One graceful sweep of feathers

27 May

The last time I saw my friend William Lucien Keen Jr. (Billy) alive, it was Memorial Day 2008. At least, in body it was him. In spirit he was already gone. Billy battled prostate cancer for seven years and had reached his limit. He was done. Done fighting, done worrying, done leaning on his friends and family for care. He sat there on the couch in his rented house, trying to seem ok for me. I sat there on the couch on his rented house trying to seem ok for him. It was awkward and sad. And I wish I could go back to that moment again and hold his hand for as long as he’d let me. I loved Billy with all of my heart. A friend, a brother, an entrepreneur, an ambassador for kindness, an example of enthusiastic frivolity, fun and fabulousness (I think Billy was the first openly gay person I ever knew?), Billy was one of the greatest friends I will ever have in my life.

Me and Billy at my 23rd Birthday dinner

 

It was his time though. He had fought so hard for so long and he was just ready.  He was ready to leave this earth and all the gorgeous moments he created, and start fresh somewhere else.   A few weeks later, I was in North Carolina at a zoo with Zoe and my cousins. They had run over to the petting zoo and I was watching from outside the fence. Sitting on a park bench on a shady mountainside, this peacock strutted right up to me and sat. He positioned himself about six feet away from me and saddled around. In one graceful sweep, his feathers displayed broadly in front of me. A gorgeous display of nature at its finest. I sat there for a moment and stared. In awe. Southern literature always uses the sightings of peacock as a reference to God. And whether you believe in God or not, the peacock is a heavenly sight.

 

The actual peacock

 

Later that day, I got the email that Billy had passed on from another dear and dedicated friend Hemley.  Hemley had lovingly cared for Billy like a hand maid. He was on the front lines of the illness and I am sure relieved that the suffering was over. The peacock was a message for me. That Billy was gone and back to showing off his feathers and all their beauty.

I tend to believe what Stephen Hawking says, there is no afterlife – no heaven or hell. I do believe that your energy gets put back into the universe though. It’s clear to me when you see congress of nature like I did that day.  It’s what I’ll be thinking about this Memorial day and every one after. I miss you Billy Keen. Love you, mean it.

 

Restless Rigor in the Nest

28 Jul

There’s a pod of young hawks living on my street. They race through the leafy canopy of mahogany trees, zipping past us overhead. Long necked in flight with short, rounded wings, they resemble something of a flying cross. With rapid wing beats and a short glide, they squeak and squawk, sounding more like an energized dog toy than an avian predator.

hawk

And boy are they predators.

Their proximity brings the circle of life to the forefront, almost daily. I am a witness.

Their raw blood thirst, as a means of survival, is nature at its most rudimentary level.

As I see them circle through the shaded airspace above, I am reminded of that constant struggle we must engage in, in order to stay alive.

It’s eat or be eaten, as the hawks have illustrated.

I can attest to this struggle. I’ve been involved with it, intimately, this year. From illness to obstinacy, depression to divorce, paranoia to pedantic persistence I have either experienced it first hand or been close to someone who has.

Parenting, has also been more of challenge. Daily.  Being nearly 10 years old and all that hormonally entails, is rough. Pair that with the fact that it’s summer and there’s no real routine – we have a restless rigor in the nest.

And I’m tired.

nest

Sometimes, you want to glide. Wings pointed forward to catch the currents of rising air. I just can’t find that current.

When we can’t find our way, we revert to practices and rituals that are familiar. That work for us. The routine brings peace and normalcy to our state of flux.

For now, I listen to the hawks and try to focus on today.

I will set attainable goals and move forward with a smile.

I will tread lightly on my expectations.

I will remember those things that are wonderful and try to focus on the positive.

I will be thankful that I am so, so fortunate in this life.

I will radiate kindness, love and support for those close friends and family who are struggling as well.

I will attempt to be patient, tolerant and calm.

I will put good into the universe.

I will try to not hold onto anger, frustration and negativity.

I will try to fly.

For now.

Shut Yo Mouth

7 May

Mother’s Day.  Sigh.  It’s a bad Mother (shut yo mouth).

Here’s what I think.  Mothers for the most part, do the work and get little glory.  We are the most and least important in every thing. We cannot be lived with or lived without.  And we do not realize that last fact, until sadly, it is too late.

me and mom

We get one day to be celebrated, and the commercials promoting the holiday make me want to hyperventilate they are so sad.

It’s a no-win situation. No one loses, but you don’t really win here either.

I’m not down on motherhood. No.  Being a mother is the single most important part of me.

If I had to choose one person to be with, forever, it would be my daughter.  No question.

Motherhood brings me the greatest joy and pride that could ever be imagined.  Mountains are moved every time I see a change in my daughter.  Every time she smiles, or dances when she’s feeling silly. Every time she tells me a joke, even if it’s not funny. Every time I see her turn a little bit more into the person she is going to be.

It is humbling.

It is also a lot of work.

