#Hamilton

 

There have been moments in each one of my son’s lives when I can specifically pinpoint the moment he hit a milestone. I remember clearly the day that Max stood up and started walking. I remember the day Shane walked to school by himself for the first time. And every day since then, they have become more and more independent.

Still, there are times when the calls or texts come in hourly. “Mom. Shane won’t play outside with me.” “Mom, Shane won’t let me sit next to him on the couch.” “Mom, Shane won’t let me talk to his friends.” I text back, “Max, give the phone to Shane so I can talk to him.” The reply, “I can’t right now. Shane is lying down in his room and he says he needs time to calm down. Why does he have to calm down?”

Even at times when I thought they were otherwise engaged, I got calls and texts.  Once, a few years back, Max went camping with his dad and his brother. He called me from a mountain top at 2700 feet. “I’m so proud of you,” I told him. “Are you tired?” “I am so exhausted,” he said. “Shane made me climb all the way up here and I am sooo tired.” “What about the view?” I asked. “Yeah, yeah, the view. I still have to go BACK DOWN, Mom. Don’t you understand?”

Max made it down from the mountain. He found his own friends to play with. He has a love of music that is deeper and wider than my own, which is pretty damn deep and wide. With that love comes a desire to see and hear as much music as possible.

Hamilton came out and I immediately began getting texts. “Mom, I want to see ‘Hamilton.’” I checked online and tickets in San Francisco were over $500 for the cheapest seats. I told him, “I’ll enter the lottery.” He texted me endlessly, “Mom, have you checked for ‘Hamilton’ tickets?” “Mom, I won’t ask for anything else again ever if you can just get ‘Hamilton’ tickets.” He listened to the soundtrack to “Hamilton” on an endless loop. He sang it. In the morning, while he was in the shower. While I was driving him to school. Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton.

I told him, “Max, I can’t afford it, I’m sorry. It’s so expensive.” And then late one night, Max sent me a link to the traveling performance of “Hamilton” – at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles. The tickets were imminently affordable. “Mom, PLEASE! Hurry up and buy them! And can you buy three of them?” I did it. I bought three tickets to the show, for the performance on December 3, 2017, the night before Max’s 16th birthday. And then I worried about how we would get to LA from Santa Rosa.

I used up all my credit card miles to get three round- trip tickets to LAX for me, Max, and his girlfriend. I found an inexpensive room near the airport, so we could use a hotel shuttle to get back and forth to the airport. When we flew out early the morning of December 3, Max was sick. He could barely breathe on the plane. When we got to the hotel room, his girlfriend and I fed him tea, soup, water. He took a hot shower. We got him some cold medicine.  We got him dressed and out the door. And we headed to the Pantages Theater. As we got closer and Max saw “Hamilton” on the marquis, he kept saying, “I can’t believe this is happening. I can’t believe it.”

We got out and stood in front of the theater, looking at the names of the stars on the sidewalk. When we finally got in, I bought each of them Hamilton sweatshirts, and we waited to be seated. Once inside, I realized that what I thought would be high-up balcony seats were in fact, true mezzanine seats. We were in the front row of the back set of seats, high enough to see everything, and without anything or anyone obstructing our view. The lights when down, the curtain went up, and the first song began. And I looked at my son. He clapped both hands over his mouth and started sobbing. He was incredulous and he was overwhelmed and he was overjoyed.

As we were headed out of the theater, the actors were stationed at the doors, collecting money for a benefit. The actor who played Aaron Burr was at the exit door. I put money in the bucket he was holding, and I told him, “Thank you very much. It was a wonderful show, and you made my son’s birthday amazing.” He turned to my son and he said, “Happy birthday young man. Did you enjoy the show?” Max said, “Yes. Yes.” As we stood on the sidewalk outside the theater waiting for our ride, I said to Max, “Well, not many 16 year-olds can say that Aaron Burr wished them a happy birthday.” Max was speechless. That has happened perhaps twice in his entire life.

