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Amusement Parks

Every summer when I was a kid was spent at amusement parks.  We went to Six Flags Magic Mountain the most and Knott's Berry Farm came in second.  There's sweet nostalgia in the biting smell of chlorinated water, the burn of heated oil frying funnel cakes, and the clank and roar of a roller coaster loaded with excitement. We would go in groups and make sure we were able to ride together, asking strangers to ride ahead of us. We were in large groups, playing hothands or slide in line as we would laugh and gossip and talk about cute boys.  Sometimes we would split off to ride different rides, and meet up for lunch at a designated spot and time.  It was an endless day of rides, plotting our day in a progression across the park, acre by acre, ride by ride, greasy treat followed by too much sugar.  And water rides.  The water rides were a morning, noon and night treat because in the morning and at night the lines were short, and at midday, we talked and got sunburns and didn't mind waiting two hours for a ride that lasted less than five minutes.

"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed." - Carl Jung

img_0532I was given about $40 and I had to really consider if food was more important than an airbrushed shirt.  All day in line with a cute boy and hand holding was different from back in the real world where we had friends that watched closer and had opinions.  I still remember a ride on Free Fall at Magic Mountain with a cute boy holding my hand and giving it a squeeze right when we dropped and for the first time really yelling on a ride because I generally smile and enjoy the drops and turns. He was flipping his baseball cap on and off his head with the visor and his hair was slicked back like a helmet. His name was Manny.  He changed the experience that day. 

"She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world."—Kate Chopin, "The Awakening"

Yesterday I took kid3 to Knott's Berry Farm.  His older brothers were at Anime Expo with their Dad so we had a mother and son date weekend. Age has done some wicked things to my body and things feel different.  They look different.  There was a determination to make the day one where my son could just be a kid.  It happened on our way into the park when I was telling him that my last trip was before I had kids when I went with my Dad.  Knott's honors our Veterans with free admission around Veteran's Day.  My son wanted to go then so it wouldn't cost me.  It was then that I realized he was so concerned about having enough that I wasn't allowing him to be a child.  He was worried about money. Before we set foot inside the park, I looked him in the eye and said the only thing he needed to worry about is how much fun he could have, and keeping me from puking.  He kept having moments of making a request, and then covering it up by saying he was just kidding.  I spent the day telling him that his thoughts, opinions and desires are important, and he doesn't have to be kidding, but any requests that had to be denied came with a reason that even he could validate.  If at anytime he had to go to the bathroom, was hungry or thirsty or wanted to see or do something, it was up to him.  There were limits, such as climbing on railings, but I wanted to stress how important his childlike innocence is to me.  Figuring out being a single mom is stressful and I didn't see until that moment how much it was weighing on him as well.

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"I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become." - Carl Jung

My stomach was different when I was younger.  It was stronger.  I was able to ride anything and shake it off to ride the next big coaster by the time we got through the long line. I loved the loops and riding backward. Now I don't.  Now the loops and spirals make me want to vomit.  Don't get me wrong, I've never been able to stomach a Merry-Go-Round.  I get dizzy.  But rides that twist and spin tend to make me want to vomit now so I avoid most rides that are not wooden coasters.

"Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people." -Carl  Jung

There were many rides where I stood in line with my son and waited with him, only to step through and wait for him to ride alone.  Or I asked if others would ride with him.  It wouldn't have been fun for either of us if I got sick and we had to sit the whole day.  I know my limits. Mind you, only a few weeks ago, I got car sick in someone else's car.  (It might have just been a bad date and a reaction to him.) Wooden roller coasters are made for steep climbs and tremendous drops.  I love the weave back and forth. While Ghostrider made me burp like it was a Beerfest, I didn't want to hurl.  I was smiling throughout the ride.

At one point there was a family behind us complaining about the long wait. My child started to grumble.  I pulled my son into a hug and told him the long wait wouldn't get any shorter if we started complaining and it just means more time to hang out and give him my full attention. Then we started tickling each other. 

"Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate." - Carl Jung

My son loves terrifying rides.  He feels fear and excitement and will talk about being afraid, but he's also very determined to ride in spite of his fear.  This is bravery and I am so proud of him.  At one point his determination made a grown woman suck it up and go on a ride she almost backed out of. 

Throughout the day, I was declining rides because of a fear of being sick.  It's a solid concern considering how consistently I get sick, but still, I kept chickening out.  The times I did get on rides, I laughed and screamed in joyful exhilaration while my son rode next to me with terror etched in his 9 year old features.  At the end of the ride, he was happy and excited and wanted to ride again while I was happy during the ride, and sick afterward.  I'm not sure what it means yet, but it means something, right?

"Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes." -Carl  Jung

Rewriting the Past in the Present

I woke up early yesterday and decided I wanted to walk over memories made in San Pedro in 1997. It was my first thought at 6 in the morning. Actually, I waffled back and forth for a few hours while in bed, thinking I would take a niece. One didn't answer her phone and the other two were busy being productive young adults.  I checked the weather report to see if those insane winds we just had would revisit and threaten my comfort at the beach. No crazy winds and it's too hot to not wear a bikini.  I've been to the beach alone plenty of times, but to go alone in a bikini is another thing altogether .  I almost stayed home, but I noticed the toe nail polish I chose earlier this week matched my bikini and took it as a sign and finally left after 10. The boyfriend I had in 1996-1997 was a special guy.  He was German and El Salvadorean.  We met through friends.  He knew them before he left Los Angeles for Far Rockaway, New York where he finished out high school with his grandmother because he was out of control in gang life here.  He came home with an accent that I will always have a thing for.  I think it was just the way he straddled ethnicities and racial identities the way I do.  He didn't fit in one place just like I couldn't and he felt like home. He was the type to remember every month anniversary with flowers.  He remembered I'm not fond of baby's breath and each bouquet was unique and beautiful.  He designed a lot of them himself. Before he bought his Mustang, he would hitch a ride with his best friend who was dating my best friend.  Once, he rode his bicycle from his home in North Hollywood to my home in Elysian Park just to see me.  He always had a hiking adventure planned, or wanted to take me out somewhere special.  He bought me a couple of dresses, and had a great sense of style. He once bought himself a jacket but gave it to me when he saw how much I loved it and how happy it made me. He made serious things fun, and sensual things funny.  I was devastated when our relationship ended. There were other men and a whole marriage happened since then, but I had always cherished this one memory in San Pedro and it was time to walk through it with the clarity of time.

I took the 110 Freeway to the very end.  I remembered when he drove and I fell asleep.  Falling asleep while someone else drives is always a sign I feel completely at ease and trust the person I am with.  I think falling asleep with someone else means you feel safe enough to give them your vulnerability.  I remembered waking up on the way because he had decided to race someone else on the freeway and the speed change and swerving woke me.  I startled awake, freaking out a bit and he laughed at me.  I laughed too, and only now see I would have been justified in being angry that he was always driving recklessly with little regard for my safety.

I got to the Korean Friendship Bell and walked around for a while.  I remembered holding hands and walking around the bell.  He was so happy and he looked all around, but I was just focused on watching him.  We stayed on the concrete path around the bell, but I didn't yesterday.  I wandered around the grassy hills all around because I wanted to explore all sides.  I want to see all there is to see.  I love a good view and forgot how much I do in the flow of being so much to other people.

I drove a block from the Friendship Bell and parked at Pt. Fermin Park.  We had hiked down from the park almost 20 years ago, then we ate Cheetos and  made sandwiches from all that he packed in the lunch he surprised me with.  Today I hopped the wall like we did before.  The fence seemed bigger today than it did before.  The "No Trespassing" signs were everywhere. And people were still ignoring them. I wore a bikini today with a tank top and skirt over it.  I put on my river shoes at the car and hiked down the way we did last time.  It was steep and at times completely terrifying.  I forgot about it because he made me feel safe back then. I focused on one step after another, and secure places to hold onto while the dirt shifted and wrapped around me feet, sliding me further along than I planned in many places. When I got to the bottom, I started hopping from rock to rock reminding myself of a goat, shocked and excited that I made it all the way down the cliff face without falling or injuring myself.

I walked around and looked at the life in the rocks. There were sea urchins and anemones.  There were so many tiny hermit crabs in the small tide pools.  In one area, I saw three sea slugs at once, and clams with long arms reaching out to hold on during the rise and fall of the tides and violent crashing waves.  The High and Low Tide schedule I had gotten from a lifeguard in Malibu informed me that we were already at low tide, and as I watched, I remembered seeing millions of starfish, when I couldn't spot one today.

At one point I saw a man hike over the rocks from the eastern side of the shore.  He stood at the base of the cliff, ready to head back up and he seemed content to enjoy the waves that were crashing and flooding around my ankles as I stood on boulders and watched a rocky shelf appear out of the Pacific. I smiled his way because it was a friendly place to be and everyone there was happy to be there. He waited and when his girlfriend joined him, I could see she was wearing strappy sandals.  I remembered with gratitude the last time I was there and I was warned to bring sensible shoes and had a hand to hold and constant guidance over the rocks.  I could remember and feel the love through all of these years and it was a great feeling as I released that memory of his gentle kindness.  I took a moment to reflect on the selfishness I witnessed today and redirected my thoughts as I saw the parallels in this stranger and my own life. It was Magic Mountain and Disneyland all over again, where we lost kids for a while.

As the rocks spread out before me, I realized that even in low tide, the water would still reach me, and wash around my ankles.  It still splashed the hem of my skirt even as I could see rock formations that were completely hidden when I first arrived.  It was this profound moment when it dawned on me that even in low tides, the waters will reach me, but they won't over take me because they crash so far away from my place - my focus, that the little waves don't matter.  It was a life lesson that I could apply to the roller coaster that is what started as a marriage.  Some days the waves splash much more painfully than others, but I'm at low tide, and it's nothing like it was in those first months where everything was devastating and the water raged above me and there was no air to breathe or a sun to warm the chill of the icy waters.

I decided to hike back up on the other side where that couple had ascended the cliff.  I turned and took a picture where  I thought I had reached half way.  In reality, I was only half way to Sunken City.  Sunken City was a small community of bungalows.  The cliff began to fall and the homes were evacuated and relocated.  Two of the houses fell into the sea, but the place is full of bare foundations covered in graffiti. While waves lapped around my feet and sea life swayed in the tide pools around me, I could see several people up there, watching me, and I assumed it was the top of the cliff, but lower from where I hiked down. The climb from Sunken City to the park was the most difficult. It's possible that if I had explored a bit I might have found an easier path. I reached the top and it felt amazing to do so.  I kept looking back and thinking, I could have died, and how dumb this idea was because I'm a Mom.

But I didn't die and it felt amazing to do it on my own.

I kept smiling because I did it.  I did it without twisting an ankle, falling, or scraping my hands or legs. I broke the law in going past the signs that were placed for my safety.  I went down, then up the side of a cliff without a buddy or even letting anyone know what kind of shenanigans I had in mind.  My sister knew I was planning on going to San Pedro, but I didn't mention the climb.  If I had one of her girls with me, I wouldn't have made that part of our adventures, but I felt fine doing it alone.  I also talked to my Dad and he wanted to know what I was getting into.  I told him I was on a field trip in San Pedro and he mentioned how much he wants calamari.  I told him he could meet me at Santa Monica later and we could have dinner.

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I arrived in Santa Monica and sunbathed for a while.  I chose a spot near the pier where there is no swimming a fewer people. I had already hiked in my tank top, and spent the day sans sunscreen (poor planning) so my awkward tan lines are a product of that, but I spent some time on a beach in my bikini, completely alone.  It took a while to realize no one cared what I looked like.  It's a truth I once danced in under the protective gaze of a husband and my constant vigilance over our children. Alone on the beach surrounded by other people . . . no one really cared about my stretch marks or soft parts and the ones looking sent a smile of appreciation.  I didn't bother to go in the water.  I am fully aware of how cold it is, and the icy sting on my ankles and calves in San Pedro were enough.  I walked up and down the pier and again saw that friendly photographer.  He found a ladybug on my shoulder and handed it to me, saying it was good luck.  His smile was friendly as always.  He opened his arms for a hug, and I returned it with half of one.  My instincts are telling me I'm not comfortable with him in that way because how I feel about a hug says a lot, and I will probably avoid that part of the pier unless I'm walking it with someone who wants to hold my hand.  I mainly wanted to see what people are catching, but I haven't seen any fish yet, so I'm probably not missing much.

