High heels, a gun, and a bible

Some teenage girls have best friends and cliques. I had accomplices.

Amanda, was one of my steadfast teen partners in crime. She and I covered a lot of ground in the years we ran together.

At any given moment we found ourselves on one end of Long Island or the other and anywhere in between, or in the city, and on various occasions out of state. It seemed we were on a quest for constant entertainment.

During the timespan of our juvenile misadventures we did occasionally split up when the situation warranted. However times apart were rare and usually didn’t last very long.

On one such occasion, I found myself in Kings Park. I was crashing there with my latest love, a sweet, but stereotypical Italian boy named John Giovanni.

Amanda, already having moved on from the roommate she had been head over heels for just weeks earlier, was staying in Huntington with some guy I didn’t know.

Early one morning after a heated exchange with John Giovanni I decided it was time for Amanda and I to regroup. A change of scenery was definitely in order.

Once he left for work I gathered a few of my things together and had a friend give me a ride to Amanda’s present location.

We mutually agreed on a road trip and in the spirit of go big or go home (going home not actually being considered) we concocted a plan to hitchhike across country. California seemed a fine goal for a final destination.

It was a warm day in late summer and we set out dressed comfortably in shorts, tee shirts, and sneakers. With us, a packed duffle bag holding the basic essential items…In our world that consisted of a couple pairs of sweatpants, a club outfit with the appropriate high heels for each of us, a hairbrush, some cosmetics, and a stolen gun.

Not being completely irresponsible, we thought it best to let someone we trusted know of our plans. Next stop, Joe and Timmy’s place.

Upon arriving there we found Timmy home alone. We confided in him our travel plans and while he expressed some minimal concern he thought overall it sounded pretty cool. As a caring gesture he gifted us a tiny bible he had received during one of his many incarcerations.

We gratefully accepted it, said our goodbyes and began walking toward the entrance ramp to the Long Island Expressway, armed with high heels, a gun, and a bible.

A box truck occupied by a couple of good natured delivery guys promptly offered us a ride. We happily accepted.

We squeezed in with them and they let us know they could take us as far as the Jersey Turnpike. The two-hour trip was filled with music and laughter. Good luck wishes and goodbyes were quickly exchanged as we hopped out at the toll booth.

Upon learning you are not allowed to pass through a toll booth on foot (learned that one the hard way) we quickly approached a car with a single middle aged man and asked if he could drive us through. He said he wasn’t going far and looked at us a little suspiciously. We promised to exit his vehicle promptly on the other side and though he still didn’t seem particularly sold on the idea we decided not to give him too much time to overthink it and we just jumped right in!

He drove us through and we kept our promise to not overstay our welcome. So here we were now, several hours after the idea of this journey had been born, all stemming from my morning disagreement with John Giovanni…

The sun began to set while we casually walked on the side of a major highway with our thumbs out. As the miles grew longer between us and our hometown, I briefly allowed myself to wonder if this had been a good idea.

My thought was interrupted as a car abruptly pulled to the side. A young guy jumped out of the passenger side with an air of authority and proceeded to chastise us for hitchhiking on the Jersey Turnpike, “in the dark no less”.

As he shouted at us the way a concerned father may have, with the question “are you crazy?” followed by the command “get in the car”, we obeyed with heads hung low in response to being caught doing something so clearly questionable.

Once safely in the back seat we explained our plans and could see they clearly thought we actually were crazy. We could see this because they said “you’re crazy”. While they were unable to convince us to abandon our mission entirely, they did manage to talk us into delaying it until morning.

They were local jersey boys and one had a mom who worked nights leaving him with his family home to himself. It was decided we would crash there, but not before changing clothes and checking out the local club scene. Knew we’d need those high heels.

The time frame was small between returning from the club to when we needed to vacate the premises in order to avoid a run in with mom. Enough for maybe two hours or so of alcohol induced unconsciousness, followed by quick showers.

Our new friends had agreed to drive us as far as the Delaware state line. They kept their promise and back in our sneakers, with sunglasses in place, we headed out into the brightness and continued the journey we had embarked on 24 hours and two states ago.

Thumbs once again extended, we walked at a slow pace southbound on the I-95. Only a short time later an 18 wheeler slowed as it drove past us. Eventually it came to a stop on the side of the road. Blonde ponytails bouncing, we broke into a slow run.

With wide smiles we approached the passenger side door of the massive truck. A young boy of no more than 15 opened it and hopped out to let us climb into the back of the cab…which was actually a bed.

This might have been cause for alarm, but it looked dark and comfortable and considering the driver of this particular rig turned out to be the young boys, very sweet seeming, grandfather, we felt comfortable in the assumption we had scored ourselves just about the safest ride on the highway.

We kicked off our shoes and sat cross legged on the bed as we excitedly told our ride we were heading all the way to California and we’d gratefully stay with them for as far as they were going in that direction.

Grandpa and his grandson exchanged glances and with a chuckle grandpa informed us we were on the wrong route. Apparently we had never thought to consult an actual map and something had put it in our heads that the I-95 was the way to go. We were mistaken.

This called for a quick reassessment of our plans since we were now in a vehicle that was actually Florida bound. It didn’t take us long to conclude that the simplest solution would be to change course.

We thought of a good friend Lenny, who had recently moved down to Raleigh, North Carolina. We had a phone number for him and decided a surprise visit was as good a plan as any.

Our trucker buddies were more than happy to have our company for the five or six- hour drive to the Raleigh exit.

As the miles rolled by we took naps, watched tv, conversed about the trucker lifestyle, and were treated to a greasy meal at a truck stop.

