Saturday, December 31, 2016

An Open Letter to New Years Eve 2006 Me.

Dear December 31, 2006 Me,

    Hey girl. I'm writing to you from December 31, 2016. I have some stuff to tell you, because I know how you're feeling right now. 

Today, you feel like your life has ended. Your heart was shattered today in that one phone call, where her voice said, "Is this Mrs. A? Are you still married to E?" and when you confirmed both questions, a spindly, bony and ghostly hand ripped into your chest, pulled out your trusting, soft heart and slammed it to the floor. It shattered into so many splintering shards that you couldn't breathe. But C, the sweet little baby girl growing in you needs you to pick yourself up. I know it feels like you can't. But this is not the end of you. 


I realize you never imagined that this would be your lot in life. You've served him and your church, you've loved hard and expected that you were loved in return. This was not on your radar, even though the stirrings have made you uncomfortable. 

It's important for you to know, this is not your fault. 
You are not stupid for missing signs. 
"You need to forgive yourself for the blindness that put you in the path of those who betrayed you. Sometimes a good heart doesn't see the bad", as the quote goes. 

I also need to tell you that you aren't going to have the strength to walk away yet, and that's why you're not telling anyone. You don't want someone telling you what to do, because you are frightened more than you've ever been in your life. You don't want to have your baby alone. You don't want to lose the family you've tried to build with someone who is narcissistic and doesn't have the ability to love and respect commitment. That's how cheaters are, darling. They are selfish and deeply flawed and are not worthy of you. 


You are going to try and pick up those shattered little splinters and super glue them. It's going to be a rudimentary heart you recreate, full of cracks and holes, fear and anger and an intrinsic upheaval that makes you question your entire life. You won't know what's real. You'll say, in your head, that after a year you'll feel better. You will go on, forging as a broken family, and move to a big city, starting over. 

You will give birth to your little girl, and she will have saved your life, because if not for her existence, that fleeting thought of not having the will to live will be put off until you're strong enough to process what has happened. You will fall in love with her and she will be that glue for a little while. Your little boy's trusting heart will seal it. You will feel somewhat whole. 

Except in your fear, you will morph into a scarily submissive being; working nights and losing sleep, arranging life around his needs and happiness, to avoid the pain that nearly destroyed you again. You will tell yourself you're okay, that these are good years, that you are happy again. 

He stole you.
From you, from your family, from your children. 

You'll spend summer nights backstroking in the pool and staring at the cool stars and wonder where life is headed. 
You'll throw yourself into church work and pray that God will make things turn out right. You'll pray for the good man that you were hoping for, that you just KNEW he was, is and could be.


Because four years from now, you will feel like this all over again. 
And you will tell your family this time, and they will strengthen you. 

And you will leave and find a house of your own close to your brother and you will become hopeful for a moment. 
But you just won't have ALL of the strength you will need. You are terrified of sharing your children. You don't know how you could start over at 36. And so you will let him back in. You will feel sorry for him (I KNOW! Don't you want to scream at the us of 2011 and tell her to END IT ALREADY?!) and you will nearly lose your family over this decision. 

You will feel like you are losing your mind and so you'll quit your job, break your lease and take your family to Maine to work. You will trade in your cars and say goodbye to your life and drive for five days to a place you've never been. 

You'll fall in love with the people and the town and be able to breathe in church again and never want to leave. You'll drop off fan letters for your neighbor Stephen King and marvel at the pink trees in the chilly autumn. You could build a life there. 
(Can you believe you uprooted and went to MAINE?! Can you see your strength steadily increasing? I'm so proud! 2012 us is getting there!) 

But you will move on with the family and go to a suburb of Washington DC and rent a huge old dream house and weather Hurricane Sandy (in a tizzy, but still, you stayed strong). You almost decide to stay there too. But you keep moving, when your contract ends. You are so thankful that travel nursing is a thing. 

And so you end up in Florida. You work at the busiest ER in the country and again fall in love with the people. You gain strength every day and then a longtime friend asks you what the hell you are doing in this situation, the same question those who love you have asked for years, but it clicks. IT CLICKS, GIRL! 

And when it appears things are starting all over, and that your problems have followed you and not magically stayed in Arizona as you'd hoped, your strength tank is finally full. 

You will do it! You will leave. You almost ALMOST go to Chicago to start life over, just you and the babies. You will be near other family and it will be good. 
But then God VERY CLEARLY speaks to you. 

You have to go home. To Arizona. 
It's going to be hard. You are going to hurt. A lot. 
You are going to doubt yourself. 
You are going to wonder why in the hell you came back, because you didn't want to live in the desert anymore.

You are going to file for divorce, and it's going to shatter you for a while. You'll have to face him. Tell him no. Be strong for your children and find the courage that you were 100% sure you never had. 

But did you see it building through the adversity?

You will take time off, time to fall in love with yourself. You will find your voice and your heart will meld, filling in the cracks. It will take a year. But your family will carry you through. YOU will carry you through. 

And it will all make sense.

Because on New Years Eve, 2016? 

