The Delicate Balance

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I never think about how the dynamic of our household is laid out. How it affects the alkalinity and salinity and compatibility of all its elements like a saltwater fish tank.

The kids come and go from their dad’s house, which changes the dynamic, but it’s not unmanageable for me. At least not anymore. It is more so for Todd, who experiences his home in bursts of alternating quiet and chaos. I think I’d have a better appreciation of this sort of whiplash if he’d pick the kids up one Sunday and I waited in silence at home.

Houseguests change the dynamic, yet it’s temporary and joyful and also joyful when they leave. Don’t get me wrong, I – we – enjoy having people over. It’s one of the reasons we have an established guest bedroom.

Overnight guests don’t upset this balance. Weekend guests don’t really upset this balance. Permanent houseguests? Well, now there’s a whole blogpost.

I’ve recognized and shamelessly admit that I enjoy – no, I REQUIRE – the dynamic of our house just the way it is. I don’t do well with change as it is, and when it occurs in my house in the form of another human living here indefinitely, it’s a recipe for a volcanic disturbance.

We had a friend in need who stayed with us for a few months. It wasn’t terrible, but at some point I started trembling at the very thought that there was no end in sight. I don’t recall how it ended, exactly, or how my tremors evolved. And I’m okay with forgetting.

And then couple of years ago we had Neph. Neph moved in and we welcomed him, because he’s family and not a friend and he was young and we had rules and he was going to follow them and it would be wonderful to have another “kid” in my house. And I do love him, truly, but he has a tendency – like all males his age – to Neanderthal his way through life, refrigerators, and bathrooms. He also has his own habits that had to fit into our dynamic. However, his habits occasionally bulldozed over ours (mine) and I learned valuable lessons about speaking up without bitching, reminding without snarling, and buying food in bulk.

Furbaby houseguests can also ramp things up a bit. When my mom goes away, she leaves her beloved furbaby – which is at this very moment funny to me because he’s no baby – he’s 140 pounds of white fluff – with us. Moses is sweet and wonderful, well-behaved and easygoing. Well, except for that one time he went after Oliver in an unprecedented move that both startled and impressed me.

He and Sabra used to be boyfriend and girlfriend, when our dogs were living with my mom and her dogs. They adored each other, followed each other around, and – early one morning on the deck outside – decided it would be fun to have sex and freak my mother out. (This was followed by a few days’ speculation about whether it was true that Moses was truly neutered, and whether Sabra was knocked up.)

Nowadays, like an old married couple, they greet each other with a sniff and a tail wag and then go lie down in their respective places. So, anyway, Moses came to stay with us a couple of weeks ago, and this time my mom brought his bed so he’d feel more at home and, hopefully, not sleep on my couch.

Sabra commandeered his bed the minute he arrived, and I spent an entire week chasing her off of it. She’d lay her 38-pound body down in this giant fluffy bed, leaving her half-the-size bed for Mo, who – do the math – is 100 pounds bigger than her. So, then of course, Mo would jump up on the couch, because – comfort – and I’d walk in and holler at both of them. Rules, people!

I thought I was bad at adapting to changes in the “force,” but Sabra becomes a spoiled brat who thinks her shit doesn’t stink. Literally. It’s really quite impressive, how far she’s come from Pi’s shadow and the follower mentality.

Moses is a good boy always eager to go outside. Sabra refuses to go outside with him. He’ll run out the door and she will circle just inside it, and then run back to her bed. And then I’ll make her go out because why should I monitor the dogs and the door twice? But you know what she does? She stands by the door and looks in. And then has the audacity to come back in with Moses and expect a cookie.

So the only way she’ll go out and do her business – is when Moses is not with her. Weird. But now, Moses took to urinating on our deck within view of the sliders, and then Sabra started doing it too. Meanwhile, I’m losing hair on the top of my head.

And Moses has long been home again, and she’s still doing it. I heard Todd scolding her yesterday morning and he was pissed. She did it again this morning, and when I scolded her she looked away, feigning shame, because if she really was sorry she wouldn’t be standing there staring at me after the fact like, well? where’s my cookie?

Meanwhile, Oliver lives life on the edge when Mo is here – which I feel terribly badly about, but I do accommodate him more then and so I’d say he wins in the end anyway. He gets more treats, more love, more attention, even more than normal. What could be better? He would tell you that better would be, how about that fucking white beast go home? Except he probably doesn’t use the f-bomb because he’s so angelic. But I can see it in his eyes when he looks at me. We share silent conversations, he and I, with our eyes.

He stares into my eyes for long moments, like he is telepathically telling me the secrets of the universe and eternity and I have no idea – and then after a moment he’ll break the connection and run over and rub up against me and act like a cat again.

Maybe that’s why he loves Todd so much. Equally frustrated with me for being so unaware. He lies next to us on the couch, and I can tell he loves Todd more in those moments, as if he’s like – it’s you and me, dad. This chick doesn’t know jack about existentialism.