It doesn’t matter if you’re married, divorced, husband deployed or don’t even have a partner.

Motherhood is hard. It’s important. It’s remarkable.

I get about three or four days off a month. That’s more than most.  That said, I work 24 hours a day, the other 26-27 days a month.

It gives me some perspective.

I don’t have time to worry or get caught up.  I have a schedule, and I have to be on it.

I don’t even like schedules, but it’s necessary in order to fulfill my work order.

What else works? Well, I surround myself with women who are successful, happy and supportive.

Regardless of if they are mothers or not.  I need people to hold me up, when I cannot accomplish that on my own.  I need to be led down the right path sometimes.  I need to be distracted sometimes and I need to do the same for them.

These women are a bank of “good” that I can deposit and withdrawal from when necessary.

I have fantastic role models with my own mother and stepmother. Different in their approach, but unconditional in their nature. I try to emulate them as much as possible.

I have a bonus mom/sister/friend who taught me everything from how to figure out where an address was on a map to how to drive.  My friend Laura mothered me, when I needed it and has been a significant role model for me my entire life. Now she is working on Zoe, and it reaffirms my love and admiration for her daily.

My father and stepfather are stand-up men, who have supported my mother and stepmother in their parenting journeys.  They are formidable.

Co-parenting is a complicated thing and I have a fairly good situation where that is concerned. Parenting together is better.  These men help show me the way.

These last five years of going at it as a single mom have taught me a few things.

1. Pick your battles. Not everything is worth an uproar. Somethings really are – choose wisely.

2. Be honest. With yourself and with your kid. I’m not saying you have to tell the kid the whole truth and nothing but, however authentic messaging, teaches exponentially. Sometimes you’re having a hard time. It’s ok to say “Hey, child, I need a few minutes” rather than blow up because your frustrated with something else.

3.  Focus on what you want.  You will get more of it.  This is hard. We want to correct (or at least I do) all the time.  Be specific. Set expectations. This will make you happier and your kid more able to succeed in the future.

4. Step away some times. Let them figure their stuff out. Show them how to make good decisions and then let them make them.

5. Participate.  Be active with your kid, with your kid’s school, with your kid’s sports team – whatever. It brings you closer to the kid and the other parents/adults who are around your kid. Being involved is good parenting, good modeling and good for your community.  You cannot complain unless you participate.  Then you can complain all you want.

6. Don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s good to goof off every once in a while. Rock out with the windows up. Wear crazy headbands with antennae out to lunch.  Honk every time you see a pedestrian and wave.  Being kooky helps make the times when you have to be serious, less boring. More manageable.

7. Realize you cannot do it alone, and you wouldn’t want to.  Staff it out when you need to. Call on friends, family, domestic help or even Disney Cruises (childcare all day/night, hello!) when you need to.

8.  You’re not going to do everything right, and that’s OK. That’s more than OK, it’s wonderful. Don’t be afraid to eff up.  That’s part of the process.

So mother’s out there who work hard in or out of the house, or BOTH, know that you are understood and appreciated this Mother’s Day.  You are praised by your sisterhood of women who are dedicated to your success (and survival). We know what it means to start your day at 6am and end it in a heap of exhaustion at 11pm. We also know what it feels like when your kid comes home with a medal from the science fair or when she leaves you notes like this one.

 

note 2

We salute you. I salute you.

I’d also like to shoutout to my girlfriends who are motherless daughters.  I do not know what this feels like. I do know that Mother’s Day is difficult for you. I wish that I could help you with that and make it less painful. I send you big hugs and wonderful memories of your mothers. Some of which, I remember so fondly, myself.

 

 

 

 

 

Post It

11 Apr

I realize that most of the population is not going to understand this next statement.  

Remember when Mer and Der got post-it married?

That makes sense to me.

 

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What do we want to promise each other? That you’ll love me even when you hate me? No running. Ever. Nobody walks out, no matter what happens.That we’ll take care of each other, even when we’re old and smelly and senile and if i get Alzheimer’s and forget you…This is forever. Married.

This is forever.

I know it’s really superficial to get life lessons from television shows, but Shonda Rhimes is well, Shonda Rhimes.

I’m 44 years old. I’m divorced. I have a daughter. I have a man in my life that I love.  I have a good relationship with my daughter’s father. I have a solid job, family, life.

I worry that I’m going to be alone. I worry that I won’t live to see my daughter be my age.

Not all the time. Just in the back of my brain, when up late or early. When I’m staring at my baby girl (who’s nearly as big as me) and wondering where the time went. And how long I can hold onto this precious time with her.

I wonder when I sit waiting for my main squeeze to file some time away for me. When will that change or will it? I’m ok with time alone, but not most of my time.  

To be fair, he’s transitioning some major life changes, so I’ll give him a break (for a while). 

It’s not rational. I know that. I know that the only thing that you can count on is change (and an abacus).

And yet, I am prepared for the worst.

vows

But in that preparation, I don’t want to miss the best.

