Sunday, November 27, 2016

Helplessness Awash

Lately, on a quite normal basis, my 14-year old daughter and I seem to be from different planets. We don't understand the language the other speaks, we are often found slamming doors, and everything is a battle royale. Every single day I am left feeling defeated and lost in thought that I must be doing something wrong.  How did I become a horrible parent who can't even talk to their kid?

When you tell people you have a teenager they laugh and say "good luck" or even a "just wait," because we all know that living with hormonal teens is downright awful. I am only 20 years apart from my daughter and even I can't begin to understand her. Teens are literal train wrecks of emotions, yet we have no problem handing them the keys to shiny new cars and send them off into the world.  Their brains aren't even fully developed yet!

It is awful.  Well, nearly all of it.  I don't have a little girl that wants me around anymore or tells me sweet things.  I don't have a cute little hand clutching mine when I walk through a parking lot or a doe-eyed girl asking if she can brush my hair.  Instead I have anxiety, a whiplash tongue, and a tenacity for offending.  I don't remember swapping the lovely qualities of parenthood for such items, but it has apparently happened without hesitation, without blinking, and without anyones say so.

Last night during one of our MMA-worthy verbal fights, she said that she wishes she could just blend in. She doesn't want to be unique and have qualities that make her stand out, even though she has been that free spirit her whole life. She never blended, she was never popular, and she has always been a tad odd.  When I say that she wore flowers in her hair, that is a direct example of how she wore her hair.  She would even sneak vases full of fake flowers to school just because they made her cheery.  Now she is trying her damnedest to suffocate any semblance of individuality to the point where I feel it is breaking her.

I get standing out.  I was one of the only pasty-white gingers in my whole school.  My red hair made me walking target for jokes and cruelty.  I also had three older brothers who constantly ridiculed me, and any number of relatives who did the same.   

So I said, "Tell me one thing you love about yourself." 
"Nothing."
"You are telling me right now you have not one quality or physical attribute about yourself you like? You spend an hour in the mirror every morning, there has to be something."
"There isn't."
"How about that freckle in your eye?"
"I was thinking my eyes were the only thing, but I thought it was too embarrassing to say."

I basically clutched my heart and wept internally.  Apparently I have gone wrong somewhere.  My sweet little flower child has turned into a sheep.  The caveat is as hard as she tries to fit in, she doesn't.  She is gorgeous, and tall, and blond. And while she is shy and quiet socially, she is eccentric and strange so she sticks out like a sore thumb no matter how hard she tries to blend.
But she doesn't see any of the qualities we all see.
Instead, like most girls, I fear, she sees what she is lacking.
She sees what isn't good enough.
And it is weighing so heavy on my heart.

We build our daughters up their whole lives. We tell them we love them, we tell them they are beautiful.  We do their hair and dress them in nice outfits. We afford them privileges we may not have had in our own youth.  We tell them they can be anything when they grow up.  We feed them endless lines about how amazing they are and then we send them out into the world to be destroyed.  To be sliced down to size by the world who reminds them that they are not good enough unless they look a specific way, dress in specific clothes, listen to specific music, and watch specific TV programs.  And if you do not mold yourself to fit into the pre-approved boxes, you are a weirdo.

So my daughter, who is 4 to 6 inches taller than her friends, who doesn't weigh 120 lbs, who doesn't dress in name brand clothing, who listens to alternative rock, and watches Japanese cartoons is a freak. And people judge her, tease her, and misunderstand her.  And I pity her.  I try to help. I try to tell her it is good to be different and that none of it will matter in 4 years when high school is over.  But she doesn't care what I have to say right now.  She doesn't care that I may have went through a similar plight. And for now, I feel like the worst mom in the world - a helpless mom.


Friday, October 21, 2016

My Sexual Assault

To the whole world, sexual assault has become this forefront topic. We are ostracizing a presidential candidate for his horrendous behavior (believe me, I think it is warranted), thousands of women are coming forward on social media about their own experiences, and people are discussing more often the principles and ethics that should have been taught since day one. But inappropriate sexual behavior has been a topic of discussion at my house since my daughter was two. And before that, in my parents house since I was two. But such talk stems from a line of abuse and a perpetual type of behavior that doesn’t seem to go away the more humans "evolve."

The first attack on my body was at age 9, and it went on until I was 11.

