as you can, right now. The beauty of these little Envelope Lists is that they get you in the habit of achieving your dreams, so that you begin to see how do-able reaching your goals really is. Don’t put it off any longer, guys. Make a commitment to yourself to start doing it TODAY, whatever “it” may be.  You cannot fail, you can only gain experience and wisdom along the way-you owe it to yourself to start inviting happiness in and living the life you always thought that you would. The best way to get there is to start DOING something you always wanted to do. TODAY. RIGHT NOW.

And, the envelope, please….

What is in your envelope? I am super interested, please let me know! Maybe I will borrow some of your Envelope Ideas!

Vacationer In Training

summer vacation I am what you might call a vacationer in training…I just got home from my first “Training Vacation” with my kids, to Disneyland. I have to say, for a newbie, I did pretty well. As I sit here, writing this, I have on a long, black, stretchy dress that I also wore several times over the past few days. It is not clean. I probably have reached the threshold of my deodorants efficacy. I don’t know what is going on with my hair, but it isn’t good. And I am thoroughly exhausted. But dammit, I had a good time!

The reason I consider myself a trainee is because, (duh!), I am really new at all of this stuff. I have never, ever, ever in my life before, planned a full on vacation in advance and actually followed through. I do a lot of dreaming, a lot of looking online, and then something inevitably happens which makes it impossible to do. A lot of the time, I just tell myself I can’t afford it “right now” and put it on my “someday” calendar, which, of course, is a time that does not exist and is therefore a safe but useless place to store daydreams.

Well, no more. My oldest daughter is on the verge of turning sixteen and already dancing away from me. In all of these years, you would think I could have scraped up enough time, money, and courage (because it really does take a little courage to plan a vacation, at least, this time. Maybe it gets easier. I’ll let you know.) to do something memorable, fun, and…overnight, I guess. Because we have done some stuff- we’ve gone to the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, and Great America. We’ve gone camping and stuff. But nothing BIG, and more importantly, nothing of my own devising.

I don’t know what changed, but something did. A couple of months ago, I just made up my mind that when I went on vacation in June, we were going to Disneyland. I turned to Facebook and the advice of friends for tips on where to stay and how to go about the whole thing, I searched the internet to check out rooms, and did the best I could. I knew that it would be a learning experience- that I would figure out stuff while I was there that would not benefit me until the NEXT time I was there, and I was okay with that. I kept my eyes and ears open, and I asked a LOT of questions, ranging from the cashier at the hotel gift shop (I LOVED her, she was sweet as could be.) to the cashier at the frozen apple juice kiosk in Storybook Land. Here is a tip- never, ever, ask the kiosk person if working at the park has ruined the magic for them. They may tell the truth.

I learned a lot. I learned that I chose the right hotel, because it had a water park for the little kids and a pool for the big kids, which made it easy to fill up the time we weren’t at Disneyland. Also, it was literally a five minute walk from the park entrance, which means that once my car was parked, I never had to move it again. So THAT was awesome. I learned that everything within a stones throw from Disneyland is about 30% more expensive than normal- even McDonalds! So you may as well plan on that, OR, you can do what we did, and venture away for dinner once or twice. We went to this big chain pizza buffet place that doesn’t exist where I live, so that was fun, and a bargain at ten bucks a head. I also learned FOR SURE that the next time I go, I will be getting a two or three day park hopper pass, and I will be going during the week. There’s a reason they have those things! I was bummed to not go to Disney’s California Adventure, and I can’t wait to go back to see it.

Aside from the things I learned about this vacation, I learned MY personal vacation style is to totally let go. Even though my tendency is to sit down for a meal in a restaurant and then feel myself getting tense as I think about what we are spending, what feels much better is to say “Yes. We are on vacation, get whatever you want.” So that is what I did. Every time, every meal.  I took the long way home, yesterday, also, which is something I have always wanted to do…I had to keep reminding myself of this when we were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic in Santa Monica and my car started overheating, and we had to pull over in the parking lot of a restaurant full of rich people and celebrities, while we  were looking like trailer trash that took a wrong turn. Oh, well.  And, last night, when I saw the sign for Pea Soup Andersen’s, a place I have always wanted to eat, I thought, “Why the heck not?”, so, off we went. After dinner, I was too exhausted to drive another several hours, so I rented a room at the Pea Soup Andersen Inn. Yes, I did. Okay, so the power went out (there, and in 145,000 other places around there.) and the phone went dead, and it felt a little like a night in the Bates Motel…but SO WHAT? I woke up, didn’t I? I was on the road, feeling rested, before six in the morning, and at seven something, I was standing on the pier at Pismo Beach, thinking how great it would be to spend a few days there.

