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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

How You Love

I haven't blogged lately because for some weird reason, my blog seems to have changed into some weird thing I don't know how to fix.  So I've just posted on FB.  But, this post needs some space, and I need to be able to use all my digits and not just the index finger on my right hand. So, however it comes out here is what it is.

I have been struggling with something very personal for quite a long time now. I keep it to me, and I share it with my best friend, my life partner, my protector, my kids' father, the one I know has my back no matter what. My children know and support me. I do believe, in small things they do and say, that this thing that has become very important to me, is also important to them. I like to think, that like their dad, they are proud of me as well.

Very recently, in the last week in fact, something quite significant happened that was probably a defining factor in changes that will transpire in my life's walk. I shared a bit, in a very surface-y kind of way. But today, I shared in graphic detail with Charlie. Only because he genuinely asked me about something I said. He cared. He cared about what I cared about. It had an impact on a conversation we had about a milestone in our lives...an anniversary dinner.

As we talked, and I shared, I had one of those moments of clarity that sometimes escapes those of us who have been in relationships that surpass the days of passion. Decades go by and you are well past the child-bearing, and child-rearing days that are mindless expectations of the children of the "Greatest Generation".  You've gone beyond those "Hot August Nights" in the backseat of some muscle car, thinking your parents are none the wiser, and you've survived nappies, and vomit, and teenage discipline. You know you've graduated from a nuclear "pod" to that "twoness" that started this whole crazy ride, and lo and behold...you still fucking adore each other. So, when something life-changing happens to one of you, it happens to BOTH of you. At least, it should.

I guess this is just my tribute to my husband. On the eve of this yearly thing that we celebrate during this week in January, I'm just a bit overwhelmed by his gift to me tonight. He just sat and listened to me talk about things that have been weighing on my heart. He didn't judge me, he didn't try to sway me in any way. He just listened, and in his listening, I fell into that deep, safe, love that I fell into on that Wednesday night in January 39 years ago. I remembered that feeling of complete comfort that an insecure 19 year old girl felt when this funny, self-effacing, sweet, kind 23 year old guy held her hand and walked along the beach with her all those years ago.

Changes and growth don't stop. Love shouldn't either. I have been the fortunate beneficiary of an affection that has stood the test of time. These are the things I need to remember on those days when complaining rolls off my lips just a little too easily.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Pity Party - Uninvited Guest

Last night, I was feeling extremely down. It wasn't an epic Pity Party, but it was pretty "festive". So much so that Charlie asked me a few times if I was doing ok.

As many know, it's been a pretty rough few months for our family, but the absolute disturbing truth is that I was really only thinking of myself. I hate admitting that, but that's the truth. I was feeling self-absorbed and pouty because for all the issues we've been having, a few months ago, Charlie and I had to cancel a vacation that we were pretty darned excited about, with friends that we were so excited to see again. Today is the day we were to depart, tonight we'd be reunited with friends meeting to honor another friend who passed. First time to Ft. Lauderdale to depart on a Caribbean cruise to parts of those beautiful islands that we had never been.

Yeah, it's been pretty hard seeing the posts of all the friends who are now traveling and on their way, and who for the next week will be having a wonderful time. They all deserve it of course. Two friends in particular who have been through and seen devastation in their own town of Panama City/Mexico Beach, Florida since the hurricane. I was pretty much able to check myself when I thought about that and of our lost dear friend who would not be there, and the reason everyone was gathering. But, as the time of departure was upon us, I turned into someone that even a Snickers bar couldn't bring back to reality, and I'm ashamed of that.

I was especially ashamed when I woke up this morning and Charlie told me what happened in Thousand Oaks last night. None of that mattered. I just began to silently send thanks into the universe that my husband wasn't hurt in last week's car accident, that my daughter walked away from her car accident this week. The myriad of financial and medical issues we've been dealing with that lead us to cancelling our trip are nothing. I'm not receiving a call that my son or daughter won't be coming home because a sad, sick man with a gun walked into the place they were and killed them. My husband isn't a security guard or a sheriff that was in the line of fire. My family is safe. All of my self-pity has suddenly disappeared and has been replaced with relief, and gratitude. Slowly, as the realization has settled in, and the magnitude of what we, as a nation will continue to face because our government has no spine, grief and sympathy have entered. Soon, the anger will set in.