The other night, Zoe had camped out with me because the main squeeze is out of town.

I fell asleep watching her sleep.  Her warm little body as happy as can be, snuggled and sidled up to her mom.  We were a proper dog pile.

The lull of her breathing worked like a magic metronome and I was out in a matter of minutes.

And despite the warm, delicious feeling I was marinating in, I had crazy dreams that night.

I had a dream that we converted our garage into a work and living space for the MS. That part was great.  A writer’s studio of sorts.

Then it all went weird.  I dreamed that I bought myself an engagement ring?  Why?

And not only that, but I was also lying to people saying that we were engaged.

Again, why?

Complicated.

I honestly don’t have any kind of urge to get married. At all.

I even ask myself, as a test, what would I do if the MS asked? I love him ridiculously. We’ve been together for nearly four years.

I just don’t know that we “need” to get married. Legal contracts and all.

I have a friend that’s getting married for the second time, and I love that she is.  LOVE that she is. Maybe there’s a piece of me that misses that excitement of the engagement. The love. The ridiculous glow you have when you know and can show the world with your empirical proof, that someone loves you? 

Maybe because the MS has been traveling less and working more. I’ve been busy.  We have mismatched schedules with different priorities and responsibilities. Sometimes we just don’t match up. Again, not forever, we are just in a weird period of connectivity.

Our time together is random, at this point. It’s like have a one hour window to get married.

Rare 52 Carat White Diamond Amongst Jewels To Go On Sale At Sothebys

Maybe I just watch too much Shonda Rhimes TV before bed? 

It’s been festering in this brain of mine.  I’ve made a few jokes about it to the MS, which really means that I don’t know what to do with the information.

I would promise to love regardless. And to be there forever.

I even have post-its in my office drawer.

And that’s what’s most important, right? At the very core of your relationship – whether it’s romantic, platonic or familial, you must honestly commit to love and support.

Regardless of how often your brother burps in your face or your friend cancels plans so she can go out with her boyfriend. Or how much your boyfriend works or doesn’t work. Or your daughter who cannot figure out how to put her dishes in the sink.

Those things are minor bumps in the majorly bumpy road of life.

I promise to love you even when I hate you. 

At the bottom line, the quiet reserve of your heart, you feel connected and loved – needed and wanted.

That’s where the I do’s need to happen.

I remain committed to evaluating that honestly, and with kindness and compassion.

I remain open, to possibility and post-its.

This is forever.

 

 

 

 

 

I Raise My Hand

11 Mar

I’m bossy. I don’t care. I said it.

The fact that being bossy is perceived as pejorative or unseemly is lost on me. I was raised to be a leader, by leaders. I am not a follower, meek or weak-willed (all words I find more restrictive than “bossy”).  I have been called names, cowered to, and run from. I often think the male gender breaks out in a rash, categorically, when over exposed to me.  There are no vacancies here for the easily intimidated.

I am not palatable to everyone. I am an acquired taste.

us

Again, I don’t care. Or, rather, I like this about myself.

What I do care about is the evolution of my daughter. I care about her experience. Her feelings. Her understanding of “leadership.”

Every week, Zoe is required to select and summarize a current event for her class.  I help her select, she does all the summary on her own.  As we review the news each week, I am careful to point her in the path of the positive.

She’s reported on teenage scientists, Olympians with disabilities, innovative technologies, possible agriculture on the moon and the occasional panda birth.

This week we selected the #BanBossy campaign.  Set forth by Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, the campaign aims to ban the word “bossy,” arguing the negative put-down stops girls from pursuing leadership roles.

Sandberg’s organization Lean In has joined forces with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Girl Scouts USA CEO Anna Maria Chávez to launch a public service campaign called “Ban Bossy.” The banbossy.com website gives tips for parents, kids, teachers and others about how to encourage young female leaders.

This is a handpicked group of professional women reaching nearly cultural hot point. The campaign is also launched to support and celebrate the 1 year anniversary of Sandberg’s Lean In book. It’s a bunch of self-promoting hype, but the end message is good.

As a publicist, I’ll admit, it’s a genius bit of marketing for Lean In.

 

Ban-Bossy-Quote-Graphic_Melinda-Gates

 

That said, I applaud Sandberg and the celebrities/public officials for continuing to push for female empowerment, in the public eye. It is unfortunate that we are still having this conversation, in 2014 – but we are.

I have never been a fan of separatism. Just as I don’t classify or separate people by their race, ethnicity, or religion, I don’t think we should do this for gender either.  I understand why we do it.  I understand the need for “girl power” push, but feel it should really be “people power.”

I get it though.  There is a dire need to support our girls so they can support themselves.  The #BanBossy campaign states that “the confidence gap starts young: Between elementary school and high school, girls’ self-esteem drops 3.5 times more than boys’.”

Yikes.

Gender roles are more confusing than ever. There are also more women in the workforce now than ever.  We are competitive.  We need to shore up the confidence with current and future generations of C-suite women. We need to shape the public perception of a female leader.