I stopped in the aquarium under the pier to ask about the missing starfish.  The guy charging admission told me there was a virus that attacked them a few years back and there aren't really any in our waters anymore.  He told me to give it three or four more years because the last time he was scuba diving, he saw some tiny ones and they're coming back.  He was impressed with my observation and I had a few moments of joy at the attention to my curiosity.  I'm always curious, but it's not always a good thing to be. I left and wondered if I should have flirted with him, but didn't feel inclined to correct that.  I was still enjoying the way it felt to hike up that cliff and that feeling left little room for any romantic endeavors.

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It was my Dad and sister's first trip to Bubba Gump.  More than that, I was open to including them in part of my day, without altering my plans completely to make someone else happy. It was the first time I had been there since going with my family - with my ex.  It was nice to see their food joy and see them enjoy the pier as briefly as they did.  It was last minute, so they weren't prepared.  I walked them to their car and then walked to mine where I pulled on a pair of jeans, then pulled off my skirt.  I slapped on my Uggs because they keep the sand and cold out and walked along the shore to catch the sunset before walking along the pier again where I offered to take pictures of strangers that were trying to catch their coupledom in a Santa Monica Sunset. I sat on a bench and smiled at the day I had while a musician played Greensleeves.  I spent some time singing along to some K-ROQ classics with Rock and Roll Jesus, and one of these days I will take a picture of him. He sings and hustles almost every day of the week.  Most of them do, and I admire that. I had a bag of cotton candy to myself.  It was my reward for not drinking my calories at Bubba Gump when I had their unsweetened tea.

I left and took the streets again.  This time I thought I'd take a new street, which is something I used to do all of the time and how I found my way to Will Rogers.  I used to just drive and take streets that were interesting.  When I was younger, I kept a Thomas Guide in the trunk in case I got lost.  I got a little lost last night and when I asked Siri to rescue me, I started laughing at how far off I was.  I pulled over because I didn't trust her sense of directions, and looked at the map and saw where I went wrong.  I made two left turns where she was sending me right, and I knew where I was again.  That is growth for me.  My greatest adventures through Los Angeles used to be in getting lost and mapping my way out of it.  Then I dated gang members.  My ex was the only one to get jumped into Vet status, and that was after we had started our family.  No one got jumped out. They're still gang members. They will always be afraid to "get caught slipping" in a rival gang's neighborhood.  They will avoid certain areas in the off chance someone will recognize them, and it's not as simple as saying you have the wrong person.  For some reason, it's possibly worse to deny you're the person that made really bad choices.  I remember getting lost around the Citadel with the ex.  I went into a full on panic attack.  Last night getting lost gave me joy and great belly laughs.  I laughed at myself and laughed at how exhausted I was, and how much I was enjoying the ride home.  I even smiled through departing Dodger traffic, and decided it's time to look for a schedule because that area affects my escape hatch trips.

It was a lovely day and I'm so glad I listened to Goddess Gloria when I met her in that child support court and she suggested I re-do that memory in San Pedro.  She was right.  It was a good memory and he was a great guy, but he had a cruelty streak that I saw in how he treated my younger brothers.  I would never introduce him to my sons because of that.  It wasn't okay then when I was a selfish big sister, but I'm a mom now and it's my job to protect my kids.  I take that seriously.  He had a problem with accountability.  Nothing was ever a result of his actions, and I have enough sins of my own to cover.  He's another person not worth looking up, but that memory was special and I needed to see it for what it was and making new memories - memories of my accomplishments and my growth made yesterday so much more than what happened in 1997. And my old lady knees feel great. It's my calves and thighs that are looking for a day of soaking in epsom salts in my jetted tub. It hurts to move but I'm smiling.

Motherhood as Leadership

I was one of those Leadership kids in my Freshman year.  Over 20 years ago it was the last year of Junior high and not the first year of high school. We had meetings and someone took minutes, but it was really a free pass out of class to run around and plan school dances and fundraisers.  There was so much more to what it was supposed to be, but I only ran for my office as a popularity contest on someone else's social agenda.  I got the hall pass and sweatshirt and front and center seats for major assemblies, the panorama picture and graduation.  We booked the d.j. and diluted fruit punch concentrate into hydration for the circles of dancers that showed off their moves, but would pretend to be wall flowers as soon as the lights were back on.  We sold tickets and decorated a depressing boys gym into a room suitable for raging hormones, gross insecurities and cliques of kids rushing in hordes for potential dance battles and fist fights. I never understood what the goal of the class was meant to be because we had a series of tasks but I didn't have the understanding of the reasons behind them. In recent years, my thoughts on leadership have grown.  During my last pregnancy, we spent a lot of time at amusement parks.  The ex lost over 100 pounds and he wanted to go and keep going with his new-found energy.  We had littles and I was pregnant with another couple's twins.  We would walk in a line where he would lead and I always took up the rear to make sure we didn't lose anyone.  That was when I decided I wanted to be more than a mom.  I wanted to be a leader to my sons.  It was in noticing that our pace wasn't set by the most capable, but by the one that needed the most guidance and hand holding, which switched between kids several times per hour.  In taking the rear, and making sure my kids were on course, I was guiding them. I was encouraging them to catch up to Daddy and watching that they didn't wander in a different direction.

Leadership isn't about telling people what to do and expecting them to jump because of your position or their fear of you.  It's not about puffing up your position, but letting your team know the ways they are a valuable and essential part of your team. It's about guidance and encouragement to lead your team to want to do better and think in ways that promote the team, and not the individual. Leadership means the leader is as much an integral part of the team as every single member, but the leader is accountable for fostering a culture of advancement.

For my family, leadership is about establishing a compelling direction and for now that is a direction founded in acceptance and unconditional love.  No matter what choices they make in life and love, they know I will always love and support them.  Soon after they started telling me they loved me, I started telling them that I will always love them, whether or not they love boys or girls. Their choices might not always make me proud, but I will always be proud to be their mother.  I do my best to encourage open communication and I don't place my shame or my feelings on them if I can help it.  I help them solve problems and the day they stop coming to me with them, is the day I know I have failed them as a leader.

My goal for my family is to foster relationships that build each other up.  I hear it gets easier when brothers are older.  Leadership in this way takes the direction of enabling a structure of support.  It's encouraging them when they play together and discouraging destructive competition. It's in helping each other to do well.  It's a thank you when one sacrifices for the other, or when one helps with a homework problem explanation when my reserves are low and I need the perspective of someone else in my single mom home.

One day the authority I empower as mom will help my children internalize my ideals.  When those thoughts become theirs and they understand their own manifest and latent benefits, they will idealize and live out these lessons in every area of their lives.  Leadership teaches others to lead their own lives with intention.  It's not enough to be an angry mother with timbered calls of authority.  It's the gentle guidance that makes them search for answers on their own, with nudges from me that lead them along the path I had scouted in my own adolescent adventures.

It's been a difficult year.  There's no way to sugarcoat that. Being positive is part of my personality but it's also about leadership.  If my kids see that I can be positive in a negative situation, it shows all of us that our answers are not impossible. It's about knowing I will make mistakes and just get things wrong. It's allowing them to hold me accountable and asking them to call me out on my prideful ignorance.  I frequently remind myself to be the mom my children deserve, and not the mom I feel like being.  I let them know that our family is ours, and our home is not just mine.  It helps them find enthusiasm in being part of our family and obligation becomes privilege.

I believe leadership is found in doing what is right, rather than what is easy.  It falls in line with financial stewardship and embracing the idea that you don't know all of the answers, and you don't have to, but your curiosity will be rewarded with at least trying to find the answers.

That Time I was the Other Woman

It wasn't on purpose.  It never was.  He was sweet and made her feel like his world was better with her in it.  He wanted her to meet him while he was working because he was always working and she was his happiness.  Her new soundtrack was about the longing and love he made her feel as they sat and talked and kissed in her car while he was on a break. She only saw him at work.  He was on location and she was happy to follow him on sets all over Los Angeles.  He would wrap warm arms around her and lend her his jacket.  She wore Versace Red Jeans and he wore Versace Blue Jeans. It was unintentional but it must have meant something in the signs she was searching for. They would smoke cigarettes together, and he would light hers with the Zippo lighter she bought and had engraved with his name. He always lit her cigarettes in a show of old Hollywood chivalry. His house was in Rancho Cucamonga and too far for her to visit, but he told her she would be proud that he mowed his lawn every weekend.  He only had his kids on weekends and he wanted her to meet him at his house one day - to meet his kids.  His kids were his world and his ex girlfriend wasn't in the picture anymore. His work schedule made it hard to see them anytime but the weekends.

Her friends didn't believe he was real because they never saw him but made fun of his last name and called him Mango.  He was sweet and they gave him a code name she loved.  Her friends saw the shiftiness and wondered why they never saw him.  If he loved her, why was it so easy to stay away from her?

His story began to shift in the days and weeks they dated. Working as a gaffer was hard work and long hours, but eventually he became the supervisor of the security company on most sets.  She didn't question his lies because it didn't matter what he did as long as he kept making her smile. The ex was all the bad in the world.  She was the source of his pain and she took all of his hard work and spent it and didn't care about him.  She went from ex girlfriend to ex-wife in a few dates, because his dishonesty was killing him and he needed her to know that she meant enough to be open and honest.

He met her at her favorite pool hall with his son Michael and brother Jason.  They played 8-ball.  Michael was sweet and shy and happy to be with his Daddy and Daddy's friend.  Daddy kissed his friend, but friends sometimes kiss and it was innocent to a five-year old.

She met him at work and his co-worker told her that he was still married, and she shouldn't trust his lies because his lies were destroying worlds.  She couldn't believe that.  His words brought hope and happiness.  His words made her feel lovely in all of the low places because he wanted her but loved her enough to wait and fill their visits with words and kisses and the kisses were chaste because he respected her.

One day she ran into his brother on a location set.  Jason felt bad that she was so misled and he gave her the honesty his brother was withholding.  She was dating a married man who went home to his wife every night and beat her when he was angry.  She was dating a married man and the proof was irrefutable. Jason took her to meet their mother and unwrapped her Christmas gift in memories through a scrapbook wedding with grand babies. Her boyfriend was the groom and the Daddy and she was a homewrecker.  She was a trollop.

Jason wanted to touch the places she wanted to be touched.  Jason knew how to pull her across a dance floor and wanted to show her what he thought the meaning of life was and it filled the spaces her boyfriend left.

She would never kiss her boyfriend again and dumped him because he had a wife.  The longing and pain were real. He was pretending but it was real to her. She wouldn't see him again, though he begged her and she missed him.  She would want closure because it was a word that meant she might not have been wrong to give him her heart. She would spend weeks feeling like the lowest scum on earth for being with a married man, for feeling like her happiness could justify the destruction of a family.

She would never again date a married man because the point of marriage is that you aren't open to dating. What this boyfriend taught her would settle into solid lines never to be crossed because he taught her what marriage isn't in the weight of what she danced in.  His allusions made her feel beautiful and the unfairness of his lies made her wonder how much was real.

She would settle for a man who wasn't handsome but made her feel desire that consumed them both.  He wasn't successful but she found home was in his arms. She would learn to trust him through the times he betrayed that trust. She would wait in faithfulness through his solid and malicious rejection, until she would decide that she had enough of what he offered and she would want more joy than he could ever give again.

One day she would look up the old boyfriend because cyber stalking is her gift.  She would see that he is divorced and looks nothing like he did in her memories. In 16 years, his children grew into beautiful expressions of their parents.  She could see that the pain he caused them cut him out of their pictures and likely their lives. The shadows of released inhibitions weighed down the happiness in his smile and though he now tips the scale far less than he used to, he stands as though there is more weight on his shoulders.The fading tattoos that were one or two now mapped destruction all over his entire body. She would decide he wasn't worth a hello.

She would continue looking up other ex boyfriends to hold them up and see if she would want them back.  She would decide to keep the memories they gave her but that they weren't worth the friend request. They weren't worth a revisit.  She would pour herself a fresh cup of coffee and daydream about the shape and form of her next lesson with a Cheshire cat smile and joyful anticipation.

