Stuff: My Head Was Getting Full

Greg Allman died. That made me cry. I’ve been a fan for most of my adult life (translation: since Mark and I have been together as adults because he’s a HUGE fan) and that’s part of why I cried. I knew how it would affect Mark. And Matthew. Matt sent Mark a note on FB saying, “This isn’t real, is it?” Of course, it was.

The Day The Music Died played in my head – when Sweet Melissa and I’m No Angel weren’t. The music didn’t really die. Just the musician. Taken down by the same insidiousness that took many others. Others with names like Joplin, Morrison, Hendrix, Cobain, Cornell, Jennings.

Waite.

What do I hate about addiction? Is it that it’s selfish? That it is a form of entitlement that doesn’t just destroy the one addicted but entire families, communities even? Yes. Of course. I hate that it disguises itself as pleasure and peace. I hate that I love that pleasure and peace.

Am I an addict?

Probably not but maybe so. I have the genetic predilection certainly, on both sides. I remember being at an Al Anon meeting once and voicing my frustration.

“Isn’t there someplace I can go where this shit doesn’t exist?”

To a person, those in the meeting with me either shook their heads or simply said no. Take away the alcohol, the drugs and what is left to be addicted to? Food, sex, work, shopping, money. Obviously it’s not the substance at fault. It’s the behavior patterns. And we all have them.

Am I an addict?

I have been, yes. I have displayed addictive behavior driven by everything from hormones to the lack of them. All the kids at home to the kids all moving away. Euphoria to depression. Not enough work to too much work. Not enough choice to everything laid out before me like a banquet. No ice-cream in the house to an actual banquet.

My latest dilemma is stress at work and sleepless nights, both of which, of course, feed on each other. In my first half-century I could count the nights I was unable to sleep on one hand. This does not include infant/child induced lack of sleep. Those were a given and had nothing to do with not being physically and psychologically able to let go of wakefulness. No, the latter is something that was saved for me until I was lulled into a false hey, this getting older thing might be okay, state of mind. Kids are grown, hot flashes are easing, I see freedom calling up ahead sort of thoughts were roaming playfully in my brain.

Then the next section in the manual opened itself up to me and revealed that those hormones I used to have do more than just all those other things I thought they did. They also helped me to sleep.

Apparently they’re gone just like said slumber.

I, literally, lay awake all night long.

It happened once. And again. Then again. And more regularly. I started taking half a Benadryl at night get to sleep but it didn’t always work, so I’d take a whole one. Sleep was deep and as long as I took it fairly early I could drink enough coffee in the morning to wake up for the day. Which became a problem in itself because I really don’t have a large coffee capacity. One or two cups are the maximum and it always took a third to shake the antihistamine blues, which, in turn made me shaky and a little dizzy. Then the antihistamine stopped working and I became pretty frantic. I cut down on coffee, upped my water intake and spent a couple of days and nights trying to get my shit together so I could sleep when I was supposed to sleep and be awake, you know, when I was driving and working and stuff. I went to my doctor who offered me Ambien or something like it. Non-habit forming, of course. Such an ironic, bullshit claim. Perhaps the drug itself is non-addictive but if you, like – everybody – are a fan of sleeping, the drug becomes your habit. There’s no way around that. Also, there are some pretty severe side effects with Ambien.  My two favorite, upon reflection are hallucinations and sleeplessness.

I’ll just let you mull that one over.

I took a pass.

My doctor was okay with the half dose of antihistamine but concerned that I took it within an hour of having a night-cap consisting of a shot (and probably a half) of tequila. I told her my liver wasn’t completely happy with me either, but the tequila helped me fall asleep and the antihistamine kept me asleep all night.

That’s important – the all night thing. Some of my worst times have been when I wake up from a sound (sober) sleep in a full on panic because – for no reason at all. Anxiety is in full swing with no warning and no solution and by the time I’ve reached a state of I’m actually not going to die horribly at this very moment I’m wide awake and pissed. And still anxious as I go over every single thing that is/could be/was yesterday/might be tomorrow – wrong in my life, Mark’s life and the lives of my children, grandchild, mother and brother. I have, at times, scooted over to cuddle with Mark but that wakes him up because he knows, even in his deepest slumber, that I do not like to be touched in my sleep. We have lines of demarcation in our bed that may not be breached once I’m in lala land. When the kids were little it was this way because one or more of them were there nightly and there was barely room to breathe. Then it was hot flashes. If I cuddle up to my poor hubby, he knows somethin’ aint right and will wake up ready to take on the world in a way only certified morning people are able to do but it’s the middle of the night so we’re both screwed.

……….Or so I told my doc.

She said, again, that perhaps the Ambien would be a better choice. I said, again, no thank-you.

I have an aversion to relying on medication. I mean, if I had to take something because I was diabetic or had epilepsy it would be different – and I have taken meds for PTSD (long story there……well, really not so long, but for another time) and depression. There was a start date and an end date in sight with both, so I wasn’t quite as concerned. I became addicted to nose spray once. Started taking it when I had a cold and didn’t get off it for two years. The thing about nose spray with a decongestant/antihistamine is that, besides making one look sexy and attractive when shoving it in one nostril then the other and taking a deep huff each time, it makes your nasal passages more open than they would ever be naturally. When you try to stop taking it cold turkey you don’t just get a stuffy nose. Your nasal passages slam shut like there’s actual gold in there to be protected and you can’t breathe through your nose, nor can you swallow because you can’t breathe through your nose. Try it. Plug your nose and try to swallow.

My father was addicted to nose spray. He became ill and was in the hospital where an idiot doctor overdosed him (that one is a long story) with a medication his body basically had a bad reaction to. He was in a state of unconsciousness for such a period of time that we truly thought he would not make it. During that time he could, of course, not take his nose spray. We watched as he struggled to breathe. His suffering was incredibly difficult to witness and inspired the aversion I spoke of earlier.  After Dad recovered I went to my doctor for help in ridding myself of the nose spray. She said, simply, to use it in one side or the other as often as I needed until the side that wasn’t getting any assistance unplugged, then stop using it on the other side. She said it could take about three weeks. I was off it in less than two and felt so free and, well, stupid for not figuring this out much, much sooner.

Now, to get back on medication and have to depend on it for something that should come as naturally as sleep? No. I couldn’t see it. Still, if I was honest with myself, it was six of one and half dozen of the other in the drugs vs. alcohol category.

