40/40

40 Things I Did In My First 40 Years

  1. Traveled to Canada, Mexico, England, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and many cities in the USA
  2. Road tripped from Texas to Montana
  3. Almost birthed Lily at home and purposefully had Vivi at home
  4. Bought a condo
  5. Bought a house
  6. Got my motorcycle license
  7. Got married
  8. Got divorced
  9. Had multiple solo-backpack trips
  10. Got 8 tattoos over the span of 15 years
  11. Fainted in Amsterdam while getting a piercing
  12. Traveled solo to Vegas to see Lady Gaga in concert
  13. Saw Nick Cave in San Fran
  14. Saw Dolly Parton in Spokane
  15. Saw ELO in San Fran
  16. Saw Ani DiFranco in Paris
  17. Saw Tori Amos in San Diego
  18. Saw Elton John (and many, many more concerts) in Missoula
  19. Got a double Bachelors
  20. Got my Masters
  21. Took courses at Harvard and Wharton
  22. Was Kate in Taming of the Shrew
  23. Played violin for Up With People shows and in the pit for Fiddler on the Roof
  24. Self-diagnosed spontaneous intracranial hypotension
  25. Broke my collar bone
  26. Started multiple blogs
  27. Lost 40 pounds and gained back 30
  28. Had my writing published in a Canadian magazine and in Mamalode
  29. Created the grocery store exhibit at the Children’s Museum
  30. Was featured in the Missoulian in high school for fashion – then also again as an adult AND was in Seventeen magazine (!)
  31. Cultivated a fantastic shoe collection
  32. Found a recovery program
  33. Discovered a love for baking (cooking too)
  34. Went winter backpacking on skis
  35. Rode in a hot air balloon
  36. Learned the flat peyote stich round
  37. Helicopter ride, float plane, dog sledding, glacier viewing in Juneau
  38. Dyed my hair every single color imaginable, had waist long hair, the Uma Thurman bob from Pulp Fiction, and a shaved head
  39. Figured out the perfect (singing) harmony for “A Whole New World”
  40. Became an auntie      

40 Things I Want To Do In My Next 40 Years

  1. Travel to Maine, Hawaii, Australia, Austin, New Zealand, Greece, Iceland, Japan, Vancouver, New Orleans, Dollywood
  2. Food/wine tour in Italy
  3. Wine (also food, most likely) tour of Napa
  4. Hot air balloon festival somewhere
  5. Go back to Amsterdam
  6. Go back to Portland
  7. Always be reading multiple books/graphic novels at once
  8. See a show in NYC on Broadway
  9. Self-publish something
  10. Learn a dance (salsa, tango)
  11. See Lady Gaga’s jazz/piano show in Vegas
  12. Be able to re-create my first (perfect) batch of macarons
  13. Sing “White Rabbit” publicly for karaoke
  14. Go to Burning Man
  15. Volunteer for MT Youth Challenge Academy (and always be involved in something service oriented)
  16. Dine at a Thomas Keller restaurant
  17. Become an empty nester
  18. Buy a motorcycle or scooter
  19. Travel on said motorcycle or scooter
  20. Have a spa vacation
  21. Have a vacation where I sit in the shade on a beach with a book and a cocktail.  The entire time.
  22. Be able to work into my budget a monthly massage
  23. Continuing working the steps
  24. Continuing using my art degree for decorating cakes and taking selfies
  25. Be the winning bid in more art live auctions
  26. See Britney Spears in concert
  27. Actually listen to podcasts
  28. Write a screen play
  29. Film a short movie for HUMP fest
  30. Catalog my current artwork
  31. Buy SO MUCH MORE original work
  32. Paint every wall in my house
  33. Paint my fence rainbow
  34. Speak/present at a conference
  35. Form a violin/acoustic duo with my sister
  36. Taste test tequila (really good ones)
  37. Buy a (convertible) Corvette
  38. Start recycling and composting again
  39. Be in a band
  40. Do another boudoir photo shoot

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Time After Time

40 weeks. 4 weeks.  Forever.

52 weeks.  26 weeks.

1 year.

45 weeks.

7 weeks.  1 week.

40 years.

My kids are set to arrive back home next week after spending most of the summer with their dad.  I am absolutely and entirely ready to have them back, and also am absolutely and entirely grateful they were able to have this time with him.  Nothing in my life more than having children has reiterated the fact that time is an illusion and has helped to chip away my deep rooted desire for control.  They are 12 and 15 years old now, and one of my greatest joys is observing the way the interact within the world and listening to their perspectives.  The individuals they are becoming is a sight to behold.

