Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Things I Absolutely Love Right Now.


First off, I have to just brag for a little minute. My last post clearly struck a tone with people and was shared and commented on and read by....wait for it....5,400+ People so far! It hit on the right website, one about the impossibilities of attempting to co-parent with a narcissistic ex, and it TOOK. OFF. So thanks to all who sent comments! So many people said "thank you" or "I'm crying" because it resonated. Super cool.

Anyway, with loads of cremation talk and memorial planning and ghost interactions (YES IT'S TRUE) I've had of late, I decided to lighten things up and talk about the things I Just Love Right Now. Strolling through shitstorms can require some redirection of your mind and appreciation for the beautiful, yummy and/or fun things around you. 


1. The Roasted Vegetable Salad with some Riesling at Sauce. We love Sauce and frequent it on our solo weekends when we want something fresh and light. It's DELISH.



2. Being a PACU nurse. I made the transition from more than a decade as a kick-ass, seen-it-all lifesaver in the Emegency Room and Intensive Care Units to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (Recovery Room for y'all who don't speak medical terminology. Like my husband). Still get to call in critical care nursing skills from the ER and ICU, but with about 1/8 of the stress and patient load and with enough adrenaline rushes to subdue a desire to ever go back to the trenches. Bonus: PACU coworkers have "THE" ER/ICU personalities because we've all done it, so our little recovery community is nothing short of FUN.


3. Megan Miranda novels. I devoured her first one, All The Missing Girls, and snatched up The Perfect Stranger when it came out. And then I met her. And she's divine AND one hell of a suspense novelist. Check it out for summer if you like things a little dark. Like I used to like my men until I got White Boy Wasted. I'm not actually sure what that means. I guess that I got drunk on the love of my cute Irish husband and never looked back.



4. IT Cosmetics. Is it pricey? YEP. But when you're over 40, if you're NOT choosing good makeup, then it's your fault you look like a troll. The foundation is a powder that does NOT settle into the lines, AS LONG AS YOU FIRE UP THE PRIMER FIRST. You need primer. And this $50 brush. Ok, it's hellaexpensive at Ulta but gotta save the moneymaker, yo.


5. HOT LIPS. Now, my husband ends up ruining my lipstick the minute I get home or he gets home or we're going somewhere, so if you see him out and about with streaks of Lime Crime or Urban Decay on his face or neck, IT'S BECAUSE I THINK HE'S HOT. And he kisses me a lot.
ANYWAY. I LOVE the color Bittersweet from Urban Decay. It's a bright purplish-pink, bold and amazing paired with a more neutral (yet sparkly) eye. Also Cashmere by Lime Crime (found it on Amazon) is a GREAT matte look. It goes on liquid but quickly dries to a perfect matte that stays for hours unless your husband ruins it like mine.



6. Jewelry that means something. I am not big on flashy jewelry and honestly prefer travel and books over diamonds. BUT I'm all about jewelry that MEANS something, because it came from someone else, or was designed by someone you love. In this little dish are the things that I wear that mean so much! The blue topaz/diamond necklace belonged to my husband's grandmother. I didn't get to meet her, but I'm told she would have LOVED me. Duh. My angel pin belonged to my grandmother who died last June, she collected angels of every kind. The Pandora bracelet from my Mom, with my kids' initials on it, a book charm and a Mickey/Minnie charm from my husband. My wedding set. My husband designed it himself, and incorporated a few of his grandmother's diamonds, which my mother-in-love saved just for me. Sigh. My aunt's pearl ring that was a gift to her when she graduated from high school in 1963. She wore it everyday. Now I do too. My grandmother's original wedding band, engraved with "From GW to MZ 7-9-39". It's already 78 years old. My silhouette bracelet; originally my maternal grandmothers, it had silhouette charms on it of my Mom, my aunt, myself and my brother-- her only two children and grandchildren. My Mom then bought a sturdier bracelet, had it woven with my grandmothers, and added the silhouettes of my children. I cried for hours over that one. I love these things as much as you can a material possession, and in these weeks where I'm still in grieving mode (doing well, but there are significant moments of heartbreak and disbelief) I can look down and feel connected to the ones who mean everything.


7. Bloodline. We LOVE this show. The final season drops on Friday, and we can't wait. When I say we can't wait it means we can't wait until the kids are in bed so we can commence the binge. It's a punch-in-the-gut show about a family who owns an inn in Key West, and harbors some BIG secrets. It's their unraveling that is so addicting to behold. If you haven't seen it yet, start at season one, give it a few episodes to get REALLY intense, and then thank me.