My thoughts are no longer on myself and the privilege I allowed myself to feel so self-absorbed. I can think of my friends leaving for their vacations with love and joy and the sincere hope that they will have the time of their lives. I can be comforted in the thought that people I love are doing ok, whether there are minor scrapes and bruises, and some measures of aches and pains, they are ok. I'm not going to beat myself up for a visit to Pity Land, but I'm also going to remember to be grateful, and to fight like fucking hell to help change what's wrong with this country.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

The Line of Acceptance - Where is it Drawn?

One gorgeous day in paradise, when I was 4, we went to my uncle's beautiful home in what was then, the "country".  I loved going to my uncle's farm on the windward side of O'ahu.  He had chickens running all over and I thought it was great fun to chase them through the rich soil between the rows of taro.  This particular day, unbeknownst to me, was a family gathering for a celebration, though I cannot remember the occasion.  What I DO remember was there was a sweet little calf in my uncle's yard.  I was overjoyed.  I had the most wonderful morning with that precious cow.  We romped around in the yard and became quite good friends. 

Later on in the day, more cousins arrived and my parents shoo'ed me off to play with them. I loved these summer days in Hawai'i. Our play was carefree and filled with fun and laughter.  When the dinner bell rang, we ran off to join the rest of the extended family for some great food, which is always the centerpoint of every family gathering.  My aunty sent us around the side of the house to wash up before dinner.  I followed my siblings and cousins, still smiling and laughing.  Then I saw it.  Well, first the boys saw it.  They gathered around a galvanized washtub in the carport, making the kind of sounds that boys usually do, poking and laughing at each other, and pushing each other toward the large tub. I walked over and one of my cousins was lifting a linen that was draped over the tub and teasing his little sister while she stared with eyes as wide as saucers.  There, in that washbin, was the head of my little friend from that morning. I started screaming and running, and all I remember after that was my brother scooping me up and taking me away.  Well, I do remember everyone trying to get me to eat dinner later.  I couldn't. 

I blocked this story out for many, many years.  But it came back with a vengeance almost a year ago this summer.  In crisp, vibrant detail, and many more memories came with it.  Now, it just doesn't leave.  It's with me all the time.  Sometimes, it's with me more than I care for it to be.  Which brings me to my life in the present day. 

I'm 57 years old.  I've struggled with a great many things in my life, no different than anyone else, I'm sure.  One of the biggest things I've ever struggled with is resolve.  I have always admired Charlie, and dear friends of mine like Steve, and even my girls (thank goodness they didn't take after me in that department).  People who have been able to say; "I'm doing this." and it was done.  I found that to be a strength of character that had always eluded me.  I've been an animal lover my whole life.  I don't remember a time in my life when there was not a pet in my home.  I think my parents took pity on me because I was mostly raised an only child and we moved so often, I didn't make friends that easily.  Or if I did, I had to leave them soon, so I didn't invest.  I had tons of books, and always a pet.  But I was also raised in a home where the daily menu was meat heavy.  Living in Hawai'i especially, roasting pigs, bar-be-queing whole sides of beef, spits full of huli-huli chicken was as common as coffee in the morning.  I never made the connection between those trays of meat at the market with a living, breathing creature.  I just ate what was put in front of me.  That was just that.

Many years later, when my teenaged niece became a vegetarian, I remember admiring her but thinking that it was probably a passing phase.  That was 30 years ago.  She's grown into adulthood, is raising two beautiful daughters, and is married to a carnivore who is an amazing chef.  She's still a vegetarian.  She made a decision for her life, and she stuck to it.  But, what has become MORE amazing to me, as I have been on this new journey for MYSELF, is that her family and friends supported her.  My sister-in-law, as far back as I can remember, always made sure she cooked Wendy's meals with veggie broth instead of beef or chicken broth.  Small things like that, but really, in the big picture, not so small in retrospect.  Once my niece had made up her mind, her family supported that decision.  For whatever reason she made that decision.  It wasn't a passing fancy, or a teenaged phase, as I had naively assumed.  It was to be her life, her family knew it, and they supported her.

I've had so many conversations with my friend Steve about this.  I've long desired to stop eating meat.  I have Vegan friends and admire their fortitude.  I know that going full vegetarian or vegan would just be too much for me.  But, I'd long wanted to try.  I thought I was too old....a leopard's spots, an old dog's tricks, etc.  I'd lived this long eating meat, true, but as Charlie can attest, I've never been truly happy about it. I hated that I loved it so much.  I hated that I could enjoy living off the flesh of animals.  I could definitely make the connection now, as an adult, between that sweet, innocent little friend who became a luau dinner at my uncle's when I was four, to those trays of meat in the supermarket. If that didn't do it all those years ago, what would be my catalyst for change? 

