Posted in advice, family, Life, Mental Health, mental illness, Musings, People, random, social media

If You See Something, SAY Something

Last Sunday evening, I was sitting, sun burnt and happy, in this very chair, scrolling through Facebook when I saw an alarming post in a women’s group I’m in. “There’s an active shooter at the Gilroy Garlic Festival-local birds, please check in so we know you’re okay.”

I thought surely there must be some mistake. I mean, that is twenty minutes away from my house! I had almost gone this year for the first time ever, but we opted not to for whatever arbitrary reason. I quickly jumped onto a local news site, and sure as hell, it was true.  Right here, practically in my neighborhood.

It was just a short time ago that I was frantically messaging my friend Stephanie in Virginia Beach after a man there opened fire in a government building where he worked. That was right there, right in her town. She couldn’t believe it was happening in her hometown.

Yesterday, I was at Jiffy Lube, getting my oil changed, when I was alerted that there was a mass shooting in a busy Walmart in El Paso, packed with families getting back to school supplies. The stories I read were from people who were just grabbing unattended children and running for their lives…There was one other man in the waiting room at the oil change place with me. “There’s been another shooting.” I said, “In El Paso.” “Huh.” he said, and went back to his magazine.

This morning, I woke up to find there was another shooting, this time in Ohio. I haven’t read the news about it yet. I will, but I don’t really need to. I can make an educated guess that it was a white male, most likely in his late teens or early 40’s, though not always. He probably doesn’t like people who aren’t the same color as him. Maybe I’m wrong, but probably not. Chances are, he’s been posting something somewhere- maybe Reddit, maybe Facebook, Instagram, or some other, less well-known, more “white nationalist” flavored site. This will come out after the fact, as it always does.

I’m not even going to go into my feelings about how our current administration (and by that, make no mistake that I am pointing directly at the so-called leader here) is fueling the fires of racial tension with his behavior and words. If you can’t see that, I won’t be able to convince you otherwise.

What I want to talk about is this: Right now, there is going to be an upsurge in the same outcry we have heard time and time and time again- GUN CONTROL! We need GUN CONTROL! When are THEY going to DO SOMETHING?!

Kids, I hate to break it to you, but “They” are clearly not gonna do shit. We are on our own here. It is you, and your neighbors, and your communities full of people you love, children, elderly, families, teenagers, outcasts and recluses- all of US, against a few bad and dangerous, sick, volatile few.

It is up to US.

If you see something, SAY SOMETHING.

If someone you know posts something online that could be a joke, but also might not be- it is your responsibility to bring it to the attention of someone who can help.

If your SON is troubled and you worry about what is going on with him, maybe he says things you don’t support and he’s a little more angry than usual, but he’s your son, and you know he would never…it is your responsibility to step in.

It might be nothing. You might feel stupid, and like a snitch, and worry about making trouble for someone for no good reason. With nothing but love, I tell you this: Fuck that. This is no time for giving people the benefit of the doubt. Innocent people are literally being gunned down while they eat calamari at food festivals, while they wait for the next band to come on, while they buy their kids wide rule paper at Wal Mart. If there is even one billionth of a chance that you could somehow prevent the next slew of pointless deaths, you better jump on it.

In this weird era of disconnection from not only our neighbors but our loved ones- often loved ones living under the same roof- I think all this violence is a very good reason to reacquaint ourselves with our surroundings. Check up on your adult children. Make sure they are doing okay. Sit down with your high school kids, find out what is going on- REALLY going on- in their lives. Reach out to your neighbors. If you are like me, you probably know three or four people on your block, and only remember one of their names. We need to be better neighbors, better parents, better friends, and better community members. Because we are the eyes and ears. If we paid attention, maybe we could slow down these events. If we used our voices, if we spoke up when something made us worry or didn’t seem right, maybe we could save some lives.

I’m not placing the blame on anyone for these things except for where it belongs- squarely on the shoulders of the people shooting these guns. Ultimately, they are responsible. But the things THEY have heard and the way they interpret that information matters. And the people surrounding them, the people who know them, who read what they write and hear what they say, they matter too. Do not be afraid to speak up.

