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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

Bellisimo!

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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.

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Alright Universe, quit it.

Rule of three’s.

For a theatre person, it’s all about comedy. Do something funny three times and bam, the audience will go wild.

But it’s also a wise tale of “bad things come in three’s”. I’ve never believed in it.

Until this week.

First up, whirlwind romance ends…badly.

Six weeks. A six week romance.

I actually sent a text to my best friend that said “Mark my words, I am going to marry this woman.”

I said that…after a month.

I was doing the lesbian happy dance.

(There isn’t a dance, I made that up.)

I wasn’t packing my u-haul but I was imagining how I might pack it someday.

It was a roller coaster six week romance where I allowed myself…pretty much for the first time since 1992, to imagine spending my life with someone. I decorated my Christmas tree thinking, “maybe I won’t do this alone next year”. I imagined vacations, long walks, music, dancing,  laughing, dreaming, loving, and of course, lots and lots of sexy time. Everything about her was perfect. I imagined myself finding the love of my life.

Blah. Yeah, I know.

I know.  My eyes hurt from rolling them so hard at myself.

Keep shaking your head at me….I get it. I am an idiot.

So it ended, badly. But I kept getting up everyday, going for runs, working my ass off, loving my kids, feeding my dogs, paying my bills, buying ten different kinds of nails at every store in town to hang my Christmas wreath on the brick fireplace. (I need to insert here that I successfully hung that wreath and it’s super pretty.)

I was sad, but my badass self kept right on fucking going.

Because that’s what I do. If I am anything, I am resilient.

Dammit.

Then number #2…the completely insane family news. The kind of news that you ask your family to sit down because you “have some news, so you BETTER SIT DOWN”. I mean, seriously…it’s so not ok…this shitty ass I can’t blog about but it’s really shitty can’t wrap your brain around it kind of news.

That’s all I have to say about that.

But mark my words, oh fabulous three blog followers…I kept right on marching. With that stupid piece of shit news in my head. I kept going, and going, and going. I even said this morning on my run to #AmazingRunningPartner something ridiculous like, “I just don’t have all these ups and downs anymore. I just can’t do it. I really want a happy life. I rarely feel depressed to the point where I can’t function anymore.”

Today was a busy day…big event at work…so many volunteers and so much responsibility on my shoulders. Off I went, like the little energizer bunny that I am.

Then the phone rang. I ignored it. Step-mom, no… too busy right now.

The texts start rolling in:

“Your dad had to be taken to the hospital, he’s in renal failure.”

“I don’t know anything. I just needed to tell you.”

My dad? That’s impossible. He’s young. And sassy as a mother fucker…he’s not in renal failure…he’s like a 12 year old boy…that’s insane.

But it’s a fact. A fact that exists separate from my zen philosophy of “ride the wave of the circumstances of your life…there are sad parts and happy parts and all the parts in between and you just can’t fight the feelings, you just have to let it wash over you”.

I went for a drive. I left my amazing staff in charge at the event for a little while. I sobbed and prayed in my car and lamented all the unfinished business I have with my dad.

And I thought about this:

The rule of three’s exists because human beings can only handle so much shit thrown at them. Three is kind of the max for shitty happenings.

You hear that universe? You hear that?

I am done. We are good.

Go kick someone else’s ass now. I will never underestimate you again.

Thank you for the reminder that I don’t know anything about anything. At all.

And now,

I invoke the rule of three’s.

 

 

 

 

The Hardest Part

“Kids don’t stay with you if you do it right. It’s the one job where, the better you are, the more surely you won’t be needed in the long run.” – Barbara Kingsolver

“I realized when you look at your mother, you are looking at the purest love you will ever know.” – Mitch Albom

“Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world, a mother’s love is not.” – James Joyce

I have been a mom for about eighteen and a half years now. That time has been bumpy and beautiful. It has been filled with suffering and bliss.

Like Life.

I am pretty sure I have said at least 1,000 times in the past eighteenish years of mothering,

“this is the hardest part.”

I remember sitting on one of those exercise balls with my infant daughter, bouncing up and down while she screamed non-stop for hours and I thought to myself that nothing had prepared me for this experience. And when she finally stopped, nothing was more joyful.

I remember having a two year old and a newborn when the two year old came down with one of those horrific childhood illnesses (hand, foot, and mouth disease…who the fuck knew there was such a thing?). Her mouth was filled with bleeding sores, she ate nothing for days, and the pediatrician told me to keep her away from the baby because it could be really ugly if he got it too. My husband was out of town, I was all alone and I thought for sure I would never survive that very long week.

I did.

