PlazaJen: The Blog

Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Category: life (page 2 of 12)

Trying to Outfox a Fox….

A couple weeks ago, the handle apparatus inside the toilet broke. Snapped right in two, it was a plastic lever that had been there since we moved in 9-some years ago. James procured a replacement, made of metal, and after some internet consulting and installation, everything was fixed. (Apparently, you have to bend the metal ones to make it fit your tank, which wasn’t immediately clear on the package.) So, after being teased all evening about using brute force and tearing things up when he’s off hunting, I decide I can razz him right back! He had gotten into bed, and I was in the bathroom, and I flushed the toilet, immediately exclaiming, “Holy SHIT, I can’t believe it, the handle broke again!” I hear, “You’re KIDDING ME!” from the bedroom, and just as I say, “Yes, I am!”, the last consonant is leaving my lips and he appears in the doorway, indignant and ready to Battle Royale the toilet. I hadn’t meant for him to get back up, but I burst out laughing, and he scowled at me, having gotten him, and I was told to “watch out”, because he was going to get me back.

A day later, he calls to me from the kitchen, asking what’s wrong with the refrigerator. I say, “What do you mean?” He says, “The light won’t come on. I thought the milk was a little warm.”

Pause.

Me: “Are you trying to get me? Because it’s not working. I just got milk half an hour ago.”

Him: WHARRRGARRRRBLLLLLEEEEE “Dammit, Jen!”

Time Passes.

The toilet handle has issues with not stopping the water from running, so, fancying myself an apprentice plumber, I try things. At one point, I’m certain I’ve fixed it, only to discover a while later, the running issue continues. So this past weekend, I took the whole thing back apart, and adjusted where the bar went into the handle, and while it returns now to a more upright position (aesthetically annoying to me), it works. I told James this on Sunday.

This morning. I attempt to flush the toilet, to be greeted by silence. By now, I’m a motherfucking pro at whipping that tank lid off. I see there’s barely any water in the tank. Hrmph. How can this be? I stare at it. I lift the flapper. I touch ALL THE PARTS. Now, it’s still pretty early, but I’ve had a cup of coffee, and clearly, the issue at-hand is water. I think to myself, “Is there an issue with the water line?” I reach down and feel the shutoff valve knob. It seems solidly in place, no leaks… so I stare into the tank again. Brain tells me “Righty-tighty, Lefty-loosey!” and I reach back down to the valve.

Yep.

:Somebody: got up in the middle of the night & turned the water off. And the last time I checked, the dogs don’t have the requisite opposable thumbs.  I restore balance to the universe, turning the water back on, and decide to leave the tank lid off as a message. “Message Received,” as it were. Two seconds later, I grin. Nope. Better to put the lid BACK ON and leave everything in a working state, and say :nothing:. Because I learned about jokes, practical and otherwise, at the knee of the master, my father. Slicing open a package of M&Ms to fill it with one color, as a joke on his best friend after a hunting trip – left in the car for the friend’s ride home. The best moments can be had when you don’t even witness them, that filament in the brain, rapidly burning with realization as the person processes they’ve been had.

I stepped out of the bathroom this morning as James got up, and stood outside the door, toweling my hair, waiting to hear the water rush. Clink. Whoosh. Everything works. He turns, still stumbling with sleep, and I stand in front of him, leaning in to kiss him and whisper, “You’ve got to get up earlier if you want to outfox the fox….”

 

Ahhh, Fall

I love Fall. For so many reasons – the cooler air, the crisp bite of fresh apples, the faint trails of smoke on the wind once fireplaces start up…and… Fall TV. This year’s even bigger than ever, because I have several clients active on television and it’s important to know what is on, what’s new, what’s going to do well, and to avoid the inevitable bombs. (Hello, Animal Practice, I’m looking straight at you. Monkey sidekicks are a death-knell.)