Have a Drink with me, part 2

My kids are home this weekend and the coming storm means we'll be home.  That makes them happy and it means I can lounge in pajamas and maybe bake some comfort. This coming kid free weekend I will be working up to the idea of relaxing inebriation, but I'm learning it's not just my comfort zone that needs stretching.  My family is used to seeing me as the designated driver because I put my ex's wants first.  They're used to seeing me sip a soda or water or anything non-alcoholic because I needed to be ready to Mom through a situation without worrying if I need a driver. I've written about my relationship with Drinking in the past, but I'm fleshing things out a bit today. Kid3 was with me last night and asked for soda.  We rarely have it in the house and I gave in to a 12 pack of Coca-Cola for my boys because a once in  awhile splurge should feel like a splurge. I picked up a purple bottle of Viniq.  I used to love Alize and Moscato d'Asti was my favorite wine until I had a reaction that required Benadryl.  I think it might be a good thing to try.  Over ice.  With a splash of club soda. I have a great drunken memory of drinking Alize on the floor of Pro's Billiards and telling my friends they were beautiful and asking if I could kiss them on the nose. I was loads of fun until I ended the night calling the boy I was nuts about and asking him why he was such an unfeeling asshole.  (I'm so not kidding about not being able to handle my liquor.)

Kid3 didn't like the idea of me drinking and didn't want me to buy the bottle of Viniq. A few months ago he said his Dad drinks a lot when they aren't around, but I never prodded.  We're grown ups.  We can pay taxes, vote and buy our own booze and cigarettes. I wasn't planning on drinking in front of my kids, but he was determined to let me know he doesn't want me drinking. I promised him I wouldn't drink it in front of him because I wasn't going to drink in front of my kids anyway, and I wanted it because of the pretty shimmery swirls. It was on clearance and cheaper than his lava lamp. We got home and kid1 had a problem with it too.  He pointed out that nothing good comes out of drinking.  My pretty bottle may remain a pretty bottle for a while.  I have other bottles that have gotten far less attention and no one will notice a dip in their levels. This morning I told my sister about the bottle of Viniq and she said, "wow, you're going all balls out." That made me giggle, and yes, we talk like that.  I very rarely write like that but spend enough time with me that I feel comfortable telling you the many things that I don't write about and I will talk like the teenage mom that doesn't want to grow up.  My walls come down and my censor is silenced. When I'm comfortable enough, I talk with my inner child more than I talk to my inner porn star and my inner porn star has made a few appearances on this blog. I'm very in touch with who I am and what makes me special.

Right out of high school the start of my week was about pizza, beer, cigars and Monday night football.  Sometimes alone, but often with friends.  A normal gathering included one to three 18 packs of beer for a group of 4 or 5 .  Back then it was MGD or Corona and sometimes Heineken and Mickey's. It took a while to decide I wasn't nuts about beer, and when alone, I would experiment with a bartender's bible in one hand and a jigger in the other.  I loved peach schnapps and would often drink Sex on the Beach when home alone. At bars, I ordered a Cape Cod because back then I was often in dive bars where the drink was different depending on who made it and people rarely got cranberry juice and vodka wrong. I liked apple martinis that tasted like blow pops, and not at all sour.  I don't remember how to make these anymore and I misplaced that bible many years ago.

With family, we used to drink Hennessy and it was my late grandmother's favorite. The one from Thailand would drink it straight up with a can of Pepsi next to her.  I have no idea if my grandmother in Houston drank. The family shifted the shared bottle of Hennessy to Courvoisier. Drinking with my family is fun and funny and not every time I've had a few drinks was scary, even if my last drinking post gave you that impression.  I had plenty of scary moments that I could never reconcile with being who I want to be as a person and as a mom but they were nights when I wanted to drink alone in public. It's not the drinks I had, but the choices surrounding those drinks that aligned with the path to self-destruction I was determined to walk on. I'm not afraid to drink or drink alone.

Alcohol never left my home.  I make coq au vin with red wine and cognac.  I add too many capers and a little white wine to my chicken picatta. My beef stew starts with beer and the darker the better, but I'm not picky.  I deglaze pans with dry red wine when I make pot roast.  Pork chops glazed in peach schnapps with shallots will always be a favorite.  I make hot buttered rum batter every Christmas and use spiced rum and whipped cream if a can survives the day with kids around after they've gone to sleep.  My kids still freak out a bit when they see me cook with alcohol, but then they taste what is familiar and see it's okay.

Every holiday we gather at my mom's house and there's drinking. The holidays are a time for love and silliness and just enjoying each other. I rarely join in on the drinks but I plan on changing that when I am kid free and don't have to worry about rushing out in the face of a sudden meltdown or ER visit.  I know I can hang around, grazing on too much food until I'm sober and not going to endanger the general public. I know I'm safe with family and that no one will judge me for not being able to talk without giggling or being overly affectionate. I'm not a binge drinker.  Not anymore.  Once I feel warm, I stop sipping and just enjoy the relaxed haze of intoxication. When it comes to drinking, I'm past testing my limits because we're well acquainted and I have nothing to prove.

Scent Memories and Lingering Ghosts

There's something so primal about a memory tied to scent. Infants at birth will use their sense of smell to know where food is coming from.  They are familiar with the sound of mom's voice but her scent is instinctual. There's an entire science of pheromones and secretions from sexual organs that call to sexual partners.  It's really fascinating and gets me excited in all my geeky places.  Scents can flood your mind with memories, help your memory and brain function, boost your mood . . . Your nose is amazing.  Mine tends to spread across my face a bit like peanut butter. It's adorable on my kids though. I was part of the last minute hordes on an egg run at the grocery store this morning. Reaching for a dozen eggs, my nose started sniffing in the opposite direction from where I was reaching and looking.  A man walked past me and his scent hit me in the memories of 8th grade.  I don't remember what he looked like.  It didn't even matter.  He reminded me of a boy in a semester length typing class.  I loved walking past him because he smelled like his black leather jacket and Drakkar Noir.  I didn't have a crush on him.  I just loved smelling him.

Dial antibacterial hand soap reminds me of a particular summer.  I once bought a ginormous refill bottle that lasted the entire summer.  There was a blonde skater who was in the middle of renovating his house.  He used the same soap in his bathroom, and that scent always reminds me of him. One whiff reminds me of him, but it only took two dates to decide he wasn't worth my time or the free drinks.

Old Spice reminds me of a frat boy with a gift for a single handed bra removal, and a love of binge drinking. He was an engineering major, and dorky enough to be cute. He didn't always wear it, but the one time he did left a memory that revives itself when I smell the original after shave. He loved how tall I was and had the silkiest black hair.  At the end of the day, commitment was never meant to be part of our relationship.

Sun tan oil reminds me of a season in skate shops and sandalwood scented sex wax.  That was a spring filled with Boone's Farm, sage smudge sticks and nicotine kisses. It was a time when I could expect a hand picked bouquet of some neighbor's flowers each day.

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Lately my scent memory reminds me I have a history before marriage and I will have a future after this one.  There will probably be a next husband once I get past the fear of being open to the first date.  I wonder what that will smell like.

The Connection Between Dreaming and Creative Writing

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In my early 20's I had vivid dreams every night.  I would wake up and scribble every detail in a spiral one subject notebook. Sometimes they made no sense whatsoever.  Other times, I'd wake with clarity and my problems became puzzle pieces that fell into place. When they really had me guessing, I'd usually turn to the internet for a search and answers. These searches would tease out deeper meaning hidden in my psyche.

When I was pregnant my vivid dreams usually involved lesbian sex.  I learned to just laugh at those and enjoy them for what they were.  While I'm not a fan of girl kisses, my sleeping mind wasn't against them at all. I carried so many boys in my Momma belly, it might have been their hormones.  The girls I carried shared enough of their hormones to give me pimples and horrible morning sickness.

I will carry the DNA of every child I carried in my womb for the rest of my life, circulating in my bloodstream.  For this reason, if you've ever carried a boy, don't bother taking a gender identity test that isolates male DNA.  It'll give you a false positive. Wait for a torpedo in the ultrasound when you go for the organ survey around 20 weeks.

For the last several years, I couldn't remember dreaming at all.  There's a definite correlation between my ability to write and my ability to be aware of any dreams.  I couldn't write for a long time.  At one point, I couldn't line up a paragraph and in frustration I would scrap it in tears.

There were many times that I'd start a journal and my husband would find it and read it and be hurt and depressed by it.  I hid them in the bottom of drawers and under mattresses. I taped them along the wall in our closet. Writing was a way to dump my anger, doubts and frustrations without lashing out at others.  He would later read my vitriol and internalize it.  Sometimes we'd talk.  Sometimes what I wrote would come back as a weapon against me in an argument at a later date.  Other times, it came out as anger or frustration that I would focus so intently on reading or writing that I wasn't able to give him or the kids my full attention.

In one of my many bids to win him back, I destroyed journals I had poured myself into that spanned more than two decades. I'm not upset about that.  There was a lot of anger in them, and destroying them changed how I write.  Changing how I write was able to shift my perspective, and I'm happier for it. Although, in my early journaling days, I was full of male bashing jokes.  Bad male bashing jokes.  I miss the laugh. I would write the word, "platypus," and giggle for a few minutes.  My favorite insults were "hamster penis," "vulture vomit," "penis dribble," and "chicken weenie." And no, chickens don't have weenies. I love it that most days I can slip back into that teenaged me, and be silly and make people think I'm a decade younger than I am.  I can dance through a song while focusing on work because I can find that joy and silliness.  It's never far from me.  My anger is.  I have most of the poems I've written throughout my life. The darkness that filled every moment is far from me.  I like who I am now, and I love that I'm not far from the silliness I used to live in, but it's been a long while since I've told someone they were being a hamster penis.

Part of loving being a student majoring in English was that I had an excuse to have to read and write.  A grade depended on that and my performance would later be monetized. In theory.  Still waiting on that one.  I am not a fan of most literature taught in college courses.  It was typically dry and boring.  It took 4 valiant attempts to get through Moby Dick and I was proud of getting through it, but didn't feel like I would ever want to read it again.  Children's literature with the undercurrent of moral teaching and sexual perversion was more interesting than I anticipated.  You should read Little Red Riding Hood with me.  It will scar you in your childhood dreams.

The other side of being a student and using school as an excuse for my bookish fix is that there wasn't room for creativity.  I would read countless dull literary masterpieces during the quarter, and on breaks go through several young adult paranormal romances because my brain needed the downtime, but I couldn't plot and plan a story.  I'm more of a pantser anyway, and there are major plot holes when I don't outline.  I tend to see them around the 40,000 word mark and scrap my manuscript and start over.  When I do plan, the writing bores me to the point that I hate revision, and if I don't want reread what I've written, it's ballsy to expect anyone to want to read it the first time through. This has happened at least six times. For some reason every time I read Twilight, I feel like I can be a writer.  I can do what she did there.  Then I read Harry Potter and know I'm not ready to create worlds, and "kill my darlings," as Stephen King has said or written.

So now I'm writing.  Most of what I'm writing is getting published in these blog posts.  Some of it stays private.  I haven't started on a book yet, because I can accept I'm just not there yet.  My prose isn't achingly beautiful.  My thoughts are still chaotic.  But I'm writing, and with the words, dreams are teasing my resting mind, and lingering each morning.  It's as if by writing, I've given myself permission to access the forbidden ideas held in check by fear of hurting my husband's feelings.  It's as if I have permission to work through issues and grow emotionally.  And I have.  You might not see it, but I do.

The best part is the way my mind can trail in opposite directions.  I woke up one morning on the tail end of a sexual dream.  It was tender and beautiful and not about my husband.  As the ephemeral tail of a lingering touch lost its substance, words filtered through my mind, with venom and angst about the wife I was and the many ways he took my giving heart for granted.  I was angry that I did it at my expense in the names of love and obedience, and his exit was about finding the happiness he deserved. They were such opposite thoughts, and they overlapped and still made sense.  As overwhelming as all of those emotions were, I didn't feel overwhelmed in the least.  I could evaluate both what my mind saw, and the words filtering through my mind with my eyes still closed.  It was epic.

I've started lucid dreaming where in the middle of a vivid dream, I know I'm dreaming.  I'm aware that what is occurring is happening in my sleep.  Or sometimes I'm on the verge of drifting off and I'll feel a dream trying to pull me in and I haven't fallen asleep yet. Most recently, I was drifting off and a gentle hand on my shoulder was pulling me back for a kiss, and it was so real and not real that it woke me up.  It was awesome.

Job Hunting and Optimism

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I'm job hunting and some days are more stressful than others.  I'm not worried about finding a job.  That will happen.  I'm constantly reaching out to three recruiters from different agencies. This morning I called, then emailed a fourth. When I say I'm reaching out, you can read that I'm harassing.  I am harassing them with ritualistic consistency every few days.  I'm also trolling craigslist, Monster and LinkedIn, applying to at least 10 positions a day, but usually more.  It's what I was doing before, and falling back into it is fairly easy.  I'm even sharing and liking things on LinkedIn.  This is a new step. I'm still a little iffy about it.  It's still a lot of unreliable fluff, and irrelevant puffery.  But it'll happen.