Having arrived at our newly planned destination and grateful for the time we shared with these two sweet generations of men, we sincerely thanked them as they safely deposited us back onto the highway.

We walked the actual exit ramp and found our next ride in the form of a compact car driven by a teenage girl.

Amanda took the backseat and as I entered the front, the driver while reaching under her seat to briefly expose a gun that was safely tucked away, said sweetly in a thick southern drawl “now I won’t have any problems with you gals, will I?” We assured her she wouldn’t and let her know we were traveling with our own protection as a precautionary tactic as well.

We told her we didn’t know exactly where we were going, but we had a phone number to a house somewhere in Raleigh and if we could just get to town and a payphone we could handle it from there.

She not only obliged in getting us to a local payphone, but then provided us with the necessary change to make our call.

Lenny got on the phone with excitement in his voice when it was passed to him and he was told it was “Deanna from NY”. His excitement turned briefly to disbelief and then back to excitement when I informed him I was with Amanda and calling from a local stripmall.

After describing the surrounding storefronts it was determined that as luck would have it we were actually right around the corner from the house he was currently staying in!

In a borrowed car Lenny pulled up to us just minutes after hanging up the phone. He looked the same as the last time I’d seen him in NY, which was pretty much the same as the first time I’d laid eyes on him one summer day four years earlier.

I was crazy about Lenny from that first moment. I had been hopeful he felt the same way about me and had invited him to a get together at my mom’s. He was about four or five years older than me and ended up hooking up with my mom’s friend instead. I was bummed, but we stayed friends. Eventually a year or two later we had our romantic connection, but like most of my relationships the fantasy didn’t match the reality and I lost interest quickly. Still he held a special spot when it came to being a friend.

If memory serves me correctly I think he may have had some involvement of the on again/off again variety with Amanda as well. The lines were frequently blurred during those crazy years.

He exited the car quickly and swept me up into a tight embrace. I looked up at him and pushed his long hair out of his sleepy brown eyes. He offered me a crooked smile as he shook his head at our surprise appearance. He greeted Amanda affectionately as well and off we went.

It took me by surprise to learn the house Lenny was staying at was actually pretty much a drug den filled with skinheads. Not so much the drug den part, but definitely the skinhead factor.

I was fairly certain it was out of necessity for a safe place to lay low since I believed it was more than likely a legal situation that had inspired Lenny’s desire to relocate out of NY.

Whatever the views of these housemates, they were certainly welcoming enough to two little *blonde white girls and considering there was at least a dozen of both males and females in various areas of the house, I was not about to vocalize my judgement.

Not until later that was. After feeding us, allowing us to take showers, and sharing their drugs and alcohol freely, they set us up in the basement with makeshift beds alongside Lenny’s.

***Hindsight affords me the opportunity to see how this was a clear example of white privilege in action. I’m not proud of my willingness that evening to blend into what looked like a scene from the set of American History X, but I’ll leave that acknowledgment here and continue on with the story.

Once the three of us had a chance to talk alone amongst ourselves I had to ask him “what the fuck are you thinking Lenny?”, “I know, I know, it’s not like I want to be here” he answered. We conceded that accepting their hospitality was a means to an end and we had no other current option. Or did we….

As we sat there catching up we told Lenny of our original plans for California. Lenny thought we should get back to that course of action and said he’d love to come along. He was welcome company, the only problem was how much more difficult getting rides would be having a 6’ something, hippie looking dude in tow.

This could of course easily be resolved if we had access to a vehicle. As luck would have it, Amanda and I were no strangers to the act of “borrowing” vehicles without permission.

The basement had bilco doors leading to the open yard on a corner lot and right outside those doors just so happened to be the car Lenny had scooped us up in only a few hours earlier. With soft voices, a plan was formed.

We tasked Lenny with the job of going upstairs and lifting the keys. He accomplished this easily.

Meanwhile having done his laundry earlier that day without the convenience of a dryer, his clothes were strewn on a clothing line stretched across the basement. We began to pull everything down and hastily shoved it in his bag.

We rolled up a blanket to bring now that we had the luxury of a car and had everything just about ready to go when we heard the door at the top of the stairs open. We quickly sat on the ground and tried to act normal, my heart racing at the thought they had discovered the missing keys. Frantically I also realized where earlier there had been our belongings spread around casually, everything was now piled up ready to be carried out. Surely we had been caught.

As Brian, who turned out to be the last guy awake in the house, came down the stairs I concentrated on suppressing my laughter. With the combination of being stoned and having a long history of an inappropriate nervous laughter habit, I wasn’t a hundred percent successful at accomplishing that.

I was pretty certain that my inability to contain myself in what could potentially be a dangerous situation would seal our fates, however that didn’t turn out to be the case.

As he stood in front of us awkwardly trying to make conversation and clearly unaware of how we had just sat down as quickly as if the music had suddenly stopped during a game of musical chairs, I began to realize he was down here in the hopes of finding out which one of us was ‘with’ Lenny and to perhaps score some alone time with whoever that left available. He gave up relatively easy and excused himself to go to bed.

We waited for what seemed like forever and eventually worked up our courage enough to climb up the basement steps and cautiously open the bilco doors. The only sound was the rhythmic chirping of crickets as moonlight lit up our path from the doors to the car.

We quickly and more than likely not as quietly as one really should be under the circumstances, made our way.

With stifled giggles we shoved our belongings in, shifted the car into neutral and pushed it off the property. The car was small and light and with one of us steering this was easy to do.

When we considered ourselves a reasonably safe distance, we jumped in, started her up, and took off, finally allowing ourselves to erupt in laughter.

The next several days were spent doing our best to stick to a plan. However, we were easily thrown off course many times by various factors.