Am I an addict?

Probably. But I’m an extremely particular one, if so.

I stopped taking the antihistamine a few weeks ago. The long term effects started to rear their ugly heads. Moodiness, increased day-time anxiety, depression – they came on fast and were difficult to control. I cut out sugar at night, back on coffee in the morning, cranked up my water intake and am gradually settling into a more restful pattern leading up to bed time. Basically I’m a three-year-old again. Who gets a jigger of tequila and a Coronita nightly if she wants.

I’m not giving up all my fun.

I sleep better, for the most part. Electronics are banished to drawers and other rooms. TV is off and the temperature is cool. I’m dreaming again which means I’m not taking myself to an oblivious place and when I wake up it’s just slow and cranky like it’s been from the time I was a child. Not groggy and “why did I take the stupid antihistamine again,” the way it had been for a few months.

Am I an addict? I have addictive tendencies – just like most people, I suppose. I’m on guard, though. I mean, everybody has to die from something but I won’t go because I drank/smoked/shot up/snorted my internal organs to death. That hurts like hell. That hurts everybody like hell and it’s hard to get over. Some people tend to obsess, even.

Can one be addicted to making sure they’re not addicted?

These and other insane questions will be covered on the next edition of “Shit I write down so my head won’t explode.”

<Insert eye roll here>

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Catching up…..Life as a Badass

Dear 23 Readers:

Oh my gosh, it’s been a long time since I sat down to write an update. I’ve been thinking of you, though and decided today is the day to reach out. There’s been a lot of change lately – nothing negative – just different. My mom is selling her house and that’s very emotional for all of us. It’s definitely time. She and Dad bought it 27 years ago and it is the “stable” home my nomadic children have known. We’ve moved so much and 1141 N. Nielson has been the port in many storms. We had Easter dinner at Mom’s and realized it will probably be our last holiday in the house. Matthew (#4) and I sat by the pool and started to talk about it but tears threatened and I am way too macho for that crap. Mark and I found out, recently that our good friends are moving back to Boston due to a job offer. Then, at work, we promoted my assistant manger to store manager at a different location. Which means a promotion for my key holder and hiring someone new for her position. Which means I have to talk to and play well with others I just met….. See? All good stuff, but change in the people in my peripheral and that always freaks me out. <sigh>

In other news, we camped Easter weekend with the fam. Part of it anyway. Loran (#3), Matthew, Kache (grandbaby) and Mark and I headed out for the last desert camp of the season. Lots of fun. A little too much tequila Saturday night after Kache fell asleep. Matt played guitar and I may or may not have sung “How Great Thou Art” acapella, at the top of my lungs, around midnight.

#momsdrunkrealizesitseasterandhastodosomethingreligious
AKA
#youcantakethegirloutofthechurchbutyoucanttakethecatholicoutofthegirl

Kimmy(#2) and her husband, Matti (note the i at the end of the name as I also refer to #4 as Matty and we try not to mix up the two. It’s worth noting we also have two Brandons – #1 as well as my nephew Casey’s husband, Brandon – differentiated by the spelling of their middle names Jeffrey for #1 and Geoffrey for nephew Brandon or by referring #1as Bubba or to Nephew as Nephew or Uncle Mooney, referencing somewhat dated family redneck jokes. Don’t ask.)

What the hell was I talking about?

Oh! #2 and Bodington went to England on a vacation I am openly envious of. They’ve been all over the place – South Africa, Ecuador, Japan – and that’s lovely, but England is on my bucket list and they got to go to Hogwarts and have high tea and see the Queen and Prince William. I am jealous.

It’s later now.

Pops left for New York (more change). Mom flew with him and will hang with family and friends that still reside in the frozen north. Her house sold, things are moving along nicely at work and my assistant moved on to his own store. <sigh>

Due to all the above mentioned change – not to mention the state of the world – I’ve been somewhat grumpy and have been making an effort to take myself out of a negative state of mind. I tend to be, by turns, cynical, annoyed, snarky and bitchy simply out of habit that is exacerbated by watching the news or Saturday Night Live and getting the latest Trump update. The negativity is like a cassette tape that’s on repeat in my head, when basically, I’m a very nice person.

Ask around.

What got me thinking about my own state of mind was Brandon’s. Admittedly, his is a bit of a challenge to me as he is Mr. Spock and I am a cross between my Aunt Gertrude, Karen on Will and Grace and the old bat Shirley McClain played in Steel Magnolias.

Don’t ask.

Anyway, one of Brandon’s favorite comedians is George Carlin. I get it. He was a funny guy. Sardonic, ironic, brilliant, fast and – largely negative. While I understand it is a comic’s job to point out the irony, etc., in daily life, depending on who they are and what their style is, things can get really dark. Carlin’s style fell into that category. I mean really, really bleak. So if Mr. Spock is listening to this guy who speaks the “truth” and does it loudly and in a somewhat angry voice, how exactly is that going to affect Mr. Spock?

Well, I don’t know. But it’s not good for Brandon.

For instance, Brandon is Agnostic. Fine. It’s his choice and frankly I don’t think God cares either. I mean, really, if God is all powerful and good and whatever, he knows Bran’s mind and heart and could really not give a shit less if #1 goes to church, a baseball game or the living room couch on a Sunday morning. However, Bran has been getting adamant about it. Even a little belligerent. And I’m like, “Dude, what? Okay. You don’t believe in the religious God. I’m good, and seriously, Supernatural is about to start. Please don’t get in the way of my Sam and Dean time.”

Yesterday we were on our way to an appointment in BFE and Bran brought his George Carlin CD. I listened for about 15 minutes, turned it off and looked at my son.

“Jesus, no wonder you’re half crazy over this crap,” I said. “You’re living your life based on the gospel according to George freaking Carlin.”

Thank God I know how to be subtle.

“You may not believe in the stuff written by whomever claims to be the scribe of God in any given part of the Bible, but please please give the same discriminatory once over to Carlin’s material. This is his schtick. You get that right? He was apparently one angry fu—.”
“Mom!”
“Sorry, but jeez! All this time I’ve been worried that you’re gonna end up punching pro-life marchers in the forehead or telling little old Mother Theresa look alikes that they’re full of sh-uh-baloney because you don’t believe so much and it was just a stupid recording of George Carlin warping your good sense!”
“Well,” said my completely unimpressed by my rant son. “If you look at things logically, he’s right about almost everything he says.”
“Perhaps if everything was black or white, but the gray areas count, Bran.”