My main goal is to look for the right position.  I spent my entire career (when I wasn't birthing, butt wiping, or going to school) taking whatever job I could get, and selling myself at a discount for way too long.  I'm capable of teaching.  I was often requested as a substitute.  It's not what I was passionate about.  I don't want another job where I'm watching the clock so I can make an exit.  There was a day in January when I was lying in bed with my son.  I woke up and I didn't know if I was more excited to go to work, or be in bed with my child.  This was before I even laid eyes on my crush. I loved that feeling.  I had days where the work I was doing was interesting enough that I forgot to feed myself. One day my hangry moment was handled with pho, and someone walked in on me saying, "pho fo life," because my food joy was being gangster.  I love that feeling.  That is what I'm searching for.  That is why I'm passing up driving, and call centers, and sales.  I can handle front desk responsibilities but I'm happier when I'm not being paid to wait to fix customer problems and people drama.  I've done collection calls, but I didn't love it.  I've advocated for my kids.  I can do it for others.  But I don't love it. It's like doing laundry.  We don't love it, but it has to get done. I received many scholarships as a student, but I don't see myself being in a development office.  There is too much bowing and scraping involved for me to be passionate.  I can close a sale, but only if I really believe in what I'm selling, and lately I'm over the commodification of human existence.

The stresses come from well meaning loved ones that ask if I'm doing enough.  They tell me what I could do, what I should do.  I'd be a great teacher.  I should do sales or marketing.  I should . . . I could . . . "insert company here" is a great company and you could grow.  They mean well, but the weight of their anxiety makes it hard to breathe. I find myself really debating answering certain calls, but I haven't started avoiding people yet.  I don't want to be that person.  I'd rather be brave and fearless.  One day my voice will be louder out of my mouth than the sound of thoughts hitting stony walls inside my head.

I'm looking for growth, but more than that I'm looking for a company I want to grow with.  I want culture and values that I can believe in. I want to work for people that make the right choice, even if it's not the easiest choice.  The well meaning people in my life don't seem to understand that you tend to get hired to do what you've already been hired to do, and I didn't like what I've done enough to want to go back to it.  As much as I like writing, I don't think I want to get paid to listen to Alanis Morrisette and just write all day.  I need diversity. I need quantifiable results.  Writing for my college newspaper and being an English major taught me the quickest way to diminish your word joy is to add an editor without your passion or vision and make their word the final say in your final product. Reading and writing what you don't care for is equally destructive. I don't really want to give someone that authority over my craft. Not now, and maybe never.  I don't mind deadlines. They keep me focused. As far as work/family balance, I want to be able to get my kids off to school in the morning and have dinner with them.  When they're with their Dad, I'm okay with long hours.

Once this is posted, I'll be back to job hunting with coffee in hand, on my sunny front porch with pond sounds trickling to my left and two dogs on my right. My cat sits in a cardboard box right next to me, batting at my elbow for attention. Clawzilla loves my reactions. Her name is actually Socks, and it was cute when she would do that with socks while I folded laundry.  She's not cute right now.  I'm letting go of the weight on my shoulders that doesn't belong to me. All of my music is cycling on shuffle, so there's Depeche Mode and Morrissey followed by TLC and Fiona Apple.  Sip with me a while.  Feel the sun and soak in the vitamin D.  It does good things for us.  Watch the bees enjoy little yellow flowers and listen to birdsong from flat recesses and hidden behind points of the yucca trees, while squirrels play tag in the canary palm.  It'll be okay. I promise.

How My Support System Holds Me Up

I live in Lincoln Heights.  The hills dip and climb with views of downtown L.A. and the hills above Hollywood.  After getting kids off to school I drove around streets on hills with crumbling asphalt.  There's a hefty dose of fear that the incline is so steep my car will flip backward if I'm not careful.  At one point, I couldn't see beyond the hood of my car because of how sharply the road turned up the hill. The neighborhood is all narrow streets with room for one car at a time, and never in both directions. Street names include Tourmaline St., Turquoise St., Amethyst St., Mercury Ave., Beryl St., Pyrites St., Onyx Dr., Moonstone Dr., Radium Dr., Topaz St., Galena St. and Amber Pl., and in those names, I know there was a rock doctor that found home in those hills and pleasure in the views from them. This is my home.

Throughout my neighborhood there are a few modern homes that appear out of nowhere and clearly don't belong here.  My home is a 1920's bungalow. The old bones were made to be where they have stood for nearly a century. Scattered throughout the neighborhood are lots filled with tall grass in untamed flurries and platforms of crumbling concrete.  I have only one neighbor with a perfectly manicured lawn.  She understands there is no controlling your children but you can control what your yard does. You can see the rise and run of stone or worn wood that once led somewhere.  Steps are missing, and handrails are less than memory . . .  just gone.  The supports are still there because they were so much stronger than the broken home they established.  Ivy and weeds meander and overtake lifted areas in a bid for the love of the sun and wildflowers attract bees that lazily dance through their work day.  I headed home with a clear head and plans to play in the dirt because there is something so rewarding about dirt under my nails and making things grow.

My neighbors are good people.  I never interacted with them much when my husband lived here. One summer day in the first few years we lived here, we were all outside and my husband hosed me down from head to toe.  I was soaking wet and sliding through caked on mud. He was the only one laughing.  My neighbor across the street would hear him yell from her house and always assumed there was violence in our home.  There was emotional abuse.  There was financial abuse.  There still is financial abuse. He took his aggression out on cupboard doors and bedroom doors.  He never hit me, and I only feared he would once.  That fear was enough to get a restraining order that I later had lifted.  A judge was worried about my safety to the point that he was willing to take away my husband's rights to me and our children. In all the ways my Dad stresses me out, I love him enough to never want to sever that bond between my kids and their Dad.  I would protect them from him, but I don't feel they need it. He's become the Dad I hoped he would be, without me around because he's probably a much better person without me. I wonder if I was too much of everything in the way that he was content in doing nothing once he got home. The day he moved out, my neighbors came over to see how I was doing.  They didn't know I was home and fighting to pull out the bathroom sink and vanity as he was taking out bunkbeds and the barbecue grill.  My next door neighbor told me how petty he looked in taking a grill he never used. I was usually the grill master unless I asked for his help and did all the prep for him. My neighbor offered to help with anything around the house if  I needed it. I'm a big girl.  I can vote and buy my own booze.  I keep my distance and try to be a good neighbor to him and his wife. The neighbor across the street shot me a text to make sure I was home and tell me she was taking pictures if I needed to file a police report. She opened up about her concerns of abuse and then told me of all the ways her husband hurt her.  In all of the distance I kept, they still gathered around me in support.  When we had a custody hearing, both of them offered to write character reference letters on my behalf. They did.  (The judge only looks at notarized affidavits.  Lesson learned. I wasn't trying for sole custody.  Not really.  I just know a good bargaining chip when he had no idea what I wanted. He told me what he wanted and wasn't concerned with what I cared about.)

My neighbor could see something in me that she saw in herself and when she explained it, so much clicked for me. I won't disclose how many, but I've had several people tell me about their rapist or the abuse they suffered at the hands of a loved one.  I encouraged one woman to press charges against her abuser after her experience with date rape.  In helping her, I was able to work through my own experience without ever telling her about what I felt. I printed and saved the newspaper clipping about his arrest for a long time. There's a resilience in us.  It's a light that attracts abusers, but a glow that encourages other survivors.  I get it now.  It's not always a fear of violence, but an inability to step out in confidence.  It's a part of us that I'm working on rewiring in me. It's the part of me that feels respecting others comes before my needs. It's the part of me that is comfortable living on eggshells because it's been so long since I didn't have to. It's a part of me that is only confident in the ways that mean the least to me. I used to tell my husband that I have amazing legs and a decent rack, but I couldn't show him what I wrote to the point that I stopped writing.

As I was turning off the garden hose this morning, my phone rang switching off the 311 song I was in the middle of singing.  The peace and joy I felt was in my voice as I answered my phone.  My Dad has a gift for asking what I'm doing before telling me what he needs.  One day I will call him on this manipulation.  He put me in a place where my gut twisted in stress and for a few minutes I craved the taste of courvoisier and cigarettes and the escape that was once my favorite preparation ritual before family gatherings. I'm not that person anymore.  I don't remember how she woke up without a hangover and I can't handle cold Tommy's burgers for breakfast anymore so I called my sister instead.  She gets it.  She reminded me of how amazing caller ID is.  I hung up with a plan to write and do what I was planning to do, and decide if I will be the daughter I want to be, or the person who needs to be taken care of first. I ended up choosing me with plans to fall in line as a daughter tomorrow when I can at least prepare for it.

I have a huge family that supports me in any way they can and in ways I've never even anticipated.  They are so team me that sometimes I need space to breathe in air not tinted by the anger they express in my protection.  Their love in that way can turn toxic. They also see me as resilient and can't always tell that the space I sometimes need is from them and their needs.  Their needs aren't huge, but my plate is pretty solidly full.

When I was in high school I made a boyfriend my world.  He had brown hair that flopped in a mushroom cut and loved basketball, but the game didn't love him. I used to pack his lunch and mine because giving is part of who I am. In hindsight it wasn't one of my more brilliant moves. I tend to give more than I should. He had a hard time punching a straw through a Capri Sun pouch, and I felt obligated to take care of him. I felt needed and like he wanted my brand of love.  I even skipped drill team tryouts the next year to spend more time with him. He took a cowardly exit in telling me he had to let go of me because his parents found out we were still dating long after they told us to break up. Later random girls with larger curves than mine and lipstick bolder than mine would tell me he hooked up with them when we were together.  We spent ditch days exploring the swings at Griffith Park or touring Olvera Street, but he wanted something else.   It took a while for his pregnancy scare that broke us up to get around to me.

I realized confession isn't for the person you unload on.  It's a way to unburden your own guilt without regard for the destruction you unleash on another person. Confession is selfish. I think that's why I tend to wait until confronted, or until I can see the repercussions of my actions. When I'm undeniably wrong I apologize.  My kids know I will own up to being wrong and inconsiderate.  There's no such thing as "because I said so."  They know to call me on it when I'm screwing up.  As their mom I get one shot at being what they deserve.  When I screw up, I own up to it as genuinely as I can.

It was my first time ever being dumped and I returned to the group of friends I had before him.  They were older than me, and at that time mainly on the football team.  I remember standing behind them as he would walk by with new girls on his arm, and I felt protected. I had these amazing guy friends who only saw me as a younger sister, and they were standing around me and it was a ring of protection.  He would walk by but he wouldn't look at me.  Even if he did, his look was met by the guys that at least gave the impression they would hurt him for me if I wanted them to. They were part of a hill top kick back I was never invited to.  I can appreciate that they never saw me as one of those girls. They probably have no idea how much support they were giving me. I remember being told by a few boyfriends that I was too nice and innocent and those weren't bad qualities, but that was part of my rebellion after being dumped by my New Yorker.

I have a lot of male friends that have stood by me in protective friendship throughout my life.  I was once having a party when I was in the garage at my mom's house.  At one point, I was being pulled toward my bed by a group of guys I didn't know. I had hands all over my body, grabbing and pinching me. I tried reaching out to the one guy that I was actually seeing and he left me to grab another friend of ours.  (Seeing him as a bit of a coward didn't make me want him less.) The friend he grabbed then pulled me out of my room, making that group of guys back down.  He was short and stocky, but not many people would pick a fight with him. Years later my friend's girlfriend would tell me about the many times he beat and raped her.  I left that friendship because my heart couldn't condone who he became, but the irony of being saved by a rapist from a gang rape has never settled into insignificance.

Last night there were Facebook Messenger pings back and forth between me and one of those football player friends from high school.  I told him how I finally cursed out my husband. Again, not to his face - to another friend of mine.  But I did it.  He told me I should curse out my husband to his face, and called him names for me and again, I felt supported and cared about. I told him about some of the stunts pulled this year, and he called him a coward.  I noticed a theme. Again, I'm into all the wrong people.  I then told him how much his support meant in high school too, and I'd have to go back and read our emails again to see if I ever thanked him for that.  I've been so selfish lately, I may have missed that kindness. He also told me he was in a similar situation where he needed to choose to love himself. I could hear what my friend said and see past me into having compassion for my husband.  It was another one of those moments when the path we are on has trail markers and mile marks and there is peace in that.

