Farewell Old Friends

The year is almost over. The decade is almost over. Decade endings are very big for me. I’m very reflective at the end of a measurable amount of time. And because I was born in a 9 year (1979), the same year a decade ends is a year in which I turn a new decade older. For instance, this year I turned 40.

It was a big decade for me also. A decade full of ups and downs, twists and turns, things happening that I could never have imagined. Some highlights: I had a miscarriage. I had cancer. I had to put down four pets, and one ran away. I acquired three additional pets. I went from being a mom of 1 to a mom of 3. I was on Good Morning America. I crossed the invisible line into alcoholism. I went to rehabTwice. I started taking anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications. I had two more foot surgeries. I went to France. I moved to Tucson.

These are just the bullet points. This does not account for all the kids’ illnesses, piano recitals, first days and last days of school, the few jobs I took, swimming lessons, road trips, birthday parties, weddings, funerals, and every little thing in between. How I survived 2013 by itself is still a mystery to me.

It occurred to me recently that this might be the perfect time to wrap up my time on Very Bloggy. I was reminded how private of a person I really am. Social media made me forget all of that. But really, I prefer things quiet. My trials fairly unknown. And I have not had the guts to share much on here lately anyway.

I feel like the blog has run its course. I began writing as a shiny new mom, when Bowie was just a baby. I shared my insights, but I’d have many more as my years of mothering went on. I shared my questions, only to be able to go back and answer them for myself. It was nice to have an online community to hold hands with through those difficult times of sleepless newborn nights, and endless toddler tantrums. Through special needs, new beginnings, milestones. This year I sent him off to middle school, and it’s time to pass the torch.

It’s unlikely that I won’t begin writing somewhere else. Writing is what I do. It’s my only real craft. My one marketable skill. And I can’t ever stop. I’ll be sure to spread the word. But for now, farewell. It’s been amazing.

He Liked Food

Our dog, Newton, died on Monday.

I’ve been told I write a pretty good pet obituary (I’ll add that to my resume) but the words are not coming this time.

Maybe it’s because his departure took much longer than we originally expected, but was still very sudden in the end.

Maybe it’s the pain of my empath brain being overtaken with the image of my sobbing husband.

Maybe it’s guilt for viewing him as a burden, with incontinence and blindness and deafness and expensive vet bills and so many prescriptions and his penchant for wandering away from the house if he got out and forgetting who and where he was until we found him. Now, none of that seems to matter at all, and I wish I had lamented it much less.

We had been married only about 6 months when we got Newton. So he was basically our first kid. We had the cats of course, but cats are so independent. A dog is more like a permanent toddler. I think that’s what makes it the hardest—a whole era of our marriage has ended.

The house feels empty without him. Three kids and two cats and the house feels empty. Which is a pretty good way to describe his personality to you.

Everything I used to be irritated with is what I miss now. His face in my lap when I ate. Him barking every time the doorbell rang. The clickety-clack of his nails and the slapping of the doggie door in the middle of the night. The way he smelled if we went too long without a bath. The habit he had of going into the shower after we got out, and licking the floor.

The girls at the vet’s office loved him. He was a frequent flyer so they really got to know him. They were telling us cute stories as they inserted his IV for the euthanasia, which made it a little more tolerable. I know they will grieve him too. He made friends and had fans literally everywhere he went.

I am surprisingly handling this loss like I’m not a completely broken person. Which is refreshing. It still sucks, don’t get me wrong. I started sobbing when I set the dinner table tonight because the floor has just gotten so sticky and dirty this week. It made me remember how much he “helped out” with the cleaning around here. But, I’m a little more put together these days. I understand grief more, and how to unpack it. And then pack it back up.

I joked that his tombstone should read, “He liked food.” In classic beagle fashion, he was very…enthusiastic about food. In the end, I couldn’t even get him to take his pills with a glob of peanut butter. And you know what? I didn’t force it. That was when I knew he was really done. He wasn’t the same old Newton anymore.

It’s still so hard to believe he’s gone. We will miss him so much. Finley still asks where he is. And I’m pretty sure the cats are looking for him.

His ashes are home now, and he sits on the shelf next to his late, great cat brother Nashua. May they meet up over the rainbow bridge and snuggle in the sun together forever.

Goodbye love. You were so wonderful.


On Self Care and Surprises

A funny thing happened recently. My friend asked me to go with her to try out a hot yoga class, and I went because I wanted to be supportive and I’m supposed to be saying yes to everything and yadda yadda yadda. It turns out, I really like it. Really, really.

I tried yoga in college. I went to a class. I bought a book. I never liked it. I found it difficult and boring and never thought I was doing any of the poses correctly. I felt like I looked stupid in that way all women under 35 feel.

But this place. This place is amazing. First of all, it’s HOT yoga. I’m warm, I’m relaxed, I’m limber. Secondly, you can come at any skill level. Even a total noob who is convinced she will hate it and will fail. Even she can join. And I’ve come to learn that you don’t even need to do the poses correctly! Just the best you can! And you can try variations when you’re ready. When you’re ready! Hardly anyone lets you do something when you’re ready anymore.

Self care has been a lifelong problem for me. I’ve had some really codependent, dysfunctional relationships in my life. So taking care of myself wasn’t really a thing I knew you were supposed to be doing. And then when I became a mom, forget it. Not only do you not have the time, but you feel guilty for trying to take the time.

