Sunday, December 13, 2015


My life is governed by words, the way they taste in my mouth, how they feel the moment they stop being the speaker's breath and are absorbed into my skin, my brain, my heart. Words are how I navigate the world, they are how I form my opinions and my bonds, my dislikes and sometimes I think they are the motor that runs my heart.

Over 15 years my sister in law has been a lot of things to me. We've said a lot of words to one another, many of them unkind. She could really get me going. In the past the second word that I associated with Laurie was "enemy." I'd never felt like that about anyone before. I always felt like she was after me and I hated it. I feel like we spent our early years warily circling one another and I was never quite sure why.

For my part, I was judgemental about her parenting and her choice in partners, I love her daughter completely and any  "playing nice" I did with Laurie was to gain access to Samantha or out of respect for my mother in law.
The first word that I think of when I think of Laurie, regardless of whether I've always wanted it that way is "family." She's my family  good, bad or ugly.  Too much of it was been ugly. Some family you get to pick, some you don't. Would Laurie and I have been friends on our own? No. But over the years we have been friends, we have been enemies, we have been unlikely allies. She's been family since before I married her brother, she didn't stop being family when we got divorced. Curiously, we've been better friends since the divorce.  Now when I think of her, I think "cautious friend." I think Laurie doesn't like change, even when it might mean getting to ditch someone she often found snotty and annoying. That's the thing about family, there's nothing quite like the crazy you know.

A few months ago I found myself laughing with her on the phone, she was rabidly coming to my defense about my divorce from her brother, "Laurie," I said laughing, "you don't even like me."
"I don't have to like you, you're my family." We both knew what she meant.  When her mom died, I loved Patti so, so much, Laurie went out of her way to make sure I was included. I always thought part of our problem was jealousy over my relationship with Patti. In death we were united in our love for her. And Patti loved Laurie completely, flaws and all, there was nothing to be jealous of.

For as long as I've known Laurie part of her was broken. I don't know what it was, the early death of her dad, something else. Alcohol had been slowly killing her for years and I think her mom's death last April was more than she could take. I know she had the best of intentions, I know she loved her daughter and her brother and her mom. She loved them desperately, even if she didn't know how to do it right all the time. She loved fiercely.

When I started writing this, Laurie was still alive, still fighting; she's gone now. I hope wherever she is that she is at peace, that she is free and that her mom's and dad's arms are back around her because I know she wanted that more than anything. God speed, Laurie, I will miss you being a pain in my ass and I will never forget you, I hope you are lighter now and that you soar, fly.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Like A Boss

This is not a complaint, if I could trade the time I have with my girls for the fun things their dad gets to do with them I would not. I get to wake up with them Monday thru Friday every single day of the year.  I get to put them to bed Sunday through Thursday every single day of the year.  I get to wake up with them 25 weekends a year.  On the other 25 weekends I get a break and I get some time to myself.  That being said, it's hard.  My ex doesn't pay child support for my son and he's supposed to pay 26% of his income for the girls.  I can securely tell you that 95% of my income goes to my kids.  I can't imagine that it will change before they are out of school.  So I don't get to do fun things with them very often.  We can't get pedicures or go get our hair done.  Their dad's girlfriend gets to take them for mani/pedis.  I'm happy for them, I'm glad she likes them and is kind to them.  Every time it happens I have to force myself to breathe. If we go to a water park or a concert I have to sneak in extra work to cover it.  Their dad and his girlfriend get to take them shopping for clothes and shoes....I get to stumble into Walmart at 11pm looking for orange folders and I get to pay registration fees and Chromebook charges.  I know the Chromebook and school expenses are more important....but still.  I would absolutely love to take them to get back to school pedicures but that's about $150.00 so it isn't going to happen.

I'm sure my ex has a long, very valid list of things that are easier for me than him.  As I said, I wouldn't trade mine for his; I get their time.  But I'm also the person who makes them brush their hair and their teeth and eat vegetables.  I'm the one who makes them put their electronics away and takes their door off the hinges when they've been told not to slam it again. I make them go to bed when it's still light outside!  Which is, apparently, the worst of my crimes.

