Thursday, June 22, 2017

Things About Being 40

Everyone kept telling me that it wasn't a big deal and that I wouldn't feel any different once I turned 40. Everyone is a liar. My parents sent me an Amazon gift card for my birthday and do you know what I got? Dental floss and a LAP DESK. A lap desk like the ones that bedridden geriatrics have for their crossword puzzles. And DENTAL FLOSS. No different my left foot. This is what being 40 is. It's lap desks and dental floss and doctor's referrals for MRIs of old lady hips and taking fiber supplements. Being 40 is going to bed at a Reasonable Hour and getting up even earlier because all of a sudden, when you are 40, the consequences of Netflix binges until 2 AM become Very Real.

Being 40 is mopping my floors three times in one week and folding all of the laundry and even putting it away, something that never, ever happened in my 30s. Being 40 is sadly packing the micro-mini skirt into a box of donations and wondering why you thought it was acceptable way back when you were 39. Being 40 is one and a half beers because two is just a little too much. Being 40 is the sudden realization that you are halfway to 80 and your only retirement plan is a tortilla stand in Mexico but you don't even know how to make tortillas.

But being 40 isn't all bad. Especially if the people who love you help you know what your particular 40 looks like.  When I turned 40, one of my offspring gave me a clay launcher so I would have something to do with my shotgun other than chase zombies, and another one of my offspring gave me a superhero balloon, because somehow, even though I am her mom, and 40, and a lot of beautiful mess, she thinks I am a superhero. My Christy friend gave me leather pants, and we all know old people can't wear leather pants. And Someone I Love gave me Paul Bunyan socks - complete with Babe the Blue Ox. Nothing says Forever Young (other than Alphaville) like Babe the Blue Ox on your socks. I might be 40, but I am not dead yet. In fact, I know that there are so many things I haven't even started yet - other than just my retirement plan. (for your viewing pleasure and a break from my prattling - one of the weirdest music videos to come out of the 80s - which is saying A LOT. Also, if I could get an orange jumpsuit like this for my 41st, that would be great.)



Maybe 40 is just the beginning of the Next Era of Liv. The clay-shooting, practical-shoe-wearing, tortilla-making, bionic-hip Liv. Maybe 40 is discovering new loves like running on trails and writing about things other than kids and dogs and toilet floods. Maybe 40 is the new 20, since my 20 was kind of a train-wreck anyway. I don't feel a day over 18, to be honest, which is why it's hard for me to tell people I am 40. But the compelling urge to wash the dishes in the sink rather than leave them reminds me that I am not 18. Or 20. Or even 30. I am 40. I can still do All The Things, but I can do them with a clean house and a clear mind and wearing Paul Bunyan socks. Maybe this is what growing up feels like. But not growing ALL the way up, because in addition to the lap desk and dental floss I also got a Broncos snapback with my birthday giftcard. #notoldyet

Broncos Birthday Snapback! Thanks Mom and Dad!







Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Things About Frank

This morning I decided to start a juice cleanse. The explanation for this is a long and boring story with outcomes that nobody wants to read about so I am just going to skip ahead, except I think it's important to note that THIS MORNING I decided I was going to live on nothing except purple juice that tastes exactly like what I imagine a cat's butt tastes like. But I can only imagine.

At 8:36 AM I decided to go on a run. This was probably ill advised for several reasons which vary from a torn labrum in my hip to the way my leggings fit. But the real problem was Frank. One of the big reasons I got Frank, another dog (which was questionable decision regardless of outlying circumstances) was to be my running partner. Out on remote country roads, so he could like, take on cougars and bears and stuff. And my lack of motivation, which is a more ferocious adversary than either of the aforementioned. Frank was a good running partner. He always wanted to go just a TEENSY bit faster than me and just a TINSY bit farther than me. He was good on his leash and didn't argue with me about running music or complain when I sang along to Beastie Boys.

I tried to take Frank on a run with me this morning, but he wouldn't even go around the block. He couldn't run. I knew he hadn't been feeling well lately since he hadn't been eating his food, let alone everyone else's food in a three mile radius. But I though maybe it was just a funk and he'd do better after a run to his favorite spot in the whole world, The River. But he couldn't run. He couldn't even walk. I called the vet.

The vet turned out to be super busy today. I think the entire chihuahua-mix population of northern Stevens County was on hand for their 6 month check ups, including one pug cross that actually had earrings. Blue sparkly ones. I think they were stick ons, but still. They did work Frank in, and after some waiting, and some temperature taking and some concerned looks and HMMMS and HUHHHS from the vet assistant and the vet, they took him back to get an X-Ray of his chest.

Frank's lungs, according to the X-ray, were completely filled with fluid. So full that the vet was unable to see his heart, which was not beating correctly, at all. "A pretty serious arrhythmia," the vet called it. The fluid in his lungs was putting so much pressure on his heart that it couldn't even beat right. He lay there, panting, struggling to breathe. Struggling to keep his heart beating. The vet said the prognosis with lungs like that wasn't good. It could be a tumor on his heart, it could be a genetic valve weakness that ruptured. It could be a trauma like he got tagged by a car on one of his walkabouts. Or it could be rat poison. The only way to tell would be a trip to Spokane and a massive vet bill to try to find out and the slim chance of a fix.

Frank is the young one. He's the big, tough, healthy hound. Truck was the one that was supposed to go to be with Jesus any minute. He's dying of cancer. Frank is fine. Now my house feels like a dog hospice center. The Doghouse. The place where All the Dogs come to have All The Fun. Not come to die. This is a hard one. I drove home, ugly crying, of course, and trying to sort through what I did wrong, what I was supposed to get out of this, how I could have prevented it, what I should do next, with one hand on the steering wheel and one hand on the panting back of a Very Large Bloodhound.

I don't know the end of this story yet. We will go back to the vet tomorrow to follow up. But Frank The Bloodhound could use your prayers. And me too, I guess. ❤️






Friday, June 9, 2017

Things About Time

"The trouble is, you think you have time..." 

-Buddha

Once, they were all baby monsters...


It's not just that I am T-minus four minutes from being forty. OK, maybe it is mostly that. But I can't shake this sense of time lately. How brief it is. How fast it goes. How quickly it's over. Even the hard times. Tomorrow I get to go watch one of 'my kids' graduate. He isn't really mine but I can claim him by the amount of cookies and English homework we have done together. He's all grown up and graduating now. I remember when he was born. I remember when he was shorter than me. I remember when he was a gangly, awkward 6th grader and not a 6'4" MVP All-Star everything. I remember shaking my head and wondering how "Spock" and his pragmatic look at life would ever survive the real world. But here he is, practicing his Valedictorian speech for me and eating my Jelly Beans, just like he was still 14. Tomorrow I will cry.

It's not as noticeable with my own kids, maybe, because there they are, Every Single Day, getting older and bigger and smarter and more beautiful so INMYFACE that I can't even see it. But with this one, the leaps and spurts and bounds over the very short 18 years of his life have sped by like his breakaway on the basketball court.

Time is funny that way. The time that is happening to us is so much less noticeable than the time that is happening around us. I don't see the gradual changes in my old Truck Hound, but when the girls come back to visit they are shocked by how crusty he's gotten. It's part of life. The gradual changes that sweep from the lows of pooping our pants and the slobbering incoherence of infancy to the highs of valedictorian, MVP and Taking Over The World, and then back down again to the slobbering incoherence of senility. It's the time that makes us ready for the next step. The discomfort of time makes us eager for the changes, but its comfortable rhythms create fear of the unknown beyond. These high school graduates, with every choice and every chance and every hope and every fear are all of us in every moment, it's just never so crystal clear as when they are standing nervously on a paper-covered stage with their mortarboards at an awkward tilt, wondering if they have the tassels and cords on the right way, balancing on the precipice of Real Life.