What I’m concerned about is shaping my child’s perception of a leader. Female or otherwise.

This morning, we talked about the article selected for her current event.  We watched the video.

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Women of considerable power and visibility speak throughout the video. Women of all colors, races, religions and professions.  Entrepreneurial women I admire, like Diane Von Furstenberg.

She asked “what does Beyonce mean when she says ‘I’m not bossy. I’m the boss.’”

I told her that I thought Beyonce was saying,  “Hey don’t mess with me. I’m smart. I work hard. I make the decisions. If you don’t like it, to the left…”

Sound words from Mrs. Carter.

Personally, I’m not a fan of her parading around mostly naked as a role model. I’m not slut-shaming, I just think it’s sending mixed messages.  Bey, I know, you’re in control of your own sexuality – bravo for you, but my 9 year old doesn’t need to understand that yet. That’s all.  She’s surely enjoying the fruits of her labor more than I am, so more power to her.

We watched that video again, just before school, and I teared up.

Why? Because I want my daughter to be empowered. To be a decision maker instead of someone who deals with the decisions of others.

So I gave her the best advice I could give her regarding leadership.  I told her that it’s OK to not always be in charge.  Just because you’re the smartest or the best at something, doesn’t mean you get to, or should make all the decisions by yourself.

The most important quality of a leader is to listen.

A leader observes and listens to those around her. She sees the talents and influence and uses them to make the best, most informed decisions she can.  She is not afraid to make mistakes.  She engages participation.  She builds on ideas to innovate and problem solve.

She is inclusive not exclusive.

If you are a parent or a teacher, it’s important to get on board with the information contained within the #BanBossy campaign.  Understand the middle school drop off and support our girls at home FIRST. Then school, sports and volunteerism.

We need to lead by example. They will understand the support of strong friendships (female and otherwise), the power of problem solving and the effect of thoughtful and collaborative decision-making.

“The girl with the courage to raise her hand in class  becomes the woman with the confidence to assert herself at work. As parents, grandparents, and
caretakers, there are small changes each of us can make that have a big impact on girls’ confidence and ambitions.”

For that, for my daughter, for your daughter, for all the daughters out there,  I raise my hand.

 

Wreckhausted. It’s a Thing.

24 Feb

I traveled for 12 years, without a hitch.

passport

I used to be that “don’t date a girl who travels” girl. Except I traveled for work. It was a glorious respite from the responsibilities of the world.

I had a dozen years of carrying my passport, enthusiastically, around in my purse.  Looking for any and every chance to use it.

And then, I had a baby.

It’s cliche, I know. But this commonplace event was and is cherished.

I put down my roll-aboard and picked up my life as a mom. A committed, uncommon mom.

It’s not as glamorous as sitting with high ranking government officials at a black-tie tourism event, that is for sure.

Nothing glamorous about sleeping four winks at a time while your child fights a fever or throws up all over you.

Not one thing.

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But that’s your job. That’s what you signed up for.  The hardest work you’ll ever have.

It’s underpaid, under appreciated and to be honest, underwhelming most times.

But the rewards are intense. The love is exponential and the companionship, at least in my case, far surpasses anything I’ve experienced. Other than my relationship with my own parents, of course.

I have created and grown this funny little person, who looks just like me but has her own vibe. Her own style. Her own mind, for which, she is not embarrassed to share.

She is an amazing person who completely owns me.

I try to take her everywhere with me. I figure she can only benefit from our travels and her interaction with new people and things.  Taking her out of school so she can experience the summer home of Salvador Dali or learn about the migration of wild Atlantic Bottle-Nose dolphins first hand – not a problem in my book.

dali egg

There are rules though, now that she’s in 3rd grade. I can’t take her out of school for too long. Especially not in the spring, when they’re getting ready for testing. 

Boring. Totes McGotes.

So these days, when I have to leave her for work trips, I am lost. Devastated. Anxiety-ridden doesn’t even begin to explain it.

I have been preparing for a three-night trip away from her for at least a month. I have a mental checklist – find the right caregiver or place to stay; let the school know, let the aftercare know, reschedule guitar, make sure projects are done…the list is ENDLESS.

Also note, the list is the only way I can manage my madness. If I don’t make a list I over, over prepare to a level of OCD that cannot be heard on any frequency because it is too high pitched.

All of this, for three nights.

I’ve laundered her clothes.  I’ve packed her bags.

Purchased everything she could possibly want to eat for three nights + enough for the two friends she’s staying with. I’ve purchased components of a dinner for the parents of the two friends she’s staying with, as a thank you.

I have an air mattress and bedding packed up.

I have made lunch for the time I’m gone, so the mom doesn’t have to. I’ve printed and signed notes to go in the said lunches.

I’ve sent an email to everyone who is on the contingency plan, alerting them of everyone’s contact numbers, emergency plans, what ifs and all.