They've been dying to color their hair.  Olivia likes blue and Gracie likes pink.  We tried dying their gorgeous brunette hair tips pink and blue once before but it wasn't very noticeable over the brown.  So yesterday we went and bought pink and blue dye and a bleach kit.  Best $15 I've spent in I don't know how long. I bleached their hair this morning and then tonight we colored it.  The bleach was fun and they were really excited to be partially blonde. They did a lot of holding it up to mine and holding it up to their faces.  Olivia thinks she'll probably go blonde in college, I'm delighted that in the midst of dying her hair blue while she is nine she assumes you can't go blonde until you no longer live at home.  It turned out amazing.  As an added bonus, their  brabysitter (brother plus babysitter) woke up late and didn't realize I had bleached their hair.  So his sisters let him believe they did it on his watch.  He spent the entire day trying to figure out how to explain blonde hair to me.  That might actually be the best part.....nah.  The hair is fantastic! 

When we were blow drying it Olivia said, "Mom, you do hair like a boss!" Which was about enough to get me through what will most certainly be a rough back to school morning tomorrow when her sister followed up with, "Mom does everything like a boss!" at which point she threw her arms around me.  That will do it.  I'll get through all of the rough back to school mornings this week on that 40 second exchange.  They are so excited about their hair, it was adorable to watch.  I have to say, it kind of made me want to dye mine blue.  Maybe we should get through this first week before I do anything crazy!  

Today, I'll take the win.  I'm the boss of everything!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Secret Handshake

1,460 days without her. 

My mom wasn't really physically affectionate but for as long as I can remember if she was comforting me she ran her fingers all around the back of my head absentmindedly as if she were trying to feel for something she lost.

When I was six I lost my blanket on Christmas eve. Blanket was an over statement,  it was a tiny, satin scrap of blanket binding. She sent me to the car to see if it was there, it wasn't.  All of my packages from Santa were. I was heartbroken and I remember crying into her shoulder while she stroked the back of my head until I feel asleep.

When I was 22 I told the biggest lie of my life.  He asked me if I loved him.  He'd been asking me for weeks, but this was my last chance,  he was marrying someone else tomorrow.  I loved him more than I have ever loved anyone before or since but I was afraid.  "No," I said, looking him right in the eyes,  "it's just sex." And the next day he married her.  I completely fell apart, I have no idea why I thought he wouldn't do it,  but I was bereft. I spent what felt like days with my head in my mom's lap her fingers circling the back of my skull, never stopping while I cried my eyes out.

When I was 26 I had my first baby, he was 6 weeks early and I hemmoraged.  My mom never left my side; her fingers searching the back of my head, moving through my hair in an ever changing but completely familiar pattern.

When I was 32 I got married. Just before Erin walked me down the aisle, my mom brushed my cheek with the back of her hand and put her fingers under my veil, on the back of my head. I may have imagined it, but I swear she traced a heart with her finger and then kissed me on my forehead.

When I was 34 I had twins, they were 6 weeks early also. I hemmoraged again, it was more serious. They told my husband and my mom to leave. They wouldn't let me hold my babies.  With a nurse trying to physically pull my mom from the room she put her fingers behind my head, looked me in my eyes and said, "you will be okay." They forcibly pulled her from the room.

When I was 39 my mom came to live with us.  We were in her room unpacking her things.  I dropped something in front of her as she sat on her bed. When I bent over to pick it up she grabbed my head.
"I wonder if I can still find it." She said moving her fingers quickly over the back of my skull.
"Find what? " I asked still bent over with my head in her hands
"You have a birthmark on the back of your head," she said, "here it is!" And her fingers stopped moving. It's my last specific memory of her doing that.  My whole life, every moment of comfort I remember; it had a meaning for her too. Such a small thing,  but my mom wasn't as sentimental as I am; that small thing meant a lot to me.

When I was 40 my mom died. I cried in her lap until they made me leave. It's been 4 years today.  Sometimes I think I miss her more with every passing day.  Just recently I noticed that I play with the spot on the back of my head when I need comfort.  It feels ever changing but familiar,  like a secret handshake with my mom.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

She and He

My mom, separately from being my mom, was the kind of woman that I love.  She was rarely the most physically beautiful woman in the room, but she was always the woman with that intangible something. It was one of the most interesting things about her to me because it didn’t have to do with what she looked like, it had to do with who she was at her core.  

Four years ago today my mom was on life support and in a coma.  Erin and I had a few days left before we had to make the really hard decisions.  It wasn’t looking good and then something magic happened.

