I Left My Heart in…well, you know.

When does a place start to feel like home?

This is a tricky question. I’m 37 years old, and I’ve moved around quite a bit in my lifetime. But, I don’t remember ever feeling like I was sitting around waiting for someplace to become “home.”

When I was a kid, we moved a lot. Pretty much every year while I was in grade school. But, places always felt like home because that’s where all my stuff was, and that’s where mom and dad lived, and so that made it my home.

When I first moved to college, I was just so excited to be there, and to have a place to call my own. I transferred in the middle of the year from junior college to state college, so for a semester, I had my own dorm room. Then the next year I’d have a roommate and a dorm room. Then an apartment for a few years. None of which I never considered to be “home”, because I could always drive up to my real home. I was just someplace I was staying while I went to school.

The year I moved in with my now husband, I suppose that felt like a home. It was an itty bitty place, not even as big as my current bedroom. But we set it up like a real home, it felt very homey, and we felt like we had made it a home in that “playing house” sort of feeling you get in a new cohabiting relationship. We had a few other places together before we got married, and it was the same feeling really.

When we got married, we were renting this dumpy little house, but it was a house and we were married so it very much was our home, and felt like home. We had even talked about offering to buy that house on the off chance we stayed in Wisconsin (we had been long planning to go elsewhere after college, but you never know what will happen, right?). Although, looking back, buying that house would have been a mistake. It was very literally crumbling apart. It would take a lot of work. But it was a cute little place, just what we needed at that time.

When we moved to California, Brien went there ahead of me to start his new job, and I spent six more weeks in Wisconsin to be in my cousin’s wedding and to tie up all the loose ends that go with moving long distance. I was so ready to leave there and be with Brien again, and so ready to live in California, leaving was easy and arriving was even easier.

Brien had semi-furnished the place, and he had the dog there with him already, and I felt like I had arrived at home right away. I missed my friends and family back in Wisconsin, but I did not miss Wisconsin. Wisconsin wasn’t home anymore.

And every new place we moved to in California felt like an upgrade. From our apartment in Silicon Valley, to a flat in San Francisco, to a house in San Francisco. Everything felt like home, especially after we had a baby. I loved San Francisco, and I loved that last house.

Then we were forced to move. The landlords who had been living in Arizona, and then Texas, were moving back and wanted their house back. Our lease was coming to an end and we had to move. In the time we lived there, we had another baby, and a whole bunch of life experiences, and moving out of that house broke my heart.

We found another place, a much smaller place, and it took a good long while for me to feel at home there. I was bitter about having to move, and bitter about downsizing. The location was nice, which softened the blow. Eventually I grew to call that place our home.

Here in Arizona, the feeling of home is taking a while. Even though we chose to move here. Even though the cost of living is amazing. Even though we own our own house now. Even with all of that, I’m struggling.

I hated leaving San Francisco. I had dreamed of living there for so long, living there was an absolute pleasure each and every day. Even when fighting for parking. Even when stepping over the ever-present sidewalk feces that is somehow a problem there. Even living with houses butted up to other houses. The magic of that city was never lost on me.

And I am still adjusting to the weather here. The hottest I ever saw it get in San Francisco was 89 degrees. And that was just one day. The coolest I’ve ever seen it get here was maybe like, 75 degrees. And that was overnight. The sun burns hot and bright all the time here. In San Francisco, the sun was a surprise, a blessing. Here, it is a constant, and it feels like a mean sun, in comparison. The half mile walk to and from Bowie’s school is torturous in the afternoon. I can feel the sun burning my skin. By the time we get home, I’m literally drenched in sweat. I’m not used to it yet, and I’m wondering if I ever will be.

The city, while still a city, makes me feel suburban. Everything is spread out. We drive a lot. No walking a block to the market to get the forgotten dinner ingredient. No walking three blocks to the (nonexistent) ocean. And the houses don’t touch. Something that probably pleases most people, and should likely please me, but it just feels weird, after 10 years of living that way.