Both of my pregnancies were shorter than “full term”, as both of these humans needed to be introduced to the world as soon as possible.  Not fixating on a specific due date was made easier when my midwife told me that the span of an entire month is a better “due date” to contemplate.  Some of my earliest diary entries speak to my desire of being a mom.  I thought I had my plan locked down and was making my own dreams come true, with each pregnancy and birth.  I realize now I’m simply, and extremely, lucky.

One of the hardest and strangest aspects about divorce is the custody arrangement. We went from being a family unit 24/7 to eventual 50/50 schedules.  The plan is set, and everyone involved adjusts.  And then, plans change.  The weeks “off” and “on” were freeing in a way I hadn’t realized I needed; time in which I only had myself to worry and think about.  I also hadn’t realized how effective I was at distracting myself during those “off” weeks rather than take care of myself.  I was constantly there during the “on” weeks and my counselor often brought up the idea of balance. That me only existing to be at home when my kids were home wasn’t sending them a healthy message.  I understood it in theory but didn’t ever really set it into practice until recently.  Now, self care is a requirement for me to be able to be present in any sense, for them.

I didn’t take well to their dad deciding to move across the country.  We exchanged angry words and hurt each other in unnecessary ways, rehashing conversations and moments from the past that were long gone but definitely not forgotten.  I held onto that anger like a toxic best friend, fiercely and tightly.  The heat turned to bitterness because I didn’t address the underlying grief, loss, and sadness.  I continued to take my own poison and couldn’t figure out how to let it go.  It took a year.  It took a truly safe space for the power of those bottled up words to be spoken and released.  He and I are finding a new and different connection now, one that I am also entirely grateful for.

The amount of time I have Lily and Vivienne seems expansive on paper.  They are with me 45 weeks of every year.  Day in and day out, it is a lot to manage.  And yet, where did this past year disappear to? Three more years and Lily will fly. Six more years and Vivi will follow.  The time, when thought about in that way, is incredibly limited.  Every day is a new opportunity to connect, experience the pure joy and happiness that they both naturally radiate, and always be the grounded space for them to land.          

They have been in Maine for seven weeks this summer.  In the first week, I cried a lot and deeply felt the vastness left behind.  I knew the days would fly by, that time would disappear, and it has.  This time around, I consciously planned my time, who I spent it with, and what I explored.  I’m working to reprogram the thinking patterns that no longer serve me, heal instead of distract, and move forward rather than repeat the same behaviors I’ve been holding onto.

I created much chaos for myself in this past decade.  I don’t mean that to take full blame or admit guilt, rather, I’m finally figuring out how to own my responsibility in every situation I was (am) a part of.  I turn 40 next month and relish and delight in this beginning of a new decade.  I am stronger, more vulnerable, and finally in a space of true recovery.  I am grateful for my journey, because without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Four days until two pieces of my heart and soul are within reach.  Let the countdown begin, and let every day bring what it may.  I’m ready in a way I have never been before.

Posted in Divorce, Family, Identity, Marriage, Parenting, Pregnancy, Teen | Leave a comment

Quarentini

I dropped my girls off to their grandmother this afternoon, bags packed and hugs a plenty.  I cried pulling out of the driveway.  The past two weeks have been a blur, as if being stuck at home has somehow made time speed up.  I internally rolled my eyes, reminding myself that there will be no more switches or drop-offs in a matter of days.  Their dad moves thousands of miles away in 51 days, to be exact.  Not that I’m counting or anything.  But I still teared up.  We’ve been doing split custody for seven years and it will always be a strange reality.  The girls live dual lives in a similar way that their parents do during the “on” and “off” weeks.  I’m normally not emotional to the point of tears when the girls go back to their dad.  Sometimes it feels harder than normal.

I saw a meme a couple weeks ago that said something like, “Life has become like Vegas: you don’t know what day it is, drinking is acceptable at any time of day, and most people lose.”  It’s funny on the surface, but the kind of funny that makes you laugh because if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.  Like the Quarentini.  We create some concoction to temporarily distract from the reality we’re living in.  But that reality ends up only being a wicked headache the next morning.  And that day blends into the rest.  And we either reach for another Quarentini or choose something else.

I thought I was doing well with the current pandemic: feeling grateful to not only still have a job but also one that allows me to work from home; rocking the zoom meetings; staying safe and healthy.  Being connected via screens, not feeling part of a bigger world in the social sense and waking up never quite knowing what day it is has started to have an effect.  My partner and I had a wicked fight last weekend that spanned the course of days.  I got frustrated with remote school and was harsh and made Vivienne cry.  I’ve been crabby with coworkers who haven’t done anything to contribute to my crabbiness.  Under other circumstances, I would be in Seattle right now having a girl’s weekend with one of my besties who is getting married in the fall.  I worry about my friends who own small businesses.  I worry about the very important people in my life who are in the high risk category.  I worry about a lot of things.  I’m on edge thinking about the things I miss.  I try not to dwell on the fact that those things might not be back for a very long time.

