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Winter, particularly these two weeks, are very difficult for me. It seems especially hard this year. I am heavier than I have been. My depression is thick. My back hurts again. I am having a hard time remembering to be grateful for the wonderful things I have and that I’ve recently had an amazing trip to somewhere lovely and warm. And that in itself makes me sad.

When I trudged up the stairs from the bus station yesterday, as most I do most days, I came into Union Station (a story in itself). There are two remaining original benches in the new version of this place where I used to find such solace. On bad days, like yesterday, I try to lower my stress levels for a minute by sitting on one of these benches and just soaking in the spirits that still remain from thousands of travelers who passed through this building for over 100 years – including my own grandfather.

As I watched the light flooding through the high, round, window, a Cat Stevens song came on over the piped-in music. I think it was “Morning Has Broken”. I remember hearing that song when I was in the sunny front window of my first restaurant at 17. At that time, I knew where I wanted to go to college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew where I wanted to go. I was a little slip of a thing, a dancer. I was looking forward to my future, even though I couldn’t see what it was

There was a line in “Out of Africa”, one of my favorite movies, that says, “Perhaps God made the world round so we could not see too far down the road.”

I believe that.

I never thought I would be living in Denver, would have been here for over 30 years. That wasn’t in the plan when I stood in that sunny front window that afternoon. I wonder when I lost track of the plan? I wonder if I ever had a plan? MKL and I were talking about this the other day – how I have a hard time with creating a plan and sticking to it, especially when I have more than one thing to focus on. Together, he and I are building a plan, and that feels good. I never thought I’d be divorced, much less re-marrying. All of that makes me look forward to my future.

I watch my daughter planning her future – I think she’s better at it than I was, but then she’s more down-to-earth than I was. But I wonder, in twenty years, will she look back on being just 18, and having all these plans and dreams, and have achieved them? Or will she be like me, looking back and wondering, “What happened?”. If that’s the case, I hope she finds herself happy with where she is.

There’s that other saying that I love (credited to many) that “Life’s what happens when you’re making other plans.”

I believe that too.

So what’s the point of this ramble? I suppose it’s that when we are younger we cannot see our future, no matter how much we think we can or how optimistic we are. It’s great that we have that vision, but it’s a real challenge to make the vision a reality. I didn’t really understand that at 17. I do now. So that’s part of the point.

And the other part is that I am a gloomy otter and the eighth anniversary of my Mother’s death is next week.

I’ll find my light again. I promise.

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Little Cayman.

Sometimes silence is a good thing, and sometimes it’s not. The silence of a sunrise is a good thing. The silence of a loss is not. My daughter has been struggling with the suicide of a beautiful, bright friend, which is especially painful considering how she wants to help people. It hurts me to see her pain, when I can do nothing except be there. It was been 10 days now, and she is getting better but she’s still sad, which I reassure her is normal. She and I have both been sick. I have been overworking and not seeing enough of her. It is a hard transition into Fall. On a happy front, MKL and I have set our wedding date for next August at the spot in this picture, which will make everyone, including my dear departed parents, very happy.

I understand suicide. I have wanted to commit suicide. I have come achingly close. Only a promise to Kelsea has kept me from it. Depression lies, and one of the lies it tells you is that the world would be better off without you. And as a teenager, everything is so immediate that it is hard to see past the moment, past the pain, past the despair, to remember that yes, many people care about you, that you will have a bright future, that your parents will not ruin your life, all those things. I wish there was a way of showing every teenager who feels like this life is too hard that there is a future worth living for. If you are reading this, please, always remember that.

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Topsail Beach, North Carolina.

Quote of the day: “Some people are just not meant to be in this world. It’s just too much for them.” — Phoebe Stone

Daily gratitudes:
Love and MKL
Cleaning out the refrigerator
Wedding gowns
Tamara
Ice cold pillows
Mr. Man

Her Love

I watch your heart break from a distance
And there is nothing I can do.

Not.

One.

Thing.