If you fucking see something, SAY SOMETHING. No one is coming to save us.

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Posted in adventure, family, fun, happiness, health, inner peace, kids, Life, motherhood, People

Heavenly

I know, I know- it’s been weeks now since I’ve written a word here. Well, to be honest, it’s been weeks since I’ve published a word here. I’ve now written three complete posts that I opted not to share with the world (more on that later), and I am worried that you guys might think I am off on a bender or murdered or something.

Truly, nothing could be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is, I’ve just been ridiculously happy lately. Ever have times when it just seems like all the stars have finally aligned in your favor and it is just smooth sailing? I mean, it’s kinda rare, right? But that is precisely what the Gods have seen fit to bestow upon me these days, and I am 100% here to receive it.

The night before last, I was taking Lucy the Lab for a stroll- it was 7:19 (I remember glancing at my watch) and the sun was still shining…I had a tank top on and was enjoying the warmth of it on my skin- for some reason I have really been into soaking up the sun recently, something I never remember doing much of before. Anyway, Lucy was happily sniffing and snuffling her way through every shrub and flower on the street, I was happily taking in the sun rays and stretching my legs, and behind me, Camryn was happily chatting away about the Pokemon she was catching. That’s when it hit me- I was completely content. Not just in that moment, although that was a perfect moment. But just…in general. There is not one part of my life that is giving me trouble right now. Everything is good.

Now, if I wanted to nit-pick, I’m SURE I could find something that wasn’t good enough- my house, for instance, is never ever ever ever clean enough. But, shit- I am really trying. Every day, I put some effort into it in some way, and that somehow winds up making it feel more acceptable to me, you know? Because before, there were days…okay, weeks, even- when I would just get off work and lay on the couch and HATE the mess but feel unable to do a single thing except hate it. So, even though it’s not great, it’s still better.

And the thing is, I don’t want to nit-pick. For once in my life, I just want to recognize this miraculous gift of delightful happiness, and enjoy it. I’m not even doing that weird thing where I realize I’m happy and then panic and try to figure out how I can trap that happiness and make it stay forever. Nothing scares happiness away faster than my clingy ass trying to dig my worried nails into it and demand that it live here forever now. That’s not how happiness works, I’m pretty sure. Right? I mean, let me know if I’m wrong.

Last weekend, on a five a.m., coffee-fueled whim, I ordered a trampoline. My 8 year old has spent more hours huddled in a dark room with her eyes on a screen this summer than I care to tally up. Not only does this make me feel like a lousy mother, but it makes her…act differently. She gets weird and grouchy and withdrawn. I’ve been trying to make sure we do lots of outside things in the afternoons, but it doesn’t feel like enough. The world that I grew up in- leaving the house the minute the neighbor kids were up and spending the entire day outside, riding bikes, skating, doing God only knows what- that world doesn’t exist anymore. At least, not around here. I thought a trampoline would be a good idea.

So, I got a trampoline. A really, really big trampoline. It got here yesterday, and Cam’s dad came by and put it together last night. We still need to put up the safety net, but I can assure you, we did not let the absence of that stop up from bouncing for a good two hours last night. The best part of all is that Aisley happened to be home, so it was both my kids and myself, jumping and laughing until the sun went down. The trampoline was not a good idea…it was possibly the best idea EVER.

So, what is it, exactly, that is making life feel so damn perfect right now? Well, I think trying to figure that out is where I generally go wrong- I think the tendency to examine and analyze and dissect things kinda ruins them. But I’m sure all the sunshine and walking and time spent outside isn’t hurting. I’m positive all the fruits and veggies and water and exercise is helping. The effort I’m putting into work and my house has to be part of it. Oh, and did I mention I’ve been kind of seeing someone? Yep. That is definitely not hurting my attitude at all…but I’ve decided to keep that mostly to myself for now (hence the unpublished posts I mentioned earlier). I figure I’ll know when it’s time to share more- not like me to keep quiet, but there you have it. I am capable of change. 🙂

So I’m off to start another (hopefully) excellent day. Enjoy these pictures of us jumping on our trampoline for the first time ever.

