DIRECTIONS & LOVING BROKEN

I wasn’t going to write. Or blog. Or think. I wasn’t going to. It’s a fucking date on a calendar and giving it this much power is stupid and silly and getting very old. And in year 12 without Dad it is different than year 6, year 3 or year 1. People say time heals. I guess it depends on your definition of “heal”. The pain is less intense. Less stabbing. Less gut wrenching. But that’s it. That’s all that changes. The first few years are shocking and just trying to breathe. The next few years are trying to breath deeper and learning to live a “new normal”. And the long run is….well…I don’t really know what it is. Im in it. Im in the long run. Im over a decade past losing my Dad. Most of me thinks I should be over it by now. I don’t cry much about him. I don’t even think about him some days until well into the afternoon.

 

Its funny…when he died he was 53. I thought that was so far away for me. I was 33. The closer I get to 53, the more I realize how incredibly young it is. My Dude is 52. And it doesn’t escape me how weird that is. 53. I think of all of the ages I have been. And the fact that at any age, any day, anytime, I could have my last day. And so could you. We don’t get to know ahead of time what age that might be.
My dear friend lost her 25 year old sister last week in a tragic car accident. I cannot begin to imagine the pain her parents are in. My heart hurts so much for whats ahead of them. I don’t think the pain of loss differs depending on if your loved one suffered for quite awhile and you knew it was coming….or it came so suddenly you stopped breathing in an instant. I don’t know. I don’t think it matters.
So I keep telling myself every year that I will NOT allow August to be sad. That I have moved on and healed and I can be happy. And all of that is true. I have moved on. I have healed some. And I am very happy. Doesn’t matter. I realize at year 12….it doesn’t matter. I wrote a blog once about broken hearts. Its like a beautiful brand new vase. Your life. And as you grow in years and encounter love and people your heart will inevitably break. And not just once. It will break and heal and break and heal. And just like a broken vase…you can glue the pieces back together but you will always see the seam, the scar where it broke. What I know at 12 years out is…YOU CANNOT UNBREAK THE BROKEN. You can fix it, you can glue it, you can counsel it and pray for it and turn it so the back where its broken faces the wall…in hopes that no-one will see it. But its still broken. It will always always always be broken. You can never unbreak. Its true with arms, legs, hearts, vases & trust. You can wear a cast and mend the bone, date again and learn to love, glue the vase, and try to trust. But it doesn’t make the break go away. It happened. It happened. And it CANNOT unHAPPEN.
I suppose life after loss is about learning to live with the break instead of hiding it. My Mom moved a lot after my Dad died. She said she was looking for something that wasn’t there. That makes so much sense to me now. Grief is ugly and sad and messy and makes no sense and has no time limit. It affects every single solitary aspect of your life. Your marriage, your parenting, your decisions, your trust, your ability to love. And maybe I spent a bunch of years looking for something too. That wasn’t there. I could say those years were wasted and I regret them and could’ve met Dude sooner, been a better parent sooner, moved on sooner, maybe fixed my marriage. I maybe could’ve. But I didn’t. I wandered and flailed and veered and swerved and drifted. Lots and lots of people have lost their fathers. What the fuck is wrong with me that I let it affect every part of who I am? Hell…..I don’t know. I don’t know. I suppose even the smallest of events can change a person. And this was far from small.
12 years out I no longer analyze why. Or how. Or what if. Or maybe I should’ve. Or pretend to begin to think Im ever going to be the same. I tried for YEARS to get back to her. The HER before 2006. It took this long to realize she died that day too. There is a road I tried to travel that would have been the road I traveled had he lived. I tried to make it the same. I tried. But standing on the edge of a cliff trying to DEMAND that a road appears is slightly insane. And you can wish for it and hope for it and pray for it until you’re blue in the face. And then….in year 12…you stop staring off the cliff and begging for a road to appear where it just isn’t. And you turn your 45 year old ass around look at all of the other roads…..and pick one. And you quit trying to fix the broken vase. It broke. It was so very sad. So very unbelievably heart wrenching, gut punching, life changing sad. And there is absolutely NOTHING you can do about that. Except hold the broken vase, learn to love it broken, turn away from the cliff’s edge, and decide to move….in the DIRECTION that was meant for you to move.
I miss you, Dad.
Stood alone on a mountain top,
Starin’ out at the great divide
I could go east, I could go west,
It was all up to me to decide
Just then I saw a young hawk flyin’
And my soul began to rise
And pretty soon
My heart was singing’
        Bob Segar, ‘Roll Me Away’
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ABOUT ASPEN

Every year for 10 years I knew that the end of July and first week of August would be difficult. I sort of anticipated it. But this year it snuck up on me. I guess thats a good and a bad thing. The fact that I didn’t DWELL on such an anniversary is good. I didn’t plan for it or see it coming. And honestly I didn’t plan a trip to Aspen so close to that shitty day. Just kinda happened. Or did it?

