Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Can I just say I've always had a thing for the UPS guy?

The world is a rather strange place sometimes. I'm so excited about my new place (as I cough from the possible asbestos and icky mold that came up with the carpets an my mom proceeded to SWEEP in my general direction) that I hate being stranded in the hills, waiting for the thaw. I almost said spring thaw but am afraid I'd jinx myself...

So here I sit, boxing stuff I don't like, thinking of all the things I need to sell (anyone need a good fridge?) and working laboriously to make Christmas happen for the kids. We put up the fake tree yesterday. No ornaments, but it's a tree. I guess. Remember that Charlie Brown Christmas Special?

Then I looked at the tracking data from UPS for the couple hundred dollars worth of Christmas I ordered from amazon.com early last week. Um - I thought I did the right thing since I couldn't get out because of the storm and figured we couldn't get out much this week due to the move. Now UPS tells me that an act of God has delayed the packages. Do you think God could postpone Christmas for me, then?

So I scrambled - to buy a couple goofy little things to wrap and put under the tree. And, I'm printing pictures of all the gifts they'll get - whenever the UPS trucks dig out. They'll open the right number of boxes, they'll just be empty of the actual item they're getting. I can see it now, "Aren't you excited about the boots, Sara? When they get here..."

But can you imagine the day these guys will have tomorrow - Christmas eve? My doorbell may be ringing at midnight and I may be wrapping until the wee hours - but doesn't that sound like fun compared to the poor drivers from DHL, UPS and Fedex who have been sitting on their hands for days? Who will probably get yelled at when they come to any number of freaked out parent's doors tomorrow? Who will be blamed for the delays in arrival of every pair of jammies, every turtleneck from Lands End? Every Coors neon sign for a 14 year old boy (don't tell Sean) and every black kitty hat for blue haired 15 year old girls? Because, after all, my poor planning (or actually just being poor) becomes their problem when we get 18 inches of snow one day.

I plan to make eggnog - the good kind and the really good kind - and share with anyone who rings my bell tomorrow. And those guys who deliver my packages.... theirs will be the very good kind. My hero, UPS man.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my

I think of the Wizard of Oz when I think of my life at the moment. Flying monkeys and wicked witches with green skin and scary hats don't seem so crazy in the grand scheme of things.

We are the product of our environment, after all. I seem to fall into old patterns when things go sideways - as the past 2 years will prove.

I felt like I don't deserve a decent job
or decent house
or a decent pet
let alone a decent relationship

But my daughter reminded me today, bless her heart, of all the things I DO RIGHT. That's correct. Things at which I do an acceptable job. Are you ready? Join in and make your own list.

1. I can bake cookies. Homemade ones. Chocolate chip, oatmeal, snicker doodle, cowboy, peanut butter, fudge... that, by itself, makes me a good mom.

2. I am infinitely patient. As more than half an hour in a freezing car outside the library, waiting for said daughter to emerge with the latest excuse for taking so long, will confirm.

3. I'm the cool mom. We do fun stuff. Zoo trips to take pictures of poo, homeschooling to include Journalism through the eyes or the readers of the Weekly World News, dog training with steak as motivation, music appreciation via Brian Setzer Concerts at the age of 5.

4. I can make the best of every situation. I'm alone, have little income and a pit bull, but seemed to have found a really awesome new place to call home today. Amazing (see picture, above).

5. I BELIEVE. That good things come to those that work their butts off. That love given is returned tenfold. That there's nothing better than homemade pumpkin pie, a fake tree full of sparkly white lights and a fresh coat of paint on Christmas morning. In 2008. And we won't go without Christmas this year.

6. The future will be what I make it. 2009, watch out. I have lots to prove and even more energy to throw out there. Anybody want to come feed the ducks in my new front yard - a 55 acre park full of ducks, casting ponds, basketball hoops and teeter-totters? My door is always open to my friends, old and new. Email me for the address... we have room to spare and a couch if you need a place to crash. Nobody will be turned away. If I have a crust of bread, I'll share it. And the universe will always provide.
7. I have two completely phenomenal kids that love each other (when they're not trying to poison each other) and a bunch of friends for whom I would do anything and vice versa, and a really cool dog that, although not perfect, warms my feet and walks with me and adores me. No matter what.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

new days

Some mornings, in a previous life, I used to wake up at 6am, raring to go, with my to do list written, my day planned to the moment and that feeling of power that makes a crazy person say "watch out world, get out of my way!"

Now, it seems to be a rare occasion for me to wake up and not immediately put my head back under the covers, wishing 2008 would just go away, already.

But does a bad year like this one really end on December 31st? Is that magic midnight hour really life-changing?

Here's a thought for all of you out there... if today is all I have, and I need to not look forward to anything other than what I have now, why get out of bed? And no, Makers Mark is not a good answer to that question...

I used to always look forward to New Years Eve, when I was young. The night was full of magic and possibilities. I used to wish I had a date (and never actually did) that would kiss me at midnight and make some kind of mystical beginning with a fresh set of expectations. I'd watch all the action from the sidelines, wishing someone was looking across the floor, waiting for the stroke of 12, and making sure he kept an eye on me so he wouldn't miss out.

Maybe this year it will be more fulfilling than in years past. Maybe all the things I need to do over the next 4 weeks will all be done on time (fingers crossed) and to a better resolution that I expect (please, universe, make it so!) and we'll have a lot more than just silliness to celebrate. Maybe there will be a kiss at midnight. Because its about time this morose and dark hearted girl has a little celebration.

Here's to a new home, a new beginning, new opportunities and a New Year full of hope.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nightmares don't always come true

I had a bad dream last night. A garden gnome was trying to hack his way through the sliding glass door and attack the dog. Hmmmm. I can't quite wrap my brain around what Freud would say about "attacked by garden gnome".

The other recent nightmare seems much more scary in the light of day. I have been having dreams about being in a homeless shelter with my kids. It really, truly would be the worst case scenario in my already chaos riddled life. I know it's not going to happen, but it haunts me as I look for a second job and a place to live that will take me, my small income, my 2 teenagers and a pit bull. Good lord, what have I done?

So, today's notes from my dearest sister-I-picked, RK, along with her own post about me (which did, indeed, make me cry) were perfect timing. She guaranteed me over coffee yesterday that I would NEVER be homeless - that she wouldn't allow it. That was the absolutely, positively, unbelievably kindest thing anyone has ever said to me. Ever. And I believe it.

So, with the month of December looming large and many, many not good things occurring as I enter that month, I will remember the kindness of friends who are like family, the kindness of strangers, but mostly the feeling of family I get from my few and rare friends who are stuck with me forever. Thanks, guys. Time to pack. Now where did I put that garden gnome...?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Happiness is a feeling that makes you feel good

Life is full of pain. You stub your toe, lose a friend, end a relationship. It's just the way it is. And yet, as human adults, we have a tendency to take each of these setbacks and file them away, almost as a painful reminder that everything good ends up hurting, sooner or later. So what's a girl to do when good things happen? I wait for the other shoe to drop, imagining the inevitable demise of this temporary and fleeting happiness. And that sucks.
But what is happiness, anyway? I thought it would be fun to wiki it. Hmmmm...

Happiness is a feeling that makes you feel good.
Philosophers and religious thinkers have often defined happiness in terms of living a
good life, or flourishing, rather than simply as an emotion. Happiness in this older sense was used to translate the Greek Eudaimonia, and is still used in virtue ethics. In everyday speech today, however, terms such as well-being or quality of life are usually used to signify the classical meaning, and happiness is reserved for the felt experience or experiences that philosophers historically called pleasure.
Happiness forms a central theme of
Buddhist teachings, which focuses on obtaining freedom from suffering by following the Eightfold Path. In the Buddhist view, ultimate happiness is only achieved by overcoming craving in all forms. Aristotle saw happiness as "the virtuous activity of the soul in accordance with reason," or the practice of virtue. In Catholicism, the ultimate end of human existence consists in felicity, or "blessed happiness", described by the 13th-century philosopher-theologian Thomas Aquinas as a Beatific Vision of God's essence in the next life.[1] One psychological approach, positive psychology, describes happiness as consisting of positive emotions and positive activities.
While direct measurement of happiness is difficult, tools such as
The Oxford Happiness Inventory have been developed by researchers. Physiological correlates to happiness can be measured through a variety of techniques, and survey research can be based on self-reported happiness levels.
Research has identified a number of correlates with happiness. These include religious involvement, parenthood, marital status, age and income.
Happiness economics suggests that measures of public happiness should be used to supplement more traditional economic measures when evaluating how successful public policy is.