8. Fry's Clicklist. This invention makes me so happy I could cry. I have a family of seven (at least every other weekend) and a family of four the rest of the time (including a teenage son). That means grocery shopping is VERY time consuming, tedious and, if I'm being honest, exhausting. That's a lot of people to consider. BUT NOW.....I go to Clicklist HERE, sign up, pick a time, and start shopping. It is EFFORTLESS. Now, the key is to do your shopping on a weekday, because the weekends are pretty booked out. However, I search my recipes and jot my list on Monday usually, fire up the Clicklist, and pick everything up that afternoon, or on Tuesday. You just add everything to your cart, they send you a confirmation email, then a reminder email about an hour before. Then you cruise on up to Fry's to the Clicklist section of the parking lot, call the number on the sign, and within five minutes your groceries are loaded and and you're on the way home. It has saved SO MUCH time, I'm talking two hours, that I have time to run to my boxing class, get other things done and THEN go get the groceries. The first three orders are free, after that it's $4.95. But for the time it saves, THAT'S FINE WITH ME!



9. Mon Paris, Yves Saint Laurent. I followed my coworker around for days wanting to know what this scent was. Hopefully not in a creeptastic way. But possibly. It's both floral and spicy and it makes my husband mess up my pretty lipstick that I mentioned above. About $75 for the teeny weeny bottle because it's YUMMY.



10. Quiet Days Off Surrounded By Simple Things. I LOVE having a weekday off where the my kids are in school and the steps are somewhere else and I have time to putter; enjoy the flowers my husband buys almost weekly, my B&BW candles (a home staple for me--this one--Mahogany Coconut is WONDERFUL), movies, mani-pedi, boxing, and some undoing of the kid mess, making the house cozy, clean and inviting again. I appreciate my schedule so much because these days are a good reset.


11. Kicking Ass At Stepmom-ing. It is the number one, no doubt most difficult job on the planet. Don't be fooled by people who say being a Mom is. I've done both, twice, and being a Mom is a cakewalk in comparison. It is probably easier when you deal with exes who are, if not semi-normal humans, at least civil for the kids' sake, but like my last article, that's NOT always the case. I've tried to make the job easy on my kids' stepmom; we exchange kind texts and congratulations and occasional jokes--no doubt that's made it easier on her. Plus my kids are awesome because I'm their Mom but whatever. Stepmoms are often overlooked on Mother's Day, even when they spend equal time and do the work of a mother in the house. This is NOT okay. Thankfully my husband and my in-laws have told me repeatedly that they're grateful for my mother influence in the lives of my stepkids; and I'm glad for the opportunity. It's rough, but then there are moments like this, when your heart is full because you love children that aren't even yours. Except they are, when you are one with their bioparent. Biology, honestly, can be the least of what makes someone a parent.


12.  Jabz Boxing. I love this place. It resets my mind, confirms my badassery, and pumps up the endorphins to last all day. It also means epsom salt baths, sore thighs and necessary butt rubs from the husband. It is a ROUGH workout, but is diverse, always new, incorporates cardio, strength, plyo, technique. It makes you actually enjoy getting your ass kicked, I SWEAR. And it MAKES YOU want to step into a ring. You can become kick-ass too HERE. Photo credit to Jabz Happy Valley.


13. Swish Swish, by Katy Perry. Oh, YES, girl. I LOVE this new song of Katy's. If there's a female you detest out there (and face it ladies, we all have at least ONE), this jam's for YOU. With these catty lyrics, how could you NOT love it?!
A tiger
Don't lose no sleep
Don't need opinions

From a shellfish or a sheep
Don't you come for me


You're calculated
I got your number

'Cause you're a joker
And I'm a courtside killer queen
And you will kiss the ring
You best believe


So keep calm, honey, I'ma stick around
For more than a minute, get used to it


14. Grace and Frankie. Just go watch it. You can't go wrong with these two.
 I mean, the Frankie quotes alone should do it:


Frankie: Excuse me. 
[Holding up a container of Ben & Jerry's ice cream
Frankie: Have you ever wondered if Ben and Jerry make more than ice cream together? 
Woman: What? 
Frankie: Ben and Jerry. Are they more than ice cream buddies? 
Woman: How the hell would I know? 
Frankie: Bitch. 
Frankie Bergstein: I must have half the beach in my vagina!
Frankie Bergstein: [folding a fitted sheet] This is harder than you said it would be. 
Grace Hanson: Fold the corners. No, fold. Fold the corners. 
Frankie Bergstein: They're round. They do not fold. Anyone who can do this is a powerful witch. 
Grace Hanson: Well, I can do it. 
Frankie Bergstein: I rest my case. 