 

Aspen is this place for me. This PLACE. Its funny because I run my mouth about the elite, billionaire, fancy pants, big house owning, “keep the riff raff out” group of people. I don’t NOT LIKE them. They just don’t get it in my opinion. Money doesn’t make you blind. It just makes you not have to look. If you know what I mean. So in October of 2014 when I took my first trip to Aspen it was literally just to see the trees changing colors (which is seriously breathtaking- do it as soon as you can) and to see where my hero, Hunter S. Thompson lived and wrote…I didn’t expect to like Aspen itself so much. It was going to be the opposite of what I stood for. Damn hard headed hippie liberal…of course I can’t like “bougie” shit. Its against my code. ;)-
Only I did. I loved it. Loved the $600 a night Hotel Jerome that I stayed in. Its history, the J-Bar that is attached where Thompson wrote and hung out. I loved the vibe, the quaintness, the feel. I loved it. I admit it. I love walking the ridiculously over priced shops in the square on Main Street. I love celebrity spotting. Theres always some. I love the fact that EVERYONE of the locals are healthy and in shape and eat organic and DO NOT allow plastic bags in the town. Love that EVERYONE rides a bike, walks, hikes, and is outside WAY more than inside. I love the tourists from all over the world and listening to their accents in the restaurants when they sit near you. I love the Bob Marley quote spray painted on a billion dollar Gucci Store front. I love it.
And then I found Woody Creek. Hunter S Thompson settled here in 1969. For $15,000 he put a down payment down on what he would call Owl Ranch. A sprawling ranch pretty close to town center and about 10 miles from Aspen. $15,000 wont buy you a hamburger in Aspen now….so there’s that. And at the center of town is a little quirky restaurant called “Woody Creek Tavern”. Hunter hung out here, ate here, probably wrote here as well. His picture is everywhere. On the walls, in the bathroom, on the tables. And so we ate there Saturday. At the table to our left was two couples who looked to be in their 60s. Lots of plastic surgery going on (hey if I could afford it Id be all over that shit), some 20 karat diamonds and some handbags I think were flown in from Italy. On the ground. Outside. This is NOT a fancy place. We’re talking plastic chairs, bird poop and a certain “aroma” in the air. Dude- its Colorado!  At the table to our right was a guy wearing a skirt and dreadlocks and carrying a purse with tons of tattoos on him and everything he owned in a duffle bag. I dug it. The Tavern has a philosophy they post that talks about including EVERYONE. EVERYONE. The richest of the rich, the bougie, the eccentric, the poor, the homeless, the artists, the writers, the people who OWN Aspen, the G- Wagon drivers and the ones who walk down from the mountain. Its so fucking cool I can’t even.
Some may call it a tourist trap. A place to “sell out” the whole Hunter S Thompson thing and make money for “the man” with overpriced hamburgers and t-shirts. Eh. Ok. I see it. But what I take away is a place for everyone. And I couldn’t dig it more. I remember my first time there thinking “I am home”. Its quirky and weird and eccentric and happy and friendly and beautiful.  As is Aspen.
My Dad LOVED Colorado. We vacationed here often as kids, he vacationed often as an adult with his motorcycle buddies. It is where he died…not far from Aspen. So Im drawn there I suppose. Im very much like my Dad. I don’t know if he ever got to see Maroon Bells. I doubt he’d have paid the entry fee…LOL. But as I hiked the Bells for the first time yesterday instead of just staring at it from the touristy shore….I thought of some things. I sure hope he got to see it. And not just SEE it from the shore where the busload of tourists were taking pictures. I hope he got to WALK though it. Stumble on rocks at 11,000 feet, see moose and field mice and flowers that grow WAY up there sporadically and beautifully. I hope he got to see the view of the Bells from the back that very few will ever get to see because they don’t stray off the “tourist path”. I hope he saw a lone buck in the grass eating…and made eye contact and had an unspoken conversation with nature. I hope he stood in a field of aspen trees buried way back behind the lake and thought “god damnit Im one lucky son of a bitch”. Even if he never did…..he has now.
I love you Aspen. I love you Colorado. I love you Dad. I miss you. 12 years is a long time. Of all the things Ive learned in life- knowing that I can sleep when Im dead is the best of them. Go, go, go, go ,go. While you still can. Stray off the path. Fuck the path.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” – HST
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AND SO IT BEGINS & ENDS

