22 weeks and counting

I am 22 weeks with my baby girl. I have been so bad about posting updates and keeping everyone in the loop. But, time is slipping by oh so fast, with the other two kids to keep up with, and life just refusing to slow down.

While I am excited about her arrival (though cautiously excited because my anxiety never lets myself get too excited about anything), I have been plagued with some pretty serious negative emotions, and it’s made this whole thing very difficult. I’m panicking for two now.

My anxiety has been a constant in my life, going back as far as I can remember. But I feel like it is escalating as I get older. Partly because motherhood is, well, motherhood. And also partly because I found my way through an extremely difficult couple of years by always having a bottle of alcohol by my side, and sometimes I am afraid I will lose control again, and let myself sink to that point again. It is a constant terror of mine: that I will relapse again. My psychiatrist tells me to think positively about my awareness. That being on guard all the time will work in my favor. And he’s right. But it’s exhausting.

I am on a lower dose of my antidepressant than I was before I got pregnant. Just to keep things safe. But I can definitely tell the difference. It mostly keeps the depression at bay, but I have some pretty terrible days. Whereas before, it was a lot of fairly good days, almost no terrible days. It just feels like something isn’t right. I don’t know exactly what, but something is off. I am allowed to take my anti-anxiety medication in moderation, but even that doesn’t seem to help much. I can barely go five minutes without letting my intrusive thoughts evolve to the point that I and/or the baby and/or my whole family are dead. I can’t get it out of my mind. It hasn’t been this bad for a very long time. I’m the one-day-at-a-time girl again right now, which is working. But gosh I want to be “normal.”

The “logic” behind worrying about anything and everything is that you can prepare yourself for the worst. And if you worry about the worst, it probably won’t happen. If you go along in life all happy-go-lucky, not a care in the world, that’s when the bad stuff sneaks up behind you and side swipes you on a random weekday morning. Just when you thought everything was ok. So, worry! Worry it up. Of course, I know logically that this is absurd, life will happen as it happens whether I worry or not, so I may as well spare myself the anxiety. It’s just not quite that easy.

I find myself doubting whether or not I can handle the early days with a newborn without feeling swallowed up by the whole thing, unable to breathe, unable to move. Those early days are so hard. You’re all hopped up on hormones and lack of sleep. And not to mention the physical healing you have to go through. And with the demands of life scratching at the door like a dog that needs to be let out, you can feel very guilty and ashamed for focusing on your baby so much.

The comedian Jim Gaffigan made a joke once about having a fifth child. “It’s like you’re drowning, and then someone hands you a baby.” Which is pretty funny, I laughed very hard at that. But, I think it can also apply to a mom with serious mood disorders trying to be just a mom, just a regular mom who can do it all and be it all (even though we all know in the back of our minds that those expectations are just too high). It’s like you’re drowning in your illness, and then someone hands you your baby. Good luck, hon!

But, hey. There’s also her gorgeous ultrasound pictures. And the reassurance that she’s growing and developing wonderfully. And I can look forward to looking into her eyes for the first time. And smelling her big, bald head. And watching her sleep in my arms. And watching her brothers bond with and love her. There are positives here. I was avoiding buying anything because I was afraid I’d jinx something. But I bought a few tiny, adorable pieces of clothing. And no matter how many babies you have, it’s still mind blowing to imagine that a person tiny enough to fit into that stuff will soon come out of you. Just mind blowing.

The first thing I ever said to Bowie was, “I’m so glad you’re out of me.” And when they handed Ferris to me, I said in a hormonal daze, “I forgot how small these things are.” I’m hoping I can come up with something a little more brilliant to say to her. To my daughter. To my little fork in the road. I will be nervous, I will battle my illnesses, but I will be able to see the beauty in all of it, I just know it.

Just a little more than halfway done, and holding on. Thank you everyone who has offered kindness and support. This mama needs it.

The Story of my Relapse

It was two years ago this very day that I relapsed after coming home from rehab. It’s a story I have alluded to on here whenever I talk about my recovery, but I’ve never told the story in full. To anyone really.

I remember so vividly that it was this day for two reasons. Nobody would shut up about how it was Pi Day, and my husband had a very massive surfing accident that earned him extensive surgery and an overnight hospital stay.

The day started off like any other, really. It was a Saturday, the boys and I were having a lazy morning at home. Brien went off early to surf, as he often did.