There was more, but it got me thinking about what I listen to and what floats around in the space between my ears. In Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose, book I read and re-read endlessly, Eckhart Tolle talks about the ego and the recording it plays in our heads. A constant diatribe of discontent and negativity. We’re always something whether it’s annoyed, irritated, entitled, deprived, anxious, resentful, victimized – made up stuff that keeps us enslaved to negative feelings. Some of it, of course, can very well be rooted in real events or needs and wants, but most is habit. Think about when you’re driving and someone zooms in front of you. It startles you and you immediately decide that person did it on purpose or without any thought for you so they are suddenly the enemy and you can call them a worthless ass hat or perhaps a douche lord. Or a freaking jerk or a f&^$ing a$$hole…….. I digress.

I read something in the Buddhist Bootcamp blog that said (paraphrasing) You are not stuck in traffic. You are traffic.

Sing it with me : e – PIPH – any.

Of all the things that annoy me, it annoys me most that I am them. (That one is mine)

My point is not to demean anyone’s space. We are where we are. And I would never suggest that anxiety and/or depression are a figment of imagination. I’ve been there with both of them and for whatever reason they might exist for someone, they’re real as hell.

So are the voices.

Just kidding.

For the daily, though. The recording that plays over and over – maybe we could change it up. It’s surprisingly easy to do. The first step is to realize your ego is a separate entity from who you truly are. Your ego believes the guy cut in front of you in traffic ON PURPOSE to RUIN YOUR DAY. Sanity tells you he, like you, is just trying to get where he is going in one piece and he did a bone-headed thing. Maybe today you can refrain from telling him how many ways you’re going to eff him up when you get a hold of him the next time you see him on the freeway. Perhaps when someone walks into your store to ask directions or for something you clearly don’t sell you can summon a smile, even though they’re the 73rd person to do so, and give them the information they need instead of the finger.

Do you get where I’m going? Away from the edge and today I’ll take you with me if you want. Tomorrow I may be calling you for a lift.

Next up: Depression and Naked Disco Dancing.
……………My second cousin, once removed asked for advice, via her Facebook page, regarding something she could do to channel some extremely negative energy and (as I read it) sort of clear her space. I didn’t answer at first because, though I’ve come to think a lot of her and I adored her grandmother (my first cousin, once removed), I don’t know her well and it felt presumptuous to offer said advice.

I know. She asked. But my answer was a very personal one and it felt strange putting it out there.

Like I was naked.

Then she posted again, expressing surprise at the number of constructive suggestions she’d received when she sort of expected irreverence. SC chose a couple of the suggestions and shared her plans to follow through on them, but there was no irreverence. No silliness. No outrageous behavior to upend the blues. I responded thusly:

You wanted something irreverent? I’ve got it, I think. During times when life overwhelmed me, when sadness curled me into a fetal ball of fear under the blankets in my bed, behind closed and locked bedroom doors, my husband – whether reacting from concern or just not knowing what the hell else to do – marched in, turned on Donna Summer or Gloria Gaynor or The Bee Gees and told me to dance. I said “I’m naked under here.” He said, “Perfect! It’s pretty hard to take anything seriously when you’re dancing naked to ‘I Will Survive!'” I protested. I bitched. I cried. But he wouldn’t take no for an answer. So just to get rid of him I danced. Naked. To disco. There was some serious stuff bringing me down. Those dances became my fuck you to losing my mind to them. Irreverence matters. Do the constructive things you’ve mentioned but grab some irreverence as well. That’s just for you.

Just for you.

And, so you see, I was naked. And it was frightening. Not that anybody saw – except me. And nobody cared – even me – which was weird because we all know exactly how vain I used to be.

Shut up.

When I danced I discovered a kind of freedom that I hadn’t known since I was a child. It was a letting go of energy that children know instinctively how to release. As we grow into adults and buy into the trade offs that life inevitably brings – you know – make the deals to get the stuff, I think we tie up the instinct piece by piece and sell it, accidentally, for shit we never needed in the first place. It takes a level of consciousness of which most 12 to 30 year-olds are unaware to say no more often than not. And, frankly, I thought I’d said no. A lot. I thought I was pretty Zen. However, I forgot – or more likely – ignored the fact that pretending the deals I was making weren’t, in fact, deals and stuffing fear and anger in my “I’ll deal with that tomorrow” file like I was Scarlett O’Hara isn’t the same thing as being fully centered.

As if “fully centered” actually exists on this plane……

Adulting is hard. There’s no way around it. I knew it and I believed it. I just didn’t make room for it. And so, in that first summer and fall we spent in New York, when I was away from my two oldest daughters and my mother and Mom had cancer and I was still reeling from the loss of my father and I hated my job and Matthew hated me because I’d gone back on my word never to move one of my children from their home during high school and all of that didn’t even scratch the surface of the guilt and grief I was carrying from years of deals, I curled up in my bed one day and thought – well I stopped thinking. I was afraid to think. Or feel or move. I was afraid.

Which is where Mark and Donna Summer came into play.

It wasn’t the last time he found me that way. The first time wasn’t the last time I danced. And I still make deals. But I make them more fully aware of what I’m doing. There’s less idealism involved but there’s also less fear. I traded the need to have everything in its place for learning to live in the moment and be thankful for it. I traded wanting everyone to like me for liking myself. I traded religion for faith and I traded feeling like a victim to living like a badass.

I know what you’re thinking. Doesn’t she sell sunglasses? Yes. I do. But what one “does” isn’t what makes one a badass.

I dated a guy in college who was, in every sense of the word, unavailable to me. It’s okay. It was my pattern as a commitment-phobe to choose those whom I could not have – which is a story for another time. With the advent of social media, this person and I crossed paths again five or six years ago. It was hey, how are you? Tell me about yourself…… We caught up a little and that was it. Except for one thing. He said to me, I’m happy to know you’ve lived a joyful life.

I hadn’t told him that. I mean, we’re basically strangers and I certainly didn’t reveal anything deep. I had a moment of what does he mean by that? Was I not joyful back then? Is he judging me? Which sounds like pure egocentric paranoia.

You’ve met me, right?