And with that, I rest mine.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Why I Don't Have To Take Pictures With The Ex "For The Children", And You Don't Either.

Recently there's been a post going around that talked about how these Two Divorced Individuals were So Great because They Took A Picture Together With Their Kid Every Year. 

And then came the comments from the ignorant:

“This is how EVERYONE should do it!”
“Those parents are doing it right!”
“There is no reason that every parent shouldn't do this! If you don't you're selfish!”

"This is PUTTING THE KIDS FIRST, KUDOS!"

There has been article after article about how wonderful it is when exes are best pals, sharing birthday parties, sitting together at events and games, and the like. It's great for those who can. One side of my own situation gets along in spite of the awful history, (but with boundaries in place), one side has repeatedly caused so much harm through a suspected disorder, lies, revenge, accusations and court that there is no possibility of common ground. Condemning people who are willing but UNABLE to effectively "co-parent" is ignorant.

IF YOU'RE BEST PALS, THEN WHY GET DIVORCED?

For the record, I did not divorce my ex husband because I wanted to hang out with him during holidays or host birthday parties "Come on over!" at my house with him traipsing through the home I've made with my new husband.

If you haven't been through divorce, especially a contentious one, especially one that maybe wasn't your fault but someone else dropped a nuclear weapon in your home and you were left with the high emotions of the fallout from someone's selfish decisions, then you really have no reason to comment.

Every situation is different; and there is a BIG difference between a couple who sat down and said, "This isn't working, let's just go our separate ways" and ones who split up due to abuse, whether emotional through cheating or physical. It is INCREDIBLY insensitive to expect that everyone act the same or that there is some "standard" to strive for, making people question themselves: "What is wrong with ME?" when honey, it's NOT you.

The only rules are not to bash the other parent to your children and don't use them as pawns in your chess game hell bent on revenge. Be civil. If necessary, parallel parent.

Yes, go ahead and unapologetically parallel parent. For your sanity. Go ahead. I support you. 

You can read more about it HERE.




If you had the pleasure of divorcing someone with narcissistic tendencies or a full fledged personality disorder, then NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE can judge your right to protect your own emotions and self-worth, to protect your solid boundaries and as a result of that, protect your children while they're in your care.

You can't rescue your kids from a narcissist/disordered other parent. That will be a road they will have to walk down and recover from on their own. But you CAN enforce boundaries and teach your children valuable life lessons.

And that means putting a hedge of protection around your life, for the sake of your soul and your kids.

Imagine being told by friends, family, internet trolls, that you just HAVE TO sit in a room/talk on the phone/co-mingle at games/pretend to be friends with someone who maybe had:

1. Cheated on you with total disregard for their vows, total disregard for their children in their actions. Imagine you had overheard your spouse on the phone with the person they're cheating on you with, saying "All he/she cares about is the children. Can you believe that?!" (THE AUDACITY).

2. Created a new human with someone other than their spouse.

3. Pretended to be amicable and agreed to all of the divorce stipulations, wanted to hurry and sign the dotted line to marry someone else; then when YOU moved on later, they are so ridiculously jealous that they threatened and then slapped you with court (classic personality disorder behavior!) in an attempt to disrupt your wedding and new marriage.

4. Make false allegations against you and attempted to deny you your parental rights, decision making and custody of your children, when the situation was not your doing. Not even a little bit.

5. Gotten pregnant on purpose knowing you adamantly did not want more children.

6. Not paid any support for years. You can handle it, but you legitimately need some help, and you didn't create them alone.

7. OR Someone who says "I never want child support, time with my children is enough"---until they decide that cheating with--and then marrying--a jobless, unmotivated person wasn't allowing them to keep up the lifestyle they used to have, and they now expect you to fund their life. And then cut their own hours to part time. You work like a dog with 50/50 custody and now cover your own AND the other parent expenses. Seems legit. (See "Golden Uterus Complex" in book below).

8. Dragged your children to so many different doctor and therapist appointments looking for a "fix" for the damage that they have done that you are forced to watch your children trudge through life covered in labels and prescriptions.

9. You also cannot attend any appointments because of the excessive conflict and inability to focus on your children without the other parent insisting on being present. When they are there, they have outbursts and make the therapist uncomfortable. So you have no choice but to keep your distance for the children's sakes.

10. Dragged your new spouse and their children into their unstable world with constant comments about how they're "not really family"; confusing your children and forcing them to show allegiance; attempting to ruin the lives of your new stepchildren with false accusations.  Doing so while promoting themselves publicly as an "advocate for children".