So, if I had to grade myself on the overall success of my trip, I think I would give myself a B+, maybe an A- if I were being really generous. I did most of it right, but there were a few snags. Like, I overestimated my toddler’s ability to maintain sanity in the face of overwhelming stimulation, and wound up spending an entire hour listening to her scream that she wanted “to go home, mommy.” as we waited for the Disneyland Express train, sat on the train, sat through every endless STOP on the train…yeah, that sucked. But, overall, we made it home alive, happy, and still speaking to each other. Most importantly, I made it home already planning my next trip…which means it must have been okay!

So…What’s The Plan?

whats-the-plan-298x300I like to have a plan. I feel better, safer, more prepared, when I have a plan. I like to know what is next on the agenda. Some people might say that this makes me a bit of a control freak…I’m not going to lie, they would not be wrong.  I lived the first thirty years of my life with absolutely no plan, whatsoever, and that is just no good, either.  I can kind of relax, you know, when I know that I have this long until we do this thing…

I have been in a relationship with someone for a very, very long time (more about that later) who is totally okay with “going with the flow” and just sort of “seeing what happens”, which, as you can probably imagine, tends to drive me out of my MIND.  There have been times over the past million  (five) years that we have not seen eye to eye on this particular subject. There have been times when his laid back-ness has driven me into a frenzy of control freaky-ness that has been nothing short of astounding.

Guess how far that got me?

Lately, I have been trying to relax a little bit (“For Christ’s Sake, Courtney!” says  his voice in my head.) and be a little more open to understanding the possibility that maybe things will  be okay even if I am not corralling everyone into their proper places. This weekend, we reached a very nice compromise- I went to an undisclosed location in California, where it is actual summer right now, rather than this gloomy, fogged in crap we get here on the coast, and I sat by a pool, in the sun, with a book, and I relaxed. I watched my two year old daughter swimming (or bobbing, actually, with her floaties and her little plastic blow up ring) with her father, and my sixteen year old lounging next to me, giving all of the teenaged boys- of which there were lots at this hotel, for some reason- whiplash when they walked by and saw her in a bikini. I just lay there and watched them turn brown. I literally did nothing. In a funny twist of fate, I had also forgotten my phone charger, so my phone was dead, keeping me from stress inducing phone calls and emails. No Facebook, no texting, NOTHING. Sometimes I did jump in the pool to cool off.  Other than that, nothing.

“What’s mama doing?” I heard my two year old ask her father.

“She’s laying out in the sun.” He answered. How funny that my kid sees me in that state so seldom that she has to ask her dad what, exactly, it is that I am doing.

The part where the compromise comes in is this: I found that I could ask some very important questions about our lives and future together in that atmosphere, with no heat behind my words, and get relatively satisfactory answers, with very little prodding and prying at all. It’s kind of hard to get all heated when it’s that…well, hot, and you are that mellow.

Another valuable thing I took from the time spent by the pool is that I am much more capable of coming up with solutions on my own when my mind is quiet and not being hassled every five seconds by another worry or alert from my phone. I made some important decisions over the course of the past few days. I came home tired, but also feeling very rested.

I still like to have a plan. My life operates at it’s finest when I am working towards a goal, or towards a set of goals. I like having a schedule, and I like having some idea of what each day holds for me. But I think it is best if I exercise that control over ME, and not expect everyone else to fall into my agenda like neat little puzzle pieces. That is very frustrating, for everyone, and generally requires the use of a hammer to make those pieces fit- that would be me, playing the hammer. Everything is not always going to fall into place, especially if you are very attached to your idea of what “in place” is.