Of course I like it here. There are a lot of benefits. A backyard, a front yard, less noise, more space, less sidewalk feces, and the aforementioned cost of living. I do like it. I am just waiting to love it.

I use the phone app Timehop, which shows you your social media posts on that day from 1, 2, 3 plus years ago.  The app is reminding me that one year ago, we were vacationing here. And it dawned on me, I still feel like we’re on vacation here. Like we’re just visiting for a while and then we’ll go back to our real home. And obviously I know that’s not true, but it’s a feeling I just can’t shake for some reason. I feel like there’s a place we need to get back to. Like we are permanently San Francisco residents, and that no matter where we go, that is where we belong.

It’s silly to even enumerate the ways the cities are different, and how many things feel different, of course it’s different here. I should take Tucson as a whole, and embrace it, and find a way to make it feel like home. Because it is, after all, our home now. I don’t know why I keep breaking it down in my head like this. And I find myself talking to people here and inserting the phrase, “In San Francisco…” a lot in conversation. I can hear myself, and I feel like the, “This one time, at band camp…” girl, I feel like they’re thinking, “When will she just shut up about San Francisco already?” but it’s as if I can’t help it.

I had the privilege and pleasure to live in San Francisco for a decade. And now my family and I have moved on. Why is it so hard to accept? I knew it would take time to get used to things here, I just didn’t know it would take this much time. I didn’t think two months in that I’d still be wondering, why doesn’t this feel like home? Am I being ridiculous? I’m being ridiculous, right? Have you ever had this happen? This unshakable feeling that you just belonged somewhere else?

We weren’t forced to move here for any reason. We chose this place. We chose this place for quality of life. For our boys. So, why should I be such a stick in the mud? Somebody tell me this is normal, please.

More Than We Had

My kids are so lucky. They have way more than I did when I was a kid. We are not rich, by any means. We have more than some people, less than others. I suppose I would categorize us as Upper Middle Class.

I grew up pretty well in the Lower Middle Class category. My parents worked hard and provided us with everything we needed. But we went without a lot of the luxuries that my peers took for granted. Especially after my parents’ divorce. Money was tight.

I’ll never forget this one time back to school shopping, we were at Wal-Mart and my mom and I had a knock down drag out fight because I wanted the $18 tennis shoes, and she wanted to get me some cheaper ones. I knew even the $18 ones couldn’t compare with what all the cool kids would be wearing, but I had a fighting chance with them, not so much with the cheaper ones. Eventually she caved, but I always felt guilty about it.

My kids have a lot more luxury items than I did. We can afford to buy them a lot of toys, the “cool” toys, video game systems, cool clothes and shoes, the cool lunchbox goods like Gogurt and Goldfish. Stuff I could never have had at their age.

And I’m proud to be able to provide for them in this way. It makes me feel good that they can completely surpass the keeping up with the cool kids trauma. I mean, my kids are unlikely to actually be the cool kids, but they’re less likely to be made fun of than I was. There will just be less pressure there for them. I’d like to teach them that none of that matters, but we all remember what it was like to want to fit in. And at least if my kids feel like they sort of fit in, then that won’t distract them from doing well in school, making real and lasting friendships and overall just growing up and adjusting.

But, at some point, we have to draw a line. The boys are getting to an age where they could easily fall into the spoiled camp. We don’t always get them the things that they want. And we are still very frugal shoppers. A treat now and then, and expensive Christmas and birthday gifts, but not every day showering them with goodies.

I’ll get them the $18 shoes, because I can. I’ll get them the nice things they want, within reason. And any big, expensive gift usually comes with a long conversation (poor kids) about the reason we’re buying the item, and how we will care for it to ensure that it lasts. Because, even if we were to get them every little thing they want, I still want them to respect their stuff and take care of things and know the value of that. I don’t want them to get caught up in the throwaway culture that I see so much of these days.

We’re also trying to teach them the value of a dollar. And the idea that things must be earned. Too many high school and college aged kids these days are more entitled than they could even understand. It’s not their fault. It’s not even their parents’ fault. It’s just living in a society where parents want their children to have more, do more, and make it further than they did. But too often, this manifests in parents giving and giving and doing without asking for anything in return, and ignoring every teachable moment that comes along.

