Friends adapting to change

Me: “Elvis Aaron Presley, you get back in that car.”

Her. Spoken: “You said ‘git’, with an ‘I’.”

Her. Unspoken: “You fucking hillbilly.”

Me: “Right? What the fuck happened? I was a country club gal and now I have chicken shit on my boots and I’m talking high school football records with a ditch-digger.”

Her. Spoken: “I went away for just a little bit and came back and this is your life. I missed the process.”

Her. Unspoken: “Maybe I shouldn’t have gone away – I could have stayed here and reined you in.”

Me: “It’s like you going away and coming back a lesbian.”

Her: “Exactly.”

Me: “Thanks for noticing.”

Her: “Right back at ya.”

Life on the Colorado Plateau

Yesterday I sat in the bleachers at the home football game wearing jeans, a long underwear top, flannel, wool socks, work boots, wool vest, down vest, sleeping-bag-like down coat, wool scarf, and hat.

The sky was grey. Very grey.

Today, while harvesting pounds of carrots, then playing catch with Elvis Aaron, I stood barefoot in the grass, wearing a tank top.

Green grass.

Orange scrub oak.

Yellow aspen.

White snowy mountains.

Blue sky.

Hot Damn I love it here.

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Sketchy drive and the feelings evoked

Utter despair are the first words that come to mind.

Yesterday I drove over the hill for a couple of appointments and to try to find the elusive pair of much needed jeans.

I ended up spending a massive amount of money on everything but jeans.

I now have lovely new placemats and napkins. We’re having friends over tonight.

Scored some Cashmere too.

Not the point of this story. Distracted once again.

As everyone around here knows, the weather has been turbulent and summer is most definitely a thing of the past.

Just as I was getting ready to head home, it began to rain. Then it became torrential. Then Biblical.

I sat in my car in the parking lot of the grocery store thinking that at least if flooding kept me from going home, I was at a place with an endless amount of food.

It wasn’t really that bad, but these days, you have to be prepared.

When I began the westward drive, the rain let up and the sun sank low enough to be right at eye level (and just below the visor).

My shitty ass, $5, fashion forward sunglasses did not make matters any better.

So the sun was in my eyes. It was still raining a bit. The road was steaming. Water was spraying back at me from every car or truck ahead of me. Each and every plant, tree, dirt speck, and guard rail was wet.

And in the breakthrough sunshine, it sparkled like a glitter cloud. All of those droplets shot refracted light right into my eyes making it almost painful to look out my cracked windshield.

(As someone commented later, “That’s when you realize that you need to Windex the inside of your windshield.” Yup.)

The road wound uphill through a canyon. There was enough water for a spontaneous hydroplane.

Then, the vehicles coming towards me coming downhill towards me had SNOW on them. It was clumped beneath their wipers and piled on their bumpers.

Snow, I tell you, SNOW.

Fucking snow.

The beautiful red and orange oaks were covered in rime.

200 feet above me, they were covered in snow.

I stopped worrying about hydroplaning and began to be concerned with black ice.

It. Is. SEPTEMBER.

September folks, not December.

Besides, “Shit shit shit, I hope I don’t blindly slide into everything because I can’t see and I have no control over my truck at the moment,” my brain was screaming, “NONONONONONONONONONONONONO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Not yet, please not yet.

I am cold. Skinny and cold.

I am not ready for needing a fire in the wood stove.

I am not ready to shovel.

I am not ready to slide off the road.

I am not ready to fall down.

(I fall down a whole awful lot in the winter.)

They say when you feel desperation, to pray.

So I prayed with all of my heart last night, all night.

I prayed again when I woke up in the dark this morning.

And then, I waited for the brilliant sun to rise over the Menefee to the east.

And it didn’t.

8:28 and it still hasn’t.

The sky has lightened, for sure, just enough to see the heavy, dense, grey clouds ready to drop their load on my sad little head once again.

Despair. Grief. Disbelief. Anger.

And a strong sense of camaraderie with my friend who I ran into on the way to my house and verbalized all that I was feeling.

Misery loves company.

“Weight is Training”

Espresso-Maker

This morning as my stove top espresso maker was completing it’s brewing task, and it made that volcano about to erupt sound that means coffee is imminent, I declared, “There’s that sound!” like I’ve said a thousand times before.