Two minutes after I dropped the kids off, I got rear-ended.

I found a pen, paper, insurance info, and wanted to burst out in tears.  After talking to the other driver and assessing the damage (cracked bumper, neither of us hurt) and realizing that things could have been so much worse, I didn’t want to cry anymore.  I wanted a Quarentini, but one that was strawberry lemonade with frozen blueberry ice cubes.  One that doesn’t mask anything at all but would provide a moment of refreshing relief.  I have no idea how, but I know it will be ok, somehow.  We are adapting, changing, attempting to live a new normal.  That in itself is really hard.

Things are uncertain right now and it feels impossible to have any sense of control.  But we can be stuck or we can figure it out.  We are all still connected and need to figure out new ways to experience what that connection feels like.  I might cry along the way, but I’ll also remind myself that I’ve always said “normal is boring,” anyway.

Posted in Family, Friends, Identity, Parenting, Work | 2 Comments

Villages

I was recently accepted to a mentoring program through one of the nonprofits in town.  Based on the national “Open Table” model, the program trains people from an array of community sectors — including business, education, faith communities, healthcare and others — to organize and co-invest their abundant and sustainable relational and social capital in individuals with complex needs and solutions to daunting social challenges.  (Visit https://www.theopentable.org/ for more).  Succinctly, the program is about building relationships that create lasting change.  Logistically, this means four women and I went through eight weeks of training and will now meet as a group with a single mom every week for the next year.

I’ve fallen, recently, too.  I have felt lost trying to navigate massive changes happening personally and professionally.  Stress and choices made by others in which I have no say, but am ultimately affected by, have made it hard to get up in the mornings.  My co-parent has decided to move cross country this summer, which will drastically change the time he spends with our daughters.  Will drastically change his relationship with them.  And will drastically change my situation in becoming a full-time single mom.  There is a magnitude of grief and loss involved in terms of my relationship and friendship with him, but the affect this will have on our almost 11 and 14 year olds will be greater and everlasting.  I am all of the adjectives for anxious about the very near future.

When I was completing my application for the program, and again during introductions this past week, I talked about my own experiences being a mom.  The support system of family and friends has been vast and constant.  I am incredibly grateful that my daughters have been surrounded by a village of individuals who truly love and care about them.  I am grateful that the same support has been there for me.  The “table” all voiced their own reasons for wanting to be involved in this program.  All of us stated a variation of “I want to show up for you.  I want to provide support.  I want to be part of something bigger than myself.”  I’m excited to embark on this journey with women I never would have crossed paths with in any other circumstance.  I am hopeful that meaningful connections will be established through consistent and genuine communication and that we can be part of supporting this mom’s journey.

I met with my doctor last week after realizing that I couldn’t remember a day that I didn’t cry.  My coping through dysfunctional and destructive habits based in addiction has led me into deeper depression.  My counselor reminds me that I am moving through the grief cycle of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  I feel stuck between anger and sadness.  I know this will change, slowly, over time.  On a daily basis though, the number of layers to attempt to sort through is overwhelming.

“These changes are huge,” my doctor agreed, “what do we do to make sure you have the support you need to be able to support your kids?”  I can make changes to my daily habits and routines.  Continue to talk to my counselor.  Eat consciously, exercise, meditate, do yoga, make fun plans, do more creative things, start a different anti-depressant, figure out how to actually sleep at night.  I need to take care of myself in order to take care of my girls.

I will reach out to that village.  Remember I have that village.  And more importantly, remember that my girls do too.

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Cool Girl

Author’s Note:  I wrote the “11 year old” post a year ago.  That’s how efficient I am at publishing blog posts now, apparently.  Thanks to Grandma for letting me host her 12th birthday party at her house, also!

Lily recently turned 11 years old and I’ve noticed subtle changes taking hold.  She takes the stance of “older and wiser sister” more often with Vivienne; she doesn’t want me to read books to her at bedtime anymore; she is pickier about food in her lunch box.  Lily has always been incredibly emotionally intelligent and picks up on the dynamics that exist even when words are not being spoken.  In turn, she often melts away into herself and refuses to communicate.  Many days, letting an ample amount of time pass, just sitting next to her, and remembering to be patient and not pushy gets her to open up.  But there are moments when that shell won’t crack.

Getting ready for school one morning last week, she was sluggish and crabby.  I knew something was bothering her but she wouldn’t talk, wouldn’t eat breakfast, wouldn’t crack the tiniest smile.  I dropped the girls off at school and she walked away without even saying good-bye.  I cried on the way home, wishing the end of my week with them (and the beginning of their week with their dad) would have been different.