Im headed to Austin and San Antonio tomorrow. My sister just built a new home in Austin and my Mom just built a new home in San Antonio. The three of us decided that 2018 was the year of building houses. Im bringing Dude with me. And my daughter. And her friend. I can’t wait to eat real Tex Mex, drink sweet tea and see my nieces. One of the reasons we are going is to take an official college tour of UT Austin. Maddie has always loved UT. We toured it with her when she was about 9. And with my family living there I feel like she’d be ok there. Its so far away from me, though. Im very conflicted.
When I left Texas, I get the feeling part of Texas left me too. It’s no secret Im a little lefty looney for Texas. Maybe not for Austin ;)-. I never really felt like my political or religious beliefs jived. Maybe its because I spent way too much time in the BURBS. I really regret not living in the heart of the city when I was younger. Dallas is a pretty amazing city. With art and music and food and a history. And a fucking football team that everyone talks about. I have one grandmother and a brother living there now. In Dallas. Part of me feels like my history is slowly being erased. As I spend less time there, have less family there.
I am emotional about doing an official college visit. She was JUST in Kindergarten. And when those assholes that told me “time flies, enjoy every minute” and I scoffed because my kids never slept, ate dirt, climbed walls and drove me crazy….I TRULY wish Id listened. Really listened. Because time flies. It flies like you cannot imagine. It creeps and lingers and crawls and makes you want to pull your hair out. It makes you wish they’d just sleep through the night. Just eat real food. Just pee in a toilet. Just sleep in their own bed. Just get to the age where they are in school all day. Just get out of elementary school. Just get a license so you don’t have to drive them anywhere. Just. Just.
And here we are. She has one year of high school left. I know how that will go. I barely see her as it is. She is ALWAYS at cheer practice. There will be football season, competitions, golf season, friends, parties, trips. And it will fly by. The seconds, the minutes, the hours, the days, the months. They will fly by. And a year from right now Ill be buying her dorm things. And the things that happen between this moment and that moment when I pack her car are all that we have. And I will soak up, complain about, enjoy, cry through, laugh, plan, and take pictures of….all of it.
Part of me feels like we are going home to visit. Like she may go home to go to school. Like she may be a million miles away from me making new friends, going to class, learning hard lessons, doing some things she shouldn’t, learning, growing, and becoming a person. And wasn’t that the goal?
Despite what some may think….I love Texas in my soul. Its like a sibling, I can make fun of it….you cannot. Colorado has become my home. Love it here more than I ever imagined. I belong here. I will most likely die here. So I take my girl home this week to decide if UT is where she wants to go. And I pretend that its no big deal. That its just a college visit. But I know what it really is. I’ll walk beside her quietly at the tour. I wont interject opinions (as hard as that will be). Because this is HERS. She turned 18 last week. My job as a parent will never ever be done. Ever. But I am acutely aware that my roles have lessened. That I did all I could do the best I knew how. That she’s funny and smart and capable and ready to leave. And as much as that hurts…..its exactly as it should be. Here’s to Austin. Here’s to Texas. Here’s to my daughter…and the choices she gets to make. I hope she knows whatever she chooses that its the right thing. And it will eventually lead her to where she is meant to be…….even if it’s a 1,000 miles from “home”.

 

“Oh very young, what will you leave us this time
You’re only dancin’ on this earth for a short while
And though your dreams may toss and turn you now
They will vanish away like your dads best jeans
Denim blue, faded up to the sky
And though you want them to last forever
You know they never will
(You know they never will)
And the patches make the goodbye harder still”

CAT STEVENS, “Oh Very Young”