That evening, as I was picking up food to take upstairs to my still-sick son, I saw on the news that there was a fire alert in Los Angeles. No, no, I thought. No. We cannot get stuck here, we cannot live through another fire. We were still freshly traumatized from the firestorm in October. We were in Los Angeles the next day, we wandered through music stores, and finally headed to LAX at 9 p.m. The next day, fires raged through Southern California and LAX shut down.

When we flew into Santa Rosa that night, we were silent as we looked down over the empty spaces where there were once lights of homes. The convergence of Hamilton, disaster and loss in our county, and imminent recovery and hope of our community, were etched forever in our hearts. We will never be the same. Those who have literally been through the fire are never the same.

As I have done, every day since the days the fires roared through my county, I consider all that I am or should be grateful for.  On this day, Independence Day 2018, I am grateful that I was able to find a way to take my son to celebrate his birthday by seeing an amazing musical, partially a tribute to lawyers, (just saying, it’s true), and primarily, of course, a tribute to immigrants.

“I may not live to see the glory, but I will gladly join the fight. And when our children tell the story, they’ll tell the story of tonight.” (Hamilton – Lin Manuel Miranda.) This blog post was a very short story about how a mother found a way to take her son to see Hamilton.  But that is just the beginning of the story of a fight. It’s a fight that has been going on since the beginning of time and mothers. It’s a fight that continues. Any questions? Go see Hamilton. And call your mama.

We are (all) are immigrants. Somos immigrantes.

We are (all) warriors. 私たちは戦士です Watashitachiha senshidesu.

We are mamaninjawarriors.


 

When Doves Cry

KIMBA

In November 2015, I was facing down my first set of holidays as a middle aged divorced mom. It was lonely and I had no idea what was going to happen but I kept telling myself – I was fucking strong. I was working late nights, working weekends. I had additional gigs to pay for birthdays and holidays. I never said “no” when someone asked me for a favor. I was goddamn Superwoman.

There was an unending punch list of things that were wrong with my house that had to be repaired that I could not do and that I could not afford to pay anyone else to do. I considered selling the house. I learned that I couldn’t buy anything else because I was a divorced middle aged mom and that meant no bank would give me a loan to buy another piece of real estate. I felt like I was stuck.

But my big, clumsy, sweet Kimba never judged me. Well, none of my dogs, as far as I know, judged me. Kimba was so excited to see me walk in the door, all 130 pounds of her. She would follow me from the time I woke up in the morning, when I walked out the door to go to work, to when I arrived home at night, to when I went to bed. I would lie down next to her, hug her neck, put my head on her furry belly, listen to her “hmmmmph.” I should have written her more love letters, like this one.
A love letter to my Kimba:
“Thank you for letting me rest on your soft belly fur
when I am tired or discouraged,
You are the best cure for self-pity and for being dog-tired.
And you are the cure for any bullshit thought I have of regret for years lost because as you have helped me realize, what I have gained in those years is immeasurable. Even in dog years.
Thanks for setting me straight about that.
Thank you for reminding me the important things in life are to eat and sleep and let the people you love know it.
Every. Damn. Day.
I love you, dog. You make me a better human.”

She died in July 2017 and not a day goes by that I do not miss the sweet therapy of a soft dog belly that did not judge me. We all should have that, unconditional love, sweet places to lie down, and love letters from the bottom of our loved one’s heart.

On May 13, 2018, I spent Mother’s Day puttering around my house, working on the overgrown backyard. Earlier in the week, I found a mourning dove had taken up residence in the side yard, on the ground by the gate. I could not understand why she would pick that spot to nest, when I have dogs and a cat. But my dogs were leaving her alone, or perhaps, guarding her spot.  The cat was oblivious.

Initially, she had been there for a few hours, then she had left, so I thought she had picked another spot to build a nest. Perhaps a neighborhood cat had scared her off. But she kept coming back. Her partner would perch on the fence, cooing to her.

She had been safe there for over a week. When my sons came to take me out for Mother’s Day dinner, she was perched in her spot, chortling, and cooing to her mate. I showed her to my sons.