But once I dismissed Blanche – which is what I call my egocentric personality in honor of the character immortalized by Vivien Leigh in the movie Streetcar Named Desire – I was able to take the compliment for what it was. An impression given. My aura. It’s basically who I am. Really am. When I look at the things I’ve been through in my life – the good, the not so good, the horrifying – and know that who I am now, at the heart of it is the same happy, loud, curious, open, joyful being I was as a child and that all of my personalities get out of bed every single morning – THAT makes me a badass.

I’ll bet you just figured out you’re one as well.

It’s been lovely catching up!  I’ll try not to wait so long before sitting down to write next time because I have been known to go on and on………..

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Any More Questions?

Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States on Friday. It was one of the saddest moments of my life.

I marched in the Women’s March on Washington, in Phoenix, on Saturday and got over it.

Since then there has been, on social media, a plethora of photos and videos of the marches all over the world. The speeches, the chants, the singing, the sheer size of the crowds have been awe inspiring. The atmosphere at the marches has been, without exception, positive and empowering. I was, during the march and the hours I spent in the company of thousands of women, men and children, swept up in the positive message of love and equality for everyone. So, when I saw the posts from some women who were confused and angry by what they saw as anti-Trump rallies I was shocked. I was tempted to answer their posts in kind but decided to answer their question instead.

Why did I march?

I marched for my three daughters and my niece because there is legislation being drafted that, if passed, will take away their right to make reproductive choices that should only belong to them. I marched for women of all income levels who, if the current administration has their way, will lose access to affordable health care.

I marched for my son who has asthma because if the ACA is repealed with nothing to replace it, he will no longer be covered by my insurance till his 26th birthday. And that policy that he hopes he can get through his employer (he’s a musician and a part-time bartender) will no longer be available because it’s only available due to the ACA. Even if he could afford other insurance, he might not be able to obtain said insurance because he has a pre-existing condition.  His meds? $900.00 a month. Each. He needs three of them.

I marched for my other son who is disabled. Arguably the most marginalized of all the marginalized. If cuts talked about by the current administration are acted upon, his great big whopping food assistance allowance and his SSI will be decreased even further as will his medicaid insurance. He wants to return to school. Grants? Yes. Cut. Did you know that all references to the office of the ADA have been taken off the White House web site?

I marched because we elected a man who thinks it’s okay to speak about women in a way that degrades them as people. I have dealt with misogyny since I was in 7th grade and two boys wrote a poem about me that started out, “Tits or no tits. That is the question.” When I protested to the teacher I got detention. In my first job after high school – at 17 – two men in their 20’s used to corner me daily for a “Lorie sandwich,” then proceeded to discuss how said tits looked that day. When I reported it to my supervisor and then the owners of the business I was told to “get along with people,” and, “boys will be boys.” One of those “boys” is now part of the Wyoming state legislature that is trying to pass a law that makes it illegal to punish a business for discriminating against someone if they are offended by that person or their “lifestyle” (e.g. gays, lesbians, transgender, interracial couples, disabled people..…) I was fired from a job when I was 24 because one of the supervisors made a pass at me and I told him I wasn’t interested and, in fact, was offended by his behavior. Two weeks ago, after assisting my sales manager and me in thwarting a would be thief, a police officer walked up behind me and ran his hand across the back of my shoulders and down my arm and told me to take good care “hon.” He shook the hand of the 23-year-old man who works for me. Make no mistake. These are only a few of the stories I could tell and they pale in comparison to what some women have dealt with. I – we deserve better. So I marched.

I marched for my nephews, married in October. I marched for their son, born a week ago. The current administration is intent on putting an ultra-conservative on the Supreme Court to pave the way toward overturning gay marriage rights. Though my nephews would still be married in Arizona, thanks to the forward thinking citizens who had the intelligence to make marriage legal for all, who knows what would happen elsewhere? Love is love so I marched.

I marched because I believe in building bridges not walls. I live in Phoenix and I love the cultural mix of the southwest. I am open to refugees. Yes, I want to be safe but holing up in our country in a nationalist militarized snit (and acting like other countries are going to pay for it) won’t accomplish that.

I marched because I believe that between Putin, gerrymandering and voter suppression this election was rigged. I never understood how important local elections are or how important correct zoning for the districts is before now. There are more democrats than republicans in this country. How did we lose?

Gerrymandering. Google it.

I marched because I understand now and will help make the next election different.

I marched because we are killing our home, our planet and I want to help turn that around. Because climate change is not a left wing conspiracy or a Chinese hoax. Believing in science is not a plan to sabotage anyone’s religion. Nature is my church and the fact that I belong to the earth, not the other way around reminds me that there IS something bigger than myself and I owe it to future generations to preserve the only place we have to exist.

I marched because I – we – had to start somewhere and by God we did and it was magnificent! I marched with my friend Toni in Phoenix. Her sister, Shirley, marched in Durbin, South Africa. My childhood friends Pat and Chris marched in Minneapolis and Washington, respectively. My cousin Calley marched in Los Angeles. We marched with women, children and men of every color, sexual orientation, level of ability and religion. We marched as one out of love. LOVE. We marched because SOMEbody and to DO SOMEthing.

So we did. We marched. Now we move on. 10 Actions in 100 Days. The first one is at Kimmy’s house on Thursday.

Any questions?

 

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It’s a Process

In the wake of the 30th anniversary of my marriage I thought I’d write about what makes a good marriage, but more than a month has passed since the momentous occasion and as I put hands on the keyboard in the hundredth attempt at doing so, I find I know very little. And I know everything.

Conundrum anyone?

People who’ve been married or together for decades will tell you though. The truth as they know (or don’t know) it.

Why stay together?

Love?  Yes, of course it’s love, but, really, what does love mean?

I don’t know.

But I do.

Therefore I have no advice to give and I could go on all day, giving you thousands of tips on how to formulate a lasting relationship that will bring you happiness and fulfillment. Or not.

I read once that spending a lifetime with one person goes against the natural tendencies of human nature. Taking into account some of the humans I spent time with when I was in the dating world, I totally get that, but even given the propensity of people to pick the wrong human, I disagree.

Look. We are basically alone on this carnival ride known as Life.  I, personally, have been confused about almost everything from inception. That I met someone when I was 11 years old and have loved him from the start seems like the way to go if at all possible. I mean two heads are better than one, right?

Not that there haven’t been hiccups.