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AND SUCH IS GRIEF

On August 7, 2018 my Dad will have been dead 12 years. And I truly cannot fathom that. And I don’t really want to write this blog because Im sick as shit of hearing about my grief so I KNOW you are. The funny thing is I am a very happy person. I love life. I go on constant adventures. I laugh a LOT. I have amazing kids, friends and a pretty great guy in my life. I love my Mom, sister and brother. But there is something present in every day of my life, in every minute, in every second, that I cannot ignore. That is just THERE. And over 12 years has become part of who I am. And NOT recognizing it seems to give it more power. So I chose, a few years back, to address it as often as I felt necessary. If I speak TO the grief, speak OF it, face it….acknowledge that it changed every single solitary thing in my being…..it feels a little better.
Months will go by and I live what I call a “grief-free” period. And then something will happen. It can be little. It can be almost nothing at all…and it triggers some grief. This past weekend my kids were mostly gone with friends, Dude was on a boys camping weekend, most of my friends were out of town and I found myself very STILL. I am not often still. Or alone really. I go, go, go. And it’s designed that way. STILL is a place that provides quiet and thought and I don’t always do well with that.  So Saturday night, alone, I rented “Wild” again. With Reese Witherspoon. The remarkable story of how Cheryl Strayed walked the PCT in honor of and because of her mother’s death. I’ve read all of Cheryl’s books, watched her speeches, and soaked in all of her words. I get her.
I have seen that movie 5 or 6 times but each time I get something more out of it. I think what I mostly get is confirmation that Im not nuts. Cheryl was so very close to her mom. Her Mom died at 45. My Dad was 53. And died in a motorcycle accident. Her Mom died 26 years ago. And to this day it affects WHO she is, what she does, HOW she does things. And just after her Mom’s death she lost herself. And had to find herself again. And I GET that. To my core…I GET that. Every person on Earth does grief differently. I had an image of a line. With a beginning and an ending. “Shock, denial, sadness, acceptance, depression, learning to live again, the END.” Done with grief. In approximately 2 years. I gave myself two years. Check mark.
 Ive been wrong about so many things in my life. But I couldn’t have been “wronger” about grief. It is ugly and pretty and joyous and sickening and painful and long and lonely and confusing and irritating and interferes with everything you do. And it lasts. I don’t want to say “forever” but I will. Because 12 years later I believe that. I think I need to accept that its never going away. That Im not weird or strange or fucked up because I still grieve all these years later.
Grief is a thing. And she can walk up while you’re busy having fun and slap you in the face so hard and so surprisingly that you are jolted. And you hate her for it. Cuz you shouldn’t be this way all these years later.
There’s a few lines that Bobbi (Cheryl’s Mom) says in the car just after she’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer. And of the 5 or 6 previous times Ive watched the movie I never really HEARD those words. This time I HEARD them……
“I was never me. I was always a mother and a wife. I was never in the driver’s seat of my own life”.
It makes me cry as I write those words. How incredibly sad to realize that….as you are dying. I HEARD the words and realized my Dad’s death taught me the same thing. That Id better get the fuck in the driver’s seat and start steering. Because time is not promised. Not even a little bit.
I’ve said before that Im not the same girl I was on August 6, 2006. Everything about me changed. Everything. My grief has changed the way I parent, the way I live, the way I love, where I live, what I say, my marriage, my courage, my heart, my life, and all of the fibers in my being. And if you ask me if I’d change that….the honest answer is I don’t know. I don’t know. How can I know. I can only know that I am here today writing this. Sharing this. Opening this wound…so that maybe some other NUT JOB who doesn’t feel normal, who makes mistakes, who ends a marriage, who loses a parent, who buys some land in the mountains, who goes through a tragedy….will not feel so alone.
And the truth is….I don’t have a magic, feel good, get through grief better book to write. Cuz what the fuck do I know? Grief is a bitch. You aint getting over it. You aint avoiding it forever. You aint gonna drink it away or sex it away or write it away or cry it away. You are going to avoid it as long as you can and then she’s going to catch you. And rip your heart out. And you can only feel it. And live through it. Because you will. You will live through it. Question is……HOW are you going to live through it.
Get busy living. And quit “shoulda’n” on yourself.

“I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”  – Cheryl Strayed

 

“Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world. It’s hard to get by just upon a smile Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world I’ll always remember you like a child, girl….” – Cat Stevens

 

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MY BROKEN HEART

I think when I was 18 I thought I knew what a broken heart was. And maybe I did. Maybe at 18, for me, a broken heart was a boy who rejected me. A boy I thought was “the one”. A boy I thought I was meant to spend the rest of my life with. A boy I thought was my soul mate. And at 18 you are too young…at least I was….to really know what life is. What love is. What a heart is capable of. I used to laugh at her. That 18 year old who thought the world ended because some boy decided not to date me. I don’t laugh at her anymore. I am so grateful for her. She taught me so much.
When I lost several pregnancies to late term miscarriages I thought my heart would literally break into pieces and never mend. The hurt. The pain. Was so overwhelming I cannot describe it. Despair is an emotion that can kill you. I believe that. God….I’d only thought I knew what a broken heart was up until then.
When my Dad was killed unexpectedly my heart shattered. My stomach shut down. My mind went numb. My body ached. My soul felt crushed and I couldn’t breathe. For a very very very long time. It is perhaps the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. A gut wrenching, animalistic sorrow that left me a different person than I was on August 6, 2006. Every single thing about who I was changed that day. I was never ever the same again. My parenting forever changed, my attitude forever changed, my soul forever changed, my beliefs forever changed, my marriage forever changed, my everything changed.
Divorce has been, to me, like a death. Sad, tragic, physically sickening, full of guilt, lonely. Heartbreaking. Its funny to hear people who’ve never been divorced have an opinion about it. I did. Before I got divorced. Kinda like I had opinions on parenting before I had kids. If you have never had a child….do not speak to me about how you should parent. If you have never been through divorce….be grateful, be thankful, and don’t dare try to understand or judge it. It is a horrible, yucky, awful thing. And NOBODY wants to. NOBODY. NOBODY gets married with the thought that they’ll get divorced someday. And there is so many complex issues and things that happen within a home, within a partnership, within a marriage, that you will never know. And thats the way it should be.
My children are my heart. The love I have for them is like any other parent….unconditional, perfect, and life long. They mend my heart daily. And they helped me love myself.
Its a heart that has been through the ringer. More so than most know. Very very much more so.
And just when you think its just gonna be this way. And you accept it. And know you can love yourself just the broken way you are….in walks another old  heart. And you realize why it took 44 years to figure this out. And you know that the 18 year old boy, the miscarriages, the loss of your Dad, the divorce…..it all prepared your heart to love the way it was meant to. Because a beautifully red, perfect, solid, spotless 17 year old heart was pretty damn cool. But a 45 year old cracked, imperfect, beat up, pieced together, weathered-the-storms heart…..is the one I’d choose everyday. It just loves better.
Never ever ever ever ever be ok with any other kind of love than the one that makes you so happy you want to spit! And turn into some cheesy asshole 😉
“Happiness ain’t prison but there’s freedom in a broken heart
             Miranda Lambert, Runnin Just in Case
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I DONT FIT