But that’s also part of the delicate balance.

Of Blogging, and First Dates

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I wasn’t going to write today. I don’t typically write every day. I had a few thoughts rolling around my brain of what I wanted to write about next; they’re an eclectic and somewhat schizophrenic collection of ideas that have little to do with one another.

Todd and I worked on one of them together, several arctic nights ago. It began by the fire and ended in bed. We slid our bodies between silken sheets and soft blankets, he picked up his toy and I picked up mine and….

He continued his Angry Birds game and I pulled up the Notes icon on my own mobile device.

I took down notes on my phone about one of my creative thoughts (coming soon), because if I got up again the animals of the house would have expectations.

So yesterday I posted about blogging vs. reality and I didn’t expect the reactions I received. Hell – I didn’t expect any at all. The most I ever see is a “like” here and there; otherwise the readers are really just ghosts that come and go, silently.

So. Now I’m wondering if this will affect my output and content. To be relevant, and not just a “whatever” poster. I guess. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe I just say thank you and keep moving forward.

I really want Todd to guest post. He seems reluctant. And while he shares my ridiculous and often bizarre sense of humor, he has a preference for privacy that rivals my salacious Gemini nature of the shock factor. He is amused by my naughty jokes amongst friends, my improper remarks about our sex life to him in intentional earshot of others; however, to write about what really goes on behind our bedroom door, or when the kids are away and the cat is sleeping at the foot of the bed … is that-which-shall-remain-sacred.

I once made a remark to a gay friend that had everything to do with my mom’s shop vac – I said, Todd’s is much bigger. It truly wasn’t spoken out of turn, but when I saw his reaction, I winked. Todd, however, laughed it off and really – who in their right mind would be angry with that implication? Besides, on the heels of yesterday’s post and in the interest of honesty, Todd really does have a big… shop vac.

Anyway. As we careen toward another shiny object… on a different arctic night (we’ve had several here in our region of the world)… Todd remembered! At least we think he remembered, and since I’ve rendered what facts he presented to support this memory as highly likely… I think he uncovered the mystery of When Our First Date was.

A number of times I had admitted to not remembering our first date, and Todd was equally perplexed though perhaps it was irrelevant anyway because, today. I said before that while I don’t remember our first date, I do remember spending New Year’s Eve together.

Well, the mystery has been solved. I think. Through a series of what should have been the most obvious deductions… Wait! Back up.

Todd and I met in the fall of 1984. But, as my mom taught me that girls don’t call boys (or wear black, whatever the hell that meant in the 80s) and I was shy anyway and would never have flat out told a boy I was interested (which really deserves a separate post), and therefore he had no idea that I was because he’s also oblivious – and yes, that’s in the present tense because he IS and shamelessly admits to it – we never went out.

There was an awful lot of “let’s insert myself near this person so they can’t miss me” behavior, but it wasn’t until the fall of 1985 that we danced around each other again. And it wasn’t until another young man named Tom told Todd he’d better ask me out before someone else did, though I have no idea what insight he could possibly have had since I never spoke two words to him. Sometime thereafter, the timeline of which remains a mystery, Todd did ask me out.

However, the following deductions have led to the conclusion that the actual real First Date was, in fact New Year’s Eve. (Which would also explain why we can’t remember another first date – because there wasn’t one.)

#1 – Todd’s birthday is in mid-December, and we didn’t spend that day together, nor was it acknowledged.

#2 – Wrestling was ongoing, so there were meets and tournaments going on on Saturdays, which meant we likely wouldn’t have gone out then either. Except for maybe a rendezvous or two in our cars, though I can assure you I was Not That Kind of Girl. Yet.

#3 – We both had jobs. He worked for KFC after school and weekends, and I worked in my family’s restaurant which was over 45 minutes away.

#4 – We didn’t exchange gifts or acknowledge Christmas.

Therefore, my Murdoch man determined that New Year’s Eve had to be the night. Not that night. Just the first date night.

I’m so excited by this revelation, if only because I’m sick of forgetting and/or not remembering shit. It’s embarrassing. And annoying.

And to think these memories were triggered by someone else’s first date. Yes, there was a first date around here recently. And that’s all I’m going to say about that, because, privacy.

New Year’s Eve 1985/86 was spent on the floor in my bedroom, two floors away from my parents who I am still shocked allowed this first boy into my bedroom on our first date and trusted us. I had a stereo system on which we played my collection of Prince vinyl and talked for hours about lord knows what. I’m certain that his lips found mine somewhere during that long conversation. I’m certain that I melted in the glow of this intensity I’d only written about in journals before.