Turns out decades void of self care are a recipe for mental health disaster. Which is pretty much how I ended up in this place. A recovering alcoholic with crippling anxiety and depression, OCD and low self esteem. Self esteem so low it’s like you’d have to dig to the other side of the world like in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and you still wouldn’t find it.

But now there’s yoga. It is the single, solitary thing I do by myself, for myself, and that’s actually good for me. The instructors begin class talking in soothing voices about clearing our minds and bringing ourselves to the mat. Forgetting our worries, leaving it all at the door. Don’t worry about how good or bad we do that session, just do our best. This is the kind of thing I need other people to tell me, I can’t seem to come up with it on my own. So I feel so good about being there. For probably the first 20 sessions, I cried each time. It just felt like the right place to be. And I was opening up emotionally. And I felt free.

Because it’s hot yoga, there’s sweat. A lot of sweat. All the sweat. Which sounds gross, but it’s really not. The sweating feels very spiritual to me. Like in a way I am shedding bad, toxic things. Getting rid of old baggage. Leaving it behind. And it’s also proof that I’m working hard. Sometimes the poses don’t feel all that difficult but then at the end you’re drenched and you’re like, YES! I did something!

It’s been the most positive change I have made for myself in such a long time. Maybe yoga won’t be your thing. But I want you to know that your thing is out there. It’s out there waiting for you! You just have to figure out what it will be. Try new things, you’ll be amazed at what clicks.

When I was a little girl, my dad called me Boo Boo. But now I am Yogi.



On the Eve of My 40th Birthday

I am thinking of you.


Since the day they took

that chunk of my leg away,

I have thought of you often.

How much more you suffered.


I’m 40 tomorrow

which feels like cheating.

Sneaking away,

getting away with something.


There is a part of you in me.

I know this because

they found it.

In a lab.

On a slide.


We’d have nothing in common today.

You a traditionalist and

me a wild, untamed spirit.

But I’d love to chat anyway.

To get to know you as a person

and not just part of my DNA.


You did not see 40.

Or your grandchildren.

I was first, but there were throngs to follow.

Though you are gone,

your legacy grows and grows.


Perhaps you can see all of us from somewhere.

But we can’t see you. I never saw you.

But under that dark cloud,

we are kindred spirits.


Year End Review 2018

I know, it’s February. But, there’s still time to reflect. And it’s one of my favorite posts to write because I really get myself thinking and I get optimistic for the year ahead. Better late than never.

I’m taking a new approach this year. I found a new list of questions to answer about my year. 2018 started out pretty ok for me, but ended in a heap of burning trash. So, onto a new year, a new start. I hope that you all had a prosperous 2018 and that 2019 has even better to come for you.

1. What is the single best thing that happened this past year? The single best thing that happened in 2018. It is very hard to choose just one. Just one. What was the most magical? What brought me the most joy? There was our trip to San Francisco. It was lovely. It felt like we never left, which is in some ways not good but I’ll focus on the good. Scrunchies and Caboodles made a comeback. That’s pretty special. Bowie went to SARSEF (Southern Arizona Research, Science and Engineering Foundation) and took home a 3rd place trophy in his grade and category. VERY proud mama bear moment there. I also hit the 5 year post-melanoma mark. Odds of survival at this point are extremely good. I also got to go to Florida to see my brother and go to a small, special wedding, and see old friend and family members I hadn’t seen in a long time. See, how do you pick just one thing?

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened? A great many challenging things happened this year. Too many to list. Too many that are personal. Too many, and you will get bored of my pity party. But, most of it culminated in a year-end relapse of my alcoholism. Which in and of itself I do believe is the most challenging thing. I don’t know why it is, exactly, that I turn to alcohol in times of trouble, knowing full well that it won’t fix things, and often makes them worse. My psychiatrist has this amazing way of explaining things to me about the brain chemistry of it that makes me feel less morally irresponsible. For starters, an alcoholic’s brain is wired differently than a non-addicts brain, and the dopamine blasts we get are heavier. Which can explain the desire to go back for more. The downside of that is certain neurons die off in this process, making it harder and harder for us to handle our feelings logically, which explains why we continue after one short lapse, and it evolves into a relapse. Those neurons grow back quickly, but we have to maintain sobriety in order for that to happen. And those first few days are hell. And no matter what all the books and all the counselors say, you will never shake that feeling that maybe someday you will have fixed yourself and can have a drink and not go overboard or use it as a crutch. It will never happen, but you always wonder. I now have another month fully sober. I’m back at it, and have learned a lot from it. I am lucky to have a support system to help me when I fall. There are some people in my life that I feel get involved in their own self-interests, “Look at me! I know someone who is a train wreck and I’m helping!” But for the most part, people really do want to see me get better.

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year? When I went to visit my brother, I got to see him and his wife as parents. It was amazing. He is 8 years younger than me, and sometimes I still see him as a 10 year old kid. He’s a grown up now, and a dad, and I loved seeing him in that role. It filled me with such joy.