Posted in adventure, faith, family, Goals, Life, Musings, random, travel, Uncategorized

On My Way!

Well, I’m not really on my way- not quite yet, anyway. This time tomorrow morning, I will already be at the airport with Cam, at our gate, waiting to board our flight. But you and I both know our vacations start well before we ever walk out the door of our homes. My brain has been in vacation mode all week, work nothing more than a bothersome distraction.

Does this mean I’ve been busy packing and preparing? Well…no. Just by virtue of the fact that I know I need to do a bunch of stuff, I have felt less inclined to do any of it. I have gotten all of our laundry done. I finally started packing our suitcases last night. I have dishes to do and one last Target run to pick up the final items I absolutely have to have with me for this trip- like those little tubes of freeze dried Starbucks instant coffee? Those are 100% necessary when staying in a hotel with questionable coffee availability and family who do not wake up anywhere near as early as you do. So, I need those. I need at least one new phone charger as all of mine seem to have stopped working this week. I really need a new fitbit band, but I’m hoping this one will hold up at least until I get where I am going. But I might see if they have one at Target, I don’t know.

Anyway you crack it, I will be somewhere in San Francisco tonight, sleeping in the first of a series of unfamiliar beds, and the adventure will begin.

This morning, I sat on my cushion for my normal prayer and meditation, and I set my intention for this day and this trip. Gratitude that this is my life now- I am a person who can plan a trek across the country and follow through. I can have confidence in myself, for I am capable, smart, and strong. I will be patient, with myself and others, knowing we are all doing the best we can at any given moment. And I will enjoy myself, basking in the love I have for my family, and that they have for me, as we embark on this adventure together.

Am I nervous? I would not be me if I weren’t, but…I trust that all will be well. So, Bon Voyage, my friends! I’ll catch up with you all when I am in Maine- I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time to write while I wait for everyone else to wake up!

Posted in anxiety, Depression, family, happiness, kids, Life, love, Mental Health, mental illness, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, women

It’s Not Just About Me

I come to you this morning with my messy pony-tail and my ratty old robe, having not left this house once since around 3 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon, and only then because I had no choice. I was out of kitty litter, and the house was starting to smell pretty bad. The only reason I even noticed this was because I shielded my tender little eyeballs from the sun and ran a bag of trash out to the cans in another one of my weird surges of efficiency earlier that day. When I came back in, the smell about knocked me over. Apparently, sitting in the reek all day was fine, but discovering it after a brief moment of fresh air was unacceptable. So, to the store I went.

Of course, I went to the store in my beat up old sweatshirt I’d slept in, didn’t bother with my hair, and had a face so free of makeup that it looked as if I’d left my eyelashes at home on the bathroom counter. I have absolutely colorless eyelashes, I tell you. Anyway, it follows that I ran into a “friend” from Facebook in the produce section at Target. I say “friend” in quotations because, although we have interacted quite often, and for some length of time, this was our first time meeting in real life. At least she recognized me. I was about as mortified as I am capable of being at this point, which is to say, not much.

Here’s the thing. My anxiety has been strangled into submission by pure stubbornness, it seems. But left in its wake has been something I can ONLY describe as depression. Like, I have never been so disinterested in everything before in my freaking life. I’m even bored with the idea of being depressed. Like seriously, what the fucking fuck? Can I just pull it together for five minutes or WHAT? I’m sure it has everything to do with my period showing up Sunday, and that the minute my hormone levels start rising or falling or whatever they’re supposed to do, I’ll feel marginally better, but…my God, I’m OVER IT.

I’ve even been grouchy to my pets. It seems like Lucy (my black lab) is forever nudging her head into my lap, probably sensing that I desperately need some kind of support. And I am forever perfunctorily patting at her ears for half a second before pushing her away irritably, telling her “GO!”

I watched this little video snippet yesterday of a mother reading aloud a little thing she wrote about the fleeting nature of childhood- the way our babies turn to toddlers, then children, then adolescents and so on. And how, at every stage, we think we have so much more time…but really, we don’t. Take it from me, with my 21 year old and my 8 year old who were both, somehow, born like a year ago. It feels that way, anyway.