I survived many more illnesses after that. The colds, the flus, the stomach viruses, the appendix rupturing, the stitches, and the broken bones. I survived the first day of school, middle school and high school. I made it through long, mind numbing days as a stay at home mom where I wondered if I could possibly play polly pockets or tea party or hot wheels one more time without screaming. I made it through angry teen years made more difficult by a divorce. I crawled through months where my children barely spoke to me and when they did speak, they said hateful and cruel things. And recently, I got to do the senior in high school party phase with alcohol experimentation and boyfriends who “accidentally slept over”.

I am the proud mother of an adult now. I survived it all.

And with the hardest parts, it was, is…the most important and wonderful thing I have ever done. I am filled with pride, and love, and gratitude for the gift of being my children’s mother.

But today, as I lay in a hotel room bed, typing on my computer in the middle of the night because I can’t seem to fall asleep…I think I might be doing the hardest part.

Letting go.

Tomorrow I have to let go.

Of my sweet little baby girl. The one who made me a mom. The one who is now taller than I am.

The one in the bed next to me, wearing our matching pajamas we got today…so we could call each other and wear our matching “owl jammies” (her idea).

She is sleeping soundly, silently beside me.

Somewhere along the line she became an amazingly good sleeper. Even though she never slept at all her first seven or eight years. Yep. She can sleep through anything now.

She slept the whole plane ride here.

Today we shopped like only the women in my family can shop. From store to store to store. We got all the things for her college apartment. We spent at least an hour in TJ Maxx trying to decide which throw pillows would match her bed spread the best. We went with her choice and it turned out she was right. She’s got style, that kid.

And tomorrow we will finish the apartment. We will spend some time pouring over maps with her dad, trying to understand how she will navigate the campus bus system to get to class and to practice. We will stock her kitchen with groceries. We will probably have dinner with her room mates and their parents.

And then, at some point, we will say goodbye.

My GOD, what is the big deal…she will be home for Thanksgiving? It’s not like I am never going to see her again. She has barely been home for the past year, she has been so busy.

But I am laying here, with water falling out of my eyes and I can honestly say that this is the hardest part.

so far anyway.

The cool part about being a mom this long is that I have the perspective of knowing that there will always be hard parts and that they will always be worth it and that I will always survive them. I see women my age with their moms and I sometimes want to ask them if it gets any easier..but I suspect I already know the answer.

It changes but there are always hard parts…worry, stress, fear.

I am holding onto her childhood. I am struggling to let it go, to let her go.

 

Daily life without my lily…yuck.

Yuck.

I like her so much.

The beautiful, sassy, sweet, funny, curious, shy, quiet, loving, and intelligent woman she has become.

She is nothing like I thought she would be.

She is so much more.

A piece of me, but not me at all.

Aspects of me, but completely and absolutely different than me.

My excitement for her journey toward the next phase of her life will outweigh my own sadness tomorrow and I will hug her and kiss her and I will try really hard not to weep when I walk away. But I probably will. Sorry Lily, that’s who I am, a crier. Like my mother was.

And just like I made it through the hand, foot, and mouth disease…I will make it through the college drop off because that’s moms do.

 

 

 

 

Go away reality, I am playing Pokemon Go

A few months ago one of my pets died. On the day that it happened I screamed and wept and then the next day I buried my sweet pet, digging in the hot Texas soil until my palms bled and sobbing. Over the next couple of days,  I moved on.

I am not a “move on” quickly kinda person and I knew it was weird that I was taking it so well. I tend to hold onto things forever. FOREVER. So the simple release was uncharacteristic of me. It was a relief.

Then 50 people were killed in a nightclub in Orlando.

And then more shootings.

Cops killing unarmed black men.

Snipers going after cops and killing them in Dallas.

And then the terrorist attack in Paris.

The entire period I turned off the news.

I stopped reading the paper or my favorite news magazine.

I only clicked on cute animal videos on social media.

I picked up a People magazine to read the stories of the people who had died and I put it down again. I couldn’t read it.

And then it became clear that Donald Trump had a real chance of being president.

And everyone on social media was screaming and yelling at each other.

“Only ignorant white people want Trump for president.”

“Hillary is a lying, cheating, sneaky, evil barely human being who will destroy America. I will vote for anyone besides her.”

And then PokeMon Go arrived and all I wanted to do is play it with my sons. Driving around and walking through parks and parking lots trying to capture all the Pokemon…pulling over to collect poke balls, spending time talking about our Pokedek and what this or that can evolve into.

It’s been awesome. It hasn’t even been hard to pretend none of this other stuff has been happening in the world. I have been happy in my self inflicted state of numbness. It has been very nice.