When you were small,
I could cuddle you
And make you giggle
And kiss your tears away
And you would be all better.

Now, my touch at the sight of your tears
Makes you angry,
And the choices you never made
Are making you hurt.

It’s a pain we all go through.
You’ve seen it near break me.
And when it happens to you,
You think no one can know how you feel.

But we do.
We all do.

That doesn’t make it any easier.
I wish it did.

I so wish
I could.

Ashes
(for my Father)

The leaves still fall in November
carpeting the dying grass
beneath the oaks and magnolias,
each tree offering a
variation in the sound of footfalls.

Your footsteps are silent now,
only remembered,
only by me.

Our late afternoon Sunday walks,
sharp as the light edged past
the tops of the now-bare branches,
cradled in the arms of a seasonal death.

You held my hand
as I walked along the wall when I was small,
and carried me on your shoulders
when I grew tired.

Both of us older,
we would ramble for hours
talking of everything and nothing
until my nose and toes were chilled
and my fingertips hurt
from the dampening cool.

And still your hands were warm.
Always warm.

I cannot think of your hands being cold.
It’s a comfort in some strange way
that you are ashes now
and not lying in the cold earth.

It fits that you are ashes and air
As you burned to me
so bright and warm
all those years.

The Sower (image courtesy of Duke Photography)

I don’t think this is quite the right title for this post, but I’m struggling with how to express myself this time.

I am lonely for my daughter.

I am not generally lonely. I have a wonderful fiance. My niece is a great roommate. Thunder Cat is a good snuggle companion.  I have friends (if I ever reached out to them). But the loneliness of a parent for a child is a unique animal.  And the sense of missing a family unit is sometimes quite poignant – another kind of loneliness.

I have always been the one in the family who worked.  My ex was always the stay-at-home parent, even when I didn’t want it to be that way.  I missed a lot of Kelsea’s day-to-day growing up. I tried to make up for it by spending as much time as I could with her when I wasn’t working – except for the solo vacations to try to save my own sanity.

Now Kelsea is a teenager. We are going through the to-be-expected separation period. She spends most of her time with her friends. We still  have some small time together, but she stays at her Dad’s most of the time, because he’s closer to school, and getting her there doesn’t work very well with my getting to work. Some people say I should push to have her stay with me more, but that’s just not how we operate. We talk and text every day. She will be driving in a few months, and is so looking forward the her freedom. I remember that from my own teenage years.

But I miss the kid stuff. I miss our dedicated play time together. I miss our “famous chats” and our reading and snuggles and watching trashy TV and talking about anything and everything. I guess this separateion from the parent is a normal thing – just what happens when teenagers grow up. It must be preparing everyone for that day when they leave home and forge their own life, the one that you as a parent have been readying them for since the moment they were born.

Once you are divorced, and one parent is not with the child as much any more, the sense of a family unit dissipates like a wisp of fog. Gone also are those dreams you had, of being the proud parents seeing your child off to various milestone events, or attending school plays hand-in-hand. I am wise enough to realize that those visions, like many others I had, were more fantasy than lost reality – I know that by looking at the reality of my life within my marriage for almost 20 years.

Maybe I miss dreams that I never had a chance of fulfilling. Then again, I was always trying to fulfill those dreams on my own, even in my marriage, and not as part of a team. My ex and I, in hindsight, were never a team, never partners. That feels sad.

The tragic events that have happened recently in Colorado have made me all the more sensitive about how precious my daughter is, and how quickly someone dearer to you than the moon can be snatched away forever. In the blink of an eye.

I know Kelsea misses me sometimes. I know I miss her often. I know she sees the texts and Facebook messages I send her daily, even if she doesn’t respond, so she knows that I’m thinking of her always. We still have our mother-daughter traditions (she loves traditions) and we still carve out time for special things. But the days of being her best playmate, of her sitting on my foot and clutching my leg when I had to leave the house, those days are gone. And I miss them.

I loved spending what time I could with her in her childhood. It was like having my own childhood all over again.