 It always happened in the same way and with the same outcome.  We would play a game of hide-and-seek and he would hide wherever I did.  I was always terrified to move even an inch and I always wondered why no one ever found us.  Wasn't anyone trying to seek us? Our hiding places couldn't possibly be that good. 
I never told anyone for another year after it ended out of fear and disgust of myself, and perhaps even because I felt like “What if I was in the wrong, too?” Right there, my assailant won. He ruined my way of thinking; therefore, ruining me. I wound up telling my middle school counselor who had quickly involved my parents. I wouldn’t involve the police because I was too afraid. In the end, his parents deemed it mere curiosity. They said as a child he couldn’t have possibly known what he was doing. Reminder, when I was 11, he was 14.
My first consensual sexual encounter was when I was 14. It wasn’t intercourse of any kind, but it was some heavy petting and arousal from both parties.
And then the flashbacks happened.
I sat frozen waiting for the wave to pass as I began to shake and then was racked with an enormity of tears. What just happened? I knew that I couldn’t let it happen again. In order for the flashback to never come back, I had to stay away from my trigger.
At the end of my freshman year, I was grabbed by a guy on the track team, who I had previously had the hots for. He pushed me up against a set of lockers after practice once, grabbed my crotch, and then said “Number 32.” to which I said, “I’m sorry?” to which he replied, “That’s how many bitches I have kissed.” I learned later that he got married to a girl right out of high school whom he ended up physically abusing and eventually was served with divorce papers and some jail time. Surprise!
A year later, as a sophomore, one specific afternoon I went to our school’s JV football game with some friends. I left the stands and decided to head toward the concession stand for a drink to go with my plain M&M’s when I was approached by the father of a classmate. This was a guy that nearly everyone knew. He was loud, rowdy, funny, and had a raunchy sense of humor. As a teenager, we all thought he was a cool dad.  As I breezed down the staircase, I felt a grip on my elbow.
“Hey Ginger! Can I ask you something?”
I had been called any number of names referencing my titian hair: Big Red, Red, Fire in the Hole, Fire Crotch, Ginger, Freckles, Carrots — you name it!
“Do the curtains match the drapes?”
I believe this was the first time I had ever heard this line. I tore at the paper holding the M&Ms.
I replied with a “Uhm, yes. I am a real red head. I don’t dye my hair or anything.”
Which is exactly when he pounced, “Will you prove it? Show it to me.”
I just walked away embarrassed while he laughed uproariously. I remember thinking, why would someone want to see my pubic hair? I learned quickly that asking about pubic hair was a common trait among men. I was asked by any number of my classmates over the course of the 4 years of high school and maybe another two dozen in the collegiate years. I can vaguely remember walking to the mailbox after school one day and as a car passed by they rolled down the window and bellowed, “Fire in the hole!” As soon as my mom would allow me, my hair would turn platinum blond for roughly one year and then jet black a year after that. I wanted nothing to do with being a red head from that point until around 25.  Now I have accepted my hair for what it is and frankly, it is different than everyone else's hair - and I like that!
My junior year of high school, I was assaulted again. This time at work. On my 14th birthday I had applied for my first job at the local pizzeria. I was hired promptly and wound up working there for all 4 years of high school. It was a new pizza place in town so it was a hot spot with tons of workers and a ton of turnover. One of the new managers gave me the heeby-geebies from day one. Most of us who worked there were in high school, but this guy was 25 and thought he was so awesome. He was older, he smoked cigarettes and pot, and bought beer for the young guys that worked there. He was most impressive to everyone but me.
In once instance, I was leaning on the counter top with the phone balanced between my shoulder and my ear, writing down an order, and he pressed his flaccid self between my butt cheeks. On the phone with a customer, there wasn’t much I would have done, which is exactly why he chose that moments to go in for the kill. This would happen a countless number of times throughout the years. It wasn’t every day. It wasn’t every month, but it happened.
When I was 15, I was pretty small. I was on the dance team at school which kept me in shape and I liked to work out back then to stay fit. One day while we were prepping dough in the back, he lifted me off the ground like a feather. He laid me down on top of the stainless steel prep-table, climbed on top of me straddling me with his legs on both sides of my frame and said “I could do whatever I want to you right now. No one would ever know except you and me.” Again, I froze. I waited for it to be over before I reacted with locking myself in the bathroom and dry heaving over the sink. I didn’t ever want to be left alone with this guy again. And I did the best I could with what I was given.