I want my boys to have more than I had. I’m proud to be able to offer them more than I had. But, I also want them to know the value of things, they way that I learned growing up. I want them to value experiences over possessions. I want them to know the difference between wants and needs. And true needs. I want them to approach consumerism with caution. I want them to be savvy with money, and be smart about their purchases.

Someday, I have to send them off into this world. And I don’t want them to be greedy. Or to be careless shoppers. Or to feel like money is more important than it is. I want them to look back and know they had everything they needed, and more. But, I want them to be well grounded and realistic about money and life. So that they too can provide more for their own children.

Smelling Those Roses

This time of year is odd. On the one hand, it’s summer. The kids are home and free, and the weather is nice (albeit hot here) and there’s lots of fun stuff going on.

On the other hand, school is right around the corner. It starts August 4th here. And once school starts, another year of my kiddo’s lives zips right past us. All the pick ups and drop offs and homework and field trips, and then the holidays and there’s no stopping the freight train that is time when school is in session.

I try to slow down and enjoy the days that we have. But the boys are fighting incessantly, and it’s to hot to go and do many of the things we want to. I’m simultaneously willing the school year to start, and not wanting it to at all.

The Timehop app on my phone shows me pictures from long ago, when Bowie was just a baby and a toddler. And I can’t believe how fast the time has gone, and how big my kiddos are now. Even in pictures from only one year ago, they seem so small in comparison.

People often talk about what the hardest parts of parenting are. Having a newborn. Successfully breastfeeding. Getting kids to sleep through the night. Getting them to even just lay down at bedtime. Making sure they eat healthy. Keeping siblings out of each other’s hair. But I think when we really boil it down, it’s how quickly they grow up. It happens in the blink of an eye.

Every day they rely on us less and less. And eventually, they will rely on us very little, if at all. This is the way of things, of course. We did the same thing to our own parents, and they to their parents, but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept.

So, here’s to slowing down. Enjoying every moment. Playing Legos with them, letting them splash in the bathtub a little longer. Because these moments are fleeting. Gone in a flash. And even a good old fashioned sibling WWE match can be funny and memorable if you’ve got the right mindset.

There’s Nothing to Worry About

Anyone who knows me knows my love for the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I don’t watch it that often now, but when I was a teenager I watched it probably 100,000 times. Besides my love for the beautiful and wonderful Audrey Hepburn, there’s just something so earthy and real about the story, and aside from the whole Mickey-Rooney-playing-a-Japanese-guy thing, it’s a perfect movie.

There are so many great lines from that movie, I quote it all the time. Like this little scene,

Holly: What do you do, anyway?

Paul: I’m a writer, I guess.

Holly: You guess? Don’t you know?

Paul: Ok, positive statement, ringing affirmative, I’m a writer.

I like that because it’s basically the same conversation I have with anyone who asks me what I do. I don’t feel so phony and useless knowing every other writer has the same insecurities. I have titled my writing Pinterest board, “I’m a writer, I guess.”

Oh, and:

Holly: It should take you exactly four seconds to cross from here to that door. I’ll give you two.

BAM. Do you know how many times I’ve wanted to say that to someone, but didn’t have the courage? I love it.

Anyway, there’s one bit of dialogue that sticks with me always.

Holly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?

Paul: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?

Holly: No, the blues are because you’re getting fat, and maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re just sad, that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re very afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?

The first time I ever heard that dialogue I was like, “YES! Yes, Holly GoLightly, I get that feeling. I know EXACTLY what you mean!”

It just occurred to me that what she is talking about is anxiety. The kind of gripping and terrifying anxiety that I face, and many other people face, on a daily basis. The kind of anxiety that stops you in your tracks and makes you forget all about whatever it is you were doing. The kind that fills your head with panicky thoughts and makes you want to hide under the covers. Suddenly you’re afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of.