I guess we all have to grow up. Eventually.

Kelsea with the whole world before her.

It was cold walking downtown today.

The snapdragons and the zinnias and the sweet potato vines were still blooming, but so were the red holly berries, starkly brilliant against their dark green leaves.

I felt…confused and unexpected. I had forgotten what wind chill was.

I felt 18 again.

But my trenchcoat is the wrong color.

My pockets were empty. Where were my gloves? The lady passing me had big black-and-white herringbone patterned gloves, and I complimented her on how fun they were. She smiled.

Tears spring to my eyes.  From the wind or the pretty spindrift of prose in my head or the memory of being 18.

At 18, I walked another city’s streets in thin, soft Indian-print dresses and bohemian shirts, like the one I wear today.

The coolie shoes that I wore then, regardless of the weather, have been replaced by cowboy boots, as befits this city.

I remember the endless Dr. Who-like scarf that I gave to my boyfriend at Christmas, a find from a Cambridge thrift-store now long gone.

As is the boyfriend.

And probably the scarf.

I like the direction my life is taking now. Despite the approaching winter, I am happy.

Having a teenage daughter makes you walk back into your own past. You see the things that she is going through and, if you are open, you can remember how you felt at that age, what you were feeling, how you reacted.  I was going to say “if you are lucky”, but I must admit that revisiting my teenage years, even in my mind, is sometimes a painful thing. Adolescence isn’t something that most of us would want to go through twice, at least not without the benefit of the wisdom we gain in our futures – and now, I WILL say “if we are lucky”.

I was a late bloomer. I didn’t have my first date until I was almost 16, didn’t have my first kiss until I was actually 16. (You don’t get any more details past that point, sorry.)  I was a miserable 14- and 15-year-old. I didn’t know why no one was interested in me. I wanted to believe that I was so pretty that I scared boys off, but my Mother told me that was not the case – she did it gently, but I still remember that conversation – exactly where we were and everything.  My best friend Sarah and I felt like we were wearing some sort of sign that said “Never been kissed.” And just like a lot of other things in life, if you didn’t have experience, no one seemed to want to take a chance on you. Sounds like trying to find a job, doesn’t it? Of course, the corollary is rather true as well – if you had too much experience, people weren’t really interested in you either.  Strangely enough, also like it is in the business world.

Anyway, as I said, I was a grumpy, bad-tempered teenager (until I could drive and then the world literally opened up before me. I became much nicer once I found my wings.) I didn’t want to be seen with my parents. I stayed in my room almost all the time that I was home, entertaining romantic notions of escape, and what my life would be like. I spent a lot of time in a dreamworld. The scarring experience of my pre-teen years likely played a role in this confused isolationism, and while I remember that, I don’t add it into the equation when I think about my teenage years in the grand scope of things. I guess I remember being a typical teenager.

Well, bloom I did, robustly and delightfully. I think most of us do, even though we think it will never happen. And once I came into my power, I felt invincible.  Sometimes I still feel that way. Invincible, yes. Loveable is a little harder to believe, but I’m making good progress on it.

As I watch my girl and her friends go through their teenage years, I compare my own experience to theirs, and draw up from the depths of my soul the turbulent emotions surrounding change, acceptance, love, hormones, justice, freedom, adulthood, social quandaries, sexuality, school, frustrations, and delights. I don’t know if I’m right in applying my own perspective to their situations, now some 35 years later.

But on some level, I think that young women are young women (even if those of my daughter’s age are a bit more worldly than most girls of that age were in the late 1970s), and that the emotions that swirl around aging haven’t changed. In fact, as I find my half-century mark rushing up to meet me squarely in the chin, I realize that I am still experiencing a myriad of emotions around love, escape, freedom, satisfaction, work, frustrations, justice, time demands, acceptance, and delights.  I don’t think of myself as much older than Kelsea or her friends at heart. I still feel things just as fully, innocently, and honestly as they do, as I did back then.