I had no idea where that night would end. Living in the moment and flying by the seat of my pants is an earmark of Gemini existence. I’m sure I’m a young soul, still learning the lessons old souls like Todd have known for centuries. It still thrills me to kiss him and smell the very same smell of his 17-year-old skin. It stirs something in me I’m afraid I’d need another blog to specialize in. Nevertheless, I remain blown away that that night was over 30 years, and several relationships and a marriage ago, and that we ended up here anyway in spite of it all.

It Starts Again

After a long summer that didn’t feel like it went all that fast, we’re back to real-life rush hour. The first day of summer always feels like I want to slit my wrists when Veruca is demanding an activity schedule worthy of an organized, intinerized trip. Yeah, I totally just made that word up.

The kids had their vacation with their dad and Todd and I had ours. We spent time together, we spent time apart. Summer slogged along. Then football started the second week of August, and suddenly time jumped on the A train and took off like a bullet.

This is the first year I wasn’t counting the days until the first day of school. Instead, I’ve been checking the tears at every door we pass through. Seriously, two weeks ago I totally used my burning eyes from a long day staring at insurance verifications to cover the tears that kept welling up as I watched Opac begin his 3rd year in football.

To say I’ve been emotional lately would be an understatement. I sat there in the bleachers, watching him across the field, and acutely felt the loss of the little child I held in my arms with his head snuggled into my shoulder.

He’s a Junior this year. He has two years of high school left, before he leaves the nest to go be a college kid and create his own life. Two Years. Two years is a blink in the world of parenting. And I’m not ready. I’m not ready to let him go. Of course, he still doesn’t have his driver’s license, so I suppose he can’t go too far. Yet.

I have several friends who drove their firstborns to college this year and that, itself, has nailed home the reality. Nephtoo began college this year. Which reminds me, he still hasn’t sent me his address so I can send him stuff. And why? Because he’s off living his own life and adulting, and has temporarily forgotten his family.

I hear dumb music and I start to cry. I think about his soft baby hair and his little hand resting on my chest, and the long lashes that curled over his big brown eyes – because I would sit on the couch and hold him while he slept. He never learned to sleep in a crib.

Every moment he walked out my door, he took a part of my heart with him. Every moment I think about the inevitable bearing down on us, my heart feels like it’s being squeezed in a vice. I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m terribly emotional about him.

This is the first year I’ve felt the weight of the second child growing up. V started 7th grade this year. I remember my middle school years, probably better than I should. I don’t remember clinging to my mom quite like she does, or smothering her with my love and attention. My mom keeps reminding me that V loves me so much, and that I should enjoy it. I’m not good at being smothered though, which is where I struggle with her. Smothering me was the kiss of death for many a boy, once upon a time.

This year, however, while I’ve been working on setting those personal space boundaries with her – which, ironically, is a topic that figures into my next post – I’ve also begun to embrace the moments she’s close to me that way because it’s inevitable that she may change her M.O. as she enters the teen years. And if my teen years with my mom are any predictor of the future, or at the very least Karma – it’s gonna get ugly.

In any case, I’m experiencing some occasional sadness. It’s not every minute, or every day, but it comes with the suddenness of a drive-by shooting. I’m feeling sadness over my kids growing up, over growing older, watching my parents age and what that means, what life will look like in 20 years.

And these are the times I’m most vulnerable, and then the door to the attic of my soul cracks open and I start to feel everything. Including the things I’ve tried to heal, and locked away. I think of the child I lost, and it opens a Pandora’s box of whys and why nots. And suddenly I’m feeling that loss again, not nearly as acutely as that day, but a dull ache in the pit of my stomach. And I have my reasons for that too, but there are some things I prefer to keep to myself, even as I choke on them.

So it starts again. School is three days underway and we’re back to a bumpy groove, as O has practice daily after school and games every Friday, and V has softball practice at night and games every Saturday. Even Todd has the schedule from hell this week. The four of us have not had dinner together in almost 2 weeks. I’m behind on personal appointments, and I’m picking up extra hours at work. All of those things on my summer to-do list have now been transferred to my Fall to-do list.

I had big plans for the first week of school, but like all plans, even the best laid plans don’t always get laid.

Not Always How It Looks

I’ve had a plethora of thoughts about my next post, one of which was planned last week on a topic that has long bothered me about the business I’ve grown up in. I didn’t get it written before the weekend, and damn if it didn’t happen again and it not only pissed me off that it happened again, but that if I wrote about it NOW, someone would assume it was because of THEM. So, I’m putting that post off for a few days while I process some other stuff. Yes, I’m cryptic sometimes. Deal with it.

I went to bed last night exhausted, but my brain wouldn’t shut off and I was turning over some thoughts about Life. Profound thoughts, some with sadness, some with gratitude, and some with just more questions. I fell asleep then and, as always happens, those great thoughts got sucked into the black hole of my dreams and it may take me a few days to conjure them up again. Am I being cryptic again? Okay – I’ll be direct – just this once.

Exhausted – because one of my BFFs came for two days and we didn’t get much sleep. Profound thoughts – because a friend from high school just lost his battle with cancer two days ago.