11. Emotionally abused, manipulated, threatened and gaslighted you, used court as a weapon; repeatedly shit on you in ways that make the children fully aware of the tension.

(Just a few, ahem, hypotheticals).

I mean, COME ON. When would you go to a therapist and hear them say, "You should really stay buddies with your abuser. You should let them hang out and make the best of it because THAT JUST MAKES EVERYONE FEEL BETTER". 

It's the same thing.

SOMEONE'S MENTAL ILLNESS, EVEN IF IT'S YOUR CHILDREN'S OTHER PARENT, IS NOT YOUR PROBLEM. Think of it as their new spouse having the life sentence now. You were LUCKY to escape. 


I'm here to tell you, IT'S REALLY OKAY TO SAY NO TO "CO-PARENTING" WITH ANOTHER HUMAN BEING WHO DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT AND INSTEAD USES THE TERM AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO MANIPULATE YOU THROUGH THE CHILDREN.

Just because you had children with someone does NOT make your life their fair game and mean that they have ANY right to be disruptive, belligerent, abusive or manipulative to you.

And showing your children that you can be civil in their presence while enforcing boundaries to protect yourself?

What a valuable lesson for them!

Show them there are consequences in life if someone violates you, if someone is abusive, no matter who that person is. 

Imagine your children in a relationship that you notice is abusive. Would you not do everything in the world to protect them?

Then give them that strong example. Show them you can be a civil human being to someone who has caused you harm, while still maintaining appropriate distance and a hard line stance against further abuse. Someday they'll remember that Mom or Dad JUST SAID NO. Show them that how you treat someone matters. Break the cycle so they don't go on to abuse their OWN spouse or behave like spawn of Satan. 

Protect yourself. In doing so, you are creating a better life and environment for your children. Mom/Dad aren't as on edge. They are able to focus on their children. They're able to find love again and build a better life and relationship example. They find their own voice and strength and say no to what damages. They protect their kids from the tension at joint parties and school events. 

So go ahead and do you. Sit on the other side of the bleachers. Plan your own parties. Limit contact.

It's your life to live, don't let anyone tell you you have to be or do anything that harms you. 

For an EXCELLENT resource that we've found incredibly helpful (and so on point you wonder if someone has been observing your life), I highly recommend this book:

https://www.amazon.com/Say-Goodbye-Crazy-Restore-Sanity-ebook/dp/B014W0587S




Now go take some pictures of your kid with just you, or you and their new stepparent, or their stepsiblings and rejoice in your new beginnings, your forever family, and being a strong, FREE, DAMN GOOD, parent. 

You don't owe the world (or the ex) a thing. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

How To Do The DC Area In Three Days (And Still See A Lot!)


My husband and I are certified travel junkies. Any chance we get, we are dropping off the kids and hopping on a plane to wherever we decided is next on our list. I love our life. A couple of weeks ago, my kids were in Florida for Spring Break so we decided to take some extra days off and get away ourselves. If we're just going for a weekend, we tend to stay closer to home; California destinations typically. But since we had an extra couple of days, we decided to fly ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE COUNTRY and visit one of my very favorite spots: the Washington DC area.

My husband hadn't been since he was seven years old, and I fell in love with it while living there for a travel nursing job in 2012, so we decided to head out there for some fun.

The thing about the DC area is it is COMPLETELY overwhelming with things to do. You could spend a month there and still not see and do everything, so we wanted to organize the three days we'd have and see as much as we could.


My first recommendation is to fly out early and fly back late. Flying back on Monday evening (and gaining three hours going from DC to Arizona) was a big bonus; it gave us the day to fit something else in before flying back. We left on a Friday afternoon and four hours later landed in Baltimore. My second recommendation, if you don't JUST HAVE TO stay in downtown DC, is to stay in the area of the Baltimore airport. It is easier to get in and out, and it was centrally located to all of the activities that we wanted to do. Traffic is MUCH easier to conquer if you stay outside of DC near Baltimore. We like the Embassy Suites Baltimore Airport, it was a nice hotel with great amenities, so that we were able to grab free breakfast before heading out everyday.


Make Reservations Here for the Embassy Suites Baltimore Airport

Since we lost three hours flying out, we got in late and headed to bed right away so that we'd be up early to get our day going without the time change affecting us too much.

Day One: 

We debated on how to organize the weekend because there were several things we wanted to do: spend time in DC proper, visit Gettysburg (on my sweetheart's bucket list), go to George Washington's Mount Vernon, and walk around the Baltimore Inner Harbor. For day one, we chose to head down to Mount Vernon, about an hours drive from our hotel, and spend a few hours at the home of the the father of our nation.