A year later, I was washing my hands at a sink before heading to the prep-line to top pizzas when he unsuspectingly came up from behind me and picked me up in a bear hug. It was completely unwarranted. I wasn’t talking to him, looking in his direction, or doing any other sort of behavior that suggested he should touch me, but he did you could hear nothing but “CRUNCH.” He quickly set me down and my arm which was smashed across my chest in the hug was paralyzed in a bent awkward position as my breathing had immediately shortened into nearly a panic. I tried to breathe in slow. I failed. It hurt. Almost a sharp pinch mixed with anxiety.
“I didn’t do it! Tell them that I was cracking your back. I didn’t do this. Don’t say anything.”
I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t make a sound. Tears fell out of the corners of my eyes plunging to the floor silently. I called my mom from the phone on the wall in the hallway and she picked me up and took me to the emergency room. I had a sprained shoulder and a broken rib.
My boyfriend at 16 used to pull my breasts out in public just for reaction. He would lift my shirt up or rip my top open, it didn’t matter. I stayed with him for 9 months. At this point, being treated in such a fashion was completely normal to me. Men talked to me inappropriately. They touched me whenever they wanted. Most of the time, I let it happen. I was too afraid of what would happen if I didn’t.
The summer after my senior year my mom made me take a self-defense class. I wish I could say that it helped. I learned a lot of tips and tricks, but within 6 months I was raped. A friend of mine wanted to set me up with someone. So I was told to go to a specific location and we would all hang out -nothing serious- and I could meet this guy. I arrived but this guy and I were alone. I called my friend to see where he was. He said he ran to the gas station and he would be there in 5 minutes. He never showed up. I was then seduced and raped. It was forceful and angry. He took what he needed and then it was over. It happened so quickly that I was unaware of what had actually happened, but I knew it wasn’t good. I froze. I allowed this man to violate me. The image of his tattoo is still seared in my brain. I got in the car to leave and I was in a fog. I went through my phone and called everyone I could think of and no one answered. So I went home, crawled in bed under the covers and wept.
A few unresponsive hours later my best friend showed up at my house and upon seeing the state I was in immediately knew something was wrong. I didn’t tell her 10 words before she dragged me to the car and drove me to the hospital. I was on a table, legs in the stirrups, my friend stroking my hair and wiping tears from my eyes, as the doctor examined my nether region. The dreaded rape kit. Then the police came in asking if I was going to press charges. I didn’t want anyone to get in trouble, but I knew that I didn’t want it to happen to anyone else either. The police picked him up within the hour.
This list of offenses could go on endlessly. As women, I fear, we all face similar types of behavior throughout our lives. I may have only been raped once, but I feel as though my dignity has been being raped throughout the course of my existence. What did I do to deserve men treating me this way?
As an adult I used my vulgar language toward men as a seduction tool. Sometimes it was effective, sometimes it got me into trouble, but other times men have been downright intimidated. I learned at a young age to be sexual and in my twenties, I used it. But once I realized that this was a running pattern with men, that even the guys I thought the most of treated me this way, I realized that perhaps staying away from men altogether was the wisest course for me.
 I was pregnant by 19. After two months in a relationship with a the second guy I had ever dated. I had my daughter a month before I turned 20 and her father was nowhere to be found. Being young was challenging but already having gone through so much gave me the strength to raise my daughter on my own with a dignity and knowledge that she would never go through what I did as a child. I wasn’t overprotective per say, but I gave her the tools to be a total bad ass. At two, she was bought boxing gloves, at four she was in karate classes. She was taught from the beginning that your body is the temple that gets you through this life. You respect it, you treat it well with good hygiene and food, and you never let anyone disrespect it. She was fierce about it, too. When she was 11, a boy at school slapped her on the butt and she told him that was unacceptable, then reported him to the school. They called me to tell me about the situation and said “It’s middle school and this stuff happens constantly. I have to tell you that your daughter is one of the only children that put her foot down and said this is not okay. Girls don’t report this kind of behavior and then it continues. Whatever you are doing, you are doing it right.” I can remember hanging up the phone and bursting in to tears of pride. She is currently 14 and I believe whole-heartedly that she knows how she wants to be respected and wont accept anything less.
I have always been vocal with my journey. I bring it up if the situation calls for it, I am not afraid to discuss it with nearly anyone, and I firmly believe that talking about bad experiences is healing.  I also believe that once the conversation stops, we have a bigger problem.  