Good Lord. Even happiness needs to be measured to quantify it enough that we completely remove the human, feeling aspect of it. Happiness economics? What the hell? So here's PGs take on happiness, in a nutshell.

I'm happy when I have waffles and scotch for breakfast at the Driftwood

I'm happy when I open my eyes to an alarm clock that says it's later than 8am

I'm happy when I have a laptop, a mocha and a warm pair of socks, all at the same time

I'm happy when I stomp in puddles. Even if my socks squish - that makes me happier still.

I'm happy when I get a text message from a friend

I'm happy when I say I love you to my son (because I mean it - I never say it if I don't)

I'm happy when I'm reading a good book that I can't put down

I'm happy playing scrabble. Really, really happy. Even when I lose.

I'm happy listening to portishead

I'm happy sitting at the bar at Gino's (too bad they're not open all day...)

I'm happy shopping for presents for the people I love

I'm happy when I work and do something that matters

I'm happy walking my Ezmond through the leaves

I'm happy when I send a note in the mail and put a stamp on it

I'm happy when the phone doesn't ring for an entire 24 hours
I'm happy in the tub with my bubbles

I'm happy when I finish a project

I'm happy when I paint- wall or canvas

I'm happy when I sharpen pencils

I'm happy when I figure out a difficult problem

I'm happy when I rub buddah's belly - even though buddhism says happiness is the complete removal of craving from my life. Why would I want to do that? If not for cravings there would be no Ben & Jerrys.

OK - take my list (and this is just a partial one that I spent less than 5 minutes creating) and hold it up against the definition. Do I really defy explanation that much? 18 months ago, happiness was fleeting and rare - sometimes I wouldn't see it for days, even weeks. I had things. Lots of things. And enough money to thrive, savings accounts, the ability to do and see and shop. Today, even without a permanent job, a place to live, a car I can afford, the savings gone, I have found so many things in my day that make me happy - and every day it gets better. The happier I am, the happier I get. Not that the chaos isn't making me nutty. Not that I am happy to be poor, unable to do the things I want to do, staring at a pile of medical bills I can't pay and working through my son's health issues, my daughters anxiety, my need to feel loved. And yet there it is, plain as day. I'm happy.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

When all else fails.....

...take a bubble bath. That's my new mantra. I want to be one of those girls who hit a wall on a project and go "I think I'll go shopping for shoes." But I'm not really like that. I angst about things, think things through for about 2-3/4 hours too long, and basically suck the life out of any room if overwhelmed with the details - because I'm so busy thinking about it, trying to figure out, I'm not actually getting anything DONE. Which I am. Today. Keep your distance.

So, back to the list of good things that are happening do I merrily go. I repeat them in my head and thank the universe for my health, my friends, the dog, my favorite scarf. You know, the orange one. And I do what the little engine does. "I think I can, I think I can..." But I know I may not be able to avoid stress, drama and spiteful vengeance at the moment. Worse, I know things are going to get worse before they get better. It's like watching a comet approach the earth, wondering if it will hit - or miss. Please let this one miss... please.

So tonight I will take my Mr Bubble, my candles and a really nice glass of something cold to drink in by the Jacuzzi. And I will pay homage to the wonders that are the bubble bath. And be grateful that I have hot water, soap and Caramel scented candles. Really - they smell like caramel. The dog ate one - somehow, I don't think they tasted the way he expected. Isn't that typical...

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Lake

Everybody probably has a recurring nightmare. One of those deep, psychological burdens that seems to appear with little notice, when we want it least, to shake us out of a stupor. My troubling old dream was back with a vengence last night - and now, of course, I feel very restless and frustrated. I thought I'd finally purged it.

I have a fear of water. I think I was fine with it as a small child, but I had a traumatic experience with a sneaker wave at Seaside when I was small, remember my father desperately searching for my older brother who was swept away by the wave as my little brother and I sat on the sand, watching, helpless. He was pushed back to shore, thank goodness. But I remember the terror my father felt and feeling completely helpless. And I remember the moment when the wave ha washed completely over our heads, knocking us down and trying to sweep us away, too.

Not long after that event, I started having the dream. It's dark outside and I can smell and feel the water around me but I can't quite see it. I realize I must be on an island of some sort because my feet are dry but it is so dark out, there's no moon, I can't see a thing. Slowly, the clouds move away from the moon and I can see myself on a lake (I think it's the lake from Camp Fire camp, only bigger) and I'm on this little island. I am absolutely terrified, but I can't figure out why. I have no boat but I don't think the water is deep - I could wade to shore if I wanted to. But I don't leave the safety of the island. Slowly, I feel peaceful relaxation come over me and I'm confused as to why I would suddenly feel safe, after being so afraid.

Normally, I would wake up while still afraid and look forward to a full night of reading, tossing and turning, avoiding sleep until the after effects of the dream would leave me in peace, finally. Other times, I'd wake up feeling more peaceful and I'd fall back to sleep. I always seem to wake up from this one, though, not just slep until dreams changed and became something else.

Last night's dream was different. I was on the island but someone was sitting on the shore. I could just see a shadow. I wasn't afraid of the person, but they made me nervous somehow. I called out "Is someone there?" and he or she stood and started to walk away. Which made me immensely sad. So, I decided to try to wak across the water. Remember, in 35 odd years, I've never left the safety of the island. Normally, I just sit there.

As I set foot in the water, I realized there was something under the surface. Of course, visual person that I am, I immediately pictured the people under the water in Lord of the Rings, faces staring blankly up and hair flowing in the water. It was completely creepy and suddenly I felt like I was breathing liquid. I couldn't breathe. I woke up with a start, gasping for breath as though I had been suffocating. It took a long time to catch my breath and get back to sleep.

And I immediately picked up where I had left off in the dream. I felt, again, like I was breathing water, but this time I went with the feeling instead of fighting it, and found that breathing water was easy. I walked through most of the lake with the water only knee or waist deep and suddenly stepped off the shalow into a deep ravine that I'd been unable to see. As I fell deeper under water, I saw a shadow of what looked like a tree. I grasped it with all my strength, completely sure that if I hit the bottom, I'd never get back out of the water again.

And then I heard a voice. "Let go," it said, and I knew it was right, that I just had to let go of the tree, feel myself float deeper, stop being afraid of what would happen next. So I did. I let go.

My eyes were closed, but I could feel myself falling deeper in the water, still breathing just fine, like it's totally normal to inhale water through my lungs. I felt myself settle on the bottom, sat down and focused on breathing, nothing else, just the intake and exhale. Over and over.

After a few minutes, the water was getting warmer and I felt like the time had come to open my eyes even though I was a little afraid of what I'd see under the water. When I did, I realized I was no longer under the water but on the shore, dry from sitting in the brilliant sunlight. And I saw the shadowy figure leaning against a building ahead. Just waiting, patiently, for whatever it was I would do next.

Then it occurred to me - I was off the island. I've spent my whole life there - sitting, waiting for something to happen, afraid to take a step. Being cautious and guarded brought me a sum total of nothing.

Here I am - starting over. No job, no place to live, no vehicle (I think I'll cry when I say goodbye to the Jag, as stupid as that sounds) - but I get to decide who I want to be in this chapter. And the prospect of starting over feels a bit like an adventure, when I'm not freaking out about all the little details that overwhelm. Hmmm... I wonder where I'll be in a year? And who the person standing in the shadows turns into? Stay tuned, I'm betting you won't want to miss this.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The ring

Things have been a bit tight in the budgetary department. I don't normally ask for help, but I made that very difficult call to mom last week, filled her in on some of the continuing chaos, let her know how dire the financial picture is and that, in all honesty, I'm overwhelmed. I also have plans about attacking one item at a time and she agreed that I've been thoughtful, am making good decisions. I was only asking for a little grocery money - my friends have stepped up (most exceptionally RK, who is my hero more often than I can say) and we don't go hungry. But my mom, who is in a very good financial position, should be helping her daughter and grandkids.

I got the call yesterday - she was coming by at lunch time to drop off something. A little cash for necessities (thanks, mom) and something else. Something that blew me out of the water.

I was married when I was 19 to a somewhat nice guy with a little drinking problem and some stalker tendencies. Things dissolved quickly into a horrible situation from which I had to rescue myself - and I did. Landed on my own two feet, slightly scathed but basically none the worse for wear. I had to borrow a little money from mom to extricate myself (making $4.32 an hour didn't allow for much of a savings account) and I gave her my engagement ring to sell to get back the couple hundred dollars I'd borrowed. I thought nothing of it, she never mentioned it again.