But before all of that, I was putzing around this closed group I joined under the probably somewhat misguided notion that we were all there because we were fans of a certain blog. Which is mostly true, but many of the posts mentioned troubled lives, inability to get out of bed and/or leave the house, insecurities, and so on. One girl posted how her life was so messed up while everyone else on Facebook is living the dream and have families and kids and great jobs… you know the story.

We all know the story. Who hasn’t been on Facebook and seen how great some people’s lives are? And maybe felt like, wow – I wish my life was like that/better.

Well, here’s a newsflash: NOBODY’s life is perfect. And I told her so. I also told her that social media is a place where one can be whoever they want the world to see. People do it every day.

A friend gushes on and on about how smart her kids are, how they made distinguished honors again, and what great athletes they are. Another calls her husband the best husband ever because he did something nice for her – maybe he brought flowers home, or made dinner and took care of the kids one night. Another travels all the time to wonderful places.

About seven years ago I reconnected with a friend who – in a nutshell – was living her dream. Great job, great husband, beautiful house, beautiful kids, lots of great friends. I felt a pang of jealousy, mingled with joy for her at having those things that she so deserved after years of struggle. It was another card stacked against the deck I was living in back then. I couldn’t ignore the feeling of, why can’t I have all of that too?

Appearances are deceiving. Some people gush to cover up their own shortcomings, insecurities, or fears that they don’t measure up to “the dream.” Some of those people will experience divorce, illness, job loss, money and stability, loss of a parent or loved one, or – heaven forbid – the loss of a child. The mother who gushes over her children? She has lived the last 18 years without her mother. The friend who has money and is always traveling? Lives a lonely single life and is struggling to find love.

I write a lot about my own life. People who know me personally, know who I really am. I write tough sometimes. Sometimes funny. Sometimes I write about my weaknesses. I try to be honest. I live in a nice home, drive a nice car, have beautiful kids, wonderful friends and neighbors, and the love of my life. Gushing?

No. I count my blessings. Because 7 years ago my life looked very VERY different… and I was the one wishing it could look more like hers, or his. And I am not so naïve to believe that anything can change in an instant. And that – my friends – is a truth I will share today. Inside myself lives a terrible fear of losing those who are most precious to me. I don’t focus on it, and I push it down, but it is the demon who occasionally whispers my darkest fears.

I have this God-awful anxiety that I cannot explain, that came to roost in the cobwebs of my sanity and steals my inner peace with wordless whispers. Not every minute of every day. But it’s there. My life is far from perfect. It may look like it is, to outsiders. I struggle with bills, I don’t work enough or earn enough of my own money. I have debt. A lot of it. It’s not Todd’s burden, but mine.

I don’t get enough quality time with my kids. I don’t get enough quality time with Todd. I wish I could travel more. I wish I had money saved for college. I wish I hadn’t given away 13 years of my life to abuse and unhappiness. I wish I didn’t still hear his critical voice in my head. I wish I didn’t have to work weekends. I wish my knees didn’t hurt, and that I could run again. I wish I was more this, and less of that. I wish, I wish, I wish.

And all any of that does, to repurpose a meme – is steal today’s joy. Which is my long-winded way of saying:

  1. The grass is NOT always greener on the other side and
  2. Don’t believe everything you hear/read.
  3. Don’t kick yourself for what you haven’t done. Do what you wish you could.
  4. Nobody’s life is “perfect.” The only world that’s perfect is heaven.
  5. Count the blessings you DO have. (In religion-speak, that means you praise God for what He has done for you. You reap what you sow.)


I’ll just leave this here…

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

~ Walden, Henry David Thoreau

How I Spent the First Day of School

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I’m deleting an email from Pep Boys. How the f*ck did I get on their email list? I don’t even go there. I don’t “do” cars. I drive them, but I leave the repairs to my motorhead husband. When he starts talking about anything beyond horsepower (which also means nothing to me, but don’t tell him), like intake manifold and camshaft bearing, I can seriously feel my eyes glaze over and the corners of my mouth slacken. I can tell you that we have a V-6, but only because I tried really hard to remember what he kept calling our 2012 Mustang. Which, by the way, I DO know isn’t the fastest engine we can buy.

I’m in the foulest mood I’ve been in, in years. First day of school is over, and it was all going so well. The middle school couldn’t accommodate a pre-first day 504 meeting last Friday (which, by the way, was – at the time –the only day they were available before the first day of school), but no matter – a phone call with the guidance counselor set everything straight and this morning I drove Veruca’s box of diabetes supplies to the nurse. The front office still looked a bit “frantic” just 20 minutes after the first bell, and I wished them all well as I said farewell, gloating only a little bit that I was going home to an empty house where all was peaceful. (Hey, they were all smiling like the cat that swallowed the canary on the last day of school. Paybacks are a bitch, ya’ll.)