It also means creative DVRing, because apparently Sunday nights are now going to be akin to flying into Atlanta after being re-routed for weather. It’s not helped by the fact CBS football always runs over, shoving Amazing Race back and requiring a safety cushion of 30 minutes over, sometimes adjusted to an hour. Because just hoping I remember everything is a thing of the past, this is what I do:

Because only the networks fit onto one page, I’ve got crib notes for the cable shows as well – even if they’re not starting tonight, I need to remember they’re coming. Sundays for cable are crazy!

New shows that have some promise – 666 Park Avenue (ABC, Sundays, 9p CST)  might be a good replacement for the Desperate Housewives set, though with a slightly more devilish twist. (It can always be dicey when you pull Satan on tv). We watched the premiere of the Mob Doctor (FOX, Mondays, 8p) and it was rather entertaining – plus Revolution seems to be doing well right out of the gate (NBC, Mon, 9p) and will probably be their winner of new prime shows.  The Mindy Project (FOX, Tue, 8:30) will do well, Nashville (ABC, Wed 9p) looks good as well. I’m excited for Vegas (CBS, Tues, 9p) – hello Michael Chiklis, you’ve been missed, as well as Elementary (CBS, Thur, 9p) because I don’t believe you can have too much Sherlock Holmes, ever, plus Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu are easy on the eyes. The X Factor (FOX, Wed, 7p, Thur (Results) 7p) is actually quite good, because Simon has moved on and it’s a fresh(er) take on reality singing shows.

First shows to bite it will be The Neighbors (ABC) and as mentioned earlier, Animal Practice (NBC). My poor rep tried to convince me Animal Practice was going to make it and had no rebuttal for “It’s a horrid concept! WITH A MONKEY.” Guys with Kids (NBC) is probably not too far behind.

Returning sophomore shows I think are good and I try to catch on demand, or am just impressed at how they’ve succeeded – Grimm, and Once Upon A Time. Person of Interest is one we watch, I’m glad to see it return, and while I don’t watch Revenge, I have several friends who get very dramatic at just the drop of the show title. (“Reveeeengggge!” they all exclaim, with big eyes and great drama….)  2 Broke Girls is definitely doing well, as it’s now the 8p lead on Monday.

Cable shows I’m stoked for (already started or returning): American Horror Story (FX, Wed, 9p, premieres 10/17) – holy crap-my-pants is this one scary show. I have to wait until Saturday morning to even watch it), Sons of Anarchy (FX, Tues, 9p, premiered 9/11), Walking Dead (AMC, Sun, 8p, premieres 10/14) – that one will get recorded at like 1 in the morning, thanks to these returning favorites crowding in around that elongated Amazing Race setting:  Dexter (SHO, Sun, 8p, premieres Sept 30), Homeland (SHO, 9p, also premieres Sept 30) plus Boardwalk Empire has begun (HBO, Sun, 8p) Thank you, Oh Great On-Demand Options on the Holy Cable Box!

At least I’ve got PLENTY of yarn to knit with as I watch my newbies and returning favorites. Though Walking Dead and American Horror Story :do: make my gauge get noticeably tighter….

If It Weren’t For Handguns, We’d Still Be British Subjects

I always think of that line on the 4th of July. Our local nutjob in the small town in Iowa where I was raised had hand-lettered it (with electrical tape) onto the back of his very long trenchcoat.

A tall, imposing silhouette, children ran from him or taunted him from a safe distance. I knew of three classmates who waited until he left his house and then dared each other to go in. Apparently he was a hoarder long before they made TV shows about them; piles of newspapers and magazines created a path (and only a path) through the two rooms they dared to enter. Nowadays, I wonder what Marvin’s story really was – was he one of our lost veterans, abandoned to live in their own haunted minds? In any event, he still crosses my mind, thirty-plus years later.

Freedom is an interesting thing. A friend posted on Facebook that the First Amendment was her favorite and worthy of celebration. I couldn’t agree more, though the true definition of Freedom of Speech can be very subjective.  I ponder why I write on this blog, I ponder why I don’t write everything I want to say. I ponder what would be in a book, if I wrote one. I am always excruciatingly aware of how easily it is to fall into the trap of passive-aggressiveness when you want to scream out at people who’ve fucked up, insulted you, abandoned you, all that shit. Then I think, is it worth it? I already gave you fuckers some rent-free space in my head, now I’m giving you bandwidth, too? And is it really what you wanted in the end, to “make the blog”? LOL!