I remember every pair of pants, dress, skirt I ever bought. Not because they were that memorable. But because they were all too long. I tried on my wedding dress, my prom dress, some bridesmaids dresses…and every single time the cute girl that was working there had the same thing to say to me…. “Its too long for you…you don’t fit in it.”

My fellow short girls will feel my pain. There have been many cars Ive driven where I couldn’t reach the pedals. And some cars only let the seat go forward so far so you are not in danger of being too close to the airbag. Its a funny dance I do where I use my core muscles to sit tall on the very front edge of the seat so I can reach the pedals. I don’t fit.
In one apartment I rented the microwave was so high above the stove that I had to climb on the counter just to use it. I still jump a little when closing the back hatch of a tall SUV. Leggings that are meant to be calf length come to my ankles in a weird (not so cute) spot. When I go to the gynecologist and she says “spread em” for my pap smear and then follows up with…ok you’re going to need to scoot way way way down to get your feet in the stirrups…..ok further down. Im usually laying there with my ass hanging off the table and my hoo haw in the weirdest position with my ankles in the stirrups so I don’t fall. Its awesome.
I was a gay loving, womens’ rights toting, give health insurance to all voting, non church going, science loving blonde chick in Texas. Didn’t quite fit in there either.
I own a business that I run online and I cuss a lot. And my clothes never match. And I talk about how my kids are assholes, and my menopause, and my divorce, and how I don’t like a lot of people….and its not really so smart for someone trying to run a business in public. Ive been told its not the best way to run a business. I should put my BEST face forward, speak of my loving family, and look appealing to the “masses”. So don’t get political or controversial. Dont cuss. Dont complain. Dont always speak out loud whats in your head. Well…..FUCK. Once again- don’t fit. Dont fit the “mold”. Dont fit the “stereotype”. Dont “conform” to fit the “team”.
Ive spent a whole lotta years not fittin. And worrying about it. And wandering how life would be a tad easier if I just would TRY to fit in better. If Id not wear shirts with cuss words, not blare gangsta rap, not call my kids assholes, not speak up for the rights of all, not cause a stir….
It would definitely have been easier. Definitely. And I would’ve been miserable. And Im pretty sure I’d trade easy for happy every day of the weak. I don’t fit. I don’t fit a lot of things. And its fucking amazing. Be you. Do YOU. Dont try to “fit” in anywhere. Its not possible for everyone to like you or “get” you. And would you REALLY want that anyway?
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DOWN. NOT OUT.

I have had quite a few doctors in my life. The one I have now is so dang cool. In the past 4 years Ive been to her for strep throat, muscle spasms, tweaked back (from climbing), sinus infection, extreme fatigue, anxiety, IBS complications from Rheumatoid Arthritis, pap smears, physicals, cholesterol checks, and a plethora of other things. Crazily enough Im a very very healthy “sick” person. She knows what RA is. She knows my immune system is not exactly great. She knows my joints swell and Im in pain most of the time. She knows I don’t rest enough.