Let me tell you, Mount Vernon is BEAUTIFUL, and absolutely worth the trip. The historical portion is fascinating and the grounds are stunning on the bank of the Potomac River. To stand on the porch where George and Martha Washington undoubtedly sat hand in hand, looking at the same sights that more than 200 years later was touching. Get there early, as the tour of his actual home is scheduled by time when you purchase your tickets, and we barely got into the last group of the day and had three hours to kill before our house tour time was available (no worries--there is plenty to see and do on the grounds while you're waiting, including he and Martha's tomb).




Purchase Tickets to Mount Vernon Here, There Is A $2 Discount Purchasing Online!

There are no photos allowed inside the home, which included the same bed President Washington died in, hence you get the outside. You're welcome.

To continue our day, we wanted to head back into DC for dinner. We are suckers for seafood, but also like things casual for the most part. I did some research prior to the trip and found the PERFECT spot! Be forewarned, it's in the Georgetown area and on a Saturday night the traffic is UNREAL. Give yourself plenty of time to get where you want to go.

After finding super expensive underground parking in Georgetown, we walked a couple of blocks to a tiny little restaurant that had rave reviews. You do NOT want to miss out on LUKE'S LOBSTER!
In a little building, you will find DELICIOUS Maine lobster and all of the necessary accompaniments. We both ordered the Maine lobster roll (my favorite thing of all time, I got hooked on them while living in Maine), with JUST butter and seasoning. No ruining it with mayo for me.
And let me tell you, the lobster roll is to die for. 

We took our food up the narrow wooden staircase to the second floor and shared a table with another couple (yes, it's THAT small). I grabbed a Maine blueberry soda and we overlooked the hustle and bustle of a beautiful spring evening in Georgetown. HEAVEN. Just heaven.


 



After Luke's we had one more stop before heading back to the hotel for the night. We walked a few blocks over to GEORGETOWN FREAKING CUPCAKE! Ok, so it's JUST Georgetown Cupcake, but I love this place. My daughter and I used to watch their show on TLC and went there several times when we lived there. They have cupcakes from heaven. My husband was shocked, even with my prior warning, to see the line that went DOWN THE BLOCK just for cupcakes. I assured him it would be worth it. :)






Forty minutes after getting into line, we picked up cupcakes for that day, AND for the next. He went with red velvet and chocolate, I went with cherry cheesecake and pink tulip. If you ever want to order some and have them shipped to you, it's worth it! Click the link above to treat yo'self.

After this we walked around Georgetown holding hands in the beautiful evening, did some shopping and then headed back to Baltimore to get some ZZZ's for day two.

Day Two: 


Up bright and early on this day, because we had some ambitious plans. Today we were conquering both DC and Gettysburg. We could have spent the whole day in DC, however, my husband has always wanted to see Gettysburg, being the southern hottie that he is, so I vowed that we'd get it in there no matter how long this day ended up being.

First off we drove into the city, which, from Baltimore is truly easy as far as distance. It doesn't take more than 30 minutes if traffic is good. We decided we were going to a good museum first, then to the national mall.  We chose the Newseum! It's not one of the free Smithsonian museums in the area, but well worth the admission. We went on recommendation of a friend who happens to be a travel blogger! It was fascinating and we spent a couple of hours there perusing the multiple levels of the museum, observing things from pieces of the Berlin Wall, to the antenna from the south tower of the World Trade Center, to our favorite part: the FBI exhibit where they actually have the entire cabin that belonged to the Unibomber and the suit OJ was wearing when the verdict was read. We truly enjoyed the museum and the breathtaking views of the Capitol building, just down the block.



After the Newseum, we were a little hungry, and still in search of seafood, as always. My husband has been to one of the Legal Sea Food locations elsewhere and wanted to try this one. He raved about the clam chowder, which has been served at every presidential inauguration since Ronald Reagan's. We had to check it out.

AND IT'S THE BEST. I GET IT. We both had crab rolls with a side of clam chowder, which hit the spot because it was a colder, blustery day.



After lunch we took a walk for a few blocks down to the national mall, to stand in the middle and see the Capitol on one end and the Washington monument on the other. It added to the experience to have seen George Washington's home and learned so much more about his life the day before. Knowing we still wanted to get up to Gettysburg this day, we didn't spend much time there, as it was also getting very cold (hence my warming my face on my husband's cheek). :) But he needed to see it again, as he hadn't since 1978.