And the worst thing a person can say is, “There’s nothing to worry about.” God, I hate that. I want to slap people when they say that to me. I know there’s nothing to worry about. That’s why I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that’s making me anxious, because it’s nothing. If I knew what it was, I could deal with it and move on. But that’s the ugly blackness of anxiety. You’re just anxious. No rhyme, no reason, just sweaty palms, a fluttering heart, and the feeling that something, something is about to go wrong. The mean reds.

I wish I had known 20 years ago all the things I’ve learned about my anxiety in the past year. For one thing, that I have an anxiety disorder. Because I wouldn’t have spent so many years hating myself for feeling panicky and off all the time. I’d have given myself a damn break on those days I didn’t want to leave the house, but forced myself to anyway. I would have given myself more permission to be a little irrational. I would have stood up for myself to all the “There’s nothing to worry about.” and “You’re just too sensitive.” No, shut up, I have a real disorder. This is real. Why don’t you try helping me instead?

Anxiety is a monster. And I let it run my life for way too long. It’s better now because I have a better picture of what I’m really dealing with, but I’m still not in control. I still don’t know fully how to prevent a panic attack, or really proactively deal with one when it comes. I’m still full of what ifs. They can be small, like what if I don’t have fun? What if no one talks to me? What if I leave the oven on? What if I have to pee and there’s no bathroom? Sometimes they’re big, like what if I get hurt? What if the kids get hurt? What if the house burns down? What if there’s an earthquake? What if something happens to Brien? What if we lose all of our money? What if what if what if. I can’t turn them off, they have a lot of power.

But I try. I try to get through the day, and it’s better because I’m armed with a lot more tools than I had when I was 20. But it still sucks. It sucks feeling like such a weirdo for being so worried, and it sucks feeling like your chest could explode from the worry and it sucks holding yourself back from things because you’re too afraid of all the what ifs. Anxiety is real, and it has a grip on me, and others like me, and you just can’t understand unless you live it. If you know someone (besides me) who suffers from anxiety, give them a little hug today. Tell them you’re there for them. Ask them to talk out their worries. But, please oh please oh please don’t tell them, “There’s nothing to worry about.”

 

 

You’ve Got This

We all want to be a perfect parent. Some of us even already think we are. We do what we self-righteously believe is the right thing to do, in any given situation, and sit smugly at the end of the day, basking in our brilliance.

Or do we?

I think the more likely scenario is that we’re thrown situation after situation that we’ve never had to deal with, nor have we ever thought we’d have to deal with, day in and day out. And we sit in a panic at the end of the day, wondering if we handled all of those situations perfectly. The way a perfect parent would.

The inherent problem in trying to be a perfect parent is that there are so many different choices you can make and still be a “perfect” parent. Breastfeeding? That’s perfect. Bottle feeding? That’s perfect. Co-sleeping? That’s perfect. Crying it out? That’s perfect. Homemade baby food? That’s perfect. Store bought baby food? That’s perfect. See what I’m getting at here?

We make choices for our children that we feel are the right choice at that time and for that child. And so long as we have our child’s best interest in mind, and are not causing our child harm, that makes us a “perfect” parent.

Another problem with this perfect parent business is that we aren’t consistent. Those of us with more than one child know that you aren’t the same parent with your second child as you were with your first, and so on and so on for subsequent children.

For instance, I breastfed Bowie until he was 13 months old. I made about 90% of his baby food at home. I started solids at 7 months. I started potty training at 18 months.

I breastfed Ferris until he was 8 months old, at which time he self-weaned, and I formula fed until he was 1 year old. I made about 20% of his baby food at home. I started solids at 4 months. I started potty training at 2 1/2 years old.

Each child is their own little puzzle. They’ll be ready for different things at different times. You’ll have more time and more attention to devote to some things than other things, especially when baby #2 comes along. And each child has their own personality. Bowie has SPD and requires a little more attention and patience sometimes. Ferris is more daring than Bowie, and was doing things at 18 months that his 5 year old brother was still too scared to try. You have to treat them as individuals, and hard and fast parenting rules don’t work.

