my buddies, my pals

Now that I am moving out of my crisis fog (headache gone, giardia on its way out, heart healing, excitement building) I have the space to think about more than being a spinster, and here is what I am thinking this morning:

Going through a breakup isn’t just about the two people splitting. It’s really not when there is a family involved.

But this isn’t about that.

This is about the friends; the people on the periphery who are affected by the breakup in one way or another. This is when you find out who the real friends are.

Last time – the time we’d like to forget – I leaned so heavily on my people that I will never be able to repay them.

K and K – obviously the best two humans on the planet. Then there was the gal who warned me not to get involved and never once said, “I told you so” after the implosion. Or the friend that had the doctor call me to provide me with some relief from the relentless spinout. Or the friend that said, “He’s an asshole” based entirely on the fact that she believed me to be too good for him without ever having met him.

We all need those people to jump on our asshole bandwagon sometimes.

So this go round, it’s the same thing; who is on the team, who isn’t.

Let me tell you something folks, my team is BADASS!

I’m talking about feeling the love from around the world – even as far away as Africa.

I’m going to mention a few here. If I don’t specifically mention you, don’t take offense – I see you, I appreciate you, I am thankful for you. Also, those of you listen to me day in and day out and cry with me and get outraged with me and remind me that life is full of joy, you know who you are and that I wouldn’t be breathing without you.

First and foremost, K and K. Once again, scraping me off of the rocks, even though I haven’t had much time for either of them over the years. They just keep showing up with orange Fanta and Lilly Pulitzer-pink gladioli.

Best friend from second grade to whom I haven’t spoken in 2 years? And that was in a crisis. I never even heard what happened after the crisis, but it doesn’t matter – here she is.

Best friend from college; my Buffalo Soldier.

Africa and Oregon – high school “sisters” – they warm my heart.

My friend who sends me a screen shot of her phone at 4:20 with her funny looking dog sitting with a garden gnome. How can a person not feel better after that?

North Carolina – I adore you.

I am so appreciative of the offers to hide away in Durango or watch Netflix and play with puppies or escape into a private little apartment (and flowers and morning texts telling me I am wonderful) or to come over and play with dinosaurs.

My bitch friend who showed up at work just to say, “I love you.” She gets what I mean by that even if no one else does.

The one who is taking me away this weekend to our old stomping grounds.

The new friend who reached out because she saw me lose my shit at work.

Or the one who I spontaneously ate lunch with who said, “If you want to feel better I’d be happy to tell you more stories about my crazy world.”

Hers is a bit more “chaotic” than mine. She’s a way tougher cookie than I am. And she always makes me smile.

What about the wise one in the City Market Pharmacy line who looked at me appraisingly and said, “Oh you’re fine.” She said it so convincingly (almost dismissively) that I believed it and am 1,000 times better because of it.

I get heart emojis on my phone.

I get loving messages on Facebook.

The former mayor? A couple of words from her and I remember that I am a powerhouse – because she is too.

Utah – you are my hero. If you can do what you have done, I can do anything.

People have been reaching out publicly and privately. People have been funny, kind, understanding, non-judgmental.

People have cared about my children; they understand, without explanation, that my kids are also going through something brutal.

These are people who show me what true friends are; that time and distance don’t matter, that being cool (or not) doesn’t matter, and that show up in ways that I respect and welcome.

It’s so easy to get caught in my day-to-day life – to focus my friendship attention on only those who are right in front of me.

But this has made me see that 52 years of life has created a community that spans the planet, the years, and all of the phases of my never-dull world.

I am lifted up, carried, cherished.

I just want to thank you. I want you all to know that this has been a whole lot easier because of your love and attention. I am so glad that you are on my team.

 

 

“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

 

The unthinkable

A baby has died. A teeny tiny member of our small community is gone.

I can’t, I won’t even try, to fathom what is going on in the hearts of his parents. It is too unbearable to imagine.

For everyone who is a parent, it is our worst nightmare; it is the possibility that keeps us up at night worrying. It is the reason why we yell at our child for crossing the street without looking. It is the driving force behind standing over a sleeping child searching for the rise and fall of gentle breathing.

For me, it is the fear that has given me cause to wonder if I really am cut out for this parenting gig.

With my children having reached the ages of 21, 19, and 17, that fear has not diminished even an ounce. The only thing that has changed is the possible cause of death; car accident instead of SIDS, fatal football head injury instead of choking on a Lego.

Instead of hovering over my sleeping child as I did when they were small, I now hover, waiting for them to return for the night and go to sleep.

Today, no one is sure what has happened, why this child has come and gone as quickly as he has. All we know is that he is gone.

