Please Hold On To Me: A Memoir (post 4)

 

Morgan

They leave. The room is quiet again, the faint sounds of adult voices carry from the backyard. I want to forget this night. I get my blue satin nightgown with white lace stitched to the seams out of the drawer, slide it on, and get in bed to hide under the crumpled covers. I pull the clean sheets and blanket all the way up to my nose, even though it’s twice as hot in my bedroom than it is outside. I go to sleep thinking about meeting Penny tomorrow. Penny is my stepdad’s parents’ old mare who I get to learn how to ride. My mom showed me pictures of her. She’s dark brown with a slightly darker mane and tail. She’s as tall as my dad, double my size. My mom bought me a white cowboy hat with a blue feather in it to wear.

No matter what side of the growing fault line I am on, I no longer feel safe in my home, in my room, in my body at not quite ten years old. My awareness is growing and it doesn’t feel like a blessing. I am naked, stripped of the innocence childhood is supposed to insulate until we learn to protect ourselves. My innate goodness is not valid at my mom’s house or at home with my stepmother—I’m the stepchild, the ‘guest’ on the invitation to the party. “Be good, stay out of the way, do what you’re told or there will be consequences.” These are the rules. The consequences feel dire: your parent could leave you or die or not come back for you.

I feel uncoordinated and heavy, too big and awkward and at best invisible; I am a burden to those who are assigned to take care of me. I am a burden to my dad, to my mom, to my stepmother, to my stepfather. I understand I am expendable and to ask to be listened to, to be loved is too great a risk, the answer I get could splinter my illusions. My only option is to wait on the good deeds of those who are responsible for me at any point in time—to be happy with what’s rationed.

As if breathing in the smell of rain on sidewalks or dust on a lonely road can fill you with what you need to know to survive, I learn to not need anything or anyone, to arrange myself to stay hidden and silent, to stay out of the way so that I don’t attract attention. I learn to do whatever I need to do to hold on tight, never expecting anyone to hold on to me. If it is to be, it’s up to me.

 

“Good morning!” my mom chirps from the stove. She’s making scrambled eggs and toast, sliced peaches wait on the table covered in yellow cotton, with a sugar bowl, a vase of pink roses, and a crystal pitcher of squeezed oranges all arranged in the center. “We’re going to Pep and Artie’s house today. Pep said he’ll have Penny saddled up and ready for you to learn to ride.”

“Me too?” my brother asks.

“Yes, of course, Jeffrey. We might be able to get Pep to give you a ride on his tractor too.” Jeff’s face lights up on the word tractor. He likes nothing more than to play with his cars and dump trucks in the dirt, roads excavated in every direction.

“What should I wear?”

“Jeans and tennis shoes will be fine. I think we’re going to stay in the arena today.” I’ve never been near a real horse before, only the one when I was little that had springs and rocked back and forth. It was my favorite.

“She’s a natural,” Pep tells my mom as he holds the lead and old Penny saunters in a circle around him. “She’s going to be a great rider, I can tell.” In fact, I am a horse girl. Who knew? I can’t get enough and Pep is the consummate teacher: patient, kind to me and his beloved horses, always welcoming and positive. By the time I’m in eighth grade, my mom and stepdad have ten acres on the same property as his parents and aunts, in a house they had built while living in a camping trailer for a year. Most days I will walk the mile long dirt road to Pep’s barn while my mom is doing payroll at her job in town. I can disappear on the back of a horse, into the puffy clouds that float so close to the sun.

Summer after summer Pep teaches me how to have confidence in my ability to care for another, how to keep myself from falling, how to stand in my own power. Every summer, Pep teaches me about grace. Learning to ride a horse is at the top of The Things That Saved Me list. I learn to lure the horse with a bucket of oats and put the lead rope over its neck and nose. I pull Bay Boy from the grass he grazes, brush and groom his dusty coat. I coax the bit into his mouth, wind the bridle around his head and ears; eventually I am strong enough to heave the saddle above my head by myself, cinch it tight around his belly, wait and cinch it tighter before I shove my foot in the stirrup and lift myself onto his back to a higher vantage point than normal life. Pep teaches me the signals his horses know so well: lean forward or back to go faster or slow down, tap the left or the right with your heel while gently moving the reigns held in one hand to one side or the other to make a turn, pull back or right or left on the reigns for corrections or changing direction. He teaches me how to post when the horse trots, eventually riding in an English saddle. My stepdad’s father teaches me how to fly on the back of a horse through the wheat fields that surround their property, through gates held by barbed wire and the Walla Walla River, through the wall I am building to protect myself. Every summer I will spend my time wondering when I can ride again. “Tomorrow?” And, I will spend the rest of the year figuring out how I can get a horse of my own.