Most of the judgment of other parents, I feel, comes from the newbie crowd and the childless crowd. Someone who has no children of their own, yet has a pretty good idea of how things are supposed to work. Or, a mom with her first infant, with a whole long list of things she deems right and wrong for parenthood, without the actual experience to back up her claims. Parenting is one of those things you are not prepared for until you are in the thick of it. In the trenches, wiping poop off of your own face, trying to calm a screaming baby in a crowded public place, balancing a baby on your hip as you wipe a toddler’s butt, having all your lovingly homemade baby food spat back at you, running after your toddler at the zoo, the park, the museum, helping your Kindergartener with homework, being begged for the 100th time for a cookie you’ve said no to 99 times.

It is in these moments that you make certain decisions. Decisions you didn’t previously think you’d make. Jarred baby food, formula, delayed potty training, kid leashes, fast food, bribery, all those things you swore off, they suddenly become very attractive offers. And you decide that in life, there is give and take, weak and strong moments, and you know everything’s best in moderation. So you do what you have to do to survive, to stay sane. And that makes you a perfect parent.

Come For a Visit, Karl

I’m really wistful for San Francisco the past few days, as I figured I would be eventually. Our first few weeks in Tucson, I thought I was going to be fine. I love our house, our neighborhood is great, we’re getting new furniture which is always way more exciting than it should be. We found a local ice cream spot and a sushi place, and I found a great girl to cut my hair, and I liked it here. I really did. I mean, I still do. It’s a beautiful place filled with lots of exciting new things. But now I’ve got pangs for San Francisco that I can’t brush off. And I think it all comes down to…the weather?

Hear me out here. This time of year, San Francisco is chilly and covered in a comforting blanket of fog. It’s cold enough to bundle up on the couch with your favorite sweater and a fuzzy blanket and a hot cup of Earl Grey. My favorite way of existing. But, it’s not so chilly that it’s snowing or that you’re housebound or anything. You can have a fire in the fireplace if you want to, just for the coziness factor, but you don’t really need it for heat. It’s perfect. San Franciscans love their fog. They call him Karl. He’s got a twitter account. I’m dead serious. I miss Karl.

My first weekend in Tucson, it got to 110 degrees. It went on like this for about 4 days, and I thought, this is it, this is how I die. And now, the forecast says it will be 117 on Sunday. 117 degrees! I didn’t even know that was a thing. So now, I’m out doing fog dances in the backyard, hoping something will come down our way from the city by the bay. (I’m not really doing fog dances. I would though, if I knew what they consisted of.)

And what’s more, I’m very dedicated and serious about my half-assed backyard garden, and I just got my new fledgling garden going in the backyard here. All the books told me I could plant beans, so I planted a shit ton of beans, and since beans sprout so quickly, there’s already a bunch of beautiful little seedlings there. And how do you protect bean seedlings from 117 degrees? I want to go back to San Francisco where all I could grow was fava beans, kale and carrots, but I didn’t care because I knew how to grow them every year, without fail. I have all these options now, but I have to be so careful about these heat spells.

All the locals tell me if I can survive June, I’ll be ok. The monsoons come and cool things off, and then the fall and winter and spring are perfect and warm and wonderful. So, I bought myself my first pair of shorts in over 20 years (no joke, the Mean Girls in middle school gave me a complex about my legs of all things) and I’m sucking it up. I get out and garden and do other strenuous things in the early morning and late evening, and the middle of the day is reserved for jaunts to places with air-conditioning and things for the kids to do. The best of which I have found to shamefully be a McDonald’s Playplace. But really, it’s amazing. There’s cushy leather chairs and wi-fi. I can sit on my computer or in front of a book, drink a bottomless cup of Diet Coke and the boys can play on a playground that won’t leave burns on their tender haunches. I’m sure there’s a better option out there, but for this total Tucson newbie mom, it’ll do for the time being.