Does it matter what happened? A very wise woman said that to wonder about the hows and whys distracts us from dealing with the fact that this baby is gone…forever.

My sadness is so very deep.

As it is within our small, insulated world. There is a collective grief that many feel and we don’t necessarily know what to do with that pain.

As I fumble around, remembering the weight of that tiny man in my arms (wailing, because I am definitely not a baby-whisperer) I also see something beautiful happening.

I see community. I see that what exists in our town is strong and unique and loving.

People everywhere are throwing around the catchphrase “community.” It’s hip and trendy to “create community.”

The reality is that if you open your eyes and your heart here in this valley, we already have it in spades.

Folks who don’t even know this family are crying tears and rallying to help in any way that they can. Food, money, childcare for the sister…it doesn’t matter what, how big or how small. What matters is that a child has died, there are people suffering, and the love that flows through our town is astounding.

One of my chickens was killed yesterday.

My son hit and killed a fawn less than an hour later.

Death.

Death of the innocent, death of the young.

I know that my chicken and that baby deer are not someone’s child and that my pain over my girl is piddly in comparison to my friends’ pain, but I feel surrounded by death.

And that is painful.

Unbearably so.

And, I appreciate living so close to the natural world that I can see that yes, creatures are born and creatures die before what we think is their time.

Today it doesn’t make this child’s death any less brutal, but maybe some day it will help with the hows and the whys.

I think that I am rambling here. I want to talk about this, I want to process the grief, and yet I don’t want to make this about me. I don’t want to presume to hurt anywhere near as much as mom and dad. And I certainly don’t want to be a gossip.

But death needs to be talked about and picked at and felt. Our culture is at a complete and utter loss when it comes to grief. If one is not devoutly religious then it is likely that there is no set of guidelines for how to cope with the unimaginable.

For anyone who has seen Rabbit Proof Fence, there was a scene where a grandmother’s children are taken from her. She collapses on the ground and beats her own head with a rock. It struck me as beautiful. In moments of intense agony, who wouldn’t beat themselves with a stone?

I loved that it was accepted.

We don’t have that. If someone saw me beating my own brains out they’d call the cops.

So we make food. We show up at friends’ homes at 9:30 at night to just have a little bit of company and not feel so alone. We accept the parents right where they are and do not judge. We worry; about the mother, the father, the sister, the grandmother. We talk about the child, the sadness, the hows and whys, because whether those things matter in the big picture or not, sharing those thoughts helps us to bond as an extended family.

We say the words coroner, autopsy, burial, in hopes that speaking them will take just a little bit of the power, the rawness, out of them.

If I can say autopsy, then hopefully it will help Mom and Dad say it too.

Because it is an unbearable word to use in the same sentence as your child’s name.

We gather together and pick at the wound – perhaps if we pick enough scar tissue will develop and the pain will lessen.

We create the container that will hopefully help this family in feeling loved and supported and not alone in this agony.

 

 

 

Huge dilemma

This may not seem so huge to many of my readers, but if you know me at all, you will understand that for me…

Well, let me just explain here.

Again, if you know me at all, you’ve probably figured out that jewelry is significant to my every day well-being. Have you ever seen me out without earrings?

Probably not.

And then there is The Bracelet:

34 years with this baby

And The Ring (9-ish years):

The bracelets are an added bonus

The bracelets are an added bonus

So my right side is all set.

The problem is my left hand. Because of my pain disorder, I can’t sport a bracelet or a watch on that arm, so if I want it adorned (which of course I do – I am me, you know) it has to be rings.

And I know this might sound really trivial, a white girl first world problem, and I get it, it is, but there is a little more to it than you might think, because it directly ties into the whole marriage divorce thing. Let me explain:

When I got engaged, there was a ring, a ring that I adored. When we got married, there was another ring – one that I truly loved, but I was allergic to it.

Red Flag that I ignored.

But I never ever had to think about my left hand – it was all set. Until I got divorced.

I took the wedding band off immediately, but it left a big, soft, white circle around my finger that to me, was a glaring “Your life just fell apart and you failed your children in the process.” I figured if it screamed that to me, then every time the children saw my hand they would also be reminded that their lives had exploded and I didn’t feel like any of us needed that white squishy aide-mémoire.

So I had a “divorce ring” made and I loved it – the ring and the symbolism.IMG_2508

 

Then I moved on and got myself into the most amazingly dysfunctional relationship with a man who claimed “I’m going to replace that divorce ring with a wedding band.”

IMG_2511

It’s called “Crater” and I thought the earthy name would be solid and grounding.