Some days, like All of The Ones before I turn forty, I want desperately to stop the passing of time with a big emergency brake, screeching my disapproval across the runway of life in big black rubber marks. Other days, I can't WAIT to get to the next moment, because surely it holds more promise than the last one (except maybe when I turn forty). Time is scary. But Scary is exciting, if you have things to believe in. And we all do. Especially all of you under-forties tottering on the brink of forever and hope. Go get it, while you still have time.






Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Things That Imperfectionists Shouldn't Do

I am very, very good at doing things. Granted, those things are often done less than perfectly, which nine times out of ten is just fine for Real Life and Getting By and you know, Survival, which has pretty much been my mode of existence for the last 22 years. But as the years go on and the Survival gets less Survivally because I start to figure how to mostly just do the things that I am good at and shuffle the things I am not-so-good at off on to other people who do them better, it becomes more glaringly obvious when I am doing things wrong.

I have done a pretty good job at convincing one or two people for a very brief period of time that I have All The Skills and know Prettymuch Everything. This leads to the expectation that I can handle shit on my own and accomplish things. But just because I told you that I got signed off by the Forest Service to drive around with a 20 foot utility trailer does NOT automatically mean that I know anything about driving with trailers. I mean, these are the people that let my oldest daughter run a chain saw, for Heaven's Sake. Even so, I have had to make good on all of my bad-ass bluffing from time to time and drive with a trailer. Even a trailer that is loaded down with a loosely stacked, fly-way, wanton pile of trash and a seriously lack of good tie-downs. I feel like at this point I should give myself a pat on the back for having tie-downs at all, or thinking of them, even if I did have to borrow them from my daughter's boyfriend. But still. The thing is, how EXACTLY do you tie down loosely stacked, wanton trash that would just as soon float along the highway as be planted forever in a big smelly landfill? I mean can you blame it?

nailed it. 


Well if you're me, you half-ass cover it with a mostly shredded tarp that is more holes than solid, and then you drive fast enough that the cars coming along behind you won't know where the odds-and-ends of carelessly strewn remnants of a former life along the road came from. Because I do things IMperfectly. Certain husbands of friends and relations who occasionally shake their heads at me and repair my toilets and stuff would be happy to know that at least this time, I actually hooked the trailer up the RIGHT way, which is no small feat since the actual ball receiver on the hitch somehow got twisted. As in, perhaps SOME ONE at SOME POINT that I was once married to actually flipped the poor trailer and it still hasn't recovered completely. Anyway, it was hooked up right and completely, if not perfectly, this time. And I made it to the dump without anyone catching up to me to tell me that I lost a broken Rubbermaid tote at mile marker 277.

It was a stressful drive, since I have some trust issues with trailers anyway. But I made it to the dump and I unloaded all of the garbage, without even saving any of it in case somebody could use it for something (once again, a HUGE accomplishment for a Stecker). But the most important part of all of this, and the thing that was causing palpable anxiety for the forty minute drive (other than the gas light that came on right outside of Northport), was Backing The Trailer Up.

All I could hope for was a desolate landscape with no witnesses to the 117 point adjustment it would take me to get the 12 foot trailer backed into a space 20 yards wide. But alas, it was not to be. Some hairy redneck with a stakeside truck was right in the middle of the 20 yards target, throwing out his load of tobacco cans and carpet scraps with questionable stains. I took a deep breath and I did my best. My best invariable involves me chanting instructions to myself out loud, interspersed with curse words. Things like 'wheels go opposite' and 'left is right' and 'next time hire somebody' as I eyed my backwards approach.

But guess what, you guys? I did it. PERFECTLY. Without a single pull-forward-straighten-out. I backed that puppy right into almost exactly where I intended and it was even aligned straightly with the redneck stakeside. I would've taken a picture but I didn't want him to judge be for being superficial while I was throwing away my collection of wine bottles, rain-soaked self-help books, broken surround sound system and mate-less socks. Image is everything, my friends, even if it is imperfect.






Monday, May 15, 2017

Things About Control (or lack thereof)


Turns out, there are very few things over which I have any level of control.

Turns out, this is true most of all when it comes to the people I love.

My span of ACTUAL control goes about as far as what I am eating for breakfast... and even then I have to wonder what is really in the Fruity Pebbles that I am annihilating. Does anyone know?

I can make a week's worth of healthy dinners and leave them ready to heat and destroy for my kids and come home to find everything untouched and a case of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese missing from the pantry. (OK, I can't pretend they didn't learn something from me.) But the harder I try, the less control I have. Whether it's making rules and setting curfews and measuring skirt hemlines, or trying to track down 20 year old who's been missing for a week in the Himalayas (don't worry, she didn't die) - the more effort expended, the result just seems to be heightened anxiety on my part and teenage girls dressed like hookers.

I can't stop my adult children from making adult decisions any more than my parents could have stopped me at 23 years old from moving into a straw building with dirt floors and giving birth, unsupervised, to a baby in early January. I know it's the decisions like this that form us into the Real People we will become, ones who know better than dirt floors and arranged marriages and not telling your mother where you are in Nepal for a week. But getting through all of those life choices and the aftermath thereof is way more brutal from the outside looking in than it is as a 23 year old who is making her own damn poor choices.

Worst of all, I cannot fix the broken hearts that I would have fought so hard to avoid. But the fight is always against the windmills of my own experience that have NOTHING whatsover to do with the heartaches that my children will face. I can shape their growing up experience to make sure the results are absolutely different than my own and they will still wreck their own hearts in some magical way that I never thought of.

It leaves me standing on the sidelines with my arms cut off at the shoulders so I can't even cheer effectively. Helpless. Just watching. Unable to close my eyes or look away as they tackle life without the appropriate protective equipment. This, my friends, is why wine was invented. All those middle eastern mothers back-in-the-day finding a way to keep their grapes from molding as they watched their 11-year-old-daughters marry the rich uncles of their husbands. (See, it can always be worse.)

Even the most powerful men and women in the world haven't figured out a way to cure heartache or depression or to protect their loved ones from it - in fact if anything, they've probably propagated more of it than poor simpletons like me - at least I'd like to think so.

I don't like not having answers and not having control and not having solutions and fixes for the things that could hurt my people. I don't like feeling like an accessory to their heartache because of things I didn't warn them about or couldn't prevent from happening. But that's the cost of loving people, I guess. Feeling their pain right along with them and not being able to do a damn thing about it.

Except listen. Or hold a hand. Or just be, quietly, here. So that when they come back from the Himalayas and the dirt-floor-huts and the happily-never-after, they aren't alone. And we can all go tackle our windmills together.

Things About Plans

I used to be really good at laughing at All the Things that didn't go as planned in Life - which happened to consistently be All the Things. Somewhere along the way I seem to have lost this skill, even though All of the Things in Life still do not go as planned. And I guess it makes sense, since the things that are not going according to plan aren't nearly as easy to find the humor in as they used to be. I mean, the kids who used to be pooping in the bathtub and sending their scandalized sister climbing up the slippery tub surround wall are now wandering around developing countries alone and making decisions that will change their lives forever. Not that floaters hiding under bubble bath can't be permanently scarring, but they're also funnier than things like, oh, say, Marriages of Convenience or dying in a Himalayan crevasse. But NOT finding the humor in all of the unplanned things certainly doesn't make them any easier to live with, and the things certainly don't seem to have any intention of going any more according to plan than they always have.