Anyway. I always ruminate as my birthday approaches. What will the next year hold, what triumphs may come, what heartaches, there’s no crystal ball, so we reflect on what has passed. People we said goodbye to, whether with sadness or in anger – the new opportunities that have come along, and the doors that closed.  I realize this is more typically done at New Year’s, and I suppose I do so then, but it’s always different, more intense with birthdays. Maybe more so now, as you realize the older you get, that there are only so many you get. And it’s important not to waste time on the things, people, projects, emotions that hold you back.

I realize it sounds darker than it feels; introspection is like that, I guess. I’m looking forward to the new chapter ahead, and even without the crystal ball, I know there are going to be some awesome things in store for me. As for anything else, well? I just have to trust in my own wisdom and experience to get me through it! I know I wear my heart on my sleeve sometimes, but much like Marvin and his trenchcoat, I guess I’d rather have people see me coming, know who I am and how I feel, than to pretend to be anything else at all.

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day

To those who are mothers through their love and actions. Biology can define you as a mother, certainly, but it doesn’t mean you’re doin’ it right.

 

Mine is in rehab for the second time, claiming she’s “just a social drinker”. Clearly she is quite misunderstood, as going on an eleven-day bender, drinking after getting out of rehab the first time, and being confronted by your peers and colleagues and having to “retire early” because you’ve been “socially drinking” before/during work, why, that’s not alcoholism, it’s just being really, really fucking social. Life of the party!

To think I was worried about how I would handle her making amends as part of the Twelve-Step program.

Perhaps the one good thing to come out the past six months of angst has been a freshly-developed relationship with my uncle (my mother’s brother.) He is, in many ways, like my mother as I knew her – quick to laugh, optimistic, hard-working – yet not as plagued by his family of origin issues and at the core, a loving and forgiving person. We have had countless conversations, and I’ve learned more painful things about my mom than I imagined possible.  One of the things that I’ve done, through the dwindling silence after my father died, was to always make sure I sent her a card, note, email, gift on the main holidays. Mother’s Day, Birthday, Christmas. Many of those gifts were hand-knit items – socks, hats, lace scarf, etc. In my naivete, I imagined she at least showed them off and told people they were from me. What a fool – letting my inner ten-year old hang on to that dream. Nope. I am not a topic. That one nicked the bone, I must say. A more neutral perspective pointed out that much of her behavior probably centered around maintaining her own victimology, for to be cut off from her only child works better as a sob story than ownership in the dance.  And a good reason to “be social.” That helps, but of course it doesn’t change a thing. My poor uncle initially pushed for me to visit, to help, to try to intervene. Ten years ago, I might have done that. Now, I recognize that I am powerless in this situation, and until my mother decides FOR HERSELF she really wants to quit drinking, all the rehab and interventions and talking will be for naught. I have learned from watching a dear friend go through the whole process of recovery, and while I’m sure she would rather have not had to go through it, I am grateful for what she taught me.

So, onward we go, and focus on the things we can control and change, appreciate the people who put in the effort, who talk and listen and support. Honor those who love you; remember to honor yourself in the process.

 

Grateful

I sat here as the sun slid down across the horizon and whispered to myself, “I feel….” and waited. Waited for the right word to come forward. Eventually it did, and the word was “grateful.”

I’m grateful for the comments, messages and kind words that were sent my way in the hours since I hit “publish” on my post about suicide & depression.

I have written that post a thousand times in my head and my heart. I felt that I’d finally reached a point, where you just drop it all, the fears, the baggage, the pain, the vulnerability, and just speak from the heart, hoping to hell it doesn’t backlash on you in some unforeseen way, but also out of exhaustion from carrying it all these years. Even in the brevity of the moment, my teflon-coated heart braced for the worst. Especially as I saw the number of visitors climb, higher by the hour, in fact, the highest amount of traffic I’ve ever seen on my blog.