Thank god that didn’t happen. But when that all fell apart it seemed like a good time to once again, eliminate some of the symbols of my past and move forward. So I purchased this one from an artist down in Mexico City:

 

I also came to the conclusion that it was time to quit focusing on the empty finger and celebrate my middle finger (which sees a lot more action anyway.)

Love love loved this one, until…

Another relationship. Time for another ring.

And I will interject here that wanting a new ring with a new relationship had NOTHING to do with wanting the Ring

So I moved on, decided to get something totally different:

This seemed to be the jewel that for which I had been searching…

IMG_2513

…until it broke.

Because I am really hard on my hands and whatever is on them.

So then I went through all of the others that I had picked up over the years, trying, rejecting, and trying again, all while my right hand screamed – get it together, Lady, just put on a ring and forget about it.

There was this one, with the hideous fake turquoise in the middle of the otherwise, stunning piece of artwork:IMG_2507

 

 

 

IMG_2512There’s the fossil ring that my off-the-deep-end cousin made:

He just died so I tried to wear it again, but it’s just really too masculine for me.

I have a few other random ones, but nothing has felt like I want it to be a semi-permanent part of my body, my life, me.

So then I’ve been looking around at rings. I’ve also been looking around at other people’s hands, trying for some inspiration. I got some recently with my friend Dodo who wears 2 silver rings on her left hand. One of which is, of course, her wedding band.

So then I thought, maybe I should look first for something that fits my ring finger – seems novel and maybe I’ve been barking up the wrong tree.

But that is a loaded proposition. To begin sporting a ring on your left finger when you are actually in a serious relationship, sends a mighty big message to people, even when there is no message to be received.

So I have fumbled.

And in my fumbling for a fucking ring – again, I understand that this is not quite as big of an issue as world hunger – I have dredged up all of these other feelings about relationships and marriage and divorce and symbols of all of the above.

And I get stymied because suddenly, it’s not about a little chunk of silver and it’s all about where I am in my life, how I present myself to the world, and what that shiny bit conveys.

When I was single, it seemed like it was less significant if I wore something on my “wedding band” finger, but now it feels like it would be perceived as a statement.

I remember when I first wore my engagement ring – silver with an almost imperceptible diamond – I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I used to stand at work with my hand held out in front of me gazing adoringly at it. I hoped that as I reached to hand someone  something, that they would notice and say “my what a beautiful ring,” and I could then say, “yes, yes it is, isn’t it?”

And then they could say, “Are you engaged?”

And I could squeal, “YES!!!”

I still think it's beautiful. And it still fits. Bummer.

I still think it’s beautiful. And it still fits. Bummer.

I kept my engagement ring – but it’s not like I can actually wear it. And I’m not going to pass it on to one of my children because who wants to propose to a girl with a ring that symbolizes a really wretched marriage?

And I threw the wedding band in the river.

It makes me sad to think of that sweet, hopeful, and stupid young girl. And then it makes me proud to look at the display of rings past and know that each one symbolizes both my pain and my growth over the last few years.

So as I put each chapter behind me and move on to the next, I want to put the symbols of those chapters behind me too.

So maybe this is why I won’t ever find one ring that meets my needs, one semi-permanent fixture on my body – because I am not a semi-permanent fixture – I am still changing and growing and evolving.

And this is a thought that I haven’t had until just now, as I am writing this:

Maybe I should stop looking for forever and start looking for “right now.”

 

 

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?

This Man

I used to write a lot about my dating and sex life and it was fun. But then I became involved in a serious relationship and it felt wrong to put anything about it or him out there in public.

Our relationship is sacred to me as is his privacy.

But today, I am filled with such overwhelming love and joy that I just have to share.

MCB is kind and warm and smart and funny and creative and introspective and lovely and well mannered and generous and delightful; he makes me swoon.

Yesterday he had an event for which he had to “dress.” He excitedly pulled out a suit; this was no slouchy, cheap fabric, ill-fitting suit; this was the real deal.

Next came the crisp white shirt, beautiful dress shoes, belt with initials and a bow tie.

Yes, he ties his own bow ties.

When he used his clothes brush to remove the dog hair from his overcoat, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

The thing is, this is my childhood, my upbringing.

I spent so many years and so much energy resisting and rebelling against Brooks Brothers that I convinced myself that “classy” wasn’t on my list of desires in a partner. I married a blue-collar guy from a steel town who wouldn’t be caught dead in a tie or real shoes.

And I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with that or that one is better than the other; it’s more that in my old age, I am really drawn to what is familiar; what connects me to my wonderful childhood.