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I'm in a strange place.  There are times when I am angry and I want to call out all of the vulgarities that cross my mind, but the part of me that wants to be a wife in obedience to my vows has me biting my tongue in aggravated silence.  It's not about my husband but about the wife I want to be. I expect to see him in the years ahead because we have children together and I can expect that we'll both try to put them first. There are times when I am at peace because there is joy when I look at the freedom I feel away from him.  I have gratitude for my release.  Life is full of ups and downs, but I'm habitually optimistic so I look for joy and find it and that's usually when something unexpected knocks the wind out of me.

I have friends who like to tell me how amazing I am.  Faithful readers will see that there's a lot my life has seen.  I'm a remarkable survivor of the craziness I've chosen.  I'm resilient in all that falls into my life. There's a lot of emotional resilience I can stand on because as complicated as life likes to be, I'm still here and I'm not quitting.  I have too many that rely on me to let a setback set me back.

A friend of mine is a praying person.  She's prayed for my marriage in times when I couldn't.  She prays for us now, as I'm just praying that forgiveness be placed in my heart so there's no room for bitterness.  She tells me I'm not playing the game right.  I'm supposed to be sad in my corner and falling apart and my husband doesn't know how to work with that.  This might be some of the reasons why he's become especially vindictive, but it doesn't matter anymore. It doesn't hurt as much when you stop wondering how you can get past it and decide you don't have to. Honestly, I think he's always had a hard time understanding me, and I tried to become more of what he wanted to make it easier on him, not seeing how much this cage has been hurting me. I was pretty broken at first.  We were at different places when he told me our marriage was over.  He was miserable, and I thought we were happy.  I saw my Dad's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder my entire life, and somehow it looks like Posttraumatic Resilience in me.  I can celebrate my milestones and know that it only gets better from here.

I love my church Pastors.  They're husband and wife and could be my very attractive teenaged parents.  There's always wisdom and encouragement in their conversations and they help me see the divine when I'm too self focused to see outside of my thoughts. She encourages me in showing me that I'm not created to be below anyone.  He has a soft caring side, but will put on that police officer's hat when necessary and give fatherly  advice when appropriate. In my life, I've seen three therapists.  They are great for getting past the major hurdles that keep you from moving forward, but the best gift they offer are tools to help you see yourself out of your valleys. I know when to ask for help and I've proven it to myself when I've sought a therapist.

I'm supported and knowing that keeps me encouraged.

 

Massive Ass Expansion or Exercise?

12027611_1111426288891292_5109535420567742605_n It's occurred to me that I can't keep making 3 egg omelets with soft cheeses and mushrooms for breakfast and not start seriously exercising.  It's a little crazy. I may have to look for that yoga mat and make peace with sweat.  I might even teach the kids that my jump rope is more than a weapon to subdue a younger brother.

I used to exercise.   I had an old dance teacher who taught out of her home.  I learned ballet, tap dance, jazz, and even a few Hawaiian dances from her. I loved her wrinkled and gnarled arthritic hands that would hold graceful poses as she waltzed around the studio with us.  She had a cat that loved to mark my jean jacket every single class session.

I ran around the neighborhood with the boys where we'd throw a football around in a game of Pickle, or we played kickball in the church parking lot where more than once I had to climb onto the church roof to retrieve a ball.  I tried being a skater and stopped shortly after mastering an ollie, because I realized I didn't love the fear of my horrible balance.  I rode bikes around the block and we found the steepest hills to challenge death.  An elderly neighbor gave me an old bike out of his garage with U-Shaped handlebars and a banana boat seat.  His wife used to make us rhubarb pies. My Dad replaced that bike with a 10 speed when I wanted a stunt bike.

I was in gymnastics with a coach that told me I was too tall and my girl hips were too large. I tried so hard to continue working with bloodied and torn blisters on my hands that looked like eyes when I matched the lines on my palms into a smile. I loved the uneven bars, but they didn't like me.

My 8th grade year I was in regular P.E.classes and frequently had (uninvited) teen boy hands slap my butt.   I had an inept electricity teacher who showed me how to use a drill press, but couldn't keep his male students from touching my body. Assault in the early 1990's looked a lot like boys being boys according to faculty and administration. I would eventually write "Jane Doe's Butt" (using my actual, but currently redacted name) on my P.E. t-shirt over my rear in an attempt to own the daily assault. Shortly after that it stopped, and now I can see it was just an act of aggression.

I was on a swim team at the beginning of puberty.  It was a mixed team and I was bear crawling around the pool in a bathing suit with pubescent teen boys right behind me.  It pushed me out of the pool in a way that makes me still avoid chlorinated waters.

I was in drill team and running a mile daily. My knees suffer from practicing knee drops from a standing position, whether or not I remembered to bring my knee pads to school. Being able to drop into the splits and jumping into Russian splits in the air was one of my many selling points, I'm sure.

After my one year of drill team I fell back into general physical education where I did the stretches everyone else did, which did nothing for me.  I ended up pulling a muscle running laps without stretching enough.

In karate, I did 300 crunches a day.  I would spar with a tall blonde god who is now covered in ink with a bald head and working to protect celebrities all over the world.  Trust me, he's great at guarding a body. I didn't mind when he would take me down, but it's okay that we were only ever friends. Memories of crushes without heartbreaks are my favorite memories.

There is something about the evolving body of motherhood that is miraculous and disgusting.  My firstborn was slightly underdone.  His first days as a preemie in the NICU meant I spent his first 4 months trying to get him to latch on.  I was determined to breastfeed, and my badassery wouldn't accept his wailing rejection as my final answer. Nursing meant sweat, and leaking milk, and smells that I hope to one day forget because my body shouldn't smell like that. Childbirth, in all its wonder is a leaky endeavor and it's those memories that make me hate sweating, though I love fresh sweat on a healthy man. Clean sweat is such an aphrodisiac.  Try it.  You'll like it.  Everybody's doing it.

My current exercise isn't exercise to sweat and be healthy.  I like to pull weeds after rainfall.  Tap roots pull out with satisfaction.  I will build and destroy and rebuild in projects around the house.  I enjoy long walks that push past a stitch in my side and give my feet blisters.  Some might call that hiking. I was planning a beach trip this weekend so I can duke it out with ocean waves, but it might be a bit cool for that. I need the point of exercise to be doing something or going somewhere, and it has to be gentle on my knees that are short on cartilage.  I was 5'6" in my teens. I may have already started shrinking. I just can't see myself working a machine while watching television. It feels pointless and depressing.

It's amazing how much I love my cooking when I spent years making breakfast for my family, skipping most meals myself. My husband hated boxed meals and his mother's cupboard surprise, so I was always challenging myself in the kitchen.  Tonight we're having shepherd's pie and this is a meal where I sneak in rutabaga and turnips, parsnips and carrots and they all look like potato cubes, except the carrots and I feel like it's a mom win. They might be catching on because those bits don't taste like potatoes. I would stay up late and nosh on junky processed foods while reading a book or watching something on television.  In laziness, I would doctor a can of some sort of chunky Campbell's soup with shredded sharp cheddar and french fried onions. It was the hours when my family slept that my respite began and I couldn't indulge in that respite if I was asleep, so I stayed up and consumed foods that disguised the feelings I chose to chew down. Right now I'm often not hungry, so when I am, I make it special. It's like being a teenager again, except I'm excited about fending for myself.

My current eating habits are different. I don't think I'm eating in depression as much as having an epicurean indulgence.  I'm very much into whatever feels good right now. At the same time, I love it that I'm about the size I was around the year 2000. The idea of exercise keeps playing with me and I'm not sure if or when it will happen, but I keep having thoughts of visiting a friend at the Crossfit in Eagle Rock because he makes it look so inviting. But realistically, as was just pointed out to me, a crossfitter will always love their body more than me. I'm okay with that too.

Old Poetry To Remind Me I Was Unhappy Too

I don't do pictures that would put a face to my words, but I thought I'd share old poetry.  Two old poems.  The more recent one is at least four years old because I'm 38 now.  The older one was while I was still breastfeeding, so at least 8 years ago. My Release

Stress came in waves Like sheets of plastic suffocating Like flames of sickness licking my flesh from the insides Like sex without love messy fluids and sweat and no real pleasure or release pain in waves, waiting for joy which never comes Like reek of sweat sickly musk masked by refuse of small comforts Comfort sought after in foods chocolate and icecream, rice pudding and doughnuts chips and dip or salsa iced tea and soda and sugar and waste Eating beyond sustenance, and into blankets of numbness Comfort in the nothing the nothing of sleep the nothing of television Hiding from the bright spring air and in the dark dampness of the hollow of my blankets windows shut and unforgiving musky in my stench of unbathed loathing damp in the overflow of morning feedings Awake and wired late at night while twitching in unforgiving darkness, while the angels of my flesh and desire slumber next to me snoring in sweet nothingness while early morning taunts me And in the dire bleakness of my power outtage, wishing for momentary release in window surfing or a mind to reach out to A moment of vulnerability and my stress is relieved.

And again, I want to go outside. Again, there is a garden to sow Again, there is much to be done, and at last, I'm ready to do it.

 

Poem for my 34th Birthday

 

Can I still remember my last name?

The girl that I once was

I know her now

Though she barely knew herself

I think of her and wonder

How did she survive the life

She forced us to live

Then I remember she didn’t

I’m here and she’s a memory

A fond one that has evolved from

Faded recollections

 

The woman in her wake loves attention as much as she did

But will live without it.

She craves solitude and hardly gets it

But complaining is for the girl that died away

This Water Baby Is Raising Her Standards

I've always been drawn to water.  I spent one summer going to Manhattan Beach every single day.  The water was so clear, I was able to stand and see a piece of chert that was practically glowing at my feet.  I still have it.  I loved Bolsa Chica for the fire-pits, but it can only be fun if you bring really good water shoes. Those seashells and pebbles have carved into my tender feet for years.  Huntington Beach has fire pits and you can avoid the rocks and watch the surfers. I loved to watch the surfers. There should be surfer watching soon. There's a dog beach between the two where frolicking dogs will chase balls in the water and you can almost taste the love between them and their humans. It's like cherry pie before I had to cut wheat from my diet and I took flaky pie crust for granted. There are beautiful cliffs in Malibu and huge pockets that haven't had sand added to them, making the shoreline natural and beautiful. Dockweiler Beach has fire-pits and you can watch the airplanes fly overhead as they launch then bank over the ocean later at night. I love the ocean for how small it makes me feel.  I love being pushed and pulled by the waves, only to escape by diving into them and becoming part of the churning that would force its will otherwise. I love beaches with tide pools.  There's one in San Pedro but I don't think I can go there without remembering the boy that helped me pick out sea urchins and starfish with lots of laughter and splashing. He was so tender with my scraped hands and knees. We held hands and he walked with me around the Friendship Bell and packed a lunch so we could picnic on the grass. We hugged and laughed as we looked at the ocean.  I want to leave that memory untarnished. It was a good one. I've been meaning to check out Crystal Cove instead.  For years I said I wanted to go to Black's Beach just because it is a nude beach.  I haven't made it and I haven't made plans either. In the last 16 years, I've spent less time at the beach and more time in rivers, pools, Jacuzzi tubs and lakes.  Part of that was my husband likes rivers and lakes.  We spent so much time fishing in them.  I'm not a fan of the gear and I don't like much outside of reeling in a fish, so I don't see myself going fishing anytime soon.  A lot of the rocks around my pond were from trips to Upper Big Tujunga where he and the boys fished, and I carried bags of rocks back to the car. Pier fishing is what I did with my Dad and the few times I tried to go deep sea fishing, I got sick as soon as the boat stopped going forward.  I like boats, but staying still and rocking on the waves instead of being part of the waves always made me sick.  It took a summer to get used to the smaller waves on Big Bear Lake. My other reason for not liking big scary bodies of water is my kids.  My now 9 year old who was 8 months at the time suffered a near drowning.  Pulling him out of the tub when he was blue was traumatic for me.  I had nightmares for a while. To this day, I still panic whenever they want to go into water and I feel like I can't keep a hand on all three at the same time. I prefer to not go and let my Mom take them because she loves water as much as I do.

There's a pond in my front yard that I enjoy from my front porch. I dug into hard ground with the help of my father in law.  It has a waterfall and it's all pre-formed pond liners, but I love the sound, if not the look. I love the reflected light dancing on walls and ceilings from the moving water outside my window. There's a koi fish in it.  This koi has survived for years with rain water and water hose refills when the water gets low and not a drop of treatment to balance the pH or de-chlorinate, and a pump that goes out from time to time and not a drop of food in years.  He's outlived the tadpoles that spent about a year becoming bullfrogs and then disappeared over a winter to emerge and disappear again. My cat is a murderer and she's granted him clemency. She prefers lizards, birds, and rodents. He's as stubborn about giving up as I am.