There was that time when I was 13 and standing on stage with my cousin and brother, in the gym, prepping for a talent show performance. Mark came strutting in(and those who knew him back then will be able to visualize this as well as I), his arm around his girlfriend and greeted me across the room with a, “Hello beautiful.” My father, who’d been sitting facing us, heard this, stood up and turned around slowly with a murderous look on his face. (Those who knew my father will be able to visualize this as well). I thought it was all over right then.

Thanks Dad, for not killing my future husband.

There was the time when I was 15 and expressed my love for Mark via a letter and he said, “yeah, thanks but no thanks, jail bait.”

Fine. He was sweet and kind but the result was the same. My ego and my heart were shattered.

There were the weddings. Ours. To other people. Ironically, in the same year. The marriages lasted about the same amount of time as well – which is to say not long.

The hiccups our first few years together came rapid-fire and left us both wondering why, when we had loved each other for so long at that point, it was so difficult to meld our lives. I mean it’s not like Mark thought he knew everything and I was stubborn to a degree most commonly documented in mules. What attracted us to each other sometimes repelled us and many times in those early days the thing that held us together was the thought that if one left, the other would be alone and at the mercy of the short people we were so good at creating.

I can’t say that the hiccups ever stopped. I mean, it’s life. Somewhere in there, however, we found a groove and I can sum it up in one word. Communication. We talk and it depends on the day, month, year, millennium, moon cycle – whatever – who talks the most. I mean, you’d think it would be me simply by virtue of the fact that it’s me and, obviously, I talk a lot. Granted, some of those conversations are between me and, well, me, and the diatribe is pretty much never ending, let me tell you, but no. It’s not always me. Mark has a lot to say as well. That means one of us has to listen, which is harder. When Mark and I were first married I’d pour my heart out about a frustration, hurt, anger – basically I just needed to talk. He’d listen for a while, sum things up for me and offer a solution. Then we’d fight. I’d tell him he wasn’t listening and he’d tell me I was out of my mind because that’s all he’d done for however long we’d been sitting there. It took years of practice for him to understand the difference between problem solving and listening. It took years of me listening to him for me to understand that his intentions were good. He wasn’t trying to shut me up.

It was a classic Mars/Venus thing.

Now we set aside time for just talking and just listening. Sometimes we spend days that way. Sometimes we cobble together a few moments because our schedules keep us apart.

And that’s hard because we like being together. We’re buddies.

I remember when it dawned on me how much I love Mark. I mean, I always knew I loved him. But that all-encompassing never want to be without him ever again and can’t remember a time when it wasn’t that way thing. That you’re stuck with me now dude, so don’t even think about trying to get away, realization that had nothing to do with the five children, mortgage and car payments we’d racked up.

It was around our 15th anniversary and it came to me that almost all the memories I had were of Mark. Or if they weren’t of him, they were made within the time I knew him.

And it didn’t scare me.

I had been the one afraid of commitment in the beginning. I had been the one to run away. I had been the one who could not believe that another human being would love me just for me and that all I was required to bring to the party was – me.

I was enough and he was enough and around year 15 the realization dawned that I believed it. I guess what I saw was the difference between the beginning and the present. I slowed down long enough to pay homage to the process that was us and to acknowledge the beauty of life and this extraordinary gift of love I’d been given and was still allowed to participate in…..

…..And then a kid threw up or threw something at another kid and as quickly as the first 15 years passed, another 15 went by.

We are now entering a new phase with freedom involved that we have never experienced as a couple. It’s so new, in fact, that we’re not quite sure what to do with ourselves, though we’re determined to figure it out, one adventure at a time. Nude beaches have been mentioned but the reality verses (my) fantasy has us sticking with hiking in Montana – fully clothed – and sitting on beaches where everyone is at least strategically covered.

I, personally, am so jazzed by this phase, it’s almost hard to process. I feel like a grown up – like someone who is ready to explore a part of life I didn’t think I’d ever experience.

I feel open.

Believe me, I was not even close to the neighborhood where open lives when Mark and I started out, let alone knocking on doors that might actually do just that. It’s another gift choosing to build our relationship has given me. Given us – because Mark was fairly walled of as well. We learned and earned trust that has, more than anything else, released our hearts, minds and souls and enabled us to progress together and as individuals.

It’s a process has become our watch-phrase and it is a process we cherish. It is a relationship we nurture and never, ever take for granted. We have been married for 30 years, together officially for 32, in love for 40 and friends for 44. As much as I’ve learned and as little as I know, I realize fully how special that is and how blessed Mark and I are.

So, to answer your question. Wait. There was no question. It was my proclamation of how to stay married and do it well.

I have no idea.

Or, at least I have no road map.

Honestly, it’s a process, is the best I’ve got. Let it be a process and stay in the moment thereof. It’s kept Mark and me sane. Or at least together. And if we’re together and happy, how effing important is the sanity?

I’ll let my kids write that chapter in another 30.

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Big Sister/Little Sister

I’m watching (sort of) The Parent Trap on TV. How many years and times have I seen this movie? Between the original, which I adore, and the remake I want to say dozens. I just saw the scene (from the remake) where the first twin is flying to London to meet her mother and she whispers a prayer that her mother will like her. It makes me think about my sister, Michelle and the first time she came to visit us. I was 16 and she was 18, I believe. What must it have been like to meet a totally new family? I was ridiculously excited. From the time I was small, my mother told me I asked for a big sister. Not a little sister, though I think I’d have dug that as well, but I requested, very specifically, an older sister. I remember, clearly, the longing for this person I knew belonged in my life. So when Dad told Mike and me about Michelle when I was eight, I was thrilled, though I did advise him not to tell Mom because it would hurt her feelings if she knew. Dad smiled and assured me that Mom was well aware, which was all it took for me to be on board with getting to know this sibling I really knew I already knew (know what I mean?), but I had to wait.

Dad had agreed to let Michelle’s step-father adopt her when she was small and we were not allowed access to her. Ever. Which my Grama Reenie told me was bullshit. Okay, I added shit, but she was right. It was. And it didn’t matter what Grama and I thought. We were out. Until Michelle was 18. Which is when I sent the first letter to her, introducing myself and the fam.

When she decided to come and visit us I was excited to a degree that pretty much defies description. I wanted to go to the airport to meet her but Dad reserved that for just him. I understood to the extent possible for me as a teenager. Really, though, all I wanted to do was bring this girl for whom I’d been waiting all my life home so we could get on with the business of being sisters.