When we came back from dinner, I did not see her on her perch when I walked out into the back yard. I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking she had flown away. Then my dog ran to a spot in the deep grass a few yards away, came back to me, whimpering, and I saw the soft gray wings.

She was lying there, wings outspread, barely breathing. I picked her up and there was bright scarlet on her breast, like she had been shot through with an arrow.  She lifted her head and one wing up, then her head dropped and she was gone. I held her for a long time.

She had a sweet, soft gray belly, like my Kimba did. She was still warm. I could not stop crying as I held her, and I wished I had the ability to make her whole again. Fucking law degree. It does me no good when it comes to breathing life back into really good, sweet, loving innocent souls. I made her a little grave next to the spot where she was nesting. And I have heard the call of her mate for the last few hours, “Coo – cooo, Coo – cooo.”

We all need a safe place to nest and love and be loved. Tonight I am putting flowers on a tiny grave in my backyard and I am so sorry, little mama bird. I promise to pay it forward for you, in dog years, and in mama tears.

This is what it sounds like when doves cry.

 

Three Wishes

MamaninjawarriorOne Saturday morning last summer at 4:30 a.m., our dog Atticus woke me up. I went downstairs and he was at the door in our house that led to the garage. I flipped the light on and I opened the door to the garage. There were three HUGE raccoons in the garage. Maybe it was a raccoon rave. Anyway, brave, silly Atticus stormed into the garage. Two of the gargantuan raccoons ran away but one remained behind and Atticus turned him into a raccoon bowling ball. I guess I was screaming and swearing (surprise) loudly because Shane appeared behind me in the doorway. The remaining raccoon had climbed onto Atticus’s head, so I picked up a bag of potting soil (nearest weapon) and started whacking it.

 

Shane yelled and picked up a skateboard and ran after the fur mangle as well. I came to my senses and opened the garage door and Atticus’s raccoon hat eventually ran away. The raccoons left, Atticus was fine, and we all recovered. Shane told me later, “I can’t believe I keep a bat by my bed in case I hear screaming in the house and I totally forgot it. I failed.” No, he didn’t. He heard me screaming and he came running without hesitation. I would fight off a horde of raccoons or zombies for my kids, any day. But it was so cool that when his mama went nuts in the garage at 4:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, my kid showed up to kick some ass. When Shane was in preschool, his teachers wrote on his daily activity log, “When Shane grows up, he will be   — a superhero.” He’s mine.

 

Tonight, is the seventh night of Hannukah and the eve of my Shane’s 19th birthday. This year, he turns 19 on the 19th of December, the final night of Hannukah. An auspicious birthday.

 

After we finished dinner and the boys cleaned up, he said to Max, “If you had three wishes, what would they be?” Max said, “I would want a new drum set. And drum lessons. And I think I want to save my third wish.” Shane said, “Mom, what would your three wishes be?” I said, “I wish for enough money to pay for both of you to go to college without worrying about how I would pay for you to go to college. And a massage every week.” He said, “Okay, what’s your third wish?” I said, “My third wish is to have my happily ever after.” He said, “Awww, Mom. That’s awesome.”

Then he said, “My three wishes are this. I wish I could wear a wizard hat everywhere. It would be like a baseball hat or a beret – wizard hats would just be acceptable. Or a witch hat, if you wanted to. I just want to be able to wear a wizard hat in public without question. Next, I’d wish to be able to grab anything in a room. Just in the room that I was in.” I said, “Like ‘The Incredibles?’” Shane said, “Yeah, sort of like the mom in ‘The Incredibles’ but on a smaller scale. For example, I could just reach out and grab my water bottle across the room without getting up. It would mean I’d get fatter but I’d be okay with that.” I said, “So you’d trade convenience for a dad bod.” He said, “Yes, exactly.” “What’s your third wish?” Max asked.

 

“I would want an end to climate change,” Shane said. “My third wish has to be something serious. Alternatively, I would wish for the return of the McRib Sandwich.”