Figure A - the Planning to Plan Planning P
Planning has been thrust into the forefront of my thought process a lot lately. This is due in part to no fewer than three training sessions this spring with the federal government that were super keen on applying the principles of the new Planning to Plan Planning P (see figure A) that someone at FEMA came up with in an apparent fit of brilliance (according to someone at FEMA). It's also due in part to the realization that has been dawning on me that while as Roald Amundsen so aptly states: "Adventure is just bad planning," one can only have so many adventures before exhaustion takes over and everything just spirals into chaos. Another reason planning has become a major theme in my life lately could possibly have to do with the late emergence of a Very Important Person who is not only a professional planner, but also a Reasonable Human Being who is probably only interested in tolerating so much chaos ADVENTURE.

So I have been working on a plan. A good plan. Because I've been very good at bad planning and lots of adventure, but now I would like to try some good planning and see how that goes. And because I have some specific goals that I intend to achieve, like not letting Life get the best of me - which is much more specific than it sounds - and things of that nature. Some French dude once said that "A goal without a plan is just a wish", and for what it's worth, I have dropped my share of pennies in the wishing well.
or just on track, ever. 

But in the midst of all the planning I have been forgetting to find the humor in All the Things that don't play out according to plan. And that's an important skill to have because if you can't laugh at Life then you'd better believe that Life is sure-the-hell gonna be laughing at you. I'd like to keep everything even on that playing field. And I think Life knows by now that I can take whatever she dishes out.







Thursday, April 20, 2017

Things About Therapy

Because I am a spoiled white girl living in a developed country, I have been having a little bit of a rough time lately. Because I am a spoiled white girl living in a developed country I also have an entire library of self-help books, feel-good movies, meditation strategies and plenty of alcohol. Even so, I have been having a little bit of a rough time lately. I think it's because things are TOO good. Too many jobs, too many kids, too many friends and dogs and obligations and opportunities and decisions and options and responsibilities and priorities. There are too many things going right, these days, and it's wearing me thin. Also, as the Best People in my life like to point out: self pity.

I am usually pretty good about talking myself off of the emotional ledge that threatens to heave me into a sobbing heap at the foot of a Very Tall liquor cabinet. I am usually pretty good at rationalizing all the reasons why I have no excuse to feel sorry for myself at all and how to pull myself up by the bootstraps of my newest pair of Fryes. I am usually pretty good about developing a mantra to chant silently as I drive the 7,896th mile of the week without crying or getting really mad at the 1987 Lincoln Town Car going the speed limit in front of me. Granted, sometimes my mantra is something like: "It doesn't matter. Nobody cares." Which helps in that it keeps me from spewing my spoiled-white-girl-living-in-a-developed-country-self-pity everywhere.

But an emotional last night carried over into a torrential this morning that none of my self-talking or mantra-chanting seemed to be helping. So I moved into the next phase of auto-therapy (it's auto therapy both because I am in my car AND because I am practicing it on myself): music. This is the stage of therapy wherein I let the Universe speak to me by putting my entire music library on shuffle and see what messages it produces.

I should have known I was screwed when the first random offering was Nat King Cole singing Silent Night. Don't get me wrong. I love me some Nat - and we're all aware of my die-hard Christmas Music fandom - but seriously? I skipped it. Then I skipped a Matt Kearney song because I feel like Matt Kearney just isn't connected enough with the Universe to be speaking to me. And then the real therapy began. It was Sinead O'Conner. Because Nothing (ever) Compares To You and it was exactly the mournful fist shaking song that I needed to finish a cry that had started in the HellMart parking lot.





Once I had gotten All Of the Tears out and snotted all over the steering wheel, the Universe sent Garbage to cheer me up. Because what better than a reminder of how not-together your life is than When I Grow Up. Thank you, Universe. Thank you, Garbage. Luckily, this was immediately followed by James Taylor You've Got a Friend. I hate James Taylor. Also more crying - apparently not all of the tears were out. Nothing is worse than crying to music you hate. But I was brave and didn't skip it. I did reach out to one of my besties for a tell-me-everything-is-gonna-be-ok text. Just testing that unconditionality thing. It worked.

The last few minutes of my drive/autotherapy were a combination of Usher (go ahead and judge me) and The Killers. Because there is no better note on which to end a therapy session than Mr. Brightside. Now I am home. I am whole. I am well. I am a spoiled white girl in a developed country writing a blog on a brand new mac with a brand new job and a series of amazing things that have happened in my life in the last few weeks. I am rich in ways that nobody can count or quantify and I have even more amazing things to look forward to in the next few weeks. And best of all - I can handle ALL of it.

P.S. you're welcome for the Garbage. <3



Sunday, April 9, 2017

Things about Things about Things

Ok, so here's the thing. I have been doing a lot of soul searching, ruminating, philosophizing, reading All The Right books and talking to All The Right People. Recently, a Very Important Person loaned me a book which most of you have probably already read called Feel The Fear and Do it Anyway. I read and reread this book and while some of it resonated as ideals that I have been operating in unwittingly, there were many new and convicting truths that I needed to hear, oversimplified in this quote:

"...begin to discover which, for you, is the path of the heart. Which path in life will make you grow? That is the path to take."
– Susan Jeffers

 What has come out of this (drumroll please) is that at long last, a semi-clear and mostly-defined goal for my life in the immediate future. This is exciting for many reasons, which I am sure you are waiting with bated breath to hear.  For one thing, you won't have to listen to quite so many what-am-doing-with-my-broken-wheel-of-chaos-life stories anymore. (Don't worry, the swirling vortex of terror will always remain). Also, I might not have to hit you all up for advice about broken toilets, help fixing the water heater, or how to potty train a 5 year old dachshund (no, I am not getting rid of Dagny), because my plan involves, wait for it: SUCCESS! But the most exciting part of my new plan is that I NEED YOUR HELP!

I was thinking about going back to school. Again. To be a New Thing. Because I am not Enough Things already. Because teaching, waitressing, EMTing, PIOing, writing, PRing, volunteering, mothering, cooking, etc, aren't enough? It seems, on some level, like a reasonable idea. Become a Physicians Assistant and make All the Money traveling All the Places and helping All the People. Get a teaching certificate and do the job I am already doing, but for reals. You know, smart stuff like that. But the problem with those plans is that I don't WANT to be a PA. And I don't WANT to be a teacher. and I don't really know what I want to be except one thing: writing. And why be bothered to double the student loans that I already can't even think about if my heart isn't in it?

But as I examined All the Pathways, and knowing that what I am doing now is becoming and endless spiral in my life, I realize I need to stop spinning like a broken compass and point myself in a specific direction. You know, follow my heart. Follow my arrow. And the arrow, for me, always leads to words.

So writing. How do I get to the place that I am not working so many jobs that writing becomes more like a cute hobby than my Lifesource and Mainstay? My end goal, or more correctly, the end of my beginning goal, which kicks of PHASE 2 of THE PLAN, is to get a book done. And by done I mean published and in the hands of random strangers that I am not related to. This is where you come in.

Me getting published happens one of two ways: 1) Some rich eccentric who owns a publishing house sees one of my blogs, is swept away with my profundities and immediately demands ownership of all of my written material, transforming it into an international bestseller. OR, more realistically, 2) I develop the material (working on that), get brave about sending it out for rejection (working EXTRA hard on that) and the credibility of my popularity and current audience help sell me to potential publishers. Which means I need a bigger audience.