Tomorrow I will drop off her pillows and bunny.

luggage

 

And I will still have anxiety over it. Until the moment I get back. 

I’m exhausted with wreck.  Wreckhausted.

Best case scenario, she won’t want to come home. She will have so much fun that she is unmoved by my return.

How’s that for a kick in the taters? I hope she’s so happy she doesn’t even notice I’m gone.

That’s what I hope for, although I will miss her terribly.

“I’ll be ok, mom” she says, when I tell her that I don’t like to leave her. 

She’s growing up. I’m happy and crushed all at the same time.

My tagline? Motherhood, it’s wreckhausting.

 

 

 

 

A Glock and A Good Eye

18 Feb

According to the Urban Dictionary, “Having a Good Eye” is and expression meaning “Great observation.” Used to commend someone after they notice a particularly subtle yet important thing or detail.

I never felt like I had a particularly “good eye” towards things.

I have style. I have brains. I have a way with words. I have some outstanding dance moves.

That said, I also sometimes pick the most hardest, most ridiculous path, people or pastimes a person could imagine.

There’s a 40+ year track record to consult, if you doubt me.

That’s why when Bob, the elderly attendant at the Trap and Skeet range, told me I had a good eye, I had to marinate in the idea for a while.

shotgun

It could have been that I busted up those clay pigeons  like they were Rhianna and I was Chris Brown (I hate that guy, never miss an opportunity to stick it to him), on my first go at the sport?

It could have been because I shut down my male counterparts while they “babied” me?

It could have been because my mother was in the spectator area (telling me to hit the low end of the parabolic curve – math teacher) and he wanted to make nice with her?

Or it could have been the thing that is. The thing that I have denied for so long.  The thing I didn’t realize until this week, upon my first attempt at firing weapons….

…that I have a good eye.

It took a Glock 18 Submachine gun on Valentine’s Day to bring it to light.

Before last week, I had never picked up a handgun or any gun to be honest. I never saw the need. Didn’t really understand them. Always tried and mostly succeeded to disarm people with my sharp tongue.

I started boxing recently and found that in excess of a wonderful workout,  I started to feel more confident in my ability to protect myself physically, should the need reveal itself.

It hasn’t, thank goodness, but if it did, I am 1000% sure I could punch someone right, square in the nose or throat and get away. Or stay there and punch the crap out of someone if I chose to.

I don’t imagine myself to be very aggressive on the surface, but poke a bee’s nest and you’ll see what happens.

(Ok, maybe I am a little aggressive)

In my evolution into modern day mom/badass, I have found my stride.

I am trying to do new things and let go of old ones that don’t work, I’ve developed deeper friendships and opened myself up to new experiences.

When the Main Squeeze asked me what I wanted to do for Valentine’s day, I shrugged and said “let’s do anything but go out to dinner.”

Having worked in the hospitality industry for 20 years, dinner out on New Year’s or Valentine’s day (Easter and Mother’s Day too), is such a bummer to me.

The MS started sweating a bit then, I think. I later joked that he has no short or long term memory, to a mutual friend and that was it. He was determined to show me that he could “retain” information.

“You’ll see” he said.

I went to the gym on the morning of Valentine’s Day and when I returned he said “We have an appointment at 2pm.  It’s nearby, it will only take an hour.”

Hmm. Interesting. I’m listening.

We ended up at Lock and Load, a machine gun range in Wynwood, Miami.  I shot three machine guns and one handgun.  25 Rounds on an HK MP5 (both semi-automatic and automatic), 25 Rounds on a  Glock 18 Submachine Gun (both semi-automatic and automatic) and 25 Rounds on a Colt Commando 9mm (both semi-automatic and automatic). Then to finish it off, I had a Ruger handgun (I think).

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It. Was. Crazy.

My instructor, Mike, was great. His passion for the weaponry was infectious. He was a skilled instructor and even harassed me a little bit about focusing with the wrong eye.

It’s adorable when they do that.

When I was done, he pulled my target in and let me see my work for myself.

I have to admit, I was impressed.

lock and load after

 The next day, I traveled back to the Westgate River Ranch for a weekend with my little girl.  We met some friends and family for a weekend of fun.

While we were there, I decided I should shoot a rifle, just for sport, because I needed to round out my one week of weaponry training.

The sheriff who signed me up, chuckled a bit when I said I wanted to shoot stuff. I am sure he was thinking I’d never even show up.

But I did.

And I shot stuff.

I wasn’t half bad either. I was the only female but not the only first-timer.  I hit six out of twenty pigeons. On par with the other shooters of my same experience.

range

I was happy with that.

With all the guns and ammo of the last seven days, here’s what I found out about myself – all apply to my gun experience and my life.

I like precision over buckshot.

I don’t need that much power to be effective.

Bigger is not always better.

One good shot is all you need.

My performance is enhanced by practice.

I have aim.

I have a good eye.

I am formidable.

The question is – what will I shoot next?