Last night I was home around 7:00.  I had an interview with a temp agency and puttered around Hollywood long enough to be happy to head home. I had taken off my slacks, and blouse and I was already in bed calling it a night with Hulu and Facebook.  I finally listened to the lyrics to kid3's favorite song.  There was a petite brunette singing a cover rendition and I thought I'd finally hear the whole thing.  I don't listen to much radio and I saw that the original is his Dad's favorite artist.  He's a Belieber. It occurred to me that my little one has been singing the song in his Daddy's heart and it made me angry. For the record, I had many moments of choosing to like his Momma too, and it wasn't easy. I knew she didn't like me no matter how many times they tried to say otherwise.  I chose to accept her as part of him. To know me is to know I give people more chances than they deserve.  Something about that song got under my skin like an itch and I got dressed and went for a drive.  I took Broadway through Chinatown and onto Sunset to Pacific Coast Highway and turned left. I called a really great friend on the way.

I've known this friend since we were in diapers and my firstborn's middle name was chosen based on the name I called on for much of my life.  When we were young, he was called Peanut Butter and I was Jelly according to the older neighborhood kids and our siblings.  It was as much about our complexions as it was about our conjoined hips. We were always hanging out around the neighborhood in East Hollywood where I broke my leg and a week later he broke his arm.  He ended up in a hospital bed at Kaiser on Sunset and a while later I ended up in the same bed in pediatrics.  He was there through every single romance I've had, and the distance only came with my husband.  I was starting life with a husband and kids.  He still goes to bars and clubs and lives the life I used to live. He's one of those friends that I can pick up with at any time and it's like there was no time or distance between us.  In our friendship there is freedom and I was able to rage and curse out a man I had been trying to be respectful toward. I discuss my anger at times.  I'm still protecting him in not disclosing some of his actions to most people. My anger is part of me and I'm not afraid of it. You just won't usually hear me emasculating him.  It's a choice, and I try to choose it more often than not.  That doesn't mean I'm incapable. That means my impulse control is strong on most days.  Not last night.  It was the first time I've ever cursed him out (even if not to his face),  the entire time I've known him.

It was early enough that when I made a left on Temescal Canyon Road, I could still legally park there, but it was dark, so you won't get pictures.  There are street lights but the beach itself is cloaked in darkness. In the distance, the Ferris wheel that spins above the waters off Santa Monica Beach is visible and tells me where the freeway is. The light of the moon and the many stars I could see were enough to see and step confidently.  I felt comforted in the blanketed darkness clothing the sand and sea. It colored the horizon in shades of indigo night. The gate leading to the parking lot at Will Rogers State Beach had already been closed with yellow metal that clearly denies access and the parking lot only held one car, as it's companion left when I was stepping onto the sand. Lifeguard tower 8 was where I spent many nights through high school and until I met my husband.  I've sat there with guys that played guitar, and with a strong drink to fight the biting air and sea mist. I've been there in groups and alone.  I've raged at the heartbreaks that were raging through me because the ocean could absorb the sounds of my anguish. I celebrated moments of solitude where my introverted side could recharge.  I shared my spot with the boys that were like my brothers. I was still on the phone with the Peanut Butter to my Jelly while he was at work but otherwise, I was completely alone. He told me about the many girls he had taken there, and I was shocked that I never thought to do the things he did because my comfort was more important.  There's only one way up or down on that ramp and it's pretty exposed.  This was probably the first time I was there without a pocket knife or a stun gun, not that I ever needed to confront anyone. Besides, beach sex is overrated and it's always cold at night.

This was a frequent filming location for Bay Watch.  When I arrived, I could see signs for a crew that will be there or already was there. Location scouts love this place. On the left are volleyball courts with nets swaying in the wind.  To the right there's a jetty that marks the sand, stepping into the ocean and breaking the harshest waves with immovable fortitude. This tower is unique in that it's built on a concrete platform that holds a large drainpipe and carries you over the water.  I've only ever been there at night and farther from low-tide, but recognized my favorite place on an episode once. The waves break against the platform and flow all around the tower.  There's a fence around it, but only to keep people from jumping off of the platform because people aren't always smarter than they look.  The tower isn't restricted except the closed windows padlocked to keep people outside.

We talked as the crashing waves calmed me.  We talked as they energized me.  By the time I was driving home, my mood had significantly picked up and my anger was gone.  As we talked, we discussed each man child I claimed in my heart.  He pointed out what he saw and through that I could see my perspective shifting and sharpening.  He felt I could have done better than every single one of them.  In looks, in intelligence, in personality, in self esteem, I was the dominant one.  He said every relationship has an imbalance, and I was always on the upper hand but never saw or acknowledged it.  I fixated on their one good quality.  For one boy it was his hair.  For another it was his voice.  For another it was his face.  For another it was how much he wanted me. I could go on but the point was he could see I had a type.  I always thought it was fair skin and great hair, but not all of them fit that bill.  Most of them didn't. He said I like the ones that are a little geeky and not too smart.  He could see something about each one of them that was lacking in some way. I told him about my crush and he pointed out that I was sabotaging myself even though I claim to want to date smarter people. I could see myself having a conversation with him without having to explain what I've said.  He reminded me that they all kind of grew on me because they weren't immediate total packages.  I walked past the obvious winners and plucked my way through the second string, subconsciously identifying their insecurities and then letting them  shape their fears into who I was, effectively shifting the power dynamic.  The exception was the guy I was with through the end of high school.  He was an ex-gang member, but I pursued him with his New York accent, and six pack abs, and his hooked nose.  He wasn't eye candy, but he was sweet and generous. He was always bringing me flowers. He wasn't the total package and I have no interest in looking him up, but I do like who I was when I was with him for the most part.  He didn't have that innate ability to lead though.  I value that now when I couldn't understand it then.

With each breakup, I became more of the person my great friend grew up with. He sees me as someone that tells it like it is.  I see it as jaded cynicism. I'm someone that is positive and optimistic for the most part.  I believe in faking it until I feel it.  My perseverance and tenacity are hot in others and an asset to myself. He likes this person as she is. I like this person as I am.  I like the boys that are shy and a little insecure.  I like the ones that need my attention that are willing to make it a point to make the first move. I find it sweet and he pointed out that it's the mother in me that needs to bring that shyness out. It always backfires and  I build them up into pricks. Or I'll date someone with such strong attachment issues that they need to prove they can make a conquest of anyone without being able to move into a relationship because they lack emotional maturity. We talked about the fact that I haven't kissed anyone besides my husband since April of 2000.  He tells me it will be epic when I do.

I started thinking about some of the things my husband has said the past year and the song that our little one was singing made more sense.  I realized he had been speaking to me the lyrics of this song, and it made me think of the many conversations we had when I was teased about my vocabulary.  To this day, I will find myself changing the vernacular in my writing so it is easily digested, but I shouldn't have to do that when I talk.  And this song that made me want to emasculate and infantilize him also made me feel pity because I could hear his insecurities in the song. I could sing the same song to him, but I have a better grasp of my feelings than that and would rather focus on what will lift me up.

I went to bed and the rage in me had died and it was replaced with hope.  There was hope that I would find enough value in myself to intentionally try to approach that man that could be out of my league.  There's hope that I could find someone to have meaningful conversations with. I want a salt of the earth, man's man. I kissed a couple of girls in my youth and it did nothing for me but make me miss the bite of stubble. I love a clean shaved face and solid jaw line. I like to be the soft one next to lean muscle. I want someone with the self esteem and drive that pushed him away from drugs or gang life, and made him try harder so his success was in his accomplishments. I've only ever had two ex lovers that weren't into drugs or gang life. They were always looking for attention and couldn't understand the value of silent companionship. They couldn't commit to one person, even if it wasn't me. It's not about money or looks.  It never was.  I remember being in my twenties and flirting with the guy in the car next to me. It was a red convertible. We exchanged numbers and when he called I told him I couldn't date him because all I remembered was his car and I couldn't be that person.  He respected my honesty, and the part of me that couldn't do that is still alive and kicking. She calls me a whore when I can't see past the frosting on the cake and that makes me keep walking. My husband thought I only wanted him for his money, but I wanted him for the way he saw me. I just didn't notice when he stopped looking at me that way.   The one amazing thing my really great friend pointed out was that I gave my husband 16 years of faithfulness and he messed up by leaving a good wife. He left me and I waited beyond what was reasonable and I have done enough.  Telling a wife and mother she's done enough is one thing, but getting her to finally believe it is another.  We talked about an hour and a half and at the end of that time, I believed it.

We also talked about the times we were young and being silly.  We laughed about the many times I said I'd be an old lady with a cane, and chasing boys. We talked about walking into the Palace in Hollywood at the end of the night.  We were pretty drunk and one of the guys we were with walked right into the glass doors, opened them and went right in as if he didn't just greet the door with his nose.  The security guards didn't bother to stop us. It also closed within the 15 minutes we were there.  There was another night we had gone to a hotel in the valley to go dancing with my Dad.  They played Israeli music and songs in Arabic. Some of the older women taught me to move like a belly dancer.  It's where I heard my first Alabina song and this was before Shakira in the late 1990's. I used to go dancing with Dad on Saturday nights and this was the one time I brought friends.  We got a bit sauced and when my Dad went home, we decided to go to Rosarito because we had never been to Papas and Beer.  I took the backseat of my car and he drove us into Tijuana and further south into Rosarito.  We pointed at each "alto" sign and laughed because they looked a lot like stop signs.  It's never taken much to make me laugh. We got there at 4 in the morning and it was closed. Everything was closed at 4 in the morning.  We drove around a bit and watched the sunrise.  Instead of hanging out all day, we headed home and had a tire blow out on the freeway (my  first of more than I can remember). It was an epic adventure. I've still never been inside of Papas and Beer. We talked about the time we went hiking to the waterfall from Chantry Flats in the mountains above the Santa Anita racetrack with a bottle of Tequila Rose and the guys going for a swim in the freezing water.  There's something funny that happens when cold water gets past boxers and I can still hear the squeals in that memory. He reminded me of the fun I had as an adolescent when I wasn't handing my heart off. I needed that.

My Youth as an Exhibitionist with a Thing For Druggies and Gang Bangers

I was listening to Lady Gaga go on about paper gangsters while I was making cherry macarons.  I've piped them and they're resting right now so they will hopefully have lovely feet and not crack as they bake.  That's when I realized I that I may have hinted at my boundary pushing and horrible adolescent choices, but I never detailed much.  There is a lot I could go into but I'll try to limit it to the days when I was hanging out with the neighborhood boys. We moved to the Echo Park/Elysian Park area right next to Dodger Stadium when I was a freshman.  It was still Junior High then.  I was in Drill Team and Leadership.  I was done with swimming, gymnastics and ballet by then.  Mom believes busy kids stay out of trouble. At this point I still didn't get boys.  I had a few crushes and a few silly letter exchanges but getting it together enough to become a couple was beyond me.  My first boyfriend wanted to be my boyfriend but to him that meant kissing and I wasn't interested.  He was cute and tall but I was good with friendship.He had a Kid haircut as in Kid n Play because life imitated art in movies and it was a thing in the early 90's.  My second boyfriend kept saying hello and asking me about my interests and I had no idea why he wanted to talk to me. I finally got it one day after school when he introduced himself to my Dad and my Dad suddenly didn't like him.  It clicked and I wanted what he was offering. He was a big boy with silky hair in a mushroom cut that I loved to run my fingers through. He played basketball while I was in drill team.  He wanted me to watch his practice, so his friends could see me watching him practice, but I didn't care that he couldn't make the layup.  I just didn't care.  But he liked me, and it was important to him. We talked marriage and kids but this was before my parents started fostering.  After about a year, my parents thought our relationship was too serious, so they thought they'd put a stop to it.  For them, it meant they couldn't tell what we did in school, and at home my Dad encouraged me to hang out with the neighbors, under his supervision. We were together through most of Freshman year, into the middle of junior year.