Which means, if you read something I write, and you like it (you don't even have to love it, although that would be preferable) - share it! If two of your friends like it and share it, and two of their friends... well it's like multi-level marketing except it doesn't cost anything and you don't get anything out of it. Except maybe a signed copy of my first published masterpiece which might be the Book of Poohology that you've been waiting for your Whole Life, or it might be a young adult novel about a redhead named Billee. See what you have to look forward to?

If you're all "yeah... I am just not a sharey type person. Because you know, then people know that I am on social media and I prefer to maintain the illusion that I am NOT scrolling Facebook 24/7..." (you know who you are, lurkers) then the next time you are at a wine bar, or a brewery, or a play date at the dog park with your friends, you can just tell them about the super great blog post about  [insert topic here] that your friend Liv wrote and how totally pertinent it is to whatever conversation you're having. Even if it's not, I don't care. Or tweet it. Or whatever. As long as you plug livstecker.com as many times as possible. Shamelessly. Forever.

If all of this is way too much commitment for you, that's fine, I will also take cash donations towards a new laptop that will actually let me load pictures into my blog posts without making me switch devices three times.

(PS, you don't have to share THIS specific blog post because then all my new readers will think I am just an attention seeking wannabe... which might be true, but still, unnecessary advertising.)





Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Things That Should Be Better

My parents did a good job teaching me a lot of important life lessons as I was growing up. Things like: "life isn't fair"; "do unto others..."; "do or do not, there is no try" and "it sucks to be you!" (except we don't say sucks). I think one of the most important things that they taught me was in reference to being a good babysitter when I went out into the wild of Rich Realtors houses as a young teenager - "always leave things better than you found them." I took that to heart and I washed dishes, vacuumed floors and ate all of the bad junk food that would have otherwise poisoned my innocent young charges. My employers always seemed impressed, perhaps mostly with the amount of Oreos that disappeared, but also the clean house.

It's a lesson that I have tried to pass on to my kids, with varying amounts of success, partially due to less effective delivery methods and things like spared rods (you biblical literalists know exactly what I am talking about). But it's also a rule that I still try to apply to my life, whether I am having dinner at a friend's house or running a medical unit in a fire camp in the boonies. And it's become more than not leaving dirty dishes or popcorn on the carpet. It's become the question I ask myself in any conversation with people - how can I leave this heart better than I found it? Obviously I am not always successful, but... goals, right?

Several years ago my sister was involved in a horrific accident and lost her unborn child. Madelyn Jo never opened her eyes to the bright, sunlit world, but in her brief visit here she brought my family together and healed some scars that had driven us apart years before. For me in particular, a Stranger in a Strange Land, I had moved away to reset a life that had zigzagged wildly out of control. When we came flying back to Spokane after the accident, all of the Bad Things and Hard Feelings seemed so silly and insignificant when I saw my broken sister in that hospital bed, holding a tiny angel. I am an EMT, you guys. I have seen hurt people, dead people, stuff - but I couldn't even stay upright. My world went black.

Sometimes the worst things are what we need to remind us of the best things. Things like family. Things like brothers who drop everything to take care of nephews for weeks. Things like distant relatives throwing down for a zillion pizzas to feed All the People. Things like forgiveness and redefined priorities. Things like friends who become fixed forever as family members. Madelyn Jo gave us a chance to see all of that and remember. She left things better than she found them.

This life is only as good as the people that we fill it with. I have been so lucky in mine. It is my hope every day to leave the people and places that I touch better than I found them. It's when I realize that I am failing at this that I know I need to step back and reevaluate my priorities and identify which rut my wheels are spinning into an oblivion. I am forever grateful for the people who have left me better than they found me, even unintentionally. In fact, more often than not, the ones who have inflicted the most damage have done the most to make me stronger, more resilient and more useful to the world around me, and I love them for that.


Maddie Bird.

"Salvation Song"
the Avett Brothers

If you take my heart
Don't leave the smallest part
I've no need to live if you're to come up gone
An as my life turns to a song
And if and when I treat you wrong
No I never want to hurt our family

And I would give up everything
No this is not just about me
And I don't know a plainer way to say it Babe
And they may pay us off in fame
Though that is not why we came
And I know well and good that won't heal our hearts

We came for salvation
We came for family
We came for all that's good that's how we'll walk away
We came to break the bad
We came to cheer the sad
We came to leave behind the world a better way

Now if I'm walkin' through the rain
And I hear you call my name
I will break into a run without a pause
And if your love laughs at your dreams
Well it's not as bad as it seems
Either way one of them has got to go
And if you take of my soul
You can still leave it whole
With the pieces of you own you leave behind

We came for salvation
We came for family
We came for all that's good that's how we'll walk away
We came to break the bad
We came to cheer the sad
We came to leave behind the world a better way

And I would give up everything
And if you were to come up clean
And see you shine so bright in a world of woe
And they may pay us off in fame
But that is not why we came
And if it compromises truth then we will go

We came for salvation
We came for family
We came for all that's good that's how we'll walk away
We came to break the bad
We came to cheer the sad
We came to leave behind the world a better way







Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Things About the Rain

A long time ago, I wrote another blog called Things About Rain, which has nothing whatsover to do with the rain that I am thinking about today and therefore feels completely fine skating dangerously close to a recirculated title. I actually had to look it up and see if I had already used it, and then I had to make sure that you knew that I knew that I had already used something very similiar, lest someone else point out my blunder and make it seems unintentional. Not that I am insecure.

Today I drove to town in the pouring rain. Like, the ugly-cry of ten thousand angels, rain. It was dark and cold and dreary. It made me feel like I was cut off from everything, like a frigid, wet chain link fence of misery between me and every other human being, every nice thought and beautiful feeling. It doesn't help that I have been nursing a nasty chest cold, but it was one of those mornings when your clothes and hair and face and EVERYTHING just don't feel right. But life goes on, and gainful employment beckons, and a list as long as my arm demanded that I leave my sweatpants in a sad, neglected pile on my bedroom floor, like a discarded lover, and go to town. I probably didn't have a good attitude. But the rain sure didn't help.

I just kept thinking that if only the sun would come out, everything else would feel ok. I even wore my sunglasses to see if I could trick myself into thinking that the outlook was brighter. But all it did was make me feel more cut off and isolated. I really don't know how George Michael did it all those years. I persevered through countless errands, and re-errands when I forgot parts or did things backwards, and non-errands when I went places and couldn't remember why. Turns out I can only fit so many things on the back of my hand with a sharpie. I went to work and I did my job with only a few select curse words. But that darn rain. It made all the good parts of the day, like a free lunch, and a reunion with a certain hound dog, and crossing All The Things off my list, seem less important than how ugly my hair was. It made everything feel expensive and endlessly demanding. It made the whole world seem broken and distant.

And then, just for a minute, the sun broke through. Barely. Just enough that you could almost remember that its March and someday we WILL have a spring. Or at least a summer. And it made everything better. So did the iced breve and the loud blaring of Ed Sheeran's new album (strongly recommend) in my car all the way to Deer Park and back. It made me ready for tackling another round of the Endless Adventure that is life. It made leftovers for dinner and running errands for friends and making appointments and trusting that it will All Work Out seem a lot easier. I am a big fan of the sunshine. And the people who bring sunshine into my soul even when the clouds try to stop them. Because the rain can't really cut me off from anybody unless I let it.

<3

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Things About Failing

"Time is precious. Fail faster." - my friend Nate.

I was already crying when I read the words, but somehow they made the tears seem more useful.