And we were sisters! And we did get on with the business thereof! Oh my God, we were – and are – so much alike. Our voices, our personalities, our likes and dislikes, mannerisms, resting bitch faces – SO much alike. Our faces don’t look the same, but we share expressions and features from our father that leave no one in doubt of the blood connection. That first visit we talked and talked every, single day and night until we were exhausted, trying to catch each other up on our lives because we both knew we should have been living those lives together. Each ensuing visit brought on the same kind of glee. We reveled in being together and our joy was palpable.

We were sisters for 38 years until I had to let go of her.

She didn’t die.

She just didn’t mean it when she said she wanted to be my sister. Or something.

Long story.

Sad story, really. God I miss her. Every day I miss her and I still long for my big sister the way I did when I was small and longed for the person I didn’t even know existed. Michelle just never needed or wanted me in the same way.

I guess.

I don’t know, honestly, why she couldn’t commit to a relationship with me. She’s worse than most guys I dated. There were full years I would go with no communication from her. I wrote, called, and with the advent of the internet and cell phones, emailed, texted, tagged on Facebook and private messaged. And Michelle responded. Sometimes. A little. But that thing. That thing that sisters do where they just talk – just pick up the phone and call for no reason, or a reason that means something only to them, that thing that means you have an inexplicable connection that means the world and more to you and you protect it and nurture it because having the other in your life is extremely important? Yeah, that was apparently just me.

It’s not as if she was unfriendly. She just – treated me like the second cousin you hear from every now and then and are happy to hear from but could do without. I stood it for, literally, decades, hoping she’d come around. I begged, cried, pleaded, yelled and begged some more for her to tell me what was wrong, what I’d done.  Dad said something? What could we do to make it better? Her answer was always, always the same.

“It’s not you, it’s me.”

Huh.

I just don’t understand, I’d tell her. When we’re together there is nothing we can’t say to each other. It’s almost like we can read each other’s minds. I love you for so many reasons but one of them is because you instinctively know me in ways nobody else ever has! I know you the same way! You know this. Why, why do you shut me out when we’re not physically together?
“I don’t know,” she’d answer. “Don’t be hurt. I don’t mean anything by it.”
Is it too much? I will understand if it is. Am I asking too much?
“No, you’re not. I’ll do better.”
You don’t owe me anything! If we are to go forward with our relationship, let’s just actually have a relationship. You don’t have to “do better.” Just tell me what, if anything, you want.
“I just want us to be sisters.”

And then we’d go six months or a year and I wouldn’t hear from her. I’d back off, thinking if I did she’d eventually call or write, but no. Nothing.

A couple of years ago I hit a wall. Not a mad wall. I wasn’t bitter. I was just done and I let her go. I wrote her an email saying as much and telling her I loved her and that I’d always be here with an open heart if she wanted to be in touch. She got really pissed and started saying mean stuff.

Ironic. I beg her for decades to talk to me. She refuses. I try, over the same decades, to form a relationship. She refuses. I walk. She tells me what an asshole I am.

I’ve always suspected that the truth of the matter was that she never got over my father “giving her up.” Then, when they met again, I have a feeling their relationship never lived up to what she wanted it to be. That first day, when Dad picked Michelle up at the airport, it might have put closure on the sadness that still lingered for him.

Pretty sure it didn’t for Michelle.

Her adoptive father, Tom, never stopped reminding her, as she was growing up, that she was not really his daughter. That shit has a tendency to sting, then linger like a scorpion bite. It’s all a long and complicated story, though I do believe Michelle and Tom made some peace before he died. I don’t know for sure as I had already taken myself out of the picture. Not that I’d have been privy to their business. Michelle was pretty much ignoring my existence the last couple of years we were in any sort of contact, hence my somewhat belated exit. I’m only guessing from the pictures I still have access to through my mom’s Facebook account because she and my sister are still “friends,” which affords me the ability to stalk – I mean check on her.

Maybe, if Dad had been able to make a deeper connection with his oldest daughter, things would have been different. I don’t blame him. Not for giving Michelle up for adoption or for the inability to reconnect. He allowed Tom to adopt her to give her a better chance at a stable life with two parents who were around all the time.

As for reconnecting, Dad hated people.

But not her.

Not Michelle. He loved her as much as he could and he did his best for her. I would bet a lot that it wasn’t enough. And that’s not a negative toward her. It’s simply a wound that never healed. I suppose it was hard for her to feel like she was really my “sister,” if Dad wasn’t really her “Dad,” and that hurt. All of us.

It was easier to relegate me to distant cousin status.

I still love her. I still, every now and then, imagine what it would have been like for us to connect on that level I more than likely idealize. I see my sisters-in-law, though, and they adore each other even when one wants to kick the other’s ass. My daughters share sister codes and secrets I will never get to understand. My friends on Facebook post photos of outings and trips with their sisters and I tear up, wondering why that couldn’t have been Michelle and me.

Do I still hold out hope? Maybe. No. Not really. My sister is a very stubborn woman and I pissed her off pretty good.

My intention was never – and I mean never – to hurt her. I only wanted to stop my own bleeding. I loved this woman on a soul level and for whatever reason, she couldn’t return that love and indeed, at times seemed to go out of her way to, if not wound me, then damage any potential we had as family.

And I just couldn’t watch her life unfold from the sidelines any longer. It wasn’t that I finally realized I deserved to be treated better. I’d been saying that for years. My epiphany came in the form of knowing I had a choice in the matter. I could say, enough.

I am sure Michelle has her side to this story, but here’s the thing. I asked her, for 38 years to share that side. It wasn’t until I stood up for love of myself that she started to tell me and then it was in the form of insults and accusations.

Brilliant in a way. It was the last play of her game. She pushed me away for almost four decades – trying to fuck up our relationship to the point where I’d have to walk away. Like Dad did in her little girl mind. The differences are obvious if one can reconcile the child with the adult and to my knowledge, Michelle never has. It took me 40 years from the outside looking in. Would that I could see my own shit so clearly.

I miss her.

I miss her laugh and her sharp as hell wit – oh the sarcasm! I’m sure we were twins in another life. I miss the reflection of myself in her and being her mirror back. I miss the discovery of how we differed as well. We have different mothers, after all.

Well.

Enough of that, I guess.

It’s more letting go.

As I write about Michelle, I feel again the connection we had – will always have – and the pain of separation is fresh.

For me.

At least.

The little sister.