 

My young man, my funny, sweet, handsome, smart, superhero, grabbed his backpack and headed out the door this evening after dinner, to hang with his friends. And I am here, at the kitchen table, preparing to write out some holiday cards and think about 19 years ago, when my Shane was born. And to consider my third wish, my happily ever after. You know that one – we all have it. It goes like this: “And then they all lived…happily ever after.” Happy holidays, beautiful ones. May you all have your three wishes as 2017 winds down. And may you, too, have your happily ever after.

55 is the new 25

 

BLOG POSTMax and I were talking a few years ago about all the cool stuff that his grandpa had collected from World War II. He said, “I really love my grandpa and I hope he lives forever.” I said, “I hope so, too, buddy, but you know, he’s in his eighties now so we have to be sure to visit him and your grandma as much as possible.” He said, “Mom, he’s going to be around for a while. Don’t you know that 80 is the new 50?”

 
Max’s grandfather passed away when he was 91 years old. I was divorced from Max’s father but I got the phone call when he died. I was devastated. This is a part of divorce that you do not think about when you are extricating yourself from the ruins of a house that you thought was built to last forever. I had talked to Max’s grandfather a couple of months before and he had told me goodbye. I just hadn’t realized that it was, really, the last time I would talk to him. I guess by that time, I was just done saying goodbye. To my marriage, my dreams, my ideal of a perfect life, being a perfect wife and mother, how selfish of me. It hadn’t entered my consciousness that saying goodbye to my marriage meant saying goodbye to everything and everyone else associated with it. After spending 20 years with the same person, it didn’t occur to me that I was truly going to be starting all over again. That division of property included dividing up family. You don’t stop loving your extended family but the fact is, you are not family anymore when the divorce is not amicable. And for the record, very few divorces are “amicable.”

The other night I sat with Shane at the dinner table and we talked about his future. He told me, “I don’t want to be in another house where people are fighting or breaking up. I’ve already been in that house. I don’t want to be there again.” That broke my heart. I said to him, “I am so sorry. I am sorry about the divorce. I am sorry that I didn’t try harder.” He said, “Don’t be sorry. You and my dad are different people now.  It’s been good for both of you. This is better for all of us.” How fucked up that your kids are better people because you are apart, despite the fact you had to be together for them to exist in the first place.

Divorce sucks. The logistics of divorce suck. There’s no good way to transition kids between two households. There just isn’t. You can rationalize it all you want, but it doesn’t make it any easier. I know that when I don’t have my kids with me, I stay up too late and I don’t eat well. I have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner and I watch and re-watch old 80’s movies on Netflix with my dogs on the couch. But it is my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It is my couch. And it is my time. I miss Max’s grandfather. I miss having the giant extended family that being married brings you. There’s nothing that can replace having a partner who really loves you and a huge, loving family.  No peanut butter and jelly sandwich is that good. I believe that eventually, we will all get there. According to Max’s math, 55 is the new 25 so I’ve got some time left to have that great loving partner and huge extended family. So do you. L’Chaim.

#sonomanapastrong

RAIN

Early Monday morning, October 8, 2017, firestorms raged through my county and the surrounding counties. Friends and co-workers lost their homes. Businesses and familiar landmarks burned to the ground. At 3:00 a.m. that Monday, I was awakened by a phone call from my friend telling me to get up and get out because everything around us was on fire. For almost two weeks after that, I slept in my clothes on the couch, packed and ready to evacuate my home. I was not sure where I would go. I just knew I would get my kids and I would leave.

I texted my sons, who were at their dad’s house. “What do you want me to get from your room to pack in case I have to evacuate?” Shane: “There are some small wooden boxes on top of my dresser. Would you throw those in a bag for me?” Max: “There’s a picture of you from high school in my room, my first pair of drumsticks on your desk downstairs, love letters [from his girlfriend] on my desk…there’s also a letter from you on the small shelf to the left of my desk…there’s also a list under the small drawing mannequin on the shelf to the top left of my desk…there’s also a small sock stuffed panda on the lower shelf to the left of my desk.”