As I was getting out of the shower, I heard the doorbell ring. At that time, we had a gate on our house and you had to unlock it with a key, or get buzzed in. Brien did not bring his keys with him when he surfed, so I was pretty sure it was him. I told Bowie to let daddy in. Instead of pushing the button upstairs, he decided to go downstairs and greet daddy.

As I was getting dressed, I heard Brien yelling my name. And saying, “Bowie, go back upstairs, it’s too scary.”

I went down there and Brien was covered in blood, and his nose was…not where it should be. “I think I broke my nose,” he said, cool as a cucumber. “I need to go to the emergency room.”

So, off we went. And the boys and I waited in the waiting room for a while after Brien got checked in, eating breakfast from the vending machines. I got texts from him every once in a while with an update, but he didn’t know much. Eventually he told me we might as well go home, it was probably going to be a while.

And then I didn’t hear from him for hours. When he did text he said he needed surgery, he’d text when he was able to again.

In my mind I’m like SURGERY. Dammit. Is my husband ok? How much will we have to pay for this? I was going into what I can now recognize as Panic Mode. A state that, once I am in it, I have a hard time regulating my thoughts and emotions, and I have a hard time coming back down to earth.

Hours and hours later, I still hadn’t heard anything. I took the boys to the park to get my mind off of things. And, I talked myself into having a drink. I figured that rehab had “fixed” me. That it was ok to have a little wine to take the edge off. I went directly to the grocery store and bought a bottle. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Afterward, I regretted it, of course. But I didn’t crave more, so I still thought I was ok. But, I did crave more in the days that followed. Every couple of days I’d have more. Until eventually, I was right back where I started.

My dad and younger sister came to San Francisco for a visit a few weeks later. I drank my way through their visit, using it to “calm my nerves” or whatever nonsense alcoholic thing I was telling myself. Meanwhile I made a fool of myself and ruined their whole visit. I regret it deeply.

My husband and my rehab counselor urged me heavily to return to the rehab house for a short stay, get my feet back on the ground, try some new strategies. I refused. I insisted that I was fine. Everything was fine. Just a slip up from the stress. I was ok.

Except I was not ok. One afternoon, I picked Bowie up from his OT appointment and as I pulled away from the curb and realized I had a flat tire. A totally flat tire, not the kind of flat tire I could have limped home with. So, I pulled over and called Brien to come help me.

I can change a flat tire. I know how and everything. It’s just that…I was in no shape to be changing a flat tire that afternoon. He knew it, I knew it. Bowie’s OT knew it, everyone at Ferris’ preschool knew it, it was one of the lowest and most humiliating moments of my life.

I went back to rehab for 10 days. I was terrified. If rehab couldn’t work on me, then what hope was there? Would I ever be able to get over this? Would anyone ever want to speak to me again? After a few days of drying out, I was able to see very clearly how and why I wanted to stay sober.

Seeing life as it could be, with me feeling happy and strong, and then returning to that dark and awful place, showed me that it was the happiness I wanted. Everything they were teaching me at rehab suddenly made sense. And I finally, finally took the advice of three doctors, two rehab counselors and dozens of friends and accepted medication for my depression and anxiety.

When I returned home, things were very tense between me and Brien for a while. I didn’t know how to interact with my kids. I didn’t know who knew my secrets, who was mad and judging me and who still wanted to be my friend.

But, I got a part time job, and I went to AA regularly, and I soldiered on. Turns out the majority of people didn’t know, and the ones who did know didn’t judge me. The ones who did judge, they were few, and I knew my life would go on without them. I had help, I had support. I made it to a year without a hitch. That day, as many of you know, is April 22.

I would not recommend a relapse to anyone in recovery. The fall is so much harder than the first time around, and the pit is so much harder to climb out of. It is a very, very dark place. You will regret it.

But what I will say is that for me, personally, it was one of the best things that could ever have happened to me. I finally fully hit rock bottom. Before that, I had been hovering just above. I had my eyes opened to the damage my addiction was really making. I was aware of the control that alcohol had over me, and I was determined to regain that control. I finally admitted that maybe my mood disorders were too much for me to handle on my own. And by taking medication and seeking therapy, I was among so many other people doing the same thing.

I hate Pi Day, for what it represents for me and my family. It was a dark, scary day and I have a lot of bad memories of all of it. And worst of all, I caved to my addiction, which I still feel pretty ashamed of, even though they all tell me not to be.