I show her pictures of me rock climbing, hiking mountains, doing Beachbody Extreme workouts, camping in the cold. I tell her about my anxiety stemming from fear of being in pain when I do these extreme things. She’s seen my neck muscle in such spasm I couldn’t leave the office to drive home. She watches my joints swell. She knows my history of miscarriage due to Autoimmune Disorder.
Here I am with an annoying fucking head cold again. Its so ridiculous that something so silly can knock you on your ass. Sore throat, cough, crap in my chest,  headache, stiff neck, fatigue, just feel poopy. Nothing life threatening just annoying as hell. My damn immune system is a bitch. More than sad Im just PISSED. I have a BIG, important hike to do next week. I have shit to do. I was planning to squeeze in climbing a 14er before Beachbody Summit and there’s a new crag I want to climb. I have goals to “lead climb” this summer. But my damn “colds” take twice as long to recover from than people with normal immune systems.
My friends and family tell me to rest. Slow down. I love you. I do. And Im trying. But on my last visit to my doctor we had this conversation…..
Me: I can’t move my neck, my body aches, Im tired, and I know I look like total ass right now but please don’t tell me I can’t do this shit anymore.
Her: You are who you are. Do not ever change that. Rest when you need to. Be careful. But climb, go, camp, run, do…as long as you can. Its who you are. Besides….even if I told you not to Im pretty sure you’d do it anyway. Go live your life. Then come here, Ill patch you up, and you can go again.
Like I said- she’s pretty bad ass.
Im tired. And sick. And feel yucky. But try to understand that since my Dad died I live by the motto that someday I’ll go down and wont get back up. So until then…I’ll keep getting back up. I may be slow, it may take more time, I may cuss my immune system, but while I CAN, I WILL. I don’t really see an alternative to that.
Im gonna go take a nap now. And swallow some cold medicine. And be grateful I know I will get up again soon and go, go, go. Because I can. Big hike SOON! Very grateful and excited for that.
I may push my body past the point she really needs to be pushed. But I’d rather cross a line and KNOW how far I can go than look at the line from behind and wonder if I could’ve…..
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YOU DO NOT HAVE TIME

If I could go back to the first week of August 2006 I would’ve stayed longer. I wouldn’t have rushed away because the kids were gripy. Of all the asinine things in the world I “had” to get to IKEA to look at some shit for the house. And I wanted to be back in time to get the kids to bed at a decent hour. So I didn’t hug him. I didn’t even look back. I said “bye” and that was it. I assumed I would see him after he got back from his trip to Colorado. Like I always did. He always rode that bike far away and always came back. Always. Only not this time.
If I could go back to 2002 I would’ve visited Dallas one more time from Tyler where we were living. Andy was an infant and I had a 2 year old and never slept and the world seemed to be feeding kids, giving baths changing diapers and griping about my lack of sleep. And so when Pawpa passed I couldn’t quite forgive myself for not going back one last time to see him. I never get to go back.
If I could go back to 1999 when I found out I was pregnant for the 4th time I wouldn’t have panicked. I would’ve taken a deep breath and soaked in the joy of that moment. After so many miscarriages I was unable to enjoy one moment of my pregnancy with Maddie. All I did was worry. And panic. And I can’t get those 9 months back.
If I could go back to November 1996…I would still say yes. And know that even though it may not end the way I thought it would…it would bring me 2 children and a world of memories I wouldn’t trade for anything.
If I could go back to 1989 I would GO to my grandparents lake house one more time. I was too cool by then. Too teen-agery. Too wrapped up in myself. Grandad would get Parkinson’s eventually. And I would spend many years looking at a man in a body that wasn’t the man that taught me to fish on that dock at that lake house. I’d fish longer. And one more time. With him.
When my kids walk out the door I hug them. Hard. And long. When I think about my sister I call her. When my house is dirty I still ask my friends in. When I get asked to sleep in a field to watch the total solar eclipse I say yes. When I get my grandmother’s inheritance I buy some land. And move to a mountain.
You THINK you have time. You think.
I am researching photographers to do Maddie’s senior pictures and setting up tour dates for college campuses for her. I just walked her down the hall to her first day of Kindergarten. Just now. Only it wasn’t just now. Time is this crazy amazing thing. This gift we are given. It can seem endless and dark and last forever when we are grieving. It flies like lightening when we are trying to slow it down.
There’s times Im REALLY tired. And I don’t want to sit up and watch BMX bike documentaries with Andy. I do anyway. There’s times I don’t really feel like going rock climbing. I do anyway. There’s times I’d rather nap than go to one of Maddie’s 4 million activities. I go anyway. And you know what? I’ve never ever ever ever regretted any of those things.
You get one shot. One trip around. One chance to be a parent. One chance to be a wife, a friend, a girlfriend, a teacher, a learner, a giver, a loner, a dreamer. One chance to be alive. Live it. Love it. Say yes. DO more. Be more. Be kind. Leap without looking. Take more pictures. Laugh more. Share more. Call your friend. Hug your kid. Buy the land…..because not a day goes by that I don’t regret not turning around in that driveway and saying “fuck it I’ll go to IKEA tomorrow”. And sitting in a lawn chair and having one more beer.
“I’ve had some time to think about you
And watch the sun sink like a stone
I’ve had some time to think about you
On the long ride home”
        Patty Griffin, ‘Long Ride Home’
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I JOINED A MENOPAUSE SUPPORT GROUP- AND OTHER WEIRD SHIT