It never came. There’s been silence, sure. Some people just don’t know what to say. I get that. This isn’t funny or comfortable or easy.

So, thank you. Thanks for your comments, the love, for your own stories – from so many perspectives. It really comes down to the ability to give voice to that pain, to try and take away the shame, to recognize that so many people’s lives are intersected by depression, suicide, mental illness, whether their own or a loved one. While it’s sad to see there are so many people in that shared space, it’s also oddly comforting, because I know only too well that it’s 100x worse when you feel like you’re alone. My soul aches for everyone’s struggles and sadness, but my spirit soars to see and hear the conversations, the new openness that  freed them to speak and acknowledge their own journey or a family member’s. I know there are a lot of hearts out there that hurt, that are aching right here in our city. My heart still rails against reality, thinking somehow we could turn back the clocks, stop time, save these men from their demons.  I hear Auden in my head, a drumming poem of grief.

Two nights ago, I made a promise to my husband, one we shared equally, that if it ever feels that bad in the future, to speak up. Just say something. No judgment, no arguments, no criticism, just wave the flag. I hesitated for a moment – because I know how hard it is to really do it, especially in that hard, painful space. I also knew that if I made that promise, I’d have to keep it. Could I keep it? I promised I would.

I’m heartened by the conversations I’ve seen in the media, speaking so openly and frankly about depression. Included in that discussion has been the encouragement to seek help, keep seeking help, keep searching, find a way to stay alive and get through it all. Make that promise, if you’ve seen even a small bit of yourself in all of this. To yourself, to your partner, to a friend or family member, just make it. Promise to wave the flag. Keep your promise. Please.

 

“Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door.”

Emily Dickinson

Another Letter, One of Compassion and Sadness

Today started with me rolling out of bed, and shortly thereafter, walking into the living room. My husband was folding laundry and had an inscrutable look on his face.

“You’re never going to guess who’s dead,” he stated.

I responded, “Patrice O’Neal? That happened yesterday.”

“Nope. Don Harman.”

And it felt like the floor fell out from under me. The first thought I had was for his little girl, so young. In some ways, she is spared the heartache her mother will carry for the rest of her life. Of course, like everyone else, we searched online for answers, and waited for more news to unfold, wondering if there would or could be any sort of an explanation for why a man in his prime, at the pinnacle of his career, could possibly be dead and by his own hand.

(For those who aren’t in Kansas City, or those who eschew morning news, Don Harman was the meteorologist for WDAF, Fox 4. We switched to Fox mornings after KCTV fired their morning crew, and laughed along with the team who consistently pulled in the #1 ratings in the market for their daypart.)

This is the second high-profile suicide here in two months, the first being John McClure, chef at Starker’s Reserve, about to open a second restaurant and arguable, at the top of his game as well.

And for the second time, I read comments from people online and winced. Sure, there are always assholes trolling around. But I have to say, for anyone out there who calls someone’s suicide “selfish”, let me gently try to convince you it’s the wrong word. I started to write this last month, and pushed it aside, telling myself it was too personal, it wouldn’t make a difference. But I’m not going to care about that part, because frankly, it’s too damned important, and it’s too damned frustrating to see another good person get sucked under by the undertow of pain.

There have been times in my life when I’ve known that pain, where the depression, self-hatred, bleakness all swirl together and try to drown you. I can tell you that in those raw moments, it is truly moment-to-moment. The pain is excruciating. The mind plays tricks, tells lies, and you are in a free fall into the abyss. There’s a reason the Greeks invented The Furies – mythical demons that chase you and hound you until you can no longer live. I come by it honestly. My father told me of times in his life, when he had the barrel of a shotgun in his mouth, tears streaming down his face, as he looked at death and saw it as a viable alternative to how he was feeling. Depression is not something that can always be overcome by force of will or temperament. There are many types of depression, there are just as many treatments. What I’m sick of is the accusations – or worse, silence – that surround the depths of depression in this country and the judgment and misunderstanding that cause it.