After the mall we walked back to the car and headed to Gettysburg, about an hour and a half away. It would technically be the fourth state we'd be in in only two days! Staying in Maryland, Mount Vernon in Virginia, the District of Columbia and now on to Pennsylvania. We checked the times for the Gettysburg Visitors Center and it looked like we could make it with fifteen minutes to spare, so we could pick up a map and do the auto tour of the area. EXCEPT, when we arrived, we had just missed it. Luckily, there are comprehensive maps outside, so off we went for a self-guided tour.

IT. IS. HAUNTING.

Never mind that it's allegedly the most "haunted" area in all the country (I can totally see that), but walking on the battlefields, listening to the stories with the audio app that we downloaded was nothing less than eerie. We looked up what the most haunted spots in the area were and naturally, WENT THERE. It was cold and windy, overcast and nearing evening, so it added to the mystique of the area, most especially at a rock formation called Devil's Den, where Confederate soldiers had hidden and held strong in a particularly bloody battle.




After our tour, as darkness fell and things got blisteringly cold, we threw on our jackets and headed to the downtown Gettysburg area for our scheduled creepy night tour with Gettysburg Ghost Tours. We aren't exactly into ghost hunting, or believe in "ghosts" per se (though demons strolling around is a different story) but this looked like too much fun to miss.

For the next two hours we walked through the darkened streets of Gettysburg with our tour guide, she appropriately dressed in colonial garb. There was an element of the creep factor, hearing stories of gory soldier deaths and the massive amount of dead bodies left to rot after the battle was over, along with ghost stories to go along with it; but the BEST part was all of the historical information we picked up. Absolutely fascinating to walk where history comes alive. We LOVED it. And nearly froze to death. But we DID Gettysburg in just a couple of hours and it was worth the trip!

After the tour ended, we were INSANE and drove back onto the battlefields, trying to catch a glimpse of something similar to THIS VIDEO THAT SCARED THE BEJESUS OUT OF US. I had a momentary freak out meltdown because I did NOT want to see anything, truth be told, but we didn't.

We DID however, pick up some real oddities in a couple of the pictures we took on the ghost tour. I'll save that for another post.

After a good scare, we stopped by the local Friendly's for a quick dinner and to warm up, and headed back to Baltimore, tired after a wonderful, activity-packed day.

Day Three:

We were heading back home that evening, so we didn't have A LOT of time. We chose to wear ourselves out by going to Gettysburg on day two so we could sleep in on day three and just head 15 down the road to the Baltimore Inner Harbor.  Day three was beautiful and sunny, perfect for a leisurely walk along the harbor, where there are colonial ships and a WWII submarine to tour and no shortage of seafood restaurants. We weren't impressed with the small restaurant that we chose, so I'll leave out the link. We held hands, looked through shops, and enjoyed the last day in one of the best parts of this country. Later that day, a quick drive back to the airport and we were back on our five hour flight bound for Phoenix. We had managed to do the perfect amount of activities in those three days and recommend this game plan if you ever have long weekend to visit the nation's capitol!



We are already planning our next getaway, but will definitely be heading back to DC before long, to see more sights. I couldn't recommend it more for a fun and still romantic three day getaway. :)

XOXO,

Cyn

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Dancing With Ghosts





Grief swirled around me like the dense gray fog that had rolled in on Monday morning. I sat down on the moist earth, grass browned from the frigid Chicago winter, and talked to my grandmother's grave.

"I'm here," I told her, "I may have been gone physically but my heart never left".  Mary and Bernadine, my grandmothers who stayed behind in the western Chicago suburbs as we pulled the Uhaul on to the highway, bound for Arizona in 1981, are still inhabiting my soul.

I was approaching my sixth birthday when I lost the first one, quick and painful, to a heart attack. I have spent years as an Emergency Room nurse now, trying fervently to prevent others from feeling the sharp sting of sudden death, like I had when I was pigtailed and carefree, making my way through kindergarten. That sting has subsided some, like I'd doused it in lidocaine, but the hurt of loss at that age isn't curable. Time is simply a patch placed carefully over the wound, shrouding and protecting it until it's not quite so raw. That is, until you can function as a grown human, a deep fear of death attaching itself strongly to your ribcage, to be drug around silently and then reappearing with each new loss or trauma, clawing at you from the inside.

I lost the second at the age of 40. Less than a year ago. So many more years of phone calls and letters, more kisses and stories and love to share. I can't say that, at this age, that it stung any less. The loss of her is fresh, open, tangled up with guilt and not being able to see her as much as I'd have liked. Not able to care for her in her last years, being the only nurse in the family, eats at me. She was 1,800 miles away. It blessed my soul that she knew the joy of a new generation; I recall the smile and the outstretched arms when, in 2004, she enveloped her first great-grandbaby, my sweet boy, into her arms. Later, two great-granddaughters would be introduced, and just last year, another great-grandson. Generations that existed because of her.