Where are you Karl? I’ll pay your airfare! It’ll probably be the first time some of these people have ever seen fog in their lives and you’ll get to be a spectacle. Please come!

karl

We’re In Tucson

Sorry for the lack of posting lately, but a long-distance move sure keeps you busy. It was a very adventurous move, and I’m so glad to be here in Tucson, unpacking and settling in.

When we left San Francisco, we had lofty plans to drive to Palm Springs, stay the night there, and continue on to Tucson the next day. But, a lot of last minute cleaning, an unanticipated trip to the city dump and a couple of minor snafus had us pulling away from the curb hours after we had planned.

We hit the infamous Bay Area rush hour traffic, and drove for hours but only made it 90 miles in the first leg. We stopped for dinner which took an exorbitant amount of time due to an understaffed diner, so we got an even later start again.

By the time we had actually hit the Palm Springs area, it was 5 a.m., so we took a half hour cat nap and decided to just keep on truckin’. We were tired, but the desire to just have the drive over with, and be at our new house was energizing enough to get us through.

We pulled into the driveway late on a Saturday night, and discovered we didn’t have water. We dealt with that, and then plopped our exhausted selves into bed.

Settling in has been going well. Things are finding a place, and it’s really feeling like home. We’re low on furniture, because we gave it all away when we left. But we have what we need, and we just got fancy new couches a few days ago.

Many neighbors have stopped by to introduce themselves, including some board members of the neighborhood association. It’s been great getting to know people, and I can’t wait to meet more people when the boys start school.

I still have moments where I miss San Francisco like you wouldn’t believe, but for the most part I’m fine. I certainly like it here, it’s a great city with a lot to do, and I love our house and the fact that it’s OURS. It makes it feel even homier to know that we own it ourselves.

So, stay tuned for stories of all of our Tucson adventures, there’s going to be a lot of them!

Know the Skin You’re In

It was a random February afternoon. I was at the California Academy of Sciences with my boys, one of our favorite places to go. My phone rang and it was my dermatologist.

She said a bunch of stuff, but all I remember is, “It’s melanoma.” And everything around me seemed to go fuzzy. I was barely paying attention to Bowie running rampant around the museum, and people were shooting me dirty looks, but for once in my life, I didn’t care.

I had a lot of questions, and they didn’t have answers for me yet. How far advanced was it? Had it spread? Was it treatable? How could that tiny little spot on the outside of my right thigh be cancer?

I had a “wide excision” done around the spot the mole had been taken from, which is doctor speak for, “we cut off a huge chunk of your leg.” I still have a divot and a monumental scar. We call it my shark bite. They also took out a lymph node from my upper right leg, to test to see if the cancer had spread. Lymph nodes are not easy to find, so they had to inject me with radioactive dye, a very painful process, and they had to dig deep inside the leg to get it, so I have yet another lovely scar there.

I am one of the lucky ones. They caught it early, before it had spread, after the mole was removed, no trace of cancer showed up on any testing. But, the whole experience still left me pretty traumatized. Because I’ve known people who have suffered and even died from melanoma, I carry a lot of survivor’s guilt. Why am I so scared and sad and anxious when all they had to do was cut the stupid thing off of me?

Melanoma has a high recurrence rate. Melanoma puts you at a higher risk for other kinds of cancer. And, well, there’s the mere fact that my body has shown that it can make cancer. I’m not officially “cancer free” for two more years. And all the mom guilt. Remember that time I forgot the sunscreen and he got a sunburn? Have I doomed him to my same fate? What if they get melanoma and don’t catch it in time? It’s just a really heavy burden to bear, even though I’m alive and healthy. Go figure.