I've been doing an inordinate amount of failing lately, all culminating in the ultimate roadblock of not even being able to remember my appleID login and getting locked out of my account until Apple decides to release me from iJail. If all of the failures in my life were this trivial it would be easier to laugh it off, but this is the teeny-tiny straw that broke the proverbial camel's back on top of a load of very heavy failure bricks.

Sometimes the line between failing and giving up is so fine that it gets blurry. I don't feel like I have been giving up lately, but it could easily be construed as such when you are looking in from the outside, which I frequently try to do to myself, as if a birds-eye view of my mental and psychological condition will help me make necessary repairs. At least failing indicates effort, and a push to the limit. Giving up is an uncompleted process - jumping off the train before it wrecks beautifully and predictably as it always will. I would like to think that I usually ride that train right off the rails.

It seems useless to pretend that life is anything more than a series of failures, depending on how you want to look at things. I can say that I succeeded in raising my children without killing any of them (yet), or I can say that I failed in keeping them young and innocent and protected from the ugly world of adulting - and failure. Success indicates arrival, and Lord Only Knows that I haven't arrived anywhere. But success also indicates conclusion, because what do you do after you succeed? What is there to do?

I think the most important thing is to be ok with failing. Because not being ok with failing is just a prescription for fist-shaking talks with the universe about who's fault it is and all of the if-onlys and why-nots, and those never lead anywhere except to a lot of bitterness or drinking for all of the wrong reasons. But being ok with failing means that you have given yourself permission to keep putting the effort in and driving that train down the tracks, for whichever wreck it is next destined, and if you can manage, to enjoy the view along the way.

So maybe I cried a few tears today over the failures that I am achieving. But at least I am achieving. And I will dry my eyes and get after it again. With my stiff neck and stubborn will I will saddle the camel and pick up the first brick of the next load. Maybe my camel is getting stronger, or maybe I will just learn to pick my bricks more wisely. Obviously I read too many proverbs as a child and get much too involved in analogies. I apologize.

But time IS precious, and I am excited to get on with my next round of failures, because of all of the beautiful things I learn along the way. I don't need to give up and I don't need to drag my feet. I need to rush into the trials and capture every day as another opportunity to fail big, which I seem to be pretty damn good at.











Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Things About Hunger


"What's a little bit of hunger? I can go little bit longer." She fades away… every time I hear the words to this song they resonate so deeply with me. 

I'm a big fan of food. And eating in general. Hunger is one of the least favorite sensations that I have experienced and if you know me, I'm all about sensations.

 But there's hunger, and then there's hunger. And being an expert on the other kind of hunger: emotional hunger, and the ugly neediness that rears its head out of this, I'm here to tell you it's not a good thing.

So here's what I'd say to my daughters, my friends, my sisters – don't go hungry. Feed yourself. Find the fuel that keeps you going. Fill the empty tank up. Fill it with poetry, books, movies, music, friends and anything else that makes you feel full and happy. Don't wait for one man. Or 12 men (you know who you are, Denver). Or a town or a nation or a religion or a movement or a cause. Feed yourself. Don't fade away. Be full. Be happy. Don't go hungry.

We are so keen on pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We're so intent on being tough and strong. Sometimes we forget the beauty of needing things without being needy. Sometimes we forget that we are animals requiring sustenance. And sometimes we forget that this sustenance is within our grasp. We don't need other people. We don't need to wait. We can eat. We can be full, we can be happy, and we can even feed others. It's up to us.

I've spent the majority of my adult life being emotionally hungry. I've let that become neediness. I'm pretty serious about changing that. I'm pretty keen on feeding myself and being someone that's full and happy. I'm pretty intent on being a complete person so that when I love someone, I give them a whole, and not a part or a shadow. Because I am a whole. I'm not a part. I'm me, and I'm 100% percent. And it's up to me to feed myself.



Friday, February 24, 2017

Things That Are Wrong



wrong
rôNG/
adjective
1. not correct or true.


2. unjust, dishonest, or immoral.

3. in an unsuitable or undesirable manner or direction

Some days are just off.

Some days, even when the sun is shining and really everything is Just Fine, something is wrong. And some days, you just can’t quite put your finger on what it is.

Maybe it’s that tiny bit of a headache left over from the cold you so valiantly fought off. Maybe it’s some weird fringe of guilt from something you forgot to do, like the opposite of deja vu when you feel like you’re repeating actions. Maybe your shoes fit a little oddly today or the seam of your sock is rubbing on your pinky toe. Maybe you feel a deep-seated regret that the last kiss goodbye should've been a little sweeter. Something is off.

I ran home during a break at school, where I am subbing for the history teacher again, and took some ibuprofen to see if that fixes the problem. I also chased one naughty hound off of the couch and yelled at the other one just for good measure, and held a Very Needy Wiener Dog for a minute. The Ibuprofen hasn’t kicked in yet but I don’t think any of that fixed what is wrong.

But I can’t tell if something is not correct or not true. Or if it’s unjust, dishonest or immoral. Or if something is headed in an unsuitable or undesirable manner or direction. But something's still wrong. Maybe I had a bad dream last night that I can’t remember but is still troubling my subconscious.

It's on days like today that every little trouble seems larger than life. Every hangnail is ominously sinister. Every song is suspiciously annoying. Every teenager is definitely out for trouble.

It’s on days like today that I feel like I must owe everyone in the world an apology for something.  I just can’t think what. And then I have this weird hunch that if someone delivered a basket of deep fried cheese curds and a cherry coke to my classroom that all would be right in the world again, which almost makes what’s wrong seem like a hangover…

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Things About Learning

I am supposed to be the history teacher today, but as with most days when I am superimposed in a position of quasi-authority, I find myself being taught much more than the ambivalent students under my tutelage. This morning I have learned the effects of freezing rain on ice-covered snowberms. Through a carefully planned exercise in scientific calculation I was able to quantify, with great personal significance, the velocity acceleration factor of slush covered ice on poorly chosen foot placement. Lucky for my makeup endeavors (which are always fabulous, right?) I didn't do a faceplant. But it wasn't a good morning to take out the garbage. That is all.

I also learned how to confiscate multiple cell phones from one student. To be fair, I had some experience in this field already after a three-phone commandeering last fall during health class. Interestingly during the three-phone ordeal, all the devices belonged to one obstinate student who came prepared for the inevitable consequences of her cell phone additction. Today was a little different in that one of the devices I apprehended actually belonged to the perturbed boyfriend of the offending party, as well as her own device. Some kids apparently learn on the same curve as me, which is to say, slowly.

Another fun lesson today was how to play Ping Pong, or more correctly, how to lose efficiently at Ping Pong. It was 'rest day' in the weight lifting class I was subbing for and I guess Ping Pong is restful. I would protest this, since every time I missed the ball (which was every time someone hit it to me) I had to bend over and try to catch the light-as-air, elusive little thing that would just flitter off into a dark corner and make me chase it. So I don't know about the students, but after 726 Ping Pong ball retrievals, I felt like I had accomplished a workout. One of my kids (who shall remain anonymous but whose name begins with Aiden) thought it was funny to see how many ways he could beat me. I recollect left handed, behind his back, hitting with paddle handle only, full-spin-before-hitting and blindfolded before I quit paying attention to how he was dominating me at table tennis.  

Speaking of slow learning, after an enlightening discussion with my eldest child, wherein I was intructed about MY failure to remedy her self inflicted phonelessness, I quickly threw down two impromptu rules of adulting, which I probably need to learn by heart myself. Adult rule #1: You can not depend on other people, ever. It's up to you. And after she explained the pickle she was in that made everything impossible, Adult Rule #2: Pickles happen when you make bad choices and they pile up on each other. I have been known to be in a pickle or seven myself. Truth is, I am pretty bad at observing both rules, but it's never too late to learn, right? 