Meanwhile, back on the cul de sac… After Veruca got on the bus, I returned home to an unlocked house and went straight to the bathroom. Where I realized I’ve been listening to too much Forensic Files on Sirius XM. For some reason I thought, shouldn’t I take my phone with me? What if someone got in the house while I was at the bus stop? And then I heard a loud noise and suddenly, the fear was real. I yanked up my pants and prepared to bolt out of the house when I saw Sabra just outside my door. (She literally drops to the floor like something straight out of a cartoon – throws all 4 legs in the air simultaneously and lands on her belly with a thundering bang. I kid you not.)

I went back to my grant research when a few minutes later, the doorbell rang. Who the f*ck is this now? (Because swearing is my go-to emotional outlet presently. Don’t worry, this will pass.) There was a beat up pickup truck in my driveway, and some middle-aged guy who was more middle-aged than me, was standing on my front porch. Again, John Walsh’s voice in my head, I debated on whether or not to open the door. In the end, I did, and this dude wanted to know if Ted’s truck was for sale, because he “just happened” to be driving though – a cul de sac, ya’ll – and noticed the truck just sitting there. I pondered the possibility that he was a) full of shit, because who just drives through a cul de sac, b) he was a serial killer, or c) really was just driving through because he has no job/life/wife and routinely turns onto deadend streets because Who the F*ck does that, really?

Meanwhile Sabra, who used to bark every time the front door opened, has stopped barking. For once I was wishing she’d do that vicious bellowing – that sounds dangerous until she rounds the corner and you see that she’s just a silly, fluffy poodle. She is seriously depressed, or seriously lost, without Pi. She rarely comes out of our bedroom unless she’s called, or some special food is offered (cause, ya know, dogfood is so “old school”), and I’m trying not to worry about it. Too much. I realized today that the “Grass is Always Greener” cliché is real. Her lack of interest in psycho-dude is rattling, for sure. Girlfriend is my last line of defense when a psycho killer-rapist come knocking.

So, the end of the day came quick and Veruca exited her bus like a champ. And climbed into my waiting vehicle like a bitch from hell. She demanded to know why she couldn’t walk home from the bus, and why I had to pick her up, etc., etc. I stopped talking to her, since my counselor told me that times like these, don’t join the party. (Side note: very effective long term – but really difficult to do when it’s happening.)

I was tempted to post something on FB about whiplash, but never got the chance before Todd came home too. Veruca had a serious low (aka, below-50 blood sugar) about an hour after coming home, so I now feel like a complete failure.

Meanwhile, back in Opac-land, football practice ended early today due to the heat, and he came straight home and crashed. He slept through “dinner,” which is currently some shadow of the real thing as V leaves for practice at 5:30 just as O is getting picked up, and it’s anybody’s guess if I-95 will allow Todd to get home before 7. We are eating in shifts.

Opac didn’t want to take out the trash, but moreover – he said if this schedule continues, he “won’t have time” to take out the trash and recycling like he used to. Yeah. He seriously said that to me with a straight face. I suggested that such a strident schedule might indicate that football was no longer necessary, if it interfered with homework and so on… and then I flipped out.

I am so NOT supposed to be winging it. But winging it, I don’t know how the next few weeks are gonna go, and all I can think about is how I don’t want to kill anybody. And it’s only the first day.

P.S. As if all this isn’t enough, the WordPress gods have supremely pissed me off. I checked my page here one day remotely, and was appalled to see an ad for Donald Trump at the bottom of one of my posts. SO, as if I don’t also have enough to do – let this be my first public political statement:


Revelations – the Detox Story Continues


My journey toward writing my New York stories – whether by book or by blog – took me to this particular page where I was surprised to read what I had written over 25 years ago. I’m inspired to share the chronicles of New York and NYU, in my usual style of humor and a bit of sarcasm, but this page – this page – was anything but funny. The most shocking bit of it, was the only part I have no memory of.

I recently wrote about discontinuing Paxil, and how difficult it has been. It’s been 17 days, and all that appears to be left is waking nausea – not unlike morning sickness – and the emotional hurricane inside my whole being. To the former – many of my withdrawal symptoms look like pregnancy. However, I can assure you, I am not. To the latter – anything, and everything, has the potential to release the floodgates on my usually composed emotions.

I was sitting at a table in the water park on Tuesday, and our song came over the sound system and I just tensed up with stupid pent up tears. It was ridiculous. I fully expected to cry on my two high school friends the previous night, you know, because we haven’t seen each other in sooo long and how many years has it been and we’re getting older and… for the love of GOD. Thankfully, I didn’t. But that’s the crap part of this – you never know when it’s gonna hit. Well, except when we’re watching movies and then I can be sure it will come – and what the hell was I thinking watching Ghost under these circumstances?