But this coffee brewer is new.  I’ve been using a different method for years. So my instinctual reaction, the words, the anticipation in my pores, is a throwback to a time in my life I can barely remember in my old age.

Working in “the field.”

As I poured my hot drink into my mug I said to MCB, “This is how I used to make coffee in the field.  I love that sound.”

“You carried one of those in the field? No wonder your shoulders hurt.”

Well, duh, of course that’s part of the problem, but was it worth it to have a decent brew at 4 am before climbing the Wham Ridge with a bunch of whiney, incompetent teenagers?

Most definitely, yes.

What I didn’t say was, “Don’t forget to add in the 2 pounds of coffee to get me through until the next resupply.”

And the down jacket, the 30-below down sleeping bag, hammock for a 3-day solo, geology and natural history books, climbing gear (rope, rack, shoes), ice axe, helmet, stove, fuel, clothes, mid (shelter), various and sundry other items (journal, chacos, chocolate), and enough food to keep this scrawny little body from completely wasting away at 13,000 ft.

If I could fit it into my Astralplane, I carried it.

 

Big mother-fucker isn't it?

7000 cu. in. Big mother-fucker isn’t it?

 

And anything and everything could fit into that pack.

I once carried 90 lbs.

At 20,000 ft.

I lost an inch in height.

This was before plastic french presses. I did carry a glass one for a summer but finally broke it over a fire ring trying to knock the grinds out of the bottom and had to drink cowboy coffee for 3 days.

It was horrid.

Besides cowboy coffee (swirling the grinds around in a pot of boiling water then tap-tap-tapping the sides to get the grinds to settle enough to pour it into a mug) the other options were:

The Gold Filter, which, while light to carry, made light coffee and had a tendency to tip over just as the last of the water made it through and into the mug.

There was The Sock. Some fucking genius thought that one could make coffee in a large cotton condom, over and over, each and every day, and that it would actually taste good.

coffeesock1Just looking at the flaccid, stained, sad little resevior, made me consider options other than coffee.

I tried some of those.

Tea? Blech. Tea is fine before bed or after being caught in a storm – it serves its purpose when one needs to warm up but it definitely doesn’t satisfy in the dark and the cold when one has to motivate to put on a heavy pack and climb to the top of a mountain.

In other words, as a motivator, it sucks.

But what sucked even worse were coffee substitutes.

Double blech.

contains: barley, chicory, rye

contains: barley, chicory, rye

Pero, the substitute of choice, especially in my militant vegan days, was vile, although I pretended to love it just as I pretended to enjoy Textured Vegetable Protein.

A little chicory and barley powder mixed with a little powdered soy milk and voila! you have a morning drink that will make you want to hide back in your sleeping bag.

After you hurl.

I realize that there are many other options out there nowadays; that brewing up is still the pleasure that it always was, just a lot lighter and easier.

For one, someone came up with the idea of small, lightweight, backpacking stoves instead of a Whisperlite and 60 oz of white gas.

But back in the old days, the 9-cup, aluminum (which is why I barely remember those days and will soon forget them all together) ultra heavy, ultra noisy pot was the best option.

So when I hear that sound in my kitchen in the morning, coming from a stainless pot, no longer aluminum, it brings a smile to my face; memories flood my not yet awake brain.

And my shoulders start to hurt.

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”  

haruki murakami

 

Coming out of the closet

I’ve been struggling to write.  I haven’t been especially inspired.  Really it all began with the shutting down of Single in the Southwest.

That was my choice – yes it was, in many ways – but to be totally honest, I hated ending that blog. It still exists, it’s just that I don’t write there any more and no one has access to it unless I allow it.

My Ex, T-dub, hated Single. Vehemently.

And I sort of can’t blame him, yet I repeatedly explained the math to him – stop giving me so much to write about and I will quit publicly raking you over the coals. I thought it was simple, yet apparently he didn’t see it that way.

In a moment of, I’m not sure what, frustration? indignation? I got so sick of him and his oh poor me I am such a victim of her writing act that I decided to rid the world of Single in the Southwest.