Someday when I write my book on Poohology, you will all understand what I mean when I say that I am a Tigger and all of my learning issues spring from a certain Accidental Bounce  that gets in the way of absorbing things. I am seeing this more and more clearly in my lack of intuition and the plethora of communication breakdowns I run into in my relationships. The Accidental Bounce tends to get ahead of the Actual Reality, and somehow off the track and wondering Where Everybody Went, when it's really just me that is lost. I would like to say I am learning to recognize the bounce and quell it before it tsunamis over the top of a relationship and leaves me beached and confused, but I am not sure if that is true. It's just so hard to remember that everybody isn't a Tigger, even when I know that I Am The Only One. Learning curve. It's a wide one for me. 

 



Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Things About Tomorrow

For a long time, I have refused to look Tomorrow in the eye. Tomorrow has always been a shifty, low-down bully who is bossy and mean. Holding heavy threats of overdue bills, undisciplined children, mountains of laundry and, if the past is any indicator, a collection of dead end streets. Every Tomorrow that I have met has been another day that I put off All Of The Things that I didn't want to do in the Todays that came and went so quickly. Every Tomorrow was the possibility of another Yesterday. Every Tomorrow looked like just another chance to fail.

But something about Tomorrow is changing. It certainly isn't that I am facing fewer responsibilities which I will likely fulfill with the exact same lackluster underachievement that has characterized many of my undertakings. And it isn't that I have made Enormous Plans which are guaranteed to unfold successfully as a reward for all of the defeats of the past. But Tomorrow is suddenly giving me the sneaking suspicion that it might be the Best Day Ever. Eckhart Tolle said that "The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment." And maybe it's the choices that make every Today a little bit better that give every Tomorrow a little more promise.

There's a little piece of my mind that wonders if Tomorrow is looking less like a mean threat because Yesterday has faded in importance for me. Instead of whispering in my ear the possibility of being repeated, Yesterday has become an annoying little tickle in the back of my mind that only surfaces when I have to face the financial or physical reminders. I am beginning to enjoy the taste of freedom from my Yesterdays. But it's the things I do in the Todays that are liberating me. And not having Yesterdays to tell me what tomorrow might be is a little scary, like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane with only the parachute of Today strapped on my back. But it's a good scary. Yesterday has no power over me or my Tomorrows any more, because all of my better Todays stand between them, and that's a little bit exciting. And it's exciting that my Todays are better because I can imagine a Tomorrow that doesn't look a bit like yesterday, but it's full of the Daring Adventures and Passionate Kisses that I have decided to find in it.

I have always had a hard time living in the present moment. Mostly that's because I was angry and hurt by Yesterday and scared of Tomorrow. The more that I work on making Today amazing, the less I care what Yesterday did to me and the more I think Tomorrow might be awesome. Spheres of influence, people! We can't change where we aren't, and we will never be in Yesterday again, and Tomorrow will never come, because Today was Yesterday's Tomorrow. So I will thank Yesterday for the gifts it gave me and the lessons it taught me, and I will make Today the best one that I have had yet, and I will look Tomorrow bravely in the eye with anticipation for the adventures beyond my wildest dreams.





Saturday, February 4, 2017

Things About Starting

So here's something new: A GUEST BLOGGER! Wherein I get someone who knows way more things than me and is WAY better about writing these things to share words on my blog. How lucky am I??? Pretty much the luckiest, but all y'all already knew that. This first guest blogger is extra special because she's ACTUALLY WRITTEN BOOKS. In fact, she's something of a hero to me in her discipline and writing practice, in addition to a real job and All Of The Excuses that we all have. If you haven't checked out the Books of the Between, or my personal favorite, Dead Before Dying by Kerry Schafer, or more recently, Closer Home, by alter-ego Kerry Anne King (I am not sure which one of them wears the cape...), now would be an excellent time to do so. I am sharing this post of Kerry's because it resonated deeply with me, and because I like the part about the string.

Here's a little about Kerry from her website (www.kerryanneking.com), where you can also find the following post on her own blog, which is worth a follow:

Kerry Anne King lives with her Viking in a little house surrounded by trees, the perfect place for writing books and daylight dreaming. She spends her days working as an RN in a clinic, spinning her tales early in the morning and in the evenings after work. She believes passionately in the idea of the "whole self" and is ever in pursuit of balancing mind, body, and spirit. She also writes fantasy and mystery novels as Kerry Schafer.


JUST START SOMEWHERE
Kerry Anne King


Decision making is not my strong suite.


I can hear my Viking snorting as I write these words, even though he's not even in the house at the moment. He's all about making decisions, and they are generally good ones. For him, the world usually flows in direct lines from cause to consequence. He's boggled by my difficulty.

My Meyer's Briggs temperament type is INFP. Some of you will know what that means. If you don't, let's suffice it to say that my brain prefers to ponder the whys and wherefores of the universe rather than the common sense realities of the world around me.

Making decisions? I'm like a kid in the proverbial candy store. So many choices, and I'm never allowed to choose them all. Making a decision is like closing a door on possibility.

Big door. POSSIBILITY in all caps.

Take this blog, for instance. I've been meaning to blog regularly here for months. But every time I sit down to blog my brain immediately goes into the realm of POSSIBILITY and I give up and walk away to do something other.

Maybe I should blog about books

Maybe I should blog about my own, personal, day to day growth

Maybe I should have guests.

Maybe I should blog about mind, body, spirit health

Maybe I shouldn't blog at all, because my life is already hectic and maybe nobody will read any of this and my time would be better spent elsewhere.

Fortunately, I've developed an ability to compensate for my indecision over the years. I function well in my day job as a clinic RN, making decisions as I go and getting my work done. At home, I manage the day to day household operations just fine. And for other stuff that feels too overwhelming, I've developed a mantra:

Just start somewhere, and take it from there.

Getting started is the hardest part. Once things are in motion, it's easier to keep them going. It feels a bit like a game I used to play with my older brother when we were in boring situations (like driving for thousands of miles in a car. Or at least it felt like thousands of miles.) He would take a long string and tie it in a ball of knots. And then I would untie it. The hardest part was finding the right end to get started; after that it was all a matter of time and patience.

So, today, I'm starting somewhere with this blog. I have some ideas I'd like to implement. Mondays as personal growth days. Wednesdays, guest posts by writer friends. Fridays, information about various aspects of whole health. Maybe these things will happen, maybe they won't.

One way or another, it's time to take the ideas out of my head and start putting them on the page.

What about you? Do you like decisions made or to leave all those doors of possibility open?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Things About Power

There is a certain power in suffering. There is a particular energy gained in persevering through obstacles that seem insurmountable. I am more and more convinced that it is the negative, destructive and painful things in our lives that actually lend us more effectiveness in life than all of the happy events. It's really only after we have survived things that we didn't think we could survive that we know the depth of our endurance, or better yet, learn new depths of endurance.

I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about resilience and mental strength, and what makes some people so perpetually buoyant, even in the face of the greatest adversity. I want that resilience. I want that strength of mind and heart. I want to know that all of the things that have happened in my life have been exactly for the purpose of removing the fear of the Next Big Thing.

Nothing makes me feel as powerful as remembering the things that I have overcome, accomplished, faced and mastered. All of the sunshine and rainbows and introspection and happy days and self-care can't hold a candle to what a good, hard kick in the ass can do for my empowerment.