One day, my dear friend and treasured counsel Steve asked me during one of these deep dish conversations we have at random moments in life, if I'd ever seen a certain documentary.  I won't name it, because this is my journey, and my journey has never been about changing anyone else but me.  I'm not on an evangelical mission of meat-abstinence.  Also, I'd known about this documentary, and others like it, for a long time, and I just sat on it.  I did nothing with the information.  I couldn't do it.  I knew it was going to have a profound effect on me because of my intensely soft heart and my vivid "after-view".  I didn't think I could sit through it, or ever live comfortably with myself again after it.  After all, I'm the woman that walked out of Jurassic Park during the goat scene.  I just wasn't brave enough.

Until last summer.  Everything changed with, of all things, a dog named Chi-Chi...a rescued South Korean meat market dog.  Then I learned about the annual horror in Yulin, China.  Then, with all of my rescue sites, and all of my advocating for what we, in our country, consider our domestic pets, our pets that we call "family".  What was the difference?  I asked myself; "what is the difference?"  Somewhere in the world, someone is eating Kili, or Kiva, or any number of pets in my life.  Yes, I know it's common in places and always has been. I'd grown up with family members in Hawai'i joking about "Black Dog Stew" in a Filipino accent, except I knew they weren't really joking. That really was someone's dinner in Mindanao, or Luzon.  But this time, something happened in me that I couldn't just walk away.  So I watched that movie.  That ended my life as a meat-eater.  No, I'm not a vegetarian, and I'm not vegan.  I still eat fish.  I'm trying to work my way off of eggs and dairy.  I'm not sure I'll ever succeed because cheese.  However, I'm still going to endeavor to try.

Here's another revelation that will shock some.  I smoked for many years.  I was a closet smoker when I met Charlie.  I lived in a home with two chain-smokers, and I became a smoker myself at the age of 18.  How I held off that long, I don't know.  I thought it was a disgusting, horrible habit.  And yet, somewhere along the line I threw up my hands and said "fuck it."  My mother discovered that I smoked and told me to remember that she counted her cigarettes, so if I was taking up the habit, I had to support it on my own.  I did.  When I met Charlie, it wasn't long before I quit.  We were talking about having a family, so I didn't want to start out that way.  Long story short, I quit for many years, throughout the kids childhoods, but took it up again when they were junior high.  I don't know why.  Stupidity.  Stopped again for a couple years.  Quit.  Never smoked in the house.  Never smoked in front of my kids.  They knew, but I suppose, in my head, I felt like I was being a "good parent" by not letting them see me smoke.  Again, stupidity.  When I lost a lot of weight, I was so scared of putting it back on, I started smoking again.  I quit again.  I started again.  It's a vicious cycle.  But last year, for Christmas, I decided to quit again.  I had a scare. I told myself it was enough.  I owed my family better memories than the ones my parents left for me.  So, it's now 7 months.  I'm still in the non-smoking phase.  It's been good.  Hard, but I'm working through it. I've cheated, and I hate to admit it, but I'm still carrying a pack that I bought before I quit. It's weirdly comforting.  Yeah, I've gained weight.  A lot of weight. But, I'm a work in progress.  In all of that, I've had support.

That last word; "support".  It really is the topic of this post.  Not the fact that I gave up beef, pork, or fowl.  Not the fact that I "quit" smoking.  SUPPORT.  It's become something of a hitch in my get-along.  The last few months have been quite revealing as it's become more obvious to people, and I've become more open about it.  I did not come out to my friends and family with a megaphone, or buy a bulletin board.  As a matter of fact, I resolved to myself alone, first.  I was going to try, without anyone knowing, and just see how long, or how far I could go, or if I could even have a small measure of success.  After about a month or two, and feeling that yeah, I can do this, if anyone asked, I would tell them quietly that I was a pescatarian.  Without fanfare.  I was doing this for me, and me alone. I was not into judgment or proselytizing.  What I did not know was going to happen was that I, myself, was going to be judged.  That's actually been the thing that has surprised and disappointed me.