4. What was an unexpected obstacle? I made a decision that was right for me. Good for me. Beneficial to others around me. And in the process, I hurt someone’s feelings. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong by making my decision. And no decision we make in life leaves everyone feeling happy for us. I know this. But this person is close to me and I thought that they would understand, and the reaction left me blindsided. I would never go to them and say, “I regret making that decision. I shouldn’t have done that.” I won’t ever regret it. It was one of the best decisions I ever made, and I will forever treasure the result. I will never regret it. I have to live with that, and I hope someday they may understand and also be able to live with it.

5. Pick three words to describe this past year. Milestones. Chaos. Travel.

6. Pick three words your partner or close friend would use to describe your year. Growth. Progress. Vulnerability.

7. Pick three words your partner or close friend would use to describe their year. Hectic. Challenging. Adventurous.

8. What were the best books you read this year? Technically I finished it this year, but I really enjoyed Big Little Lies. Yes I finally got around to reading it. And I would love to get my hands on the show. Hallelujah Anyway was great. Anne Lamott is absolutely my favorite author and this book did not disappoint. She has such a way of describing life, getting older, sobriety, it’s touching. If you’ve never read her books, I suggest Bird by Bird, especially if you are a writer or Operating Instructions, especially if you are a mom. My third book would have to be I am a Bunny. It’s Finley’s absolute favorite, and I love watching her face light up at each page, even though we must have read it at least 100 times by now. And at the end when she says “night night” to the bunny, I melt.

9. Who were your most valuable relationships with? Both of my brothers, letting me talk through a particular issue I was grappling with. Each person brings their own special perspective, and I find crowdsourcing that stuff to be very helpful. My husband, for always being by my side and always wanting the best for me, even though I scoff and roll my eyes at some of his suggestions. My friend Kathleen who has been there for me, though she herself has a lot going on too. We share the journey of sobriety (which we did not know when we first met) and it’s is crucial to have someone in your life who is also on the sober path to talk to. They get it in a way no one else will. The people that listened when I talked. The people that provided me support when they really had very little left to give. The people that pulled me out of the quicksand. That’s who I value the most.

10. What was your biggest personal change? I’m fully out of the muck of having a baby, and I have a toddler now. Life feels more open, and I am doing more for myself. The idea of “self care” seemed so self-indulgent and selfish. But really, it’s not. I’ve learned how important it really is. It has become a buzz word lately, I see it on all the magazine covers. But, self care has been a concept for me since my first day at rehab. You must, must, must take care of yourself. You don’t always have to put yourself first. And self care doesn’t mean ignoring life taking a nap. It doesn’t mean filling your void by shopping for new things. And getting a trip to the grocery store alone doesn’t count. I used to count my therapy sessions as self care, but no. That’s for my health. Just carve out time that’s just for you. Then fill that time with creative outlets, exercise, having coffee with friends, or even alone. Time to breathe. Time to reflect. And when you go back to your hectic life, you appreciate things more.

11. In what ways did you grow emotionally? I have stopped letting people walk all over me. I have stopped letting people manipulate my thoughts and feelings. I have begun to understand that it’s ok to step up for myself when it’s necessary. I was, and still am a bit, a complete pushover. I would rather see everyone else in my life be happy and get what they want than to do anything for myself. I’m not perfect at this yet, but I am finding more balance.

12. In what ways did you grow spiritually? It would shock a lot of family members reading this right now, but I’ve let go of the idea of the Christian God I was raised to believe in. I just try to be a good person, do the right thing. In AA there is a heavy emphasis on having a “higher power” and I feel like spreading kindness is my higher power. I have come to terms with the idea that we all have a purpose here, and I feel that my purpose is to raise my children to also be good, well-rounded, healthy adults. Finding my place in the universe used to feel so overwhelming, but then I discovered that my place can be small and simple. Not unimportant, just smaller. I’m at peace with that idea.

13. In what ways did you grow physically? I have tried to find balance in my diet. I’m not looking for perfection here, just some balance. Technically I started early this year, but I have been going to hot yoga classes. I have found a tremendous amount of strength and determination that I didn’t know I had. I am also sleeping better at night, which gives me the stamina to take on my crazy, hectic days.

14. In what ways did you grow in your relationships with others? I have learned to stand my ground with problematic people. I have learned to open up to others, rather than keep things bottled up inside. I have learned to see marriage as a friendship, a partnership. When the romance fades, and it will, your focus should be more on creating and maintaining a healthy and loving relationship with your partner. This is how marriages last. You don’t fall out of love, you just lose touch with them. Keep in touch with them.

15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)? “Professionally” I am an Airbnb host. It is a very good source of extra income for us, especially November through February. So, I’m really in the thick of it right now. I like that I send most guests off feeling very good about their stay and vowing to stay with us again. I have taken some things into account that can be improved in the space and am excited to implement them. At home? Well, that’s my real profession I suppose. The most enjoyable part of that has been watching Finley go from baby to toddler, and really coming into her own. Her personality is strong and is showing in the funniest ways. I have also enjoyed watching Bowie grow into a little man. Yes, he’s hormonal and kind of a pill to deal with most of the time. But, he’s making decisions, he forming opinions, he’s making close friends, he has ideas for what he’d like to do with his future. It’s amazing. He’s a person and I made him. Ferris cannot be left out of this exchange. He is a man who knows what he wants and is not afraid to ask for it. Which can be a little harrowing at times. Like, “I hope I never get fat!” when I am pushing my cart at Target behind an overweight person. Overall, I’ve put more effort into making our house a home. The move here was hard for me, and for a while it was just a house, protection from the elements, a place for the kids to reside and feel safe. But, as I start making small areas the way I’d like them to be, it starts to feel more like our home.