According to what I’ve read, this crying thing is part of the withdrawal. And it sucks BIG TIME. This medication, just like anti-depressants, “takes the edge off” so much that I was actually numb. I even asked my alarmed, and slightly annoyed kids – when is the last time you saw me cry like this? And they can’t remember. Because, it’s like – never.

Yesterday Todd and I went to the bike shop to have my bike repaired after he accidentally rolled over it in the garage in the Mustang (SO glad I didn’t do that). He’s in the market for a road bike, so he and “Mel” were chatting while I sort of wandered about the store, touching at the jerseys and bike shorts in a disinterested way. And then I saw a yellow jersey that struck me instantly with a memory of my uncle, an avid cyclist, who lost his battle with cancer twelve years ago. Lance Armstrong sent him a LiveStrong jersey, post- mortem. It was hung over his bike at the memorial service, where I cried an uncontrollable torrent of tears. In public. And later, all I could think of was, is this what life will become? Everyone I love will eventually pass on and I get to stand here and watch it happen, over and over again? It was a heartbreaking revelation and it took me a very long time to recover. And now – in that bike shop – all those emotions came flooding back to me and I found myself fighting back tears.

Okay so back to the point. So, ultimately, I don’t want to be on medication. I don’t think I need it. Yet, after re-reading what I wrote at age 20 – I wonder that I always felt so conflicted, so fragmented, so emotional, so angry at things I couldn’t even articulate. That the semester I took a course in Women’s Literature I started to really consciously recognize these feelings. I read A Room of One’s Own. I read The Golden Notebook. I plunged into my writing classes. It all started to click. And now, in retrospect, besides knowing there’s a significant genetic link to this – I was always this way – Born this Way – and now I’ve got wisdom on my side. The wisdom to know what works for me, and what doesn’t. The wisdom to know the difference between just surviving, and thriving.

This is Not About PMS

Blogged while finishing off the coffee Todd made. (Sorry babe.)

At the risk of scaring away any male readers, PMS sucks. It was not in my plan to make this an opener today. I had other plans for this post. But today’s post isn’t going to be about the original plan, and it’s not going to be about PMS either. However, PMS has driven the direction of my thoughts today, and so there you have it.

I just want to preface this by stating that being in my 40s has given me a sort of Superwoman ability to recognize when PMS is coming. Okay, so maybe it’s really just a side effect of maturity… but still…this, my friends, is a –UGE milestone. Where in my  20s I’d hit that week where everyone and everything pissed me off and I barreled through all of it like a freight train bent on destruction, I can now see myself getting stabby and am able to sort of reel it in before everyone in my orbit feels like they’ve been tased. There are far fewer victims in my wake now.

Todd can talk me down off the wall, but I still have to make him understand why I feel this way and he has to acknowledge it before I can let it go. Like yesterday in the garage. I was putting stuff away from the community yard sale and sweating my balls off, and complaining wildly about it. The sweating, not the putting away of stuff. And before someone tells me I don’t have balls I will tell you I have plenty, and I’m not afraid to use them, but I was sweating so hard [sweating my balls off] that I sweat them right off! So in which case, you’re right – I have no balls now.

And, while we’re on the subject of balls, a few weeks ago my mom was over and we were all standing out on the deck enjoying a relaxing Sunday when she suddenly looked at Opac and said, don’t scratch your balls in front of your Nannie. Veruca’s face registered an amusing struggle to simultaneously control shock and hysteria. Opac stopped scratching/adjusting/ whatever-you-boys-do and fired back matter-of-factly – why were you looking there?

Anyway, back to not talking about PMS. It makes me stabby, and occasionally weepy. But we’re not going to talk about that. Except for the fact that I am almost never feeling that way, except for that one week every month, and even then it’s almost always never weepy. Except for this time.

I’m trying not to feel weepy about Pi, who’s 15 and falling down a little more often every day and sometimes when she does she loses her bladder. I have a post started along the My Life Is Shit series, meant to be funny, but today it’s anything but funny.

Todd and I were simultaneously cleaning up kitchen surfaces this morning – him, the pile of papers on the island and me, the pile of stuff on the kitchen table. I bought these “Calming” chews for Sabra and I held up the bag to show him and he wondered aloud if someone makes something all-natural like this for humans, which surely someone does, and I said as much while remembering some Chinese herbs someone had “prescribed” me years ago for my anxiety. So of course he asked, who? Someone I dated on and off over a 6-year period, who moved to California to study Chinese medicine and acupuncture. He said, why don’t you call him and find out what it was? I would never, because he would never speak to me – I’d walked away from him three times. I’m not so callous to think he has even thought of me in the last 18 years, but if he did, it was with hate.

Todd’s on this plane right now that is equally matter-of-fact and at times quite harsh. His response to this? That guy had no business being with me. You were never his, he said. That may be true, but for the record – I was never about breaking hearts.