Back in Chicago this weekend, I was stricken by grief, suddenly, violently. It took my breath away. The last time in town, last June, we buried my grandmother. The familiarity of my surroundings pricked at my heart. I couldn't go see her. The goodbyes were done. I couldn't go to my other grandmother's grave, it is several hours away in southern Illinois. And yet, my roots are dug deep here. 35 years in Arizona, but my debut into the world was HERE. My first memories, being pulled by my Dad on my sled down the hill at the end of our street, the sloped back yard at one set of grandparents' house, where I picked little daisies and twirled in my hula skirt in the scorching and humid summers; the broad garden in my other grandparents' yard, now withered and grown over, where I picked cucumbers, rinsed them in the hose and enjoyed their crispness standing there in the grass.


So much life has happened since those years, rolling by in a blink, packing experiences and joys and hurts one on top of another and landing here, nearly 40 years later. The buildings remain, the people don't. Time has stolen them and returned them to the earth, me sure to follow.

I want to talk to my grandmothers. I want to ask them how they felt at this age; watching their babies grow and make their own choices, how their physical bodies wound down and how they felt about life; did they feel like they missed anything? Did they have unfulfilled dreams? Did Gram maybe want to be a physician and not a stay at home Mom all those years? Did Nana want to run more restaurants and be a businesswoman? Did they wish they had had better opportunities? Did they have regrets? I'm sure that I'll have the answers some day, but by then, I'll have moved on beyond the earth; I'll maybe have little granddaughters wondering who I was, what I thought, what it was like to raise their parents.




I'm thankful that I was able to go to my grandmother's house, talk to my uncle, pick up pictures that my grandmother had kept; of me, my Dad, my brother. Little angel figurines she surrounded herself with; two of them coming home with me, one for my daughter, a reminder of the lady she barely knew. A heart shaped pin, that I'll wear often, because she called me her sweetheart. Little connections like sharp electrical currents reaching through time and generations and death, connecting us. I'm thankful that, on the solo nights in my aunt's house, while she lay recuperating in a rehab facility, I found letters in my other grandmother's loopy cursive. They were letters of love and the latest gossip sent from Arizona, while she was visiting for the birth of my brother, sent the day before she died. Her words initially haunted me, "I'm not feeling well", punching me in the chest, her not knowing that before that letter would even reach Illinois, she'd be gone. Then her words made me laugh; at the time tears streamed down my face; I still missed her so much, but her next words made me laugh straight through the tears:



Nothing has changed. 

I rifled through pictures upon pictures. Cards I'd sent and were signed in kindergarten print, my yellow and weathered birth announcement from the local paper in 1976, perfectly preserved. My beginnings, laid out bare, to be shared with my kids. Realizing how much I was loved, being the first grandchild on both sides, and how grateful I am that I got to know those two amazing women at all.

I sat on the floor and let myself feel. Feel their presence in that place; the place we'd all been born, the place they'd lived and died. Grieving that they're gone but knowing that I will always carry them with me and that, as long as I'm still here, so are they. Because I will keep their sweet spirits alive, talk about them, and, when I come back to visit, I will make the effort to visit where their shells lie. Just because they're not physically here, doesn't mean I can't still love them.

And so, in a couple of days in Illinois, I danced with ghosts. The ghosts of them, the ghosts of me that still live there, somewhere. I let the past creep out from the walls and surround me. I felt the soft earth beneath me, as tangible and real as they'd always been. I kissed my grandmother goodbye, even if it was on the cold, marbled stone that has her name engraved upon it. I told her what I'm up to, what I wish I could ask her, what it's really like being with Jesus every day, is time irrelevant?

Someday, I'll know. But for now, Mary and Bernadine travel this road right along with me. They feel the warm Arizona sun; see the messy house full of kids and voices and love. They're in the eyes of my daughter when she smiles; in the laugh of my growing son. They're in my hands as they grow older; in the smile lines on my face, in the appreciation that I woke up with breath in my lungs and joy in my heart. I'm still here, carrying on. Appreciating. Laughing. Loving.

And always, taking them right along with me, no matter where I go.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

When You've Got A Good Thing.



I just have to brag on my husband for a minute. I KNOW, I talk about how great he is like, all the time, but it's because he's legit, ya'll. Let me tell you this. 