I was a late bloomer back then. Perhaps I’m a late bloomer now. Perhaps I am just eternally in bloom. But I am reminded of those lovely roses that bloom until early in the fall, their petals full and lush, their fragrance sweet. And when it is time for them to go, those petals fall like velvet tears, their scent still lingers in the air.

Photo of the day for January 30, 2012: Late Bloomer

San Francisco, California.

Daily gratitudes:
A lovely weekend
MKL
The man who leaves walks down Wynkoop every day playing his mandolin at 5:00 pm
Cases of San Pellegrino
Silliness

Instead of a quote of the day, I have a request: Please send prayers to Sarah Bennett, one of Kelsea’s friends who was seriously injured in a car accident during the weekend.

Last weekend, I took Kelsea and Uber-Cool Will to a rock concert.

Yes, I really did.

Uber-Cool Will’s parents had taken them to the Moody Blues at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in the beginning of the summer, but I’m not sure you can call that a rock concert.  I was surprised that the Moody Blues were still alive, much less still playing.  They had a good time, but it wasn’t exactly rocking, and they were more impressed with how much secondhand funny smoke they thought they were inhaling.

In other words, this was Kelsea’s first rock concert. She didn’t really want me to go, because who wants to go to your first rock concert with your Mom?  But there was no way I was letting two 14-year old loose in Denver’s Pepsi Center all by themselves.  And so it was take me, or don’t go at all – her choice.  She chose to take me.

I have never been a huge fan of concerts. The combination of extreme noise, too many people, expensive tickets, and bands that are often disappointing when they haven’t been mixed and spliced and torqued within an inch of their life have never added up to a fabulous experience for me.  I could probably count the number of rock concerts I’ve been to on one hand. And having come off of a blissed-out weekend of otherworldliness at Cottonwood Hot Springs, I was even less in the mood.

But Kelsea was super excited and couldn’t wait, so there was no way I was letting my lackluster enthusiasm color her world.  I dressed in my cool clothes, and the three of us were off.  Our goal?

The Foo Fighters.

I turned Kelsea onto the Foo Fighters during the Excellent Adventure Roadtrip.  It took her  a while to warm up to them, but now she loves them, especially because she adores the late Kurt Cobain, and Dave Grohl used to be Nirvana’s drummer, so being in the same space with Dave was as close as she could come to being in a room with Kurt. I just liked a few of their songs.

We were totally in the nosebleed seats, but it was all I could afford. While the Pepsi Center claimed to be sold out, there were definitely some empty seats when things were getting started. Perhaps that’s because we started promptly at 7:00 pm with an unanounced warm-up band: Mariachi el Bronx.

We found a mariachi band, in full sombrero regalia, to be an odd choice for an opening act for a quintessential rock concert.  But a bit of research shows that Mariachi el Bronx, hailing from Los Angeles, is actually a punk band disguised as a mariachi band. Sometimes they play punk (as “The Bronx”) and sometimes they mix mariachi and punk – they consider both to be part of the soundtrack of Southern California.  We got pure foot-dancing mariachi and some bafflement, but I truly enjoyed them.

The second warm-up act (do they usually have two? I have no idea) was Cage the Elephant. If you too are unfamiliar with this band, their style is considered “slacker funk-punk”.

Who knew? All I can say is, there was an enormous amount of screaming and hair shaking, combined with some flailing.  Honestly, it was the first experience in a long time that I could say truly made me feel old. Totally not my thing. I found myself dreading the rest of the evening, wondering how I was going to be able to sit through another two hours of noise, and trying to find my zen.

Kelsea and Uber-Cool Will had, in the meantime, moved to the empty row ahead of me, so as not to be completely associated with an adult, and to feel more like they were on their own. Fine by me. I could still poke either one of them whenever I felt like it.