The conversation segued into how series of events lead us to the places we end up in… like for me, had I never gone to a small college in PA I would never have met a guy who introduced me to my big sister (sorority), and with whom we would not have visited a fraternity brother in a hospital in North Jersey, and ended up spending a whirlwind day in New York City whereby I discovered a certain University whose purple flags hung all over the village and intrigued me to the point I would never forget them.

Todd pointed out that had we not broken up, he would not have left town for Baltimore. Or, that I might have moved down there with him, and gone to college there. He mentioned that night I came to his work to return some things of his, and how difficult it was for him. Tears filled my eyes as he told me how he flipped out on someone and walked out. I can still remember that night like it was yesterday, or at least the emotions I felt. Erikah drove me over there. I remember the anxiety, and the awkwardness between us. And how I cried as we drove away.

I swiped at the tears while we talked this morning. I don’t remember what I was returning to him that night – because we’d had another day when he’d come to my house and I gave him his jacket and his ring, and we’d ended up on the floor, loving each other like it would never be over.

If he saw the tears rimming my eyes as we talked, it didn’t stop his train of thought as he pointed out how, when something is that difficult to let go of, you’re not supposed to let go of it. And – our breakup was very, very hard to do. It wasn’t a breakup where one of us said to the other – I don’t want you. I just want and/or need something else too.

It was me. The child, the Gemini in me, had something more she wanted to do, something more she wanted to know, experience, live…  He said this morning, he would never have broken up with me. Maybe not, but we will never know. We took a different path. He chose not to fight me. He didn’t want to hold me back – a display of love and maturity that defied his 17 years. I stood before him conflicted and heartbroken, and cried a thousand times over him as I moved on. It’s amazing how easy it is to remember and feel them in the same way, in all of my extremities and my heart and the pit of my stomach.

I’m so glad he took me back. I’m so glad he loved me. I’m so blessed to share the rest of our lives together, as it was written long ago.

And equally blessed because this man who knows me better than I know myself, just walked quietly past me and dropped a handful of M&Ms on my desk.



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Happily ever after…

Copyright The Tara Chronicles.

To Practice What I Already Know

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Blogged while trying to avoid yard sale preparations.

I have “unspecified” anxiety – which I’m fairly certain just means, “I get nervous frequently and for no apparent reason.” My grandmother had anxiety, and I’m just going to assume it’s genetically inherited since I have no real reason to have it otherwise. Well, okay – I have a good reason, but I seriously don’t worry over Veruca’s diabetes. I just DO IT.

Anyway, counseling. I went to counseling. But not for anxiety. However, I was anxious about it. I’ve been to counseling before, and it wasn’t really for me. I went in my 20s because I thought I should, and the therapist was great, but I really wasn’t into sitting on a couch dissecting my childhood and my character. For the record, I’m still not.

I went again about 3 or 4 years ago, after the custody crap was over, in an attempt to heal myself from the trauma of that fight I didn’t start. I went once. I ran. Far, far away. This therapist was a little “too close” to the situation I was trying to heal from. She asked too many questions about the technical parts of the custody battle, like who was the judge, who was my attorney, who was his attorney, etc. And here’s where this healing foray for me ended – she knew everyone involved. Well, everyone but my attorney. My anxiety took liftoff to space and it was over. My trust ended before it even began.

Anyway, back to the present. Long story short, after the debacle in my ex’s driveway I called for an appointment. I had a long wait. You know when you have plenty of time to ruminate over something, and you start coming up with reasons not to do it? Yeah.

I have been having issues with Veruca for a while now. Mostly parenting issues. I have realized that she causes me anxiety. She is demanding, and spoiled, and challenging, and takes no prisoners. She will ask me something a hundred times, and no matter how many times I say no – she’ll ask just one more time. That expression, “when momma aint happy, aint nobody happy”? This is Veruca. Now, I’m fully aware that she is not the problem. I am.

The counseling I was seeking was two-fold. One, was empowering me to become a better parent and take control. The other was about working through old baggage that I carry from an abusive marriage. Baggage I had under control, until that day it wasn’t.

“Jane” listened intently, repeated back to me what she heard, and made suggestions. Followed by orders to put my crown back on and stop taking shit from Veruca. Essentially, shut down the learned behaviors by NOT reacting emotionally to them. Being matter-of-fact. Sounds easy, right? I had been taking the “choose your battles” to new levels by pulling out of the war altogether. Or, I continued to engage with her when I should have been saying it once and meaning it. I knew that this was a huge part of what was usurping my joy. I am the one who has the power to be happy, and the power to stop a little terrorist from taking it away. Sometimes ya gotta fight the battle to win the war. It’s a process.

So far it’s been a week, and I’m feeling much better. So far, Veruca hasn’t really tried to engage me in anything. I practice deep breaths and matter-of-fact statements and, though inside my heart is racing and I’m tense, I focus on a calm face and voice. It seems to be working. However, having lived twelve years where you never knew what was coming around the next corner, I’m not so naïve to believe that everything is hunky dory.