Then some minor incident happened a week or so ago.

And suddenly I am not numb anymore.

Suddenly, I can’t stop feeling all the things.

Anger, and sadness, and rage.

I cannot open facebook and see another political rant. I cannot stand it if another person walks into a public place and starts shooting random people. Please stop doing that, people. Stop it.

This negatively, this ugliness, this anger that surrounds us…I can’t take it. It’s like a dark cloud that surrounds us.

It’s got me.

I tell people who love me that I am in a funk I can’t snap out of.

Since I admitted it I have had at least six people tell me they are in it too.

Maybe it’s a case of noticing it when I am enveloped in it.

Or maybe it’s just going around.

I wonder if our choices are Pokemon go or being completely devastated by the state of our world?

I know there is a third choice, of course there is but I can’t find it right now.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

mmm…hmmm…be the change.

It’s easy to feel like the world is in turmoil.

It seems easy to keep contributing to it.

And I am.

I know I am.

Snapping off, road rage, shortness, edge.

How about a blog that ends without any solutions?

Without any words of wisdom.

I wonder if there are any Pokemon around my house right now?

 

The Little Things

I was talking to a friend today about the pain I have experienced in letting go of my children over the past four years. I went from being the primary caretaker of my children to being a part time mom pretty much overnight. There was some transition but for the most part, I went from spending every day and every night with my kids to not seeing them for days at a time…not knowing where they were or what they were doing for days. It hurt me, to let go. It’s been a process, a journey and I am still working through it. My friend understood. She’s a mom. It didn’t require much explanation, really. She got it right away. I mentioned how frustrated I get when my non-mom friends give me parenting advice. I do recognize that people who don’t have children CAN actually separate themselves from the experience of actually being a parent to know what advice to give. They (the non-parent folks) are often right. But knowing what to do and actually doing it are totally different things. Feel my pain and loss and sense of isolation…the way I suddenly felt unnecessary in my children’s lives…how hard it was for me..know what that feels like and then you will know that your loving and kind advice to “accept it and stop parenting out of guilt” or “your kids are fine” and “your kids adore you, no one can take your place” while correct, is completely lost on my aching heart.

 

Why do people always try to describe things that simply cannot be understood without experiencing them? Artists, poets, writers,  and musicians dedicate their lives to trying to illustrate the feeling of falling in love, being a parent, spending a lifetime in a marriage or relationship, friendship, grief, birth, death and even divorce. All these big, giant, crazy, knock you on your knees life experiences that simply must be had to understand them. It’s the big stuff that is impossible to describe accurately, the major life events that until you have had them, you can’t really wrap your brain around them. And when you have, the people that you know who have had those experiences too become a sisterhood all on its own. Oh, your mom is dead? Yeah, sister…I get it. You are divorced, back in the work force, sharing your kids with a man you couldn’t be married to and yet must co-parent effectively with…along with his new wife? Mmmm…hmmm, yeah..sit next to me my sister and we will hold hands and know each other’s pain. Did you fall foolishly, madly, deeply in love with someone who wasn’t deserving of your love and turned out to be an asshole? Oh my, that’s a shitty life experience we share, let’s acknowledge that craptastic experience quietly and put it back where it goes, on the shelf of the things we don’t talk about because they are too dangerous. Some things you just have to do before you can really talk them with any authority. And even then, to the inexperienced your words are meaningless.

 

AH, but those of us who have been madly, deeply in love see poems like this one and it takes our breath away…it’s so right in the description.

 

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

BY E. E. CUMMINGS

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear

no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

 

Yes, ee cummings, yes, you totally get it. I carry your heart, it’s the tree of life, it’s the secret that nobody knows…

 

And this song that perfectly illustrates heartbreak:

 

 

Ne me quitte pas (click link to hear song)

 

 

Oh my sweet Jacgues I feel you. I feel you. Your pain is my pain.

 

I have been thinking about the little things lately and how much more they matter in the grand scheme of a lifetime.  The tiny little connections that I can grasp, that heal my soul, that carry me forward from one day to the next. I think we focus way too much on the big things (I do) and yet, it’s the day to day that matters most. And as I have been moving through my life lately, I have become suddenly, incredibly aware of the absolute brilliance of these little things.

 

Date night with my youngest at Main Event and playing the Ghostbusters Game (I hate games) and I am doing it, I am shooting all the ghosts with my laser gun and we are laughing.

 

A run alone in Central Park on a trip alone to New York City where time stopped for just a few moments and I realized, “this is who I am, a woman who travels alone to New York City and runs in Central Park alone, and goes to the theatre alone and is fine, happy, not lonely, not scared at all.”