Some of the comments that I have had made to me of late, and my thoughts when they're said:

"I wish you'd never seen that movie." 
Gosh, I'm sorry my seeing a movie changed YOUR life so much.  Oh wait...it hasn't.

"You really don't know what you're missing."
Actually, yeah I do.  I've had a good half century and some of having what you're enjoying, and like you, I did enjoy it.  I'm sure it tastes the same.  I wish you knew it's not always easy for a food girl like me to give things up.  But at this time in my life, the flavor doesn't bring the satisfaction that it once did for many reasons.  Please enjoy your meal without making me feel bad.

"Humans have canines and incisors for a reason."
What does that have to do with my decision to use mine to masticate food choices that are different than yours?  Hippos and gorillas have massive teeth too, but they seem to be ok without eating meat.

"Fruits and vegetables are living things too, but you eat them."
Well, the day a living fruit or vegetable jumps off my kitchen counter cutting board, I'll be sure and tell them you said hello.  Also, if you know me, you KNOW I'm TERRIBLE at eating my fruits and vegetables.  Those things are NEVER my first menu choices.  So if you'd like to "save the papaya" that's sitting on the edge of my plate, feel free.

"If God didn't want us to eat them....."
You lost me at "God".  Do you not know me at all?

There've been others over the past few months, but you get the gist. I've been amazed at what point people have decided it's okay to make judgment calls or comments about what I eat.  Especially considering I've NEVER made what I eat or don't eat an issue to ANYONE.  EVER.  I've never asked for special treatment.  I've never made a decision about whether or not I attend a gathering based on what food was or wasn't being served.  I've always found something that I can eat anywhere I've been.  Even if I've had to eat the same thing for three straight days (and believe me, I HAVE), I've NEVER complained or uttered a word about it.  I've never pointed out anyone else's food quirks or dislikes publically.  In fact, if I've known about someone's idiosyncratic food choices, I've supported them.  I would never put something that someone finds offensive in front of them, or make them feel that how they feel is silly, or unworthy, or inconvenient to me.   On the contrary, I have continued to prepare food, with loving care, for the people in my life who do not share my convictions. I haven't clanged any bells of shame, I haven't weighed and measured them as human beings.  I haven't disrespected them for what they have on their dinner tray.  I have carried many a plate of meat, fresh off the grill to a table full of meat eaters without so much as a Whoville-sized whisper of contempt for their choice. Why have I not been afforded the same respect for a change in my life, that at its core, is based in compassion?

I find it interesting that if someone has given up a certain thing because of a health issue, well, that's ok and we should support them.  Lose weight?  Great!  How can I help support you?  Quit smoking?  Awesome!  I'm here for you!  You can't eat such-and-such because you have a certain medical issue?  Okay, Pom-poms at the ready!  Wait...you're not eating meat because you care about animal torture? Oh brother! :::eyes rolling, air sputtering:::   So...because I gave something up for a moral issue, it somehow negates the validity of my conscious effort and validates their reason for making a scene over my food, at my expense.  Apparently, my feelings mean nothing and somehow has some bearing on their lives in a personal way.  How, I don't know, but that's the way I've been made to feel. 

Last year, when I made this decision, I knew the only ones it would have an impact on were me, and the people that live under the same roof as me.  At that time, it was Charlie and Bryson.  Of course, I'm going to share my decision with my life partner, the man I've spent 38 years with, my best friend.  Of course, it will mean that some things in HIS life may change.  But I'd like to think that it would be for the better.  I did not ask Charlie to make this food journey with me.  I did not ask him to change HIS life.  But he did what comes naturally to him.  He did what he's always done since the day I met him.  He SUPPORTED me.  He never made me feel bad for the decision I made.  He never ridiculed me.  He never embarrassed me in public.  He did what my niece's friends and family did for her when she made that decision for her life all those decades ago.  Support.  He even said he knew it was coming, and had been coming for a long, long time.  You see, my husband knows me.  He knows my heart.  He knows my fiery passion.  He knows that it may take me longer to get to a destination, but he knew I would get there.  He has been right by my side as I lamented for YEARS about my inability to make this one thing stick.  If anyone is allowed to call me on anything, it's the guy who has paid his dues with me.  Yeah, he sometimes forgets and tries to get me to taste something, or try something that he's enjoying that he knows has ingredients I avoid.  But he's allowed to forget when he's lived with me for almost 4 decades of carnivorous culinary adventures.  My kids have been amazing.  They love their meat, but they've actually been very accommodating, without my asking.  That's what you do for people you love and care about.  You support them.