My thought was always: If I can tell someone my story and it can help them with theirs, then it was all for a greater purpose.

Because let me say without caution, I was strong enough to handle everything that has been thrown my way. I have been tested my whole life, but I have the courage to continue on because it is all for an ending which will be beyond my abuse; the ending is the healing and worshiping life. We all have bad moments, sometimes they are cripplingly awful, but how we handle them, how we learn, and how we grow from those moments is what defines us. I will not let abuse define me, but I will absolutely let my strength.
If you or someone you love has been a survivor of a sexual attack, get help 24/7 by calling 1–800–656–4673 or visit www.rainn.org









Thursday, June 30, 2016

Shame, Shame, I Know Your Name

As a child, I was conditioned to think that being a girl was almost like being a lesser human.

I grew up with three older brothers who were the epitome of men.  They skateboarded, played in the woods til dark, they smoked, drank with their friends, always had girl friends, they played football, basketball, and baseball, they went off to college, and traveled the world.

When I came along, I was, of course, dressed in head-to-toe pink, which I soon came do despise.  My brothers criticized me for being a girl so I dressed down, got dirty, and became one of the boys (with the exception that I cried a lot!). 
I had to play baseball like my brothers, throw a football like my brothers, I stopped dressing like a little girl, and could be regularly found myself in an over-sized t-shirt, jeans, and a ball cap.
And I never saw limitations, but they were often times thrown in my face!

A spider would crawl on me and I would scream.  What a sissy!
I would throw the ball half the distance as my brother who was four years older than me. You throw like a girl.
I took a baseball to the eye and would cry. Man up. Quit crying like a little girl!
I could sit here and list all of the now horrifying things I heard then, but you get my drift.

Heading into high school with a body that as turning into a woman no matter how hard I tried to deny it, I found myself lost in a sea of girls who definitely owned their femininity.  I had no idea what femininity even was.  I had spent the better part of 15 years trying to be one of my brothers, that I didn't even know how to be a girl.


When I made the varsity dance team, I remember the girls laughing because I had no idea how to wear makeup.  They would put it on for me because I didn't know how. You're such a disaster.  Even looking back to my senior pictures, I was wearing zero makeup, while my friends looked like they had Glamour Shots.

I had my daughter two years after high school.  At this point I had obviously recognized some of my femininity, but not all of it. I am not sure I know now what it is all about, but I am learning.

My daughter is a whole package of things I am not, mixed in with a handful of things that are just like me. 
She is only in 8th grade and wears a pretty fair amount of makeup.  Not every day, but a good number of them.
She dresses to show off her femininity. She loves to match and show off her athletic & thin body.
She plays sports, and gets dirty, but she also takes care of her appearance even in uniform.
She never has a day where she looks like she hasn't tried to put her appearance together.
She squees at bugs and spiders.
She cries when she hurts.



But what astounds me most, is even as a dancer, a softball player, a theater tech kid, a choir singer, a track runner, an honors student, and an art aficionado, she still gets made fun of for being a girl.  Her cousins poke fun if she doesn't hit their 55 mph baseball; she can hit the hell out of a 60 mph softball. They tell her anyone can play softball when you swing a bat at a grapefruit.  Its just a ribbing. All in good fun, right?  We take it with a grain of salt, but what is so wrong with playing like a girl?  I know some fine female athletes!  Some are dear friend, while some of whom I have had the privilege of coaching for the last 2 years.  Not one of them makes me giggle or laugh at how girly they are or how they throw or how they catch.  It makes



When did "being a girl" become such a bad thing? And who is still teaching their children that women aren't as capable as men are?  Humanity wouldn't even be here if it weren't for our ability to create life inside of us.  Giving birth is one of the most incredible and painful feats the human body could ever experience, yet we are still considered weak. Is it because we nurture? Or because we are inherently kind?  I haven't figured it out.


