Hey, Girl

hey girl

I ran across this picture when I was going through some old things the other day. It’s a picture of Bowie, but I caught a glimpse of myself in the background, and just stared in awe. And got a little weepy.

I know that we are at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in this picture, held each October in San Francisco. And judging by Bowie’s age, I’d say it was 2009. I want to jump into that picture, and pull younger me aside and tell her so many things.

I want to tell her to cherish each day. Things are good for her now, and that could change at the drop of a hat. And it will. I will tell her to be patient with Bowie. He’s going through something they haven’t figured out quite yet. School will be difficult for him. But lay the foundation for a good relationship with him, and it will soften the blow.

I want to tell her to get help for her anxiety. It is not all in her head. It is not “normal.” It is something that can be overcome. And it would be best to get in tip top mental shape before things changed. Because they do.

And I will tell her to go easy on the wine. Just a few glasses a week. And don’t dive in head first after a hard day. That’s what the emotional help is for. Things can spiral out of control before you even realize it. And they will.

I want to tell her she will soon be hit with more sorrow than she’s ever known. Her second baby will die after just two months inside her, and her life will be flipped completely upside down. She will not know who to turn to. What to say. How she is “supposed” to feel. It’s ok to want to scream when someone tells her it was “meant to be.” It’s ok to feel like nothing is right anymore. It’s ok to not be ok. She will go on to have two more happy, healthy babies. And no, she won’t ever forget the one she lost.

And I will hand her a bottle of sunscreen. Like that old Baz Luhrmann song from the 90s. (Which I just listened to again and all of that. I’d tell her all of that.) “Wear sunscreen.” Most of the damage that would cause the melanoma will likely have occurred by then, but it can’t hurt to put on some extra protection. And I’ll give her the number of a great dermatologist in San Francisco.

I will also tell her to snuggle her cat Nashua very close. He’s senile and loud and losing teeth and is overall kind of annoying, now that she’s a mother. But her time with him is limited. (She knows this, it’s often on her mind. But she doesn’t know just how soon he will pass.) She will regret those nights she let him howl instead of picking him up and holding him close. Don’t let that happen.

And I will tell her to hold on to San Francisco very tightly. The city is in the early stages of an economic upheaval that will force even her, relatively well-off at that time, to leave. Go to the beach every single day. Do not complain about the fog. Do not complain about the “heat.” Catch a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge every day. And just know that what you have there is special. You will leave, and it will be sad, but if you squeeze what you can from the city, you will be ok. Take pictures of your houses, because the boys will ask what they looked like. And though the pictures are vivid in your mind, the kids will forget.

And I will tell her how freaking beautiful she is. Yes, she is overweight and yes, it bothers her very much. But look at that genuine smile. It will be one of the last full smiles she will be able to muster ever again. And that lovely hair. No wiry black and white hair peeking through. Look at that plump face. No crows feet yet. No sun spots. You don’t feel beautiful, I will tell her, but you are. And in 9 years, you will look back and wish you still looked like that. That your son was still so small. Your life still so very happy and simple.

I will tell her to brace for the change. Because I wish I had been ready.

Life just keeps marching forward and you’re just along for the ride, kind of like tubing down a river. And by the time you stand up and look behind you, you’ve passed so many things. Hit your ass on so many rocks. Missed so many sights along the way. But all you can do is sit back down and keep riding along.

I will tell her that she will survive. Because she did.

This is Thirty Nine

Sunday was my birthday. And it was a good one. A quiet and seemingly boring, but good one, as most birthdays after age 25 are. Especially if you have children.

Thirty-nine is kind of a big one for me. I know it’s a totally random number, but I have my reasons. Not the least of which is the fact that my grandfather died of melanoma at the age of 39. And he was probably diagnosed (or should have been diagnosed) around the same age that I was, at 34 years old.

The past five years of my life have been…something. REALLY something. And one of the reasons was I was waiting out the five-year post-diagnosis period that the medical community waits before your cancer can be determined to be fully gone. Not that you won’t get it again, or some other kind won’t pop up, but the first cancer they found, if it’s not back within five years, then congratulations, you’re cured. I just hit that 5-year milestone at the beginning of this month. So, yeah, it felt pretty good to turn 39 and feel like I was (more or less) healthy. Alive.

The day started off with the dog somehow managing to escape to the driveway, get in a dog fight, possibly get kicked by a neighbor, (this is all hearsay from our kids who witnessed the whole thing but didn’t say anything) and then came inside to recover from the fight/kick and we all thought he was dying. Until we offered him treats. Then he was miraculously recovered.