16. What has been the most challenging part of your work? Each of my children is in a different life phase. Toddler, Kindergartner, and prepping for middle school. So, sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all of that. Not to expect too much from the younger ones, and not to underestimate the oldest. It’s like walking a tightrope. I’ve also fallen into a rut when it comes to cooking. I have to meet all of these criteria: a) at least marginally healthy b) something the children will deign to allow to touch their lips c) my husband won’t complain that I’m feeding him kid food again and d) won’t break the bank. So, it can be difficult. Sometimes I just say f@&$ all and make whatever I want and they can all just deal with it. Keeping up with cleaning is hard too. I spend so much of my time meticulously cleaning the Airbnb that it feels exhausting to try to come back to the house and do the same thing. I try to concentrate on one thing a day. The floors. The bathrooms. The boys’ toys. And there’s laundry every day of course.

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year? Oh my gosh. It’s this farm game I have on my phone. It’s called Hay Day. I love keeping an eye on the farm, making this and that, checking on the animals, it’s fun. I spend too much time doing it though. And not enough time reading, writing, cleaning, all the things one really should be doing.

18. What was the best way you used your time this past year? Volunteering at the boys’ school. Taking Finley to the park or the Children’s Museum. Taking time to go out and write without kids around. Journaling.

19. What was the biggest thing you learned this past year? I have learned that no matter how daunting the day ahead of you may seem, and how impossible it all feels, you will get it done. You will do it, because that’s just what we do. And even looking back, we don’t know how we did it, but we did. Human endurance and drive are amazing. Even when you are depressed and feel like you have no drive, you can still manage to get done what you need to. Shower. Work. Buy groceries. Sneak in some social time. And all the microscopic things we all do each and every day that seem like nothing, but do take a toll. I learned that I am determined and resilient, even when I don’t feel like it.

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes this past year for you. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I hope your 2019 is already moving along swimmingly and I hope it has great things in store for all of us. Happy (late) new year to you all!

If you are still reading! Comment here or find me on Twitter (@verybloggybeth) and AMA (ask me anything)! I’d love to answer people’s questions in future posts. I’m also crowdsourcing ideas for posts on my Top 5 Favorite [fill in the blank]. Pass on those ideas too!

I Finished a Book

I promise you, I’m not going to write an entire post about how I finished a book. And I promise you that I do finish books. It’s just a bit of a rare occasion since I became a mom. I also have an attention span problem with books. As of this moment, I’m at least 1/3 of the way through 5 books. So, it’s a big deal that I finished one. Yes, it’s only 200 pages, and yes it’s a collection of essays, and yes it took me about 2 months, but I did it. I finished it.

The book is Nothing Good Can Come From This by Kristi Coulter. And it was amazing. It is a collection of essays about Kristi’s journey in recovery. It is beautiful, honest, sharp, funny and heartbreaking, and it spoke to me. I recommend it to anyone in recovery.

The moment I finally realized I could get better was when I realized how very much alike each and every alcoholic was that I met. How much they were like me. Of course we were all different ages, from different places, our journeys began under many different circumstances. But the habit itself, the alcoholism, was extremely similar down to the most minute details. When I found that kinship, when I no longer felt alone and hopeless and messy and unforgivable, that’s when I knew I could do this.

I sat in an AA meeting while I was at rehab and listened to a woman in her 90s tell the story of how she always bought a loaf of bread with her bottle of vodka, so the cashier wouldn’t think she was just there for the vodka. And she just ended up with a drinking problem, and a freezer full of bread, and a very confused husband. I laughed through tears at her story, remembering how I would throw something else on the conveyor belt with my wine. I did that too. I was more like these people than unlike them and that gave me a very warm feeling.

Kristi’s book is no different than those stories I would hear in AA that struck me. Sometimes the stories were so similar, it’s as if my voice was coming out of someone else’s mouth. And it’s the same with these essays. It felt like she somehow got a hold of my journal and told my story for me. There was one passage in particular that hit me hard. I cried. Not out of sadness, but of that emotional freedom that you feel when someone finally sees you. Really sees you. Knows your struggle in a way that neither of you can express. It’s from the essay entitled The Barn.

“I love the taste of wine, but I hate wine tasting. For one thing, even though I’m a diligent spitter-not-swallower, it still gets me a little buzzed, and I have no interest in being anything other than a lot buzzed. But I also don’t want to be like those tasters who spill out of limos, all red-faced and loud and looking like the kinds of people who use “hot tub” as a verb. So, I’m stuck being me–someone who pretends to like sipping tiny amounts of wine, when really she wants to hunker down, alone, with a bottle.” 

I mean, this. This was my struggle. In my 20s we went wine tasting a lot. And I had these exact thoughts. These. Exact. Thoughts. And to a normie, I’m sure this all seems very absurd and self-indulgent and reeks of excuses. But to an addict, this is life. This is the struggle. You read this and you get it. You know it. You lived it.