 

My daughter and I, discussing adulthood and she is listening to me, hearing me, actually wanting my advice, that’s new, that’s cool and I remember to shut up long enough for her to speak and she does and she’s smart and I like her.

 

Walking, again in New York, with the sun on my face, the people all around me. I am present. I am seeing everything around me. I am not so lost in my own thoughts that I could be anywhere, I am actually seeing the world around me clearly. I am so alive. All of my nerve endings are pulsating and I see it all around me and I recognize how rarely I feel this way and it’s so good.

 

A talk with my son, my difficult son, where we simply communicate and understand each other for a few minutes. We just chat. It passes quickly but it’s there and I know it will there more often as he grows, as I grow into being this intense person’s mom.

 

Weeping in my seat while watching the Broadway musical Fun Home, she’s singing about the first woman she ever had sex with and she’s overwhelmed and she’s feeling in love and embarrassed and shy and scared and excited and she’s bursting with all the feelings and I am carried into the memory of that moment in my own life and the tears are just flowing and flowing. I almost let myself forget that beautiful moment, it drowned in shame,  I have wanted to destroy it. But I remember it all the way to my toes for the first time in three years, I remember how beautiful it was, how it felt  and I reclaim it, it is NOT tainted or ugly, that moment is MINE. And I own it again. The power of live theatre to change our hearts is miraculous.

 

So, it’s rambling, this post…the way my mind so often is. And I am fine with that. There are about three people who read this blog and this post is for those three people. I love them so much. They know who they are. One of the little things is the freedom to express when love exists, to be truly grateful.

 

Much healing has taken place in my body and my spirit lately and it’s pieced together by so many little things to create a life.

 

THE BEAUTIFUL (imperfect) LIFE I HAVE.

 

 

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Fun Home Actress Beth Morgan

Happy Mother’s Day

I came across a blog today posted on Facebook that was directed toward those who are experiencing the impending dread of Mother’s Day when their own mother has died. Of course it’s been weighing on me, the coming holiday that I cannot participate in from the daughter perspective. I can certainly experience it from the Mother perspective. My kids will be sweet to me and it will be a lovely day. The blog was pretty simple and offered advice for surviving the day well. Give the gift of your time to other people you love, practice some self care like doing yoga or taking a long walk, allowing yourself some time to honor your memory of your mom, and finally, choose to be grateful. It’s good advice but I have to admit that my first thought was of all of the children out there who have or had crappy moms. In my work I see the effects of really bad parenting everyday. I felt a twinge of regret that I was feeling so sad when there are too many people out there who cannot remember their moms fondly. I felt sorrow for those people who must avoid social media during Mother’s Day for an entirely different reason. I AM grateful to have had a mom that was wonderful beyond belief. Sure she was flawed, made tons of mistakes and didn’t always know what she was doing when it came to being a mom (who does?). But I miss her imperfect self.  I do feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for having been lucky enough to have a mother I adored. Cross gratitude off the list, I have that in spades.

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Donna Jean

You were barely 18 when you got pregnant the first time. You were a senior in high school, an honor student, the apple of your father’s eye and head cheerleader. I hear stories that my grandfather didn’t speak to you for years after you got pregnant. I know how it broke your heart and that a piece of you never recovered. I have also heard the story of how your parents forced you to drive to West Virginia  the day after they learned of the pregnancy because your boyfriend wasn’t old enough to get married in Ohio. I know it’s not what you wanted. I suspect it’s the root cause of your inability to connect with your son, my brother. Three years later, at the age of 21, I arrived. From the stories I have heard, everyone adored me. You liked to tell me that my brother would sit for hours next to my crib watching me and talking to me, he loved me so much. That’s sweet and perhaps a little creepy. As a child I remember the day I realized that your name wasn’t Mom, that you had a different name: Donna. I remember the day you tried to explain to me that checks weren’t money and that having a checkbook didn’t mean you could buy things. I had a hard time grasping it and I was pretty sure you were lying to me about it. Why would checks exist if you couldn’t use them? You used to come into my room at bedtime and scratch my back softly or play with my hair and talk. I don’t remember what we talked about but I know that, to this day, nothing is more comforting to me than having my back scratched softly or my hair played with.

I remember the day  you told us we would be going to live with our dad because you needed some time to get your life in order. I knew something wasn’t right with you. I knew. But I didn’t care and I wanted to stay with you no matter what. But he took us and it was the hardest few years of my life without you. I know it was for you too.