My goal now is to leave some space in the puzzle for other people to be what they need to be. I think I will up my chances of things going well considerably, don’t you? So, I still have a plan…it’s to be okay with whatever happens next. I’m sure it will take a while to relinquish my imaginary control over everything, but that’s good. It gives me something to work on!

Long Lost Sister

sistersMy sister is teaching me what it means to be, and to have, a sister.

“Why haven’t you called me?” She’ll ask.

“Oh, God, I’ve just been so miserable and depressed, I didn’t want to bring you down.” I’ll tell her.

“That’s WHY you need to call ME.” She instructs, “That’s what sister’s DO.”

See, she has had sisters, two other ones, all of her life. As a matter of fact, she had me all of her life, too, except we didn’t know each other. She may have had other sisters, but she never had a BIG sister, which is what I am to her- six years older, actually, although technically, she is several inches taller than me. Still, I am her big sister. I just know nothing about this sister business.

Here’s the story: My mom had me when she was nineteen. My dad (our dad) was also nineteen, and nowhere near as married to my mom as she was to him. Not surprisingly, their marriage didn’t last too long- I’m pretty sure they were on their way to an annulment when my mom found out she was pregnant with me. By the time I was one, my dad was long gone. He popped back in frequently throughout my life, with sporadic little bouts of interest in me…but he wasn’t the kind of dude who would show up for the school Christmas program or who knew any of my friends. He was the kind of dude who liked dropping me off once a year in front of my middle school in his pimped out El Camino blaring Motley Crue. And that was fine with me, I wasn’t heartbroken over it- I had my mom.

Meanwhile, across town, there lived another little girl, sharing half my DNA (and half my child support) that was living without him AT ALL. When I was very little, I remember playing with this little girl (she swears I hit her over the head with my little purse, which sounds about right, although I don’t remember it that way) on the sidewalk in front of a house. One of us was on a tricycle. I had no idea she was my sister. How weird is that? But that is the only memory I have of her, except for this one: When I was about nine, I was at my dad’s boooooring apartment (the ONLY good thing about his place was when he took a shower, I got to sneak peeks at his dirty magazines. Thanks to the ads in the back, I was very confused about whether girls had penises or not. If you have a porn mag on hand, look at the back and you’ll see what I mean.) and I saw a picture in a frame I’d never seen before.

“When did I get that picture taken?” I asked, innocently.

“That’s not you!” he barked. I never saw that picture again. For years, he claimed that she wasn’t his- until her mom had his blood tested and we were .99998 percent sure she was his. After that, there was just no talk of it. Or, if there were, I didn’t hear it, because I just wasn’t around that much. When I was in my twenties, I asked my step-mom about her, and I remember she told me that my sister had a different last name. I looked in the phone book and made a call or two, but got nowhere.

As you all know, I spent a gazillion years being super busy with the pursuit of drugs, so having a sister out there was not on the forefront of my mind. But, when I settled down and life got easier, there was this neat thing call Myspace- you might remember it? Somehow, I actually remembered her last name, after all those years! So, I sat down, did a little search, and found there were several girls with her name. The first one was definitely not her. The second one…my heart started hammering, my hands were shaky. I couldn’t tell you what it was, exactly, because we don’t look too much alike. But I knew. I knew for sure.

I sent her the weirdest message she has probably ever gotten. “Hi. You don’t know me, but I think we may be sisters. If this sounds totally wrong, I apologize. My dads name is blankety-blank. Do you know him?” Or something like that.

It was not long before she replied. “YES! You are my sister! I have been looking for you my whole life!” Or something like that.

We started talking on the phone. It was a little scary- we didn’t know anything about each other, and we were adults who knew how messed up the world can be. Finally, though, we decided to meet. I drove down to where she lives and we met at her apartment. Within minutes, her little daughter, my niece, had uttered a curse word, and I knew we were cut out of the same cloth. We just looked at each other and laughed our asses off.

You would think it would be awkward, right? Uncomfortable, touchy, weird? Well, it has never, not once, been any of those things. It has been easy as pie. Our similarities are outrageous. The lives and struggles we have had mirror one another very closely, and we also both love milk with our dinner, tequila shots, we both are allergic to mosquito bites, and our daughters have insanely curly hair (like our dad). I mean, there’s other stuff, but cut me a break, it’s not even six a.m.