And I have been wondering lately about the real root cause of addiction. The opioid epidemic being what it is. And I’ve also been musing on the way society deems one addiction shameful and disgusting while other addictions fly under the radar. They’re even considered cute and adorable. For instance, how is it that “Wine Thirty” is a thing among parents now. They all post their drink on Instagram at 5:00 as if this is just what’s done (and I used to think that was true). I have lamented a lot about the ugly affair that parenting and alcohol are having in our society, so I won’t bore you with more of that now.

It occurred to me as I spoke with my psychiatrist a few months back, it’s not really the substance we are addicted to. But rather it is the dopamine blast that we have found that our particular addiction gives us. When you find something that gives you that feeling, it’s hard to give it up. Alcohol, drugs, nicotine, food, not eating, self-harm, gambling, shopping, exercising, sex, all of it. You are just addicted to the dopamine. And if you think about it in that manner, and look at it from a clinical, medical point of view, it’s much easier to have compassion instead of disdain for an addict.

The lucky among us will find their dopamine blasts in gardening, art, cleaning, running marathons, volunteering, things that are good for them. Things that benefit not only themselves but others too. And the truly fortunate just have more dopamine than the rest of us. They are optimists. They are happy, fun and bubbly with nothing helping them along. It confounds me.

The unlucky among us find that half a bottle of wine will numb us enough to take the barrage of painful emotions that come to us each evening. And that at a party, getting that first drink in you will help ease your social anxiety and awkward introversion. That “social lubricant” that they talk about in AA. And since you’ve found something that works, you stick with it. The trouble is, over time, you will need more and more to achieve the same effect, until you’re waist deep in alcohol and it’s rising and you’re not sure what to do or how to get out.

So, I finished a book. And I felt heard and seen by a woman I have never and likely will never meet. We connected even though she doesn’t even know I’ve read her book. This is what carries me through my sobriety: knowing that I’m not alone. Of course, your battle is yours alone to fight. But when you see the army of people around fighting their own battle too, you are emboldened. You can do it too.

This is Six

These days, life is a crazy mess of counseling my sensitive Bowie through his tweens, preparing him for middle school. And chasing around a toddler. You know how you forget all that labor stuff and that’s how we keep having babies? Well I’m pretty sure we forget the toddler years too. They are insane. They get into everything. Life is busy.

And somewhere in the middle is my Ferris. My sweet rainbow baby. Definitely the biggest personality in the family. He has big feelings, strong feelings, and he knows how to “use his words” to let us know. He’s hilarious. He’s brave. He’s creative. He’s fierce. And he’s finally six. He’s waited so patiently.

And he’s finally in Kindergarten! What a relief for all of us. He missed the birthday cutoff last year (September 1st) and had to wait a whole year longer than his friends at preschool, which he found extremely frustrating. I pulled him out of that school and did some minor homeschooling, which was stressful and tiring. Two years before, I had imagined myself having all this time to myself. I could write a book! Get a job! Volunteer! But, I ended up not only having another baby, but also having my preschooler at home full time. But, we managed.

Sometimes Ferris is the typical middle child, getting lost in the shuffle. But most of the time, his very big personality is there and you can’t forget him. Everything about him is unique. From the way he talks to the way he thinks. He has a certain logical belief about everything. Food, the universe, animals, sports, weather. He pontificates on the origin, mechanics, reasoning and conclusion about all of it. He has to think it out, and he tends to do his thinking out loud. Seeing the world through his eyes is amazing.

And the questions. Oh my, the questions. He’s so interested in every subject. He is always asking me to show him a picture of something on my phone. A whale. A stegosaurus. A baby in a mommy’s belly. Argentina. Freddie Mercury. He has to see what it is we are talking about or referring to. So he can fully understand.

Ferris prefers his room messy. “That way, I can see all of the things I have to play with and I can choose.” “But, if everything is organized, you can find exactly what you need.” “But then I’d have to clean up the other thing I was playing with and I can’t just sit and clean all day.”

He is boldly and blatantly honest and open. Ferris is the one who will tell strangers, “The doctor shot me.” When someone notices our fish aquarium, “We used to keep the rats in that spot. They’re dead now. We buried them outside.”

Swear words and insults are all “F words,” so if he tells you someone said the F word, just double check what word that might have been. Because it more than likely was, “stupid.”

School provides each kid a folder for papers. Every single paper that he brings home has been folded and shoved to the bottom of his backpack.

Ferris’ teacher told us he really thinks differently about things than most kids. And she encouraged us to have him tested for Gifted and Talented. And the morning I turned in the paper for it (all wrinkled and creased, because it was in his backpack), we woke up to realize he had cut a chunk out of his hair at some point during the night. Ferris has pretty strict scissor rules, because Ferris, and one of them is not having them in his room. Our old preschool director did say sneaking and lying, while not good behavior, are a sign of intelligence in kids. So, yeah. Gifted and talented. 

Current favorite things: cats, Jeeps, camping, warm fuzzy blankets, bedtime stories, Minecraft, Legos, We Will Rock You by Queen, pizza, changing into his pajamas after school, picking from the prize box at school, tape, hearing what he was like as a baby.

He will not hesitate to tell you what he really thinks. Sometimes inappropriately and way too loud in public. This honesty will serve him well later in life. Right now, he really doesn’t need to comment on how old someone looks, or tell the party helpers at the Children’s Museum that the volcanoes at his old school were way better, or let his piano teacher know how very boring his lesson was this week.