Girl, you are snuggled up with the love of your life. You know, the one you were convinced didn't exist? And he has gone through what you have. He was severely mistreated too, but healed and was able to hand his sweetest heart to you. 

That's him!

I know! Isn't this amazing news?!

The 2014 you fell in love. And it wasn't a coincidence. God brought you someone who had hurt like you had, who had the ability to love like you love. Someone trustworthy and handsome and kind. He's OUT there! He didn't want to live in Arizona and you didn't want to live in Arizona, but you are both ALIVE for the first time in Arizona. Oh, the irony.

You are going to blend a family with him. You are going to make more babies with him, but we don't know yet if any of them with make it to the finish line. You'll learn more through those trials too. But it's okay, because you know you have that strength now! 

Your first couple of years together will be hard, full of nonsense and lawyers and a funeral, but you'll be closer to him because of it. His parents will love your parents and your families will have their first real Christmas together in 2016. You will marvel at the imperfectly perfect holidays and realize that this big, wild family is what was always meant to be. It would just take mistakes that you'd both learn from, the biggest mistakes of your lives leading eventually to the biggest blessings. Your children will still be your children, and the five of them blended would finally see what it means when a man really loves a woman and a marriage is devoid of narcissism and selfishness. 

You two will have a heart for travel and go on adventures at every chance. You'll spend your honeymoon in Disneyworld, see the Walking Dead set in Atlanta; you'll walk the Golden Gate Bridge together and dip your toes in the Pacific in both San Diego and Malibu. You'll be proposed to in the warm sand of Panama City Beach, and cheer on the Seminoles in Tallahassee and the Bulldogs in Athens. You'll see family in Chicago and bring all the kids to Disneyland more than once. You'll find a favorite breakfast spot in Prescott and make your new best friends in Birmingham. 

You will close out 2016 having survived it, and look expectantly to 2017, because dreams were starting to be realized and you have a greater understanding for the beauty in every day of life. 

So, my dear hurting girl of 2006, allow yourself to feel that pain. Forge your way through it, to the other side. Hold on to hope. Remember you have a future. God promised that when He told you, "I know the thoughts I have toward you. Thoughts of good and not of evil, to give you a future and hope". 
Your future and hope are here. 

You are still here, stronger than ever. 
Someday, New Years will really be happy again. I promise you. 


New Years Eve 2016 You. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas, Aunt Marilyn

I need to tell you about someone. 

I need to tell you about my Aunt Marilyn. 

Right now, she is probably snowed in her home in the western suburb of Chicago where she lives, the area she's lived in for almost all of her life. She isn't here with us, enjoying the warmer weather and the comfort of our family gathering for the holiday.

And I miss her. 

Aunt Marilyn never married or had children, but she cared for so many. 

She is wise and brilliant, with two master's degrees and a life spent shaping the minds of middle schoolers. This is and of itself should earn her some prestigious award just for putting up with them, because no thank you. 
She has spent her life taking care of others. After my grandmother passed away and my grandfather developed Alzheimer's, she cared for him to the end. When an elderly aunt was widowed and became unable to care for herself, she cared for her through cancer, until the end. When another elderly, widowed aunt could no longer be independent, she brought her home with her for long visits, set up her long term care, and stayed close to her until she passed away at the age of 97. 

She has been selfless and giving, patient (with me most especially) and I have never heard her raise her voice in my 40 years. She is a beautiful soul. 

She spent years traveling with friends, seeing Hawaii and Canada, taking cruises. She was an incredible amateur photographer, hand-knit all of our Christmas stockings (even this year she added my husband and my new little nephew, Bennett!). She created ceramics, avidly read, wrote letters, and was a dedicated friend. She collects delicate little teacups and still has my grandmother's spoon collection displayed on the wall. I walk into her home and I am taken back to the years where I had not a care in the world, running freely through the house filled with the love of my aunt an my grandparents. My laughter bounced off of the walls and I was well cared for. I was a blessed and loved little girl, and I only wish sometimes I could walk back into that living room in Aurora, finding them all there, young, alive and welcoming me. When life hadn't hurt us all by premature funerals and health troubles, distance and sickness and loss forcing change in what always was. 

Things don't last forever. 

Suddenly we grow up and our families, the people we love and look up to, look older. Act older. Struggle with their health. Can't do what they used to. Have to make heartbreaking decisions to give up their homes for assisted living. Leave their independence in the past. 

And it hurts to see it happen. 

It of course is the circle of life, but it all just feels so wretchedly unfair. I want to scream until my lungs hurt, "Slow DOWN, time! Stop STEALING from me!" How beautiful it was to be an oblivious child. 

So here we are out here in the desert, 1800 miles away from Aunt Marilyn. She doesn't have the chaos of all of us at her doorstep, her great nieces and nephews hugging her, learning from her just like I did. Making recipes of our past, the Christmases that came long before me, with my grandmother and her sister baking the things I still make today with my daughter. We aren't there and she isn't here. 