I learned a lot from the whole situation. I’m not proud of it, but I also can’t discount the benefits it created, ironically. They say that relapse is the rule, not the exception. Not to condone relapsing, but to remind those of us who have relapsed that we are still ok, we can still beat our addiction, we are still worthy of recovery and still worthy of love.

I’m lucky to have been surrounded by an extremely supportive community, and to have a team of people working with me. Some are not so fortunate, but you can be an advocate for someone who is suffering. You can’t force anyone to recover, they have to be ready to do it on their own, or it won’t work, it just won’t. But, you can let them know you’re there for them. Millions of other addicts have gotten better. There is help out there.

Unpredictable

Life can be so weird sometimes. And often, when we get to a place of comfort and normalcy, something drops in our laps. Something we never saw coming. Something we never even imagined might happen.

Thanksgiving week, I found myself fainting while I did yard work. And peeing constantly. And the official nail in the coffin: not getting my period.

I took a home pregnancy test and got a very faint positive. I took another test: another faint positive. I started wondering if any of my medications might cause a false positive, but Dr. Google seriously let me down. As you can imagine, there was very conflicting information, and nothing regarding my specific medications. So anyway, the next day I took 4 more tests (just to be sure) and got 4 positives. Four.

And I commenced to freak the hell out. And then I had the unbridled pleasure of making my husband freak the hell out right along with me.

I was on the birth control pill. No one saw this coming. Not me, not him, not my gynecologist. We had two boys. We were done. This was it. This was our family, this was our future.

I mean, we had certainly discussed the possibility of adding one more little one to the mix. But, with all the struggles I had been through, and then with the move to a new city and purchase of a new home, we just decided that it wasn’t a good time, and that by the time it was a “good” time, it would probably be on the later side to be contemplating such a thing. So, no more kiddos.

And suddenly: baby.

I’m going to be a mother again. I’m going to go through 9 months of pregnancy. Again. I’m going to have to go through labor and delivery. Again. I’m going to be changing diapers. Again. And when I’m 40! Unless this is a super genius baby who will by potty trained by then. Finger crossed.

I wasn’t thrilled when I found out, but I also wasn’t disappointed in any way. It was a shock, and shock takes some time to wear off. I went through all the stages of grief (grief for my no-diaper, big-kid mom life) and ended up here, at 15 weeks, feeling…ok. Just ok. Which in turn makes me feel guilty. Shouldn’t I be over the moon about this? Babies are a blessing, and all of that? What’s wrong with me?

And the fretting, oh my word the fretting. I was a basket case when I was pregnant with Ferris, because he was my post-miscarriage baby. My rainbow baby. I was a nervous wreck with him. But this time, it’s so much worse. I am going to be 38 in a few weeks. That’s oooollllldddd according to the OBGYN. And everything that can normally go wrong, can really go wrong. There’s Down’s syndrome and zika and heart defects and my lord, a million other things I can’t even think of. We didn’t plan for this baby, and the prospect of something being wrong is too much to bear. I’ve been plenty reassured that the odds are in our favor. And our chromosomal testing came back totally and completely normal. But, that still doesn’t calm an anxious mind.

Oh, and then there’s the fact that we don’t have any stuff. We have NO. STUFF. No crib, no changing table, no carseat, no stroller, no high chair, no swings, no carriers, no bibs, no blankets, no clothes, nada. We were done. We gave it all away. Which I had heard is a surefire way to get yourself a surprise baby, but I just chuckled at it. Let me be a PSA for you here, don’t get rid of the baby stuff until you go through menopause. Just to be sure. Thankfully, what we do have are plenty of friends and family with small children who have lots of goodies to pass along to us. I’m so grateful for the kindness of our “village” right now.

And the real kicker: it’s a girl. A GIRL. No more Boy Mom Dot Com here. I mean, a girl is wonderful. So exciting. I’m happy about it. But, with boys, I knew what I was doing. I have no idea how to raise a girl. Especially in these crazy times we live in. Thank goodness for the big, wide Internet parenting community.

But anyway, it’s happening. I have definitely felt pregnant. Mega morning sickness, the worst of all my pregnancies. I was showing by 8 weeks, so fun when you’re not ready to tell people yet. You just look like you’ve been hitting the chocolate Hostess Donettes too hard. Which I had. So, fair enough. I have also been so tired, I nearly nod off at red lights. And gassy. GOOD. LORD. I have made a lifestyle out of crop dusting entire aisles at Target.