“It won’t cost too much. We can just pay someone to keep it in their barn, buy a little hay. I will do everything. Pppllleeeaaassseee can I get a horse?” I will beg my dad long after I am supposed to be asleep, while he tries to watch the eleven o’clock news.

Please Hold On To Me: A Memoir (post 3)

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It feels like I’ve barely survived a natural disaster of calamitous proportions, seeking refuge from bitter winds, torrential rain, plummeting temperatures. My house a shelter, the last safe place. Although I’ve never been directly affected by hurricane winds and flooding or had my house crumble in front of me, I imagine those shattering situations to be better than what’s happening right now, regardless of how soft my couch feels, how lovely the vacations, or beautiful the view. All I’ve ever wanted is to go through life’s ups and downs with the person I love. I imagine we could get through anything, even a natural disaster, holding on to each other and our children but that is no longer the case for me.

It’s supposed to be us taking on the world, not us taking on us, as it’s been all too often in my life. The person who promised to hold my heart, and I his, changed his mind and got on the last flight out. I am left holding onto everything we built together – except his business but he credits only himself in that endeavor. I am ever grateful for the life we chose together and all that has been bestowed to me but I would trade it all to joyously raise my girls with the man I love and who truly loves me.

My parents were divorced. It was my dad who got full custody of my younger brother and me when I was almost five. The actual event was barely a drizzle raining down from Seattle skies. It wasn’t their divorce per se, but the constant drip of stress and smaller traumas that slowly poisoned my childhood, eighteen years summed up with one word.

For my generation, whose childhood spanned the 1970s and 80s, divorce is hardly remarkable. It happens so often; forty to fifty percent of couples break apart, a number that rose exponentially from less than twenty percent in the 1950s. Divorce is old news, hardly worth mentioning anymore. From the outside it’s just a light dusting of snow on the lowland hills, only a change in seasons – short-lived and life resumes once everyone is settled. “When are you going to move on, Janna, it’s over,” said one of my closest friends at the time, like I had food poisoning six months ago and keep making myself sick for attention. What? Although well-meaning, I’m sure, my friend’s comment speaks to our collective naivety of what it means to be forcefully extricated from the life you live, and imagined you’d live until your time here on earth is done. In the game of Life, you go back at least twenty spaces. I don’t have to choose my career path again, thankfully I took the college route, and I already have three pink pegs in my blue car, but I do have to go back too many spaces to be counted as a mere setback.

To say divorce is unremarkable negates the impact it has on one million kids per year whose parents try to start life over, ending their connection to each other and often times to their family. If it’s your parents, your kids, your life, it’s shattering. Many times, the parent who doesn’t have custody feels the immediate heartbreak most acutely, the children not quite aware of what’s happening and the parent with custody can briefly forget within the routines of parenting, respite from the ache. A lack of awareness is a blessing and a curse. In my case, it was my mom who was pushed out and then gave up on being a parent to look for solace in new bonds and a new life free of guilt and shame and loneliness. But in most cases at that time and now, it’s the dad who is kicked out of the tribe – first in moving away from the family and then by emotional bitterness setting him up for failure in holding the connection to his children. Ultimately it’s the child, millions of kids, it was me, and now my three girls who lose the most.

We all have the one thing we say we will NEVER do, ever. We will do whatever it takes to avoid this horrible thing we experienced as a child. We will bound to the top of snow-covered mountains or crawl through a waterless desert, navigate the greatest storm in a rowboat but we will never let this one thing happen. This was my thing – never, never, never will I get divorced and put my kids in a situation where they question the love of either of their parents, where they have to grow up faster than they are supposed to. “Really, God? This is where I am going? This path right here despite it all?” I look up into the gray clouds to ask these questions daily. I am incredulous. My only solace is that maybe within our one tragic-awful-catastrophic-heart-shattering-calamitous-no-way-never thing is where we ultimately find wisdom, acceptance of life and ourselves, grace. Even so, it doesn’t seem fair but who am I to argue? I have to concede that this life is my life and, yes, I must move on as best as I can.