My mom was married three times and none of them was to the love of her life.  But she had a love of her life.  And that relationship is where every single one of my big, romantic, sometimes silly ideas about love came from.  Their timing was always off.  Always.  My memory fails me sometimes but it is amazing the detail in which it recalls some things.  The chemistry they had was palpable.  You could feel it when you were in a room with them.  I was 6 and I felt it, I find it hard to believe that anyone was unaffected by it.  They both had big, glittery, personalities on their own but together they shone like the sun.  Their energy made the air hum. Some of my best childhood memories are with the two of them. My clearest memories.  I can make a decent argument against the questionable judgement that resulted in a slow dribble of the wrong men being foisted on my brother and me.  But not him.  He fixed a lot, especially for me.  Bad timing and sad ending aside, it was a privilege to watch them ebb and flow over the years. Before I tell you what happened four years ago today, I will tell you, briefly, what happened over thirty years ago.  I am not privy to many of the intimate details of their relationship.  What I have, what I will carry forever with me, are the pieces I saw, the pieces I felt and the things they have both graciously shared with me over the years.  Their relationship initially ended, my mom said, years later, because he was younger, he didn’t yet have kids, he was intensely selfish and arrogant (sorry, you know how much I love you).  Eventually she met someone else.  At some point he did get married and have kids, but I don’t remember if it was before or after what came next. When I was 10 my soon-to-be Evil Stepfather asked my mom to marry him.  On that day he showed back up, heart in hand, wanting to make it work.  It was too late she said.  She got married.  When I was 17 my soon-to-be-ex Evil Stepfather got caught cheating and said he wanted a divorce.  He showed back up, on that day.  I don’t actually know what happened after that because I was 17 and self-involved and because it wasn’t my business in any case.  The point being, they have come in and out of one another’s life in mysterious ways, with mysterious timing for decades.  It wasn’t always happy, it wasn’t always sad.  It was always magic.  Always.  And you can take what you want from it but to me it is essential love story.  It might not always work they way you wanted it to, it might not always be picket fences and diamond rings but it is always, always, every single solitary time better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all.

Back to four years ago.  My mom is in a coma and I’m sure she’s not going to make it on this particular day at this particular hour. I’ll feel differently momentarily, that’s the thing about a drawn out death, you have the luxury of time and your hopes and fears come at you in terrifying and beautiful waves pulling you under and letting you surface just long enough to catch your breath before they take you down again.

Of course I’m in communication with him; he’s happy, he’s married again, but the love of his life is in a coma.  Of course I called him.  Of course he came. I don’t remember where he came from, I remember it was hours of driving and I think he was on his motorcycle.  He came and there was a point when I didn’t think he would be fast enough, when I didn’t think he would get to say goodbye.  It became my sole focus, keeping her alive until he got there.  And she did stay alive.  I don’t know if I’ve ever been so glad to see someone in my entire life.  I just thought, “If anyone can save her, he can.”  I think she had been in the coma for 3 days or so at that point.  I had begged and pleaded with her to come back, I had my kids beg her.  I shamelessly used Aidan as please-come-out-of-your-coma-bait.  Nothing worked.  I told her she could leave, that it was okay to go and then I would put my head in her lap and beg her not to abandon me.  No doctors really had any hope except for the one who had known her. And here’s the thing about my mom and me; we were in some ways incredibly similar people and other ways not at all.  If I were in her position, I would want the love of my life to come, I would want him to be able to say goodbye.  I would want the same if the situation were reversed.  I have my own bad-timing-love-of-my-life and if he was in a coma there is nothing in this world that would keep me away from him. Nothing. I am softer when it comes to love than she ever was; I’d like to say I’ve evolved further than she had but it’s entirely possible that I’m just more stupid. So I made a decision I knew she would hate because I didn’t have anything else to lose.  I thought if he could help maybe I would get her back and if he couldn’t, at least, he would get to say goodbye.  She would have killed me for letting him see her looking so horrible, so weak, so on-death’s-door.  I didn’t care. He sat down and started talking to her.  I sat in a chair, closed my eyes and cried.  I wasn’t really listening to what he said, just the tone of his voice, the sadness, the love.  When I opened my eyes  his head was down and she was looking right at me.  