Cravings have been coming and going. Previously when I’ve been pregnant, I’ve avoided lunchmeats and fish totally grossed me out. This time? Give me all the sliced turkey and fish you’ve got. I know, I know. But I’ve been craving protein like mad. And turkey sandwiches were all I could stomach for several weeks. Cravings for sweets come and go. With Bowie and Ferris, I couldn’t stop with the sweets. It was all I wanted. This time, meh. Food turn offs include anything lemon flavored (but oddly not lemons themselves) and French fries (I KNOW!).

So, I’m 15 weeks and doing fine. Except for the occasional freak out about doing this all over again. And having more kids than parents in our house. Stick around, because it’s about to get very exciting over here!

 

 

 

Us vs. Them

When I was a teenager, one of my favorite sayings was, “Stand for something, or step aside.” It gave me a powerful image of what it meant to be alive on this earth right now. The problem was, most of the time, the ideas and opinions I had, the things I wanted to stand for, were in direct opposition to most of the people around me, and so I kept them hidden. I was not standing for anything at all, I was stepping aside. No, even worse, I was standing there while they walked right over me.

I’ve always known I was different from my family, and from a lot of the people I grew up with. From a very young age. Before I knew why, before I could articulate any of it, before I knew it was ok to forge my own road. I just knew, on some level, that I didn’t quite fit in.

It started becoming more apparent sometime in my teens. When things that people said in church didn’t make sense. When the things we did in church didn’t make sense. And no one had a real answer for me. I started to feel I didn’t fit in the way that they expected me to.

And around this time, I started to have close friends come out to me. And I had a group of people over there telling me I needed to turn my back on those friends. And me not understanding, and not wanting to. And I wasn’t sure I wanted to fit in the way they expected me to.

When I started to mature and move into adulthood, and I found myself wondering why expectations were so much lower for women. Why women seemed to get the raw deal on a lot of things. And the people I knew and trusted told me that was just the way the world worked. Men were stronger, smarter, more trustworthy. They belonged in the positions of power. This was a message that was actually conveyed to me as a young woman. And it was not the 1950s. I knew on a gut level that it wasn’t right.

And after I moved out on my own, and started to see the real world with my very own eyes, without this sheltered cover of everyone else’s opinions over everything, I felt like I was finally seeing clearly, and I could finally form my own opinions, and feel and think however I wanted to. I started getting answers to my questions. Answers I hadn’t expected. Answers I knew I couldn’t go and tell those people from my past, it would only make them turn away from me more.

Of course, the Christian guilt lasts for a long time. A very long time. It never goes away, truthfully. So, I still have a pretty difficult time, even now, actually voicing those opinions, making them clear to anyone. I feel that the burden is on me to keep the peace, not hurt anyone’s feelings, not start any trouble. I know I have every right to my opinions, but I’m never made to feel that way, by the people who are supposed to love me. I’m sitting in a mini panic attack right this very minute at the thought of publishing this piece. The backlash that will follow.

And while this election is not the first time I’m feeling completely shunned from just about everyone I knew and loved growing up, it is certainly becoming the worst example and the most hurtful situation.

Everyone has taken to social media in the new year like a dog foaming at the mouth, and posting all kinds of hateful, divisive (and often inaccurate and false) statements, messages and pictures. I have purposely avoided posting this sort of thing myself because a) there’s no actual point to it, and b) it only serves to hurt, divide, enflame, incite. I don’t believe in doing any of those things. Ever. It makes me realize I’m not getting the same respect and dignity I so often give to everyone else. I don’t treat your political opinions like a pile of poo left by a puppy, and rub your nose in it until you feel awful for just…being. But, I do feel like that’s what keeps happening to me.

I was browsing Facebook the other day, and unfollowing people who posted these sorts of things. And I found myself unfollowing people I didn’t want to. And lots of people. And I didn’t want to unfollow family, or have my feed turn into one big echo chamber of all the people saying only the things I wanted to hear. I want diversity of opinion in my feed. I want good, healthy discussion. But…where has it gone? Where has civil discourse run off to? Are the days gone where we could just state an opinion and it wouldn’t get much more attention and response than a couple of thumbs up?