I thought meeting her would be cool. I never dreamed I would love her as easily as if we had been raised together. I never expected to find myself thinking about her, or my niece and nephew, or her husband, as REAL family. But I do. I love them. They have known Cammy, my little one, her entire life-  so her memory’s will not have a hole in them, the way ours do. If only our parents had pushed a little…just think. We could have always had what we have now.

Last time I was at her house, I was laying on her bed talking to her while she did whatever she was doing. She was giving me a bunch of clothes, and she laughed at how much smaller my boobs were than hers (and can I just say, um, who’s AREN’T, Dolly?), and I wondered if she knew how crazy special she is to me? How big of a deal it is that we have the relationship we have? Because she is, and it is. I thought I better write this to let her know.

I love you, sissy. Thanks for training me to do this job, and just being the cool chick you are. I’m so glad we have each other.

The Beauty of a Checkered Past

Courtesy of Graphicsfactory.com
Courtesy of Graphicsfactory.com

There are times when I have a lot of regrets about the way I have lived my life. The entire decade of my twenties is pretty much a blur, my memories sacrificed to the volcano God of my addiction. There are things I am tired of thinking about, memories I DO have that I wish would fade, others I would give anything to have back. I couldn’t tell you a lot of entertaining stories about things my older daughter did or said as a toddler, for instance- I just don’t recall much. THAT breaks my heart.

When I think back on the way that we lived, that kid and I- lots of times, everything we owned was in my car and we slept on couches and in spare rooms for months at a stretch, with no place to call our own- I shake my head in horror. I could never even imagine raising my little one that way. I can’t imagine having her in that environment for a single day, let alone growing up that way. Even though, as I have said before, I have not been perfect in my abstinence, the change in me from who I was to who I am today has been so dramatic…it would be like comparing an earthquake to the rattle caused by a truck passing by, or a tsunami to a choppy sea on a windy day. Two different things entirely. Do I ever long to go back in time and fix what I did, or wallow in the bone deep sorrow of regret? Of course I do. I am human, I am a mother. That is my penance. I try not to beat myself up, I realize it is over and useless to cry about. But make no mistake, I think I should feel a little bit bad. I think it’s okay to be sorry for dragging an innocent human being through the fucked up wasteland of your own drug addiction. If you don’t agree, well, you either don’t understand, or you are sugar coating it to make yourself feel better. Don’t get stuck in it, by all means, move forward armed with enough knowledge to not do it again…but yes, you can feel a little shitty about it for as long as you need to. It’s okay.

Yet, at the risk of completely contradicting myself, I wouldn’t change it, either. Had I not been who I was, I could not be who I am today, nor where I am. There is a chance I would be somewhere better, SOMEONE better, I know. But were it not for my past, I would not have the two beautiful daughters I have today- the very reason I ever decided to try to get my shit together in the first place. For all I know, I would be far, far worse off. It was the birth of my little girl, nearly sixteen years ago, that ignited the spark of desire to change. That led me to question if perhaps the way I was living was not really so great. Yes, it took me a long, long time to actually take any steps to change things, but the important thing is that I did. It was not perfect, but neither am I, and it ended up being pretty great.

There are other things- because I spent my entire life, into my thirtieth year, relying totally on others, the sweetness of relying only on myself, finally, was beautiful. I will never, ever forget what it felt like, when Aisley was eight years old and I found us, on my own, a two bedroom apartment. It was kind of a dump on the outside. Okay, the inside wasn’t what you might call spectacular, either. But it was clean and roomy, and it was OURS. The best part was that Aisley had her own room, for the very first time in her entire life. For other people, normal people, this would maybe not have been a huge victory. For me, every day in that house was a gift, because I did it all myself.

Even now, looking at Aisley, who will be sixteen in September, and is, therefore, what you might call “slightly insane” and a “little” difficult to live with…I feel nothing but gratitude for her entitled manner, her wastefulness and the way she takes stuff for granted. You know why? Because that is the mark of a normal teenager. Do you know what a miracle that is, that my kid is as big of an ass as any other kid? I am mostly kidding, but you catch my drift, right? She made it through OKAY. Thank God.