It will be exciting to watch him soar. He is fearless. He will be a force to be reckoned with. I can’t imagine what he’ll want to be or do when he’s an adult, he’s interested in so many things. But I know he will have a million friends and he will succeed in any path he chooses. Because he is so open and honest and kind and determined.

I hope all the funny and adorable stuff he blurts out sometimes won’t stop as he gets older. It’s too amazing. And even though he said, “Your belly’s big. Are you having another baby,” I still love him to bits.

ferris six

Coco the Wonder Cat

Some of you might remember that last year right around this time, our kitty Coco ran away. It was completely unexpected and left us heartbroken. And it’s especially hard to say goodbye without having any closure. I’m not sure that I really want to know what happened to her, the possibilities are pretty grisly. But, maybe it would help me heal a little to know and be able to move on. A year later, and I still check the animal shelters and neighborhood boards. When someone posts “found cat” to Nextdoor, my heart still skips a beat. Could it be her? It never is, obviously, but I hold out hope.

Since she’s been gone a year, I just wanted to write a little piece about her. Her eulogy, if you will. I wrote one for our kitty Nashua when he passed away, and it was very healing for me.

Coco came into our lives as quickly and bizarrely as she left. Our friend had found her in a tree near his house. She was tiny and scared, but sweet. She needed a home. I had mentioned wanting to get another kitty. Brien and I had just gotten married a few weeks before, and he said we could take her in, as a gift to me.

She wasn’t sick, and aside from her umbilical hernia, which they fixed when we had her spayed, she was a perfect little orange and white ball of fluff. It took us a while to name her, but we settled on Velcro (the nickname Coco came later), because she literally stuck to everything she touched with her claws. She was always, up until she left us, a very timid and high-strung girl. So when she landed on something, or someone tried to pick her up, or someone was holding her, or she was trying to jump up or down, always with the claws. She got stuck a lot, and it was fun to tell people, “well, that’s how she got her name.”

She and Nashua didn’t hit it off right away. She was scared, and he was pissed. He’d been my only fur kid for 10 years. What is this nonsense, he seemed to be saying. But they began to tolerate each other, and lived in peace. Well, more like a cease fire. A year or so later is when we got Newton (our beagle). After that the cats were absolute best friends. Thick as thieves. Inseparable. United in their hatred for the dog.

The cats rode in the car with me and my stepdad on the long drive from Wisconsin to California. She immediately hid, and didn’t make so much as a peep. Somewhere in Nevada, we had stopped for the night and upon pulling into the hotel parking lot, discovered that the car could no longer go in reverse, only in drive. I’d find out later that a simple bolt fell out, but at the time we were like WTF, and had no idea what to do. My stepdad opened the door, got out to look, and left the door open. Velcro made a break for it. She hopped out, ran ten feet or so, and then stopped and I scooped her up and tossed her back in. So, ok, it’s not like she hasn’t tried to escape before.

When we pulled up to the apartment in California, we couldn’t find her anywhere. I had that thing packed floor to ceiling and I started getting scared she’d been crushed by a shifting box somewhere along the line. But, when we were down to just a few boxes, I saw her. Terrified, as always. But seemingly grateful to be found.

When we moved from that apartment in Mountain View to our first flat in San Francisco, the first thing she did was find the smallest opening in the wall under the stairs and climb in, refusing to budge. But, it was dark in there and I didn’t know how big that space was, or where it went, and I asked our landlord if they knew. They turned out to be some of the nicest people we have ever met, but I didn’t know that yet. Anyway, one of them, a big burly guy, came down and started ripping out the wall. I’m not even kidding. He’s just pulling drywall and boards away, and then he said exasperated and teary-eyed, “I found her.” It was a tiny space. Maybe 4 square feet. Just a little nook under the stairs. And she still sat there, staring at us with her glowing eyes, until that evening.

When we moved to our second home in San Francisco, it had a big yard (well, relative to San Francisco it was big). And we were in the middle of the block, so back there she could not get to the street. I think she probably found a way at some point, but I liked to tell myself she couldn’t to feel better. We let her be an outdoor cat for the four years we lived there. THIS is why I was so confused when she full-on left last year. Back then, she always came meowing at the door at night, came in and ate and slept. She often showed up with an injury.

The vet told us, “She’s one of the tough ones. The scared ones get injured in the back, when they run. She gets injured in the front, fighting back.” Good for her. Not for our bank account. This girl had multiple bladder infections (where she peed blood, it was SO great for my anxiety), a huge infected abscess on her face that ruptured, a twig stuck right into her gut that I ended up pulling out myself (barf), another abscess or possible fracture on her arm, intestinal blockage. The list goes on. I showed up at the vet one time and the tech told me, “Her file is really thick!” That’s Coco, nothing done halfway.

We moved from that house into another, with a much less protected backyard. We also kept her there illegally. Well, against the lease. I tried to find someone to take her, even just temporarily, but I couldn’t. And the thought of giving her away to strangers was just too much for me. But, anyway, we kept her inside there. It was a tumultuous couple of years of life for us there, but she was my constant calm. She was always ready to snuggle, and I was always relieved to have her. Two years we lived there. Two years of hiding her in the car when the landlord came by. She stuck it out through heavy construction noise, while they re-stuccoed the whole house and replaced some of the windows.