And then there is the way that women treat other women.  Judging their legging choices or hairstyles. Did you see her outfit today? or I cannot believe she would wear something like that!  When we should be commending bravery to take on bold style choices or complimenting her confidence instead of saying "What was she thinking?" or "She is way too fat to wear that!"  I work in an office filled with women who constantly cut each other for their style decisions and I find it sad that we are so concerned with other people's appearances.
But the 30, 40, and 50 year old women do not concern me even a fraction of as much as it concerns me when I hear teenagers doing to each other.  Most of the time, they aren't slamming other girls, but they are wishing they were thinner, or taller, or had so-and-so's legs, or what's-her-name's hair.  What they have been given isn't good enough for them. And I can't help but think it has so much to do with how we, their mothers, were conditioned as children.

Women should look a certain way. I have never looked that way.
Women should speak a certain way. I use expletives in most sentences.
Women should always sweet and nurturing. I am kind, but I am rarely sweet.
Women shouldn't be loud or vulgar.  I am not sure that I have been anything but loud since birth.
Women should raise the children. Can't we raise our children and be bread-winners?

This random list of five "should" sentences are not even a fraction of the things women are expected to be.  We couldn't possibly live up to all of the world's expectations.  Especially when majority of the population over 60 years old, comes from an era where women were inferior to men - on the ball field, in the workplace, and especially at home.



Everywhere I turn my friends and family are saying to stop judging for religion, stop judging for sexuality, stop judging for political decisions, but then we all judge each other on things like a hairdo or a cleavage-y top or ugly sneakers as if those decisions are the ones which define us; they are not.


If it doesn't affect you waking up each day, being successful, providing for your family, bettering yourself, the health and welfare of your family, and going to bed each night, then please, by all means, shut up.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fire and Ice

In this life, I was given the gift of independence. A word that is very important to me for a great many reasons, if you know me well.

I can remember not feeling very independent. I used to rely heavily on others to make me happy; bending over backward to please those around me.  I wasn't an actual person with a legitimate personality of substance.  I may have been entertaining to be around or a butt of jokes, but I wasn't actually me.

I was in therapy for the entirety of my teenage years, and in therapy I was given a book about co-dependence.  And while I wasn't dependent on drugs or alcohol, I was dependent on others to create my happiness.  The book listed ways you could be co-dependent and I wrote down every single one that I resonated with.
And then I changed every single item I wrote down.
The book literally changed me.

As a woman who has been broken down about as much as a person can be, I have learned even more exactly what it means to me to be independent and strong.
Until I was told to dial it back.

Every day for the last near fourteen years, I have battled with myself to balance motherhood and fatherhood in the most gentle of ways.  I do not always excel at either and ofttimes find that fatherhood comes easier to me than motherhood.  I am tough, I fight, I am hard, I am no nonsense, and I don't give in almost ever.  And this is not just as a parent, but as a friend and even a lover.  I cannot exactly pin-point the reasoning as to why I am as impenetrable as I am, but I do know that it has cost me a lot in my life.

Tonight, I was told in the most respectful of ways, that my daughter needs me to be her mother.  It was quite difficult to hear because I immediately became defensive.  But that friend was right.  I need to be what a "mother" embodies. Care, concern, softness, delicacy, and tenderness are qualities I have suppressed for a long time.  While I do care, have concern, have moments of tenderness, I do not often exude those qualities.

But when I was reminded tonight that I need to incorporate other traits into my current palate, I was disconcerted. I usually pride myself on my intelligence, but I can't even recognize my lack of empathy for my child.

So I will begin, again, to challenge myself and try to round out some of my square edges.  To take a stab at becoming more warm and less frigid.  I do not want to shape my daughter into a version of me, she should be herself. But I want her to take the best of me: my kindness, independence, and wit, yet blend it with her own tenderness, effervescence, and intellect.  She is growing so fast and I need to be sure I show her the world from all angles.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

To Give Love.

Grief is brutal.

Monday night I found myself laying in bed, sobbing all over the pages of my journal which I was finding myself hard-pressed to write in, with wads of Kleenex strewn everywhere, and the prayer card with my dead friend's face looming in the candlelight.  I was setting myself up for this misery, but I couldn't help it.  I kept thinking about the would have/could have/should have situations that we all punish ourselves with when something doesn't go the way we'd hoped.  I couldn't shake myself out of it which is unlike me.  Usually I can fight my own brain with logic and win!  I can tell myself I am being ridiculous and go run outside or drag myself to the shower to shake off the bad vibes. Monday night won the battle - and I broke.