As for the second part of my counseling needs, I was reminded that I was married to a “big bully” who liked to control everything, and everyone. The acknowledgement of abuse. And, while it seems silly, I needed to hear a professional tell me that what happened in the driveway was assault. It was assault. And I could have called the police.

And in one quick statement, that’s all over with. And, aren’t you glad you’re not married to that anymore? Yes it is, and yes I am.


Confessions of an Accidental Gardener


Photo copyright The Tara Chronicles, 2016

I’ve killed every plant I’ve ever owned. Well, almost every one.

Once, back in my 20s, I bought a hanging fern for my apartment. My “first plant.”  Its leaves gradually turned brown and dropped off, until it was a mere shadow of the glorious fullness it was when it came home with me. I had a violet plant once too – back in college – that was a gift from my big sister. That died before the semester was even half over.

I have, in the past, attempted to grow various seeds – which fell into a variety of science-project type categories. The infant basil and cilantro made it about 3 inches out of the soil and then keeled over and died. I grew this pot of edible grasses for the cat, who gnawed at it for a week until it was all gone and I don’t care what they say about healthy digestion, he yakked up at least one serving of the stuff. The notorious bean growing experiment from home school was a complete disaster. I am not a gardener.

When I was married (round one), my mom gave us this tree-plant. By some miracle this thing survived for nearly 13 years, growing taller than me, until Oliver decided to use it as a toilet. My ex promptly tossed him out along with the tree. By this time we were divorced but still negotiating property, and I was not only locked out of my home, but locked out of some very basic decision-making. In this case, then, I proclaim my innocence on the death of the tree – which is surely fertilizing a landfill somewhere.

When we bought the house, we inherited an extensive and lush garden that covered more than half the backyard. The garden beds surrounding the house were carefully planted and colorfully full. I didn’t have to do anything. Except weed. I LOVE to weed. There’s something so satisfying about ripping something undesirable out by the roots. It became a therapeutic means for coping with the unhappiness that lived inside. He planted some things here and there, and his mother – an avid and talented gardener – arranged some large pots of flowering plants on the deck. I never watered a damn thing. I left it for him to do, and I guess he did it because nothing ever died. Except for a dogwood tree he planted near the fish pond.

I had one plant inside – what turned out to be a very hardy rosemary plant, another gift from my mom – that grew full and beautiful on the kitchen windowsill. I think I watered this one. I don’t remember. But it lived a good long time. I don’t know what happened to it – I think my ex got custody of it.

When Todd and I moved here, the tenants had 50% of our driveway covered in potted plants – and don’t think this looked pretty. Nearly all of them were in various stages of death. While I was angry and disgusted by the curb-appeal appearance, I was secretly overjoyed that there was actually someone in the world who was worse at gardening than me.

The front of our home is no Longwood Gardens. I think our friend’s exact words, when he was over, were – at least you don’t have to worry about Martha Stewart stopping by. I hung a couple of plants on our back deck, which the sun scorched to ash like little vampires caught at sunrise. Todd bought me some tulips that first spring we were here, which I kept inside and watered a few times until he mentioned something about planting them so then I put them outside on the deck and promptly forgot about them. Out of sight, for me, is apparently out of mind. (The pot is actually still where I left it.)

Last summer was the first year we actually made an attempt to make the front pretty. Hard as this may be to believe, an artist and a writer have zero knowledge and creativity when it comes to planning and planting a garden. We know what we like, we know what we’d like to see, but we can’t put it all together. We went to a garden center one weekend when I bought the hanging plants and we might as well have been in a foreign country, where everything in every direction was brand new and we didn’t speak the language. We talked about what we liked there, but were too overwhelmed to pick anything out. We’re lucky we had the hanging planters. They were easy though – already arranged and selected from the “full sun” greenhouse. I’m proud to say that I knew not to pick out any from the “part shade” greenhouse for our full-sun back deck.

We ended up buying bags of mulch and a handful of plants to plant out front. We ran out of mulch and the gardens looked bare, except where the stray cats remodeled the little bit of mulch. I was disheartened by my lack of gardening skills, and held out hope that mom would come down and help. Well, that never happened but my neighbor took pity on me, or it was a desperate attempt to spruce up our eyesore, and leant me a landscaping book.

The pressure is on this year, as we prepare for my in-laws 50th anniversary at our home in just over a month. I started weeding. I dug out the edges of our sidewalk, creating clean lines – one of my favorite things to do. I cleaned out the beds around the front of the house. Veruca and I went shopping for plants and filled a shopping cart with $100 worth of flowers and bushes that made our gardens look pretty and simple. We had a pile of black mulch delivered and the four of us went out after dinner one night and spread it through the gardens. It looks so clean and neat now and I’m so excited that it has rained every day this week and I haven’t had to remember to water it at all.

I’m really good with cut flowers. Just don’t ask me to water them.