The first being we drove straight into a hurricane. Still not having consulted a map, we also neglected to glance at a weather forecast. We drove along on a mostly abandoned stretch of highway as sideways sheets of rain made seeing the road ahead of us challenging and high winds threatened to push our tiny vehicle across the empty lanes.

We occasionally passed a tractor trailer pulled to the side for safety which made us laugh defiantly about how we refused to stop. Stop we eventually did though when it became completely impossible to see and we then spent the rest of the storm sleeping in the car, completely oblivious of how dangerous our actions actually were.

Eventually the rain and wind ceased and the sun began to shine once again. The good weather proved to delay our travels just as easily as the bad.

We had made it as far as Georgia, although had we ever looked at that map we would have known we shouldn’t be in Georgia, but we decided it seemed like a fun place to stop and get some food and stretch our legs.

We ventured far enough off the highway that we found a town with a huge park. While there were beautiful stately homes on one side of the park, on the other was a more familiar element.

Not surprisingly we somehow managed to make new friends. One in particular was a young blonde haired, blue eyed hustler. He was pure southern charm and I enjoyed his company immediately.

We lost track of time as we partied the day away with our sweet new friend and as darkness chased away the bright sun that had made it so tempting to delay our travel we began to think about our destination once again.

As we discussed our plans in the company of the beautiful, young boy from Georgia, he chimed in with “If Y’all would be willing to go through Tennessee to make ya way to California I have a uncle there I wouldn’t mind getting a ride to, you know, if y’all got room for one more”.” We all agreed easily and I was particularly happy to be keeping him around a little longer.

We did a quick assessment of our funds between all of us and realized they were dangerously low. Amanda and I decided the best bet would be to sell the gun we had in our possession.

Georgia boy seemed like a capable candidate to facilitate a transaction like that and readily accepted the challenge. He brought me and the gun along with him as we went walking across town to where he felt he could best accomplish the necessary task. He was a seasoned street kid and pulled this off with ease. Less than an hour later we were walking back to where we left Lenny and Amanda, with cash in hand. Once again under the cover of darkness we hit the road.

I relinquished the front seat and climbed in the back with our newly added fourth. We drove a few hours until the days partying caught up to us and we all realized we were exhausted so we pulled over. Curled up on Georgia with his arms protectively around me I slept blissfully until the rising sun flooded the car with light. I buried my face against his chest to stay in the darkness, but Lenny was already up and ready to get back to driving.

My time with Georgia was growing short and I was going to miss him. It was a short drive off the beaten path to where we were leaving my almost lover. We stayed long enough for some breakfast and to freshen up, but my traveling companions were anxious to hit the road. He discussed route options with Lenny and we felt like we had the general direction down. Him and I said a playful goodbye and I climbed into what now felt like a lonely backseat.

The novelty of our road trip began to wear off for me as I got my period. Amanda and I ran into a gas station convenience store somewhere in Alabama to get tampons and food, as Lenny filled the car with gas. Needing a bathroom, I wandered into the attached garage and asked four old timers sitting around a table playing cards if I could use one.

My thick New York accent seemed to immediately set them on edge as one responded in an equally as thick southern drawl “well that all depends on how long y’all are staying around these parts, if ya just passin’ through ya go ahead now and then be on yer way”.  I assured him and the rest of these good ol’ southern boys sitting there behind a cloud of smoke that indeed we would promptly be on our way as I headed nervously in the direction he pointed me.

It didn’t take long for us to run out of money and it had been a while since we showered. The car was beginning to seem too confined and I was growing tired of Amanda and Lenny’s company, as I’m sure they were growing equally tired of each other’s and mine.

We continued to wing it direction wise and wound up driving through Mississippi and eventually hit Texas where we stopped to get our bearings.

While there I decided to call home. My grandmother answered and accepted my collect call. By this time, she had heard from the police, as it turned out the car had been reported stolen. With Lenny’s full name and mine and Amanda’s first, the police were able to identify us with minimal investigation.

Grammie said there was an APB out on us and we would be arrested if pulled over so I should come home. She offered to fly me home, but refused to wire me money just to further fund my trip. Not feeling ready to so blatantly abandon my friends I thanked her, but refused her offer for help and assured her I’d be fine.

Next I called my father, however that turned out to be pointless. He flat out refused to donate to this little escapade at all so I thanked him for nothing and hung up.

I hesitated as I went to walk away and then turned back around once again reaching for the payphone. I dialed 0 and another number, after a few rings Tony, John Giovanni’s roommate answered. He accepted the charges and passed the phone off to John.

“Where the hell have you been?’ he shouted into the receiver, “your grandmother won’t tell me anything”, “you pissed me off and I decided to go to California” I responded in a matter of fact tone.

He didn’t believe me at first when I told him I was calling from Texas. I understood why considering it was less than a week ago I was laying in his bed. I told him he’d believe me when he got his phone bill and left it at that.

His voice softened as he let me know he missed me and that after not being able to find me he realized he may even love me.

Not that I even remotely loved John Giovanni, but my need to be loved responded swiftly to his declaration. I promised him I’d figure out a way to get back before hanging up. I immediately began to formulate a plan as to how I could manipulate the current situation to suit my own needs.

As I approached my friends who were casually leaning against our stolen car I said “Bad news, I just hung up with my grandmother and she says the cops know who we are” <<< that was true. “I think they know we’re heading to Florida or California” I added <<< maybe they did, maybe they didn’t.

We stood there contemplating what this meant for us as it registered we had done something we could actually go to jail for.

I quickly offered a solution…”I think we should turn around and head back to NY, nobody expects us to do that”. And then just like that our California destination was replaced with a return trip home.