That video jarred something open in me. You know, I’ve been so incredibly busy being self-obsessed, trying to figure out not only what is wrong with me but how to fix it, that I had completely forgotten that I am shaping the life experience of others. Namely, my small daughter and my pets. I wasn’t thinking about anyone else because I was thinking so much about me. You know, I don’t have forever. Camryn won’t be small for too much longer, and Lucy…well, she’s 7 already. For a Lab, that’s up there in years. I may not be Camryn’s whole world, but I’m a huge part of it, and for Lucy, I AM it. I have no right to push her away when she needs a pat or a little reassurance that I’m okay.

So, just like that, I changed my attitude. On my lunch break, when I jumped in bed to take a little snooze, I patted the bed and invited Lucy up there with me- a rare treat- and we snuggled for 30 minutes. It didn’t escape my notice that she yelped a little bit in pain when she attempted to leap up onto the bed. I don’t have forever. I am her person. She deserves my love, even when I don’t feel very loving.

Cam, who’d spent the day with her dad, came home to find a big sign I’d made for her- big bubble letters of her name, decorated with flowers and vines, and various declarations of love. Just a little dumb thing to let her know I was thinking of her.

Here’s the thing- it made ME feel a thousand times better. Loving on my dog, playing with the kitten (who, incidentally, has the best, loudest, juiciest purr you’ve ever heard), petting the more stoic and reserved Frankenstein (my black kitty), taking a moment to do something sweet for my kid…I did it for them, but it helped me. I forgot how that worked. I forgot that when we think of and do for others, it takes us out of ourselves and fills us up with something wonderful.

So, I’m a mess- there’s no getting around that. I’m a mess that is always working towards a solution, though, and I am proud of that. But I figured something out yesterday at least- I’m not going to find happiness searching the very place where all the trouble is originating. That happiness I want is not inside my head. It’s over on the couch as we speak, snoring way too loudly for a dog, waiting for me to stand up so she can follow me anywhere I happen to be going. It’s in the little body in my bedroom, drooling on my pillow, waiting to see what adventures this day holds. Yes, I’m a mess. But I have the best tools in the world to lift me up, out and over. People and creatures who love me far more than I probably deserve.

Today, that is more than enough.

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, Blogging, faith, family, happiness, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, motherhood, parenting, recovery, twelve step

Just…wow.

just wow
courtesy of lisalayden.com. 

Have you ever had one of those strange moments where your perspective shifts, and you suddenly…I don’t know…like, see your life? All of the sudden, your own reality hits you and it’s just mind blowing? And not in a bad way at all, but in the most incredible, blessed feeling way? Gosh, I’m getting tears in my eyes just writing this.

That happened to me last night. I was drifting off to sleep, and out of nowhere it hit me that I’m a mom. I have two daughters! And you know, of course I know this- one of them is a legit adult now, the other one is 8. It’s not like it’s something new, but…it just sort of hit me. Wow. I am the mother to these two incredible people, their mother. What an honor that is. How lucky am I?

To get to have these two beautiful girls, so unbelievably different, so perfect in their own way. I have one who loves everything that grows- she plucked a giant mushroom out of my garden yesterday, and plopped it down on my butcher block, examining it like a scientist. She broke it apart, leaving a trail of dirt and possibly poisonous spores over every inch of my kitchen…but you know what? I’m so happy that she’s found something she’s passionate about- her seed packets, and all of the knowledge she has about soil and zones, water and sunlight. The way she looks when she is plucking a bean from a vine, or pulling a weed from the earth. As a parent, all you could ever want is for your child to grow up and find the thing they love most, and I think she has done that.

And then there is the little one- tender-hearted, kind, but absolutely self assured. She loves tiny, tiny things, colored pencils, blank pages, pencil sharpeners. She’ll drop everything to give me a hug, but then she rushes back to whatever it is that she is focused on. She’ll give up some of her time for me, but she is pretty clear about needing her own space, her own time. I feel like that will serve her well. She also loves jokes, loves to laugh, more than anyone I’ve ever known…and again, this will help her immeasurably in life.