*****

Lock and Load - 2545 N. Miami Ave, Miami FL, 33127/Phone: 305-424-8999- reservations accepted

Westgate River Ranch - 3200 River Ranch Boulevard, River Ranch, FL 33867 /(863) 692-1321

The One Who Tried To Get Away

10 Feb

21 years ago tomorrow, I was given something I didn’t really think I needed or wanted. Turns out, I was wrong.  

So wrong.

21

Often times, every time really, unexpected things happen when we think we have everything planned out. Especially when we don’t have everything planned out.

Not one thing.

That was me.  I was finishing college, living at home with my father and new stepmother. We had created this modern little family, that was unique by design I suppose, but functional for us.

I had struggled with all of the age-appropriate demons in my early 20’s. It was really the first time I had done anything age-appropriate.

I had been living with Type 1 Diabetes since the age of five. I had to manage everything I ate and drank. I had to test the glucose content of my urine and eventually blood.  Gross for an adult, unthinkable to a six year old. It wasn’t a footloose and fancy free childhood by any means.

Not that I am complaining. I have no complaints about childhood. I have great parents. I have great friends. I didn’t suffer, but I was forced into a maturity level decades past my ability and comprehension.

When my parents split up, I held it together because they needed to break apart. It was not easy. I had really no idea what was going on. I wouldn’t until I, myself got divorced 30+ years later.

As a result, I stayed in this harrowing balancing act until about the second I made my escape.

I mean, the second I went to college.  Then it was time to process.

And boy did I process.

So much so, I came home, in my third year. Worn and weary, barely alive from a nasty infection that had sent my out of control diabetes even farther off the map.

Head held low, I returned home, and did my due diligence.  It went like this – therapy, work, sleep, repeat. Then I added school and finally finished – with honors and a full time job.

Approaching what I thought was independence, I was “finishing” my stride.

And then,  my father met a wonderful woman named Denise. She has been my stepmother for half of my life. I adore her.

I want to be clear. Marrying Denise has been one of the best things my father has ever done, but there were normal growing pains that went along with the union.

Shortly thereafter, my father and Denise announced that they were expecting a baby.

My brother Gabriel was born 21 years ago, tomorrow.

 

zoe and gabriel

I took the opportunity then, to try and make a run for it.  This is a survival mechanism that I know all too well.  I’m going to lose you, before you lose me.

Raise your hands if you’ve been there.

I thought so.

I tried desperately to split. I didn’t want any part of this delightful new family. I would suffer on my own thank you.

But here’s the thing. My father wouldn’t let me.

He acted, by every known definition, like the role he was about to happily accept again.

The role of a father.

And I’m so glad he did.

While his delivery of expectations is not always, shall we say, sensitive, it is authentic. He will do the best for you, even if you do not want it.

You will figure this out in ten years or so Gabriel.

I stayed home for the next two years and what I got back is something so exquisite, nothing merits its worth.

I got a chance at a family.

My mother and stepfather (who I also adore) had my first sibling, Dalton, when I was away in New Orleans. I never got the chance to live with them as a new family.

This was my opportunity to straighten my big picture expectations on family architecture out.

I was there the day this little boy with crazy, dark ringlets was born. The day he learned to crawl. The day he learned to walk.  I was there when he discovered black beans and rice and how much he loved to smear them all over everything.

Especially himself.

I don’t know what it’s like to have a sibling close in age.  That is not my reality.

What I do know is that because of our age difference, I was able to love my brother without concern about “what’s mine” and “what’s his.”

I have been able to watch him go through all of the normal kid stages into manhood.

Of course he was obnoxious. So was I. We still are. Sometimes at the same time.

Those are fun times.

That said, stemming from the very root of his existence, he has always been very kind and sweet.

He has evolved into a mature and extraordinary young man. He’s compassionate and artistic. Talent streams through his fingertips. Exceptionally funny and handsome too.

He, like my father and stepmother, is nurturing and generous and considerate.  I hope to have soaked some of that in.

He is a remarkable human being and I have had a front row seat at his life.

I am the lucky one.

I am the one who tried to get away.

Something to think about when you think life is giving you something you don’t want.

Happy Birthday Gabriel, your niece and I adore you.

The Worth of Watermelons

29 Jan

I have some dear friends who lost their son nearly two years ago.  He was a month from graduating college.

Tragic accident. In the miasma of their “recovery” from this devastating loss (I say recovery, but there really is no recovery, at best it is continuation of life), the father of this lost young man, writes him a letter. This letter is written on or around the 15th of every month, the day, two years ago in April, he left this world. The letter is posted on a memorial page set up on Facebook where his life can be celebrated.

rocks

I read this letter every month. I cannot begin to comprehend the loss these friends have suffered. I support them as a part of this new media form of social mourning.

In January, the father wrote “the opportunity to love a child is one of life’s greatest blessings…you brought me joy, you filled my heart, you challenged me, I grew with you, we had a lot of good times. I was so proud of you. You were my hero.”