My head was filled with regret and disdain.  I should have reached out to my friend sooner. I should have been a better friend over all.  I wasn't.  I was MaryAnne the Recluse.  I pushed myself away from my friend as I did with most of the relationships in my life. Its easier that way right?  Oh was I so wrong.  Instead of feeling detached and callous, I felt ruined.

There have been upwards of 3 trillion times that I have passed by a name in my phone or just hit like on FaceBook and never stopped for a minute to say "Hi."  And not "How are you?" No one cares about that; most people deliver a generic response anyway.  Sometimes I think, oh, I should text him/her - and never do.
With my friend that passed away, it was his birthday two weeks before he died.  I saw it come up on my notifications, eventhough I have always remembered his birthday, and I said "I am going to text him. Not message him on FaceBook." And then I forgot.
Today I am filled with so much sadness about it.
I wish I could have told my friend that I loved him one more time.

Tonight, I text 30 people that I don't text or speak to on a regular basis.
 Some not even at all. I simply put it in to the universe that I was thinking about them, I missed them, or I loved them. In some cases, it was all three.  I was legitimately thinking of most of them.  I have been all week.  But I really just needed to tell some people in my life that I care about them.  Caring for people comes easy to me; however, telling people I care does not.

I had three people respond with a "Thank you. I needed that tonight."  Each of those three responses brought me to tears.  I couldn't help but think of my friend and if maybe he would have needed something like that. I am glad, though, that I, in my small insignificant text, can mean something to someone.

No one didn't respond.

Most people replied back right way.  Telling me they loved me too or missed me.  A few wanted to get together.  A few wanted to catch up right then with foot-long texts back and forth. It was so nice to catch up and make plans; To give love out and to receive it right back.


Normally when I grieve, I want to push everyone away, build a blanket fort, and watch Little Women or Anne of Green Gables and be alone.  This time has been severely different. I don't know why Brandon's death has made this impact on me, but I am glad I was able to reach out to some people that I truly care for and tell them I love them or I miss them.


And I will do it again. Because it has to be done.




Friday, January 29, 2016

Rubber Soul, Broken Heart

"There are places I remember, all my life though some have changed.
Some forever not for better; Some have gone and some remain.
All these places have their moments with lovers and friends, I still can recall.
Some are dead and some are living.  In my life, I've loved them all."

Some people listen to music for the beat.  I have never been one of those people.  I have always listened to music to hear the poetry in the lyrics.  Each word a piece of a story that would capture me.  I used to sit at my cassette player with a notepad for hours, pressing play/stop/rewind over and over to learn lyrics. I had notepads full of different song lyrics that spoke to me and made me feel.  Music was never about tapping my toes or swaying to the beat, it was a language that I understood on a different level than other people.

The first album I wore into oblivion was The Beatles Rubber Soul.  I can remember rifling through my brother's cassettes and seeing this one.  Having heard most of the songs many times due to the wonderful musical education of my mom and dad, I listened so intently. Scribbling every lyric and thinking my life had some connection to the words.  Hands down, my favorite Beatles song is "In My Life." And playing Rubber Soul upwards of a thousand times helped to solidify that.  I cannot hear it today without nostalgia soaring through me and my eyes welling with tears.

To this day, I still connect moments of my life to songs.  I can't remember what I did yesterday or the day before, but I can remember 3 months ago sitting on a bench in the rain with my best friend listening to Sara Bareilles "She Used To Be Mine."  I can remember driving to Lansing to an Army base listening to Eminem's Marshall Mather's LP, rapping our brains out and thinking we were invincible. Or driving to a deli in Miami, Florida with a childhood friend while her dad played Jay and The Americans; I can still remember every word.  Sitting in a bowling alley parking lot while OneRepublic's "Stop and Stare" came on.  Or reading the lyrics to my therapist of Bob Dylan's To Make You Feel My Love when I was 15 and thought my love for a boy was endless. Or even the first time I heard City and Colour, which is now one of my all-time favorite artists. Music has left it's mark on so many moments.
Music is so much more than something to listen to for me.  Music is the basis of my existence and is behind every single thing I have done.  It speaks to me in ways I cannot explain and it makes me feel...well... everything.  Do I drum to the beat of songs? Sure. I also sing them, harmonize them, and do background vocals.  I adore music for all it has to offer.