She still shares things with me, randomly and sporadically.  I know which of her friends is dating which boys at their school, when they break up, and when they get back together.  I know that two of her friends started their periods.  I know she still hates living in two houses and having parents who are divorced.  I know she has cramps sometimes and just wants to stay in bed.  I know she is already worried about middle school.  I know she is sick of mac and cheese and the other lazy things I make for dinner.  The only thing I know about what might be a better option, according to her, is tacos.

Lily has never been a follower but is careful and kind about how she leads.  She is, in a very deep, conscientious, and real way, a genuinely cool girl.  Lily has participated in a girls’ rock music camp a few times before, which culminates with a live performance at one of our local clubs.  Seeing her on stage, usually with fun makeup and sprayed-on hair dye, introducing herself and then singing and playing her heart out, makes me explode with joy.

She is that cool girl I always wanted to be when I was younger; the one who had this magic and drew others to her, and when you actually got to know her better realized she was a decent human being and not “cool” in the cruel sense of the popular crowd.  I was not cool in any sense of the word.  I was smart and nice and survived middle school by trying to blend in and fending off the popular kids with humor.  Lily is one of the cool girls, in the best of ways.

As she gets older, I worry about a lot of things.

I let her watch too much Netflix and YouTube and don’t make her do enough chores.  I’m worried about hormones and trying to deal with my own as well as hers (AND her sister’s, eventually).  I want her to learn self-sufficiency and responsibility and how to navigate through difficult situations.  I worry about eating disorders and self-esteem and the middle school years to come.  I worry about that spark being beaten out of her through peers and experiences.

I want to explore the world with her and give her more perspectives to think about.  I want to spend time volunteering somewhere with her.  I want to cultivate and encourage her passions without being overbearing.  I want her to love riding the carousel for much longer than she most likely will, and want to continue taking her there for as long as she asks.  She always gets the gold ring.  And she usually saves it for when her sister wants to ride again.  Because that’s what cool girls do.

And then the other night, while tucking her in, she asks, “Mama, what’s a crush?”

I shut down my internal monologue and simply answered, “It’s when you like someone and you want to spend more time with them because they make you happy.”

“Well then,” Lily responded, “Mama, I have a crush on you!  Snuggle with me for a little bit?”

Of course.

*

Lily recently turned 12 years old and I continue to notice not so subtle changes taking hold.

For her birthday party, a group of girls met at the mall to wander around for a couple of hours and then I paid for them all to ride on these ridiculous, child magnet, stuffed animals on wheels that go about 2 miles per hour, for ten minutes.  We ate pizza and cake (she picked a flying pig version this year for me to make) and the girls did pretend shots of their fizzy drinks.  We made friendship bracelets and they summoned spirits with the Ouija board and sang karaoke.  The girls watched movies and stayed up most of the night.  They slept in and all dined on waffles before heading home.

At one point during the party, half of the group were sitting around the kitchen table and the other half were in another room fooling around with a play kitchen set.  The group at the kitchen table discussed rumors about someone in their grade having had sex, and if it could possibly be true, and who else it might possibly be, and who else had made that jump.  The group in the other room pretend-shopped and pretend-made dinner.  I sat in the living room, quietly observing, and intently working on my own friendship bracelet.

I still think about this moment, months after the party has passed.  Lily is in the crux of becoming a pre-teen, reaching the middle of abandoning her childhood, absorbing information left and right, but still processing things as a kid.  Sixth grade was somehow miraculously smoother than fifth, which has left me petrified and convinced that the shit will hit the fan in seventh grade.  I still worry about, and want, similar things that I did a year ago.

I worry mostly about our communication drastically changing.  I worry about hormones and emotions and depression and the complicated drama that can ensue at this age.  I try to remind myself that her seventh grade experience won’t be exactly what mine was, but I know that she is on the turning point to something entirely brand new.  I worry about taking her actions and behavior too personally instead of realizing that she is going through an incredible change and being able to support her even when she storms off and slams a door.

Our conversations have become more grown-up.  We frequently discuss topics such as gender and sexual identity, periods, the dispensary next door to my house, sex.  She consistently sends me YouTube videos to watch, navigates any kitchen in a comfortable and laid-back manner (schnitzel?  chocolate chip cookies?  you got it!), loves cuddling on the couch, and is pursuing a passion in photography.  She is still that cool girl I always wanted to be when I was younger; she just wants more rides to the mall now.

I should inquire if maybe we can walk down to the carousel next week when her sister will be out of town.  And the snuggles at bedtime?  Those will always be welcomed with open arms.

Posted in Identity, Sex, Siblings, Teen | Leave a comment