She was ok on the drive from San Francisco to Tucson. It was a long haul, and she spent most of the time under the passenger seat, but not a peep. She’d come out occasionally to look out the window and meow at my face about how long we had been in the car and where the heck are we going anyway.

And once we arrived, she did fine. She adjusted well to the new house. She was used to not going outside and she was very grateful for the extra space. She found a zillion places to hide and curl up for a nap. She was the only pet at that time, and loving it.

A few months later we adopted Wrigley. And she definitely didn’t like having him around, but she wasn’t mean to him. He was a tiny kitten when we got him and I guess she figured he was harmless, but she had to hiss every once in a while so he wouldn’t forget who was boss. My lap was definitely off limits. Especially after I got pregnant with Finley. It was Coco’s job, according to her, to curl up to the growing baby bump and make sure things were ok. She was always very tender and attentive when I was pregnant. I feel like she knew on some kind of biological level, being a girl herself and all. It was very sweet.

Then the baby arrived. And soon after that was when we took Newton back in. And I knew it was a lot of stress for her. But she still snuggled with me. She still loved me. I could tell that.

Our house already had two doggie doors built in when we bought it, so we opened one and the rest is history. Newton came in and out according to his needs, Wrigley went out and stayed very close, he’s what I call a “backyard cat.” But Coco. She went out that day, and never came back. I expected I’d see her back that night, the way she did in San Francisco. Then I expected her back sometime the next day. Then I posted on Nextdoor and was reassured that lots of kitties go on weeks-long adventures and come home. So I waited. And waited. And waited.

And after a month, I was at the shelter several times a week. Peering at all those kitties’ faces, hoping to see her sweet heart-shaped nose. I left in tears every single time. One time it was so bad I had to sit in the lobby of the shelter on my way out and let the sobs out before I could drive home.

It’s not the prospect that she has died that hurts. And it’s not even that she ran away, because I know she was stressed out. And she’s a very independent kitty. And it’s not that she might have gotten taken in by another family, because at least I know she’s being taken care of. I’m ok with all of those prospects. What I’m not ok with is never knowing. I’ll never know what ever became of my sweet girl. I’ll never have closure. That’s what bugs me. Like, if I stop looking for her on neighborhood boards and animal shelters, then what if she suddenly shows up, and I wasn’t looking for her anymore. These are the thoughts that keep me up at night.

So, I write this for you today under the assumption that she is gone forever. Wherever she is, or was, she’s not coming back. I miss her like hell. And I thank you all for listening to all my Coco stories over the years and for listening to this one too. She was my princess. My love. My sweet wild girl. And I will miss her forever.

coco collage

The Road to Now

A few weeks ago, I snuck off with zero children to a coffee shop (ok, the Starbucks cafe at Target) and wrote. It’s a thing I do every once in a while, when the stars align and the boys are being good, and the baby naps early in the day, and I’m actually feeling like writing, and Brien has the time. He jokingly asked if I was going to write him a love letter. And I thought well, since the end of July marked our FIFTEENTH anniversary, I could try to pull something together.

I’m currently filling out this book for him, which was supposed to be a birthday present (February) and then an anniversary present (a month ago) and I just finished it because that’s a heck of a lot of things to come up with, no matter how much you love someone. But the questions in the book have really got me digging into my memories of us as a young couple, unmarried, in college. Then married. Then moving to California. Then having babies. Then buying a house and moving to Arizona. Then having another baby. And all the small things in between. It’s been quite a journey.

We have been through a hell of a lot together. Some really low times. And I mean LOW. Like, losing a baby to miscarriage low. Like me being in rehab low. Like me living a life that warranted a stay in rehab low. Like me getting a cancer diagnosis low. Like losing friends and family to horrible accidents and diseases low. Like weathering the storm of a special needs kid low. And we always, somehow, seem to come back together afterward, as strong as before, if not stronger.

Our first apartment was the size of our current dining room. I’m not even exaggerating. I dug up an old photo.

the old place

The only thing you can’t see here is the tiny kitchen to the right, with tiny, miniature appliances along the wall and no counter space. We spent our first year as a couple in this comically small apartment. We moved in together after only 5 months of dating. It was an insane decision, honestly, looking back. But, he had been subletting my apartment for me for the summer while I worked and lived at an amusement park a few hours away. At the end of the summer, I asked if he’d just like to stay. We felt really comfortable together and things were going well, so we moved in together. In a studio apartment. A tiny one.

We fought sometimes. All couples fight. But when we fought, it was either sit and deal with it and don’t go to bed until things are resolved, or truck your butt into the dark and the cold and the snow, and hope your car starts, and go who even knows where because we were both flat broke. So, sit and deal with it we did. I mean, I guess one could have holed oneself up in the 6 square foot bathroom if one wanted to, but not without looking ridiculous and getting a little claustrophobic.

I think that tiny apartment taught us a lot about relationships. About compromise. About resolving issues before they cause huge rifts. We have watched a lot of couples around us go their separate ways. And I know full well that sometimes a divorce really is what’s best for everyone involved. The statistics are pretty depressing, though, and I often wonder if we’ll be able to escape what feels inevitable. After 15 years, and a lot of bumps along the way, things still feel strong. Steadfast.

My love letter to him is just this: thank you for staying.