I understand why I did it and in the moment it seemed like the right thing to do – for the children.

Not that I believe the children were being hurt by anything I had to say – they didn’t even care about the blog – but T said that he would cooperate and be respectful if the blog was gone so poof! gone.

And I called his bluff. He “spoke” to me one time after that – ONE TIME.

And that was via text and just enough to inform me that no, he would not be paying his portion of the kids medical bills.

That was a year ago.

Could I have had my First Amendment Rights upheld in a court room? Probably. I certainly wasn’t writing anything that wasn’t true.images-2

I didn’t lie about him calling me a whore. I didn’t lie about him dying his chest hair. I didn’t make it up when he threatened me in public – in front of the kids and their entire football team – screaming that I had failed my children.

I also didn’t only write about him. There was a series on vibrators, quite a bit about parenting teenagers, and the one about work that almost cost me my job. And yet, he thought it was all about him.

Typical.

So yes, there was a good chance that I could have kept on typing away but I grew tired of the fight.

I also had a lot of fear. What if a Judge saw me as a bad parent because I wrote the things that I wrote? What if we stood in a courtroom and the Judge agreed that I was harming the children with my words? What if the judge called me a whore?

Then, the moment preceding the moment where I threw my hands up in the air yelling “I give up,” T was in the middle of insisting that of course, the blog could stay, but that he would be able to determine if anything that I wrote was suitable or acceptable.

In other words he believed that he should have final editorial approval before I hit “Publish.”

C.E.N.S.O.R.S.H.I.P.

Fuck that noise.

So, Blog – Gone.

Writer’s block – here for the long haul.

One of my greatest sadnesses when I look back over the years is realizing just how much of my life has been run by fear – primarily fear of him.

I have this deep anxiety-producing paranoia of getting in trouble which most likely started when, surprise surprise, I was a young kid and didn’t want to get in trouble.

Unfortunately I lived my marriage in a way that created the same dynamic. And then it showed up in a few other areas of my world, like work, and suddenly it became crippling.

I’d like to say that it became the litmus test for all decisions that I made, but the truth is, it didn’t.

I’m still independent and feisty enough to not let anyone else tell me what I can and cannot do.

I just suffered the consequences afterwards. In other words, I got in trouble.

So with my kids’ well-being at stake, I cowered in the face of fear and shut my trouble making mouth.

And in the process, shut myself right down.

But things are shifting for me. Or I actually need them to shift and so here is a step that will hopefully take me in that direction.

Over the last couple of years and the last few court hearings, I have come out on top – way on top. I have seen that the court system may be really flawed, but if you get a wise judge who is also a parent, sometimes things work out the way that they should; the way that is actually best for the children and…fair.

With the freedom of a few wins and watching a judge put him in his place and validate that I am a good mother, I am able to shed some of my fears.

So today, I am taking a monumental step. I am coming out of hiding.

Have I thought this through?

Probably not thoroughly enough, but I tend to be impulsive anyway.

I’m sick of the fear. I am sick of hiding. Sick to death of handing my power over to him. And living in secrecy has been doing just that.

So, today, I will link HDD to my own Facebook page.

And right here, right now I will say:

I , Suzanne Strazza, am High Desert Darlin, the artist formerly known as Single in the Southwest.

And I am a writer, a mother, a lover.

I am exercising my First Amendment rights.

And I am free.

images

Today is Graduation (or: Oh Holy Shit)

Yes, my firstborn graduates from high school today. My baby, the person who changed my very existence just by showing up one day.

I’m proud and I am ecstatic and I am nostalgic. So many choices that I have made, that he has made, end up with us right here.

The moment I found out that I was pregnant was filled with excitement and terror. But from the very first look at that little blue line, I knew that he was my baby. I loved him with all of my heart.

Choosing to raise my boys here in this tiny and close-knit community…any questions I have had over the years about whether or not that was best for them, are answered today. Yes, bringing them up here was the best decision that I could ever have made. The things that they might have missed out on (culture, a more varied education, a larger pool of potential friends); none of those things are as important as their sense of belonging.

He is walking today with young men and women whom he has known since he was born. They are some of the closest friends a person will ever have.

T – the girl he fell in love with on the first day of kindergarten because she could “push him high on the tire swing.”

AC – the next girl he feel in love with and dated maybe 15 different times over the years.

D – the boy who fought him in kindergarten because Greg showed up wearing purple socks.

J – so close, they’d be madly in love if they weren’t like brother and sister. When her brother died way back in middle school, Greg insisted on going to the funeral saying “she’s my friend.” That was when I understood that he understood what true friendship means.

N – the boy who is now a father. The boy with whom my son got in shitloads of trouble. The boy whose parents I have spent a lot of time sitting with outside the principal’s office.

And most importantly, A. A has been a part of our lives almost since the day they were born. A’s mom has been my co-parent and best friend since the day we first met.

Our boys were inseparable for countless years; there’s no way to count the adventures, the learning, the excitement, the trouble, the hours that they have spent together.

They drifted, as childhood buddies often do. Different likes and dislikes, different activities and interests, different things that make them tick. And yet, they will forever be connected – forever friends. They hold such a special place in each other’s hearts.

And these children hold such a special place in my heart. I feel a sense of pride and, for lack of a better word, ownership for each of these children. I love so many of them, appreciate immensely who they have become and what decent people they’ve turned out to be.

And I know that there will be parents in the audience today who feel the same way about my child. This community is family and full of love.

And that’s what my children may have missed out on in exchange for culture or AP classes.

And as he says goodbye to an era with his classmates, I am saying goodbye to an era with their families, so as I write this, I am bawling.

How am I going to hold it together in the auditorium if I can’t even get my sorry arse out of bed?

Sundays

You ever have those days when you want to be happy, get a lot done, enjoy the day?

You don’t wake up wanting to feel blue. You don’t get out of bed thinking, “I want to have a shit day today.”

You certainly don’t want to spend the whole day trying to hold it together or sleeping the sunshine away.

Seriously, who wants that?

So, this morning, I wake up next to my sweetest BF (MCB) and my adorable little dog is so thrilled to have me home that he can’t stop wiggling, and the sun is out, and I can hear my new wind chimes, and my children are happy and well, and I have nothing on my agenda until 5:00 pm except put the final dishes away after our super fun dinner party, feed the piglets, commune with the chickens, take the doglets to the pond, maybe go for a run, read a book, sew, write, then, go to my job that I actually enjoy, work for a few hours, make some good money, laugh a lot, then come home and curl up with MCB and the dog.

And yet, I am so off. My heart feels…unenthused. I want to crawl under the covers and escape – read or sleep. Or I could smoke a shitload of weed and just prostrate myself on the couch, stare at nothing, and think about even less.

When I took the dogs to the pond, I curled up on the grass and tried to doze off – that is, until the big one decided to roll all over me right after a long swim and traipse through the mud.

MCB is building a hog fence – we are now pig farmers. We have 8 adorable little piggy boys who will grow up to be kilos of bacon and chops. When I entered the chicken coop with their kale and hamburger treats, almost all of them squatted to be held. So endearing. So funny.

And still, blah.

I can’t think of a single reason to feel this way, today.

I am totally loving my life. The freedom of not working 9-5 is more liberating that I could possibly have imagined.  My waitressing gig is a good one and I love my cooking job.

Who wouldn’t enjoy creating really good food that’s fresh and organic and homemade and nurturing?

My kids are fantastic – one graduates from college today, another from high school next weekend, the third wrote me a text last night to tell me how much he loves me.

I live in a gorgeous place on this planet and my life is filled with beauty and good people and amazing friends and promise and hope and lightness.

And yet my soul is heavy.

Last night, an old friend posted a photo on Facebook of her family on the beach, in the place where I knew her; the place where I spent my formative summers, a place we thought we “owned.”

A place I may never see again because of the near-impossibility of getting there from here and the expense of just setting foot on the island, let alone trying to stay there.

And suddenly, because it’s today, my home feels less than. It’s not there.

And it sends me spiraling into the What If’s about all the choices that I have made in my life to get me here and not there.

And any other day of the week, I would be thanking the heavens above for those decisions, but it seems like Sundays are a kill-joy.

I have noticed that Sundays tend to be challenging (to say the least).  So often, when I feel this way I think, “Why do I feel this way?”

And then I remember that I often ask that question and seems like it’s on a very regular time frame and I realize, once again, that for some unknown reason, “Sundays are hard.”

I don’t go to bed on Saturday night thinking, “Oh fuck yeah, tomorrow is Sunday, I can be a depressed sloth for the entire day. Yippeee.”

No, it doesn’t even cross my mind at all, so this is definitely not a psychological set up where negative thoughts bring negative reality.

It’s something else. Hormones, brain chemical cycling, exhaustion from a busy weekend (or week); but definitely not bumming out over the fact that I have to return to work on Monday morning because I don’t work on Mondays.

So who knows what it is, but it definitely is.

 

The dinner party

When I was in Florida, my parents and I had dinner at Mary Lou’s house. Also in attendance were her daughter (my age) son-in-law, and college student granddaughter. The additional guests were old family friends who I haven’t seen in 20 years.

Lovely is the best word to describe the evening; lovely setting, lovely dinner, lovely company.

imgres-1Elegant is another word that I might use; from the 52 pieces of silverware at each place setting to the Wedgwood Blue striped wallpaper to the ocean waves lapping at the patio edges just outside the living room french doors.

Cashmere abounded.

A little wine, a bit of brie, and some very civilized pre-dinner tete-a-tete began the evening.

Then, dinner…individual pot pies crafted in the kitchen of the nearby clubhouse (country club, that is) and delivered with white gloves, hot and ready to eat (the pies, not the gloves).

There were place cards. imgres-2

Conversation was stimulating and sophisticated. We discussed one couple’s home in the Adirondacks that’s “much too big for just us.” Another diner who was “in railroads” shared humorous tales of his recent travels. One person shared her secret to serving creative, somewhat adventuresome, and delicious dinners to her family; mail order meals that arrive via Fed Ex on her doorstep 3 nights a week. “I’ve never cooked a plantain before and now I love them.”

We talked local politics where the mayor and councilperson’s party affiliations actually mean something.

We touched on prep school, college abroad, and Ivy League.

And I sat there praying with all my might that no one would ask me anything about my town, my life, my normal.

Because what could I say? “Oh our town board is working really hard on an ordinance regarding cows in people’s yards, and how many chickens they are allowed, and if they can have pigs. Roosters are out.”

Or, “Since we don’t live in town, we are raising chickens and cows and pigs.”

And, “I think I’m going to start carrying a gun when I run in case I encounter a cougar.”

Or simply, “We used to live on a paved street.”

I feel as if I come out of my town covered with a fine patina of barnyard dust and I was afraid I was going to leave a dirty ass mark on the upholstered silk dining chair.

imgres

adolescent boy humor

If you want to retain any sense of respect for me, stop now.

I’m about to expose my utter lack of maturity.

I have a poop story to tell.

If you’d like to accompany me to the land of gross, come on. If not, see you tomorrow.

Elvis Aaron Presley The Dog and I went to the park for a walk in the snow.

He does this really weird thing when he poops; he likes to prop his butt up high on a clump of snow. It’s awkward for him and fascinating to me.

So today, after he finished he stepped down from his butt rest and there was a dingleberry still tethered to him by maybe a long hair or something. I couldn’t see.

It doesn’t matter what it was, the important thing is that the anal hair allowed this piece of shit fly around and smack him in the ass when he started to take off.

He jumped, like, 3 feet in the air, where, of course, it hit him again, so then he hunkered down, cowering in the face of this relentless turd.

Did I help him?

You’ve gotta be kidding.

I was too busy losing my shit.

51+g8FyjTGL._SX425_

Hair Powder

This morning as I turned my head upside down to sprinkle in the baby powder, the smell triggered sweet memories.

Memories of not bathing.

And I realized that I have gone from being a regular powder user to an infrequent one.

What’s changed, you might ask.

Having running water may be a part of it, but more importantly, I have a shower that guarantees a delightful experience every time I use it.

2 heads,

great pressure,

killer view of the trailer park across the highway (okay, maybe not “scenic” but at least it’s fascinating),

spacious,

shelf for my coffee mug,

seat for my ass,

vast amounts of hot water.

So I shower more often, which, although new, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

It’s the little things.