I had brunch at a diner with Brien and Finley. And we then went on a hot date to Target to pick out the toaster oven we had wanted to buy for a while now. And I was going to get some goldfish for the aquarium that’s been sitting empty since our beloved George the beta died. But my husband was wondering if I wanted to upgrade to a bigger aquarium and get fancy tropical fish and after a mild panic attack and existential crisis, we left the store with nothing. Hashtag this. is. anxiety.

Then it was off to the mall for Dairy Queen, but it turns out at some point they ripped the whole Dairy Queen kiosk out. It’s as if it was never there. We got nachos instead, from one of my favorite restaurants in Tucson, that happens to now have a location in the mall food court. I bought a great little travel bag for camping essentials (we just got back from a four-day haul and I learned A LOT about my camping needs) and scored some deals at Gap. And I am officially more excited about the unicorn socks I bought Finley and the adventuring shirts I got the boys than I am about anything I got for myself. Mom life.

I went home to discover that while we were out, the boys had picked out an ice cream cake for me with the help of Gramps and Gram. Brien ordered pizza. We dined and discussed Bowie’s science fair project. I got a stomach ache (so classically me) and turned in early.

A few days later, a surprise gift from Brien showed up. He got me a metal detector! I have wanted one since I was a tween. This guy in the tiny northern Illinois town I am from had found my aunt’s class ring with his metal detector. I was enchanted with the idea that there were treasures like that just out there waiting to be found. My interest was sparked again when we lived in San Francisco. I combed the beaches for sea glass, but I always wondered what might be under all that sand. And now, we are out in remote parts of the desert in our Jeep. All the history of Spanish explorers and Native American battles and the mining industry–the excitement is too much! Great gift.

And today, I went back to the pet store and had Ferris help me pick out two small goldfish. They have yet to be named. I shall keep you updated.

fishies

I am telling you about my birthday in such detail so I can document it. Every year I fill out my year end review, and the question about how you spent your birthday trips me up every damn time. What did you do for your birthday? Um, gee, well, uh, that was 9 months ago so I HAVE NO IDEA. Anyway, now I have something official to reference.

And also to let you know what a big deal it is for me to be this age, and to my knowledge, be perfectly healthy. It feels good. The amount of anxiety I had thinking about this birthday way back when I was 34 and newly diagnosed was all-consuming. And now the day is here and I feel great, positive, capable. I got this.

Big thanks to every single person, near and far, who wished me a happy birthday. It was a happy one. Here’s to many more.

What #100happydays Taught Me About Self-Care

I started a little bit late (it was supposed to be the last 100 days of the year) and I missed a day here and there, but I stuck with the #100happydays photo challenge on Instagram. Which is a pretty big feat for me, and believe it or not, my mood did convince me a few times to just scrap the whole thing. All that is involved is taking one picture every day of some small moment of joy, but on some days even that was too much pressure for me.

I have about two weeks left and then I’ve reached 100, but I will probably just keep going. With or without the hashtag. It has taught me a lot of things, and helped me with my mental illnesses.

It has helped me reach full gratitude. And to understand that gratitude can come from a variety of small nooks and crannies in our lives. It is heavily suggested in therapy for depression to keep a gratitude journal, in which you list a handful of things you’re grateful for. Which always made me feel so pressured in that moment to come up with 5 really amazing, huge, fantastic things I was grateful for. And then when I couldn’t come up with 5, I felt like a failure. Which is not exactly the result you’re going for with this exercise.

I learned that gratitude can be a cloud shaped like a bunny. Catching a glimpse of the jaguar at the zoo. Seeing your infant enjoying a toy from a dear friend. Appreciating a rain shower. Literally stopping and smelling the flowers. It’s all these things combined that make for a happy and joyful life. It can’t be all new house, birth of my baby, huge bonus all the time, and that’s ok.

I also learned a very big lesson in mindfulness. I was always trying so hard to force mindfulness on myself, when my inclination is to ruminate on the past or panic about the future. So, when I’d catch myself in those moments, I’d feel shame. Again, not what you’re going for here.

I learned how to take a moment and focus on what’s right there in front of me, even if only for the moment that I snap the picture. And, more importantly, I learned that that counts. Mindfulness is a practice, and there’s no minimum for daily mindfulness. You can get it in there in bits and bops and that’s totally fine. As long as you’re noticing it and realizing it, and focusing on how happy it has made you, you’re doing it right.

And I have learned the power that lies within accomplishing something, finishing a task. It’s not as if I have never finished anything, I’ve seen quite a number of things through to the end, and kept up good habits. But, it can be difficult to remember in a low moment how good it feels to finish something, even if it felt difficult and overwhelming in the process. This is an important thing for anyone with depression to remember. That there is a great benefit to doing things just for the sake of doing them. Things you once enjoyed, but your depression has robbed you of. And also important for anyone with anxiety. It might not happen perfectly, or even be a success at the end, but you must let go of that anxiety and take the outcome for what it is.

It seemed like a simple social media game when I first hopped on board, but I have been amazed at the transformation on my mental health from this simple task of finding and documenting happy moments in my days. It holds me accountable to my social media followers, which is key for me in helping me do things, and do them well. If I am doing something only for myself, that is where I fall short and give up (self-worth not being my strong suit).

Reconsider what a small thing like this could do for your happiness. I took it on because of the advice for anxious introverts to “always say yes.” That is, say yes to invitations, new experiences, simple challenges like #100happydays. Giving up is always an option, so you have an out. But you more than likely will find most experiences to be enriching and enjoyable.

Enjoy below some of my more random moments in this photo challenge. And begin one of your own. Who cares if it’s the middle of January?

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Year in Review 2017

My yearly wrap-up post.

And what a year it was. I spent the first half pregnant with a baby I had no idea what I was going to do with. And the second half parenting a newborn, and dealing with drama in both boys’ schools. And then there’s all these THINGS that are HAPPENING around us, and it’s enough to make you want to hole up in a panic room for the rest of your life. But, we’ve made it. And a new year awaits.

1. What did you this year that you’d never done before?

Had a third baby. Had a daughter! Had a pet run away. Homeschooled. Was pregnant in 100+ degree heat. Bought my own washer and dryer. Ran an Airbnb. Went to the gem show. Saw the Grand Canyon. Camped with a newborn.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I never remember my resolutions at the end of the year. I suppose I resolved to save money, get rid of junk, the usual.

This year my resolutions read like a to do list:

Get my wedding ring fixed. I noticed one of the prongs was broken. This happened to me about 5 or 6 years ago, and the diamond fell out in the bathroom at a museum, and thankfully I retrieved it. Anyway, I took the ring off so that wouldn’t happen again, put it in a drawer and promptly forgot about it.

Get my recalled airbag fixed. They send a card in the mail every so often. They harass my husband over the phone about it. I called once and a guy was supposed to call me back and never did. I made the call, checked it off my to do list, and moved on with my life. I hate when you can’t rely on people. Anyway, I need to call back.

Get to the dentist. It’s been…a while.

Lose weight. Last January I was pregnant, and the January before that I’m sure I needed to gain weight. But this year I’m quite a bit heavier than I’m used to being. Lots of leftover pregnancy weight and combining my breastfeeding appetite with the unhealthy treats that seem to multiply in my house at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I could stand to eat a smoothie once in a while, instead of peanut butter M&Ms.

I need to get my Etsy shop up and running again. I’ve got oodles of candles just sitting around, and they sell at shows, so I’m hoping they’ll sell online too.

I should blog more often.

3. Did anyone close to you die?

A good family friend passed away suddenly.

4. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?

More life balance. Less anxiety. Patience. Confidence. Free time.

5. What dates from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory?

Finley’s birthday. Inauguration day. Labor Day weekend (I got to see the Grand Canyon!)

6. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Having another baby. The whole thing was wrought with stress and uncertainty. And the delivery was stressful. In the end she came and everything was fine, and it can thankfully all be a distant memory. It was hard work, and I made it. I did it. We did it.

7. What was your biggest failure?

Letting my anxiety get the best of me. When I don’t actively work on it, life lags. Feelings slump. I fall back into old patterns. It’s not hard to manage, but sometimes I let less important things take center stage. After a few years of doing really well, even through the big move, and an unplanned pregnancy, I sailed. Then, I crumbled. Sometimes I don’t even know why I do that, and I’m learning that it’s ok not to know, but you still need to fix yourself.

8. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Having the baby, and having my tubes tied after. And several mole biopsies, as per the usual.

9. What was the best thing you bought?

The baby. Haha! Just kidding. I mean yes, she was the best thing. But as for material goods: my new freezer. We JUST got it, so I don’t know if I can say it’s the best, but it’s a game changer. I can’t jam enough stuff into this freezer. Crock pot meals, ready-to-eat meals, treats for the boys. Baby food at some point. And I save a lot of stuff in the freezer, basically anything you can freeze. It’s going to work out VERY well.

10. Where did most of your money go?

The baby. More plumbing woes. The husband’s Jeep.

11. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Not being pregnant anymore! (Ever!)

12. What song will always remind you of 2017?

Halleluja by Leonard Cohen. Not because of its recent rise in popularity because of his death in 2016. Though that rise in popularity brought the song back to the forefront of my mind, and I remembered how much I always loved it. It’s hauntingly sweet and heartbreaking and fits perfectly with my mood sometimes.

Wild World by Cat Stevens. As I mentioned before, it makes me think of my cat Coco and how she ran away, unexpectedly. Understandably, but still unexpectedly. I had hopes she would return when the temperature dropped, but we have had temps as low as 29 degrees and she has not shown her face. I can only hope she has found a new, warm home and is being loved and cared for in her senior years.

I am Woman by Helen Reddy. It has been empowering watching women around the world take of the gloves and fight bare-fisted for things to change. Women coming forward against powerful men, and the #metoo movement. For my daughter’s sake, I hope I am witnessing the downfall of the patriarchy. Or I hope at least we’ve knocked it down a few notches.

We Will Rock You by Queen. It is Ferris’ absolute favorite jam, and he is constantly asking me to play it in my car. He has also learned how to ask our Amazon Echo to play it. I hear it a lot. But hey, things could be worse. I will always think of him at age 5 when I hear that song.

13. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder?

b) thinner or fatter?

c) richer or poorer?

a) Sadder, I think. Maybe roughly the same. This time of year is always hard for me, so maybe that’s contributing. I have not been happy with the way things are going for our nation, that is definitely not as good as last year. It’s a strange thing, depression. I feel loved, and blessed, and lucky, and comfortable. Just not happy.

b) Oh man, so much fatter. I was a pant size bigger after I had the baby, and that weight has gone NOWHERE. I’m not eating well, that’s the number one contributing factor. And who has time for real exercise anymore?

c) Richer. In that we are paying much less toward our mortgage than we paid for rent in San Francisco. And the Airbnb rental brings in a substantial amount of money. Not a lot richer, but richer.

14. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Enjoying pregnancy. It was my last, after all. I let the stress cloud all the enjoyment. I am enjoying her as a tiny baby though. I know all too well how fast that goes. As I write this, she is just over the 5 month mark, and she is eating solids and starting to sit up on her own. She’s in size 2 diapers already, and already outgrown some clothes. Just, like, slow down, time!

15. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Stressing. Eating. Stress eating.

16. How did you spend Christmas?

My in-laws were in town (house shopping!). They came over early and we opened gifts and watched the boys play with all their new stuff. It was 75 degrees out, so Brien and Grandpa took the boys to the park to shoot their new cap guns. (Yes they still make cap guns, and yes my husband bought some.) My mother-in-law gave me the inside scoop on these turkeys you cook from frozen in the oven, and they’re all seasoned and ready to go and everything. So we stuck one of those in the oven. And then I was supposed to make mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts, but I went to lay down with the baby so she would nap, and ended up falling asleep myself. Y’all, I got a NAP for Christmas. And my wonderful mother-in-law had made the rest of the food and set the table, and I will forever be grateful. It was a good day.

17. What was your favorite TV program?

I rewatched Gilmore Girls. And Friends. I’ve also enjoyed The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce (a mid-season cancellation BOO), Flaked. Lots of baseball.

18. What did you do on your birthday, and how old are you?

I turned 38 this year. It came and went quietly, as most 30-something birthdays do. I was pregnant, and I think the boys were on Spring Break. Not notable. I will try to make the answer to this question more interesting next year.

Happy new year! Let’s hope 2018 is an upswing.

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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

World Series 2016

This has been the best, most memorable baseball season of my entire life. I’ve always been a Chicago Cubs fan, and I come from a long line of Cubs fans. This win was HUGE.

And it’s not just about the win. There’s also the love of good baseball, all the memories that come flooding back, and the camaraderie of belonging to a group of fans.

We lived in San Francisco for all three of their World Series wins, and that was magical and wonderful, and I loved seeing the city so upbeat and celebratory. But it was different. The Cubs were still my team.

Year after year, we told ourselves, “There’s always next year.” I usually got bored with them by July, knowing the season was not going anywhere. This season, they had more wins than any other MLB team. They were on fire. I knew they’d go far, maybe even make it to the World Series. And when they made it there, that was enough for me.

But the win. YOU GUYS. So huge, so wonderful, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for 2 days. I have so many great memories of watching games with my Dad. I’ve only gotten to be at Wrigley for a game once, and I got to see Sammy Sosa hit a home run.

I had the awkward pleasure of wearing my Cubs gear and going to a game in San Francisco when the Cubs were in town. It was especially awkward, but totally worth it, when the Cubs would win in San Francisco.

I’ve also know some incredibly dedicated and faithful fans who have passed away and did not get to see this win, at least not from our vantage point. I hope that wherever they are, they know that it finally happened, and I hope they’re celebrating accordingly.

I’m super jealous of my relatives who got to attend the parade, I bet that was so fun.

Here’s to my meager 37 years of hoping and wishing, compared to some people who have waited many more years. It was worth the wait, and even more joyous and amazing than I could ever have dreamed it would be.

Go Cubs! Hugs, Chicago! Fly that W!

flythew