 

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Filed under Daily Life, Memories

Poof! Anxiety is Gone… or something… And I do not have ADHD… Yet

I have spent the last week with an old acquaintance named anxiety.

What a jerk.

He comes over uninvited, makes himself at home, doesn’t explain the reason for the visit and commences to wreak havoc. I did what I could on my own then threw up my hands and called my good buddy, tequila. We sipped a shot together and my stomach untwisted enough for me to get my shit together and show anxiety the door. The problem is, anxiety has his own key.

And we all know tequila can’t stay forever or he turns from the solution into the problem.

Like I always, eventually do, I started the backtracking inventory, researching and figuring out why my head seems to be so far up my – uh – why I’m anxious. Is it psychological, physiological, work-related, stress-related? Am I not getting to the gym? Am I not saying no enough?

For me, anxiety is almost always self-induced by the mythological I-can-do-it-all syndrome that affects women from 9 to 90. I work full time and have a lot of obligations, just like millions of my sisters around the globe. Is it menopause related? I don’t know. I can’t tell you what point of menopause I’m in because there’s no map supplied by life – thanks God – and we will be discussing this later….. I have a mental picture of me saying these things to God and God sitting at his laptop reading them, eyes going wide, clapping his (we’re going with ‘him’ as no woman would ever do to herself or another female what menopause does) hand over his mouth to smother naughty giggles…….

Yes, I personify The Almighty as a 13-year-old nerd, pranking womankind.

Sometimes.

In this case.

It’s a testament to how close to the edge I can get when desperate for answers. I mean, come on. I can’t walk around with my heart in my throat all the time. It makes me grouchy as hell. Neither do I want to be zonked on Benadryl constantly. That stuff makes me cantankerous after a while too.

<sigh>

……….I went to have my hair colored yesterday.

Not cut. Just colored.

I’ve never split my appointments up before, but because I waited until the last minute (read three inches of roots) to schedule them, my colorist and stylist couldn’t be booked on the same day for a month out. I took what I could get, which was a color appointment right before Mr. Smooshy Kissy Cheek’s Kindergarten Moo-sical. I was sure I’d have at least 45 minutes between completion of the appointment and the start of the barn show. Plenty of time.

And I don’t know what my colorist was doing with her time but I felt neglected. She put the foils in my hair, had someone else wash the color out (which is normal). She put toner in, plopped me in a chair and I never saw her again.

I sat, waiting, for long enough that I wondered what the hell was happening. There was a brief moment of fear in which I remembered the girl who does my color was a classmate of one of my daughters and said daughter told me they did not get along – in fact the words “can’t stand,” “mean as hell” and “such a b!#ch” might have been thrown around. However, as that was 10 years past and the “mean as hell” girl is nice to me, does fabulous color, and it’s my hair, #1 agreed sucking it up was in order. But – had my colorist suddenly remembered the animosity between them and decided to take it out on my hair?

I tried not to panic. It wasn’t as if I could just leave. There were mysterious chemicals on my head, of which I was (and am) completely ignorant.

I took deep breaths and watched a girl sweep the hair from three different stations, empty it into the garbage and take the garbage outside. She then came back, introduced herself as Maddy and said she’d been sent to wash and blow dry my hair.

Okay.

Everything was good. Normal.

The speed at which Maddy moved was neither. It took her five actual minutes to comb out my hair and 32 actual minutes to attempt a blow dry. I knew she was a student and learning and was fine with that – unlike the student in the teaching hospital where Kimberly was born…… I made it clear, at that time, to my doctor that I wanted no residents anywhere near me. Brandon’s birth had been a horrible ordeal, during which we both could have died and I wanted nothing but seasoned professionals around for the birth of my second child. So, when the unfamiliar doctor came in to check my progress during labor I asked if he was a resident. He said yes. I said how happy I was to meet him and that he should take the goddamned glove off because that hand was going nowhere near my cervix…….. But this was just hair.

“Just hair.”

Seriously. 32 minutes.

At minute 20 I told Maddy how much I appreciated her efforts but was in quite a time crunch.

“Oh, of course,” she said. “I understand schedules.”

At minute 30 I released a sigh that sounded more like a growl. Maddy just continued on with the little, tiny section of hair she was drying.

“May I ask a favor,” I said at minute 32. “Give me the dryer. Just hand me the dryer.”

I grabbed it, flipped my head over and had the top of my head, which was literally still wet, dry in about 30 seconds. I mean, Jesus, it’s the desert and I have fine hair. Unless I’m standing out in the 100 degree sun and am in the middle of a frigging hot flash, it takes me, at the very most, 10 minutes to dry and style my locks.

Finally all was well.

Then I saw it.

In the middle of my head there was basically a big blonde mass. A forelock so brightly colored it looked like a bald spot.

“Is everything okay,” Maddy asked nervously. She reached toward my hair.
“Don’t touch me,” I said. “I’m going to use the restroom, then pay and I have to go. I’m late.”

I walked away and reached the bathroom right before I burst into tears because damn it, now I’d have to think about my hair and that’s my one rule. I don’t want to have to think about it. I get it cut and colored three or four times a year and I don’t have to think about it otherwise. But now I would because there’s a big blonde bald-looking spot right in the middle of my face…………

………And it’s a couple of days later…….. I’ve calmed down and had my hair washed and cut and the “spot” is blended and makes sense with the style……. Sort of……..

Maybe I’m just too picky. Maybe it’s wrong of me to insist that my hair look more like my natural color from 25 years ago and less like a photo of Bonnie Raitt.

Does anyone get that reference?

If you want to feel old, make jokes around people in their twenties. One of the guys at work started complaining about his hair the other day. Because it resembled Greg Brady’s from The Brady Bunch I said, “Oh calm down Greg. You’re getting it cut this afternoon, right?” His face was completely blank.

“What? Why’d you call me Greg?”

I had to explain the joke and show him a clip from The Brady Bunch. He’d never heard of it.

And just in case anyone wonders, google photos of Bonnie Raitt.

Later I was on break and scrolling my Facebook feed. Sean Hayes had posted one of his lip sync videos and I was watching it and laughing. Another of the babies who works for me asked what was so funny and I said I was watching a Sean Hayes lip sync video.

He gave me a blank stare.

“Sean Hayes,” I repeated. “You know, Jack, from Will and Grace.”

Same stare.

From somewhere in my brain I heard the words, fire him.  Instead I threw him a nasty look and told him to go back to work.