The evening after the fires began, the boys came to my house. Shane consolidated everything in the wooden boxes I had packed into one small box. He grabbed his tallit –  his prayer shawl – and his high school diploma, and put it in his backpack.

Max went upstairs to his bedroom.  After about an hour, Shane asked him, “Max, what are you doing?” Max said, “Shane, this house is probably going to burn down, I want to spend some time going through my memories before they are gone.” Another half-hour and he came back downstairs with two suitcases and a tote bag. “Mom, can you fit this in your car, too?” I said, “I will make it fit, Max.” I packed and unpacked Max’s two suitcases, his two tote bags, our two dogs and one cat, and all my stuff multiple times during those hazy days of smoke, airplanes and helicopters flying overhead, notices from the Sheriff pinging on my cell phone, texts from friends and family outside the county asking me if I was safe. Until finally, my little town got the message that we were not going to be evacuated. And a couple days later, my boys came home.

Max’s room was even messier than usual – dresser drawers and closet open, books and clothing on the floor. “Max, what is this?” I asked him. He looked at me and said, “Well, Mom, I figured if it was all going to burn down, I wouldn’t have to clean it again.” And that’s when it hit me. My kid had believed that he was not going to come back home again. He had trusted me to take the most important parts of his life from the home he grew in, put it in my car, and drive it somewhere safe. He had trusted that we would take whatever I managed to put into my little car (why, why did I decide to buy a smaller car?) and we would start over again, with that.

I am stunned at the loss all around me, as the days have gone by and I hear from friends and go out into the world again. How can I possibly describe what has been lost? It’s the loss of land and wood and stone and furniture and inventory and art and jewelry and photographs. It’s the loss of time and space and the love that built it. It’s the loss of community. It’s the loss of normalcy. It’s the loss of the fucking average day. Who knew how badly you could miss an average day?

Yesterday, the rain finally came, 11 days after the fires began. I have been around long enough to stop questioning why, why, prayers aren’t answered right when we think they should be. Praying for rain to happen at the time of the fire made sense to me. I don’t know why it didn’t make sense to whomever gets the prayers – G_d, Buddha, The Spirit in the Sky, whomever you pray to. That’s not my field of expertise, at all. I do know that it did, indeed finally rain. And I am grateful for that.

 
Tonight, my sons and I sat at the dinner table and asked each other questions. Who would you have dinner with if you could invite anyone, living or dead, to dinner? If you could wake up tomorrow and have any power or ability, what would it be? And I said, “Now we know the answer to that one question that people ask each other.” Shane said, “Which one?” I said, “If your entire house catches on fire, and your loved ones and pets are all safe, what one item would you save?” Shane said, “I put everything that I would save in one place, my briefcase, right next to my bed.” I turned to Max. “Max, how about you? Do you have one thing that you would take?”

And right then, as if on cue, the dogs got into a fight underneath Max’s chair. Instead of biting each other, one dog nipped Max’s ankle. There was blood and screaming. Both dogs were thrown outside, pending a trial. We took Max upstairs and wrapped the scrape on his ankle in three band-aids, a tube of Neosporin, one ace bandage, half a roll of sports tape, and seven layers of guilt. The dogs pled to a lesser offense and everyone went to their respective corners. By the time it was all over, all I wanted was a large glass of wine and several ounces of chocolate. And that was when an average day did, finally, return to our house.

We have all unpacked here, at my house. We have unpacked our suitcases and our tote bags. We have unpacked our rage, our frustration, our guilt. We have unpacked our lives, full of chores and school and work and messiness and love and friends and family. We are so lucky. We are so grateful. So, so, so very grateful, to be here, in this unpacked, imperfect, every day, average, life. And we will not forget that. Not ever.