So now I will circle back to my story about The Beatles:

A friend of mine and I tried dating for a while.  We flirted a lot at work and one day he finally asked me out.  We didn't date very long as we were in very different places in our life, but we never held our failed relationship against each other.  I was I was 26 with a 6 year old at home and he was 22 and living the life that most 22-year olds live: wild abandon.  We didn't have a lot in common in regard to life and leisure, but what we lacked in commonality, we made up for in a general respect for each other.

One night, after working a seemingly endless shift, we decided to sit in the empty parking lot at our work for a while and just talk.  We smoked cigarettes and played loud music. And then a song came on: In My Life.  He reached over and grabbed my hand, "This is one of the ultimates right here." I recognized the look on his face, which took him to another place, because when I heard the song, it did the same to me. We had both been through a lot in our lives, but in many different ways.  Yet somehow, this song brought us together.  He proceeded after to play Don McLean's American Pie and tell me how much that song meant to him as well.  Another night I will never forget.

My friend passed away yesterday.  And as I sift through the emotions I cannot fully understand, I have to listen to the song that takes me back to that night in his car in the Lowe's parking lot.  While life was still moving outside, life inside that car slowed as we enjoyed a wonderful song.  I will always love my friend for giving me a nickname I adored, for keeping me from fighting a girl at a party one drunken night, for giving me awful Valentine's Day memories, for understanding my love of music, and for always being himself around me.

"Though I know I'll never lose affection for people and things that went before,
I know I'll often stop and think about them.
In my life, I love you more."

Thursday, December 31, 2015

My 2015

'Tis that time for reflection again, and whilst I like to reflect after each event happens, I figure I would give a more general account here.


1) I grew some roots.

I am 18 months in to this job and it feels like I have been there for 10 years and it is still my first day wrapped in one.  I was promoted in May, now it is December, and I have hardly ever done the same thing twice; therefore, I retain next to nothing, but I seem to be pretty decent at it so onward we go. I look forward to coming into work (most days) and my co-workers and I seem to have quite a bit of fun together.  They are one of the best and most cohesive groups of people I have ever met.  They want me to step ahead and start solidifying my future there, so I suppose that is in the cards for me for 2016.  Series 7 or bust? 


2) I remembered how horrendous Junior High could be.

My girl, Lou, has had one hell of a year.  At first I wasn't sure if I was going to pull her out of her current school.  The lack of attention by administrators was disheartening, her friends were rotten, bullying was running rampant, and my heart was breaking.  I would come home from work and go directly to school, so I was seeing less of her.  But when I would come home after a 15-hour day and find her in bed, defeated, and crying, I wasn't sure where our road would take us at all.  I would sit at my desk at work and weep for her.  Knowing that from two cities away I couldn't rescue her on demand or save her from one of the worst rites of passage.  If I remember anything from Junior High at all, it was that it was one of the worst times I ever had.  And this, for me, was the whole of 7th grade.  Friends abandoned me, new friends came and went, I had to drop classes due to bullying, I stopped showering for a few months (uhm, ew!). Junior High was a disaster!  Yet here I am doing it all over again. You want to know what my sage advice was? I'm sorry, but "we all have to go through the horrible to not only find respect for ourselves but respect for the things we want most."
I can't go into school and beat children up for you.
I can't kick down every mother's door and tell them to parent better.  Maybe they work and go to school, too?
We only have 6 months left and then it is off to high school *barf* where the bullying and judgement from friends is on steroids, but I am sure after all this we will be fine.
My girl has a thickness to her skin now, that she will use going forward.  She sees people differently.  She understands more clearly that a lot of people are rotten, but the good ones are worth holding tighter.


3)  I graduated.
When I was pregnant with my daughter and about a year after I had her, I had been taking a class here and a class there.  Never with any real intention to go on and become a scientist or a sonographer or a journalist.  In 2004, I chose work over school.  For the next nine years, I would choose raising a well-rounded child who wanted for nothing over going to school. I would always say "When she needs me less, I will go back."  Getting fired from Lowes gave me that gift.  I suddenly had a surplus of time on my hands and was able to enroll back in school full time for two semesters, which got a large portion of my credits out of the way.  When my year of unemployment was over, I went back to working full-time, being a parent 365 days a year, coached softball, and also went to school 2 or 3 nights a week.  My kid could finally stay home alone, where necessary, and I was in a place in my life where I was able to juggle many tasks at once.  It all just worked.  3 years later, I graduated with honors.  Role model? Check.
Oh and with no tutor, pulled off an A and then a B+ in Algebra.