There is harrowing truth in those words.

I read a story the other day about a man who is dying of Cancer. (I HATE effing Cancer, just FYI). He wrote his daughter 800+ notes to go in her lunch. Enough to last until when she graduated from high school.

Gulp.

note

 

These are stories of love. Not loss. These are parents that love their children effusively, regardless of life or death.

To me, these are real parents.

I try to tell and show Zoe I love her, in everything I do.

From the way I spend endless hours explaining everything in great detail to her questioning mind, to the surprise horse back rides and five minute dance parties. Even when I’m arguing with her about wearing her seat belt or doing her homework.

It’s because I love her. Because I care.

I love being with her. I love and like her as a person.  I’m happier when she’s with me.  Period.

I tell Zoe I love her about 45,000 times a day. I want her to be comfortable with the idea of love. I want her to know what it means to love and be loved.

To me that builds security, confidence and strength. You cannot lose if you have a loving support system with you all the way.

We were watching television the other night, just the girls, and the characters unexpectedly said “I love you.” They were a little shocked, but went with it.

Zoe asked why that was such a big deal.  I tried to explain to her that not everyone is so free with the idea of love.  To some people, it’s a foreign and foreboding concept saddled with restrictions, rules and rubbish.

Still puzzled, she said “Well, I love you.” and I returned the sentiment.

She said “and I love (the MS)”

I said, well he’s one that’s not so comfortable with saying that. He had a weird family (oh do I love those bruised birds) and they didn’t really say ‘I love you’ to each other.

“That’s weird, mom.”

Indeed.  So I told her maybe she should come up with a word that meant love, that she could say to the MS, that wasn’t so ‘dangerous.’

“(MS!) what’s your favorite word?” she bellowed out across the hallway, living and dining rooms.

“Watermelon” he replied.

She thought about it for a minute and yelled back “Well, I WATERMELON you.”

Confused, he walked into the bedroom where we were, and said “What are you girls saying?”

“We watermelon you (MS)!!!”

“What does that mean” he says, confounded?

“It means we love you. Now you say it back.”

He blushes and looks for an easy exit.  I know he’s thinking, “holy crap, how do I get out of this one?”

“Say it MS!” she says.

He says “I do Zoe. I watermelon you.”

“No, say it for real. It’s not scary.” I start to get a little itchy under the collar at this point but I let her proceed because I want to see where this cross examination is going. “Say it MS!”

“OK, I love you and mommy.”

“See that wasn’t so bad.” she replies, feeling gratified.

Today the MS left for a three-night trip.  Before Zoe and I left for school, I asked her to say goodbye to him because she wouldn’t see him for a few days.

She walked up to him and hugged him. He said “I watermelon you Zoe.”

She smiled.

The opportunity to love, and to love a child, as my sweet, grieving friend stated, is one of life’s blessings.

It is not to be taken lighty, mishandled or guarded loosely.

It is priceless.

Never underestimate the worth of watermelons.

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Grammy Snarks, All Snarked Up and Ready For You

27 Jan

Last night, I was unable to comment on the red carpet or Grammy show because I had a family commitment that conflicted with the timing. I really wish the Grammy people would check with me before they schedule the show.

Seriously.

That said, I have reviewed the DVR and I have a few comments I feel must be heard.

1.  Pink, I love you,  but we’ve seen you do that act 30 times.  Either switch it up or go ahead and join the Cirque d’Soleil.  And thanks for reminding me to get in the gym more.

pink grammys

2.  Madonna.  I based my entire teens on worshipping you.  Please don’t make me regret it.  It is ok to age, just a little. And, you can do it gracefully.  You don’t have to start shopping at Chico’s but seriously, you’re like the Jessica Lange’s supreme Fiona in American Horror Story, unwilling to make way for the next generation.   This weird potatoey face of yours is unsettling.  It looks as if one were to touch it, it would feel like a stress ball.

madonna grammys

3.  Katy Perry. We are dedicated Katycats in our house.  This goth, stripper/martyr  decked out in her best party city costume did not work for me. The set was dark, your message was unclear and, let’s leave the stripper poles to say, strippers.

4.  Which brings me to Bey and Jay.  Seriously.  I get it. You’re gorgeous,  wealthy, empowered and “drunk in love.” All reasons to not bare your ass on television.  Not only show it and shake it, but grind it up into the camera.  We jumped all down Miley Cyrus’ throat for twerking on national television but we applaud this? Again, big fan of both of them – but hello.

Jay-Z-Beyonce-Grammy-Awards-2014

5.  Taylor.  Taylor. Taylor.  Lady Gaga did this performance four years ago at the MTV awards.  In the end she was covered in fake blood a la Carrie. I wanted to be covered in blood by the end of yours. Don’t take yourself so seriously. You’re 22ish, have fun.

tay and gaga

6.  Paula Patton needs a style intervention.  And, I think she’s being held against her will by Robin Thicke.

paula patton

7.  Speaking of Robin Thicke, um Chicago medley into Blurred Lines? My ears!

8.  Pharrell. The hat. WTF?  Like he cares, he went home with an armload of Grammy’s.

pharrell hat

9.  Lorde, 17 years old. Seemingly absent of glitter, hyper-sexualization and autotune.  Now that’s what I’m talking about.