We began to drive for longer stretches, stopping only when it was necessary to panhandle for gas money. We went through fast food drive ins close to closing time and begged for leftover food. We stopped in churches during the day to ask for money or food.

We survived day to day and kept driving. There was nothing glamorous about our north east travels and with no more romantic excursions in sight I had only one goal, to get back to Kings Park NY and the Italian boy who might love me.

We arrived in the evening to a full blown party under way, which was pretty typical. The crowd was aware of our excursions and it had us operating at celebrity status.

We entertained everybody with stories and I lost track of my partners in crime as I ended up back upstairs in John Giovanni’s room for the night.

Lenny had a plan to drive to a cousin’s house in PA and ditch the car at some point. He never made it. He got picked up along the way and a string of charges caught up to him. Living by the code of honor among thieves and not being a rat, he took the whole fall leaving Amanda and I completely absolved.

We would go on to not have a bit of repercussion from our cross country venture and to this day I am still not fully able to conjure up an image of the last time I saw Lenny. It’s as if he just faded from my sight and was gone from my world for good.

In, what is more than likely not surprising news, It turned out having John Giovanni’s love didn’t fulfill me the way I had hoped it would.

I grew restless quickly and thought it time to leave the house in Kings Park for good. I never knew if I was running from something or setting out in search of something. I just knew I couldn’t stay still for too long.

I scanned the room for any forgotten items and spotted a small red leather bound book on the dresser. I picked it up and ran my finger over the engraved “Holy Bible” on the cover.

I stuck it in my back pocket and closed the door behind me.

A writer, a musician, and a photographer walk into a bar….

But wait did they? None of them drink, and though they certainly had their fair share of comedic times, it’s not a joke ….Let me start again …A writer, a photographer, and a musician spent a beautiful summer sailing through a global pandemic….but wait again, that’s not the beginning of the story, it’s the middle.

The perfectly fun, filled with adventures and laughter, middle…however there was a beginning to this story, and sadly an ending as well.

The photographer arrived on the NoFo scene fresh from Newport Rhode Island ….He was a bit of a Scallywag and the writer had to chase him for payment for the boat he left at her marina. He eventually did come through with the money and sailed away in good standing.

It would be months later when their paths crossed again on local common ground.

If you look up the word “scallywag” you’ll find various spellings and definitions. I use the term in the most loving of ways. I have somewhat of a penchant for cute rascals and find those who are clever but a bit mischievous endearing.

And the photographer was nothing if not clever and a bit mischievous….Yes, he was spiritual and a seeker on a path toward enlightenment, but make no mistake that impish grin and twinkle in his eye wasn’t the inner glow of sainthood.

The writer was in a fairly new relationship with a musician, and no new in town vagabond had anything on this guy. If the photographer was a Scallywag, the musician could be his leader….

While being in a committed relationship is not the ideal time to cultivate a brand new friendship with a member of the opposite sex, the writer was drawn to the photographer in truly the most platonic yet meaningful way. She openly connected with him regardless of popular opinion or protests from her partner.

It was during a brief rough patch in her still young relationship that their friendship was really cemented. He provided not just a distraction from her heartbreak, or an ear to listen and some sage advice, but a true insight and support. He seemed to not only understand her, but also the musician whom he did not yet really know.

It was him who helped her navigate her way through understanding and forgiveness and back to the man who would become her life partner for better or worse.

Now try convincing your newly reunited with boyfriend that your new best friend is a charming guy…And as much as you say “you’ll love him because you have so much in common…he’s smart and funny and a sailor like you” he remains suspect…Ugh, the writer has a predicament!

I suppose some may think her guilty of lies of omission but she continued the nature walks, long talks, and lunch dates. And while she may not have shared the details, she checked her motives and stood her ground that he was a friend she would not relinquish.

And then one day her perseverance paid off. The musician said “I need a hand with this rigging, let’s see if your friend really knows anything” < or something of the sort in that cantankerous kinda way. She shared the photographer’s number and upon the musician’s request the photographer’s afternoon was cleared and by evening the two were fast friends. Kindred spirits it would seem.

Their three way friendship became a smooth circle with no end or beginning.

They sought out monthly full moons to gaze at and photograph, sometimes by sea as they sailed to a nearby lighthouse or by land as they snuck around an old shipyard and watched the moon rise over the fishing boats.

They rode out storms of more than one type together.

There were literal storms, with pouring rain and gale force winds, during which the photographer and musician ran around securing boats, reinforcing docks, and moving fallen trees.

And then there were the life storms, like when the photographer lost his job, which unfortunately included his place to live. Off they went to load up his stuff and move him on in with them.

So that’s that…A writer, a musician, and a photographer cohabitated. They shared secrets and saw each other for who they were the way you only can when you truly drop all pretenses. They supported each other, encouraged each other’s goals (side note~ the photographer was a driving force behind this blog you’re reading) and had nothing but love for each other.

And now since I’ve found my way back to the middle I guess that only leaves the end, but even the end has its own beginning.

Yes they captured perfect moments during moonlit nights, sunset sails, front porch dwelling, and roaming through their tourist town eating ice cream, but there was also the reality that the photographer was a slob of a roommate, the musician was a bit brash, and the writer was, well…let’s just say… moody…

Ahhh life. It ain’t always pretty, and all the moments pass….the good and the bad…And the seasons change.

The fall came and now I remind you that the photographer was a vagabond. The warmer shores down south called him and off he went.

The usual promises were made to keep in touch and return but life happens where you are and people get lost in the distance.