And this time of year is the worst. Expectations don’t match reality. Memories of people we’ve lost loom larger in the doorway, the hole they left behind seemingly infinite. Everyone expects happy, magnetic people to always be happy and magnetic. It’s hard to live that prescription every day – and unrealistic. People can tell you that you have everything to live for, even make you lists, but when the pain is so great, you can’t hear them. You can’t give credence to anything, because those people don’t fully comprehend how worthless you actually know yourself to be.

This is the best one-line summary of what suicidal feelings are like that I’ve found:

Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain.

This summation, along with some really sensible advice for anyone who has suicidal feelings, can be found HERE. Want to talk to someone? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Want even more resources? Here’s a good place to start.

Does this mean Don’s wife, co-workers should have done something, could have done anything to change what happened? No. But until we remove the stigma of what it means to be depressed, until we are all better educated on what to do or what to say, it’s worth taking thirty minutes out of your week to do a little reading, possibly challenge some ideas or beliefs that keep you biting your tongue, or telling yourself it’s none of your business.

You wouldn’t tell a man with a broken leg to “walk it off”, would you? You can’t tell someone who’s depressed to “just get over it.”

Goddammit.

Dear Don, You were part of my mornings, your cranky rants and willingness to laugh at yourself resonated in me, and so many others. I wish to hell we could have reached you in time. I’ll never forget meeting you (forgive the bad cameraphone picture below), and I’ll hope that somehow, some way, in some strange twist of fate, that losing your light can somehow save someone else from following you into that terrible, terrible darkness. You are missed. More than you ever believed possible.


Two blurry people. They look happy, right? Sometimes you just can’t tell.

Kansas City: A Love Letter

Dear Kansas City,
Thank you for being the most welcoming city I’ve ever known. I moved here fourteen years ago, and granted, I’ve never lived outside the Midwest, but I have to say, you had me at “Hello.”
Because that’s what people do here. They say “Hello!” or, like I was just greeted at Price Chopper by a fellow shopper on Thanksgiving Morning, “Happy Thanksgiving, you have a great day!” and even if you’re in line at the bank and you can’t remember the name of the movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone and it was sci-fi, what was it? The couple in the car next to you will listen to your question without a strange look on their faces, and answer, “Total Recall?” and smile and wave and laugh as you exclaim happily, “OH YEAHHHH!”
I’ve lived in a tiny town, where my father knew before I even got home that I’d left the gym during the basketball game and went to a classmate’s house. I’ve lived in the frozen tundra of the Twin Cities, still dear to my heart, but the Norwegian spirit is strong there, and everyone is a lot happier if you stay at arm’s length and just talk about the weather..if you have to talk at all. I even did a short stint in Des Moines, which is probably a great place to be white, straight, married and work in insurance, and a couple years in St. Louis, where it’s more important to know what high school you went to than what you accomplished since you left that chapter in your life. St. Louis was probably the loneliest city for me – at least the arm’s length of Minnesota was less present in my social circles there, and many of my college alumni were there, providing something of an instant connection.
So then I came to Kansas City, where people were friendlier than I’d seen before, and a co-worker (Greg!) invited me to a party with his friends, and another co-worker invited me to her party, and you had the sense that this was a city that was comfortable in its own skin. Nobody needed to see your pedigree, know what your parents did, determine if your job was successful enough to be part of their circle. Spotted someone on the outskirts, looking like they want to come in? Pull up a chair, friend. There’s plenty on the table. We’re not fancy, or elitist, or consumed with fame or movie stars. We like a matching track suit, maybe a nice watch. Comfortable shoes, thanks. We’ve worked hard to get what we have, and we enjoy -and take pride in- the fact we’ve got a nice assortment of international and national companies who call this area their home. (Sprint, Hallmark, H&R Block, Cerner, Interstate Bakeries, DST Systems, AMC Movies, Crayola, Bushnell, HNTB, just to name a few.)
Despite the fact I hated small-town life and the nosiness and sameness of a small circle of people, I love the fact that Kansas City “gets smaller” every year. I know the name of my favorite bagger at my grocery store. I can walk into a restaurant, and run into someone I know. Faces grow familiar. The sense of community is strong. Yet I can look out our big picture window, see only a giant hackberry framed in the stark November light, and feel comfortably isolated from the rest of the world. We’re tried and true, salt of the earth, perhaps kept in check by our Midwestern roots, open to new …everything. People, tastes, foods, stores, adventures, all of it. I met my husband here, we’ve raised our dogs here, built a community of like-minded friends who love tomatoes and (or) knitting, loads of memories and experiences intertwined with this location.