10.  Steven Tyler rules.  That is all.  (and yes, even with his fly down for most of the segment, he can still belt it out.)

Some good-willed thoughts: Miranda Lambert looked great. As did Kris Kristoferson.  I love that Stevie Wonder performed with Daft Punk. The Metallica and Nine Inch Nails performances were great. Anything that has Dave Grohl, I’m all for.  The Imagine Dragons performance was at the very least, interesting.

I’m still trying to process the Macklemore same love/massive wedding but I will say this: I fully support the spirit of his song Same Love. I fully support same sex marriage. I want to see more of Mary Lambert – she is a real talent. I think Queen Latifah is super cool although I did not know that she was an official “officiant.” And last but not least, Did Madonna steal Steven Tyler’s white tux for the performance?

The Grammy’s are always colorful and this year did not disappoint.  Bottom line though, I was happy that I knew who most of the performers were! Yay me! 

What did you think?

We Do Not Live in Snow Globes

13 Dec

I know that I’m not going to get what I really want for Christmas.

The Main Squeeze has been asking me, quite a bit, what’s on my Christmas list.

 

tiffany-blue-box

It’s strange.

It’s strange because he’s not a gift guy. His gestalt is based around the “show through actions not gifts or even words.”

Also strange is that I can’t say I want  for anything he can give me.

It’s not the Hope Diamond.

Not a new car, home, electronic equipment.

Not a Prada purse (especially because those shop girls at the new Prada store in Barcelona were so ugly cranky) or even  skyscraper Louboutin shoes.

I don’t want these things.  Honestly, I would not know what to do with them.?

I had to replace my central air conditioning this week and I can barely sleep now because it’s so new and quiet.

I’m happy with my life.

I’m content.  That’s a good feeling.

That said, I’ve spent the better part of this year comforting dear friends through loss and illness.

I’m a publicist. A fixer.  I work well in crisis situations.  My gears kick in automatically.

I’m good at it.

I don’t mind helping, comforting, navigating a plan of action –  that’s what friends are for.

Truly.

What I want is for that need not to arise.

say-no

I want my friends and family to not have to deal with the random Cancer diagnosis.

I want my friends to not get hit by cars while they are jogging.

I want to feel safe in my neighborhood.

I want my parents to live long, illness-free lives.

I want my girlfriend to not be a widow at 40(ish).

I want to grow old with my Main Squeeze, in good health.

I want a cure for Diabetes.

For that matter, I want a cure for Parkinson’s,  Autism and Cancer (to name a few).

I want a new social security number.  Thanks identity thief losers.

I do not want for material things.

I know that most of these things I desire, are not within my control.

I do not live in a picture perfect snow globe.

snow globe 2

I acknowledge that. It does not make me want for those things less.

It makes me want for them more.

In the beginning of November, my father called and said “What do you think about going to Barcelona for Thanksgiving?”

I think it’s great – of course. Have a nice time, was my response.

No, he said “what about if you and Zoe come with us?”  I was hesitant because of work and school, but also because of cost.

I don’t have the resources to make that kind of decision unplanned.  And, as importantly, I feel very guilty having him fund the experience.  I want him to enjoy the money he works so hard for – for him.

He said to think about it, which I did.  For a few days.

In that time, a friend’s husband had been diagnosed with stage 4 Cancer.  A colleague announced he was going back to fight against some new Cancerous tumors that had arisen. And then my dad called and said he was having a scan done on some bones because the doctor saw lesions.

I started bargaining then.

He never mentioned what the lesions were, what the deal was and I was too fearful to ask.

It all turned out ok, he says, but I made a promise that day that I would not waste one minute of time  that I could spend with him. I would not complicate matters with guilt and worry.

Both useless emotions.

me and dad

He’s fine.  Do not panic. But the idea that I have rationed time with him, is not a reality I am willing to accept.

So we went. And it was amazing. It was like 12-Christmases-in-a-row amazing.  It was something we will never forget.

I did not miss a moment with my dad, or my stepmother or brother or daughter. We tried to make the most of all of our experiences.

And that’s what I hope my daughter learns from me. To live like there’s nothing holding you back. To enjoy and experience it all.

As we approach the holidays, take a minute to consider what’s really important to you and then immerse yourself in it.

Don’t look back because you do not know where or when this ride ends.

We do not live in snow globes, where even when shaken up, things are calm within seconds.

We live in an unpredictable world, and as frightening and wonderful as that is, it is best to enjoy the now, while you can.

I want for nothing but time and the ability to enjoy it with my friends and loved ones.