Promises and Ice Cream

BLOG POST

 

About four years ago, after a long day, I came home to find Max lying in the middle of the kitchen floor, moaning. “What’s wrong, buddy?” I asked him. “I’m having a mid-life crisis,” he said. “I don’t think you can have a mid-life crisis when you’re eleven,” I said. “Well,” he said, “Whatever it is. Early life crisis. I’m having one.” I went upstairs to change and to give him 15 more minutes of crisis before it was time to put on shoes, run errands, and get ice cream. Things were much happier after that. And I realized that my kid could be on to something. Perhaps a lot of problems can be solved by lying on the floor and wailing for half an hour.

From my vantage point, the wail on the floor is sometimes the best and only way to deal with mid-life crises. We tend to think that our problems are also everyone else’s problems. This is because, too often, we think that everyone else sees the world the way that that we see it. And we get hurt when someone doesn’t get our angst and sorrow. But really, you can only invite one person to your pity party. And that is yourself. And maybe, if you’re fortunate, someone who has promised to listen to you and wait it out with you.

It is a little unrealistic to expect someone else to do you want them to do or think the way we want them to. It would feel damn good if they did. But if that happened, we wouldn’t have an entire section in the bookstore dedicated to communication. Or an entire industry dedicated to helping people communicate with each other – therapists, life coaches, dating coaches.

It seems weird that when you have a kid, you spend so much time teaching him (or her) how to talk. You write down the words he learns as he learns them. Shane’s first word was “dog.” Max’s first word was “cookie.” I know. My kids had different priorities. And as they got older, I learned that teaching them words, and communicating with them, were two completely different things.

About three years ago, Max and I were butting heads frequently. Finally, Max promised me that he would do whatever I asked him to do without arguing me about it. One evening, he was arguing with me. I said, “Max, we have a contract, that means you have to do what you agreed to do.” He said, “It wasn’t in writing.” I said, “It doesn’t have to be in writing, it was a verbal agreement.” Max said, “Well, Mom, I just ripped up our verbal agreement.”

He was right. Verbal agreements don’t mean anything. But there are promises. A promise means more than a verbal agreement or a contract. A promise is when you let someone wail on the floor until he’s done and then you go get ice cream. A promise is when you argue with your partner and after a few days of silence, you make up and start over. A promise is love, and that promise is to keep talking and to keep listening. You may never completely understand the other person. But you won’t give up trying.

Max said to me, not too long ago, “I need to do life better.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “I have to figure out how to do more in less time.” I said, “Max, if you can figure that out, please explain and publish it. I’m sure your fan base will appreciate it.”

Like Max, I would love to figure out how to do more in less time. Right now all I can promise is that when I am done wailing on the floor, I will get back up again and I will try to do better. And I promise that when Max figures out how to bypass the time-space continuum to efficiency in all things, I will let you know – after I’m done getting ice cream.

 

 

#boomshakalaka

Camp Caz

“We’re all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass

Max went to band camp over the weekend as a mentor and counselor for the younger kids. He told Shane and me that the kids he worked with on percussion were basically good, except for one. He said, “I tried showing him some techniques to get better but he didn’t want to try them. I would say, ‘Try this,’ and he would say, ‘No I don’t want to.” Max said, “I wanted to say to him, this is why you’re bad at percussion.” Shane said, “You should have told him that. Maybe it would have gotten to him and he would have thought, ‘Damn, I’d better start working on this harder.’ I wish someone would have told me when I sucked when I was a kid. It would have saved me a lot of time. Maybe if we all just told each other the truth, we would actually get some shit done.”

Somewhere in this fucking struggle to figure out what we should tell to or do for each other other lies the truth. Maybe the truth is that if you care about someone, you won’t put your need to be right above his (her) needs.  Maybe the truth is that if you need to work on something and get better, you should own the parts that you need to work on, as well as the parts that you already know.  Maybe the truth is that when you fucking rock, you should own that, too.

One of my best friends got me a t-shirt that says: “boomshakalaka.” When I need courage to be better and do better, I put on my boomshakalaka t-shirt and some red lipstick. It reminds me to be proud of myself. It reminds me to own my truth. I am better at it some days than others. Some days I say or do stupid things and I regret it.  I know that I’m a work in progress. But I actually want to get some shit done.