So when I heard this piece on NPR the other morning, talking about the profitable & successful Sprint Center as a contrast to the stadium woes currently being felt around the country due to the NBA lockout, I felt a lot of pride in this town where I’ve put down roots. People I know through the internet sometimes dismiss our midwestern style, they eye our jeans and college sports sweatshirts and think to themselves how quaint we must be, as they pat us on the head and mutter, “Fly-over country.” What’s funny (and keeps us from punching them) is that they don’t realize we know they think this. And because we were raised to be self-sufficient, hospitable and arguably, stoic, we just bite our tongues, and tell them to pull up a chair, join us at the table, while they wait to get somewhere seemingly more important.

Busy News Day

Good News: Most of the recycling had already been taken out by my husband, leaving me with one bag of trash and some recycling I had in my car.

Bad News: Asshole people walking their dog(s) didn’t pick up their dog’s shit, which I squarely stepped in, as I took out the trash.

Buried News: I did not notice I had done this.

News with Foreshadowing: I returned to my car, and as I started to drive to work, I thought I smelled something. Something very bad. Very very very bad. My brain puzzled perhaps it was a skunk. The one part of my brain that was apparently functioning on all cylinders puzzled back why we hadn’t smelled it when depositing the trash.

Newsflash: Shit on my shoe. Had to be. Oh god, there’s a big leaf also stuck, and it can only be one thing gluing that to my shoe: shit. Shit shit shit shit shit shit.

Feature News Piece: I am driving, and it’s trash day. There are people out and about, and I hang a sharp right into the northern part of our neighborhood, desperately looking for a spot to pull over, exit my vehicle and rectify this HORRIBLE SITUATION. I didn’t want to pull in to a driveway, and I needed to pull over, but not in front of a house where a car was in the driveway, or where someone was walking out to put out their trash. Commence mouth-breathing. Drive by friend’s house, discover I have not gone this way in a long time. Finally find a suitable spot, get out, start scraping and hopping about in a generally disgusted manner while waving arms wildly that can only be accentuated by the bell sleeves I’m wearing..

Breaking News: The beep of a car horn sounds behind me. Oh fuck, what now? Oh hai. It’s my friend Robyn, with her daughter. They slow and ask if I’m ok. (of course I’m ok. but I’m NOT ok, oh, lord.) I stammered something about dog shit and bodily harm to those who don’t clean up after their animals and after determining I was only crazy in the sense I’m always crazy, they went on their way. I grabbed Wet Wipes from the back seat, and attacked my shoe, as well as the pedals. GAH.

Slow News Day: Arriving at work, I could only splutter. I then spent ten minutes washing my shoe, five more minutes washing my hands, and went on with my day.

Headline of the Day: Sushi lunch. Yum.

Leisure News: Get out of work a bit early, come home, turn on television, and five minutes later, something is definitely wrong with the tv.

Bad News: The tv is fucked. Internet search turns up a common problem. Holiday tomorrow, no options.

Good News: Said tv was purchased from CostCo, prior to the change in their television return policy. Locate scanned receipt. Note to self, somewhat smugly, this is why giant box has been in storage. Call store and get confirmation that television is, indeed, returnable for a full refund.

News Wrap-Up: Collapse in heap. Revive, pull out tiny flat screen tv and hook up to various components. Band-aid, at best, but it will do. And a whole lot better than the dog a-poopeh on mah shoe.

Resiliancy.

I had been chatting with a a sales rep friend a while back, muttering about our equally long careers in this business. We’ve been through the ups & downs – employed, unemployed, good employers, less-than-good… In that conversation, I said, “Glen? You know what we are? We’re resilient. No matter how many times we get knocked down, challenged by what life throws our way, we just get back up and keep on walkin’.” And that’s really what it’s all about in the end, isn’t it? How we choose to act in the face of adversity, and the graciousness with which we accept the bounty that is earned and given to us.