I hate running. As in, I really don't like it at all. It's uncomfortable. It's not fun. It's All The Things I Don't Like. It's symptomatic of being a grown up, when you aren't running to play tag or kick the can because of the exhilarating FUN factor of chasing and being caught, you run because you are fat and lazy and slow and you made choices in your life that demand you run without destination other than a number on a scale or so you don't die from eating too many donuts. It is safe to say that running is my chief enemy in life, which could work out really well if I take out all of my frustrations by tying on the shoes that I loathe and beating the hell out of the pavement to cure my anger. Running is my whipping boy. It's where I conquer my tastes and find forgiveness for the things I can't control. It's where I face my darkest enemies. I've set off in the bitter cold to run off the sneaking suspicion of an anxiety attack, and it works. It's powerful. And I come home feeling like I have what it takes to look the other enemies in the eye. The Fear. The Worries. The Grown Up Things.

Anyway, all of this rambling to say: I am going for a run. Catch you on the flip. Find your power.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Things About My Heart


I have so much to be grateful for. I've been given so much, and I've been forgiven for so much. I've had so many opportunities - for growth, for knowledge, for joy... I have no right to ask the universe for anything more, but if I could...

I'd ask for the wisdom to love without owning. To care without controlling. To give without needing. I'd ask for the depth to fight without violence and to challenge without harm. I'd ask for the strength to stand in the storm and be the shield that instead, I seek in others. I'd ask for the clarity to know when a path has ended and see where a new one begins. I'd ask for the faith to believe in a story that is bigger than me. 

I have so far to go in the building of this heart of mine. So much more that I could give if I can cast off the fear that holds me back and the self protection that shuts me down. 

I am thankful for the path that has brought me here, every mistake and every heartache and every scar in the surface of my soul that makes it what it is now. And I am thankful for the rest of the process. And what my heart can be if I keep it open. 


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Things About Hosteling


In all fairness, staying in hostels was probably my favorite part of the trip to Brazil. For all of my grown-up complaining and fit-pitching, I can't help but smile when I think of the people and the things that I got to experience in hostels.

New Year's Eve on Copacabana!
Our first Hostel was in Rio de Janeiro. In case you don't know, Rio is a city of 6 million people, which is about 5,999,627 more people than I am really comfortable sharing a zip code with at one time. Our Hostel was located in the Santa Teresa neighborhood, known for it's colorful and artsy culture and the perpetual party atmosphere, which is obviously why I desperately needed to stay there. Because parties. Until at least 9 PM. We shared an 8 bunk room for 5 nights with 6 boys that rotated in and out like migrant shift workers from various continents. There was finally one other girl from London there, a bronze-skinned bohemian beauty who flitted in and out like she owned the place, which, if you consulted any of the 20-something international romeos in our dorm, would be the general consensus.

January 1st 2017. The aftermath. (the shirtless dude on the beanbags in the corner is the hostel owner
I was without question the oldest person in the hostel, which I would estimate houses anywhere from 20-75 people on any given night. I was also the only mom. Being a mom has it's definite advantages, as a few of the kids will respect your age and sleep needs by tiptoeing quietly around the darkened door room after 9 PM when I usually holed up in my bunk for the duration of the night. Halle was able to take full advantage of the perpetual party atmosphere and hit up some of the street parties and famous Cachaça bars and Samba joints.

One night, a friend of the hostel owner who was a Syrian refugee cooked dinner for the entire hostel - some amazing rice and beef dish with peanuts and I don't even know what. But it was really good. That night I stayed downstairs with all of the kids and drank caipirinhas and Antarctica beer like it was going out of style. In case you were wondering, a caipirinha is a traditional Brazilian cocktail made with limes, simple syrup and Cachaça, which is a spirit distilled from sugar cane. And it's delicious. I might have had a dozen or two during my stay.

The best part about staying in hostels is, hands down, the super cool and friendly people from all over the world that you get to meet and subsequently, hang out with. In every hostel (we stayed in three) we got the best tourist tips, sometimes tag along local guides and help getting everywhere we wanted to.

The second hostel that we stayed in was in the middle of the Mata Atlantica Rainforest, in a little hippie beach town called Trindade, and couldn't have been more different from our urban hostel in Rio. We spent the one day that we had in Trindade hiking to beaches that were squirreled along rustic coastal trails, slip-sliding in our Havianas in the mud from torrential downpours that happen at least once a day. While we were there, we sat out one of the awesome storms in a great little restaurant with good local beer and an American classic rock cover band. In the meantime, back at our hostel, the wood slat bridge that spanned the small creek between the main hostel lodge and the bunkhouse where we were sleeping collapsed when one end of the bridge support sloughed off in a miniature land slide. The minor catastrophe also cut off the water supply to the the entire hostel which meant that we were relegated to drinking the cheap beer on hand at the hostel. It was a super fun night, like camping with cousins when the power goes out. We played UNO with some kids from the Netherlands and I am pretty sure I didn't win.

I would tell you that the last hostel we stayed in was my favorite except that I really like all of them for different reasons. Green Haven Hostel in Ubatuba (yes, it's a real place) was located directly across from a big beach where giant, lifted tractors drive out into the surf with trailers to pick up boats that come into the bay. Ubatuba is the surf capital of Brazil, and while it took a little doing to find the "best surf beach", we finally did, and Halle got a lesson while I soaked up the last full beach day that we had in Brazil. It was exactly everything that I imagined Brazil would be. Turquoise water, crashing waves, and beautiful bronzed bodies of all shapes and sizes. And then we went back to the hostel, where they hosted a killer Brazilian barbeque and partied all. night. long.



Hostel living certainly isn't for everyone. In fact, I am not sure it's even for me, but it was a memorable experience, every sleepless night of it. Halle was insistent that the night that we spent at a hotel robbed us of the cultural experience that a hostel provides, and while I enjoyed the "private" bedroom and a bathroom and shower all to myself, I have to admit that I missed the adventure and intrigue of sharing a house with 50 strangers from all over the world. Even if I was the only mom.



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Things About Getting Cocky

I get that I've been bragging a lot. I mean, the tropical wonderland of Brazil, all this blather about contentedness... I've kind of been rubbing it in your face, right? Well pride goeth before every good fall, doesn't it?

It's just that the minute you start feeling good about yourself, something is bound to go wrong. At least in my life that seems to prove true over and over again. Not that wrong is always bad. In fact usually it's pretty hilarious. Later on. But I have been getting way too cocky and it's catching up with me. Like when you finally get a few minutes of success on your toe edge when you're out snowboarding and suddenly you think you're cool enough to rock acid washed jeggings. And then the $500 latch that you had replaced on your stupid car breaks AGAIN, only this time in the UNLATCHED position, and the back door flops open every time you hit a bump, flashing the dome lights in your rig all the way home like a mobile rave.

Or like when you think you're tough enough to do hard core yoga two days in a row AND go snowboarding and slam your less-than petite frame on the ice several hundred times and then you wake up feeling like something chained down to a steel table in Dr. Frankensteins laboratory. Except you're not chained down and you have to actually get up and do stuff. Like work. And sitting on really uncomfortable bleachers for a lot of hours.

I really need to quit bragging, and getting all comfortable with myself. Because it doesn't change the fact that things break, technology freezes and catastrophes prevail as soon as I walk into the room and there will always be a trail of disaster following me for all of us to laugh at. And if we don't all laugh at the trail of disaster following me then I will surely need to be committed to an insane asylum where I can quit disastering and just cuddle with a padded wall all day long.

