Divided We Fall

There’s an elephant in the room. In fact, there’s an entire herd. Our country is divided in ways not seen since the Civil War and that divide goes past party, right smack into a giant morass. This land of the free and home of the brave has been steadily careening toward a constitutional crisis and no one seems to know where the brakes are.

Uh oh.

Yes, I know jobs are on a steady rise and so is the stock market. The economy continues its 7-year recovery. So far, so good. But things like incivility, racism, gun violence and moral equivalency are ramping up to unseen levels, too. The gaping crevasse of division has been magnified, in no small way, by the man whose very position is supposed to bring us all together — not fuel a growing turmoil. Under his reign, politics has morphed from that of my parents’ voting climate to a near monarchy. Party has become loyalty to a man, not the law or the values it once held firm. The aura of ‘presidential’ has become a myth as has national unity.

I am proud to be American and always will be, even though, like many relationships, ours can go off the rails sometimes. The relationship can get testy, make you worried and upset, but, like every family’s version of the drunk uncle, we accept it as part of a tribe we love. While we can’t disavow some frankly ugly parts of our American history, we are rightly proud of its multitude of shining achievements, generosity of spirit and so much more.

Your vibe attracts your tribe. Continue reading

What If’s . . . And Other Scary Things In The Night.

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”

I suspect that Tale of Two Cities’ opening line is a pretty apt description of most people’s lives. I certainly is of mine. Drama has always found me like a homing pigeon. and I’m pretty certain that “what if” were among my first words.

They say worry is a relentless scavenger. It’s an insidious little thing that crawls around your mind, feasting on whatever it finds. And it finds plenty. At any given moment, your head is host to a whole variety of negative possibilities that ‘could’ happen. In most areas of our life, we’re uber reasonable. We’re self-aware. We can laugh at ourselves. We’re even pretty cool. But that worry thing keeps real peace of mind on hold.

“Worry gives a small thing a big shadow.” Swedish Proverb

Are some of us just born worriers? Does stress come attached to life experiences? Yes — and yes. I’m an heir to legendary anxiety. My parents were worriers to the max, and an array of possible disasters was always on the menu. Could it be that we, like many people, have autonomic nervous systems that seem always to be higher than the average bear? Studies have shown that some of our brains are more wired for worry than others. Great. We can buy a lot of stuff on Amazon but a new brain? Nada

Experiencing trauma gives constant stressing a step up. Been there, done that. Traumatic experiences reset ‘normal’, and raise thoughts about what could happen to the Olympic level. Once encountering that dark side, we can’t take anything for granted ever again. Going forward, everything has a question mark assigned to it and a panic button ready and waiting.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Reinhold Niebuhr

I think my first wake-up call came the day I arrived home from school as a high school freshman to an empty house and a ringing phone. The person on the other end offered condolences on my brother’s death – but not the one who’d die a few years later. No, their call was about my other brother who, unbeknownst to me, had been hit by a car and was in very serious condition. My terrified parents had raced, to the hospital with no time for a note, leaving me in a vacuum to wonder what had happened. That brother today is a father and grandfather but on long ago fall day, trauma visited us all.

I’m no stranger to panic attacks. They’ve dogged me for years and anyone who’s had one, knows how it feels to have your body hijacked. All of a sudden, you’re breathless, dizzy and feeling doomed. Your heart is out of control and you think you are, too. But once again, you’re being conned by your brain. Oh, that brain of ours. Continue reading

The Blue/Green-Eyed Travel Monster

I see you. Smiling faces peering over ship railings. Eyes squinting in the brilliant Italian sun.  Bodies sleek in scuba gear in the Galapagos. One more happy Facebook vacation picture — and the computer gets it.

Okay, I feel better now.

Somewhere among those Facebook pictures of a river cruise and toes in the sand, I ran dry. Don’t get me wrong. I’m more than happy for friends’ ability to get outta Dodge and realize their travel dreams, just as they’d be for me. When you’re livin’ the hard-earned dream, it’s only natural to share it – with everyone. Glimpsing a buddy trekking through the Grand Canyon can be an actual public service, right? (I’m kidding) Poring over gorgeous Instagram shots might be the only way I’ll ever get to see those magical sites. (Those pics also incite my inner wannabe fabulous photographer)

It’s a big world. We all want to press ESC and see all we can before the curtain closes. Travel is what we save for, and dream of. It jazzes us to check off each destination box, especially when it comes equipped with memories to relive again and again.  I know. I have pictures to prove it.