I started my new job last week. You always have your first set of challenges – how do I dial the phone? Will I remember anyone’s name tomorrow? And then the real work begins, and yes, I’m in the early glow of New Job! New Challenges!, life is good, I love the work I’ve been given to do, and am going to be working with a great group of people – at my job, my clients, and my vendor partners. On that first day, I also got a curve ball: my uncle -I haven’t seen or spoken with in ten years- called to ask if my mother was with me, because she was missing. Had been missing since the previous Wednesday.

Long story short, her drinking had escalated. Now, mind you, the parents I grew up with? Rarely over-indulged in alcohol. Everything in moderation. I could count on one hand the number of times I’d seen my mom even tipsy. I knew that her drinking had increased as their marriage declined, and there had been a rather dire incident after the divorce, where her consumption of 750ml of vodka left her hospitalized with a 0.48 Blood Alcohol level, and at that time – 10 years ago – I got her enrolled in Hazelden, working with her hospital social worker, but in the end, she wriggled out of it. I threw my hands in the air. We’re stubborn, both of us, but I’m smart enough to know when the effort is wasted. If there’s one thing I learned from my own childhood, it’s that you cannot change another person, no matter how hard you try.

This – this was something new. My uncle was worried, and I quickly became worried as well. She was reported as a missing person. Endangered to herself. Somewhere out there with her car, and a cell phone that had been turned off. No bank account activity. No word from a single friend back home.

The days went by. Conversations with a Chief Deputy, confirming the national APB that was now out. Paperwork was filed to begin accessing her credit cards, hoping for some sort of indication – anything – that would tell us she was at least alive. I’ve never been through something like that before. I hope I never have to go through it again. Staring at pages online of other faces, people who vanished and gone for years, wondering if this was the future for me. Fearing a terrible accident, so devastating her car had left the road and was hidden in a thicket somewhere, somehow invisible, was she hurt, was she dead. Was she dead. Would we ever know.

Thankfully, last Sunday, a sharp-eyed cop in a nearby city spotted the make and model of my mother’s car, in the parking lot of a motel. Ran the plates, got a hit. Found.

Eleven days, ten nights. Sounds like my dream of a vacation, preferably in Tahiti. She spent it in a blackout, ordering food and pouring alcohol into her body. I feel strangely detached, just writing and sharing that. It’s in sharp contrast to the high anxiety from last week, that’s for sure. I don’t know who that person is, the one with a car full of beer cans and wine bottles, driving drunk and risking her life as well as others’. It’s not really detachment, I suppose. It’s the fortress I built long ago, appearing out of the mist. Reminding me that I put up these walls to protect myself from a different dynamic. And even from that distance, I do love her. I wish things could be different, of course, but right now, her journey needs to focus on herself. She was hospitalized, agreed to enter rehab, and yesterday, she entered a facility where I hope she can start her life anew in different direction. I feel old. Older than her. Older than everyone involved in this. Perhaps because I see my utter powerlessness. There are only so many times you can try to do the work for someone else before you see you’re carrying water in a sieve. I quit clocking in next to Sisyphus a long time ago.

That said. If anyone can do it, it’s her. After all, she was the one with the indomitable spirit my whole childhood, digging in her heels, getting back on the horse that threw her, no job nor mountain too big to be tackled. I hope she can find that resiliency and optimism she so carefully cultivated in me.

Me? It’s been a rough couple of weeks.

But I’m good. It’s good.

Many thanks to be given.

Much terrain to survey.

Miles to go before I sleep.