I LOVE these girls. I love them so much. And it is such a miracle, such an unbelievable miracle, that I get to live this life I am living. For an addict like me to be living a life like this- gainfully employed, a real career, my bills paid, food in the fridge, these gorgeous kids, and I am CLEAN? Are you kidding me? When I think of how desperately I longed for this life, so many, many times. When I think of how little hope I had, how futile it seemed to even think about it. Because I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stay clean. Except I did. I have. I continue to.

And because of that, I get to feel like this. Like my heart will just burst open from all of the gratitude and love and appreciation I have for my life in this moment. For the mother I get to be because I just kept showing up, day after day, and I stopped trying to change the way I felt by putting drugs in my body. I went ahead and felt my feelings instead. I went ahead and faced the truth about who I was and what I had done. I went ahead and dealt with it. And it was hard- it’s still hard sometimes. I have a lot of painful memories, painful facts about my life that I can never change. But you know what? I’m making a lot of new, really beautiful memories, too. And if I keep it up, someday they might just outweigh the bad ones.

For that, and for so many other reasons, I am deeply grateful this morning.

Posted in anxiety, family, Holidays, inner peace, kids, Life, Mental Health, motherhood, parenting, People, relationships

Another Great Christmas

a happy christmas

I woke up this morning (well, this middle of the damn night, really) in my fancy new pajamas, courtesy of my mama, looking about as smart as a half-asleep bed headed woman can look, and I have to tell you- I feel nothing right now except for gratitude for the day I had yesterday. My house, which I scrubbed from top to bottom on Monday, is in utter shambles all around me. There is a mountain of empty boxes behind me against the book shelf, there are tiny little plastic toy packaging pieces- or maybe they are toy parts? I don’t know, but…anyway, flotsam and jetsam liberally litters the floor and surfaces. My kitchen sink is piled high with dishes- you get the picture. It’s a mess. And I’m not even mad- about the mess, or about the fact that I fell asleep at 6:30 in the evening last night, leaving all of this for today me to deal with. You want to know why? Good, I’ll tell you.

Reason Number One: My last two posts involved me having a sort of mini nervous breakdown last week, and though I might have tried to make light of it (perhaps failing to do so) I was REALLY scared about the future implications of what that massive panic attack might mean. I didn’t know if it was just a one-off, or a terrible harbinger of mental problems to come. So the fact that my fear and panic and anxiety seems to have resolved itself and then some was enough to put me over the moon by Christmas day. Not only has the fear, anxiety, and panic receded, but I seem to have come out of it with a much better attitude and my feet more firmly planted on the ground. That intense fear I felt appears to have made my day-to-day fears seem so silly in comparison that I just don’t have time for that shit. I’m gonna live my life. This is very exciting.

Reason Number Two: Christmas stopped being about what I was getting a long time ago. This year it wasn’t even about what I gave to others, either- at least, not quite as much. Don’t get me wrong, I have found a lot of joy in gift giving as I’ve grown up, but now it’s more the feeling of being the mom of this family, being the home that my loved ones show up at to celebrate. Suddenly, I am the “mom”, the home, the destination. For the first time ever, I took so much pride in that. My tree was perfect this year, my home was clean and welcoming, I did it right.

Reason Number Three: Another first for me- I didn’t have a single second of worry about money this year. It’s not that I am rolling in it or anything, but I’m finally in a place where I am financially stable and did not have to stress about every penny. What a blessing this is! I have spent every Christmas of my adult life until now freaking out around Christmas time, worried that I wasn’t going to pull it off. This year was different, and for that I am beyond relieved. I didn’t go crazy by any means- why ask for trouble? But it was nice to not have to sweat it. I have worked and worked and worked to get to this spot, and it’s finally paid off.