The neighbors were all about the same age as I was. Dad saw them hanging out and getting into trouble and his time as a probation officer made him feel like he needed to run an intervention. He taught us to play chess.  We'd sit on the front porch and play for hours.  There were 5 boys that came over every day.  Sometimes they'd come over and I could see the paint on their lips from the tagging they'd just done which was usually followed by huffing paint. (A tagger's spray can tips are more important than the paint being used.  They remove tips from cans and will blow the paint out so they can be used with other cans.)  To huff paint, they'd spray paint into a plastic grocery store bag and hold it over their nose and mouth and breathe deeply.  The lack of oxygen and near death must've felt better than whatever they did when they weren't playing chess with me in the early hours of sunset after Drill Team practice. I wasn't a morning person then, so I'd have to get ready for the next day and they'd leave.  My routine was to take a shower, walk to my bedroom in a towel, and change there.  It took a while to realize they'd leave and climb on the roof next door to watch me change after my shower in my bedroom.  One night I got applause.  I didn't start closing my curtains right away either, but eventually I did. It took a few days.  Eventually I transferred to high school and our puppy love died in a pregnancy scare he had with someone else.

I threw myself into play production and theater arts. We once danced on the steps of City Hall.  It was the day of my senior prom and one of my favorite memories.  I sang "I dreamed a dream" from Les Miserable and I was so confident.  I was also in karate and super busy.  I had the boyfriend I eventually took to New York. He was older by a couple of years. I could see a very long future with him and every once in awhile we talked marriage.  You do that after the first year and a half sometimes.  My parents became foster parents at this time, and I saw but ignored the mean streak in him.  He was a bit of a bully.  Never to me, but at the end of the day, a bully is still a bully. I didn't want kids then and we were having fun.  Sex with him wasn't a destination, but a fun ride.  Don't get me wrong, he was never able to make me do more than fake it, but he had me laughing and it was playful. This was the time my parents were divorcing and mom was remarrying and I came home late one night. My step Dad came out to investigate the noises and wandered out in his underwear in front of the boyfriend I was sneaking into my room.  I had a tantrum large enough that I moved into the garage the next day. When that relationship ended I had already started college and that was when I started rebelling in a huge way.  Someone really should have warned me that getting my kicks as a minor was probably a safer choice.  But I did it as an adult because I had no idea how to deal with my broken heart. Of the group of us that played chess together, I was the only one that didn't drop out of high school and I didn't do drugs. I was the only one in college.

The boy next door was a skater and a tagger and a walking pharmaceutical.  Naturally I would love him hardest.  Love poems.  Endless love poems were written for this boy.  Seriously.  I had it bad. It is so hard to love someone with a drug addiction. I saw he was amazing, and I watched him try to destroy that in his weakness and inability to cope with life and the sins of a selfish mother.  He was athletic and an artist.  He was black and German but didn't know his dad as more than a name. He lived next door with his grandmother and his mom would visit some weekends to praise me, and demean him.  She had no idea that I was beginning to spiral and her son was holding my hand and leading the way.  He had so much darkness and invariably scribbled it out in red ink.  I loved his sinewy body and the long lean lines that would wrap around me so tightly.  I loved his six pack and happy trail, but mainly I liked how he could lift me up and put me where he wanted to. Upper body strength was hot.  He had light skin and freckles that dotted his cheeks. His last name was tattooed on his chest and I would trace it for hours with my fingertips and he never lost patience with that.  I remember the first time he came over and he was high.  He was on mushrooms.  He was always on something.  He smoked cigarettes and beer was breakfast, but he was often on speed or smoking primos.  Mushrooms and acid tabs were a treat of rarity. He was a drug addict but in my brokenness  I couldn't see past the fact that he used to steal for his ex girlfriend, but he wouldn't steal for me.  He manipulated a couple of girls he was stringing along to be able to take me out and I somehow saw that as a compliment. I saw it as all he was capable of and somehow that was enough. He showed me that you can't cut crack on a coffee table because it'll shoot off and fly off the table.  He used a mirrored tray I used for perfume bottles and a razor blade. He taught me how to roll the zigzag paper with pot and crack.  I tried rolling it once, then left it to him because I couldn't make it pretty and I didn't want to lick it to seal it. I didn't even want it around me but I wanted them around me.  Crack changes the smell from dry and musty to slightly sweet, but the high was more of a depression.  I'll never forget that smell.  It's acrid memory still burns regret through me. All three would smoke them and I'd sip on a beer and watch them with a cigarette in hand. The drugs made them paranoid and depressed and I'll never understand that.   I was never into smoking more than cigarettes myself.  I'm a bit of a control freak and don't like being high, so even when it was all around me, I never got more than a contact high. They liked to hot box the garage bathroom. I stayed out of their way in the other room, and even farther away when they smoked primos.

The two brothers next door got high with him.   Their mother was so sweet to me. I think she thought I was a good influence on her boys because I was still leaving for school every day.  She would cook posole or caldo de pollo or tamales and she'd stand on her back steps and offer me "un ratito" because she never felt like I ate enough.  Cigarettes and beer and cold Tommy's for breakfast were normal.  Most weekends were spent clubbing and Tommy's was always where I ended my night. The 38 year old me would've offered that 20 year old me a burger or two also. We all hung out in my skater boyfriend's car when we weren't in my garage. I remember bumping the older brother's thigh with mine in the back seat and I'd swear there was an electric charge that warmed my whole body.  I sat on my hands so I wouldn't start reaching.  My boyfriend was sitting right in front of me, but I was hyper aware of the heat threatening to burn me sitting right next to me. He used to invite me to his baseball games and I remember the first time he kissed me.  He made me feel like his lack of restraint was my fault and he did it in a way that felt good. I wanted to kiss him. Both of us felt bad because of my ex, and the fact that my best friend had just dumped him but in the end, I was selfish and still refusing to deal with the boy that saw me through my high school graduation. My fling with him cost me a friendship that took years to rekindle with diminished flames.

The two brothers were in a neighborhood gang. I was never interested in joining their gang, and I wouldn't get a tattoo or sleep with everyone in the gang or get jumped in, so I couldn't really hang out with them, but the younger brother was always willing to have me walk with him to the neighborhood on Bixel Street where he would sell crack, storing it in his mouth along his gums and his bottom lip.  It took a while to realize I made him look less suspicious.  He's now a manager at a restaurant. For a few weeks I let them store an AK-47 under my bed.  A little while after I gave it back and they sold it, swat teams raided their house based on a tip from the boy next door.  This was after we had broken up and I was messing around with the older brother so I will always wonder if I may have been responsible.

It was a crazy time for me.  I liked that they were so crazy I didn't have to be and it never occurred to me how crazy stupid I was being. There is a very specific reason why healing from my marriage is so important to me, and you've just read it.

Have A Drink With Me, part 1

Kneeling before the Porcelain Goddess, I purged my last offering three years ago this past January. It felt like I should have known better and I really had suffered enough bar hopping to end up on cold tile with bad knees at my age. Normally I'd sip slowly until my cold drink warmed my skin. At that point I would switch to soda until I felt cold again. Really, there is no need to make excuses for bad behavior when drinking.  For most people, that is the only point.  For me, drinking in the last decade and a half has been about control and skating the line without crossing it. Before dinner was served, I was praising the goddess for allowing me to purge quietly and alone, holding my own hair back.  I slipped back down to the party at some point, and felt so much better slipping into anonymity during the speeches and awards. I am not against drinking.  I can sip champagne in celebration and will toast with the crowd, but then I prefer a drink without alcohol.   At the end of the day, at the end of the trauma, at the end of disappointment, I'm not a drinker.  Not anymore. There is something about mothering that requires you to be immediately available without being constantly present. Children need the space to be creative and make mistakes and explore boundaries, but they also need you close enough to rescue them. To me, this has meant being sober.  I've had enough random emergency room trips to expect a need to be able to drive someone to the ER at any given moment.  It has usually resulted in me being the designated driver because I refuse to model drinking and driving as ever being an option.

Most of my relationships included a double standard where I was with someone that wanted me to drink, but I could never find the line to not cross.  How much is enough to be relaxed and fun without being too drunk and an embarrassment? It was easier to stop trying.  If I had a do over it would be my trip to New York.  My ex boyfriend had spent a few years there and I wanted to take him back for his birthday.  We spent an evening at a wedding where the melon cocktail tasted just like honeydew melon.  I couldn't get enough. It was a great night, except when we tried to go to a club I was drunk and passed out in the back seat of the car and everyone's night was cut short because of me.  He dumped me a couple of weeks later,  handing me a small cactus plant and a line about seeing one that was almost as tall as he was (he was not taller than me) and hoping our friendship would see the plant grow to that size.  One night I was so drunk on Tanqueray and apple juice that the ground felt like it was moving and I couldn't find it because it was much lower than it should have been.  The next morning I gave the cactus my roundhouse kick and destroyed it before sweeping it into the trash. He didn't love it when I was drunk until we were no longer a couple and I would call him.  Then he loved coming over. I remember drunk writing him a letter and I wrote, "F you and the horse you rode in on . . . you killed my joke because you drive a Mustang." Clearly, drinking didn't help my writing. Eventually I asked him if he got off on the emotional damage he left behind and he stopped coming around.

When I wasn't in a relationship, drinking was always destructive and the bad choices were disguised as fun inebriation.  When I was underage, we knew the liquor stores in Echo Park where a store owner would ask for ID, but not actually check it.  Or we had a 40 oz. of beer for the homeless person willing to buy our case of long necks. I was going to raves all over Los Angeles where we brought our own bottles of Everclear and Tequila, but could buy beer from a keg and "happy balloons" from a nitrous oxide tank. I got older and my first bar was the 35er in Pasadena.  I would later become a regular at the Short Stop.  It was a cop bar at the time and I felt there was safety there.  More than once I'd pass out in a booth next to the DJ.  Once, as I was waking up, he leaned over and asked, "are your tits real? You gotta know they are perfect." That was the last time I got drunk there. Before that I met a bartender for the Barney's Beanery in Beverly Hills at the Short Stop. She bought me a shooter of Coralejo tequila to sip with my beer and then she disappeared on me when I passed out, but I had her number written on my body.  I would later meet her at work where she plied me with free drink after free drink, trying to recreate the melon cocktail I'd had in New York. I don't know how I drove home through rush hour traffic. One Christmas I drove from Covina to Hollywood on vodka shots and ended up at the Good Luck Bar at Sunset and Hollywood.  Another time, I remember waking up one morning and seeing how badly I had parked my car.  I didn't remember getting home.

A friend's big brother liked to give me special attention whenever we hung out. My friend would leave the room and his brother would steal moments to see how far we could go before we had an audience. I didn't mind when we were sober and I was willing but it was always his initiation. It was a game and I was still into much older men. At these times we never went too far. One night he surprised me by stopping by with way too much Long Island Iced Tea.  The room was spinning out of control and I couldn't stand up on my own. That was the night he took things further than I wanted to go.  I was too drunk to consent and this was before the campaigns that would have called it date rape.  He stopped after it was clear my "no" wasn't going to become a "yes." I never drank around him again. Truthfully, he wasn't interested in being around me after that either.

Being a wife and mother squeezed out the alcohol.  I'm a cheap date and can't handle my liquor now but that's okay.  I can still get into all kinds of shenanigans while completely sober.  All I need's a dash of anger and a cheering section.  Or a partner in crime. Tomorrow night I'm meeting friends at a bar and I have every intention of sipping Shirley Temples.  Or if drinks are had, there will be dinner because I want to be able to safely drive myself home. I'm very fortunate that I didn't kill anyone in the couple of years that I was spiraling and binge drinking on weekends. It's a miracle that I didn't get in any accidents while intoxicated. So, I'm not a drinker, but I don't mind when others drink.

The Education of a Reluctant Student

I liked leaving high school more than I liked being in it.  I graduated with honors because it was never hard.  I was in theater arts and play production.  I hung out with football players and I was fairly popular.  Years later I would see people that remembered me and I couldn't place them. It was an empty existence.  It was so empty that when I left school, I didn't have contact information for most of the people I looked forward to seeing in class, because I never looked for them when I was home.  Facebook has rekindled many friendships, but I'm the same person, so hanging out offline is a major accomplishment if I ever do it. I started in college because my parents wanted me there. They had dreams for me and taught me going to college after high school was like brushing your teeth.  It's not optional. It's what you do.

I was rebellious though.  I was afraid of the SAT test and refused to take it.  I went straight to Glendale Community College instead.  Actually, in the fall of 1996 my Dad went there, registered for my classes and bought my books that first semester.  I started registering, buying books funded by my parents, dropping classes and getting cash back.  I did this for years and they never stopped believing in me or supporting me. By 2004 I wanted to get through it.  I picked up the college catalog and my transcripts, and started marking off classes to see if I had taken enough to get an AA.  I had taken enough for my Certificate in Communications and a few classes later in 2005 I got my AA in General Education Transfer Studies.  I think it was a blanket term for those of us that loved taking classes but still couldn't declare a major because indecision was a skill in Junior College but  I was excited to transfer.