The minute I start to think that I actually have my shit together somebody is gonna faithfully remind me that my writing is schmaltzy, I still make minimum wage in most of my jobs and my driving habits may or may not be legal. But while we're laughing about the bungee cords holding the rear door of my ridiculously overpriced luxury SUV closed, can we also take a moment to remember all the cool stuff that I've done? Like Brazil, and getting on my toe edge. And TOTALLY rocking jeggings. ( <---- ok so really I slinked from shadow to shadow to avoid being caught in public, but I did wear them out of the house.)




Sunday, January 15, 2017

Things About Being Content

Maybe it's not being thousands of miles away from All The Things That Matter To Me. Maybe it's watching Aspen do basketball moves I don't know the name of because I was homeschooled. Maybe it's the hot sleepytime tea I can sip while I watch Frank chew up my favorite Eos Mint Lip Balm on the living room floor. I'm not sure what's doing it, but I can't seem to shake this feeling of CONTENT.

It's a big deal, this contentedness thing, at least in my life. The life of going and chasing and wishing and hoping and trying and just Too Much. Contentedness means not caring if I can't chisel the dying Christmas Decorations out of the 4 inches of solid ice on my front porch until May. It means not freaking out that I might have frozen my washing machine to death when the dogs broke the dog door and invited the Whole Winter into the house. It means feeling, to the core of your being, the value of being warm curled up on a couch under a blanket with someone that gets you. It means knowing how very good the glass of $50 wine that your daughter accidentally opened on a day that didn't matter will taste. It means not being offended while you're mopping the dirtiest floor you've ever seen. It means knowing that you are EXACTLY where you were intended to be in this moment.

The root of contentedness is gratitude. And when you figure out how good you've got it, because you finally got to flush toilet paper down the toilet for the first time in two weeks, or because you can have as much butter on your english muffin as you want, you can't help but feel gratitude, and subsequently, contentedness.

I should be ashamed that it took a trip halfway around the world to remind me how good I've got it, but I am not ashamed. And honestly, taking the trip is half the reason that I have got it so good - because I CAN. And then I can come home to this beautiful, crazy place called Real Life where I am loved and I am safe and my people are.

quite possibly the luckiest girl alive...

Friday, January 13, 2017

Things About Cultural Experiences

He says the tap water is fine to drink. He says, “never mind the silt when it rains like this. It should be fine. It IS fine.” His self correction was so quick that I almost believe him. And after all, since Halle and I didn’t bring enough cash to pay for our two nights at his hostel where we had only booked ONE bed, who can question the integrity of the owner? Especially when he is a Brit named David, or George, or James, or one of those really super British names, and gives one the sneaking suspicion that his frequent emergent rendezvous in the dark and rainy alleyway have more to do with a booming drug business than a hostel with silty tap water. But who am I to question? It's all about the “cultural experience”. (Turns out that George, the hostel owner, actually owned the Pousada (hotel) across the street as well and was running back and forth in the torrential rain storm to deal with guests over there. So no drugs. I think [almost disappointing].)


it will hold me, right?
According to my 20 year old daughter, it was this rich cultural experience that I deprived her from when I insisted on paying for a hotel room after 5 nights in a hostel in Rio De Janiero: possibly the biggest, hottest, dirtiest city I have ever visited. It must have been the cultural deprivation that drove her to a 45 minute shower in the hotel room, uninterrupted by visitors of all sorts and unenhanced by the multicultural diarrhea nearby in a toilet that wouldn't flush. (#hostellifeforever!) I do feel like Halle should save passing her judgements on me for when she is thirty nine and a half and has given birth without medical aid in a dirt floor structure of questionable design and no flushing toilet. I will take “luxury”, with or without culture, whenever I can afford it. But luxury comes in many forms.


Like for instance, tonight, in my warm shower (all of the water here is solar heated, along with EVERYthing else), I was joined by a lightning bug. Now there is luxury you can't even buy. And the lighting storm on Ilha Grande last night, like a giant rave in the sky, thunder and rain screaming for attention like an emo support group - the kind of awesome drama that Hollywood can never recreate.


Feijoada FTW. I love this stuff. Just don't tell me what's in it. 
I like Brazil. Things that I like about Brazil include: The music. The food (at least the stuff I can identify). The very nice people who tolerate idiot Americans who don't bother to learn Portuguese before they visit (thank God Halle learned muito pequeno [I made those words up completely]). The fact that I have lost weight. The fact that losing weight precludes me from falling through the REALLY springy and far too flexible one by whatever wood slats on any of a hundred little bridges spanning murky water that looks like hot chocolate and smells like diarrhea. I like the turquoise water of the ocean, and the miles and miles of foamy beach, these rainbow people in all shades and colors and from every background. I like imagining a life on this side of the equator as normal, and not the foreign, sticky, sweaty, amazingly weird world it is to me.

I can honestly say that my comfort zone hasn't been breached to this level since I visited Uganda. Except that one time I had to go to church on Easter Sunday. But it's good. And I still keep pinching myself to make sure I am really experiencing it. Or maybe that was the biting ants that swarmed my feet at the waterfall. Who knows?
so much adventure.





Things About Dating, and disaster, and hope

By now I should be well aware of the consequences. What good can possibly come from it? Why, after so many failures, would I even consider trying again? But this pestilence called hope eats at me like a parasite, whispering lies in my ear about possibility, fueled by a million songs, a thousand books, a hundred memories... I can't stop believing. It's out there, I know it. My patchwork heart can't pretend that it's not real anymore than it can deny the existence of a Power greater than the tides of self that try to rule my life.

So I go. Once more into the fray. Once more unto the breech. Believing, hoping, singing, clinging desperately to an idea that Happily Ever After is, after all, a thing.

But of all the bad dating ideas, a blind date? Friends setting up friends for failure and awkward apologetic conversations about misconceptions and disappointed expectations. What could be more archaic and terrible - other than an arranged marriage, which I have come pretty close to already. Why not try the next worse thing? Bravely go...

And what if by some miracle the reality was better than expectation and the misconceptions really weren't? What if the yellow brick road of trust and trying One More Time led you back to the Kansas that you knew was out there the whole time? Or maybe Kansas doesn't look anything like you remember, or maybe Oz becomes your new Kansas, or maybe you decide that clicking your heels won't get you anywhere but a dirty pig pen and it's worth a chance to ride the Horse of A Different Color and give Oz a shot. Or maybe I am stretching this analogy out waaaayyy too far.

Either way, in spite of the distinct possibility of broken dreams and shattered hearts all over again, and the most certain trail of disasters that will threaten any hint of smooth sailing and Anything Good, because, after all, this is still MY life. And because of course it would. The minute something starts to look up, a disaster of ridiculous proportions has too swoop in to save me from eternal happiness.

If I get a couple hundred dollars in savings, some unheard of part on my car will break,  or an appliance will die an agonizing death, or some other unprotected and super expensive event will take place. If I meet a kind man who treats me with respect and that I actually like, some horrific thing must inevitably happen to ensure that I will never, ever be happily ever after. I mean, if he isn't hopelessly flawed, then fate will see to it that he is undeniably convinced of my lack of worth. Or maybe not. Maybe He'll be better than all of the Scary Things that are my life.

In spite of it all, I can't help but feel like it's so worth it. Because of the perpetual smile. Because of the butterflies. Because of feeling like a million bucks even when you're just a very muddy penny. And maybe I'll put all my wrong feet forward and do everything backwards and maybe, just maybe, if something is meant to be it won't matter anyway.