And then the Foo Fighters took the stage.  As I said, I liked a couple of their songs, but Cage the Elephant had really dampened my enthusiasm.  I am happy to say though, that it didn’t take long for my attitude to turn around.  They put on a phenomenal show. Dave has a gorgeous voice, the drummer, Taylor Hawkins, is one of the best I’ve ever heard, and they were fully as powerful and amazing live as in the studio.

They played for 2 hours and 40 minutes, incorporating only a small break for introductions, and a small break (complete with backstage cam and bottles of champagne) prior to their encores, which included several solo acoustic numbers by Dave.  And by the way, Dave is handsome as the devil and I am totally in love with him in an iconic sort of way.

So I had a blast, and wished I had paid for floor tickets, and am ready to abandon my life and follow the Foo Fighters.  And Kelsea is ready to come with me.

She rocked it. She stood up during Cage the Elephant and started dancing, and never sat down. Not once in 3 and a 1/2 hours.  I am proud to see that I have taught her how to scream “wooooooo” from our many years at rodeos, and she wooooed with the finest.  In fact, her voice was practically gone by the time we left.  (Mine was gone the next day.)

She admired the instruments. She thought the musicians were hot. She sang along with more of the songs than I ever thought she knew.  She smiled. She glowed. She was in her element. The Foo Fighters are justifiably proud of their identity as a true rock band, and Kelsea is justifiably proud of her own identity as a rock connoisseur.  A true rocker.

It was some of the best money I’ve ever spent. I’m so glad I got to witness this joyful side of her, and that I could treat her to this experience.  And I had a pretty darn good time too.

Since I fell to pieces at the end of last year, my depression has been up and down, sometimes weekly.  I’ve made no secret about it on this blog.  It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.  But since the spring, I’ve had a really good therapist.  Therapy, if used properly, and with the right person, can be extraordinary.  If not, it’s just paying someone to listen to your problems, and a bartender or a cab driver can serve that purpose at a much lower rate.

I’ve had several over the ins and outs of my therapeutic career.  This one is different. This one is realllllly good.  Or maybe I am realllllly ready.  Or maybe a combination of both.  She challenges me, and she incorporates (and agrees with) my committment to the “Unseen”.  Between therapy and writing and introspection, I’ve been identifying – and resolving – some issues that have been lifelong millstones around my neck.

One of the things I’ve been to understand and work on – and it’s been a huge challenge for my entire life – is my lack of self-discipline.  On the surface, this seems rather ironic, since I have been disciplined enough to work and support my family and myself since I left home, with little to no help.  But in the last year and change, I am finding that  my inner motivation is lacking.  I become apathetic about exercise, about trying to be self-employed, about submitting my writing and photos for publication.  I’ve been lazy about things like housecleaning forever, but that’s all part of the same issue.

I told myself that it was because I wanted a partner, someone who would work with me towards a common goal.  That’s totally true and totally human, but I also have always thought of myself as a strong and independent person, which is why my lack of initiative is puzzling even for me.

Is it an issue of self-confidence?  Is it really laziness?  I know that part of it is that I was not raised with a lot of discipline.  No chores, no childhood responsibilities, not a lot of structure.  So it didn’t lay much of a foundation for planning, organizing, and even goal-setting.  And I don’t like that.  It’s holding me back.

And so, it’s time to do something about it. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life hoping my actions will carry me along the path I want – or just wanting the path along which I am carried.  One of the ways I tend to fail in this kind of thing is by making grandiose master plans and trying to take giant steps, then failing on the second step and giving up altogether.  So, it’s a matter of wisdom: wise planning and baby steps.

Perhaps I have talked about this before.  Perhaps I am all talk, no action.  All I can do is try.  But as Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.” So I guess all I can do is do.  If you don’t help yourself towards your dreams, the Universe doesn’t help you either.

 

A recent Freshly Pressed post, http://cold-glass.com/2011/02/21/what-was-your-first-cocktail/, made me remember the story of MY first cocktail, and this being Sunday morning, and I being charmingly irreverent, thought I would share the tale today.