My paternal grandfather died of melanoma when he was 39. And I had “precancerous” cells removed from me when I was just 23. So, I had melanoma on my radar for years. But, this tiny spot on my leg, which showed up when I was pregnant with Ferris, might have gone unnoticed to the untrained eye. I almost didn’t even bother going in, being so busy with a new baby and all, except that I couldn’t get over the weird color that it was.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. I urge you to get suspicious moles checked. I urge you to slather yourself, and your children, in sunscreen. I urge you to keep an eye on your skin, a very close eye.  Please, anything that seems off should be looked at. You know your body best, and if your gut is telling you something’s not right, trust it. Enjoy the sunshine, it is wonderful, I LOVE sunshine. But be careful, friends.

melanoma_awareness ribbon

A Letter to my Sons as I Move them 800 Miles From Home

Dear boys,

I moved around a lot when I was a kid. I moved every single year in grade school. New school, new neighborhood, new friends, new everything. Every time we moved we had to start all over again. Sometimes I had to give away pets, which was so sad.

I also moved a bunch of times in middle school and high school. We just changed houses in the same city, but it came with a lot of the disruption of a long-distance move. And I switched houses every year in college.

I always told myself I would find a place I loved living and never leave. And I found San Francisco. And it has been the most amazing 10 years of my life. This city is amazing, and I felt so fortunate to be able to be raising my family here. It’s the longest I’ve ever lived in one city, and I consider it to by my home.

The one caveat to living in such a great city is that it costs so much. We are throwing so much money at food and rent alone, it’s a miracle we have anything leftover for other stuff. And we looked into buying a house here. Hahahahahaha. Not only would it cost us in the neighborhood of $1 million, but we’ll still be living on top of each other in one of these tiny row houses.

So, mommy and daddy decided to expand our house-buying horizons, and now we are moving to Tucson. Which you guys seem totally stoked about, but I’m afraid for the feelings that will come when reality sets in for you. And I’ve got all these childhood memories flooding back to me of how it felt to move. To be the new girl once again. To have to make a new room mine again. To have to get used to a new city’s way of doing things.

I’m sorry to be moving you to a new city. San Francisco is where you were born, and the only home you know. And I hope you’re old enough to remember how awesome that was. But, Tucson is great too. And you’ll find lots to do, and tons of new friends to hang out with.

I understand now how my mom and dad felt each time we moved. How hard it must have been for them to uproot us all those times. But, they were following opportunities, and they knew they were making the best decision. And as parents, that’s all we can do for you guys really, just close our eyes and jump into the abyss and hope this is really as right for our family as it feels right now.

We are going to make the absolute best of Tucson. It’s a fun place to live, very vibrant and beautiful. We are going to make new friends together, we are going to find our new favorite restaurants and parks and museums. We are going to get a new library card and find a new swim school. We are going to be able to do what we do here, it will just be a little different at first. But we’ll get the hang of it.

Let’s also try to enjoy our last three weeks in San Francisco. Let’s go to all of our favorite spots and say goodbye. Goodbye for now, because it’s not as if San Francisco is going anywhere, we can and will visit.

It’s going to be awesome, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. I love you guys.

Mom

So, today is a big day for me.

Today is huge for me. But in order for you to understand why it’s such an important day, I have to let you in on a little secret.

Today I have been sober for one year.

I’ve kept it from you guys for some reason, but the truth is, I’m a recovering alcoholic.

I don’t know why I’ve kept so mum about it on here. I guess I was feeling ashamed? Even though I’ve spent the better part of the last year learning how not to be ashamed of it.

It has been a long, hard road, but I’m so much happier today than I was a year ago. Alcoholism is a scary thing. Always feeling alone, lost, ashamed. Wondering why you can’t just stop. I wanted to stop, but I didn’t know how. It took rehab and a lot of support from my family to figure it out. To figure me out again.

Some of you may judge me, I get that. It’s hard to understand addiction if you haven’t been there. It’s hard to know why someone becomes addicted, it’s hard to know how out of control they felt.

Things all started to go downhill for me 5 years ago when I had my miscarriage. When I had the miscarriage, it was like somebody turned out the lights. I didn’t know what was happening, and I didn’t know how to put one foot in front of the other. Instead of reaching out and finding help to get the lights turned back on as it were, I decided I could fumble around in the dark on my own and figure it out. Throughout the recovery process, I have learned about myself that I often don’t ask for help when I need it. And this was no different.