My first thought was not relief that she was awake.  My first thought was “she is going to fucking kill me.”  Seriously, that was my first thought after my mom woke up from a coma.  I’m not proud of it, but it was the appropriate thought.  If you knew my mom, you understand.  I rushed him out of the room in my panic.  After spending an entire night praying for his speedy arrival I wanted him a thousand miles away at that moment.  He stayed as long as he could, he spoke to her, mostly while she slept.  When he left to go home I was filled with so much hope, I had my mom back.  The doctors were amazed. Her condition turned around quickly and I think, within 24 hours, she was off the ventilator and breathing on her own.  

This isn’t a happy story in the traditional sense, my mom lived only another 12 days.  She and he; they did not get a fairy tale, but they got a goodbye.  Erin and I got to see, first hand, the magical ways in which love conquers all and he gave my mom back to us for a very important 12 days.  This story isn’t about my mom dying, it’s about how my mom lived, about how hard she loved.  This story is about magic and love and fate.  It’s about the decisions we make and the decisions we avoid that change everything forever.  This story is about timing and chemistry and biology.  It’s about connecting and feeling and deciding to be brave.  Love is complicated and overwhelming and often too much.  But in the end it all comes down to love. 

 Did you have it?  Did you let it in?  Did you give it?  Was it worth it?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Oxygen Mask

Gentleness.  We are naturally gentle when we pick up things that are smaller than ourselves, things we perceive as weaker than ourselves.  If we pick up a baby chick, or a baby, we are gentle.  Why are we not more gentle with ourselves?  It sounds a little corny, but it is true.  It’s not possible to love others fully if you do not love yourself. I am no expert but I imagine that extends to everyone; your family, your friends, your partner.  I’ve spent much of the last three and a half years thinking about how to be enough for everyone in my life. And here’s the thing; it is not possible.  At the end of the day there is this, you must be enough for yourself; nothing more, nothing less.  When you are enough for yourself, you can take care of those you love, you can allow yourself to be loved in return.

I love to fly.  I find flying exhilarating; it appeals to the risk taker in me.  Which is to say, I am not really a risk taker at all, flying, after all, is safer than driving, but I digress.  Like everyone, I tune out when the flight attendant begins her speech telling me things I already know….except, the last time I flew I found myself listening.  

In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.

It’s an important message. Basically, it boils down to, if you don’t help yourself first you will be ill prepared to help the people you love most.  Isn’t that all we want?  To help those we love most?  I was armed with a list of what I wanted, it wasn’t big but it was everything.  1) I want to help the people I love.  2) I want to love myself; I want to enjoy myself. 3) I want to be open to the possibility of …..possibility.   

So began my journey.

My mom died…
In the event of a decompression…

My marriage unraveled and I decided to save myself…
an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you.

I crawled out from under the wreckage and stood up…
To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you.

I began to believe in myself again.  I trusted myself, I was gentle with myself, I gave myself some slack.  It was not easy; it was necessary…
Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally.

I remembered how much I used to like myself.  I remembered my value, I learned my own worth…
Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask.

I am in a place now where I can be what my children need me to be….
If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.

I don’t do small.  My personality is big, my heartbreaks are big, my triumphs are big, my loyalty is big, my love is big.  It’s really big, sometimes it is too big for people, it scares them.  Sometimes it scares me.  Being brave isn’t not being afraid, it’s being afraid and moving forward anyway. I’m brave.  I own it, it’s an integral part of who I am.  It’s been a journey to realize that big is okay.  I used to feel bad that I was too much.  Someone recently told me,  “A lot can be a good thing”.  I am a lot.  You don’t have to like me, you don’t have to love me.  I do.  I’ve worked hard,  I’m taking this moment and owning it.  I am me.  I am exactly enough.  I am open to possibility; I’m wearing my oxygen mask, now I can help you with yours.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Happy Birthday Sami!

This lovely, young woman has been a part of my life since she was 7 years old.  It seems like minutes ago and lifetimes.  Being her aunt and friend have been one of the great joys of my life.  It has been my honor and pleasure to watch her grow up; she is unique and beautiful and kind.  Her soul has always been older than her years and I love hearing her thoughts on the world around her.  I am in awe of her independence and her ability to figure it out on her own, I'm very proud of her.  I don't get to see her as much as I used to and our last names aren't the same anymore but she is my only niece and I absolutely cherish her.  Happy birthday, Sam.  I love you very much.

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