Reason Number Four: I didn’t ruin everyone’s day with my own expectations, subsequent disappointment, and then unavoidable meltdown. Seriously, this has been a thing I’ve been known to do. Past years, I have imagined idyllic scenes of love and appreciation, respectful gift openings, and dinner at a perfectly set table…and when that all went to shit, as it will, I freaked out. This year, I just wanted to be happy. I let everyone do their thing. And I was there for it. I just kept being there for it, whatever “it” was. And guess what? I was far happier as a result. When Camryn started ripping into her gifts faster than I could register them, I let it happen. When Aisley didn’t want to sit down at the table with us for dinner, I let that go. When Devon fell asleep- in his car, then on the couch, then on my bed- I didn’t need to get upset. Why did I ever need to? Why let it bother me? I honestly tried to go with the flow this year, and it made everything so much better!

Reason Number Five: Devon and I decided to spend our holiday’s together with our daughter, rather than trying to figure out who gets her when and then one of us having to miss our girl on Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter. Gosh, that seems so sad, and I couldn’t really enjoy my day knowing he was somewhere feeling down and lonely. I’d like to think he feels the same. So, we co-parented like freaking champs yesterday. We cooked a beautiful meal together, we spent a peaceful day in each other’s company, and it was such a massive win for Camryn, whether she ever knows it or not. No fighting (except a brief spat about politics), no animosity, just her mom and dad hanging out with her on Christmas. That was the best thing we could’ve done for her, and I’m so proud of that.

All in all, it was a wonderful day. I am not a religious person, but I do love God, and I am deeply connected to my spiritual side. So I said many prayers of thanks yesterday, and shed a few tears of gratitude, and a few of sadness, for the family and friends I’ve lost the past few years. I went to bed healthy, grateful for my family, my tummy and my heart both full. What more can you really ask for from a day, especially Christmas? Not much. Not much more than that at all.

Posted in friendship, Life, love, Musings, People, random

One Year, Three Months, Five Days

One year, three months, five days. That’s how long it’s been since you left this earthly plane, on to whatever comes next. Which means that one year, three months and six days ago, you were still doing whatever it was you were doing- talking, smiling, popping up here and there as you were wont to do. No idea that the minutes of your life were winding down, down, down. Oblivious. I think about this sometimes, and it scares me a little bit. It’s a hard truth to swallow, the way we live our lives so blissfully unaware that this might be it- this might be our last day, our last hour.

Anyway, God, I fucking miss you this morning. Grief is a strange thing, isn’t it? Weeks pass, and the pain recedes, and then I wake up one morning, like I did today, and it just hurts, oh so very much. It still seems impossible to me that you are gone.

There is no way for me to describe or quantify or make sense of what you meant to me, how my life was altered because of you, or how it changed when you died. But I know that my life WAS altered, and your death stole something real from me. Because of you, I learned that love can evolve in all sorts of different ways- when you stop trying to fit a relationship into a box, stop trying to label and categorize it, and just let it be what it is, something wonderful can happen. The connection between us spanned decades, and changed many times, ultimately mellowing and becoming something rich, that I cherished. Knowing you were out there, somewhere, knowing that you would be there if I needed you…it mattered so much to me.

Your surprise visits were often the highlight of my week. Just drinking coffee with you out on my front porch, or playing board games with Cam. Getting to hear you laugh and seeing you be silly and playful with my kids lifted my heart. I just enjoyed your company. It had become as simple and easy as that.

I was not blind to your faults. I knew you well enough to worry about what the future held for you, to worry about where your life would ultimately end up. We even discussed it a time or two, with me lamenting what would happen to you when you got old, joking about which girl would end up taking care of you. “Oh my God,” I groaned, “It’s going to be me, isn’t it?” And we laughed, because it seemed far away and preposterous. I suppose it wound up being a useless worry, didn’t it? But for the record, I would have gladly taken on the job. Not that you ever would have wanted to be in that position, of course, but I would have done it. In a heartbeat.

The point is, I guess, that I loved you. I love you still. I used to feel angry sometimes, resentful that I so completely loved someone who could never love me back in the same way. It wasn’t as if I had a choice- we love who we love, and that’s all. But now I’m grateful for all of it, I really am. Because of you, I know I am capable of loving someone unconditionally, exactly as they are, with no expectation and no need for them to do anything to earn it. I realized that long before you died. I know I made it clear to you. I’m so glad I did, and so glad we were friends.

I just really, really miss you today.