Fast forward to 2008 - over 20 years since that wedding day in April. I spent 3 years paying off that ring that I didn't even wear for one. Live and learn, that's my motto for the moment. Well, she kept it all these years, had it reset into a ring she thought she might wear or give to my children at some point. It was in the envelope with the cash she left for us. I can't tell you how weird it is to be looking at this memento of something so old, so long ago and so forgotten. I have to get this thing appraised and sell it. Rent's past due and every little bit will help. But what does it mean that there are absolutely zero feelings around this ring that meant so much once? Maybe because it is a thing, and because I spent many hours and thousands of dollars in a therapists chair, talking about what I did, what went wrong, my responsibility for the mess that was a marriage at 19.

So the ring sits here, mocking me a little bit. I spent over a thousand dollars on it (that's more than the entire cost of my wedding to Keith, including rings. Ryan selected a very expensive ring and I ended up paying for it - that's relationship #1 in a nutshell). After we split up and I started to heal, I considered it money well spent on figuring out who I was, who I wanted to be and how to grow up.

Someone very wise told me recently that when you get a big windfall and something happens - a death, a divorce, an illness - that costs a lot of money, when you had other plans for that cash, it means that the universe provided. I sold my house, then Keith got sick. Without that money, he'd be living in a cardboard box, paying off 20 grand in chemotherapy bills for the rest of his life. Not acceptable. Thanks, universe.

And thanks for my mother being aware that some day I might need this sparkly piece of stone back. It may only gain me a couple hundred dollars, but the lesson I'm reminded of today is priceless. The universe provides. Thanks, universe...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Under covers

I went over my to-do list this morning and had a minor panic attack. So back under the covers I went. I sit here, cozy under the piles of blankets, and want to thank the universe for its gifts.

Amazing friends - new ones added all the time

A job out there, just for me, that will fulfill my needs: enough to eat, a place to sleep, decent car to drive

Children I adore

The coolest dog ever

I get to start a new adventure in every area of my world

It's my favorite season, full of autumn leaves, the smell of mist in the morning and a great big fire in the living room at least a couple more times

I am loved by so many and I love freely, easily, with my whole heart - it brings me joy

I find things that offer me bliss each and every day

Thanks to all of you that make this list better. And thanks for joining me on this new adventure...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Lately, life has handed me a number of surprises. New people have come into my life that I never would have expected to meet. People are reappearing at an alarming pace. The chaos of my world seems to be making a subtle shift to something more manageable. More palatable. More.... nice.

I have no doubt that any chaos I've been feeling has been my own, tortured soul trying to escape the little box it's been shoved into - closed with duct tape and twine and any number of rusty nails. I dug my way out without any help and I'm proud of that fact that the box is now a distant memory that rarely invades my dreams these days.

I escaped that little box and I don't worry about the things that aren't working themselves out. I pick one topic a day and focus all my energy on that (today's topic: meet someone new. seemed to go well. pleasant is an understatement. connections are really cool...)

Now if you'll excuse me, I've some puddles in which to stomp.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Isn't that just like a girl?

Walking through downtown Seattle on Saturday, I had the strangest feeling that I'm going to be spending more time there. I found myself discovering shops that I loved, meeting people with common threads, even falling in love with some restaurants. The traffic would make me nuts, though - I'll need a job that can afford me my own personal driver or lots of money for cab fare. And a maid. I like to dream big!

I found this dress that spoke to me. It was at a little shop near Pike Street, they hand make everything so probably sets you back 10 grand for a little black number, but it was gorgeous. Kind of like that sapphire ring I saw a couple years back at Twist. Can you feel a connection to an object??

For now, I'm not really sure where I am supposed to be. Sellwood draws me. My friend Jen, my Seattle tour guide, told me that we're too hip for Lake Oswego. I think she may be right. Besides, I can visit from across the river when I miss my friends here.

Today is an adventure. And besides the election, it just so happens that today is the day that TWO - not one, but two - psychics said my world changes for the better. Anybody else have goosebumps?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Don't follow me - I'm lost

Today, children, our topic of discussion will be people. Specifically, people who are not open. Closed off. Closed down.

I was one of these strange creatures, once upon a time. Worried about everything, worked really hard, spent way too much time making an effort for everyone to like me, for everyone else to be ok, to make sure nobody thought anything... gasp... BAD about me. Everyone thought I was just fabulous. And I was miserable. I had this imaginary wall I'd built and I never let anyone past the moat full of alligators and the dragon with bad breath.

It's interesting to see where I am because of - or in spite of - this tendency; to always come out on top; to find success at all costs; to put family, life and love on a back burner and make sure your slacks are modern, your blouse is pressed and that you look better than anyone else as you take them down a notch. Where am I? About to be homeless (ok, I'll find something) almost jobless (I am one of many under-employed people on my city block) and trying desperately and valiantly to decide what the heck I'm supposed to do next. When the world hands you chaos, and you feel like Dorothy in the wizard of oz, and the people who are supposed to be there for you are just adding insult to injury, what do you do?

My first thought? Move. And I'm not talking across town. I don't love it here. Portland has been my home for my entire adult life - except for a couple brief forays to follow boys in the 80s. That's right, I was a guy groupie. I like many things about Portland but dislike even more. I feel like the shelf life of this city may be about to expire. But where to?

Hood River? Oceanside, Oregon? Boston (yes!!!)? London (cool!)? And what do I do when I get there? Bag groceries, walk dogs, babysit? Write?

As most of you already know, I'm a little silly about certain things. Like psychics (Until Saturday, I've only been to one once - and it was an odd experience). Like karma. Like bliss. And, I think I have to wonder if the universe isn't sending me in a completely different direction - as it did my friend Jen - because there's something I've missed in all these years of being strong, tough, independent and alone. Being taken care of.

Not like a child - tuck me in, make me warm milk - but the way us grown-ups should be taking care of each other, the way I've always taken care of the people I care about. Answering a call at 1am. Playing scrabble online. Saying "I wish I was there so you weren't alone." Visiting a friend, or having a friend visit, and making sure they get what they need from our time together. Whether that's an ego boost, a deep breath or a shoulder to cry on. So, if I'm truly looking for a shoulder, I guess I have to open up a little, allow that fear of rejection to run its course. Because I've been rejected - by others, but worse,by ME. I don't want to be closed off anymore - in Portland or anywhere else. Time to start taking applications. Closed off people need not apply.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Is that a flashlight in your pocket...?

I think I may have started a riot in my house last week when I pulled out my cell phone to see the keyhole of the front door (after repeated "please leave the light on" requests went ignored). I used my cell phone for light. Now, I use it all the time. The kids have known this secret of cell phones for some time. They thought I'd lost my mind when I was so excited...

Those of you who've known me for a while are familiar with my goofy fall-down-the-stairs incident in March of '07. I broke my foot. I got home late on a Sunday and came up the stairs at our temporary resident (the in-between house so the kids could finish out the school year) and my daughter yelled for a glass of water. OK, she was 14 at the time and very capable of getting her own damn water, but I'm still that kind of mom and I like time with her, so I turned around, left the light off and walked down the stairs. Almost all 13 of them. It was a stair snake that got me, I believe. The next few hours and weeks were painful and horribly embarrassing (the old "I've fallen and I can't get up" ads run through my head when I think of this time in my life.)

If I'd only used my cell phone to light my way, it would have turned out differently.

Now, at the current house, I have a very dark, oddly shadowed stairway. I never go down it in the dark. Ever. To the chagrin of my kids (my office is downstairs, after all, so midnight writing/crying/whiskey drinking jags are spent down here). I always turn the light on. But lately, it's been easier to just flip open the razr and illuminate the steps enough that I can see when I'm on solid ground again.

Remember when we were little, and there was something you always wanted, were totally devastated when it wasn't under the Christmas tree, knew there wasn't a Santa because he wouldn't have let you down? My big wish was for a flashlight. For the steps. Because I was always worried I'd fall down them in the night, since my room was in the attic. Those stairs were steep. But we did have streetlights that illuminated a bit so I did ok. But I never got my flashlight. What a lame kid I must have been...

Last year, I got my flashlight. The police-officer-please-don't-beat-me-with-that kind. It's blue and weighs about 10 pounds. I can adjust the beam. People can see me when I walk Ez and carry it at night. If I can carry it. The thing weighs a ton.