So many years I'd wait expectantly for Aunt Marilyn to get off the plane and make the two hour drive from Las Vegas to our tiny little Arizona town in her expansive rented Lincoln Towncar, because that's when Christmas really began. She and Mom and I would bake cookies and sit and frost them, me dripping green icing on the carpet while we stacked little snowmen and bells into neat piles. They'd talk about pinochle and Uncle So and So and sit around playing heated games of Uno with Aunt Irma and Uncle George, also visiting for the holidays. My little heart was full and was convinced that things would never change. 

But over time, family members passed away. Travel became harder. All of the sudden we weren't able to spend Christmas together anymore. It was never the same again. Blessed? Yes. Joyful? Without fail. Incomplete? Always. 

All I have is this medium to tell you all how much she means to me. 

And so, Aunt Marilyn, I want you to know how much you are loved. How much we miss you. How it's never going home to Chicago if we aren't there with you. I wouldn't have fallen in love with writing, or reading, if not for you. I wouldn't believe strongly in myself if not for your encouragement when I didn't know what to do. 

I was less scared when I ran from Florida with my babies, starting a new life away from things that had broken me, because you offered your home to us. We didn't have to go, and came home to Arizona, but I knew you where there, and that made all the difference. 

You have always been just a phone call away. And I haven't been as reciprocal when you've needed me, and for that I'm sorry. Sometimes you're scared. You're facing things alone, without us nearby. But I promise you in front of whomever reads this: I will never leave you! When you need me, I will be there. I will be strength for you when you are weakened. So will Mom. You have us, without fail. You deserve nothing less. Because you have given your entire life, not asking for anything in return. You've been a strong female example for me, being a highly educated, independent woman before it was even cool. I was so blessed to have my Mom and you to look up to. 

I am so proud of you. Please never forget how wonderful you are, how thankful I am that I got to be your only niece and how much your life has meant to our family. Nothing would be the same without you. 

You told me not to get you anything for Christmas. So this is what I have to give, because it doesn't take up any space. I know you didn't want anything "new". 

I will always need my Aunt Marilyn. 

I love you, and, just so you know, Christmas is NEVER the same without you. 



Monday, December 12, 2016

How To Cover Your Tracks When Your Bestie Draws Porn On Your Kids' Homework

We've all been there, right?

We're just having a simple girl-talk conversation with our bestie. She is explaining this new, er, "position" that she's caught wind of, and, you know, wants to pass it along for when I find my feller someday. To be fair, we were both technically unencumbered at the time. Me, freshly divorced and in my "taking some time off" season, she, well,  I PROMISED I WOULDN'T TALK ABOUT IT.

We know some stuff about each other.

I mean, sweet Mary and Joseph, we MET under suspect circumstances whilst attending a rural Arizona high school. We were two ships passing in the night at a future Stanford graduate's house where about fifty of our closest friends were making some unauthorized version of Sex on the Beach (it's a DRINK) in a bathtub. Also known as a high school party, 90's version. I think we waved "hi" in the hallway while sipping bathtub juice and became fast friends on MySpace like ten years later. The rest of the story will come out some day. Maybe.

The bathtub drinking made it abundantly clear that sanitary practices elude high school students. Or maybe that's just more evidence that our town is TRULY the #1 least educated in the country. Maybe the fact that we made mixed drinks in bathtubs in 1994 was what landed us on the list in the first place.

I'm totally not making this up. Proof That I'm Not Lying.

Anyway, fast-forwarding to 2013, the explaining is taking place:

"So I think the leg goes like, here," she says, somewhat bewildered but yet intrigued, doing what looks like a cheerleader stunt move in stretchy pants in my living room.
"And the other one," she is now contorting into some position that looks equally unsexy and horribly uncomfortable, not to mention a poor plan for procreation, if that's the end game. I suspect not.

I guess she could tell by my "Seriously, right now?" face that I wasn't picking up what she was putting down. Dragging me to the kitchen by the wrist, she grabs some paper and a pen and goes to work.

"Now, LOOK," she explains, as though mapping out an equation for quantum physics (which, according to the drawing, may actually be simpler), "Do you see it now?"

And suddenly, the visual springs to life. "I get it!" I exclaim triumphantly, yet knowing that I will probably never implement these moves because I'm not rubber. I pick up the paper and go to flip it over and instantly shriek in horror. I place the paper the non-pornographic side up and at the same time, it registers with Bestie.



"Doesn't she go to a Christian school, too? OH GOD."

"YES! And her teacher is pushing EIGHTY. She's NOT going to like STICK PORN on her worksheets!"

"What do we do?!" we both ask, our eyes wide and meeting, searching for solutions. Bestie picks up the pen and grabs the paper.

"I know! We'll just make it into something else!"

"What in the hell are you going to make THAT into? How are you going to covert a stick figure human wheelbarrow into Christian school appropriate non-stickporn?"

She quietly went to work.

The next day, my daughter triumphantly turned in her homework along with graphics of her new favorite character "Octy the Octopus", and she and her classmates running a really cool marathon. 

And THAT, my dear friends, is how you cover your tracks when your Bestie accidentally draws stick figure porn on your kids' homework.

It happens to all of us, right? 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

My Minister Husband Had A Second Family

Another article published at! Yes, my life has been a Lifetime Movie. I just ask that Tori Spelling not play me on the small screen. Thanks in advance. :)

Read it here.