When E-Bro went to college, he moved about four blocks away to a dorm on Duke University’s East Campus.  I was still a refreshingly innocent 16 year-old.  Back then, while you couldn’t really buy beer and wine at 16 (you had to wait until you were 18), it seems we did, because I remember sharing bottles of Riunite Lambrusco with various friends from time to time, and a picnic Sarah and I had at Duke Gardens one summer in which we had little bottles of pink champagne. 

At any rate, one fine fall day, E-Bro invited me to his dorm room after I was out of school.  Let me preface this by saying that we did not come from a family of drinkers.  My Dad had bottles of unique liqueurs gathering dust in the basement, and there were bottles of Boone’s Farm and Manischewitz in the basement refrigerator that would show up empty by the back door from time to time.  (Sheltered by the washing machine, when I was very little, I would tipple the dribbles in the bottom of the bottle in secret when no one was looking – yes, a lush in the making – and I liked the blackberry wine the best.)  I never ever saw my parents drink at home.  Not once, until E-Bro and I were adults, and would bring home our own beers and wines.  Even then, my Dad would only have a few sips or a small glass, and my Mom none at all.  But the tales of drinking with my parents are best left for another post.

So on this fine fall day, as I say, I paid E-Bro a visit.  Hard alcohol was not quite as new to E-Bro as it was to me at the time, but that part of his shady past is something I know little about, so we’ll just leave it in the shade, shall we?  I’m sure Erik Le Rouge could supply some background, if I wheedled it out of him.  (Wow, I do seem to distract myself this morning, don’t I? It’s not like I have ADD or something….oh, look, a chicken!  Wait, what was I saying?)

We visited a while.  Even though he was close to home and brought occasional friends and laundry by, I missed him.  As much as we had fought during our childhood, it was really hard for me (and for my folks) when he went to college.  I remember they snipped at each other ALL the time after he left, to the extent that, one morning over breakfast, I basically yelled at them and told them that I didn’t care if they were suffering from the “empty nest syndrome” because I was still here, he was gone, that was a fact, and to stop picking at each other all the time, or I would be gone too.  That shut them up, made them think, and improved things.  You have to understand that I NEVER spoke to my parents like that.  Now see?  There I went again.  Distraction action.

Back to our story….  Somehow or other, as we were listening to some ELP, E-Bro’s and my conversations came around to partying.  He said – and mind you now, this is what older brothers do, as all you little sisters out there well know – “Hey, I want you to try something.”  Words every little sister dreads to hear, but accepts with a brave facade and a resigned internal sigh.  He got some juice glasses (no doubt “borrowed” from the Student Union – didn’t we all do that?) and poured me the following:  a glass of gin, a glass of vodka, a glass of whiskey, and a glass of rum.  We’re not talking a full glass, but we’re talking about two shots per glass.  “Okay,” he said, “see which one you like best.”

And so I drank them all.  One by one.  And by the time I was done, I was pretty darn happy.  And pretty darned reeling.  And the whole world looked pretty darned good. 

I liked the gin the best. 

I was invited to several of his dorm parties while he was in college and I was still in Durham.  I drank a little (not too much), met some nice people, set some carpeting on fire, watched girls compare scars from their suicide attempts.  All fodder for other tales.  Sometime in E-Bro’s sophomore year, at one of his parties, I asked for my usual gin, and whoever was pouring said, “Whoa, don’t you want some tonic with that?”  I looked at him, most puzzled. “Tonic?” I asked, “What for?  What’s that?”

Yes, I had been drinking straight gin for over a year.  E-Bro neglected to tell me that there was such a thing as mixers.

I consider the whole experience early weight-training for my liver. 

I have since passed far away from gin, went through a whiskey phase, will turn to vodka as a coolant on occasion, and dearly love rum.  I’m pleased to say that, even with all the stress and sorrow of the last few months, I never drink alone, and I only drink once a week or so, in a social sort of way.  So the lush life has most fortunately passed me by.

But I still treasure the memory of my first cocktail – okay, as much of it as I can remember.

Bar at Neptune's Treasure

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