Plus, I have my cell phone to light my way. I have two!! Little things make me happy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

10 things I know about you

Hello. Have you ever received one of those silly email quizzes that asks you these supposed personal questions (favorite color? movie? ice cream?) and actually answered them? As I've had more time on my hands of late, I've answered a couple. The funniest one was a simple ten questions but you had to push random shuffle on your iPod to find the answer. I did it, it was silly and I moved on to other things. (By the way: Red, Princess Bride, Vanilla)

But something really interesting happened later that afternoon. I started thinking of the stages of my life as the songs I loved at the time.

As a young kid, I loved this album my music teacher used to play "Free to be You and Me" (ok 80s geeks, name that male vocalist and you win a Starbucks ;-) We sang it all the time. It was about diversity. But I loved it that the lead female sang alto, like me, and I didn't feel inferior when I sang along. It began a lifelong love affair with singing.

My tastes varied and changed so frequently, it's hard to pin this one down. I might just have to allow myself two. First, it was The Beatles - specifically "When I'm 64". Even at 12, the idea of a love that lasts a lifetime was really cool. Later, my tastes swung toward the punk and wave bands. But a special favorite - that I still listen to today when I'm feeling gloomy - is The Ramones "I Want to Be Sedated". Gotta love that Joey.

It started out pretty quiet. I was into more mature music - KINK instead of Z100. I listened to a lot of Bowie. But it was "Psycho Killer" - that uniquely Talking Heads ballad about all things twisted - that I loved. I got to see David Byrne perform it live. It was good.

Wedding Day 1992
How can you beat the song they play when you marry your hearts desire? "Moments in Love" by Art of Noise.

Late 20s
The musical playlist changed when Sara came along and I was 25. The most memorable song was the musical theme song to a tv show from Canada called Kitty Cats. Barely 20 seconds long, I'd play it and she'd whip around, start to bob in place (almost always chewing on the remote control. Oh, the drool) and be mesmerized. With Sean, a couple years later, it was Itsy Bitsy Spider. I have the most vivid picture in my mind of him, sitting on a toddler bed, trying to figure out how to mimic my finger movements. Wearing yellow footie pajamas and smelling like Johnson's Baby Shampoo. Tugs at my heartstrings.

Big birthdays are to be avoided, I've decided. Thirty was hard. My father in law, whom I adored, died 4 days before my birthday. We were smack dab in the midst of the chaos of funerals, out of town guests and grief and I wanted no part in any celebration. But my family pulled it off anyway. Our Seattle crew was already here and had never celebrated with me before. They made it such a party. Then, after a few drinks had flowed, a little silliness ensued. The room got quiet. Uncle John and Cousin Brian broke out into song - mimicking a movie I still have not had the heart to watch, knowing it will reduce me to tears (My Best Friend's Wedding). Yes, you poor people, I'm going to have to type the words. "I Say a Little Prayer for You". It was phenomenal. I hope I didn't give you a horrifyingly odd song loop that just won't leave your head.

Now, for the present. I have over 200 songs on my iPod (I'd have more but I have a little one). On any given day, any number of those might seem like my favorite. But with everything that I'm becoming as I move through this life, I have to settle on Dave Matthews Band's "So Much to Say". My hell is a closet I'm stuck inside.... can't see the light. And my heaven is a nice house in the sky - got central heating and I'm alright.

Moving forward, I think I'll try to find myself a nice little happy song. Say a little prayer for me, would you?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Remember, wherever you go, there you are...

I loved the movie Buckaroo Banzai in the 8th Dimension. Total 80s camp, Jeff Goldbloom, and crazy aliens who's names all started with John (I loved John Yaya & John Bigbooty best). Bad love songs, intestine eating slugs and Perfect Tommy rounded out my favorite good/bad movie.

There's a line in it, where the posse of crime-busting, rock and roll scientists is playing at a club and, in all its randomness, the most interesting phrase is interjected. "Always remember...Wherever you go, there you are." Is there anything deeper, more meaningful or more interesting than a coin of phrase that says it all?

Life has been difficult for these past few months. I've made it through the war, past a number of land mines, and am relatively unscathed at this point. Lets hope that continues.

Because, after all, life is not about what you order at Starbucks (triple venti mocha, please) it's about the people who touch our lives and who's lives we touch.
I'm going to try to be in the moment (maybe starting tomorrow, the moments of this day have been too hard) and live like I have what I want and I want what I have.
Last night, someone called me a storyteller. If that's the case, then I guess there's work to be done. Work. Damn, I was hoping for a nice afternoon at the spa...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Saying goodbye

Do you think long, lingering farewells are more painful than brief ones? Is it better to slowly peel off the band-aid or rip it off?

Last night, we said goodbye to Greg.

I've been struggling for weeks with how to help my son as he has been sick, exhausted and dealing with a dog that can't be with our other dog. Along with a couple other minor chaotic messes in my house, but that's another blog, someday. I left it up to him - it was his decision to make, it was his dog, he'd saved up for a long time and spent quite a bit of time researching dogs and breeds. He loves Greg. I love Greg. Greg is adorable and sweet and so much fun to walk and play with. When Sean came to me two weeks ago and said he couldn't do it anymore, it broke my heart. I want to always fix things, make everything ok for everyone, and I knew he was right. I wanted the peace back in my house and getting back to one dog was the only way. And I can't lose Ezmond, he is love itself for me and is showing me every day not to be afraid of love.

So we posted ads online, made flyers, spread the word. We had a couple people that seemed interested but no takers. Then, last Friday, some family issues came to the surface and the issue of Greg finding a new home became immediate. Dire, even. If it wasn't done by Sunday, he was going to have to go to the shelter. Worse yet, the no-kill shelter he came from was full (as are many right now - the economy is wreaking havoc on more than just pocketbooks. People can't feed and care for their pets... donate, people! Give food, give time, foster a dog...) I was going to have to take him where he may never find a home again. How could I do that?

All day Saturday I was anxious. Really anxious. My heart hurt. I went to the Rose Garden and walked through the Shakespeare Gardens, found a place to sit. I sent some wishes off to the universe. Most of them were silly, but I started off with the big one. Greg needs a home. NOW. And how about a good one? Where he can sit at someone's feet, in their lap, love and be loved?

When I got home, I checked email. There was an email from a very nice sounding person who was looking for a companion dog for her grandfather. She'd seen the ad on kijiji.com. Greg sounded perfect. I emailed back with some more information (most importantly - no other dogs!!) and within an hour, I had a phone call from a nice guy named Travis. Could they get Greg tonight?

It seems his grandfather was very lonely, his dog had died a while ago and his grand kids wanted him to have a companion. You know, to ride in the car with him (picture big, floppy, beagle ears hanging out a car window) and sleep on his bed. Travis was a great guy. I handed Greg off to him, crate and pillow and food and toys and all, in the parking lot of Lloyd Center. He's going to have such a wonderful life. We made that family happy. I spent the drive home picturing little Greg's face as he meets this lonely guy. A guy and his dog...

And my son cried. He couldn't even help us gather Greg's stuff, he was overwhelmed with grief. Because even though he knew in his heart that this was what Greg really needed, he was giving away something that he'd made room for in his heart. He is such a sweet, gentle and kind guy and he suffered a really big loss. I want to wrap my arms around him and help him let it out, like I used to when he was little, but he's almost a man now and I have to let him come to me (damn...)

So back to the question. I got the phone call and we were in the car with Greg in less than 10 minutes. Sean didn't have time to process everything. We hardly did. All the way there I just wished that they would be good people, that I would feel confident handing him over. And it worked out that way. So, maybe it was better for Sean to have it hurt like a band-aid being pulled off. Instead of slowly working through things that hurt, he gets a chance, this time at least, to start healing right away.

I miss you, Greg...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The family zoo

In a fun conversation this morning, the subject of pets came up. You know, first pets, favorite pets. And it made me realize that I've had a zooful over the 40 years I've called this earth home.

Pongo the dalmation: We had pongo because my aunt and uncle couldn't or wouldn't keep him - I can't remember. But I do remember that he had the WORST gas - we used to follow him through the house with a spray can. He wasn't long for our family - he kept escaping and traveling the 20 or so blocks to his real home.