Hook, Line & Sinker

The Wo and I went to Red Snapper for dinner the other night, before heading over to Starlight to see the Night Ranger, Foreigner & Journey concert. It was more of a “listen”, since most of the original band members are long gone, but they’ve gotten good replacements and all the songs sounded just like they did on the radio, 20+ years ago. Journey, of course, was the most fun – lots of tunes that take you back to being young and clueless, though I think “Don’t Stop Believin’” is now associated more with the Sopranos than anything else. It was bittersweet, because I listened to Journey’s Greatest Hits album a ton after my dad died, so even though I had the association of songs with being in high school, I also had the correlation to driving around and crying. Anyhoo, it was nice to have my husband’s arm around me as the crowd swayed, real lighters were held up to the sky, and we all sang along to those familiar songs.

But back to dinner. I opened my fortune cookie first, and it said “Happy news is on its way to you.” I read it aloud, said something to the effect of “That’s good,” and waited to hear what the Wo’s was. He opened his, read it, and then said, “You will be the bearer of happy news.” I was like, ZOMG! That is SO AWESOME! And he studied his for a little while longer, and then tossed it down.

I eagerly snatched it up, because if that was not a picture opportunity waiting to happen, I don’t know what is, and immediately my brow furrowed, because I could see his fortune had a LOT more words than what he’d spoken. “Dude. What the hell. That’s not what your fortune says.”

He didn’t even realize I’d fallen for it! But I had. While he laughed, I explained, earnestly, why I thought it was SO EPIC, and yes, I was disappointed because, DUDE, the universe was saying HAPPY NEWS IS COMING, and while I don’t put much stock in fortunes or horoscopes, I was entertained that we would manage to get such symbiotic messages.

Alas, it was not to be. But, I’m ultimately an optimist, and I’m also pretty confident – so I actually know some good news will be coming my way really soon, and if a slip of paper wants to echo that sentiment, excellent.

I realize I’m a slacker with my blog. I think part of me was surprised to discover people read it? I mean, I know my friends sometimes read it, my husband keeps up, family does here & there, but after several people told me randomly they follow my blog, I realized I started writing (and not writing) with the audience in mind, deciding how much I did (and usually didn’t) want to share. I guess that’s the thing about blogging, huh? You go out on the front porch & play your banjo, and you just don’t know who-all is listening. Most of me doesn’t really give a shit, but the part of me that’s been stepped on, blindsided and where the memories of the personal hurts reside? That part has held me back. It’s not about work, really, it’s not about politics – it’s just…. finding the balance of giving, taking the time to find the words, deciding if something’s REALLY that funny, or did you just have to be there?

But then I look over my shoulder, at even just the past few weeks, and I think, ok, haven’t blogged about the Caffeine Crawl. Haven’t told you about how I went to prison this summer (just visiting!), haven’t chortled at the misfortune of those who deserve it (well, ok, maybe that’s one of those things I shouldn’t share…too often.) Sometimes I want to use my blog to twist the knife, because if you’re really still reading it, I want you to know I think [your baby is ugly] [your husband thinks you’re nuts] [you’re the reason you’re unhappy] [man I can be a bitch]…. ha! So I edit myself. It’s the long pauses in my head, the ones that took me so long to recognize and hear, that say “Don’t say that out loud.” or “Maybe just let that go.” But typing those things out sure did make me laugh.

Maybe that’s all part of it, too. The Wo and I have been together over 11 years. We have thousands of inside jokes accumulated, and it’s one of the elements of our marriage that I treasure – we know how to make each other laugh, we know how to prank each other, and it’s never done with malice.

And it’s why, as we were standing side-by-side under the stars, singing “Faithfully” in a sea of 8,000 people, that when we got to the part in the song where he sings, “I get the joy of re-discovering you…” I started to shake. Wo was alarmed a bit, at first, thinking perhaps I was having an Emotional Outburst. But instead, I was shaking with laughter, thinking of our dog Tripper, who, whenever we pull out the couches and chairs and unearth the bones of days gone by, seizes on one with great gusto, and as only this dog can do, rockets it all the way to the back of his jaw and rolls it while biting at it, resulting in the stupidest dogface ever, combined with a crazy rattling sound of bone-hitting-teeth repeatedly. The first time it happened, James said something about them rediscovering the bones, and I immediately started singing, “I get the joy of rediscovering bone,” to that very Journey song. Because that’s what we do, song-association, all the time.

The girl can’t help it.

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