I am currently 1800+ miles away in Illinois, being the good nurse-niece and taking care of my aunt, who is in a rehab nursing home in the western suburbs of Chicago after a fall and a subsequent femur fracture. No bueno. 

My little girl (his stepdaughter) had a daddy-daughter dance this week, which I wasn't aware of until the last minute before I was to leave for Chicago. My daughter assured me that she had a dress at her dad's house (surprising to me, as I am always the one who gets them clothes, special event dresses, etc). She told me the colors and before I left town I picked her up some shiny, sparkly patent leather shoes and some tights. We spent some sweet mother-daughter time as I taught her how to roll up the tights to put them on without putting runs in them. As I'm packing for my flight, at 9pm, my daughter informs me that her dad "couldn't find" the dress she was talking about and she'd need to find one of her old dresses to wear. So we scrambled to find one that would be appropriate for a dressy dance and settled on one that still fit, one she'd worn to school. It ate at me that I couldn't go out and find a special dress for her. My husband reminded me that it's not MY responsibility for a daddy-daughter dance, as every time his daughters have had one, he is the patient, amazing Dad who takes them dress shopping HIMSELF. His daughters have no idea how blessed they are to have a Dad who takes care of everything and someday I hope they appreciate that they never had need of a SINGLE thing, because their Dad has handled it all. 



I set out the dress, tights and shoes for my daughter and enlisted my oldest stepdaughter, who is amazing at braiding hair (because her stepmommy bought her a book on it, just saying) to do my daughter's hair. That next morning, at 530am, I was headed to Chicago. 

I spent the afternoon at the nursing home assessing my aunt and getting the ball rolling with better care in her facility (don't PLAY with an ER/ICU nurse's family, ya'll. We know what to watch for). 
It was busy, and in the middle of things, I got a text from my daughter:

"Mommy, what do you think of this dress?" it was a selfie of her in a dressing room in a beautiful black and white floral print dress. 

"Where are you? Are you SHOPPING?!" 

"Yes. John took me to get a new dress. They're all so expensive but he wants me to get one!" 


Her older sisters (stepsisters, but none of them consider themselves "step" anything) helped her pick them out. Her stepdad also found her a little sweater to match because it was rainy and chilly outside yesterday. 

And so. This man took all four girls out to the movies and then out dress shopping. He has handled everything, and somehow manages to make them all feel special. My daughter has never felt unloved by her stepdad; I texted her how beautiful she looked, and then "You really have the best stepdad in the world". Her response: "Yes, I do." So many times I see that she appreciates him even more than his other kids do. 



Last night she was dressed, her sister did her hair, and she felt like a little princess going to a ball.  




Her dad was notoriously late, leaving this little girl waiting. 

But I am grateful. I am grateful for the man that shows up every day; that patiently has learned her, that has loved her as his own. It speaks volumes when, as I am going out of town, that my daughter asks to stay home with her sisters and stepdad, because that's where she has her voice. It's where everyone is on time and she fits in. She has the example now that I always wanted for her; a man who loves his wife with an unconditional love, who is considerate, caring, faithful and thoughtful.  A man who looks at his bride every day, just like this:


(even when she's crankypants or ugly crying or ramped up and letting her temper fly at outside sources). Our first dance song, and "Our Song" is called "When You Got A Good Thing", by Lady Antebellum. It speaks truth; because when you find that One, that makes you realize how good you have it and how much you lacked in the past, you don't ever let that go. Thank you to my sweet husband, the one home holding it down with all the daughters at the moment, being the man that he is. 


My Good Thing. 



Everybody keeps telling me I'm such a lucky man
Lookin' at you standin' there I know I am
Barefooted beauty with eyes that blue
Sunshine sure looks good on you
I swear
Oh I can't believe I finally found you baby
Happy ever after, after all this time
Oh there's gonna be some ups and downs
But with you to wrap my arms around
I'm fine
So baby, hold on tight
Don't let go
Hold onto the love we're making
Cause baby when the ground starts shakin'
You gotta know when you've got a good thing
You know you keep on bringin' out the best of me
And I need you now even more than the air I breathe
You can make me laugh when I wanna cry
This will last forever I just know, I know
So baby, hold on tight
Don't let go
Hold onto the love we're making
Cause baby when the ground starts shakin'
You gotta know when you've gotta good thing
We got a good thing, baby, whoa
So hold on tight
Baby, don't let go
Hold onto the love we're making
Cause baby when the ground starts shakin'
You gotta know, oh you gotta know
Oh you gotta know, you gotta know
When you got a good thing
We got a good thing baby