I suppose that could be the end, but there are many kinds of endings. It was the end of the summer. It was the end of their lives being intertwined daily. Though none of them suspected it would ever be “the end” the end…

Winter passed and the photographer’s drifting ways had him drifting back to the New England sailing community he loved.

It was a spring day in May when the writer’s phone rang and she saw the photographer’s number.

It wasn’t the first time they’d spoken, there had been sporadic calls over the course of the months since they’d last seen each other. And as was their norm they never made small talk, they cut right to the chase.

“Your voice sounds funny, do you have a cold?” she asked, to which he responded “no I don’t have a cold, but I do have cancer”.

Oh. Shit.

The typical questions. The answers as best could be provided. The plan made to go to him. The phone hung up. A good cry.

3 weeks. 3 weeks from learning of his illness, to the definitive diagnosis, to “the end”.

Within those 3 weeks the writer, the musician, and the photographer had one more perfect day together.

They looked at the ocean. They walked in the woods. They even climbed a tower. They spoke their words of love for each other. They embraced. They parted ways.

That was the true end of their physical time together. By the following week the photographer had left his body.

Death is funny. It can serve to soften ones imperfections in the memories of those who love them. Typically it brings those people who love them together. Not always.

The thing with free spirited drifters is they’re many things to many people and it tends to be in short but intense bursts of time. Even relationships that wind through the years have huge gaps of time and space.

Who may make sense during one piece of life may not make sense during another and sometimes all these separate lives don’t bode well when they unexpectedly converge.

You can’t get more unexpected than an unexpected passing.

Would the real “read his name here” please stand up?! He can’t ….he is gone …and we are left.

We are left with our grief, our memories, and our idea of who our friend was. Who we had been in relationship to each other, and at times that doesn’t align with the recollections held by another.

So who wins? Who knows him best? Who knows him for real?

Is it those who share blood? Is it those who have known him the longest? Could it be who knew him most recent?

Perhaps it’s all the above. Maybe we need not try and figure it out. Maybe the answer is not to look too deep into who someone was to someone else, but to hold close and cherish who they were in the moments they shared with you.

For all their beautiful moments, the photographer also captured the spaces in between smiles. The musician sang the songs that were sad. And the writer penned the stories without happy endings.

And there you have it, for one perfectly imperfect period in time, a writer, a musician, and a photographer were bound together by their truths.

Nothing quite like a Mother’s love …A slightly different kind of story about a Mom 🖤

Squeezing between bodies as I made my way to the back of the bar, I brushed up against a tall lean figure standing with his back to me. He turned in my direction and as I glanced up I found myself locked into the wild eyed stare of an infamous local legend.

I stumbled all over myself in an attempt to make conversation with him as I struggled to regain my composure and be my flirty self.

It was no different than the first time I met him two years earlier at the tender age of 15, time stopped and the only place I wanted to be was where he was.

Playing it cool wasn’t even an option. The physical reaction from being in such close proximity to this man coupled with the knowledge that my best friend who had an on again/off again relationship with him was safely half way across the country, left me helpless from preventing what I inevitably wanted more than anything I’d ever wanted before.

I felt it right away, that I’d be leaving with him. I knew by morning’s light I’d know what it felt like not only to be on the back of his bike, but to be in his arms.

I never left his side for the rest of the night, too afraid that any sudden movement could cause a shift in direction. This felt fragile and too delicate to survive if not handled with the most extreme care. I wanted nothing to jar us back into a reality where there was no us.

And then there was an us. I brought him home and he stayed. When he left, I left with him. We rode slow past store fronts and vainly looked at our reflection. Leaning casually back against that high sissy bar was worth every bruise on my spine and the fender of that chopped out panhead, with my legs wrapped around his waist, was my favorite place in the world.

His friends became my friends, and when he spoke of future plans I was in them. We purchased a cheap van together, along with some tie downs for the bike and began making a plan to head out to Colorado.

News eventually got back to my friend and I received an angry call from her. I offered no excuses, just a weak apology. She was pissed, but she seemed to get it. She knew the pull he had.

It made me sad to have betrayed my friend, but if that was the cost of being with him it was worth it. Being with him was everything, and then some, that I had felt that afternoon 13 year old me had her first ride on the back of my uncle’s friend’s bike, by the end of which I knew I had no use for boys my age and there was nothing like a modern day outlaw…A biker.

So while I may have been honestly sorry to hurt my friend, I was more than willing to do it. It wouldn’t be long however before I felt the bitter sting of betrayal myself.

My own on again off again relationship, the one with my mother, was recently on. She was living nearby to the house I resided in. She had begun to make attempts to get sober and was going to AA on occasion.

She had been in and out of so many detoxes and rehabs. It was a pattern that would continue for years to come. At this point she appeared to be sober and genuinely interested in a relationship with me, and I was in a space where I was feeling grateful to have her in my life.

I was excited when I introduced her to this man, and made no secret of the fact that I was crazy about him and the happiest I’d ever been. I could tell she wasn’t immune to his charms and I loved that he had that effect on everyone, but chose to be with me. I wrapped all my self-value up in that feeling.

“Come on, please. It’ll be fun, and I’ll do our laundry while we’re there”, I said to him as I snuggled up on him and attempted to fully wake him from his half sleep state. Begrudgingly he gave into me, and I assured my mother we would be there for dinner that evening.

That’s the memory I would replay in my mind for the next three days. How he didn’t even want to go.

That and especially how he had initially turned her down as we sat around the table, in front of dirty dinner plates, and she asked “Is there any chance you would give me a ride to my AA meeting on your bike?”.

He hadn’t wanted to, and just like I’d gently persuaded him to join us earlier, I again cooed, “pleeeease, don’t make her take a taxi there”.