Lady: My mom decided when I was in 3rd grade that she wanted a dog, and she wanted a beagle. We did research, she found a breeder and off we trekked to deepest, darkest 185th avenue in Hillsboro. I thought it took 2 hours to drive there. We ended up living further out at one point -perspective is everything! The old Tanasborne Mall was there at the time with those strange things that looked like they belonged on a ship. She was 8 weeks old and completely beautiful, started the love affair with the breed that I've had ever since. Even now, with Greg (who needs a good home - anyone? Cute beagle? Free? I need to get him out of this basement!!)

Tiger: My best cat ever, tiger was an orange striped tabby with attitude. He slept on my pillow and spent way too much time trying to eat my variety of pet rodents (see below) with no luck. He wasn't the brightest bulb in the box - but he was sweet and he kept our yard free from the possums that were taking over the neighborhood at that time in the 70s.

Gerbils, Hamsters, and Rats, oh my!: I loved having creatures in a glass case to keep me company. My therapist would probably tell you I have abandonment issues, so it may come as a surprise that these things die faster than the batteries in my garage door opener. The gerbils ha no names - but I'll always remember my brother Tom stepping on one and squishing it when it had escaped. He was always a little - um - "In his own world". And then there's the slew of hamsters and guinea pigs. The first hamster, and my fondest memory, was Isaac Knowhow Newton Junior. I bought him and his cage with babysitting money. I loved that stupid critter. Taught the dog to let it crawl all over her and she did. She was never aggressive. I have completely blanked out how he died, but I remember being so sad and having a nice little memorial service for him.

Which brings us to Abercrombie the rat. My sophomore year at Madison, we had a pet python in science class. You now, a gigantic snake that eats rodents. They used to order mice and rats to feed it. I couldn't stand to watch it digesting another giant lump in its belly for days. I stole a rat, left a ransom note and kept him hidden in my pocket for 3 days. Did you know you can potty train a rat? I did it. I would let it out for bathroom breaks in the trees outside, where the stoners hung out. They thought I was god-like, hanging on to the rat and not getting caught.

But all good things must come to an end. My dad discovered the rat in my pocket as I was coming through the front door. Thank goodness, I get his animal loving genes and he said I could keep him. He wrote a note to the science teacher and paid for more snake food, which I still opposed, and we had Abercrombie for more than 3 years. He finally died of old age, sleeping in my pocket one afternoon at school. The entire class had a memorial service. We had pie.

So, of course, I've had pets as an adult. Atilla the cat lived to be more than 20. Atticus lived to be 21. Audrey was a lab mix that hated me (the first and last dog with that particular issue) and I think it was because she wanted my husband for her own. Damn dog. I added a puppy to the mix and ended up giving up on the whole zoo because on of them bit Sean and I couldn't deal with the chaos. I seem to be good at making bad choices about pets and other relationships.

Then came Rosie. She was a mess - came home from the pound with fleas, filth and ear infections. She had this beautiful white coat and we thought she was dirty grey. I don't think she ever could hear very well. She was sweet and kind and gentle - I used to have to drag her to go out if it were raining. The kids joked that she had a 5-foot leash and would never leave my side. A rock star of a rescue, if I do say so myself.

So, when things in my life got rocky, I decided to add another dog. Jessie the german shepherd/basenji mix came home at 5 weeks. From one of those stores that should never be selling puppies. Puppy mill. She had issues from day one - was very sick, had to be kept away from other dogs altogether for 8 weeks. Socializing her with dogs was impossible. Once we'd bonded with her, though, she was terribly loyal to us. She never liked new people and would bark and growl at men - especially men with dog fear - and having her was challenging. But she had awesome qualities, too. She kept me company when I was sad, was Sara's support when she was sad and did a bang up job of keeping us sane when Rosie died in 2006. Then she got sick and we very quickly lost the battle with the massive internal bleeding she suffered. She died right after memorial day.

I knew I would never get another dog, losing them just hurt too much. Maybe going through that time helped me with some of the other grief in my life. Struggles - with work, relationships and kids. A feeling of loneliness that came through when I finally had to spend so much time alone. Within a few weeks I realized it had all happened when it did, for a reason.

And I found Ezmond. On a lark, I'd been watching ondemand pet adoption channel (danger! danger!) and I was looking for inspiration. Besides, it was fun to daydream about all these different breeds. I found out about Family Dogs New Life, a no-kill shelter in Portland that is phenomenal. Really, really cool people and a bunch of dogs that couldn't make it at regular shelters. I went by to check the place out, met a couple dogs, and left feeling like it was a place I'd be happy to support. I started looking on their web site.

I was looking for another Rosie. A sweetie with a heart of gold, low maintenance, good company. What I found, instead, was myself going back, again and again, to this picture of a beautiful, slightly goofy looking PIT BULL. I thought I'd lost my mind.

When I finally made it back to the shelter, it was to see another dog. But the other dog just didn't do anything for me, so I was about to leave. I asked about Ezmond, the pit bull, and immediately was introduced to THE most anti-social, food motivated and stressed out mess you've ever seen. Did I tell you I have a therapist for a reason?????..... And I was madly in love. I walked him and he walked like a dream but had a horrible pinch collar that made me sad. I swore that if I did this, I'd teach him to walk without it, make sure he did everything I wanted without food, and I left for the day.

I thought about it for a whole week. Part of me wanted someone else to take him. I went back with Sean and Sara late one afternoon to meet him. Sara made eye contact with him and he actually acknowledged her. Put his head in her lap (she was in the midst of a major anxiety attack) and licked her face. He kind of ignored Sean, but that was alright by him. I walked him again, this time with cheese in my pocket. He did everything I wanted and didn't so much as pull. And he looked so cute - all 70 pounds of him.

So yes, the following Saturday I went to the shelter and they had SAVED HIM FOR ME. Someone had come in to look at him and they'd told them no, that he was already taken. They knew even before I did. Smart people.

So Ezmond is my soul mate in a 4 legged, smelly terrier. I walk him for at east an hour a day (that's for the almost 20 pounds I've lost, Ez!) I nap on the floor with him. I kick him off the bed (he likes to crawl under the covers but is not invited) and I listen to him sigh this big happy, contented sigh.

Now, I look forward to the day when my latest mistake - Greg the Beagle - finds a new home and we can get back to a relaxed and comfortable house, without gates and double walks and a poor Beagle who hardly sees the light of day. Beagle for sale....

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

November 4th

For those of you who didn't know, I turned 40 this year. Nursing a husband through colon cancer and chemotherapy did very little for the spirits last January. Things did not improve as the year went on and I find myself at an odd crossroads where what I used to think and what I'm going to think have no common thread. I just think my birthday sucked.

A friend recently told me I need a do-over. I like the idea. I think the only positive outcome of the whole fucking mess was in the shape of a gift from my friend Jen. She bought me an hour with her psychic.

OK, I've never so much as had my palm read as an adult (high school doesn't count - and they never could tell me who the love of my life was going to be - cheaters). I thought it would be a hoot and made an appointment to go in and meet her, talk with her. She said to allow an hour and she told me to bring something very personal to which I have a strong emotional attachment.

I took the ring I wear almost every day that I bought in San Francisco, on my first trip away from the kids, and sat as she asked me a few simple questions. Who am I, kids, marriage, friends, job, what do I want to know.

First, she told me that I was about to go through chaos like Id never seen. Check.
Next, she told me my son would be VERY ill and it would be very difficult for western medicine to diagnose and treat him. Check.
Then, it was about some of the people in my life - my friends. That a lot of them were not healthy and that I needed to revisit who I spend my time with. Again, not a big stretch, but interesting information since I was going through a metamorphosis of sorts.

Now it gets interesting. "You'll write something profound that will change the world." Yeah, I'm sure that last paper on Interactive Voice Response is a page turner. "Really, you have something within you that needs to be released. Go write." Whatever. We'll forget about the hundreds of hours in the dungeon on the book and the screenplay.

"You also have a number of past life experiences I'd like to share."

I lived in Hungary in the 1700s and fed the poor
I was a famous ballerina in the early 1900s that loved deeply, stirred passion in a large number of people for my art, died a tragic death.
I have never been a parent before but always wanted to be one.
There is someone out there, who I already know, that will become infinitely important to me in October.
I should be careful what I wish for. My spirit is owed a powerful wish and it will come true, good or bad.
And then there was November 4th. "You have no idea how deeply affected you will be on this day. Your entire life, perspective and expectations of the world will change in one quick minute."
Of course, after the year I've been through, I dread the fourth. Wish we could skip it. Might just hang out in bed.