These days though, not so much.  Maybe that’s one reason the rolling visual travelogues on my Facebook timeline triggers me; but not for the reasons you might think. At first, even I thought the cheerful travel odysseys were a sneaky bazinga of all the places I may never see. But slowly I realized that’s only one piece of the missing. Maybe those barefoot in the sand toe shots, or glistening views of the Eiffel tower point up the sedentary chiaroscuro of a shadow life. Yet, hey, I’m not exactly STUCK to that couch; my life is pretty damn full. In fact, the only thing that needs changing is the empty space next to me, but that ship sailed when my husband left. So why the stupid pity party? Why, when I click those ‘hearts’ and ‘likes’ on friends’ vaca pics to parts known and unknown, do I sometimes feel so empty? And what’s with the wanderenvy? Continue reading

Kids — The Footprints You Leave Behind.

“A hundred years from now it won’t matter what sort of house I lived in, or kind of car I drove but, the world may be different because I was important to the life of a child.”

Between escalating birthdays and widowhood, I reflect a lot these days (it happens) on the meaning of life – and the brevity of it.  My tiny children are now parents of their own small, wonderous kidlets, and running on the same parental hamster wheel of schedules, homework, errands and laundry that once filled my days. Then comes the empty nest and wipes those days away. But, there is still nothing I wouldn’t do for those worrywart, race-against- the-clock times, and the babies who inhabited them — back again.

From the minute those squalling little bodies are placed in our arms, our hearts swell so large we think they’ll burst from our love for them. And every day thereafter, we’ll do every crazy thing we can to keep them safe, healthy and happy – or try to. I remember when my neighbor and best bud and I went on a no-nitrate, no additive, all homemade binge, convinced we would rule as health-conscious moms. The good news? We became homemade bread champs. The bad news was we were the only ones eating this healthy fare. (damn, that was good bread) During those months of banned hot dogs, Wonder Bread, bologna and all things artificial, we were on the bottom rung of our kids’ hit parade. Those little buggers much preferred Campbell Soup and Marshmallow fluff moms and eventually we sold out, coughed up some hot dogs, but to our credit – they were turkey dogs.

Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see. Neil Postman

Today threats to children’s well being lurk around every corner, or at least it seems that way to helicopter grandmas who endlessly email and/or snip random articles about GMOs, guns, and social media bullying. Everything, short of a zombie apocalypse, seems like a possible threat to my grandchildren’s well-being, no matter how remote. Continue reading

Hope SPRINGS Eternal

Fiendishly fluffy bunnies. Cavity inviting chocolates. Treats in colors that don’t exist in nature. Enough cheerful Easter goodies are born each year to fill baskets to overflowing. They make it hard to remember the holiday is anything more than a Hallmark moment. But Easter is a season, a timeless, ancient season of being reborn, renewed and transformed.

The oldest Christian holiday, Easter focuses on Christ’s triumph over death while the Hebrew Passover commemorates freedom from enslavement. No matter which you celebrate, both converge in a message of hope.

“Spring is God’s way of saying – ‘one more time’.” Robert Orben

Like nature’s seasons, life, too, is indeed short. Remembering its transience makes our own, and every life around us, even more valuable. That transience of life is symbolized colorfully each spring in Japan, when the appearance of cherry blossoms signal the festival of Hanami. Like the cherry blossom, each and every life brings color to the world. When lives are lost, summer is drained of sunlight, autumn becomes colorless and winter is long and empty to the loved ones who remain behind. Eventually, the weather turns mild and the season graduates to one of hope. That’s why spring is so much more than fuzzy little chicks and bright pink peeps. It symbolizes an exodus from dark times; a delivery from despair. Pretty apt for people who grieve.

“Every flower must go through dirt first”

Continue reading

Blogiversary . . . and Beyond

When I picked up my pen (uh, mouse) to begin this blog, I had no idea how long the conversation would continue. In those dark days, I had no words.  Yet, I had plenty because, well, that’s how I roll. Sometimes they made no sense, even to me. All I could do was send my soul out to the universe in kooky missives that, gratefully, you read and shared back to me. It’s been two years this month since that first blog post, and it’s only now, as I survey the emotional landscape, that I realize those words were actually breadcrumbs strewn toward the land of the living. They helped me leave behind the expectant vision of two old people rocking on a front porch that clearly would never be, and somehow steadied me on the path I now walk alone.