He reluctantly agreed.

As I stood there at the kitchen sink, and heard the loud engine fade into the distance, leaving just the rhythmic noise of the dryer turning in the background, I reveled in the contentment I had found in this simple moment.

The time passed, and he didn’t return. My mind raced with possible explanations, most not good. He was only to drop her off a few blocks away, and then return.

Did they have an accident on the way there? Did he have one after dropping her off? Did she convince him to stay for the meeting? We were all trying to stay straight, perhaps he stayed with the intentions of checking it out and then giving her a ride home? Maybe he saw someone he knew, there or between there and here? Before or after he dropped her off? It was all just speculation.

Questions and guesses floated through my mind, but the one that kept pushing all the others to the side and coming prominently to the front, was the image of them together, together in a way that made me sick to my stomach.

I knew.

I knew the truth and I hated myself for basically orchestrating it. Who did I think I was to trust them?To trust life? To believe I could have both a mother’s love and a man I adored…

I was a fool, a fool washing her dishes and doing his laundry.

There are clear moments in time where a divide occurs. A before this event, and an after this event. I’d experienced them before, and I knew this was one. Nothing would be the same, nothing could bring me back to the “before this happened”.

I wanted to die. For the next three days, I basically invited that outcome. I swallowed handfuls of pills that I didn’t even know the names of. I slept drug induced sleeps, and when awake walked around groggily telling anyone who’d listen that my mother and boyfriend had disappeared together. Even through the muted chemical haze, I felt raw and exposed, and lost. So lost.

Then the call came from my roommate ,she called over to the house she knew I was at and told me he was home. She said “calm down, there’s an explanation, don’t freak out”.

I walked past the bikes parked in front of the house, his amongst them, and angrily threw the door open. Before I could do little else, he was holding me, leading me into our room. Those beautiful brown eyes, filled with shame and regret.

He told me nothing happened between them, to get that thought right out of my head. He said it was just a relapse on drugs. A poorly timed crack binge, and nothing else. We could move past it, we could start over. And then he said “I love you”.

That’s all he had to say. If he hadn’t said a single other thing, that would have been enough. I believed that he loved me. I had to. I didn’t care if somewhere in me I knew he was lying about my mother. The fact that he cared enough to want me to believe it hadn’t happened was enough.

The fact that he was standing in front of me, shoulders slumped, eyes sad, speaking softly, and professing love, was all more than enough to make everything in my world ok again.

Maybe I had been wrong, maybe this wasn’t a defining moment in time. Perhaps this was nothing more than a blip, a barely remembered rough three days, that would hardly stand out amongst a lifetime of adventures with this beautiful man standing before me.

I suppose it could have gone like that, but nope…not if my mother had her way, and she of course did.

He told me my mother couldn’t go home and was riding with one of the other guys now, and that was fine by me. He said he and his friends had some business to take care of and they would be back shortly to pick us up.

After a lingering kiss goodbye on the lawn, I walked over to the curb my mother was sitting on, and took the spot next to her. The happiness in my heart matched by the rumble felt in my chest from the four or five nearby Harley’s starting up and roaring down the street.

I turned toward my mother, I was smiling, I felt light, but then I recognized the contempt she held for me in her eyes.

It all happened so quickly. Had her words been fists there would have been no time to shield the blows, she verbally lashed out with a devastating speed, and it fell on me as painfully as any physical attack could have been…”are you stupid? Of course we slept together, we fucked the whole time”…

Stunned, I was crushed by the weight of what she was saying, she continued “the plan was to come back here and get his stuff, leave together, but then he hits with me that he loves you and wants to stay, tells me to ride with this other guy, fuck him”.

In the moments that followed I felt the familiar disconnect that had always been between us. I was not her daughter, just another player in her story, someone who did her wrong, as so many had in her twisted mind. Once again the world had been unfair to her, denied her, her due share.

She looked old, she was bitter, unwanted, and it stole her beauty right before my eyes. Had I been a stronger woman, I could have felt pity for her, but I wasn’t. I was a 17 year old child, trying to make my way in a grown ups world, completely untethered, and desperate to belong somewhere. I hated her. I’d always hated her for her rejection, she was at the root of every fear I had.

I completely succumbed to the rage rising up inside me, and now before she could shield the blows, I was on top of her, swinging wildly. Telling her with every hit, how pathetic she was.

That evening there was the usual traffic that came with a party house, and either some passerby or perhaps even one of my housemates, was promptly dragging me off of her.

Given the opportunity, she ran for the house, I broke away from the arms struggling to restrain me, and chased her. As more people stepped in, in an attempt to gain control over the situation, she was somewhat shielded behind bodies. I wildly grabbed anything within my reach and threw it in her direction. I didn’t care what I broke, or who I hit. I wanted to hurt her. I desperately wanted her pain to match mine.

Somebody was shouting to “please stop, we don’t need the cops here”, and then somebody was screaming at me to take the phone.

It was him on the phone. I don’t know if someone knew where to call him, or if he had just happened to call during that time, but I took the phone, and calmly told him “come pick up your shit, it’ll be on the lawn”. He said “don’t do that, go wait for me in our room, now put your mother on”.

Without saying a word, I turned toward the corner of the kitchen where she stood protected by strangers and extended the phone in her direction. She took it, put it up to her ear, and before she could get more than a word out, he told her to sit at the kitchen table and not say anything else. He hung up. We both listened.

I laid motionless on the bed we shared. The house remained eerily silent. Eventually I heard the bikes pull up, the front door open, and then there he was, standing in the doorway of our room.