I transferred into Cal State L.A. as a Geology major. I had taken a few classes and did really well in them. I loved the science. I used to daydream about camping along an active volcano, donning a heat suit and scaling the inside for measurements.  It may sound crazy but I really wanted to be a volcanologist.  I've always had a love of minerals and crystals.  Eventually I thought earthquakes would be a safer, more mom like job. I was struggling though.  My professors were amazing, but college level algebra was kicking my butt.  I got through it, but my reality set in.  I was already Mom to two autistic sons, and a third was on the way.  I would get home from class, and if the nausea of cooking didn't leave me dry heaving, I was exhausted from growing a human and studying didn't happen.  I couldn't go on field trips where we would spend a few days studying the earth because I couldn't leave my family behind. Geology is the study of the earth and I couldn't do that from our apartment in North Hollywood. I ended up taking a break for a few years and in that time, I made peace with math not being my superpower.  Every time I thought about the chemistry, calculus and physics required (all math), I would put it off another year.

Finishing school became important to me again.  I had kids and I wanted to be the example they deserved. Coming to terms with my math deficiency was hard, but I did it. I decided what I loved was reading and writing.  My love of reading started when I was 9 or 10.  My oldest sister used to read grocery store novels and I would pick up anything she put down, warping my sense of love and romance for the rest of my life.  Don't buy into the lace and heavy sighs.  It's a formula and just as damaging to relationships as porn.

I applied to the college when enrollment was high and was accepted in 5 quarters which was the fall of  2010. At the time, I didn't know I would be in my third trimester with my second surrogacy. If I didn't enroll, I might have had to wait another year to go back.  I figured I would try 8 units, and if anything I could get an incomplete.  I didn't realize how much I would love it though.  In September I greeted both professors right after class and explained I was determined to get through their classes, but I let them know I was due in October and I had no idea how it would work out.  One professor didn't notice how knocked up I was.  She was a great professor and loved to geek out on the British novels with their sighs and carriage rides and hints at naughtiness.  The other professor knew I was about to go into labor from my waddle. He was a grandfather and very kind.  I missed two class sessions. It was my fifth birth and while I was able to get around, childbirth makes you leak.  Everywhere.  Staying home for a week was a prudent decision.  In the end I earned a B and a C+.

The next quarter I was encouraged to apply for scholarships.  I didn't have the grades for it with my earlier years of not caring, and I banged out an essay in 20 minutes. I wrote about being a mom and wife while being a student.  I wrote about being expected to take care of house and home and school was treated like it was my hobby and I didn't feel supported at home.  I ended up earning six scholarships in 2 years.  One was a fellowship that was inadvertently given to me. It seemed odd that an undergrad would receive a fellowship.  I talked to the office handling that. They gave me the correct scholarship, but let me keep the fellowship for my honesty.  Apply for everything.  The worst answer you can get won't affect anything but will give you practice in writing an essay. The best answer is free money and the prestige of Honor's Convocations.

My most memorable Convocation happened during my last surrogacy.  It was a gnarly pregnancy because twins were hard for me to carry.  The hormones made my heart race. The morning sickness was off the charts.  I was on and off bed rest so often that I ended up taking a year off of school.  That was emotionally hard.  After giving birth in the middle of a quarter I couldn't understand why I couldn't handle going to class while still at the start and middle of a pregnancy.  I went back for the Convocation.  Of course they had us stand in line for too long to make an entrance.  I was overheating and dehydrated. I ended up feeling weak and faint and puking in the middle of it.  I think I even nailed the poor woman in front of me.  For the second ceremony for the College of Arts and letters I was feeling better until I ended up sitting next to a woman that was wearing way too much perfume. It was a night of memories that make me laugh now.  For my very last Convocation, I couldn't find anyone willing to go with me and I skipped it, but the department mailed my certificate to me.

Here's a hint, natural body scents on a clean body can smell amazing. Perfumes and colognes should compliment your natural scent and be used so sparingly that others are encouraged to get close enough to smell them.  That was a public service announcement and my free little nugget.  It's pure gold so take it and love it like your own. I used to wear Red Jeans by Versace and I love most women's scents by Givenchy, but I typically only wear deodorant. 

I can understand Chaucer and explicate Shakespeare, but my love of minerals and nature keep me grounded.  I love jewelry stores for the research, but one day I want to go on a rock hounding trip. I would love to dig up a vug and find my own treasures.  I don't know if I'd polish them.  Honestly I'd be happy finding quartz.  One day I might start back in school to retake some math classes and raise my GPA.  I always thought I'd go back to school.  I don't know if it will be law school or if I'd go back and attempt that Rock Doctor goal.  Suddenly single has so much potential that I nearly gave up on.

Today I have Mom duties.  My first born is now 14 and has his first invitation to his IEP.  It's his triennial so it's a big one. My second child has an amendment IEP.  I never did housework last night, so that is one of my goals this afternoon, but perhaps after a nap.  Stress had me up at 4 and by 5:30 I decided to stay up. Stress also has me breaking out all over the place like a teenager. If I have teenage skin, I should have teenage boobs too, right?  I'll contact my temp agency and hope she's moved mountains and if she hasn't, I'll start submitting resumes again.  I'm waiting until after my nap because job hunting is emotionally draining. After this last job, the bar was raised significantly and I don't know that I could settle as easily as I was trying to before.  Tomorrow morning I plan to walk along the LA River because it's here and it is full of amazing and just enough trash to feel like the LA I grew up in.

I'm Sharing My Coping Skills

It's unfortunate that life seldom flows in ways that are consistent and expected.  Those who marry would never divorce.  Parents would never bury their children. Dreams and plans would never be deferred or denied and disappointments would not be part of the human experience. But then we'd also never understand the peace and joy that come from knowing what their absence really looks like. I wasn't always a coping kinda gal.  There were a few times in my life when I decided quitting made more sense, or that I needed help because I couldn't do it on my own.  I'm really glad that I'm not a superstar at everything I do.  Failure can be an amazing blessing.  Depression has been a life time companion since the 7th grade.  Don't get me wrong, I was a bit of a loner long before then, but I think of the 7th grade as the starting point because that was when puberty hit, and those grown up hormones destroyed what ever illusion of normalcy I had going.

Hormones made my body change.  Long before that, I remember walking home from school one day and I must have been in about the third grade when a guy in a red car pulled up to me to ask for directions. I don't think my parents allowed me to walk to and from school before then.  I lived in East Hollywood in the 80's and early 90's and I was walking down Virgil near the city property on Santa Monica. I saw my first penis that day.  I didn't realize I should feel fear when the driver pulled over and asked me questions while his pants were unzipped and he had his penis in his hand.  I was confused about what he was doing and had no idea where he wanted to go. I think I was most concerned about not knowing where he wanted to go.  When I was 10 years old, a neighbor in his teens put his hand on my ankle and started moving up.  I didn't know what to do and stopped him at the the middle of my thigh.  There were plenty of other stories about my youth being perverted and my personal space invaded but by Grace alone I can say it stopped at physical violence and I feel without being physically beaten my emotional scars are harder to see but are getting easier to heal. Puberty made me much more obvious to men and the hormones made me feel like I wasn't loved on top of that. Rejecting advances is a skill I learned early on, but that brokenness that wanted acceptance made that a bag of confusion that I still have collecting dust in my closet somewhere. I pick it up from time to time and start to unpack things, but then I shove it deeper than it was.  It's on my to do list and will probably be worked out in a blog post one day. Usually when I'm feeling low, I start exposing flesh in skimpier than normal clothes. That's me regressing. My first real attempt at suicide happened in the 7th grade with a bottle and a half of over the counter pain medication.

I was hospitalized.  My stomach was pumped and I'll never forget the neon green bile that made it's way out of me through the tube that was shoved up my nose.  Ice water was supposed to numb my throat, but it didn't.  I was in intensive care next to an anorexic infant and when her mother discovered why I was there, the curtain around them closed so she could hold her contempt without having to see me. My great grandfather died and I was alone in a hospital bed while most of the family went to Texas for his funeral.  My oldest sister stayed behind and checked on me from time to time. I was in the hospital bed when I got my third period.  It took a few more to realize PMS was real and genuinely going to mess with me as long as I am fertile. It's one of the reasons I loved being pregnant.

Years later there was another attempt or two but nothing quite as serious or dangerous as that first time, and the last attempt was before my second decade.  In hindsight I wasn't quite as motivated to end my life as I was to end that feeling.  Time and experience has taught me that those feelings are cyclical and will pass. It helps to not dwell on the low points, but to change my focus. It helps to curtail the low before it bottoms out, and it hurts to not let other burdens add pressure when I'm already feeling like Atlas with my world on my shoulders. When I'm good, I'm really good.  When I'm low, I'm doing everything I can think of to get better.  I try to find something positive or stick to something physical.  Angry sex used to be my go to. Now I pull weeds.

I gave my firstborn life, and he gave me the baby blues.  I finally sought help when he was about 4 months old.  I remember crying on the phone with my mom and thanking her for not killing me in my infancy.  That was when I realized it wasn't normal. Therapy helped.  Talking to someone that didn't expect me to do it all and do it well was enough.

There was one point when I was on medication a few years back.  I had been dealing with funeral arrangements and cleaning out a hoarder nightmare without the support I needed. It was my father in law's brother and at his request but against my husband's wishes.  It was also at a time when my second child was transitioning from his public school to a nonpublic school because his emotional needs weren't being met and his depression and suicide attempts were hard on me too.  Going off of the meds was difficult.  I was often dizzy and started having irrational panic attacks when my youngest wanted to snuggle with me.  I was glad when things settled into normalcy which is still a constantly shifting landscape. If I can help it I will never go on anti-depressants again.

Last year my marriage ended.  I'm still married, but it's over.  Neither of us has filed but that just speaks of our stubbornness. He decided we were done and it was almost a year before I decided I liked his decision and while I continue to forgive him, I no longer want him back.  I told my doctor in the beginning and she asked if I wanted to go back on meds.  I was quick to say no.  I started seeing a therapist.  I realized I had given her enough of my deductible when she was telling me I was inspiring her.  I already had the skills I needed to get through that phase and I thought she might have been taking notes.

I was setting goals.  I was reading books on finance because it was an area of my life I needed control over.  I started setting 18 month plans and long term goals because Suze Orman and Sheryl Sandberg give great advice.  I learned about Leaning In and it showed me where to focus my energies.

I made improvements to my home.  I created a space that I wanted to be in, putting my degrees in frames and on the walls, along with the kid's certificates and awards.  I didn't for so long because for  long time my husband only had his high school diploma, certificate of baptism, and a picture with other security guards from and old job.  I didn't want to make him feel bad. I was doing the things around the house I had always wanted to do, but I was no longer waiting for someone to do things for me.  When the kids are gone, I'm not in a hurry to get home, but once I am home, I love being in the quiet.

I started buying things I had wanted for myself without waiting for someone to buy them for me.  I love Pandora charms and fresh flowers.  I didn't realize how much I love fresh cut flowers until recently.  He didn't buy them often, and sometimes not at all. I'm still not a fan of baby's breath, but flowers cut in their prime and set on my table for a private show have made that something I now do for myself, along with regular hair cuts and nail appointments. Some things require planning and saving, but I am no longer waiting for something that might not happen and hoping it might be able to happen without planning for it to.

I apply sensory techniques I learned for my autistic sons.  I have a plastic bin filled with playground sand that I stick my feet in on some mornings while sipping coffee on my front porch.  Just an hour ago I was walking on bubble wrap in my bare feet. I keep Play Doh cups in my desk at work and work the dough with my left hand while clicking my mouse with my right.  I have a small bottle of bubbles in my car.  When I get stuck in traffic I blow bubbles.  It is silly.  Other grown ups giggle at me or smile.  I sometimes smile or wink back. Slow intentional breaths required for blowing bubbles also triggers the parasympathetic response. The breathing helps slow down my heart rate and lower my blood pressure.  Most commutes to work include loud music that I sing and dance to in my seat.

This is how I cope when life throws me a curve ball and I've just finished a manicure with wet nails. This is how I face the lemons I was handed and make a gluten free lemon curd tart with spiced whipped cream and stretch what's left into lemonade.