I have a feeling that it's going to get worse before it gets better because there will be more decisions on my part that will raise hackles.  They shouldn't, but they will.  I'll keep them to myself as long as I can because it's evident that my choices somehow make people really uncomfortable, since they talk about it more than I do.  That's ok.  Everyday that passes strengthens my resolve in this.  Everyday towards this life goal that has literally taken my entire lifetime to try to attain. In this journey, my long-struggling soul rests just a bit easier every day, and that, above all, is the most important part to me.  The key word being "me".


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Whatever Floats Your Boat

I conducted an experiment.  If you post something that you don't like about something other people like, it gets WAY more attention than it should.   And it's guaranteed to get you comments from people who never comment on your posts.  So, if you want to feel less invisible, post a complaint about the latest thing that people are losing their shit over, and BAM!...invisibility over.  But now you're just a grumpy bitch.  What's new?

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Standing My Ground

I recently read an article about relationships wherein the author reminds the reader that one cannot correct what one is not willing to confront.  That really resonated with me with regard to some really difficult changes I've made in the past year.  In 12-Step programs, one of the steps is taking a fearless and moral inventory of yourself.  Followed closely by being willing to change any defects in character.  There's a higher power in there somewhere, but for the sake of this particular post, I'm going to say that the power in these changes has been me.  I decided to make changes.  I decided that it was time.  I decided to begin to hear the voice of my soul that would be the catalyst for change.  I decided to stop being an apologist for bad behavior, whether it was my own, or someone else's. I decided that I was worthy of respect.  I decided to stand up for myself if I felt I was being disrespected or if someone hurt my feelings. I decided to listen to the experiences of those who had gone before me in any given situation. Really listen. 
Hearing is different from listening.  Hearing involves the ears, which are sometimes deaf.  Listening involves the heart.  This can be a problem for people who have a wall around that vessel of feelings.  This wall may have been built purposefully for self-protection after having been hurt too many times, or perhaps, it just grew organically on it's own.  These poor people who are afflicted by the latter are the ones we've come into contact with in our lives that make us utter under our breaths that they must be heartless.  We know this to be biologically untrue, but they do seem to function quite well without putting any feelings into anything.  However, for someone like me, empathic to the core, accused regularly of being too sensitive, this hearing thing is something I feel like I've had a Ph.D. in my whole life.  If there can be a problem with that, it is being too vulnerable to taking on other people's pain.  Which brings us right back, full circle, to standing your ground if someone hurts you, whether they know they are doing it or not.
It's easier said than done.  There is great risk involved.  You may stand your ground, but you may end up standing alone when all is said and done.  You have to be willing to lose that person in your life.  No one wants to lose friends.  Life is hard, and when it's hard, you want to have someone to walk through it with you and share the load when it's heavy.  Life is also joyful, and when it's joyful, you want to have your friends there to celebrate that part of the journey.  It's funny that when you consider the relationships in your life, if you say that you think you may be in a toxic relationship, people instantly think it's something to do with your significant other.  They don't think about friendships.  But I can tell you that a long time ago, I was in a relationship with someone I considered a trusted, lifelong friend, that was so completely textbook mentally abusive, that it took many, many years to recover.  During recovery, I had built a wall around my heart that for years after, was impenetrable.  I didn't let my guard down with people.  It took me a long time to trust in friendship again.  I did learn to let go and realize that not everyone was out to take advantage of me, and that I could take chances in the good.  But I became very picky about who I let in my sphere of influence, and trust is something that must be earned. 
There's another side to being a victim/survivor.  It's where that moral and fearless inventory comes in.  You have to come to terms that somewhere, at sometime in your life, YOU yourself may have been a perpetrator of some sort.  You may have caused someone pain.  It could have been without malice or intent.  If brought to your attention, they may have seemed insignificant or small to you.  But to the person who was hurt, it isn't small.  If they're like me, they were quiet, they let it pass, they made excuses for you because they loved you or cared about you.  They told themselves that you cared about them too and they would never do anything to cause you pain on purpose.  
Unfortunately, over time, those situations happen again and again.  A casual, "playful" jab.  A remark made "in jest".  They build up.  Stronger, more emotionally healthy people would easily stand up for themselves and say; "No, that's not how that went.  It happened like this."  But, if someone who is less equipped to stand up to an artful bully, points out a hiccup on the part of the bully, and that bully does what that bully does best and turns it around to make it that person's "lack of comprehension" to the situation at hand...well guess what?  The person takes it.  They take it again, and again, and again.  Until one day, after years go by, someone much wiser and much stronger says to them; "Why do you take that from them?  Why do you not stand up for yourself?  I SAW what happened.  I HEARD what happened.  Don't take that from them.  Don't let them do that to you!"  So, one day you gird your loins, you gather your courage, and after they do that thing they do, you speak up for yourself.  No surprise to you, they get angry and hostile, vilify you, make themselves the pious sacrificial lamb, and when all is said and done, leave you standing in the rubble, quite happy with their handiwork. 
One day you woke up and you said; "I'm going to stop smoking." And you did.  One day you woke up and you said; "I'm going to stop eating animals." And you did.  One day you woke up and you realized you had hurt people, so you went to them and you came clean and you apologized for ever having hurt them and you promised that you would never do that again.  One day you woke up and you said; "I'm going to lose weight."  And you did.  Okay, you gained it back, but that is entirely on you and you own it as part of that inventory.  One day, quite recently, you woke up and said; "I am NOT going to let anyone bully me ever again."  And I won't.  If they never take a fearless and moral inventory themselves and take responsibility for their own failings, that's on them.  Not me.
For anyone in a situation where they aren't sure whether a relationship they may be in could have the earmarks of an emotionally abusive relationship, here are some things to consider.  Please remember even friendships can be emotionally abusive.
Be brave.  You deserve respect.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Lucky 13 - For Jojo Smith