Two months ago I went to the lady doctor for my yearly check up. I had been experiencing some symptoms so I told her about them. I had (obviously) googled the symptoms and self diagnosed myself with Ebola but I figured I should check with a professional just in case. This bitch looked at me and said “oh…you’ve entered menopause”. To which I said “uummmm WHAT” then turned around to see why she was speaking to my Mom who clearly wasn’t there (sorry Karen). I’d like to say I handled the news well. Id like to say I was mature about it. Id like to say I didn’t cuss at my doctor……I’d also like my little boobs to be 3 inches north of where they are now….but…..life aint all roses and rainbows.

Im about to tell you a story that is literally TMI. Turn away. Stop reading. If you ever wanted to look at me with dignity again please.
Ok when I was 13 years old at North Carrollton Junior High on Valentines Day of 1985 I started my period. In white pants. Yes. Im serious. I went to the nurse’s office and she started calling my Mom (who was in college classes at the time), my Dad (who was on the road as a truck driver), and then…..my Nanny (who was at work at the library). But guess who answered? Yep- my grandfather. He’d recently retired as an air traffic controller at DFW. He answered questions “affirmative” or “negative”. He had a bumper sticker that said “Burn the judges, save the flag”. He was ex military. And as I sat on that chair in someone else’s too big gym shorts (a donation to the clothing bin for kids who had “accidents”) I heard the nurse say “Ok Mr. Ellis we will see you soon.” And I felt my entire body crawl into a fetal position and just want to disappear. I hated my Mom for being in college at that moment. I hated my Dad for being on the road. I hated my Nanny for working. And I hated God for making me a girl.
Pawpa was amazing. He took me home. He asked very few questions. He told me to take aspirin and get a heating pad. And we never spoke of this again. EVER. Good man. Im sure he has some deep secret military secrets buried with him. None of those were as important as this one.
The second my doctor told me I was entering menopause I had a flashback to that day I started my period for the first time. It seems like a million years ago. A different lifetime. And yet it seems like yesterday. I finished having children at age 29. I have wanted my monthly cycle to go away ever since then. But like clockwork…every 25 days she showed up. Proving I was still female. Still able to get pregnant. Still fertile. Still bitchy. I’d done NOTHING but wish her away for years. And now my doctor tells me that time is coming. And Im sitting with that news. And not really sure how I feel.
Dont get me wrong- Im elated about the good side of this. No worries about planning vacations, cramps, packing Midol and lady products.
On the other hand- my memories on FB keep popping up and 2 years ago this week I was in INCREDIBLE shape. I was eating whatever the fuck I really wanted, working out a LOT and feeling great. My body does not look like that today. It was one of the first symptoms I noticed- weight gain. I was still working out a lot but my body wasn’t really responding the same. I can’t really sleep all night some weeks. I sweat…at night…a LOT! Im extremely moody (fuck off yes there’s a difference). I have these strange headaches I never had before. I have awful vertigo at times. And a list of other pretty unpleasant symptoms. But its not cancer. Its not Brain Rot. Its not anything severe. Its fucking menopause. I was 44 and looked good and felt good and slept well and had muscle definition and one day I woke up and didn’t.
I do have mixed feelings about all of this. The support group I joined has been amazing. You feel so “normal” when you realize other women are going through the same things. I miss my taught skin, my toned muscles, my lack of serial killer type mood swings, my ability to eat whatever the hell I want. But my tubes were tied 16 years ago. Ive known I couldn’t have kids anymore for a long time. So Im not really mourning the loss of that idea. Im not sure WHAT Im mourning. Or if Im mourning.
Honestly- today I feel like celebrating. The doctor told me menopause might last 5-8 years. Awesome. Im sure Dude is thrilled. Great timing there buddy. But there is just something about getting older I really like. Its not the wrinkly skin, age spots, cellulite, or vision loss. Its honestly nothing physical. Its truly a feeling. I feel so much more peaceful, settled, comfortable with my self, lack of caring what others think. I have less desire for things. In fact, I know less is more. I appreciate my kids as the people they are. Im learning to forgive myself ;). Im learning about love and happiness and letting go and being who I was meant to be and I wear my Nanny’s pearls with jeans and boots and I wear crazy leggings and I dont wash my hair for a week at a time and I don’t feel bad saying NO. All of that comes with age. There’s things I KNOW now that I couldn’t know at 25, 35 or even 40.
45 is technically a tad young to enter menopause according to statistics. But Ive never really been one to follow the rules anyway. Im sure there will be days I cry, feel old, look old, can’t workout as hard, and NOTICE this aging process. And thats ok. I look at this as just another reminder to LIVE. Buy the shoes, eat the cake, travel the world, climb the mountain, zipline the Gorge, write the book, and say YES. I reserve the right to change my mind about all of this tomorrow and HATE life, my body, my mood, my age, my weight gain, etc. But for today- I am happy. Im currently planning my summer trips which include but are not limited to camping/rock climbing/biking through Moab in May, Indianapolis and girls week in June, possibly a trek through Ouray, a backpacking trip through Wyoming and a ton of other little mini trips.
I am not the same girl I was on Valentine’s Day 1985. Im not the same girl I was on July 6, 2000 and March 7, 2002. Im not the same girl I was when I left Texas 5 years ago. Im not the same girl I was yesterday. I guess now I get to say “woman”. I think Ive earned that.
Grab the adventure by the testicles and GO. GO! And don’t stop. We all are very different in many many ways. But theres one thing we all have in common. You are older today than you were yesterday. And tomorrow is coming……fast. Time is a bitch man…she doesn’t discriminate. So buy the shoes, eat the cake, climb the mountain, backpack across the country, buy the land, build the house, pet the alpaca. And do it NOW.
I’ll CHOOSE to embrace this beautiful change in me. I’ll choose to celebrate that I GET to be a woman. That I GET to wake up each day. That I GET to do the things I want to do. And if that doesn’t pan out….I’ll eat an entire chocolate cake and start again tomorrow.
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Nanny’s Mirror