4) My big brother got married and I was his best man?
Toes in the sand and one beautiful sunrise.
After a half a dozen Xanex, one book, and two boxes of Good N' Plentys, we finally settled into our ocean-front resort hotel in beautiful Virginia Beach.  My brother, at 39 years old finally was able to say his vows to the woman of his dreams and the whole family got to be there for it.  I had been asked to be the best man and I loved every minute of it (with the exception of the Bachelors Party; being the only girl kinda sucked!)!  Either way, I prepared a wonderful speech, we took lots of freezing cold pictures on the beach, and we celebrated with total strangers the way families do. 

 
Guys and girls on both sides.  Beautiful new family and friends. <3

 Everything was right out of a fairy tale.  The dress was to die for, the food was wonderful, the people were fantastic, the DJ wasn't awful. The weather was crappy that day and we had to shiver outside, but amidst the cold I got to witness two people who make each other incandescently happy. 

We went to Jamestown and Washington DC afterward.  I rode the subway for my first time. I ate at a food truck for my first time.  I went to Arlington for my first time.  I got lost on the DC Highway system for the first... and then second time.  My 6th trip to Virginia Beach (and elsewhere) proved to be a lovely adventure.


5) My Bird and I went on some new adventures.

I don't have a spouse or even a significant other.  I haven't actually been in a relationship in many years now, but what I have been missing in companionship with a spouse, I find (for the most part) with my Bird.  We coexist in perfect harmony.  We don't often yell, we do what the other expects, we like most of the same things, we use a lot of the same products, and we share this innate longing for adventure.  I live and breath for taking in new sights and sounds; my girl shares my affinity for life in that same special way.  I don't have to explain to her why things are the way they are, why we just went to this new place, or why I am silent or why I am crying - she just gets it.  13 years of someone every single day will get you that way I suppose. 
My girl and my man!
This year, we adventured to Traverse City, Glenn Arbor, Ann Arbor, Virginia Beach, Arlington, and Sarnia, Ontario.  Each adventure was different and each adventure left us with unmistakable and unforgettable memories.
To my Bird, I dedicate a song that is as beautiful as you are.  Songbird


6) I found forgiveness.
I am not a fan of forgiveness or any of the feelings that come along with it.  I find it stressfull and my breath quickens just thinking about having to forgive someone when they were wrong. Hell, even if I was wrong.  I don't believe you should be "let off the hook" for a great many things, but then I guess I should decide whether I would like to be the pot or the kettle. 
This year, I forgave one of my biggest offenders for their past transgressions.
I even thanked them for being a part of my life and contributing what they did while they were in it.
As cliché as it sounds, I slept better that night.  I think I will always sleep a little better knowing that weight is gone forever.


7) I fell in love with some music.
For whatever reason I never fell in love with The Lumineers at the start; however, in 2015, they became a part of my soul.  Yes, The Lumineers are a horcrux.
The song She Used to Be Mine by Sara Bareilles was like opening a window into my own soul.  I know it is from the musical, The Waitress, but it is so MaryAnne and it moves me.  I hear it and I have to sing, but then my voice cracks and my eyes water. Ugh. Love.




If you care, here are my favorites from this year (whether they are actually from this year, I don't care):
Sara Bareilles - She Used to Be Mine
Gregory Alan Isakov - That Moon Song
The Lumineers - Slow It Down
Sam Smith - The Writing's On the Wall
James Bay - Let It Go
Hello - Adele
Like Real People Do - Hozier




2015 was really quiet in all the ways that matter.  There was loss and heartache like every year before, but there was also growth and understanding.  There were moments where I went a wee bit crazy, but there were moments where I found peace, too. 




I am hoping 2016 can exhibit more growth and solace.  I am looking forward to learning more and going on even cooler adventures than before.  I am looking to get out of my comfort-zone a little (high school, wahhhhh!), and I am anticipating finding out more about what I want and need from life. So bring it on 2016.  Universe, I am ready for you.