My teen years, when I hated you, were tough. I am sorry for the way I treated you and for my anger. I understand now that you did the best you could with what you had. But some of your choices impacted me even more than I understood at the time. Most of your relationships with men  were not good experiences for either of us. You were often a mess and a daughter shouldn’t have to take care of a parent. I know you regretted those choices and I forgive you completely. But during that teenage period, I let you have it. And you took it and you loved me anyway.

Sometime in my late teens, early 20’s we became friends again. Real friends. Adult friends. I got to know your insides. I got to understand you. I saw how you struggled to feel worthy of love. I began to understand why you so desperately needed the attention of men to feel alive. I saw how powerful you were as a business woman, how respected and admired. I realized that you had built a career from nothing, without a degree. You simply worked your way up the corporate ladder from an operator at the phone company to senior management in the business world. I saw you win awards. I saw your confidence in that realm. In those years we got to know each other, really, really well. We talked about a lot of things and my anger over the negative experiences I had as a child became layered under an authentic and intense connection. And so many good memories. When my babies started coming you were there for me every step of the way. You traveled and stayed for weeks at a time and patiently helped me as I navigated motherhood, a much more difficult journey than I had imagined it would be. You adored my children and I loved watching you love them. Even when it drove me crazy that you were too lenient with them or when you spoiled them, I loved how deeply you loved them. When I would drop you off at the airport after one of your visits you would get weepy in the car and try to hug me repeatedly. I found it a little annoying. I knew I would see you again a few months. You were such a sap. I get it now.

As I got deeper into the motherhood experience, the complexity of my love for my kids mixed with the desire to continue being who I was before they arrived was harder than I ever knew it would be. I began to see you through another filter, the mother filter. I began to comprehend what it meant to become a wife and mother at 18. And my forgiveness grew, my respect for you grew, my understanding of you grew.

And then the wonderful Texas year, before the cancer. The year when we both lived in Texas, just miles from each other. That was the year that I suddenly had a family to lean on.You were my family. You offered to pick up the kids sometimes. You had them over so I could do an exercise class. We went to lunch. We saw movies. We did lots and lots of shopping and traveling and sharing meals. I leaned on you hard and you were there, you were always there, anytime of day or night. I needed you so much. Thank you.

And then the sickness and the clinging to each other and the fear and the death. I won’t talk about that. Not here. Not now.

This post is about honoring you.

Tonight, I stood next to my daughter for her senior cheerleading presentation. I felt such overwhelming depth of love for that child that I birthed and raised and is turning 18 in just a few weeks, leaving for college in a few months. My god, the love for my children just keeps on growing, it gets deeper  as I get to know them as individuals, separate from me.  As I learn more about who they are, my love just keeps growing. I know that’s how it was for you too. I feel it in my bones, how much you loved me. It’s in each of my cells, that love.

I would have preferred not to watch you die at the young age of 58 but I learned a lot about who you were during that process. I learned how fucking amazing you were. With your years of chemo, and illness, and fighting. We went to Disney World at the end of your life and you were determined not to miss it, you drove that motorized cart around the parks and you watched your grandchildren have fun. You were dying and what you wanted most was just more time with them, more time with me. I knew you were in pain and yet you suffered for the opportunity to just watch the joy of your grandchildren unfold.

I loved the way you listened to me with complete attention. By my thirties I came to recognize that in your eyes, there was nothing more important then me.

I loved going shopping with you. No one shops the way I do except for you. Oh, wait, turns out your granddaughter Lily can shop like us too…hours in a store without buying a single thing.

I loved the way you sang to the radio, loudly, even when you were off key.

I loved how independent you were, how you weren’t afraid to travel alone. You were incredibly competent and in control by the time you hit 50 years old. You were impressive.

I loved how you color coordinated everything you wore, right down to your eyeliner. (even though I teased you relentlessly about it)  It was so weird and you didn’t give a shit. I loved your bling,  your obsession with toe nail polish and your 15 pairs of different colored crocs.

I loved how much you loved the beach even though you refused to get in the water. I loved your huge seashell collection. I loved the fact that you had about 50 bikinis when you died. That’s a lot of bikinis, mom. When I go to the beach, that’s where I feel your presence the most. I love the beach so much.

I could go on and on and on. Honoring my mother’s memory. That’s saying a lot.

If I could see you again I would tell that it’s really unfair that you left so young, that I need you still, that I love you and miss you. I would probably just want to hold your bony ass hand for a little while. And I would want to tell you about my kids, every detail. Because who wants to hear someone go on and on about their kids besides grandma? I miss having that with you, maybe more than anything else.

So Donna Jean, my mother, my friend, Happy Mother’s Day.

“that which has been your delight”

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