We looked at each other sadly for a moment, he shut the door, and took his place beside me. He held me while I sobbed.

I never wanted to move beyond this room. There in his arms I found the safety I had been looking for. The protection from her that I needed. And he understood.

We eventually spoke, and the only explanation he offered was that she had money to pay for the drugs if he’d take her, so off to Brooklyn they went. His official justification for sleeping with her …”it was like something I’d read about in Easy Rider”.

He asked me what he should do about her now, did I want him to go out there and tell her to leave?

I thought about it for a second, looked up at him, and said “she rides with your friend, let’s go tell her”.

Let’s go, or maybe let’s stay…Sometimes plans change❣️

“I think I might like to go to Africa on mission someday” I offhandedly told the surgeon whose mobile surgical ministry my church supported.

“You should go to a 2nd world country before going to a 3rd” he said. “Perhaps come along to Ecuador in September” he continued. “Yes, I’d love to” was my response before I could even process what all it would entail.

I hadn’t left the country since I was 14. I didn’t even have a current passport and September wasn’t far off. I also had an August trip planned with my daughters that would need to be cancelled. I would have to secure time off work, etc.

I hadn’t factored in any of these things yet I was all like “let’s go”. Throughout the planning process I came up against more than one stumbling block.

For every hoop I had to jump through to make this adventure a reality I simply reassured myself I would take the next step necessary and if it were meant to work out it would.

I ignored the voice in my head telling me “this is impossible, you can’t do this”, and step by step, it did work out.

I learned so many things on that trip, and most of it was lessons about myself. I suppose of the vast amount of take aways from my journey one of the most life changing was this newfound trust in the universe I was cultivating.

When I was younger, as in my teens, I flew without fear. I’m not sure why, when one considers what an anxiety ridden child I was, flying didn’t scare me, but it didn’t. However the first time I flew after having my first child it was a particularly bumpy flight, and with an innocent babe in my arms who I was solely in charge of protecting, I felt vulnerable in a way I never had before. That’s when the fear crept in.

I continued to fly throughout my life, my need to travel outweighing my nerves, but to say the feeling in the pit of my stomach was unpleasant would be putting it mildly. And that was nothing compared to the places my mind took me as I imagined the scenarios of death and destruction if my plane were to plummet out of the sky.

Until traveling to Ecuador the longest flight I’d endured was NY to Arizona, which I recall actually being an excruciatingly long and turbulent flight. How on earth had I not given a single thought to the sheer amount of hours in the air this upcoming trip would require?

Well, somehow I didn’t and here I am at JFK boarding a flight for my first leg of this trip…NY to Miami was a typical enough experience. Not too horrible.

The layover in Miami included some wrong gate drama, a mad dash through security, and a walk of shame to the very back row of seats as I was the absolute last person to board.

Finally we depart.

I felt my usual unease as the plane continued to climb. And then, somewhere in the sky between Miami and Quito, something changed. Another of those recognizable shifts in perspective I so often share about. A feeling of peace washed over me and replaced the nervousness.

This contentment with my current situation wasn’t that I suddenly felt a guarantee my plane would land safely, it stemmed from the sudden confidence that no matter what should happen, all was well. The universe is always unfolding properly and in the grand scheme of things all will always be well.

It didn’t matter if I was gazing out a window 36,000 feet in the air, sitting at my desk, sleeping in my bed, or crossing a hometown street…I am not in control….There is a driving force to this universe, call it God, call it a divine energy, call “it” whatever you choose, but regardless of names we assign, I personally do believe there is something…

So in my little enlightened aha moment I recognized yet another opportunity to surrender. I surrendered my preconceived notions of safety, I surrendered the fear I held gripped in white knuckles, and as I had experienced in the past, with surrender comes a freedom.

A freedom to live in the moment, to experience it fully in a way you just can’t when worry is stealing pieces from you.

I experienced that on the puddle jumper from Quito to Cuenca. And on the 7 hour bus ride to the remote village where I would spend a week volunteering.

I experienced it walking into a make shift operating room, as well as hiking through the Amazon Jungle, and while gazing up from under an impressive waterfall.

So having unpacked “worry”, I left it behind, and carried my newfound “faith over fear” mantra home with me like a prized souvenir.

From adventures like tracking down wild horses in the Wild West to roaming solo through new cities, I have kept it with me, and it continues to serve me well.

It allowed me to look at my future in a different way and I made this fabulous, fearless five year plan to move to a city that captured my heart. (Ok I know a five year plan doesn’t fall under the spontaneous category, but to be fair there were child rearing obligations to be taken into consideration) No longer held back by thoughts of “well that’s impossible” step by step my timeline passed and finally with the last pre-move year unfolding, something ( read: someone) wrecked that plan.

And that’s ok. Because sometimes plans change. And as courageous as it is to move to a far away city where you don’t know a soul, it sometimes takes even more courage to stay put and be open to a whole other kind of adventure.

I still make plans…Fun plans, brave plans, spontaneous plans, always loose plans…I’ve learned to give the universe room to work it’s magic, for sometimes it has an even better plan than me.

And as one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver said, this is my one wild and precious life….As for what I plan to do with it? Live it…Live it without apology, without self imposed limits, and without fear.

🌕 Moonbeams✨Mythes & Madness 💫

I sit in the darkness of my yard. I’m grateful for the warmer air, especially since I fled the house with no coat.

The rhythmic hooting of a nearby owl calms me. I am struggling to regain my composure, to slow down my racing thoughts. I want to disappear into the night but the full moon bathes me in her light. I feel crazy. I think I am a “lunar”~tic.

While I may not writher around on the ground sprouting fur when exposed to the monthly glow of a full moon sky, it would seem my fangs do grow sharper, and my bark has bite.