I took an inventory.  It turns out I've written about the Smith family, or mentioned them, no less than 13 times on this blog.  I'm surprised....that it's not more.  This family has been a huge part of our world since we moved into this neighborhood in 1992.  I'm pretty sure I survived motherhood because of my friend Nancy.  I took notes.  They lived.  All six of them.  Her three and my three.  We're on the other side.  But....there was a support system in place.  And the Smiths know better than anyone how a support system works.

                             (Tim Smith, Averie, Kyle Smith, Branden Smith, Jojo Smith, Caris)

We've witnessed street hockey stories, BB guns on roofs stories, Mexico adventures, broken bones, blood, bruises, boys, boys, boys, crying girls, dummies in the street, dog jerky pranks, puppy delivered rat butts, koolaid hair, river camping, snipe hunting, watermelon floating, skimboard surfing, panaderia shopping, slingshot confiscation, ferris wheel death defying, Santa Johnny gift tosses, For Pete's Sake eye-rolling, Lookie-loo house tours, and the list goes on and on.  The fact is, no one outside our world, unfamiliar with Smithdom will understand any of this.  Nor would I expect them to.  I write this solely for me.  If someone else comes along and wants to fall into this world temporarily, so be it.

A dear one in our sphere, Joe Smith, or Jojo as he is affectionately known by the family, is teetering on the border between this earth, and whatever non-earthly realm he and his family believe in.  Jojo is, for lack of a better term, a one man lesson in "Whatever".  He never hesitated to roll with the flow, but he is also quick to roll his eyes at whatever might be going on in the ever-unpredictable Smith universe, and follow that eye-roll with an under-the-breath; "What a dumbass."  He is an on-call uncle.  Always there.  Always.  Beloved. 

When learning that Joe might be leaving us, The Grommet relays to me a story of the days when Joe lived across the street; "He would watch me play hockey in the street by myself, and he'd always tell me that I was going to make it to the NHL.  He said I was that good.  I love Joe.  He always made me feel like I could do anything I wanted to do, and he never let a time go by when I had my skates on, that he didn't tell me how good he thought I was."  I know there are many more stories with Bry and the Smith boys.  But, there's an understanding that is akin to Fight Club.  So I venture no further.  The stories will come, as they do, when the family gathers.