I think my Shane is right. When the truth will help someone, tell them. When you you do something amazing, own it. When you fuck up, own that too. When your fuck-ups hurt someone, say “I’m sorry” and mean it. It’s not the fuck -ups that will keep you from succeeding. It’s when you don’t learn from them. And that’s it for now, I think. #boomshakalaka.

 

No Explanation Needed

 

Garage BandNot long ago, I was trying to explain to Shane how to count back change. After about three rounds of me explaining and him staring at me, his face lit up and he said, “Mom, I get it. You count backwards to a whole dollar. And then you give dollars back until you get to what they gave you.” I said, “That’s what I said.” He said, “No. You were using a lot of words to explain and they weren’t all necessary.”

Communicating with your kids can be hard. But I have found common ground with my sons. Music. Most weekend mornings, Shane will say to me, “Mom, check this out,” and he will play new music for me. A couple weeks ago, it was Tigers Jaw. They did a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy,” that we both like. Shane has introduced me to Modest Mouse, Killers, so many bands I would not otherwise have appreciated. And in turn, I’ve introduced my son to my favorite bands: Sex Pistols, X, The Replacements, The Clash.

Max and Shane went to a concert in San Francisco this past Sunday evening. As in most things involving my sons, there was a warp in their respective time space continuums so some logistical issues came up right before departure. Max had to clarify outerwear with his brother. “What should I wear? Should I wear pants?” Shane told Max he was tired and would have to take a nap before the concert. Max, who is taking driver’s ed., asked Shane, “What if you are too tired to drive home after the concert? You do know that a tired driver is a dangerous driver, don’t you?” Later, right before they left, Max asked Shane, “Do you think I’ll get high from all the second-hand pot smoke?” Shane said, “I don’t know. I don’t think so.” Max said, “Well, I can’t be high. I have to go to school in the morning.” Shane said, “Then don’t breathe.” I watched them pull out of the driveway in the mini-van. And for a moment, I was transported back to Colorado in 1982 and I was headed for a show at Red Rocks with my little brother. And it was time to slam dance and be free.

I use a lot of words to count back the changes I have been through. And Shane is right. It’s not necessary. I know I wouldn’t give any of that change back. And I know that where words fail, music prevails. The lyrics to one of my favorite Clash songs says it best: “Go easy. Step lightly. Stay free.”  For my kids. And for me.

I Got You

You can and you will because you're badass

A couple years ago, right after the divorce, Max and I were watching the rain slog against the windows in the kitchen and I noticed that a tree in our yard was flowering for the first time. I said to Max, “Look, that tree has flowers. It never had flowers before. It’s right by the lemon tree that has lemons for the first time!” Max said, “I think this is going to be the summer of our redemption.”

When you are alone, again, after being with someone for many, many years, your first thought is to find something to fill in the gaps, the empty spaces. Online dating.  Ex-high school boyfriends. Dog rescue. Wine. Texting your friends at midnight. Paint nights. New tattoos. Vacations that max out your credit cards. If you have been here, you already know. You tried to fill what you thought was a void, until you realized. There wasn’t a void. There was space. And the space was freedom. Paradigm shift.

As my paradigm was shifting and I realized that it had indeed been my summer of redemption, I gained girlfriends. That’s right. GIRL friends. Like you had in high school but who are oh-so-necessary when you need love and compassion and healing. Divorce is when you realize that the love you get from your girlfriends is going to keep you afloat. The best life preservers in the middle of your self-initiated drowning pool.

One of the best things I did for myself was to fork out some cash for a boudoir shoot, on the advice of my girlfriends. If you don’t know what that is, look it up. I spent an afternoon getting my hair and makeup done, and getting some seriously sexy photos done of myself that few people will ever see. But it was completely worth it. The photographer, an amazingly beautiful woman named Kim MacDonald, asked me, “What are the five parts of your body that you think are beautiful?” I was stumped. She said, “Your hands, your eyes, you can do this.” And I couldn’t fucking name them. I could not name five things about myself that I thought were beautiful.