When I wake up, as I did today, and sit out on my front porch with my coffee, contemplating the gray sky before me, listening to the roar of the surf behind the other sounds of the world waking up, and I smell the ocean, and I have that utter peace and contentment in my heart…well. Can I tell you that THAT feeling, a feeling some people have always had, maybe, or will never get to know- my circumstances, MY checkered past, gave that to me. I have seen, breathed, lived the other side and I would not trade what I have now for anything.  All those years, I was chasing after something to make me feel good, and when I finally stopped running, I found it.

I am grateful for my past. Have a beautiful day.

And Out of the Woodwork, They Come…

courtesy of Francesca Miller
courtesy of Francesca Miller

The bulk of my days, Monday through Friday, are spent working, or getting ready for work, or doing all of the things we have to do once work is over. When I am not doing those things, I am generally doing a short list of other important things that never seem to end, in rotation. Things like: Figure out what to make for dinner; Go to the grocery store because there is nothing to make for dinner and/or we are missing one or two vital ingredients needed to make dinner, and/or we need milk. We always need milk. Clean up the house; Try to spend some quality time with one or more of my children; Try to spend quality time with my dog. Run BACK to the store because we are out of cat food. We are always out of cat food. Try to fit exercise in there, somewhere. Wash some clothes- we are ALWAYS out of clean clothes. Go to bed.

As you can imagine, this doesn’t leave a ton of time for cultivating and sustaining friendships. At least, not the kind you want to have when you find yourself with a sick child in the hospital on a gorgeous day at the end of May. Which is exactly what happened to me the other day. See, my little child has a tendency to react in an alarming way to what would be an inconsequential bug bite on most people- she gets all puffed up and swollen in a way that her infectious disease specialist has succinctly described as “weird”. So, this time, when we went to the ER, they decided that we couldn’t go home, like we usually do. We had to stay, be admitted, get some IV antibiotics into my awesomely brave little peanut.

Which would have been fine…except- I have another child out wandering the world without her cell phone, who had no idea what was going on. Even if she did, I didn’t have anyone to come stay with her, and once I did reach her, she refused to come up and stay at the hospital with me. To make matters even more lovely, I started my period in a heinous way ( need I say more, girls?) which may or may not have contributed to my gloomy perspective on things.  Oh yeah, also, I did not have my phone charger, so my phone went dead in what seemed like a matter of minutes. Well, about five seconds after I posted something like “I am alone in the world. I hate everyone.” as my Facebook status. I know, I know- it even sounds melodramatic to ME, now. But at the moment, that was how I felt.

We were moved from the ER to an inpatient room about seven thousand years later, and we both, baby and I, fell asleep in her big old hospital bed (after she got tired of pressing all of the buttons and beeping the nurses station fifty seven thousand times- sorry about that, nurses!) about seven in the evening. When I woke up in the morning and plugged in my laptop, I was amazed at the number of people who responded to my sad-sack status.  The number of private messages from friends wanting to know what was wrong, and how they could help, was even more staggering.  By nine o’clock that morning, I had two good friends there willing to hang out with my child (who was under quarantine, no less) so that I could go grab some coffee and hide in my car for a cigarette. Before that, I had my boss there, as well as another co-worker on her break, and so many other people who were willing to come if I just said the word. And did I need anything else? Food? Baked goods that were so yummy (thank you for the chocolate banana croissant, girls) they could barely be categorized as food? Then, of course, our beloved Donna, without whom I really don’t think I could survive, came, and I got to go home, shower, grab a phone charger. And that was the other wonder of wonders- when I plugged in my phone, I had alarms alarming and alerts alerting in a way that I can only describe as “symphonic.” That phone beeped and clanged for five minutes after I hooked it up.

I went in to the hospital feeling terribly isolated and alone, and it made me really determined to work harder, to put in the time that good, strong friendships deserve. I left the hospital feeling loved and cared for, and really determined to work harder, to put in the time that good strong friendships deserve…except that now, I know it won’t be nearly as much work as I thought. It will be a great pleasure. And I know just where to put my efforts.

Thank you all so much for your kindness. Every word and gesture meant the world to me.