Almost everyone with whom I work is younger than I.

And it’s okay. I don’t mind. Most of the time.

It’s just…… Well, if there’s any levity it almost has to be on their level because it’s one thing for me to stay current but if we have to go back in time, I have to give history lessons and we all know I have no patience for that crap. I mean, I know Will and Grace has been off the air for a while but….

Oh God. I am a dinosaur.

Seriously. I just looked up when Will and Grace was on the air and I can’t believe it’s been OFF longer than it was on.

What about Friends? BRB

12 years off the air!

<sigh>

So my humor, my newest humor, is at least ten years old because, seriously, I don’t think much of what’s on now is funny. I like The Big Bang Theory and Amy Schumer, but Vine and Snapchat? Ugh. Olivia will, every now and then, find me in a weak moment – I’ve just gotten out of bed or the shower and can’t move quickly enough to avoid what I know is coming – and force-feed me six and a half second videos that she swears will simply tear me up with laughter.

They don’t.

I’m sure some are funny. I just haven’t seen those. Yet. Because my daughter insists we keep on trying. And because it puts me in close proximity with my youngest, I agree.

But they’re not funny.

Karen Walker is funny. Lucy and Ethel are still funny. Barney Fife is still funny. That big, dorky guy who does the Chrysler Pacifica commercials – Jim Gaffigan – is hilarious. So I guess, if you count him and Amy Schumer, I like current stuff.

Over 30 stuff.

To each generation their own.

I remember when Mark showed a clip of Robin Williams Live On Broadway to his father and Pops very calmly told us exactly how unfunny Mr. Williams and his crass, profane brand of humor was. Pops hates swear words. Robin Williams used them liberally. Mark and I use them liberally – unless Pops is around. I tone it down then. Mark, not so much.

I’m a lady.

See. That, right there, is funny. If you know me.

And the kids at work are getting there.

They laugh. At me. When I dance. And trip. And am myself. And I laugh back because – because it’s just the best thing and –

Then.

Poof……….

……..Anxiety is gone.

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Filed under Daily Life, Lady stuff......, Parenting

#iamhappy

I didn’t know the little boy, only of him, through his grandma and pictures on Facebook. He was the most photogenic child I swear I’d ever seen and that’s going some, coming from a mother as captivated by the beauty of her own children as I’ve always been, though I know I’m quiet about it……..

Sam Lee’s grandmother was my mother’s first cousin. Mom’s favorite on her mother’s side. Marlys, Sam’s great-grandma, actually, was one of the happiest, kindest women I ever knew. One of the strong women who’ve touched my life. She was unfailingly glad to see us when she visited, as if we were something special, and to her, we were simply a very blessed, happy fact of life. I suppose it’s no wonder, then, that her great-grandson would inherit her amazing outlook and carry it further.

Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma or DIPG is an aggressive, terminal form of brain cancer and before we go any further I’m going to tell you that Sam Lee died from it.

Yeah.

I thought I might lose a few of you right there.

But those of you who stayed must know I have a moral of the story, so thanks.

It’s brave of you.

Honestly, in my own life I’ve had way too many of those, “I don’t know what I’d do if that happened to me,” scenarios actually happen to me or someone in my immediate family. Therefore, reading about the heartbreak of letting go of and losing a small child would be hard to bear. I wasn’t going to. I “liked” one post about him on Facebook and offered up prayers and love for his family and intended to move on.

But – there was Marlys. She just kept smiling and going on with her life in faith and in love – with her daughter, her granddaughter and her Sam.

I was kind of captivated.

So I stayed connected a little by liking the page We Love Sam Lee. On the page I learned about Sam’s mom, Erin, his dad, Michael and his twin sisters, Mae and Ada. About their journey.

Erin writes their story beautifully so I won’t paraphrase. I’m going to copy and paste:

“The reality

On July 26, 2013, our two-year old son, Sam was diagnosed with an aggressive, terminal brain cancer called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). It didn’t take long for us to learn that funding for the research and treatment of childhood cancers is bad. Really bad. For every dollar raised by the American Cancer Society, only a penny goes toward battling childhood cancer. Pharmaceutical companies fund about 60% of new drugs to treat adult cancers, but they rarely fund drugs for childhood cancers because they are not profitable. The lack of funding means there are few drugs being developed or approved for children. In the last 20 years, only one drug has been approved by the FDA to treat childhood cancer.

The best medical treatment doctors could offer would only give us a short amount of time with Sam: typically 9-12 months. We decided to spend it making memories with him and his twin sisters, Ada and Mae.

The turning point

Soon after the diagnosis, a friend started an online fundraising campaign to help our family take some special trips with Sam. The average gift was about $25, but these small acts of kindness added up in a big way. Through the generosity of family, friends, acquaintances and perfect strangers we were able to take 16 priceless trips with Sam and our girls, traveling more than 30,000 miles together.

We were so grateful and inspired to see this outpouring of support. And we were even more surprised to see the big impact even small donations could make. So we decided to use this discovery to make our mark in the fight against childhood cancer by creating With Purpose.”
Just to be clear, I am not stumping for funding for childhood cancer or anything else at this time. I simply wanted to give you a snapshot of a family who decided to say yes to Life and truly live and enjoy and be happy in the moment. This little boy, from the age of two, travelled with his parents and his baby sisters, on trips of a lifetime.

His lifetime.

They went on 16 trips and inspired countless people to give not just of their time and money but their hearts and souls as well. Their strength and joy was always – and still is – evident in the photos and stories posted on Facebook. Their pain and sorrow I didn’t know because I was a spectator and allowed to keep a distance.

Sam died earlier this year. He was five.

I did cry then because I am a mom and a grandmother and weeping and praying were all I could do to begin my own healing process and send love to Sam’s parents and sisters.

Erin shared a moment – one of the last she had with her little boy – in which she asked him what she could do, right then and there, to make him happy. He looked at her, “surprised (she) had asked and said, ‘I am happy, Mom.’”

Which is, of course, that Moral Of The Story I was talking about.

It’s what I aspire to. What I wish for all of us.

To live in the moment, loving ourselves and those around us. This is how Sam (and Erin and Michael and Marlys and Ada and Mae) inspired me.

So, yes. I say yes. I am.

Happy.

#I am happy. Sam Lee

I am happy.

If you are so inspired, I invite you to check out the With Purpose Facebook page.

 

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Filed under Daily Life, Parenting