And I managed for a while. But then stuff started piling up on me. A cancer diagnosis, my 20 year old cat dying, having a blog post go viral (which essentially is a good thing, but still very stress-inducing) my mom and stepdad getting divorced, being forced to move out of our house, it was just a long, terrible couple of years. And I was still trying to do it in the emotional blackness I had been wandering around in. I was already a very anxious person, but all of this took my anxiety to new, unbearable heights.

At first I just drank in the evenings. Just to give my mind a little rest. Then the day drinking crept in. At first, one day a week, I’d start at noon. Then a couple days a week. It didn’t help that they serve wine at the museum and zoo and there was wine at playgroup, and pretty much everywhere. This is California, after all. Eventually it felt like I couldn’t go an afternoon without it. At at the very end, it felt like I couldn’t bear any moment of my life without it. I was trying to drink away all the feelings of sadness, loss, frustration, fear and anxiety. And it worked, for like five minutes. But those five minutes were all I needed to think that alcohol really was the answer to all of my problems.

It was a couple of years ago ago that my husband asked me to cut back. And then eventually asked me to quit completely. And I had some minor success. But I always kept falling back into my old habits. It was about a year and a half after those first conversations we had that I finally made the choice to be sober. I knew I had a problem, but I didn’t know how bad it really was. Only an outside observer can see an alcoholic’s problems for what they really are. I thought I was fine. I thought I had it under control. But I really didn’t.

In January 2015, I checked into an in-patient rehab home. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. To admit that my problem was so bad that I needed their help to get better. And to spend 30 days away from my husband, my children and my home. I kept a calendar in my journal at rehab, and it was the most satisfying feeling to put a big X over each day in the evening. Another day gone, another day closer to being back home.

When I got back home, things were really awkward. I had to learn how to fit back in to my own family’s dynamic. They had gone on living their days while I was gone, and learned how to do it without me as a part of it. Now we all had to learn how to be together again. And the people who knew where I had been those 30 days didn’t know how to act around me. I had the big scarlet A for Alcoholic on me.

Shortly after my return home, my husband was in a serious surfing accident, and had to have his nose reconstructed. It was one of the scariest days of my life. And my alcoholic brain tricked me into thinking that because I had been to rehab, I was all fixed, and I could have some wine to take the edge off, and it would be no big deal. Which kick-started another awful month of drinking.

I went back to the rehab house for 10 days, and basically said, throw everything you’ve got at me. I need to make this work. That was April 22, 2015.

The past year of my life has been the most difficult on record. I’m finally in a place where not drinking is not such a big deal. Most days, I don’t think about it at all. I can’t even believe who I was a year ago, I’ve made such a change. I couldn’t have done it without my rehab counselors and psychiatrist, and the support of my family. Asking for help is so hard for me for some reason, but I’m so glad I finally did.

Only one thing still scares me: the future. There’s so much unknown in the future, so much we don’t know is coming. And I hear so many stories from people at my AA meetings about having years and years of sobriety under their belt, only to relapse and have to start all over again. My addiction is something I have to keep in the forefront of my mind every day. Every morning when I wake up, I have to remember that I’ve made the choice not to drink ever again, and if I’m not careful, alcohol can creep back in and take hold again. I don’t ever want to go back to that place, but I have to stay on my toes.

I’m sure you’ve heard somewhere that alcoholism is a disease. Which is supposed to make you feel better about needing treatment and help. You wouldn’t deny yourself treatment for diabetes or cancer, they’d tell me in rehab. So of course you get treatment for alcoholism. But, it’s a disease with no cure. You can only keep treating it and live with it day in and day out for the rest of your life. So, if you know a recovering addict, have compassion for them and their fight. And let them know once in a while how proud you are of them, because this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, and it’s nice when people acknowledge that.

So there you go, Internet. My big secret, out in the open. Thanks for listening, and I hope I didn’t scare you off. I found this great article on Babble that explains how to deal with some of the awkwardness when an alcoholic comes out to you. It’s a great read.

one yar