I urge you to stop and think before you say something or repost something. Who is on the other end of this? Who will see this? Do I have friends or family members that might be hurt by this? I’m not talking about “offended” here. Being offended is typical of most of the people who will disagree with you. Being offended is a fleeting feeling, and can be solved by answering back with your own opinions. Being offended is fixable, and often it passes on its own.

No, I’m talking about real, actual emotional hurt. Knowing that a member of your own family, who knows you and knows what you’re about, would go ahead and post something anyway, something that insults you personally. It’s about people like you, and whether they intended to or not, it was aimed at you.

I urge you to watch yourself more carefully. Watch what you say, watch what you post, think about what you are saying actually means, in a big picture sense. I don’t just mean people who think differently than I do, I’m talking about everyone, even those who agree with me. This goes both ways. There are ways to have opinions, express those opinions, and still be tactful, civil, and kind.

It’s easy to have an opinion. It’s even easier to state it in a way that’s completely insensitive and insulting. And it’s even easier still to shut down someone who might try to discuss it with you. We have to try harder. This is how we’ve gotten where we are today as a country: completely divided, almost exactly in half. No one can side with anyone else on any issue, no real problems will actually get solved, if we can’t learn how to discuss things, and find a middle ground.

I have felt the hurt a little more each day since inauguration. I have had to go entire days without using Facebook at all (which isn’t a difficult sacrifice, but I did used to enjoy keeping in touch with family and friends) because my anxiety was spiking, I literally couldn’t take it.

I hope it gets better soon, and social media can be fun again. But, the way things have progressed, I don’t see it happening. Unless we consider our actions before acting out, ponder our words before saying them. Unless we choose to do something, it will only get worse.

Happy New Year

So. 2016. What can I say? It was long, it was complicated, and it more or less sucked.

“But you bought a house!”

Yes, we did. Which is pretty cool. But I’m full of all kinds of feelings about that one. We have a mortgage now, which is indeed better than paying rent, and our monthly payment is far less than our rent was. But having a mortgage feels heavy. Important. So adult.

And in order to buy this house, we had to leave my beloved San Francisco. Tucson is perfectly lovely, but it’s very different. I’m still getting used to it. And I don’t think I’ll ever feel so fulfilled in any other city ever. San Francisco was just so me, so wonderful. I fit in, and it was home.

Alas.

Like I said, Tucson is perfectly lovely. We have met some great people. And the cost of living just can’t be beat. There’s so much to do and see in the desert. And coyotes! In our front yard! The wildlife here is amazing, and it’s at your front door, sometimes literally. It’s good here. And someday, when I see a nice sunset or look down on a lovely cactus-dotted valley and smile, maybe my brain will stop saying, “But it’s not San Francisco.”

And you know what else? This house started falling apart on us almost immediately after we moved in. The plumbing needed a complete redo. There are leaks in the roof, there’s tons of water damage in the walls of the master bathroom. The fridge is probably 20 years old and it leaks. The weeds in the yard are out of control in the summer. Some itty bitty piece on the heating system broke on the coldest weekend of the whole year. Home ownership has its pluses, but damn it’s hard too.

“You celebrated a full year sober in 2016!”

Yes, yes I did. In April I celebrated one year sober. But again, mixed feelings. Sobriety is hard. Not super hard, and not hard all the time. There are peaks and valleys. But after going through all the difficult stuff I did this year, it has become painfully obvious to me that it’s a wet piece of paper towel between sobriety and falling off the wagon. It’s so tough. In a way that I won’t ever expect a non-addict to understand. I’m confident in my sobriety, and so happy to be sober, but, as a woman once said at an AA meeting, “Some days I feel 51% like not drinking and 49% like drinking.” And I think that sums it up perfectly. It’s a tightrope we walk as sober addicts. It’s a difficult existence. I’m not still riding on that one-year glee train, because I’m too focused on making it to two years and beyond. And “living life on life’s terms,” a common AA phrase. It just means confronting all of your problems, coupled with anxiety and depression and any other baggage you may carry, and just facing it head on. Taking a big bite out of it. Kicking its ass. It’s difficult all of the time, damn near impossible most of the time, and painful. So painful.

Ok. I’m bumming you out. I don’t mean to do that, ugh, sorry. So, 2016 wasn’t all bad, right?