When I was young I felt responsible to hold onto my dad, my only available parent, but I was just a kid. Our deepest need is to be attached, to belong. The only power I had was to sit quietly and wait for him to hold on to me until I couldn’t wait anymore, I had to grow up despite the conditions. This one gut-wrenching year when my own marriage fell apart gave me the gift to go back in time to parent myself through my dad’s three divorces and loss of his fourth wife from cancer, to give myself what I’d desperately needed as a kid – to be held onto by both parents. This time I did have the power to change the trajectory for my girls. I had the power to hold them close so they didn’t have to choose to hold on to their parents or to grow up – two essential imperatives hardwired from the beginning and should never be mutually exclusive. It was my responsibility to hold onto my girls, and despite every raw instinct to keep them safe from the person who was hurting me more than I thought possible, it was my responsibility to keep them connected to their dad. No one, not even me, can replace a parent.

 

 

It’s Not The Critic That Counts

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There will always be things that need to be improved upon. No matter how great it is for many, there will always be an equal number who don’t have it as good, as we see in every election. Half of us are doing well (defined by each individually) and the other half wish it were different. However, a rising tide raises all ships and I’m going to do what I can to be part of raising all. I am going to put my trust in our democracy, in our shared basic goodness, in my belief that life really is good here in America and will always be. I am going to trust right will prevail and that the American people and government will not turn their backs to their neighbor, coworker, children, elderly, those who are sick or poor or marginalized for any reason. I believe we will help each other when we can see that those who we call others are actually us.

I hope we can stop fighting with each other. Our opinions count, but not when blasting someone for their’s. Our opinions count when we vote, when we use our time, money, and resources in support of what we believe in. Our opinions count when we peacefully stand with others in opposition to what we feel will be harmful or just flat out not right. Our opinions count when we stand up for the rights of others; when we stand up for ourselves.

I have faith that the collective voice of our leaders will come back to center now that all the speculation is over and it’s time to get started making things actually happen. I want our new leaders to be successful in making our country great. I want all ships to rise.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
~Theodore Roosevelt
#hope #standup #makeamericagreat #iloveamerica

Please Hold On To Me: A Memoir (post 2)

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“Mommy? Where are you? Can I go outside?” I yell not knowing exactly where she is.

“Yes, Daddy is in the garage,” she yells back from my baby brother’s closet-like bedroom at the top of the stairs. “Make sure you tell him you’re out there.” I don’t stop for shoes or a coat and fly through the screen door holding Suzie by her black hair, eyes opening and closing as we go. Slam! The door’s springs stretch and contract behind me; our Doberman, Frieda with her taped up ears, is trapped inside, foiled again. She whines as she watches me run free. Outside is my favorite place. The sun makes me feel warm and safe on the inside. I skip over to my swingset I got for Christmas; I can feel the ends of my pigtails bounce on my ears to the rhythm of my steps. “You sit right here, Suzie. I’ll be right here on the swing. You watch me, okay?” Suzie sits in the grass and I sit on the swing’s white seat, hold on tight to the chains like my daddy told me, and start to pump my legs up and down, leaning back and then forward. The red and yellow striped poles blur as I go faster and higher into the puffy marshmallow clouds above me. I pump my legs straight and then bent as I lean my whole self back holding the chains as tight as I can, and then forward again. The swingset leans backward and forward with me, small mounds of dirt pop up with each sway of the swing until I’m going as high as the chains allow and then I pretend I’m flying, soaring between pink puffs of cotton candy until I’m dizzy. I hold my legs above the ground waiting for the swing to slow down to a gentle rock and I skid my feet to slow myself enough to jump off. I j-u-m-p and land in the worn grass. I grab Suzie to wander around the yard. What should we do next?

Our yard looks like a park, every shade of green and yellow in all the patches of grass, evergreen and maple trees, and the late-summer leaves, with a little white house dropped right into the middle like a cherry on top of pistachio ice cream. To my almost five-year-old self, the front of the house is a football field with a holly tree bigger than our house separating our yard from Benson Highway, where cars and trucks go by in streaks of color. Along each side of our little white house are fruit trees – apples, plums, cherries, and pears – perfect for climbing way up high or having a snack while admiring the view. I don’t know about any other kids or houses nearby because it seems to me, we live high on top of one of the white clouds I fly through when I’m on my swing.

I decide to find Daddy in the garage behind the house. I follow the rock path across the backyard to the little crumpled house overgrown with ivy and blackberries, where he works on his racing jeep and motorcycle. I walk carefully so I don’t step on a bee or a rock or a stick with my bare feet. Dandelions grow alongside the house and I stop to pick a bouquet – four bright yellow flowers and one wisp ready for my wish to come true. My nana likes to hold the sun-colored flowers under my chin and asks if I like butter. She says I do. The big door is open but I can’t see him in the sunlight flickering through the dirty window. “Daddy?”

“Yeah,” his deep voice grumbles from inside the engine of the navy blue jeep, his black, wavy hair hidden behind the propped-up hood. He likes it here. He comes to the garage when he’s not at work. I walk around and stand by his Levi’s so I can see what he’s looking at, but I can’t quite reach to see over the top.

“What are you doing?” I ask trying to get him to do something else, something with me.

“What?” he says buying some time. He flicks his cigarette and places it back between his lips, smoke drifts around him like a magical wall, translucent but I can’t bring myself to reach through it.

“What are you doing? I want to show you something,” I say again with more urgency.

“I’m busy right now, Janna,” he tells me still looking into the black hole with a tool in his hand, cigarette barely hanging on to its ashes. His hands are always dirty even though he tries to wash them. He has a scrubber but it doesn’t work very well. The jeep is his favorite, but I like it when he gives me rides on his motorcycle. He says that’s the only way I’d fall asleep when I was a baby. I really like to ride on the front, my hair whipping my face, going fast and then slowing down. My daddy can do anything, I think as I look all the way up to his shoulders.

“I have a bouquet for you,” I say handing him the buttery bouquet, but he doesn’t stop looking into the jeep.

“Go play,” he says. Suzie and I go back outside with the flowers. I hold up the wisp, make a wish, take a deep breath, and blow as hard as I can. All the seeds with their own small parachutes fly through the air to unknown destinations. I’m sure my wishes will come true.

We walk around to the front yard past the fruit trees to the holly tree. I sit next to the road and put my fingers on the pokey leaves, counting the cars going by, One…two…three…four. I remember I’m not supposed to go by the road, but I like to watch the cars and trucks go by. I’m not right next to the road like I was when I got in trouble last time. This makes me think I should do something else. I have an idea! I grab Suzie and I run as fast as I can to the sandbox my dad built for me in the shady part of the yard.

From inside my imaginary house in the sand, I can see the last rays of sun behind the garage where my dad is still bent over his jeep, the house, where my mom is busy with Jeffrey, in a full bright spotlight of the last of the afternoon sun; I can see my swingset, and even some of the fruit trees in the front yard. My toes squish into the cool sand and I scoop up big handfuls and let it sift through my fingers. Birds flit from one tree to the next calling out to each other in glee of the abundance of the season. I get a bucket to fill with water from the hose. The sound of the water as it hits the bucket, shhhhhhhhhh, makes me feel like I jumped into Nana and Papa’s swimming pool on a hot day; my daddy always there to catch me in the splash. I put my hand under the stream of cold water and lift the hose up so I can take a drink, water spraying all over my eyelashes and shorts and feet. I step through the mud and turn off the water spigot. The bucket, filled a little too much, is too heavy to pick up so I drag it back over to the sandbox, water sloshing out, watering the parched summer grass. I’m going to make mud pies for Suzie. It’s her birthday. I look up from the slopping bucket and spy big, juicy blackberries growing along the fence line; hundreds of them hanging off of spiky vines. The smell so sweet, mixed in with pine needles, over-ripened fruit fallen to the ground, and the dryness of the only couple months of the year with no rain. Those will be perfect! I’ll make a blackberry pie like Mommy and Grandma make. I get right to work picking (and eating) and picking for my pie plate. Once I have giant mound of berries, I start mashing and squishing and crushing them with my hands until they jiggle as one solid mass. I always choose blackberry pie for my birthday. I carefully take the pie to the base of the big tree with the giant leaves, the oven, and put the pie down to bake while I go back to playing in the sandy mud.

The sun is down and it’s getting dark. I get up and try to get the sand off. Uh Oh! Blackberry juice covers the entire front of my white t-shirt and daisy-printed shorts. I’m going to be in so much trouble, I think. The lights are on in the house; the quiet sounds of nighttime fill the air. I grab Suzie and walk carefully to the back door to see if I can safely make it inside to change my clothes before anyone notices. Frieda is at the door to greet me. I sneak in as quietly as I can but the door squeaks as always. I take off my shirt and shorts, and ball them up, blackberry stains hidden for now. I stuff them as far down in the hamper by the washing machine as I can get them and run upstairs to my bedroom as fast as I can, muddy footprints trail behind. My bed is really big and almost fills up the entire room; the dresser with my shirts and pajamas and pants folded neatly in the drawers is squeezed on the side. I made it! I take out one of my nightgowns to put it on and go to the mint-colored bathroom to wash my hands and face. I take out my pigtails to brush my hair and look in the mirror to inspect. Besides a few pieces of mud stuck in my light brown hair and my permanently purple hands, I look okay. I did it! I smile to myself, feeling proud. I pass my brother playing in his crib on my way downstairs to find Mommy. I hear her in the kitchen making dinner, the spoon scraping the bottom of the pot as she stirs. “What are you making?” I ask her hiding my fists behind me.

I don’t know my parent’s marriage is about to abruptly end or even what that meant. For the record, I don’t think they knew what it meant or where these decisions would take them either…

Please Hold On To Me: A Memoir (post 1)

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I have prepared for this year all my life, a primordial fate once hidden under a melting sheet of ice; now cracked, the rushing river underneath sweeps me off my feet and threatens all I once called mine.

I made it to another Friday; it’s 4:00 a.m. and as with every morning after waking up two hours before my alarm, I get up, splash water on my sunken eyes, swallow something for my throbbing head before stumbling downstairs to feed my dog and cat. Coffee is first; I add the filter, two tablespoons of ground Starbucks Verona and six cups of water. As I wait for the magic that is coffee, I check my email and Facebook to see if something has changed since 11:00 p.m. Black Friday sales are coming early but otherwise nothing. The coffee pot beeps and the sound of hot liquid pouring into my cup whispers to me that I can do this thing I have to do today, unbearable even one month ago, yesterday; any earlier would have killed me, but I feel mostly dead anyway, so maybe it doesn’t matter.

The only thing that matters is to save my girls from losing their childhood far too early, from losing their connection with their parents from divorce like I did. I sip my coffee at the kitchen table, vanilla cream and chocolate stirred in to cut the bitterness. It’s dark still, rain pelting the windows that look toward the Olympic Mountains in the distance, one of the only houses in the golf community with a view other than the course. My girls sleep for another couple hours before it’s time to get dressed for school, excited to say goodnight to their dad for the first time since we moved back to Washington State six months ago. Our one magical year living at the base of America’s first ski resort, Sun Valley, Idaho, turned into an avalanche sending all five of us careening down the mountain I spent the past seventeen years climbing.

Every morning since the end of August, I crawl out of a dark crevasse; the routine of getting my three girls to school is my only foothold to what had been my beautiful life. I am in shock – the I-have-to-choose-to-breathe-in-and-out kind of shock. At night I only fall asleep after reading Pema Chödrön’s book, When Things Fall Apart, with a hot water bottle on my chest, melting the ice crystals lodged in my heart, constricting even a breathe without conscious effort. My blood pressure is so low I should be passed out on the floor and I’ve lost twenty-five pounds, my weight less than my ten-year-old self. Every night, the same prayer, “Please help me. Please tell me what to do tomorrow,” and every morning I get up with a singular focus. There is no weighing of options, always just one thing I must do.

This evening I have to take my girls, the three people who mean more to me than my own life, to stay overnight with their dad for the first time since our lives collapsed from the weight of secrets and lies and madness. I thought living in the Rockies for a year, my husband’s fly-fishing dream, would be a magical year of togetherness, of connection, and outdoor adventures, but instead ended in complete devastation. The end of June, my husband disappeared from our driveway with the Uhaul hitched to the back of his pickup without us, excused by his travel schedule that kept him away most of the time during the past year – while we waited for him next to the river, on the trails, on the mountain. I never saw him again, at least the guy I thought I was married to. And now, tonight, I will drop my girls off by themselves, my worst nightmare based on my own childhood defined by divorce, with this person who became untethered living at 6,000 feet above sea level, that I don’t know anymore, and may as well have shot a bullet into the center of me and left me for dead.

Magic is…

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Magic is in belonging to someone, the sun setting over the waves, the hazy dream you don’t want to leave, being transported by a story, love, God, connection to each other. Magic is never a brown shag carpet. It doesn’t happen while watching TV or when people are upset, fighting, or in the throws of life drama or traumas. Magic does not happen in excess of things that numb the pain. Magic can’t be forced and it doesn’t exclude. Magic is not selfish, doesn’t lie or cheat or deceive or abandon you when you’re on your knees. Magic does not come with manipulation or betrayal. You cannot move the pieces just so to create it. Magic is unbounded gratitude for the single rose you notice while standing in destruction. It’s the energy created in a moment, and like standing in a river, water rushing and swirling, cannot be experienced in the same way ever again. Magic happens where there is authenticity, kindness, grace, love and sometimes heartache too. Magic is connection to yourself, to others and to God. You have the power to create it, but you cannot make it happen and it (almost) always requires at least two so you can remind each other that it really did transpire in that exact magical way. xo

 

“Life is amazing and then it’s awful, and then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful, it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”    ~L.R. Knost

Write Now

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The time is NOW.

I have a business degree and had a successful marketing career I loved in another lifetime, but through the twists and turns of life (i.e. three children, a specific life set up chosen by mutual commitment–also in another lifetime–and an internal gauge that doesn’t allow more than one setting at a time), I no longer crave the fast-paced, hand-shaking, yes-hustling, suit-wearing, jet-traveling, conference-room-brainstorming world of yesteryear.

The passion I pursue is storytelling layered with why people do the things they do, how the times we live in and people we live with shape us; what it means to be one person in this big world and one person in our own small world. The first story I need to tell is my own and it’s the story of how I lost my parents through divorce, heartache, and growing up. It feels like a giant dough ball I keep kneading and pulling apart and putting back together. I have been working that dough ball for quite some time, along with the little thing called learning to write. It feels important. 

I had a good childhood but a lot went wrong too and I used to blame all of it on my parent’s divorce when I was four-years-old. My absolute worst fear ambushed me when I went through my own traumatic divorce a couple years ago. Juxtaposing my adult experience with my childhood was terrifying and I will have to write that book when I no longer relive those few years.

Alas all is well now, I landed that highjacked plane, but I have learned some things from my child eyes, two decades of obsession with understanding human nature, and watching my three girls during our family upheaval. The story I can tell is how divorce was done in the 70s and 80s is no longer the same today. My generation was the first to experience divorce en mass, where over a million kids per year lost a parent, and maybe two by their other parent’s grief, pursuit of new love, or working three jobs. The divorce rate shot up to fifty percent by 1980. It was a crazy time. Governor Ronald Reagan signed the No Fault Divorce laws in California in 1969 (one month before I was born,) our country’s social and political structures made seismic shifts toward chaos, and yet many young people still wanted to believe the Leave It To Beaver pace of life would hold them. It didn’t, as many can attest.

I have read too many books about writing, purchased even more and I’ve been to many conferences and talks to teach myself how to write creatively. Turns out business writing isn’t so creative. I wish I could have just download the software since I already have enough school. Darn. Anyway, the time is NOW. I am starting this book and the above chart will mostly likely be the trajectory of my progress.

Let momentum be my kick in the…buns.

A letter to my dad…

 

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

There are so many things you did that made you a great dad; here are some of them…

You were the one who said these kids are mine. When divorce had just begun to define a generation, when dads weren’t yet recognized as important as moms, you signed up to raise a one and four year old, something less than 1 percent could claim.

Giving Jeff and I an extended family to define who we were – we were a Bushaw. From spending time in Nana and Papa’s pool to Christmas at Aunt Debbie’s and birthdays, family weddings and every holiday in between, we went when maybe you would have preferred to be on your own sometimes. It made all the difference.

Camping with the Bushaws in Eastern Washington, Fawn Lake and the ocean. And sometimes getting to bring a friend along.

Helping me with my homework, especially geometry because you really are brilliant at math.

Playing in the snow and the go-kart were magical. You built a ramp, made sleds at work, and stayed out for hours having what seemed to us, as much fun as we were having. We had Kirby (as in Kirby the love bug), the go-cart you made and painted white with the number 1 in the circle. We were the envy of the neighborhood.

We always had a swing set and toys to play outside – and then making us go outside. We had bikes to ride with the neighbors, pumped up tires and a playing card clothes pinned to the spokes to sound like a motorcycle. Super cool.

We always had a home we were proud of, that was clean and organized with a nice yard, which gave us the consistency we needed. We could set our clocks by you, leaving at 7:30 am and returning at 4:30 pm – every single day. Grocery shopping on Sundays with dinners and lunches planned for the week and always a plan for a dinner, something I have a hard time with, including vegetables.

Watching Little House on the Prairie together showed us it’s okay to cry when you witness the circumstances of others.

Our family trip to Disneyland in the truck and camper, stopping along the way at KOA campgrounds, was magical. I remember swimming until my fingers were so waterlogged I wondered if they’d ever return to normal.

At Christmas you would get us everything on our lists – of course equaled out in number and cost – along with going out to get the tree and decorating together. We would peruse the Sears catalog writing down the item and dog-earing the pages. Never mind, we never saw these things before – we absolutely needed them now. You got them.

You never once disparaged our mom, even though there wasn’t any information out that said this was bad for the kids. Somehow you just knew this and kept your opinions to yourself.

Trick-or-treating on Halloween was super fun after getting our costumes put together with a pillowcase for the most candy and face paint, sometimes from ash in the fireplace. We got to keep and eat our candy, although I remember not eating much of it – probably due to the fact that I could if I wanted to.

You made me know for sure there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do with some hard work and determination.

You kissed us goodnight, every night. You made sure we brushed our teeth and had clean clothes to wear to school – folded and put away in the dresser. You were mom and dad.

Whenever you wanted a treat at the store, you always made sure that we got one too. Cadbury chocolate bars and Pepsi were your favorites, at least for awhile.

We went with you to your work on some Saturdays and got to work the machines to make some creation of our choice.

We went everywhere with you, fighting over who got to ride shotgun. Instead of seatbelts, your arm was there for safety purposes. I loved showing up with my dad. I remember my friends saying how good looking they thought you were – and you were.

Going out to dinner with you to Godfather’s Pizza, Skippers, McDonald’s or Taco Time. I remember forgetting my new purse with makeup in it and you taking me back to find it. I don’t know if it was this time or another (I forgot it often at the beginning) but it was gone at one point and off we went to the store to replace the necessary items.

You had strict rules and those rules became my inner compass on right and wrong even when I experimented with unmentionables. I may have changed some of them that didn’t work for me along the way but they held me to a path based on the values of being a good, kind and generous person.

You dropped me off and picked me up for whatever was happening including soccer and basketball, cheerleading, going to a friend’s house, the Seatac Mall, or a dance. Maybe it was your copper colored Ford pickup, the little yellow work truck or your tee top, silver Trans am, you showed up and I could count on that.

You stuck up for me in spite of the fact it may have cost you your marriage given the decade’s lack of understanding on how children fare in blended family situations. It wasn’t the Brady Bunch, that’s for sure!

When things got tough and you didn’t want to show favoritism, you snuck me $20 bills to pay for things I might need. The favoritism helped me know I had you on my side.

We went to drive-in and theater movies, monster truck shows, fishing on opening day, and sporting events along with countless family get-togethers.

You tried everyday to do the best you could. Over the years it gets harder to keep striving for the ideal when the trauma of everyday life gets in the way. We had some everyday trauma, the three of us, but we came out okay.

You did good. xxoo

“Mom, will I be like you?”

Lexie Kindercup 2

“Mom, do you think we [my sisters and I] will be peaceful people who have crystals and wisdom words like you?” ~Lexie age 7

I used to be a a business professional in sales and marketing who went to work in fancy suits and high heels everyday. I went to graduate school and was passionate about my career. Never did I believe I would be a stay-at-home mom for any period of time. And then, life twists and turns and decisions get made based on your place in the world. You find yourself in a place unimaginable from your 12, 15, 18 or even 30 year old self. Ha! Sometimes unimaginable from even a year ago.

But there you are, you look like the same person but everything in you is somehow different – you are deeper and more yourself, a self you have known all along but somehow remained invisible in the mirror. You find yourself okay when the stuffing seems to fall out of you like candy out of a broken open piñata, instead of scrambling to stuff it back in before anyone sees.

I am a mom of three beautiful girls who spends an inordinate amount of time in the car shuttling little people (and big ones) to soccer, dance, Girls Scouts and Brownies, volleyball, meets ups, music lessons, sleep overs and on and on depending on the season. I have a new love for gemstones (aka pretty rocks with metaphysical meanings), spa music plays continuously in my house and Taylor Swift (for said children) plays in my car. I have pictures up that say things like Delight, Joy, Love, Be Kind, Mom is Always Right, Be Happy and Namaste along with paintings from faraway places I have loved.

There is the coffee table covered with books, electronics, magazines, maps, and the latest craft projects. Bills pile up, corrected homework and school correspondence gets shuffled from pile to pile. Kids’ art is smattered throughout the kitchen slowly migrating to other places throughout the house, some art made from preschool and some last year. My window sill is cluttered with saying cards, pretty rocks, lots of pottery and more colorful art.

No longer a color theme, the downstairs looks as if a six year old with a box of crayons was in charge – red, yellow, blue, green, brown, black, orange. Looks like I better add some purple. There is always a vase of flowers and candles that look as though they have seen a better day but shine brightly giving our home a warm glow and the scent of a spa. Soft blankets and pillows strewn over the couch and floor, while Sage lazily checks the whereabouts of her people knowing she probably shouldn’t be on the light yellow couch with dirty paws. My home is my sanctuary. My home is me and my girls.

“I don’t know, Lexie, what do you think, will you be a peaceful person with crystals and wisdom words?” I question her back.

“No, I will be nothing like that,” my little one with big, sparkly blue eyes and yellow hair responds. “I don’t think so.”

Ha! She has no idea I am secretly brainwashing her to prefer peace, harmony and lots and lots of colorful LOVE. She will know no other way than the water in which she swims. “Okay,” I say. “We will see, little one.”

Got nothing to lose…

“Ben E. King, who wrote (with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) and recorded the original and iconic version of “Stand By Me,” died on Thursday at age 76. That song has been covered more than 400 times, but just two weeks ago, David Letterman requested that Tracy Chapman perform it live on his show. She did, just her and a guitar. It’s haunting.” —Peter Weber 

http://theweek.com/speedreads/552990/watch-tracy-chapmans-beautiful-cover-ben-e-kings-stand-by

Desert Highway

Tracy Chapman has always been one of my favorites. Fast Car blasted on my cassette player as I drove North on I-5 from Federal Way, Summer of 1988. My dad and brother followed me, two cars packed up with all I would need for dorm life at WWU.

You got a fast car 

I want a ticket to anywhere

Maybe we make a deal

Maybe together we can get somewhere

Any place is better

Starting from zero got nothing to lose

Maybe we’ll make something

Me myself I got nothing to prove

It had been a trying year ending with my third stepmother’s funeral the week of graduation after a three year battle with cancer. I was no longer tethered to the place I grew up. Good friends already off to their respective colleges the year before, I had been living for the moment of escape longer than I even knew. Homelife was hard and school, where I had always gotten what I needed, had fallen apart that year. I had done my best but felt like I really was Starting from zero and had nothing to lose.

All I wanted to do for a year was run. Run from the numbness that almost swallowed me up at home. Run from the loneliness of stepping out of the nest (such as it was) into the world. Run from not belonging, knowing for sure it was up to me to make my way with whatever I had in me.

As I drove my Fast car, a Ford Pinto Hatchback, I was free and excited and nervous. Those heavy, black clouds parted and I was on my way.