It’s not to say I embark on a spree of verbally striking down just anyone who has the misfortune to cross my path as much as it’s more an inability to control my primal response when confronted with fear or anger during this particular lunar phase.

My teens, twenties & thirties I wrote my monthly mood swings off to pms. In my early forties when I was smacked straight into surgically induced menopause I assumed that on top of the obvious menopausal crazies, the one intensely coming out of my skin day a month was a phantom pms of sorts. Now here we are, a good few years past menopause and still I have a monthly day or two break from sanity.

Maybe what I am and have always been at the mercy of, is the moon.

Who hasn’t heard tales that hospital ER’s and jails or asylums are all the more challenging during full moons. I’ve read that crime increases on full moon nights. Some people speak of not being able to sleep. And of course there’s the fact that she (the moon) commands the oceans < now that’s power.

Photo credit for this September 30th (next day all the way) full moon in Salem MA goes to my big brother Stephen Jacobsmeier

My sun and moon sign are the same. In the daylight sweet Libra boasts such characteristics as peace loving, fairness, and balance.

Under the light of the moon my lovely Libra personality possesses traits like outrageous flirtatiousness, an insatiable appetite for fun, and mercilessly demands loyalty from those who surround her.

The moon captivates me. I constantly find myself in awe of her beauty and her force. She is surrounded by both mythical magic and concrete science.

Moonbeams reaching into the very core of who I am, releasing an animalistic wildness does not seem out of the realm of possibility. And with such creative phrasing can almost make it seem dark, yet desirable. Freedom from society’s emotional restraints. How wickedly enticing….

A little wicked in the moonlight 🖤✨

Ahhh as much as I rather find myself enjoying the spin put on my occasional outrageous behavior of being some fair haired unruly moon fairy jacked up on sparkling stardust, science might see it differently….Mental Illness.

Hmmm. Well then….Turns out with a quick Google search that there actually is a documented link between bipolar disorder and the effects of the full moon.

Have I been trying to dress up psychotic breaks as pure unbridled fiery passionate moments?

I often acknowledge child me as painfully shy but if given the honest appraisal hindsight affords, the truth is it was more in line with paralyzing anxiety.

Creative cocktails of various ingredients starting around the age of 13 were the elixir that allowed me to come out of hiding and join the world. And join the world I did, I took it by storm.

That worked until it didn’t work anymore.

I suppose that could be considered the good ol’ self medicating approach. I just didn’t know that was what I was doing.

I was raised by a generation that believed you don’t show your crazy. You tuck it in, squash it down, lock it up…I have resisted this deeply rooted subconscious response as best as I’ve been able and subsequently banished a demon or two, but somewhere they remain. They have tucked themselves into the deepest darkest corners and there they stay docile until the full moon’s light is so bright it reaches into those crevices and stirs them up.

The ones I have met and acknowledged and named are the least terrifying but then there are those I run from. They are the ugliest parts of me. Some months they make their presence known more than others, and some they remain slightly more subdued.

If in fact the power of the moon does influence these moods of mine perhaps the worst corresponds with “super” moons closer to the earth, the same way their gravitational pull creates extreme low tides. That sounds like a plausible theory though with no real basis as I’ve got a somewhat unscientific simple mind. Maybe there just so happens to be other very real triggers happening in my life simultaneously and combined with the moon create a perfect storm.

Regardless, the moon now wanes and I grow more settled. I gaze at the night sky without trepidation as each evening it moves closer to my favorite phase of crescent moon…a Cheshire Cat smile.

I have a choice to make. Do I wait until my demons rise again, the way they always eventually do, or maybe it’s time to invite them out into the light of a new day.

Shall I introduce myself and learn their names? Whatever names that might be~depression~anxiety~mania~ptsd~etc.

It’s more likely I’ll slip back into denial. My general happiness and love of life is real and it propels me through most days with a well balanced ease that makes it so difficult to recall the fear felt on a moonlight night when I am helpless to contain my flurry of emotions.

Then again I have left this trail of words on a page to remind myself where I’ve been. I suppose it’s up to me now where I might go next…

This is not about my mother …oh wait, everything’s about my mother….

I just received an alert reminding me that my annual payment was coming due for my website. It’s been a year. And what a year it has been!!

I love acknowledging year anniversaries. I do it constantly. I’m obsessed with all things full circle and enjoy the opportunity to reflect on where I am as opposed to where I was, and what has been learned or changed as I cycled through all four seasons between now and whatever event I’m circling around back to.

Does that sound peculiar? Maybe. Well I can be a bit peculiar, so that’s ok.

On with the anniversary reflecting….To begin with, I don’t hate mermaids anymore! Today they inspire nothing more than the nostalgic feeling of childlike magic. Any thoughts of the “darker” variety have simply drifted away like seaweed on the shore carried back to the deeper part of the ocean by the tide….Sure it’s still out there somewhere, but it ain’t swirling around my feet anymore getting all tangled up and ruining my beach day.

So now here we are almost a year after that silly mermaid hating post, twenty or so subsequent posts later, 47 organically grown followers, a lot of love shown to me on Facebook/Insta when I post blog links, and a door cracked open just a wee little bit that I honestly hadn’t even thought of knocking on, all has me feeling pretty good about expressing myself on this forum through the written word.

Granted I’ve posted inconsistently and my topics have been all over the map, but damn it’s been therapeutic! Processing heavy shit, be it of the personal variety (death, depression, relationships, etc) or strife in the world ~write about it. Fun times on or at the sea ~ write about it. Holiday happenings that conjure up mixed feelings ~ write about it. