Reflections on turning 50 or the 50 things I have learned in my 50 years on earth

  1. It’s not about you.
  2. Sex Is wonderful with someone who loves you and you love. I also think being desired by someone you love is incredibly special. Don’t take it for granted. 
  3. Friendship requires cultivation. If you love someone, you have to be willing to devote energy to them. You have to work at your friendships. Friendship isn’t free. I have lost friendships because I wasn’t careful with them. It’s one of the things I regret most.
  4. Dogs are easier to love than people. It’s a fact. But we can learn from our dogs how to love people better. Pet them, say nice to things to them, feed them, pet them again…humans can learn from how we love our pets if we just pay attention to it. 
  5. I think one of the worst things a leader can do for their team is to allow someone to get away with being a bad employee. I think the fastest way to lose great people is to subject them to a bad employee not being held accountable. Holding people accountable is hard, particularly for conflict avoiders like me, but you have to do it. 
  6. A new couch can change your life. Until this fucking pandemic began I wouldn’t have believed this. Since our new couch arrived, life has improved in so many ways. This is a fact. 
  7. Things hold energy for me. I know. I know they shouldn’t but they do. I can’t stop wanting to hold on to my mother’s things, my brothers’ things. I like taking them out and holding them. I know they don’t exist inside these material symbols but I feel them there and that’s just the way it is. I also connect to pieces of clothing I wore at special moments. It’s hard for me to let them go. And if you hurt me deeply, I will toss everything you gave me without a single thought. 
  8. I am pretty sure there is no heartache that a plate of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans won’t cure. And if that doesn’t work, chocolate cake will. Whatever your food is, treat yourself when you are feeling down.
  9. Evaleen, my dog, is the best sentient being I have ever known. As I write this, she is dying of cancer. For eleven years, she has made it her job to keep an eye on me in a way I have never experienced before. The connection we have is unexplainable and honestly, I am so incredibly grateful for this four-legged creature’s love. It is beautiful. I hope that every person can bond with an animal the way I have bonded with this sweet girl. She has taught me how to love with abandon and that is one of the most important lessons I have learned so far. 
  10. I think humans too often deny their instincts. For example, I am a bit psychic. I have spent the first 50 years denying the evidence of my connection to something we cannot always make sense of. Sometimes I feel the energy of people who are not living around me. I just do.  I also believe I have spirit guides, the hawk and the owl. The proof of the existence of these guides and my connection to something “other” makes complete sense to me if I stop trying to talk myself out of it. Like Dorethea in the Lee Blessing play Eleemosynary, I have decided in the last half of my life to embrace my eccentricity. Soon, I will wear crystals, long flowing linen dresses, braid my long grey hair down my back, and hold sister circles. Meh, just kidding about the sister circles. Ok, maybe I am not. Who wants to have a sister circle with me? 
  11. Insomnia sucks. I have had a lot of insomnia this year. This year has taught me that the worst form of insomnia is insomnia in a room filled with four snoring dogs and one human sleeping soundly. The best cure I have found for insomnia is changing locations. Try it. It works for me!
  12. Donald Trump is a horrible human being. Fact.
  13. Self-awareness is important and really, really hard. But you have to keep working at it. Every single day you have to keep working at understanding how you show up with others in order to connect more authentically. Not because you should CHANGE who you are to please others but so that you can have better relationships.  Also, there is a difference between self awareness and beating yourself up. Self-awareness makes your life better. Beating yourself up is never a good idea. It’s ruminating and unhealthy. Conquer the difference so you can have a more peaceful life.
  14. This year I have been really become aware of the moment when my partner is reaching out to me and I am not there. I have certainly been aware of my own tendency to get lost inside myself for many years. But this year, thanks to 2020 and all the absurdity of this pandemic, I have become aware of the moment when my partner is reaching for me and I am not present. Which brings me to number 15.  
  15. I really am not a good listener. I think recognizing how difficult it is for me to listen deeply has been a hard lesson for me to accept because this truth is in direct opposition to how I see myself. But really, we don’t always see the truth about ourselves because it’s hard. My wife is a talker and I want so badly to be her best friend and really hear her. So I have been working on my listening skills. I have been recognizing the moment when I am not listening and acknowledging it and coming back to listening again. I know why I am not a good listener and it’s important to understand the WHY of things but it’s also important to keep working towards improving on the things about ourselves that are problematic. So that’s the lesson I want to share, figure out what’s problematic about yourself and take steps to improve. That’s the best you can do. Perfection isn’t the goal. Recognition and determination toward change is the goal. 
  16. Therapy works. Everyone should get some.
  17. I don’t think love ever goes away. At least for me it doesn’t. Once I love, it’s forever. I think love is energy created and that energy lives forever. I suspect this is where hate comes from, unresolved love has to go somewhere and that energy becomes hate. I think we have the power to take the energy created by love and use it some other way. Hate is poison and why would we want to walk around with poison in our bodies?
  18. Someone I dated briefly told me that I was closed and that until I opened up I would never find the love I wanted. Well, at the time I told her that she was full of shit because people open as they discover it’s safe to do so. I am happy to report that my three years with Stefanie has proven to me how right I was in my response to her demands that I open up. Trust is essential and then love grows deeper and partners are safe to be vulnerable with each other. I think that’s the right order of things. I am so grateful to my wife for giving us the time we needed to open up and build that trust. Also, I was right, that chick was wrong. I win. So there.
  19. I struggle with anxiety and I have worked hard to control it. I mean, I have made great strides. But there are a few occasions when my anxiety takes over and they include:
    1. Oil changes where you are expected to drive into the bay without allowing your vehicle to fall into the pit. I mean, does anyone else have a panic attack when asked to perform this impossible skill with a room of jiffy lube employees watching you and smirking? I had to have my inspection done and my oil changed the other day. I started getting anxiety when I saw the Valvoline sign in the distance. Once I managed to pull into the bay, I was so relieved I almost cried. And then the words I fear most were uttered, “I am going to need you to pull out and pull in again, your vehicle isn’t lined up properly”. What the actual fuck? But I did it. I worked through that almost panic attack and pulled out and back in, while being watched by a Valvoline employee peering at me and munching a breakfast taco. Then they began firing questions at me, turn on your breaks, your right blinker, then your left. I couldn’t remember where my turn signals were located. I actually COULD NOT REMEMBER. I kept turning my windshield wipers instead of my turn signals. They had to come show me where the turn signals on the car I have been driving for over two years were located. It was a great day.
    2. Anytime I can’t reach one of my children I get so anxious. This is most common with my middle child who often goes off the mommy grid for days at a time. It makes me crazy. Ironically, he is also the child with the worst anxiety. More proof that the universe gives you the children you need, not the ones you want.
    3. I’m not sure this counts as anxiety but when I really do not like being tail gated and it sends me into a complete emotional rage. I am not sure there is anything that can send me into my crazy place quite as quickly as a person riding too close behind me. My 50-year-old self is so much more chill than all my former selves. But seriously, tail gate me and I lose all of the work I have done and turn immediately into a screaming two-year-old who’s favorite toy has been taken away. Don’t tailgate people. It’s not ok.
  20. You can’t know something until you get there. People often try to convince others to “learn from their mistakes”. I do that with my kids. People do it all the time…women do it to other women about raising kids. So much of this happens and it feels like judgement. Sometimes you sound like a know it all when you try to share your wisdom with others. But wisdom comes from experience. It just does. I think we should spend less time telling people how to avoid mistakes and more time supporting others when they make mistakes and are trying to recover. 
  21. I struggle with the statement “everything will be ok in the end, if it’s not ok, it’s not the end” because how do we define “the end”? Is death the end? Not sure I want to wait to find out. The last several years have been filled with change for me. Ending a 20-year relationship, trying to support my children as they navigated the difference in family and childhood in two separate households and a gay parent, building a career from 16 years as an occasional worker/stay at home mom. It’s been a lot and there have certainly been days when I wanted to transport back into some historical day in the journey to avoid the hardships that my choices have forced me to navigate. But if we decide that today is “the end”, it is certainly ok now. The deep friendships I have, the children who are growing into wonderful, strong, capable adults, a job where I feel valued and appreciated in, and this woman, Stefanie, who is my beautiful, supportive, incredible life partner and wife…well if this is the end, It’s a pretty perfect end. In spite of the stress we have been under lately, in spite of the pandemic and all the change and weirdness of 2020, if we define today, my 50thbirthday as “the end”…it really is ok. It’s more than ok. It’s everything I have ever wanted and more. 
  22. It’s not about you. I realize I said this earlier but I think it’s important enough to repeat it. I think we often judge in others what we dislike most about ourselves. SO when you are being judged, it’s important to recognize that the judgement, even if it’s directed at you, isn’t actually about you. It’s about them. Whew, embracing this makes life so much nicer.
  23. Which brings me to another thought I have been having a lot lately, not everyone will like you. You just have to be ok with that and it’s so hard for me because I am a pleaser and I want everyone to like me and that is just not realistic. Some people, they just won’t like you. It’s not your problem…just keep being you and the people who matter will like you and those that don’t, oh well. (It’s not about you. LOL)
  24. There are some fucked up people in the world. I mean, I do not understand it, I have and always will struggle deeply with this truth. But it’s true. There are people who are so broken and damaged that they will intentionally be cruel and manipulate and emotionally abuse others. I am not talking about murderers and raptists here…that’s a different, awful thing. I am talking about people who actually TRY to hurt others as a means to eliminate the emotional pain they are in. People accidentally hurt each all the time. I do and have done that. I did today, as a matter of a fact. That’s not what I struggle with. I struggle with cruel people who do and say cruel things with the intention of hurting others emotionally. I think my people pleasing and my own inability to recognize this truth has drawn me toward these types of people. Man, I don’t get it but I do see it now. It’s important to see it if you want to avoid it. And I do…want to avoid it. 
  25. I think people who struggle with vulnerability tend to get angry when they feel vulnerable. So I have been trying to respond to anger with that lens. It’s very helpful in avoiding getting triggered into a pointless battle. It helps you respond in a less confrontational way. Now, the hard part is recognizing the same in myself when I feel angry. Maybe by my 60thbirthday. 
  26. Life is fragile. By 50 most everyone will have lost someone they love deeply. In the best cases it’s very few losses by 50. But none of us get here without losing someone we love. Sometimes it’s sudden. Sometimes you know it’s coming. Either way, it is final and there is not another chance to make amends, to say the thing you haven’t said, to apologize, or to kiss one more time, hug one more time, to laugh with that person, to look into their eyes again. One minute they are here and the next minute they are not. We almost lost my former spouse Jeff recently in a terrible accident. I am, once again, shattered by the fragile existence we have and the limited nature of our lives. I had the opportunity yesterday to look into his eyes and tell him how much I care for him, how much he matters to our family, and how much we need him to just get better. I am so grateful I got that chance. At 50, I am definitely getting better at cherishing each moment, at connecting in simple ways every chance I can with the people I care for the most. We can’t fuck around with the fragile nature of life. We have to take it seriously. I am not sure anything is more important.
  27. I really like comfy clothes. I like pajamas and soft sweatshirts and t-shirts and slippers. I like coming home and putting on the softest clothes I own. OMG I really like taking my bra off. I just can’t stand to wear high heels all day anymore. I now understand why old people wear baggy, soft clothing. I am 100% sold on this old age reality. I don’t even feel bad about it. Hello 50, welcome to the club, here is your new wardrobe of moat leather clogs and long cotton pants and t-shirts, Welcome to the “lounge wear, all the time” CLUB.
  28. I think Halloween is under rated as a holiday. Granted, I have shared my birthday with Halloween for 50 years now and that may influence my opinion a bit. But seriously, we play dress up, we all get out of our houses and interact with our neighbors and there is candy. I mean, what better holiday is there, I ask you?
  29. There is a lot of sadness in life. There is trauma and unexpected crappiness and failure and job loss and it sometimes sucks. That’s just the way it is. Life is a mixture of hard stuff and boring stuff and amazing stuff too. I think that’s why we just have to stay as present as possible as we navigate it all. We have to realize that every moment of connection, every time we get to laugh with our whole bodies or love with our whole hearts is magical and important. And, we have to be more forgiving of others because we don’t know what’s going on inside other people’s lives, in their heads, in their hearts. We just have to be less judgmental and more kind. That has to be the goal. And we have to remind ourselves over and over and over again.

So that’s it. I know I said it was going to be 50 things I have learned in my 50 years on earth. But here is the most important thing I have learned in this lifetime, I don’t know much. I am not that smart. I am not smarter or wiser than other people. The older I get, the less certain I am about things. I thought I knew everything but the real wisdom of aging, I believe, is the recognition that we actually don’t really know much at all and what we know to be true today, could very well change as we get older. So my biggest reflection on 50 years is the realization of how little I know, how much I have left to learn, and that it really is ok to be imperfect and not know things. I only know 29 things and I suspect by my 55th birthday, that number will be down below 20.

Cheers to 50 years.

vows and nearing 49

I need to write my wedding vows.

It’s 11:01 on Saturday morning, exactly two weeks from my wedding day.

I need to write my wedding vows.

Yet, here I am floating in the pool, watching the reflection of the pool water bounce through the trees. It’s so quiet and with five dogs, that’s a rare occurrence. I know there is a list of things to get done today and only a few hours left to do them. I should probably do some laundry and the dishes from last night’s dinner.


But I am so relaxed.

When did I become so relaxed?

I look down at my body and there are white lines on my stomach and I wonder what they are and realize that the sun doesn’t tan in those lines because the skin rolls together there and the rays can’t reach that area and when I stretch out, the lines appear. I guess I am a little fat. Just a little.

I see the stretch marks on my thighs. They have been there since I was a teenager, growing faster than my skin would allow. They appear more pronounced with the darkness of my summer tan. I see them but I don’t react to them. I rub them lightly with my fingers, following the lines absentmindedly. I am 49 soon. Right around the corner from 50. I’m old. But I don’t really care about it. I notice it but I don’t mind it.

When did I stop hating my body?

I need to write my vows…five more minutes, I tell myself and then notice that twenty minutes has passed and I am still floating along, doing nothing.

When did I start allowing myself to do nothing?

I am thinking about my brother, imagining his skin, imagining the last conversation we could have had if I hadn’t been so stubborn. He would be 52 in a few days. 52 years old. He turned 50 without me. He turned 50 without a call or a text or a card. I wish my brother could come to the wedding. I wish I could talk to him and touch him on the hand and look into his blue eyes and remind him how much he mattered to me, matters to me. I long for some sense of resolution and forgiveness and acceptance. I feel wetness at my eyes because there will never be a chance for that final conversation. I let him down. Yet, I am not angry at myself. I forgive myself because I know I did what I could with what I had at the time and that I do more and better when I can. I know I am someone who strives to improve. I know I am not perfect and I forgive myself for it, generally. I still get annoyed with myself when I am not the perfect person I imagined I would be but I recognize that perfection doesn’t exist and that we learn and grow and change and evolve into something different but still imperfect.

When did I start being so kind and forgiving to myself?

It’s 11:33 now and I am still floating and I need to write my vows but now I find myself thinking about my children. Not in a frantic, anxious way, more like pictures of them are floating along in my mind and I am watching them transform into the people they are becoming and I am scared and excited for them. I am honored to be their mother. I don’t get to see them as much as I wish I could see them. It’s harder and harder to connect with them as they grow older. I know how little impact I can have now on my almost adult children besides being more present with them. Simply being present has been such a struggle for me for so long. It’s not a struggle much anymore. Some days are better than others but overall, I am more present with them than I have ever been before.

When did I start becoming more present?

The sun has shifted and I find myself shivering a bit because the pool water is warmer than it is in shade. It must be noon now and I need to write to vows.

I am struck like a slap in the face as I recognize that these are my vows, these thoughts, these floating along musings, this realization of who I have become because you love me and I love you.

More relaxed, more kind to myself and to others, more present, and more forgiving.

You, my love, have broken down my walls. You’ve shown me what love is and can be and should be.

You’ve taught me to slow down. You’ve taught me to relax and enjoy my life more. You’ve taught me to love my body by watching how much you love my body. I shudder sometimes when I see you, seeing me. I don’t know what to do it with it. I like it even though it’s scary sometimes. You let myself be loved. You have taught me to forgive myself for being imperfect.

I want so much to love you completely and I can’t do that until I start loving myself completely. So I will. I do. You’ve asked me to be present and I want to make you happy so I am fighting harder against my tendency to shut down and tune out. You love me anyway, exactly as I am. But I long to make you completely happy, forever, so I try harder to be present and it’s getting easier.

It impacts every aspect of my life, our love…how I am in friendships, work, with my children and family.

I can’t wait to be your wife. I can’t wait until you are my wife.

Oh, there you are, walking outside in your red stripey bathing suit, looking so cute.

Damn, you are hot, I think.

“How’s it going?” you ask.

“Done”, I respond. “Let’s get in the pool.”





We are cuddling on the couch, I am sitting and my 18-year-old son has his head in my lap. I am massaging his scalp and telling him how much I have missed him since he left for college. His eyes are watery and I know he might cry but he’s safe here, I am his mom.


He has cried a lot this past week. More than he has in years.


It’s been a hard one.


He feels ashamed and humiliated, he fears the failure he has permitted, even invited, at his first year of college means that HE is a failure…that he is somehow innately flawed beyond repair.  He may fail out of college. Not from partying too much. He might fail because it was too much and he gave up. He became depressed and withdrew. He decided to stop trying because it seemed easier that way.


He won’t understand until he is much older that failure is just a part of the journey and that we can learn and grow the most during the times we fall the farthest. But he’s young. He’s got time to figure it out.


18 years old.


I am sitting across the table from my 14-year-old son. He’s talking about his dad, who I divorced six years ago because of irreconcilable differences (AKA: we just couldn’t make it work and both be reasonably happy). He is telling me that his dad is like Superman to him. He is saying that he really does see him as a perfect human being and while I know his dad isn’t perfect, I can’t not be deeply touched by how much he admires him. My son gets really passionate, listing off all of the ways his dad is a great dad and a great person. I don’t disagree although some tiny part of me feels something, maybe jealousy, maybe anger, maybe sadness at the loss of the deep admiration I once had for his father too. And I feel it again but in a new way, through his eyes, his innocence and yet wise perception of his father and the part of me that is still suffering from divorce injury heals a little more. When I drop him off and say hello to his dad and keep my respectful and appropriate distance from my former partner of 20 years, I feel a sense of love (but not longing) that has been gifted to me by my youngest child. He’s the wisest one of all.


14 years old.


I have travelled across the country at the crack of dawn on a Thursday to visit my almost 21-year-old daughter in her junior year of college. I didn’t sleep much the night before and I can never sleep on planes, so I arrive feeling every one of my 48 years, achy and foggy and wiped out. It’s lunchtime in Oregon and she has only been awake for a short time. Her energy and excitement is contagious and I conceal my exhaustion and give her my undivided attention until she leaves for practice when I collapse into her bed and sleep for a little while. When she returns we go to dinner and I watch her drink a margarita with her roommate and giggle and seem so grown up. The days pass in a blur of activity that involves hiking, shopping, shopping, shopping, and more shopping. I cook for a big group of her friends and I share the touching music video of a song I want sung at my upcoming gay wedding in Texas and she and her friends cry watching it. I remember that this is the same daughter who had a violent reaction to the news of my gayness and I cannot believe how much change has occurred and how far she’s come and how much she sees me and loves me anyway. It’s not easy to get to that place of accepting your parents for who they are…which is never quite who you wish they were.


She accepts me now. She loves me. She doesn’t care if I am gay.


She is glad I am her mom.


At the airport today as she let me hold on too tightly at our goodbye and I sobbed and told her how much I adore her and how proud I am of her and how fun is it to watch her become an adult. I am always reminded in these moments of goodbye with her of all of my own goodbyes with my mom and all of her tears which I always felt were a bit melodramatic because “my god I would see her again in a few months”.


21 Years Old


My mom has been dead 12 years on March 28th. Here I am again at this anniversary, this day that marks the moving forward from 11 years to 12. I will have no more goodbyes at airports with her but I feel her so deeply in my soul, we connect in those moments in ways we couldn’t when she was still here because I didn’t know this phase of parenting yet.


The always worrying and missing your kids but still letting go phase.


The knowing they are making bad choices but also knowing you have to let them fail to grow phase.


The seeing the results of your lazy parenting and knowing it’s too late to fix it now phase.


The listening to their wisdom instead of doing all of the talking phase.


The stepping back into the shadows phase.


The excessive care taking and cooking for them and doing their laundry when they visit phase.


It’s kind of a hard phase. But I like it. And I hate it too.


I am holding my six-foot, 1 inch tall giant 18-year-old son on the couch as we try to figure out what will happen with his freshman year of college. I am watching his eyes fill and I am telling him that it’s going to be ok and he looks at me and says, “you are so good at making people feel special, mom.”



That’s a sweet thing to say.


My brain immediately thinks two things:


  • Making your kids feel special (to you, not necessarily to the world…we don’t want to raise a bunch of narcissists) is the most important thing a mom can do. If I have done that then I am probably doing a decent job at this mom thing.
  • I think that’s the hardest part of your mom dying because there is no longer a person looking at you with a giant pair of “I adore you so much” rose colored glasses any more. I miss being loved like that. It’s ok. I am good, healthy, strong, happy…but I do miss being loved like that, in that special mom way.


I miss so many things about my mom.


I wish I could talk to her about the complexities of this phase of motherhood. I would have so many things to say and so many questions to ask.


But most of all, I am so grateful she taught me how to love my children well. Being loved so deeply has given me the ability to love deeply. Thank you, Mom for giving me that gift. I know some daughter don’t get that. I am so glad I did.



When my brother died, he was a broken man. It’s been 7, nearly 8 months since he was found dead, lying on the kitchen floor. He was alone, although his girlfriend was upstairs sleeping. Toxicology came back three months later and showed that he died of a lethal quantity of fentanyl and cocaine.

I was surprised by the cocaine. I figured it would be oxycontin that killed him.

I assumed it was pain medicine that had triggered the overdose because he was always in pain. So much pain.

The suicide attempts are too plentiful to count. They blur in my memory and become a constant state of worry about when he would finally succeed in ending his own life and release him from the suffering. In his meager belongings I found so many suicide notes and they all said the same thing, “I am sorry, I can’t take it anymore, I have to do this. I love you.”

He did suffer.

So much.

It hurts to imagine the torture he must have felt. I understand the drive toward numbing that pain. I have felt it too and I don’t know what it is about me that has kept me from slipping into the brokenness that controlled his life. Maybe it’s genetic. Maybe it’s the slight differences in our upbringing. I don’t know. I wish I could have given him some of what I have. I really do.

I tried.

I knew a lot of his heart and what drove him and I know that having become such a disappointment to the people he loved most was more than he could bear.

I can pinpoint the moment when each of us gave up on him.

It’s hard to write the words but it’s true.

Each of us gave up on him, some of us sooner than we should have, in my opinion, and I think that added to his brokenness. But everyone is on their own journey and it’s not my place to judge others.

Except for my Aunt. She never gave up on him and she supported him emotionally and financially until the end. Some people might call it enabling and that would be fair. She didn’t give him a lot of money. She wasn’t supporting his habit. But she never stopped offering her time, her energy, or her love. I am grateful that she was able to do that for him. I am grateful that someone was able to continue offering that love that he craved so much, right until the end of his life. She did it without expecting anything in return.

I withdrew my love slowly, over the years. I finally stepped away entirely from him about 14 months before he died. I didn’t speak to him once for 14 months. Our last conversation was on Christmas Day, 2016. I did not tell him that I loved him for 14 months. I did not offer him support or unconditional love. I walked away and I rarely felt much about it besides relief. That’s truth.

I judged him and became frustrated and overwhelmed and tired of the toxicity that went along with loving him. Perhaps I made it worse by how much I let it affect me.

My brother was a very difficult person to love. That’s also truth.

The more you loved him, the harder he was to love.

He lied, compulsively.

He manipulated and calculated and hurt others.

He stole from me, many, many times.

He called me names, told me I was selfish and cruel, he screamed and yelled and accused.

He was a bottomless pit of needs that I could not meet.

That’s truth. The other blog I wrote about him was also truth. All the good things were also true.

But this blog is about releasing the other side of the truth and the complexity of loving a broken man, like my brother.

There are things that aren’t fit for public blogging that I know he did, ways he hurt people. There is no tangible proof that it’s true but I know it in my heart. I know he did the things he is accused of because I know him. I knew him. Deeply.

Here is the saddest part of brokenness, it spreads.

Broken people break other people.

They do.

It’s very rare that a truly broken person is born; the sociopath.

Broken people are made. We create them.

The world broke my brother. Our parents broke him and then the circumstances of his early life, much of which was beyond his control, continued to break him.

I am not sure at what point we stop being responsible for them.

I am not sure when it stopped being my responsibility to help heal my broken brother.

It started when my mother died, the letting go of that responsibility.

And over the last several years, as I have fought for my own emotional health and well-being, I have become less and less capable of supporting my brother.

As I have done the work to heal my own damaged soul, I became intolerant of the brokenness in my brother and it’s impact on me.

In order to be healthy,  I had to let go of being my brother’s go to person.

I know this. I am certain I did what I had to do.

I feel saddened that I couldn’t find a way to disconnect from the affect he had on me enough to love him the way my Aunt did. I really wish I could have figured out a way to love him, to support him emotionally, to love him unconditionally, without allowing him to hurt me.

But I couldn’t.

I wonder if that’s what happens to all broken people, if they reach a point in their lives where they truly are abandoned and left to suffer alone?

I didn’t expect to never to speak to him again. I figured we had time and that we would figure it out. He was very important to me and we had a deep connection that only people who share trauma can really understand. I assumed I would give it some time and we would reconnect. I had been thinking about it a lot the months before he died and I had been asking myself if I was ready to reach out to him.

It is too late now and I will never have that opportunity again.

And grieving him, grieving the loss of him now is difficult to describe.

It’s filled with so many layers and there are days when I get stuck in one layer and I find myself aching or angry or embarrassed and unable to remember the truth of my own right to walk away from him in order to heal myself.

Whenever I am struggling with something, music becomes a way of explaining what I feel inside. Right now there is song I am playing on repeat that captures what it means to love a man like my brother, to love someone who is broken.

“It was hard to hide that his heart had scars
He would stay up late talking to the stars
People tried to blame him for making bad choices
When he was only listening to the voices
And searching for some kind of deeper truth
Between the lines and the Bible and living proof
There’s no point now to judge him in vain
If you haven’t been there, you don’t know the pain.”

My aunt posted a photo of my brother today on her facebook. I cropped her out of it (because it’s her memory and not mine to share) and it left just IMG_4585my brother’s sweet toddler face. I like to imagine him when he was innocent, before the world broke him and before he began breaking others. I imagine the hope in him and the love and the sweetness and the purity. I imagine all the wonderful things about him and it helps me process this other half of him, it helps me love him (and I do and I always did and I never stopped) and to offer that love with pride instead of shame. I suspect that is the most difficult part of this grief journey I am on, loving someone who may have stopped being worthy of that love. Not “worthy” in the sense of his own worth as a human being and right to exist, but worthy in the sense that at some point, human beings must become responsible for themselves and it was NOT my responsibility to carry him anymore (or maybe ever but that’s another blog for another time). It’s easy to know something intellectually and much more difficult to accept it in your heart. I know one thing for sure, I wish I could have helped him heal. I wish I could taken away his pain so he could have had a more fulfilling life. I know he loved me so very much, and I will always cherish the words that I found in a small travel journal “Renee, I loved you more than I have ever loved anything.” I know he did, and I can’t help wondering if it was his immense love for me growing up that allowed me to exit our shared trauma childhood less injured than he was.

Most of all, I wish I could look into his eyes one last time, touch his face, connect with him, and let him know how much I loved him, no matter what.


my brother died on Saturday

Donald William Bowers II

I can’t describe the myriad of thoughts I have on the subject of my brother, the deep complexities of the love and frustration I have for him, with him, because of him, in spite of him…

I can’t put it into words. Not yet.

IMG_0445I just want to think about what was spectacular about him.

I want to write about how much I loved him.

And why.

This is for you, Donnie. My brother.





My mother always told this story about how when she brought me home from the hospital, she would keep finding you sitting on the floor in my room, watching me in my crib. She talked about how you adored me and held me, and just pretty much obsessed over me in the early days. That’s exactly how I remember you in my earliest memories.


We had matching pajamas. Tiger stripes. And in the 70s we wore corduroy jeans and kiss t-shirts. You always ended up with hand me downs from Aunt Tonia, which were a little feminine in baby blue or maroon. Poor Donnie. You wore it well, though. You always had a flair for fashion. I am pretty sure you can thank Tonia for your early fashion edge.


tonia’s pants look good on you

We used to walk to school together everyday. We really were free range kids. Sometimes in the snow, we would try to make it all the way across the field without breaking through the snowpack and whoever made it furthest was the winner.

Do you remember when I stood in the doorway of our house, next to you while we watched a tornado brewing across the street because our crazy ass father had no sense at all and let us do it?

They pretty much let us do whatever we wanted to do.


We smoked their cigarettes.

Do you remember the first time when Dad was asleep on the giant black and white bean bag chair and we stole some money from Dad’s wallet and some of his cigarettes and walked to the store. I was 6 and you were 9.

(No really. This was the 70’s. People just let their kids run wild.)

We bought candy and sodas and then we smoked their cigarettes.

It’s so weird that we both ended up smokers. So weird.

I remember the day they left us alone and I guess something was in my hair when they got home. Maybe candy or something sticky. It’s vague. He was angry and screaming and there were fists and feet and Donnie was there protecting me. And afterwards we were in the bathroom and you gently shampooed and combed my hair and told me it would be ok. I was standing in the shower, and you held me in your arms and you told me it would be ok.

I remember how sweet you were in that moment.

It really is my favorite memory of you.

So many years later in a cabin in Tahoe, I looked up and saw you. Really saw you. You were completely freaking out over this “yule log” you had created for the occasion. My X-husbands entire family was there and it was Christmas. You wanted to sing Christmas Carols and you wanted everyone to focus on just being together and enjoying the yule log. I was super impatient with you pushing everyone toward the living room and the fire you had created. Finally, everyone was in the living room singing carols and enjoying your yule log. And I saw you in that moment. You were as happy as I have ever seen you, basking in the beauty of that moment of family and connection. Everything you had ever wanted.

38717_443494704047_1623439_n.jpgI keep picturing the way you carried Lily around when she a baby. Like you had been carrying babies all your life. Carrying her too loosely, like a football. Eventually sneaking her chocolate and teaching her to tease her mother.

After mom died, I needed you to drive her cats to Tonia in Ohio. You were the only one who could do it. I sent you to mom’s house to capture them. It took you two hours. You came back covered in scratches after what was clearly an epic battle getting those cats into kennels for the 1300 mile drive. You never complained. You just gave me a kiss and told me you would handle it and then you drove 20 hours straight until you got the cats to Tonia. Where they both still live, 11 years later. Thank you.

IMG_0446Did I ever say, thank you?

I have flashes of you with your son, Jacob. Being his dad. Holding him, changing his diaper. The pride in your eyes when you introduced him to your family and friends the first time.


I remember disco dancing with you as kids. I know it was on a real dance floor with lights and serious disco music, in the 70s, when it was brand new. My god we danced like only children can do, with abandon. I can’t imagine what two children were doing in a disco alone (in my memory we were alone) but this is a real memory, it has to be.


Pacific Crest Trail. You almost did the entire trail from Mexico to Canada. I thought it was a waste of time back then but you were so passionate about it that I got excited for you and we packed your boxes and got them ready to be mailed over the months away. One day we went to visit you on the trail near Santa Barbara. The timing worked out and you were nearby after walking hundreds of miles over weeks on the trail. You came out to meet us at the car and you looked skinny, and hairy, and sunburnt and you smelled pretty bad. But we were all so happy to be together and shared dinner with your friends on the trail and the kids ran around us and we talked and talked. Mountain man.

That’s my second favorite memory of you.

IMG_0416.jpgNew Year’s Eve in Ohio at least 25 years ago. We were bar hopping and there was a midnight celebration and then we were walking the streets and it was freezing, like actually freezing cold outside. Ohio cold. Which is a different sort of frozen solid cold. We couldn’t find a cab and I was wearing a stupid “cute” coat that matched my outfit and didn’t provide any protection from the wind.

You didn’t give me your jacket.

Hell no. You laughed at me for bringing such a stupid coat in an Ohio winter storm.

And then you convinced a complete stranger to drive us home. I love you.

Charismatic charm. Passionate. Fierce. Energetic. Fun. Protective.

I don’t have an ending for this blog.


Donald, Donnie, Don. September 19, 1967 – March 3, 2018



I Wonder

I was laying next to her last night, my love. Just laying there looking at the ceiling. The ceiling fan was going round and round. The room was silent except for the occasional licking from one of the dogs on the floor, my least favorite sound. But it wasn’t bothering me. I was just laying there, thinking about nothing. My body and my mind were at peace.

And that never to happens to me. I mean rarely am I thinking about nothing. I just felt rested, at rest, I just felt silent.

I never feel that way. I am usually thinking seven hundred thoughts at once. I am rarely present.

Except lately. Lately I feel this peaceful quiet body and mind a lot.

It’s weird and it’s good.

I turned to her and asked if she thought it’s just easier to be happy when we get older? She needed more information about my random midnight musings in order to answer.

Maybe we just appreciate happiness more when we are older.

Or maybe I am just a ridiculous person in love and it’s fleeting, although I don’t think so because I have been in love before.

But not like this. Not this peaceful way. This certain way. This completely present way.

Or maybe, just maybe, it takes completely falling to pieces and surviving it, and even thriving after falling apart to truly appreciate a silent bedroom (except for that damn licking) and a beautiful love and a simply quiet and perfect moment?

Like the Leonard Cohen song:

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”

The light isn’t blinding me. But it’s there. It emanates. I don’t know if other people can see it. And I honestly don’t care that much if they do.

My life isn’t perfect. I am little unsettled at work. I am worried about my middle child and his vaping and the worry grows in my mind at times into visions of his future battling the nicotine demon the way I have. My daughter is going through a phase where she seems off kilter and not quite happy with her life the way I dream she will be. I think about it a lot, how to help her, how to say the right things to be the mom she needs. I want to be a safe place for her to lean on and not the nagging mom who drives her crazy. And my little one who is certainly not little at all, just can’t seem to avoid being the class clown and getting himself in trouble with his antics. Not juvenile delinquent trouble, but enough missteps to worry me a bit. I feel stressed about wrecking my car and paying my property taxes next month and all the general stresses of life…clutter, and dogs that pee on the floor, and bills that seem bigger than they should be and family that is too far away or too disconnected for us to feel like family.

So I am not living in lala land of love drunkness.

But I feel fine. And good. And grateful.


I am laying here, alone, surrounded by sleeping dogs. No one in this moment is licking, thank god. I just ran a few miles because I wanted to be outside before it got dark. All the smells of my neighborhood still echo in my memory from the run. It was such a good run.

Fireplaces even though it’s still 60 degrees out. You can feel the cold front coming but the temperature hasn’t dropped. Lots of people arriving for family gatherings. It’s still the holidays and my neighbors driveways are filled with cars. I smelled cooking and BBQ’s. And I heard the beautiful sound of children squealing and laughing in the backyards.

I passed a neighbor walking her dog and our dogs pulled toward each other and I called out “good morning” as I remembered it’s evening and I felt silly for a moment as I continued running, fighting the instinct to turnaround and yell, “I mean good evening”.

And all the while, I just kept coming back to this new feeling I have lately.

Of peacefulness. Contentedness.

And I wonder again, if it’s age, or heartbreak finally healed and light shining through like the Leonard song said it would, or if it’s the love of the right person.

I wonder what it is.

I wonder if everyone feels this way and I just haven’t yet.

I wonder if I will get used to feeling this way and take it for granted.

I hope not.

I really hope not. Because I could get used to this.


cliche or how i feel when i think of her

I sigh.

I make a little sound. It’s something like a sigh or a tiny moan.

It’s like those tiny sweet sounds babies make when they are sleeping.

It’s an automatic, accidental sound. I think of her and I hear the sound coming out of my mouth. The breath coming out of my nose.

The blood rushing through my veins.

My cells are awake. My body is alive.

I am alive. Again.

I wear a stupid grin.

But I don’t feel stupid.

I feel special. I feel loved. I feel seen. I feel heard. I feel.

I feel.

She is standing near the starting line at a race. And I feel so much.

So many things. Tears are in my eyes.

This woman. This woman who loves me enough to stand near the starting line at a race.

She carried my bike for me and I let her.

She is there to show me that she loves me.

To love me.

The verb love. Not the word love.

And I am overwhelmed by it. I am washed over by it.

Not drowning. Just floating. And there are so many tears that I am blind for the first mile of the race.

Not scary tears. Not pain.

Not pain at all.

Just comfort and sweetness and passion.

There she is again after six hours. At the finish line, 70 miles later. She’s waiting for me. She’s cheering for me. She’s there for me. Just for me.

And the funniest part (which only makes sense if you understand how much energy I have devoted to pushing love away) is that I want her there. I am so happy to see her there.

I want her so much.

I like every single moment we spend together and I want more of it. So much more of it. I like to peel the layers to see what I find. I like the opening of my spirit. I like watching her open. Every nook of her just gets better.

I like the feeling of loving her.

I feel so very grateful to love her.

She is sitting on the couch near me. We aren’t in a hurry. We don’t have any plans. We don’t care. We don’t care about anything. We don’t need anything.

Except food every so often.

Silly girl. Sweet girl.

Pretty girl. Smart girl.



When she goes away I am not relieved. I am not desperate to get her away from me so I can be alone again. I close my eyes and I whisper her name and I make the sound again.

The sound of love. The peaceful, beautiful, comforting, sound of love.

Of being in love.

Of believing in love.

I want to be so very careful with my precious love. I don’t want to fuck it up.

The treasure of it.

Lovely love. I am not even rolling my eyes when I type that.

I am grinning. Like a fool. A fool in love.

I dream of our future. I dream of all the things we will do and the places we will go and the feelings we will feel. The good ones and the bad ones.

I get scared sometimes and I question and she answers my questions and we talk about it.

We touch about it. Hold about it.

We unwrap our fears and we examine them together and we figure it out.

I like having her around so much. I just like having her around.

Her laughter is my favorite song.

Three months.

I have known her three months. And all the jokes about lesbians circle on the edges of my mind. I am a cliche and I don’t give one single fuck about it.

Not one single fuck.

Not a teeny, tiny, itsy-bitsy, little fuck.

Because how I feel when I think of her is a feeling I have not felt in my life.

Not once. Nothing like this.

This bliss. This peace.

This comforting sense of rightness.

And I am filled with joy for this powerfully simple experience.

Of love.





The Middle Place

I haven’t felt compelled to add to this blog in quite a while. I realized that I regretted not having the blog be completely private and the thoughts and feelings I wanted to share were too personal for the people who now had access to the blog. So I have been quite deep in thought for the past five months or so and didn’t really want some folks inside my head via this blog. Not because they were bad people, I just needed some space to work through some things.

I am feeling less of that need for privacy and I feel ready to share some thoughts that aren’t so private and feel more useful for the searchers out there looking to gain from other people’s journey’s.

I have been single for  over two years now. I have certainly dated. I have dated hot and heavy. But I haven’t committed to a relationship in over two years. It felt too risky. Not because I was afraid of being hurt. No, because I was afraid of hurting someone else. It should have been a clue to me that I wasn’t afraid of being hurt. I have spent two years dating but keeping a safe distance from anything resembling emotion. And when emotions tried to get involved, I exited stage left…quickly. I never questioned my decision to walk away from a potential partner. I just knew they weren’t right for me. Or I wasn’t right for them.

A few months ago A woman I dated briefly said to me, “you’ve been shut down for so long, you don’t even realize how shut down you are.”

Whatever.  Asshole.

I have spent several years feeling pretty on top of my shit. I went from being the depressed girl pretending to be a happily married heterosexual mom of three…through a difficult divorce (oxymoron) and a very broken heart to being a fucking warrior. I haven’t been depressed in years. Seriously. I have been less depressed in the last four years than I have been in my entire conscious life. It’s been good and I am grateful for my fighting spirit and my energy toward the goal of creating a new life for me and my children. God it’s been hard but I have done it.

Seriously. I have been kicking life’s ass. Working hard. Building a career. Buying and selling houses and cars and saving for my own retirement and learning how to fix stuff and manage stuff and you know, basically just working my fingers to the bone getting my shit together.

My shit is together. You know, my garage is filled with crap and sometimes I struggle to find time to pay my bills before they are late. But generally, I am doing pretty damn well, out here on my own. I love my job. I have complicated but amazing relationships with my kids. I am good. We are good. It’s all good.

I have been (and still am, for the record) pretty proud of myself.

So the lady who knew everything’s words hit me hard. I couldn’t understand them at all. And as I explored what it meant to be shut down and what truth there could be in the words, I have teetered on what I used to call “falling down the rabbit hole”. This is what I used to call the depression I have struggled with for much of my life.

I did some sessions with the therapist I had stopped seeing (because ya know, my shit was together and I was doing amazing so I didn’t need her anymore.)  I have been sucking down these herbal anti-anxiety pills that were recommended to me. I have spent days in bed binging on netflix, rather than keeping myself so incredibly busy every second of everyday in order to avoid anything resembling feelings. I didn’t want to get sucked down the rabbit hole again but I did, a little. A little too much. I don’t like it at all. I don’t want to go back there and I have wrestled with it hard.

The last few months I have been cracking a lot of jokes with friends about how I am “dead inside”. It’s a joke.

And it’s true. I am a little dead inside. There hasn’t been much risk that I would fall in love with someone I dated. Because I am dead inside. HAHA. So funny. Hilarious.

And the realization that I have come to, although I haven’t figured it out yet, entirely, is that the key to a reasonably happy life is finding a way to live in the middle place. The middle exists between dead inside and the rabbit hole. It’s the place where I give myself permission to feel, to grieve, to be angry, to be sad, to feel joy and excitement, all of the feelings and not fall into the rabbit hole. The middle place is where you feel without becoming overwhelmed with those feelings.

I responded to her at the time (and I still believe it) that I think love will and can melt the ice that surrounds my heart. I am experiencing the middle place now.

I am not perfect at it and I don’t expect I ever will be. I am aware of the deadness seeping in and I cannot always stop it but I am aware of it now. So that’s an improvement.

I am feeling deeply and I am not depressed. I am as open as I can be right now. I am willing to be open when someone earns the right to be inside my inner world. But not before. I am still going to vet potential partners and friends. We should all do that.

I am cautiously in love with my world, and myself, and the idea of learning to exist, at least some of the time, in the middle place. We can call it vulnerability but that word annoys me (because it makes me feel vulnerable) so I like seeing it as the middle place.

I have a view of the rabbit hole with my feet planted firmly on the ground. I am not overwhelmingly afraid of what will happen to me if I am a tiny bit less dead inside.

It’s gonna take some time. And somewhere there may be a person that is patient enough to be with me as I learn to let people in again. Perhaps there is someone out there willing to walk through that with me. It’s going to take some bravery and fearlessness and some willingness to be hurt. I am not in a hurry and if she is, she’s not the right person for me.

But I see what the middle place is now. It’s not a bad place. There are risks here.

But I suspect those risks are worth it.

Adventures in Italy

IMG_2978.JPGI am on the adventure of a lifetime. We left the USA on the 16th and arrived in Rome on the 17th. The flight was uneventful. I watched two movies and took copious amounts of sleep meds and still slept very little. I decided side sleepers just don’t sleep on planes because after a Xanax and two doses of melatonin, I woke up every 15 or 20 minutes. Annoying. I am super jealous of the folks in first class with their little tiny beds. But it was nice to catch up with my Aunt and read my book. img_2979Our flight was slightly delayed and finding our driver in the airport felt nearly impossible with hundreds of drivers standing in a crowd with small white signs with last names printed in pen held chest high. But there he was, Daniel, the owner of our AirBnb and our driver for our trip to the center of Rome. It was a short 35-minute drive and Daniel spoke excellent English so we got lots of good information as we drove. As we neared the apartment, he explained that we needed to find a parking space. 20 minutes later we were still circling the area and no parking spot appeared even though most of the cars in Rome are half the size of an American car. I thought parking in San Francisco was bad…hah. I really needed to pee so Daniel finally parked in a bus zone, swearing he wouldn’t be ticketed because “parking is a really big problem in Rome”. After walking a short way to the apartment, we arrived in the little alley entrance to 84 via della Madonna dei Monti. Cute little apartment in a building that was built in 1620. img_2987Lots of charm, too few pillows. I noticed that right away and made a mental note that I really like lots of fluffy pillows and I should add that fact to my Airbnb search criteria…must have pillows. Daniel pulled out a map and proceeded to give us about 20 minutes of sight seeing advice. As is often the case with me, I stopped listening after 10 minutes and began thinking that I wished he would leave so I could freshen my stinky, sleep deprived body a bit. We took off for sight seeing adventures almost immediately after saying goodbye to Daniel.

And so began three straight days of being lost all the time.

Yep. We got lost. And then we got lost again. When we found our way, we got lost again. I had forgotten how difficult navigating in a strange city can be and I made another mental note to read less about things to do in a city before I arrive and more about how to navigate the darned city. I have to say that being lost is a great way to see things and we had investigated at least seven of the major tourist attractions in the period of 7 hours of wandering around Rome, simply by walking by them by accident. We also ate some amazing food. The last hour of being lost was the most frustrating because I was exhausted from lack of sleep. We had made a goal of staying awake until 8PM Italy time and we arrived back at the apartment just before 9PM. I fell asleep almost immediately and slept until 7:30 the next day.

AH, sleep. So good. So satisfying.

The next morning, I went on a quest for food and coffee because I had no idea how to use the weird little coffee pot thing in our room. Italians are not big fans of morning protein or to go coffee so I returned with two chocolate croissants and coffee in plastic cups covered by aluminum foil. We had a 10AM tour of the Coliseum so there wasn’t much time to do anything but shower and head out. Not shower, bathe. There was no shower. Just a bath and a handheld shower thing.

As a side note, bathrooms in Rome are quite different than bathrooms at home. In my first day I spent quite a bit of time standing and looking at the toilet trying to figure out how to flush it. It’s a button, usually on the wall, but not always and not always directly above the toilet. You also have to pump the sink with a pedal on the floor in order to wash your hands. It would have made a good “stupid American” video with me trying to use the bathroom as I stood looking at the toilet for five minutes before finding the flush button and then waving my hands around the sink for another five before finally discovering the floor foot pump. Fun times. I have seen more bathrooms than anything else since arriving in Italy. It’s ridiculous how much I pee.

img_3081The coliseum is a giant stadium like ancient building in the center of Rome and probably the most visited tourist attraction. Our walking tour met and we had an adorable tour guide in her 20’s. We had to wear ear buds to hear her. Ear buds never stay in my ears. What the fuck is wrong with my ears anyway? Off we went to explore the ancient building. I won’t go on and on about what we saw. It was very cool and it’s a must see and we had the best tour which showed us all the most inaccessible places kept behind lock and key to the average tourists. Once again, I had to pee right away. Peeing is a major travel issue for me. I really struggle with having to pee all the time. I nearly lost the tour entirely at one point because I ran off to pee. I spent more time wondering why no one else had to pee like I did than actually listening to our tour guide. It’s impossible that I peed twice before a single other person on our tour had to pee. What are these people, camels? Anyway, the tour was quite good. About three hours into it I was done and found I was no longer listening at all to our sweet little guide. I felt bad ignoring her so I decided to study her accent in case I ever need to play an Italian on stage. My god that accent is amazing. Every single word goes up at the end. EveryAH SingleAH WordAH GoesAH UpAH atAH theAH EndAH. It’s exhausting to copy that accent but I had a lovely time repeating every word the guide said in my head and taking photos of trees. Yes, trees. I love them. Not that I don’t history. I do. But really, it was a four-hour tour. How much history can you learn? Especially with all those amazing Roman trees to distract me. When the tour ended I couldn’t wait to get rid of the ear buds that didn’t stay in my ears and have some freedom from “the history of ancient Rome” lesson.

Does anyone notice the vagina in this photo?

Tonia immediately told me that she felt like the tour should have ended at 2.5 hours and that she had to pee the entire time too. Whew, what a relief that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way and perhaps my ADHD isn’t as bad as it seems.

We also decided that their needs to be an app called Where’s the Potty for people like me. It’s a good idea and we should totally do it. Rome needs more bathrooms.

Side note: there are a fuck ton of McDonald’s in Rome. Where you can also pee. YAY McDonald’s. Or McCafe…where you can get a cappuccino and a chocolate croissant (and pee). Yep. I don’t know what to say about that other than Where’s the Potty could simply be Where’s the McDonalds because you can always pee there. I wanted to buy some McDonalds to thank them for their bathrooms. But I didn’t.

This is Italy. I am not eating McDonalds. (Two days later, we ate McDonald’s. I needed those French fries, bad. No shame. The fries are so good.)

img_3151Food, glorious food. SO much good food. Meal highlights were Pasta Carbanara (which I had twice in two different places and both times it was fucking delicious) and the most amazing Calzone stuffed with mushrooms and prosciutto and cheese that I can still taste in my mind. OMG the crust. So good. And the bread…all the bread. I am pretty sure I gained five pounds already.

After the longest walking tour in world history, we took the train to the Vatican. I learned that you should never walk away from the platform to go back and look at the map again because you will have to buy another ticket. Oops. $3 lesson. We arrived near the Vatican ready to eat and found a little cafe that seemed decent. It was. But my fish had eyes and I realized I really before my food with the eyes removed. After lunch, it was after 3PM and we didn’t think we had time to see both the Vatican museums and St. Peter’s Cathedral which both closed at 6PM. We had read that the lines were long in both places but that the St. Peters line moved quickly so we made our way toward the square where we found two very long lines that did not move quickly at all. I pulled out my book (so glad I brought it) and switched between chatting with my Aunt, reading my book, and analyzing the speed of our line vs. the line beside us. My analysis confirmed that the line next to us was moving twice as fast as I watched people who had entered the line at the same time as us disappear inside. I had to go full zen goddess to keep from freaking out about it. I mean, it’s a place of worship, not Disney World. It turned out the other line fed into two security checks while our line fed into one and frankly, I am notorious for picking the slowest line. I don’t why. I just do. It’s a gift really. (for the record, Disney World would have never allowed two uneven flowing lines.)


Ah…St. Peter’s. So beautiful. I just can’t describe it. We waited an hour and forty-five minutes to get inside and it was worth the slow, crappy line to see it’s majestic beauty. I can’t believe how beautiful it was. I was mesmerized. My Aunt ran through it trying to get to the gift shop before it closed because her husband asked for one thing from her travels, a Rosary from the Vatican, but I took my time. After an hour of wandering and starring in awe at the ceiling and praying, I finally texted Tonia to ask where she was. I could sense something was wrong in the tone of the texts and she told me all the gift shops were closed and she wouldn’t be able to get her husband the one thing he wanted. I looked up and realized I was basically standing next to a tiny gift shop that sold about 75 different kinds of rosaries and told her to get her ass here NOW as they were about to close. I looked to the sky and said “come on mom and grandma, if you have any power to get Tonia into this tiny corridor I wandered down, help her find it quick”…and it worked. She was the last customer to enter that shop and the last customer to make a purchase. THANKS GHOSTS OF THE HALL WOMEN. (We did end up passing another gift shop outside the exit where Tonia purchased another Rosary, but that’s not the point.)

I was quite charmed by the genuine sadness Tonia felt at not making the love of her life’s wish come true and I said a silent, Thank you God prayer that Tonia had found such a good man to love.

So the Vatican experience ended and we took the train back to our hood in search of dinner. Both Tonia and I got super hungry, too much standing, grouchy HANGRY at that point. When we finally sat down and ordered dinner, we both had orgasms while we ate it. No really. We had actual food orgasms. So good.

The next morning I really needed to run so I got up and headed out early. I really enjoy running in a strange city and I had my bearings well enough to not get too lost. I did almost five miles. The streets are a little uneven and that’s difficult and you have to step carefully. The crowds aren’t easy to navigate but I really loved seeing the people and the neighborhoods and just zipping along and feeling the energy of the city. We then had plans to have a slow, easy day. We wanted to hit some of the boutiques we had passed nearby and I had a neighborhood I wanted to visit off the beaten “tourist track”. Shopping was lots of fun and both of us found cute things. Feeling confident after our trip to the Vatican by train, we headed toward the Metro thinking we knew exactly what we were doing. We didn’t. We went to the wrong stop, got off, wandering around at the street level, looking for the bus. Asked several people for help. Got no help. Went back down into the Metro to ask the station attendant for help. Not only was he a total DICK. (I hate him. I have plans to build a voodoo doll of that guy so I can stick pins in it someday.) He also said “maybe I don’t understand where you want to go because you aren’t saying it correctly in Italian.” Yeah, probably not…jerkface. So back on the train, to a new station, then a giant bus station where I finally discovered something absolutely wonderful: GOOGLE FUCKING MAPS will tell you exactly what to do. It told me what bus number to take and exactly what time that bus would arrive and exactly what stop to get off at and then it tracked our asses so we knew we were in the right place. Now this neighborhood called Travestere was the most fun we had in Rome.img_3178 I was disappointed that we didn’t make it until so late in the day, but we nestled into a yummy looking restaurant and got wine and food into our bodies and the frustrating journey was immediately forgotten. After dinner, we walked the beautiful corridors and alleyways and visited several spots for more drinks and people watching. I was searching for gay bars and we hit every one that was advertised as such. I didn’t see any gay women in the bars, as always. I guess the lesbians stay hidden in Italy in the same way they do at home. We ended up in a very expensive Uber on the way home. Both of us were a bit sloshed. For some reason, we decided to finish off the evening with a big glass of Sake in a sushi place. Hmmm…that hurt the next morning.

The next morning we both had hangovers and I needed something besides chocolate for breakfast so I went to the store and bought eggs and made breakfast. That helped the headaches a little. We packed up and got ready for our train to Florence. Seriously, I brought too much crap and I really regret it.

Wish I were traveling light.

My suitcases are too big, too heavy and I do not need all this shit I brought. Ah well, live and learn. It’s been 15 years since my last (and only) big travel adventure so I forgot how unimportant clothing is compared to travel ease. And all of our AirBnb’s have a washing machine. Next time I won’t pack so much. I was really proud of our ability to navigate our way to the metro station but we did get a little lost finding our Florence train. It’s really about experience and now that we’ve done it once I suspect it won’t be so hard in the future. The language barrier is an issue and I have found Italians aren’t super helpful. I think really studying the transit systems is a must for travelling. And learning a few phrases in the native tongue so you don’t come off as an asshole who doesn’t careimg_3203 about at least trying to say things correctly.

Watching the countryside go by on the train was lovely. I love the rhythm of a train. It was one of my favorite hours of the journey so far.

We took a taxi to our Airbnb in Florence and It was terrifying watching our driver speed through the narrow streets and barely missing the people crossing the roads. I am shocked that this system or driving in Florence works. There are people everywhere, cars trying to get past them and scooters zipping around both. It’s really like nothing I have ever seen before and I am grateful not to be driving here. The new apartment is three flights up a narrow staircase and our hosts husband carried our suitcases up. He is a wonderful GOD of a man and I am not looking forward to getting those bags back downstairs. Dammit, why did I pack so much?

img_3219Florence is incredible. It’s hard to describe it but it makes Rome look very dirty and congested. Not that it’s less crowded here. It’s very crowded. Considering this is not a touristy time of year, I am really surprised by how crowded it is. Our first day we waited in line for the “best sandwich in the world” at All’Antico Vinaio. It really was the best sandwich I have ever had and I ate every single bite of mine. We then toured the Galileo Museum which is steps from our front door. Very cool. Sort of the history of science and technology…more accurately, the history of the study of science and technology. We both needed some veg time so we returned to our room for some rest which turned into naps for both of us. After a few hours of rest, we walked to a local eatery called Trattoria Nella that had been recommended to us. I am starting to get Trattoria fatigue but we each had a delicious salad and pasta. I think my aunt could have pasta for every meal but I need something different soon. The food is incredible but every menu is identical and I am ready for some sushi or something else. We had a nice after dinner walk  and made our first trip past some of the most popular tourist sights in Florence.

Yesterday was my favorite day so far. I woke up early and went for a five mile run down the river near our apartment and then through the side streets of Florence. It really is the best way to see a city. After showering, we went in search of an American style breakfast which includes eggs and found something next to the Duomo. I don’t really know how Italians survive without morning protein. It’s a must have for me. We spent the next several hours walking and shopping and just being tourists. I found some beautiful gifts for my kids and something for my house to remember Florence by. We then headed toward our 2PM tour. When we arrived, it turned out our tour was for the following day. It’s become difficult to keep track of what day it is which means this vacation just got REAL It’s also a 7-8 time difference to my kids at home which makes communication way too difficult and I am beginning to miss them HARD.

There is a church on the outskirts of Florence that was on my list so we headed that way via the bus since the afternoon was suddenly free. OMG so glad we made it there. San Miniato is by far the most beautiful place we have seen. We walked through, prayed inside, lit candles for our img_3302moms and spent over an hour just walking through the incredible cemetery that surrounds the grounds. Wow. And the view of Florence below is really fantastic. img_3311

Afterwarimg_3338ds, we successfully took the bus back to the center of Florence. Thank you GOOGLE MAPS, you rock my world. We found a very trendy food spot called Fishing Lab. It was one of my favorite meals of the trip with some raw Tuna to start and delicious steamed Sea Bass for the main course. Tonia wasn’t a fan but she can have pasta for every meal. I needed a change of pace so I was grateful for the different style of food.  It was very light and healthy.

Our room was noisy last night because we have a bar in the alley under our apartment. I wasn’t too bothered by it but Tonia had a hard time sleeping. I decided I needed a break this morning from sightseeing so I am alone in our room listening to the sound of the city below and typing my memories here so they aren’t lost or faded when I return.

Today, I feel incredibly grateful for this trip. I feel like I miss my babies so much. I am overwhelmed by the desire to share this experience with them. Especially my teenagers because I know they would really understand and appreciate it. I spent a lot of time imagining bringing my daughter to Florence when she graduates from college. I would like to take her to Paris and Florence. I would like to take her to the beach during the summer here. I haven’t been to a European beach yet, but I know she would love it.

Something weird happened night before last, I dreamt a very powerful dream about forgiveness. In the dream, I was at an event in the coliseum in Rome, but it wasn’t ancient, it was like a concert hall. It was clearly the coliseum but there were chairs like a sport stadium or theatre. I was walking to my seat when I spotted someone from my past that I have struggled to forgive. I turned back, as I usually do  in real life when I see her. I went to the restroom, where I often go during crowded events, because I ALWAYS HAVE TO PEE and because bathrooms are convenient hiding places for introverts like me. I came out of my stall and this person was standing at the sink and I thought, “FUCK” because there was no place to hide. Our eyes met and we stood there and then we walked toward each other and embraced. We stood holding each other and saying we were sorry and it was very heartfelt and honest and beautiful. And then I looked up into the mirror and I was holding my own self, I was embracing myself. I woke up crying and lay in the room looking at the ceiling for quite a while and feeling a sense of peace I haven’t felt in a long time.

Because that’s it, isn’t it?

Forgiving myself is what is holding me back. I know it. I can’t fix it by magic.

Or pressure. Or demands.

It takes time.

As long as it takes.It takes as long as it takes.

And maybe you have to go halfway around the world to get there.

But it’s good and Italy is a wonderful place for that.




The Most Exciting Time of Your Life

I watch stupid TV in the background when I am doing other things like folding laundry or washing dishes or paying bills. My favorites are Say Yes to the Dress and What Not to Wear. Both shows are fashion oriented. They are silly and light and they make me happy. Say Yes to the Dress is a 30 minute show that focuses on two women every episode as they choose their bridal gown at an exclusive bridal store in NYC called Kleinfeld’s.  There are always tears when the perfect gown is found. I love it. My favorite bridal consultant is Randy, the “sassy gay” consultant. He gives great advice to brides and is always willing to stand up to overbearing family members who aren’t allowing the bride to choose the gown she wants to wear on her wedding day. He is funny and adorable. But a few weeks ago, I watched an episode where Randy said something that stuck in my mind and has been resonating with me ever since. A bride was struggling to separate what her family wanted and what she wanted and was overwhelmed with the stress of the decisions and Randy told her, “this is the most exciting time of your entire life. You need to be happy with the dress you choose.”

Ok, yes, she should be happy with the dress she chooses. But the most exciting time of her life? A wedding? Wrong, wrong, wrong…NO Randy No. I found myself yelling at the TV in frustration. If your wedding is the most exciting time of your life, where do you go from there?  When the wedding is over, is it all downhill from there?

It’s not. Not even close. And I am annoyed with Randy for even saying it.

I want to interject here and say yes, I got divorced. But my wedding day was pretty much exactly the wedding I wanted. It was a great wedding. I felt beautiful and in love and ridiculously happy. If you had told me I would someday divorce, I would have pushed you down and kicked dirt on your stupid face in dismay. This blog isn’t about weddings or divorces, it’s about the way we set ourselves up for disappointment when we believe that significant events are anything more than just one significant event in a lifetime of important events.

Is a significant event even a contender for the most exciting time of our lives? God, I hope not.

The births of all of my three children were incredibly exciting and significant.

Every milestone I have celebrated with them has been thrilling.

Moving to Texas from California was pretty fucking exciting and significant.

Getting my master’s degree.

Starting a second career in my 40’s.

Taking my daughter to college and saying goodbye.

Oh hell, coming out as a lesbian and finally living my truth has been pretty darned exciting and significant. Challenging as hell, but definitely a contender for the “most exciting time in my life.”

So, Randy…I am going to take you to task on this one, mister. Weddings are an important event but they aren’t the most exciting time of anyone’s lifetime. And if they are, well that sucks for that person. What a disappointing life that would be.

So here is the thing, and the point I hope to make…I am not sure single events are ever the most exciting time of our lives. I think life is an ebb and flow of hard times and happy times and boring times and sad times. But generally, events like weddings or even children’s births, while they are the most powerful, life altering moments in our lives, they are super blurry once time has passed. I have spent the last few weeks asking other people  my age to make sure I am not totally off base here. Everyone I talked to admitted they remember very little from their wedding day. Several talked about how the memories are all attached to photographs because the photographic record has helped them lock in certain memories. Most of them talked about silly moments during that time period that had little to do with the actual wedding itself like getting gas in a crystal tiara and sweat pants after visiting the hair salon on their wedding day. For me, it’s the night I spent in the hotel before the wedding with my bridesmaids where no one slept at all and I insisted on sleeping in the rollaway cot because I couldn’t stand the thought of anyone being uncomfortable. I remember giggling a lot that night. But I don’t remember why.

I am going to Europe in five days with my Aunt. This is a trip that has been in the back of my mind for years. I started planning it over a year ago. I bought the plane ticket about 8 months ago. I absolutely can’t believe I am going. I told my boss that I won’t be checking in. I know I will miss my kids like crazy but I cannot wait for this grown up, amazing adventure to begin.

Right now, I have a deep, loving, and authentic relationship with all of my kids.

I have a beautiful home. Great friends. A job I love where I feel respected and valued. I have enough money to live comfortably.

I am happy and fulfilled. It’s not perfect. There are still yucky days and difficult moments.

But, it feels to me that right now is the most exciting time in my life. And I am certain I have many, many more exciting times to come. I can’t wait to experience them.