Good stuff that happened in 2016:

  1. We got a kitten. And he’s adorable. He’s a handful, but he’s adorable.
  2. I grew stuff in my garden. I’m still figuring out the climate here, but I had some peppers, tomatoes, herbs, a cantaloupe and an acorn squash.
  3. The Cubs won the World Series! THE CUBS WON THE WORLD SERIES!!!
  4. My brother-in-law got married. And it was a wonderful celebration. And his new wife is just the best.
  5. We have made some new friends in Tucson, friends I think we will have for a long time.
  6. We participated in some fun neighborhood events. The 4th of July parade and picnic was really fun. Halloween is a very big deal in our neighborhood. And I made about $100 at the craft fair!
  7. Both boys love their schools and are doing very well. I was very worried about how they would transition, what the schools here would be like, and how Ferris would feel about mom and dad not working at school. But, things have been even better than my most optimistic thoughts.
  8. I’ve had a bunch of nothing-to-report dermatologist appointments. In March, I will be 4 years post-op, making it just one more year until the magical 5 year mark, when you can finally declare yourself “cancer-free.”
  9. No one in my family died this year. I know there are a whole bunch of folks out there, some I know personally, who can’t say the same thing. I need to remind myself more often that this is an amazing gift to be given: more days with people I love, more time to make sure they know I care about them. This cannot be taken for granted. The older I get, the more I’m realizing this.
  10. We had a great Thanksgiving and Christmas. We had family visiting for both, and celebrated with friends too. We hosted a big meal for both holidays, and it helped make this house feel just a smidge more like a home for me. As one of those weirdos who generally doesn’t enjoy that time of the year, I enjoyed this year’s festivities more than usual. Quite a bit.

Let’s make 2017 the best year yet. Hug your loved ones. Spend more time doing what you love. We’ll go through it together. Come what may, we have each other.

Writer’s Block. Or Maybe Not.

I’ve been sitting here for weeks trying to suss out a full post on something, anything. There’s a suggestion for bloggers to just write what’s on their mind. But I don’t want to write about Donald Trump, or how much I miss San Francisco, or how much 2016 has sucked and I can’t wait for it to be over. I don’t want to write about how my sobriety has been on my mind more in the past month than in my first 17 months. And it actually gives me anxiety when I go to play a word like “gin” or “wine” or “beer” in Words With Friends. Like, what does it mean? What does it all mean?!

And I already wrote about the Cubs. (Woot.)

So, what else can I talk about?

The boys are doing great in school. Ferris can write his name! We thought we totally dropped a parenting ball with that one. By the time Bowie was his age, he knew his alphabet and was curious about words and loved to read. (I have Super Why to credit with that mostly. But still.) Ferris didn’t know any letters and wasn’t curious and liked listening to books, but wasn’t overall interested. But now he writes his name! And he’s curious! And he has some favorite books! Big relief.

The holidays are coming. It’s not a time of year that an alcoholic necessarily looks forward to all that much, it’s actually the most common time of year for relapses and is just really difficult for a lot of us. Many an AA birthday happen in January, a time of rebirth and resolution. And I’ve never had that soft spot for Christmas that most people have. Last year we never even bothered to put up a tree. Our neighborhood go-to tree lot wasn’t open last year, and we just shrugged and gave up. And you know what? It was fine. Plus we’re not “Christian”, so it’s not like my boys are missing out on something “normal” or whatever. But, I digress. What I was going to say at the beginning of this paragraph is that I’m staying positive about the holidays. It’s our first holiday season in this house. When we looked at the house it was only March, but we could practically see the Christmas lights dangling from the cactus in the front. It’s going to be fun.

My mom is coming for Thanksgiving, and I also invited some friends, and if we want a traditional feast, I’m going to have to figure out how to throw one. My first turkey. I’m anxious about it already. Just thinking about all the details makes me wonder how in God’s name my mother-in-law always pulls it off without a hitch. But we’ll figure it out.

There’s a big neighborhood craft fair in a month. When I first heard about it, I panicked, and decided I wouldn’t join, I haven’t done a craft fair in such a long time, and I didn’t need that kind of stress. But a few days ago, I got a bee in my bonnet and ordered a bunch of candle making stuff online. And in a daze, I emailed the organizer and said that yes, I’d love to join. I have fun doing the fairs (even though the prep stresses me out) and I can get to know some of the neighbors while making a little money. Win-win.