That is my point. My girlfriends could tell me five beautiful physical attributes about myself. And I could tell you five things that I find beautiful about every one of them. But I could not tell you what was beautiful about me. That’s fucked up. We are so damn hard on ourselves; we don’t give ourselves the attention we so desperately seek from someone else. That empty space you’re trying to fill? Fill it with finding what is beautiful about yourself. That’s a great place to start.

One of my best friends would tell me, when I was wallowing and feeling insignificant and insecure (and still do), “I Got You.” I hope you have the summer of your redemption. I hope you find five things about your body, yourself, that are beautiful. I bet it’s the curve of your belly. Your bodacious thighs. Your smile. The laugh lines at the edge of your eyes. Your brilliant, amazing, huge, heart. I hope you find your own beautiful self and then get out there and kick some ass. I Got You.

http://ohsolovelyboudoir.com/

 

 

Date Yourself

FLOWERSMax once said to his brother, “Shane, what’s the difference between you and a calendar?” Shane said, “What?” Max said, “A calendar has dates.” Shane said, “I’m going to my room to play video games now.” Max said, “That’s exactly my point.”

A good friend told me to wait until I had been separated from the Wasband for a year before I started dating. He also told me to take get new art for my house and rearrange the furniture. So, while I was waiting for the year to pass, I took down 20 years of compromise art and relegated it to the garage. I moved or donated furniture. Things got lighter in my house. Finally, a year later, I was ready to date. But, as it turned out, there wasn’t anyone at my front door ready to date me. The last time I had gone on a date was in 1994, when I started dating my Wasband. This was 2015. Shit was going to get real.

I set up a couple on-line dating accounts, with the help of some friends. I received some messages from men, “Hello, how are you? Tell me more about yourself. Would you like to meet?” I went dates. I learned that 5’11” was not an actual height but was subject to interpretation. I learned that dating is like a job interview. I learned that there were people who had been on dating websites the entire time the dating website had existed. Basically, their dating half-life was the same as my youngest son’s life-span. Which meant that for these guys, dating websites were just like singles bars, but they had eliminated the time and energy buying drinks and talking to you until closing time.

It took me another year and some half-hearted dates to realize that the most important date I needed to have was with myself. I know, I know. It’s totally granola yoga crunchy chakra of me to say that. But during my years of marriage and the subsequent year of dating, I never stopped to breathe.  In yoga, there’s a word for it: pranayama. It means the practice of regulating the breath. I needed some time off to just be with myself again. I hadn’t been with her for a really long time. I hadn’t really taken a breath in 20-something years.

Just breathe. How hard is that? Harder than you think. Even my Max got it, long before I did. One night, before the divorce, he and I were walking the dogs and he told me, “Mom, I still have a bloody lip from wrestling and my tongue hurts where I bit it. My whole physical being is tired and in pain and I wonder, will I ever feel better?” I said, “Max, I really don’t know what to tell you.” He said, “Mom, do you know what a rhetorical question is?” I said, “Yes, it’s a question that doesn’t really have an answer to it.” He said, “Well, that was a rhetorical question.”

When your whole physical being is in pain and you can’t find answers to make it stop hurting, the one thing you can do is sit down and wait for your breath to catch up with your own questions. Or maybe, just maybe, the questions are just rhetorical. And sometimes you don’t need an answer. You might just need some time to breathe in. And out. Do that about 100 more times. Or however long you might need.

If I had a regret, it would be that I wasted so much fucking time agonizing over what a man (or boy) thought about me or “us” when I should have taken that time for myself. Stars fell from the sky, entire microcosms and colonies of bunnies died while I angst-ed out over the trivialities of relationships that did not even exist. I could have owned an estate full of shoes with the time and money spent on the rage and anxiety of the rhetorical questioning of why it didn’t work. But there is still time and for that I am grateful to pranayama and the shoe allowance I have given myself.  Get the shoes. Take your time. Getting back to dating is all on your own timeline. Basically, it’s a rhetorical question with no right answer. So do whatever you want do. Just don’t forget to breathe.