There have been plenty of opportunities for us to call it quits. I think neither of us could imagine getting by without the other. We have a very symbiotic relationship. But, things have been thrown in between us that were definitely difficult to move past.

He has seen me at my absolute worst. My lowest moments. I said and did a lot of horrible things when I was stuck in a slimy web of anxiety, depression, addiction and emotional baggage. But, he did not give up on me, and he did not leave me behind. He stayed. It was touch and go for a while, but he stayed. And for that I am forever grateful.

He has also been a great father to the three amazing children we created together. He’s always there to step in when I need help, or when I just need a break. There’s been zero reference to “babysitting” when he’s with them. He is their father. My co-parent. My partner in all things.

We are not perfect people. We have disagreements, petty and otherwise. We make mistakes. We still face problems and struggles. But I feel truly like we face them together. It has always been like that. Our relationship faced a lot of opposition in the beginning, but we stood there tall and proud and united, and now it’s been 15 years and I can’t imagine handling life any other way.

For everything you are, and everything you are not, I love you Brien. Here’s to the next 15.



The thing that every mom says when any one of her children turns one year old, but I’m going to say it anyway because what’s a birthday without a good cliche:

I can’t believe she’s already one.

This year went by so fast, I’m nearly out of breath. I was bound! and! determined! to “enjoy every moment” since she’s the last baby. And I didn’t even expect another baby. Ferris was the last baby, so I got this bonus baby and by golly I’m going to stop and smell the roses with her.

And I tried, I super duper tried, to make time slow down, make things a little slower. Except there’s elementary school, and teaching the middle kid his alphabet, and camping trips, and holidays, and visitors from out of town, and the sleepless nights that bleed into zombie days, and summer vacation, and piano lessons, and you get the idea. You don’t really have the luxury of slowing down and enjoying all the tiny moments with your third kid. It doesn’t really work that way. But I tried.

She’s still tiny for her age, 17%th percentile for weight and 43rd for height. Also she still has no teeth. So most passersby think she’s about 6 months old. I think she’ll catch up in height. When she outgrows her clothes, they’re always too short before they’re too tight. And the teeth will come when they come. I have alternated about being panicked and being flippant about it. The pediatrician doesn’t care, and I’ve heard a zillion anecdotal things about other kids, so I won’t worry. For now. And I will continue to enjoy watching people think I’m raising a prodigy as she stands and talks and uses her fine motor skills.

She is friendly, but shy. She’s fine with people saying hi and smiling and waving at her, so long as I am holding her. Otherwise it’s a no-go. And if she’s tired or otherwise in a bad mood, you can absolutely forget it. When calm, she will stare into your soul. She just takes people in, she really studies them. But they may not touch her.

She’s very sweet and loving. She loves to cuddle and give hugs. She pats my back when pick her up. She squeezes all of her stuffies and says, “Awww,” while she does it. Cuddling is her absolute favorite thing to do in the world, which is just fine with this mama. As long as she realized at some point that you don’t have to drink milk while cuddling with your mama. She nurses a lot. Like, a lot. By her age, Ferris was already totally on whole milk, and Bowie was down to one nursing session before bedtime.

She’s very adventurous and will crawl into any room. She is a pro at cruising on the furniture, and has quickly learned to use smaller things to boost her up onto the furniture. Which is brilliant and cute and everything, except she still needs to learn to get back down without hurting herself. She will be walking anytime now. She’s a pro at standing unassisted and will take a few steps here and there if she’s holding someone’s hand. She took two small steps on her own one night, but I think it was a fluke and she didn’t even realize she’d done it.

She is saying hi and bye, and uh-oh. I think she’s attempting to say Bowie. She says keeeee for kitty (and gives him unsolicited squeezes, of course). And she says dada all the time but I’m not 100% sure she knows that dada is dada.

She still is not sleeping through the night. This is unusual for our kids, but again, normal for the most part. She will nurse and fall back asleep. Sometimes she doesn’t even need to nurse, just cuddle. She loves to cuddle. Cuddling is her favorite. Sometimes I think the sleep issue is tied to a temperature issue, because her bed is in the direct path of the air duct, and the air coming out of it right now is pretty cold. Perhaps in the winter when it’s no air, or warm air, she’ll do better. She definitely prefers to be very warm.

I am going to continue to nurse her as long as she wants to. Like I said, she’s still very enthusiastic about it. It’s easy for us, most importantly for me. No matter what, I always have something to feed her. But I do need to step up the food game. She’s very excited about food and she loves to try new things. She’s got a great appetite. Her favorite food is bananas and she’ll eat 2-3 of them a day. She can also handle a half pound of tofu a day. When she’s decided she’s done eating, she has taken to throwing the remainder on the floor. I’m not sure how I’m going to keep up with the mess when the dog dies.

I think we are going to have a very exciting second year together. Both boys will be in school, so she’ll have me all to herself for most of the day. I’m looking for things to do with toddlers in Tucson, which has not been a fruitful search, but there must be something. There’s always the zoo.

I thought after two kids, I knew everything there was to know about babies. Then came Finley. So different from her brothers, so unique in her likes and dislikes, so very attached to me. It just goes to show, none of us knows it all, and all parents are doing the best they can every single day.

Thanks to everyone far and wide who wished her a happy birthday yesterday!

One! Impossible!

finley smash cake