My Nanny made a lot of my clothes when I was young and continued to hem, alter and “fix” my dresses even through college. She was an amazing seamstress. She had a sewing room in her house with drawers full of material and old Simplicity patterns to make clothes. You know those brown crinkly papers that had lines on them and you just trace and cut the material out and then sew it together? Ya. Those. And right outside her sewing room was a full length mirror on a closet door where all of us stood MANY times to get “pinned”. She would stack 10-12 straight pins in her mouth then get down on the ground and start pinning the hems and waists and sleeves up to where they needed to be. Most often everything was too long and big for us Ellis girls. We are all short. I was so upset that no dress ever fit me off the rack…..I WAS.

So many many times I stood in front of that mirror and picked apart my body for every flaw. I hated being “too short” having “no boobs” and a long face and skinny arms. I would complain sometimes about it all. And Nanny would give my leg a “love tap” or say “oh don’t be silly you look great”. She never fed my ego. She wasn’t one to GUSH and be wordy. To her it was a fact. And she stated it as if it was. “Dont be ridiculous, you are perfect”. It’s as if it wasn’t an opinion when she said it. And you believed it. Of course I am perfect. Its the dress thats off. And Nanny will fix that. She’ll make the dress fit me perfectly. And she always did.
I didn’t realize what a gift she was giving me then. Too young. Too dumb. Too self absorbed. The gift of self esteem and love.
Today I went prom dress shopping with my almost 18 year old daughter. Its hard to even type that. All of those people who told me when they were 5 and 6 and 7 years old to just enjoy every second were right. I hated those people at the time. Messy house, play dough on the walls, refusing to sleep, teething, homework fights, lack of sleep, lack of a life, bags under my eyes, wishing time would pass. And then it did. And here I am. And here she is. She put that first dress on today and walked out to stand in front of the huge mirrors in the store and I had to catch my breath.  I know every Mom thinks their kid is gorgeous. But mine is gorgeous inside and out. And its pretty cool.
And the straps on the dress she chose have to be adjusted a little (Ellis short torso). So for one tiny brief mili-second I thought “Nanny can do it”. And she could. She could and she would. If she were here. I squatted down to look at the bottom of the dress and had about a million flashbacks of Nanny squatting to pin my dresses. And I just kept telling Maddie how beautiful she looked and remembering that Nanny told me that too. And that it MATTERED that she told me that. It MATTERED that she told me I was smart and capable and beautiful. It mattered a lot.
Maybe this is why I get upset when people insult kids or the younger generations. What are you DOING to them, TEACHING them, INSTILLING in them when you speak of their ignorance or inability? That’s on US. Its on US.
I am unbelievably grateful for Nanny, that mirror, and that none of the dresses I ever bought fit me right. Thank GOD they didn’t fit me right. Thank God.
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