My favorite Joe story is one where I look at him as a glowing beacon in a seemingly unending dark tunnel.  It was almost 20 years ago.  We were trying desperately to make some improvements to our long-neglected home.  Charlie, Bryson, and I had spent days digging trenches, laying pvc sprinkler lines, grading, rolling, tamping down, and basically sweating blood in our front yard.  We were behind, and the very expensive sod that we ordered and had delivered was basically sitting on a pallet, dying.  We had been at it all through a long day, and we were losing daylight.  Suddenly, headlights from a vehicle was blinding us in the darkness, then another set of headlights.  Joe, my friend Nancy, their brother-in-law Kenny, their nephew Peter, and our other neighbor Ed, all standing in our driveway.  Joe called out; "Let's lay some sod!", and they made a bucket chain and began throwing squares of sod, one to another.  Within the hour, all of us had done what I would have considered the impossible, and we finished that lawn.  Nancy tells me Joe had been watching us, and wondering why Charlie didn't come over and ask for help.  Finally, in frustration, Joe decided that he wasn't going to wait to be asked, and formed a committee all on his own.  "That", says Joe, "is how it's done."

I know there are endless stories.  I listened to many of them as I sat in a hospital waiting room with friends and family.  You talk about your loved one.  You share the things that make you smile.  The memories that are dear.  There will be many more to tell, and the telling of them will bring peace.  But for now, my heart is with our dear, dear friends the Smiths, who have included us as family from the beginning.  In this family, there has been an abundance of amazing characters.  Joseph Smith is a powerhouse among them.

We love you Jojo.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Soft Heart, Cruel World

It's not the first time I've noticed a pattern.  New years are not good for me.  January is when I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I don't know why.  The excitement of new days and fresh beginnings that some people experience is lost to me.  Again, I do not know why.  The end of a year simply morphs into another day with a different filing tab.

I had an amazing Christmas.  I had been looking forward to it for months and months, and it was the culmination of a lot of planning.  Many things had to fall into perfect place, and indeed, it did.  There were some blips along the way, but nothing that any family doesn't experience during holiday gatherings.  All in all, it was everything I hoped and dreamed it would be with just a few small exceptions.  I would have loved it if my sister-in-law, Beth was still here with her family.  I would have called our Christmas in Anacortes absolutely perfect if my sister Loke and my brother-in-law Phil were with us.  But, as they say, you can't have everything.

It did suck that we got sick, and that sickness followed us home.  It made the last week of Charlie and Caris' vacation pretty bad.  And perhaps, that is where my melancholy began to set in.  No new year celebration, none of the excitement of gathering with friends to see out the old and see in the new.  Just home, all of us, nursing illness. 

I tried to bask in the afterglow, and be very, very grateful for what I had been lucky to experience.  My family and dear friends around me in a place that I truly love.  I tried to remind myself to put on a smile and move into the world as if nothing was amiss.  This is always my intention.  But things don't always go according to plan, and the road to hell, so they say, is paved with good intentions.  Sometimes, despite how hard you fight, depression wins. 

Lately, I have done the work, and I have moved through the days.  I did the things I was supposed to do.  I got my mammogram done, and yes, even that dreaded lung CT.  I've done my bloodwork, I've had my spinning head diagnosed.  I've packed boxes for mailing, I've done the chores, and run the errands.  I'm going through the motions. 

Unfortunately, things that penetrate my soft heart in this cruel world make resistance difficult.  A dog that I don't know passing away guts me.  I linger on the thought of my sister-in-law, I cannot get the senseless killing of animals for no reason out of my head, a friend deciding to leave a circle over a passionate stand clips my wings, an unkind word excused as "a joke" leaves a scratch slow to heal, and then a perception of dismissiveness literally lays me out.  That was the last of it for me. 

At some point, you can take what the world throws at you while you hold up your Wonder Woman bracelets to fend off the slings and arrows.  Then, you reach your limit and you just can't hold it anymore.  You can't bite your tongue.  You can't stay silent.  You can't just sit there and pretend that you agree with offhanded cavalier remarks.  At least, I know I can't.  I think what is possibly worse, is the disappointment.  You don't always have to agree with people.  But you certainly shouldn't dismiss their passion, however unworthy that passion may be to you.  I always thought that with friendship came a bit of loyalty.  Sometimes, I guess, there are levels of loyalty.  I can't seem to find the loyalty level that prevents me from getting hurt.  You'd think after 57 years, I'd get the memo.

Again, I find that the one constant in my life is the one I come home to.  The one who is always there, always faithful, always in my corner, always listening when the cruel world is just more than I can bear.  This soft heart he knows, and he doesn't make me feel bad because of it.  He doesn't dismiss me, or roll his eyes.  He simply opens his arms, holds me and says it is the very reason he loves me so much.  Now, if I could just lift myself out of the muck as skillfully as he does.