And I’m not saying that how a person dresses is more important than who the person is, but even Shakespeare observed, “Apparel oft proclaims the man.”

Clothing isn’t everything, but MCB is. There is so much that is admirable and agreeable and lovable; so much that makes me smile each and every day. So much for which I am thankful. So much more than meets the eye.

But the candy that meets the eye is pretty spectacular.

Vacation

I’m in Florida – we’re in Florida – Greg and Peter are with me.

My Mom is from here. She moved to this town when she was in high school. She graduated from Vero Beach High.

She went to Florida State. She didn’t graduate. Impatient, she moved on to the next adventure instead.

So my grandparents lived here and vacations were spent here while I was growing up -at least two trips a year to see them.

My parents moved here a couple of years ago after thirty long, cold, dark, winters in Idaho.

They live just a few blocks from the house where my mother grew up.

There is an element of “home” here for me.

I know where to get ice cream. I know where to go to the grocery store and where to get the best grapefruit juice. The drugstore that my grandfather owned is still here and they know me as David’s granddaughter.

But I’ll be damned if I can find an ATM in this town.

Turns out they’re everywhere, but discreetly placed inside of elegant buildings with fountains and palm trees. You’d think that with all of the old, hobbling people around here they’d have drive-throughs.

There’s this place on the beach, The Sea Burger. I actually think the name has changed but it will always be The Sea Burger. The Sea Burger has been in the same place at Jaycee Park on the Beach since my mom spent her weekends drinking beer on that beach.

The smell of the ocean mingled with grilling burgers is the best smell in the world.

When I was young and frolicking on the beach with my family, I loved going up to The Sea Burger all crusty and sandy and barefoot to get a milkshake. Their milkshakes are the very best, ever.

My mother, unwilling to move from her beach chair where she was finally relaxing after traveling and dealing with family, would hand me her wallet and say, “Go get yourself something.”

I felt so big, so independent. I hoped that the lifeguard would think I was cute as I strutted by his stand.

He never did.

I was 12.

So yesterday I was sound asleep on my towel, which was actually under my towel because it was totally freezing yet we were determined to be on the beach, and Peter said, “I’m thirsty.” So I gave him my wallet and sent him up to get himself a treat.

And there it was. In my mother’s town, on my mother’s beach, I had turned into her.

 

Questions

Is it that more bad stuff is happening to young people?

Is it that I just know about more because I live in a small community?

Is it that all of this kind of stuff was going on when I was a young person but I was totally sheltered?

Is it that when I was young no one talked about it all and now we are?

Is it the company I keep?

Or is the world just a scarier place?

I don’t know the answer(s); it could be All of the Above.

What I do know is that another young person in our community has died a wasteful death. She has left 2 small children behind. She made bad choices. Her life was really hard.

And now the lives of those who loved her just got harder.

Life

I’m not the patriotic type.

The Fourth of July is actually one of those holidays that I can live without celebrating. I’m not even a huge fan of fireworks.

But 9/11 – it gets to me.

In so many ways.

The whole “people who serve” thing just cripples me. The level of decency from which some people function is absolutely mind-boggling. If I could have a hundredth of that pure goodness my life would be so incredible.

I think about the people jumping out of the building – deciding that it would be a better way to go than collapsing in a burning building.

I think about the mothers and the fathers on those planes, knowing that their children were about to die and trying to comfort them.

I try to imagine being so devout that I would be willing to give away my life and the lives of so many oblivious and decent people.

I try to imagine that level of hatred.

I try to imagine what a person would be feeling when they survived and their friend from the next cubicle over didn’t.

I wonder what wives would feel towards one another when one man lived and the other didn’t.

It is unthinkable. Unspeakable. Unfathomable.

Unbearable.

My brother was there. THERE.

He lives in California. He was there on a quick business trip. He went downstairs to get a cup of coffee. Everyone in his office died. He watched the second plane hit. He left when people started jumping. He ran all the way uptown. He went to his childhood town to stay in a hotel and hide.

I am lucky.

Being the liberal, peacenik, hippie, that I am, my immediate reaction was definitely not “retaliation.”

If I was my brother, his wife, his (our) parents, would I feel differently? Would I say, like my sister-in-law did, of The Patriot Act, “I don’t care what rights they take away, I never want to live those (post collapse, not knowing) hours ever again?”

If my brother had died, how would I feel about losing freedoms and killing others, because my brother had been killed by terrorists.

I am happy that this day does this to me. Thankful that my brain spins through all of these truly horrific imaginings. This keeps me humble, keeps my feet on the ground. If every other day of the year I walk around thinking only of myself and my woes, I know that for this one entire day, I will think of others with compassion and love.