Or, I might walk through my day, expecting big things and have nothing but the plain, boring, monotonous daily chores of my existence follow me. No epiphany. No "hallelujah" as the clouds part and my mind clears. But she knew what day my dog would die. Really. The actual day. And she knew I would find, in my new dog, whose name started with E, my soul mate on this earth. A gentle, kind and loving lap dog. And she said he'd be a pit bull.

Of course, she was nuts. She got lucky about Ezmond.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What I hate

I hate mornings. Despise them. Dread them. So much so that night time has taken on a whole new meaning... it's the precursor to doom. Time to self-medicate. A lot.

It all started when my daughter's anxiety blossomed in 6th grade. I blamed a teacher, we blamed life issues - but in the end, it's a little chemical mishap that wreaks havoc on her brain, willy nilly. Only, I can see it, I can FEEL it as it's happening, and it makes me ill. She won't get out of bed. She won't unlock the bathroom door. She flings herself in front of my car while I'm trying to drive away, having left her at school.

I've spent the last 14 months trying to manage this particular chaos again. But how do you manage chaos? I get constant lectures about being too soft on her, how I have to MAKE her go, drag her there, force her back to school. A school at which she does not take single core class (choir, teachers aid, study hall...why do we bother?) and where she's got more failing grades than passing ones. Why are we here?

On top of this lovely morning drama, I now have to find and pay for classes online for her to make up the failing grades. In my copious spare time. Out of my oh-so-expandable budget. And there's paperwork. And cajoling someone to get out of bed, eat, take her pills and get her butt in a pair of jeans. I have to put on my emotional armor just to get up in the morning. I lose a big chunk of myself. I miss me.

As I sit here, she is arguing with me, telling me what a horrible person I am, that I'm mean, that I don't understand. The one thing I really do understand is that most other people don't have to go through this on a daily basis with their kids. They get them up, they yell at them to get dressed, eat toast, brush teeth and off they go. Shit. It's a "why me" moment with a very bad conclusion.


I am not infinitely patient. I am not forever doing the right thing, saying the right thing, being the right thing. I try. It's all I got. I fail more often than not. I still set the old alarm and crawl out of bed the next day to start all over again. And the counselor says parenting isn't supposed to be easy. I'd like to see him react to a 15 year old flinging themselves in front of a moving vehicle. One that he just happens to be driving.

So what constitutes success in a mess like this? She's out of bed. Dressed. Angry and flinging foul remarks and hared at me at every turn. And I just sit here typing on my keyboard. Just like yesterday, when I had her drawing my silhouette while I worked. She was trying to capture something, she said. I have a feeling it was the nice mom she used to know, who seems to be awol at the moment. Not feeling nice.

And yet I'll do it again - tomorrow and the next day and the next day. One thing that would probably be helpful is some actual help, but that is in short supply. It makes me want a cookie and a blanket and a nap that lasts 3 weeks.

Which brings us to the whole point of this exercises... I'm going to Seattle on the 1st. Come hell, high water, plagues of locusts. I'm going to see Jen. I'm not missing this again (4 reschedules, damn it) for everyone else and what they want and need. I'm not just a mom, I'm also a woman and a person and those parts of me are so neglected, it's time to repair some of the hurt. A little love from a gemini that owns a piece of my heart is just what the doctor ordered. There's a Corona and a girlfrid who knows my secrets waiting.

Now, while I wait to see if she locks herself in the bathroom, I'm off to check train schedules, buy myself a ticket north. You'll probably hear the laughter all the way down I5 as I sneak away...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Are we aging... backward?

My best friend and I have discovered something really odd at this stage of our lives. We love all the things we loved when we were kids. She started it ( I'm telling....mom!!!)

We went roller skating at Oaks Park last weekend. It was so much fun - I didn't fall down once (thank GOD, how humiliating) and I really loved flirting with the guy playing the organ. I wanted to special request the hokie pokie or something but I'm too chicken.

So, I spent the week thinking about how much fun it had been and looking forward to doing it again. We'd had a busy week and she told me she was going Saturday so I didn't get to join her. But something interesting happened... she bought a hula hoop. Saw it in a store window an impulse bought that dang thing on sight. A hula hoop?

See, all the things we loved when we were kids give us this feeling. For me, it's a bicycle with a banana seat, banana Popsicles... even bananas, as long as they have a butterscotch to go with 'em (thanks, grampa!) I wouldn't exactly compare it to being in love, but it's like being in heavy like (not to be confused with heavy petting - completely different!!)

Rollerskating made me feel giddy. Making new friends all over the place makes me feel giddy, too. Seems the more of a good thing I have, though, the more I want. For the first time in forever, I feel free to taste the adventures that life has in store. Banana Popsicle, anyone?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Where did you come from?

I love the idea that we've been here before. If there were any surprises in this life for me, it would probably be those rare times that someone crossed my path and instantly I felt history, connection, joy. My heart would say hello again, knowing we had somehow reconnected after a very long time.

I have many friends. Few of them know everyting about me (what fun would that be?) and fewer still know a lot of the bad stuff I went through when I was in my teens and twenties. But I came out the other side, became a respectable member of society, despite the bumps in the road that could have stopped a lot of people cold. But it didn't stop me. Because I had those ghosts I so love to talk about to guide me toward more people that share my world, the experiences I would need to become who I'm supposed to be.

I have a best friend that is also a new friend. We'll call her RK. She takes care of me like none of my other friends and better than anyone in my family ever has. If I needed a place to sleep, she'd make a bed. She's offered food while I struggle to find a job, everything you could possibly want or imagine - there is nothing she wouldn't do for me. How could you ever ask for a better friend? Safe harbor is so rare in this big, cold world and I have it with her. I have it other places, too, but with her it feels completely unconditional. She admires my parenting and the love and care of my children - which is not always easy. She makes me laugh with her witty, opinionated spirit. She calls me when I'm in need - almost like she has a second sense about me. All this from someone I haven't even know for a year. She has to have known me before. She has to know that once I'm through this horrible 2008, I will be the person I used to be and it'll be her turn to be pampered, cared for, spoiled. But she doesn't know that and she takes care of me still. Amazing.

I used to be this strong, determined, always "on" person. Nothing would keep me down for long, I could handle anything, always dealt with people strongly and fairly, never let my personal issues interfere with my business life or my friendships. I spoiled my friends with time, attention, surprises. And then that changed. The tough, strong, always put together me went out the window in one very quick second and I've had to rediscover how to get up in the morning, take care of kids and dogs and household, and allow myself the opportunity to be - are you ready..... - NEEDY. And just in time, RK is there.

Yeah, mushy I know, but this RK, the person I adore as a friend, falls into that category. We instantly hit it off (pedicures we love, politics we agree, life we cherish) and I think it's because I knew her before. Who were we to each other? Her amazingly strong sense of self makes me know we were family, not just friends. Sisters, maybe. And I got lucky enough to meander into her office one day and find her again. Thanks, universe. You're always looking out for me.

Friday, October 17, 2008

You don't temper perfect

I'm an intense person. Let's not pretend. I don't believe in pussy footing around, playing games or being anything but 100% Rachel. And that's about 100% more than most people can stomach.

So what do I do? I guess I could temper the passion I feel for life, the world and the people I care about. I could wear a big sign that says "Danger - radiation - keep your distance". Or, maybe I could just become a hermit and live in my hovel, allowing the poor, innocent general public the ability to stay behind the glass.

BUT I REFUSE. I am, as one friend puts it, "the be all, end all, how the hell did I get so lucky to meet you, perfect friend". I'm there at 2am when someone broke your heart. I bring you soup in bed when you're sick. I call when you're down - and I call when I'm blue, too. I give and I take. If I feel something, I tell you. You'll never wonder what's up with me. Heart is openly displayed on sleeve.

I took a major break from this type of behavior for years. I was unhappy, struggling and pulled away from everyone. But I found out quickly that hiding from your problems just makes them bigger. So now, I'm facing them and becoming the old "march through cemeteries, stomp in puddles, love with wild abandon" Rachel.

So when someone says too fast, slow down... can't handle it, I think I'm going to act fast. "Really? Then you'd better stay away" and off with their head. Talk about the ultimate red flag.

Because, damn it, when was the last time that you felt the most important, dynamic and exhilarating feeling - of being alive, toes in the earth, perfectly in tune with the world? - to only be told you're TOO alive and to knock it off? What kind of tool says "I love your intensity, I love your fire" and then immediately wants you to not be that way. Oh, wait - that's a man for you. My bad.

Here's my promise to myself today - people, you take me as I am, all 100% Rachel, or fuck you. You don't temper perfect.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

When everything falls apart

Today has not been a good day. It started out nicely - a massage is a good way to begin things. But it's has quickly spiraled to the point where I'm in that place - you know, from that movie? "The pit of despair". That's the ticket.

When you're friends are all right - and they don't even have the nerve to say "Told you so" because they know you'll shatter into a million pieces

When the best thing you can possibly do for yourself throws everyone else into actual, physical turmoil

When your to do list is so long and so full of bad stuff that it's no longer a list but the line you stand in on the way to the executioner

When the people who are supposed to pick you up when you fall apart are too selfish and worried about their own shit that they ignore your very quiet cries for help as you wash out to sea

At the other side of this, there had better damn well be a fucking golden ticket.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

MISSING: Some stuff and some other stuff

One in a while, it's nice to have your world turned upside down. Life is full of missed opportunities, chance meetings and random chaos. I've become an expert in the first and last of late. But amidst all the craziness, fear and occasional self-loathing, something completely amazing has happened.

I found happy.

I found it in an open space, by a fountain, overlooking some train tracks. I'd love to say I found a million dollars (maybe the car payment people would leave me alone then). Or maybe that I discovered, completely by accident, a cure for some dreaded disease. But this is oh so much better to me, selfish girl that I am. I'm laughing again - a lot. The bad moments are so much more palatable. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel - and it's not even an oncoming train. Bliss surrounds me, and I deserve it. This joy I plan to keep to myself for a while, savoring it and cherishing it as it should be savored and cherished. Because happiness has been so rare.

Happy was lost one summer day a number of year ago. I thought about tacking "Missing" posters around the city, but didn't have a current photo to add. Who would know happy when they saw it? How would people know what to look out for when all I could describe was "random giggles, puddle stomping and dragonflies". People can find all of those things, but the happy was lost to me.

I've taken life WAY too seriously of late. The whole parenthood, responsibility, independence thing has become problematic. I've spent too much time trying to do what I feel I should, too little doing what feels good. So, now that I've rediscovered happy, I'm hoping some of the more recent additions to my life can get lost: gloom; loneliness; disappointment. I figure they'll visit once in a while, but I'm ready to kick them out, make them get their own space, limit their visa to a short visit when necessary. Kind of like a couple of my uncles.

I found happy again. It's giggly and giddy and dragonflies, stomping in puddles, traipsing through cemeteries, saying I love you to all who matter and those who'll listen. Whoever sent it this way, I'm forever in your debt. I don't intend to ever let you go.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Wanted: A big, burly, 70 pound pitbull that doesn't shrink from the rain!

Summer's almost over. The weather has started it's change from heat wave to rainy days. My yard looks like I have trees on every square foot (not true - but my next door neighbor does and he's happy to share leaves. Joy.) And my dog refuses to walk in the rain.

Yes, Ezmond has been with me since July. Summer was great - we walked so much he's mostly perfect on a leash, as long as I remind him who is boss. But today, he showed me a different side of himself. Looking up at the rain with eyes narrowed, backpack on but still hunched over. A minute's coaxing got him off the porch and into the drizzle. A minute later, he was standing firmly at the base of the driveway, completely unwilling to move. He had his feet buried in the pavement as I tried to pull him. You know, "once I get him in motion he'll stay in motion"? But not exactly...

So, our walk lasted all of 45 seconds. I brought him in and took off his gear, headed for the coffee. And I laughed at him. He seemed rather indignant and walked quickly to the pillow at the foot of my bed where he sleeps. I think his nose is buried firmly in his butt and I bet he won't come out until spring.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What was the question?

I grew up with a dad that is not very lovey or very nice. He's bipolar and wasn't on medication. He was SO much fun when he was on a manic high - we'd do crazy stuff like load into the car and blow off school to be at the coast for a couple days, camping in the middle of November at the mountains. Or, we'd make frequent trips to Winchell's donuts on 72nd and Sandy at 2am for crullers. Those were fun times. And his name is Tom.

However, with manic behavior, the good comes with the bad. He is never allowed alone with my kids. He scares me enough that I have nightmares about him. As I see him, in his 70s and ailing, I wonder how much longer he'll be here. And how I'll feel - if I feel anything - when he leaves us.

So, when I was little, I thought all dads were like this - basically cool and nutty and crazy. Then, when I was a toddler, I spent most of a summer with my great-grandfather, Jabez Shovel-Babb (born in 1884, died in 1985). Dad called him Jay-who. He had so many stories to tell - his older sister and their mother had tickets to take the titanic to the states, didn't go because my great aunt had the chickenpox. I may not have been born but for that because he wasn't born yet. He talked about his life as a trolly conductor in Portland, watching the city grow from the 20s when he moved here. Remembering neighborhoods like Lents, Sellwood and Madison as stops on his trolley. Forever, I will think of the Portlan transit system as his. It doesn't beling to us, but to those who came before.

He had an affinity for bananas and lived to be 101 - he swore that 2 bananas a day and all the butterscotch candies you could eat lead him to a long and GOOD life. He smiled a lot and had the most infectious laugh when you heard it - which was rare. He was softspoken and demure, slow to talk and slower to raise his voice.

I was smitten with him - he let me crawl on his lap (Dad never so much as hugged me) and told me stories of England and the coal mines and how difficult life was when my great aunt and my grandfather were growing up. He gave me coins from his pocket that were so foreign to the US coins I would find on the street. We were very, very poor (pancakes and jello for dinner, free cheese... food stamps was too embarrassing for mom so we'd go hungry and she wouldn't have to stand in line and be embarrassed.) I adored every minute I spent with him. When we had the ice storms in the 70s, hed sleep on a makeshift bed in our living room, next to the fire, and I would sleep on the floor in a sleeping bag, piled in with brothers and cousins and the odd neighbor. Nothing felt better than those nights, watchig the transformers blow up, having cocoa that mom cooked on a campstove on the front porch. I never wanted it to end, never wanted to go back to a life of grade school where I excellend and felt mired in the mud, all at once.

My beloved Grampa died when I was 12. His funeral was one of the saddest days of my life. First of all, they put all this icky makeup on him - he looked like a clown. He would have hated that! Then, they dressed him in a fancy, satin suit and slicked his hair back. My great aunt asked me to kiss him (eeew - dead man cooties!) The way I remember him was very thin grey hair blowing around his head as he got off Tri-Met #12 on his way to tea with mom. Pale as a ghost - the man had that parchment skin that older people get. He was 101 for goodness sakes!

And his suits were tailored in England (he was born in Cornwall), with a special inner pocket, silk lining, and every detail done to the nines. I loved his style. The man was classier than anyone I could possibly imagine. I wanted his suit coats so bad that, when I got them from my aunt as a rememberance, I wore one EVERY DAY throughout high school. Got a nickname from that. Not repeating it here - it still haunts me in some circles. It was the 80s, after all...

So, my grampa died. But at home that day, after the bad organ music and me asking everyone to sign the guestbook - and all the comments of "You're becoming such a nice young lady" and getting super-hugged by one to many slightly creepy, distant male relative, I found something. I found a half penny from 1902. It was in my room, tucked safely in a shoe where nobody would find it. He hadn't been by in a while - had he left it there and I just didn't wear them? Had my mom or my dad done it to make me feel better? My heart died a little bit that day, it was the last time a man put arms around me and loved me without expectations. And I kept the coin to remember the cool things he'd taught me (how to make your tea, how to eat a scone, what bus gets you where in the city - he never drove, what really makes a man into a man.)

For obvious reason, he stayed dead. Any alternative coould be weird. Only, the coins kept coming. A couple people who are very important to me died one day in 1990, only I didn't know it for a few days. Two coins showed up in my shower - clogging the drain. Had to have the plumber out to fix it. He yelled at me for throwing British money down the drain, like I was nuts. I just smiled - until later, when I realized the exact moment they showed up would have been the exact moment of unfathomable loss.

When both my children were born, I had coins in my hospital room. For every big event in my life, there was a reminder of him. I'd think of what it would feel like to get a soft and getle hug at a sad moment, to have someone pat me on the head and say "No bother, girlie, no bother at all" and I'd wonder where we go when we're not here anymore. And yet, he was there.

Last time, it was when Jessie, my dog, died pretty suddenly in the spring. With all the other chaos in my life, I wasn't sure I could keep up the front of everything being OK. I came home to an 1898 ha'penny and a butterscotch candy on my computer keyboard. Really. A fresh one, not musty and old and smelling like dead guy. Glad there were no bananas, though... that could have been weird.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Oops, I did it again

I sit here, in my home office, with the door closed, Beagle at my feet. Not because I'm feeling particularly productive, but because I'm feeling very sorry for this dog. This.... BEAGLE. I'm not so sure I can live with my decision to add him to the family. What do you call it when your pet is making you crazy and you kill it? Are we talking hard time or just an ankle bracelet that would go nicely with my large supply of black clothing?

Greg was supposed to be my sons dog. I love dogs. I love all dogs. Except this one. This one I have nightmares about, hear howling while I sleep (yes, he's actually howling, it's not just nightmares) and yet he's so damn cute, I can barely believe I would ever get rid of him. Until he digs up another one of my plants, eats something that should not be consumed by dogs: (so far chocolate, a sock, a shoe, every leaf that has fallen in the back yard... did I mention I have a LOT of trees?)

He's gorgeous - the saddest, most soulful eyes. And, if I don't do something about this, I will completely lose my mind. I can picture it now. My son goes off to college. There's no place he can find to live with his dog. I HAVE TO KEEP HIM. Wait a minute... did I sign up for this?

So, I had "the talk" with him. Not the sex talk - that was 7th grade. The "if you make a mistake and adopt a crazed beagle that doesn't fit well with your family and the stress makes a bad illness even worse, it's ok to take him back" talk. Oh, and I'm giving him back him adoption money (adopting a cute but sickly beagle that sleeps all the time: $200. Vet bills to make sick beagle healthy: $697.00. Son admits its time to take the beagle back and spend that money on a nice dinner with a girl he likes: priceless.

Any questions?

klutz: noun. A clumsy, awkward person

Clumsy and awkward. That would describe me to a tee. My ballet teacher LOVED me because I was 5'8" tall at 12. Fortunately for me - and also for the WNBA - I didn't grow that much after grade school. Unfortunately for her, I was beautiful, fluid, with movements that would make her cry one moment - then I was a complete geek and would fall over my own feet without provocation the next. No warning, at least at 12. By 15, I was winning regional contests, dancing 4-5 hours a day and basically proving everyone wrong. Later, I earned a living for a while dancing, and that is a rare and wondrous thing.

But I've always been a klutz at the bottom of my soul. Gangly, unsure of where my feet might be, unaware of my surroundings. My mom tells me today that I used to always be looking at the sky, like I was waiting for something from outer space. I'm sure I was just daydreaming - about love, no doubt, that was oh so elusive for me when I was young. A safe place to rest my head. Someone I could trust. I used to sit and watch the clouds go by, wishing for some secret code to be written there that I would understand and be able to follow, like a treasure map. "He's the one. Your heart is safe with him."

I sat in downtown Portland today, watching the faces of everyone that passed me by, just in case. And it was an odd sensation to think that out there, somewhere, is someone else like me, that just wants a safe place to rest their head.

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

Maybe Carl was right. I think it's time for another transformation.

Monday, September 22, 2008


You know how it is when you connect with someone... feel like you've met someone for the first time but known them all your life - perfect friends kind of connections. Not hot, lusty, rip your clothes off now or I can't stand it kind of connections. They don't happen all that frequently for me (even though I'm busty - thanks RK for the reminder!!) I have finally come to the conclusion that moments are supposed to be just that - things we can walk away from and remember and hold close to our souls when everything else turns to shit. They may not mean it's time to jump in some new crazy routine, but they can also mean "Don't forget - life isn't all bad." Tonight was that. Nice. A connection. Here's to many, many more.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Back in the same old dull routine

In case nobody told you, sometimes things run in families. In our family, all the oldest kids have slight OCD behaviors (thus bringing into question the whole nature versus nurture debate). My daughter is slightly wacky and won't eat chips unless I give her 3, 5 or 15. Really. She just won't. God forbid I give her two of something. She laughingly asks for hand wipes after touching any number of things and washes her hands meticulously. Especially after being in public.

But what happens when something more sinister runs in a family? You see, my dad has never been completely well. We grew up wondering if today was going to be a "lets go get donuts for breakfast and then hit the archery range" sort of day or "hide under the covers, Dr. Jekyl has left the building" day. We liked the first kind, were terrified of the second. I spent the first 16 years of my life on a roller coaster.

I remember getting yelled at occasionally. I probably deserved it most of the time, just like most kids, but I grew up faced with an ever increasing sense of fear that everyone in the world is like him - unbalanced, unsettled... unsafe. So, I work hard to keep the world as safe as I can for Sean and Sara.

When things got hard with their dad and anger was the order of the day, I blocked him, started to insert myself more vocally and physically in his little "moments" and made off with the kids, leaving him to his own devices. Now, when he's playing well with others, he's FUN. But not always.

The worst part of all of this? I think my original fears have somehow been proven correct by a majority of the people I know. I am drawn to the slightly off-center. Maybe too needy or not needy enough. So lacking in self-awareness that they make a certain president of the free world look like Mr. Rodgers.

But do I have to believe that? I have friends and family that LOVE me. Would do anything for me. Think I'm always calm, always in charge, always rational. They laugh with me and cry with me and love my kids fiercely.

Is crazy contagious? Is it something to be avoided, like I always did with Dad, or embraced, the way my daughter embraces her anxiety disorder, proudly displays her anxious moments with a loud "hey, I'm anxious!!" and shows the world that yes, she's scared, but no, that won't stop her. Do we get to pick our crazy?

If I have to pick, I want to be like Sara today.

Monday, July 28, 2008


I decided that it's just too dang lonely around this house and brought home my new dog Ezmund on Saturday. What a personality! Talk about a winner.... he walks nicely on a leash, learns very quickly what pleases and displeases me, makes me walk for hours a day (losing 20 pounds will be a CINCH with this guy around!!) and the best part? He turns 3 circles, plops down on his blanket next to my bed and sleeps like a big dog from 10 to 6:30. No middle of the night puppy emergencies. No whining. YEAH!! He even begs to have his leash put back on when we go into the house. I think he kind of likes being my constant sidekick! It does take come getting used to since I haven't had male dogs since I was little. Marking territory is understandable - until it's my sons laundry hamper...

He has the heart (and the attention span) of a six week old puppy, too - and he hasn't met a human, dog or squeaky toy he doesn't love. And happy? You've never met a mellower, more content dog! He went willingly into his kennel when I had to leave for a bit (with all this new furniture, there will be NO accidental gnawings in my house!!) Yes, he has great puppy energy and as long as I'm consistent and make sure the rules are very well defined - and that nobody feeds him off the table when my back is turned - we'll be just fine. Once I teach him that tables are not to be jumped on (especially glass ones), counters don't hold anything meant for him, and the squirrels in the yard are not his tormentors - or his personal playthings - things will be wonderful.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Until then

Have you ever considered how random life seems to be most days? If I choose the turkey sandwich over the veggie... If I go down this street - for whatever reason - instead of that one... if I decide to stay home or not stay home - or whatever I decide to do or not to do. Will the bridge fail? Will the accident happen? Will a war start - or end - or never happen?

Life continues down its own path, whether we like it or not. Some of you may believe in a higher power, like I do. Be it God or Buddah or the energy of the universe. Others believe in nothing, just themselves and their moment on the earth. We all have our reasons for what we believe - be it faith or fanaticism or selfishness. Whatever drives us to be who we are will ultimately drive us to do what we do, good or bad, full of faith or full of mirth.

What happens when a decision you make affects the very length of another creature's existence?

Have you ever been drawn to someone or something, almost unnaturally so? Has there ever been a strong sense that you were supposed to do something, for whatever reason, and you fought it with all your will because you KNEW it was crazy, how could something so simple be destiny or the will of the world or anything more than a messsed up whim? Beyond that, what if you question the validity of the very act of wanting? You, after all, have no right to want. You have no reason to need. You have no destiny of hope, only sorrow.

Or maybe, just maybe, you had your sign. You were told what you were supposed to do. And you didn't do it, to appease someone elses made-up order that rules your world today. Or, to appease yourself, to not take another risk. No more risk means no more pain, right? And, hasn't there been enough, in the last year, for a lifetime? What bad would have come from taking a risk? What life would you be living right now, today, if not for that decision to NOT act. Not yet.

When the ruling and the order become more important than your soul, what happens next?