I got a part time job. I went back to Old Navy. I worked there for a few years in college, and I liked it. So, when I saw that they needed seasonal help, I applied figuring I’d be a shoe-in. I’m working mostly early mornings, so I’m done by 9 a.m. and can still take care of the boys and the house and volunteer at the cat shelter and go to AA meetings. It sounds like I’ve taken on a lot when I write it down, but really it’s not that much. No one thing takes up a whole lot of my time, so I have space for it all. It keeps me busy and keeps my mind from going to mush.

Bowie has started piano lessons. It’s been a long time coming. He’s had a few lessons here and there from me, and from his old school, but nothing serious. He was so excited about his first lesson, he told all kinds of people at school about it. And kid loves music, I think he will just bloom. I started when I was about his age and it was always such a wonderful part of my life. I hope he gets that same fulfillment.

I binge watched Friends on Netflix, start to finish. And now I’m alternating between Gilmore Girls and Mysteries of Laura. I keep finding Netflix originals that I adore, but there’s only one season, and grrrl, I can get through that in a couple of days. What old shows to you re-watch? I’m thinking of throwing some 30 Rock in there.

I’m not the world’s biggest Leonard Cohen fangirl, but I certainly did like his music and poetry. Hallelujah is on my list of top 10 favorite songs of all time. Even though it always makes me cry. I’ve been listening to it several times a day since I heard that he had passed. And that SNL cold open where Kate McKinnon sang it…goosebumps.

Peace and love and happy Thanksgiving, friends!

xoxo

Some Tidbits

I couldn’t come up with a whole post, so here’s some Cliff’s Notes on things right now.

1.Ferris is having trouble adjusting to his new school. Every morning at drop off it’s like I’m leaving him forever and moving to Venus. He cries and carries on, and I have to slither out of the gate while a teacher holds him back. It sucks. It has been better lately, but it still sucks. He is used to the co-op where I worked there at least one day a week, usually more, and I’m not there at all now, plus he’s there for twice the amount of time each day than he used to be. I could get him at noon if I wanted to, but I’m trying to be tough, it’s better for both of us. It’s a good school, I know he’s in good hands, and he’s always in a good mood when I pick him up. If we could just get the drop off to go a little more smoothly. Open to suggestions.

2. Bowie was made to leave school early on Thursday because he was gesturing at other kids with scissors and then with a sharpened pencil. So many things about the situation bother me. But mainly 1. While there is no excuse for behavior that puts other kids in danger, I know that often he does it because he is being provoked in some way. And because he is so sensitive, sometimes the provoking is probably pretty subtle, and a teacher doesn’t notice it. But rather than investigate the situation, they just punish him. 2. Sometimes he does this kind of stuff and thinks he’s being funny, and just needs it explained to him that it’s not funny and he needs to be more respectful. And because he was given a warning after the scissors, and then the pencil thing happened, I have a feeling no one sat him down to have a conversation with him. It’s a small school with a bunch of teachers, it can’t be that hard to have someone sit with him for a minute and hash it out. 3. I understand that a school has rules and we all have to follow them, but it is their responsibility to watch after him while he’s there, and I feel like they dumped the discipline on me, and didn’t do a thing about it. As I said earlier, I doubt anyone had an actual conversation with him, it was more of a robotic response. And sending him home in the middle of the day? That benefits no one. Ugh, in the end I know what he did was wrong and rules are rules. But just, ugh.

3. We got a new kitty! As if life around here weren’t hectic enough, we added to our happy family. His name is Wrigley, and he’s 5 months old, and he loves to play, and he follows Coco around like a big sister. He fits in perfectly with our crazy family, and it makes me feel happy to have adopted an animal. My kitty Nashua who passed away in 2013 was a farm cat, a gift from my Great Aunt. And Coco was found in a tree. So I’ve never done the dirty deed of buying a cat, but I had also never adopted before. And he had just recently been surrendered by someone, and I just felt so bad for him, probably wondering why the heck he ended up there. It’s nice to know we’ve given a deserving animal a good home.

wrigley

4. I am getting more and more used to life here. But the weather still eludes me. When it’s hot, it’s so very hot. And when it rains, it pours and floods the city. And now we’re supposed to pay attention to the dew point to figure out when we need AC. The dew point! I don’t even know what that is, but now for some reason I care about it now. And even when it’s not that hot out, the sun still blazes like nowhere I have ever lived before. So, it’s stay inside, or slather myself in sunscreen like I’m going to the beach. Because, well, melanoma.

5. Go Cubs.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

 

 

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.

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!