“The most painful state of being is remembering the future.” Kierkagard

Don’t get the idea that these last two years have been clarity-filled light bulb moments. There hasn’t been an overwhelmingly gung ho determination to race through a bucket list. Full disclosure? Most days, I’m not too sure of anything at all.  I just bluff pretty damn well. Okay, there was that time (twice to be exact) I came out on the winning end of a them vs me go-round with car dealers, especially the fight for Blueberry 2.0. And of course, there was the reluctant (what’s not to like – it was free) trip to CA, where in spite of myself, I had a good time. I even wrote a pretty damn good review for my client. Bonus. Christmases have passed, so have Easters. Valentine-less Days and birthdays without my man. But lonely I wasn’t.  Surrounded by super great adult kids, gorgeous, blooming grandkids and amazing friends in abundance, I can only be grateful.

“Life must go on; I forget just why.” Edna St. Vincent Millay Continue reading

Letter to a Younger Me

Time traveling was never in my wheelhouse. Like it or not, we can never go can go back in time. Our life playbook has only one gear – forward. So since I’m already pretty far forward in mine/our life, kiddo. I thought 18 is a pretty good age to catch you up on a few things. I had to cross a lot of time zones to see the number you are now, but I thought it was time for a chat. Taking the long view (and it’s gets longer every day) there will never be a better time to let you know that no matter what – it’s all gonna be okay.

It won’t always be easy and you’re going to make a hell of a lot of mistakes. You’ll be pushed sometimes beyond your breaking point but you won’t break, I promise you. You won’t always be strong; but you’ll rock it when you need to. In moments you feel the most insecure, the most vulnerable, the most scared, those moments will also most shape you. When you think you’ve reached a dead end, a new path will open. When you feel most like a failure, you’re the closest to finding your center. Sometimes you’ll wonder if you’ll ever recover. You will.

Spoiler alert. The jury is still out on happily ever after but judging all that’s happened, the chances are iffy.  Your heart is going to be broken more than a few times. Trust me that you’ll feel a wee bit resentful that you skipped art school to put a husband through college. That choice will never feel dumber than after said husband exited stage left and you become a typing, filing single mom of three instead of the artist you thought you’d be. But kids grew up, jobs came and went and doors opened to new possibilities. You’ll discover gifts you didn’t know you had. Okay, your art will be less Michelangelo and more commercial illustration and graphic design, but, hey, you’ll be doing it. Your creative self will evolve as you do. And every time you get sucked into the stigma of missed college, a shelf full of creative awards will remind you that, while you did it backwards, you did it. Continue reading

Book Junkie? Why, yes.

belle-weeee-library

My obsession is pretty harmless as compulsions go. I’ve been under its spell for as long as I can remember and I make no apologies. My adolescent self could rip through an entire pile of Nancy Drew mysteries within a few days and I frequently employed by under-the-covers flashlight after curfew. I kickstarted my kids’ obsessions for books with their own library card before they could even walk. And what DO people do on a beach without a book (or three)?

I confess. I’m a book junkie.

Through the years, my tastes may have changed but my addiction to the written word is still in full swing. When my super smart youngest daughter was still living at home, we craved our Barnes and Nobles Friday night soirees. Indulging our reading addiction was about as wild and crazy as we got. We’re just such badasses.

Every time the library called to tell me the book(s) I reserved were in and needed to be picked up, I’d do my happy dance.  My kids rolled their eyes. It might have had something to do with the Jenga pile of books in my bedroom still begging to be read. What might be (slightly) worse is that my book case holds many back-up, wanna-be-reads and possibilities, patiently bi their time in the sun that never seems to come.

You can find magic everywhere you look. Just sit down and read a book. Dr. Seuss

In all these years, I never joined a book club because, well, I’m just that much of a renegade. Plus I need my  freedom to choose. Don’t even get me started about going to a movie and comparing it to the book because the book usually wins. And how about when a really great story you haven’t been able to put down finally ends? What kind of author DOES that to people?

I like big books and I cannot lie.

Books wait for me to join them at the end of the day. They sit patiently, ready to both entertain — and put me to sleep. Some nights only few pages get read before sleep takes over; others, until I glance at the clock, I’d never know a hour and 8 chapters have passed Apparently, my eyes compete with my need to find out what happens next. I can’t count how many times my husband removed my glasses and said book from my sleeping form.

Can you admit to sighing with annoyance when someone asks a question at a critical part in the story? Does the word ‘bookaholic’ ring a happy bell? People who warn about the dangers of walking while you’re on the phone never saw someone book in their face. Now THAT’s scary. Continue reading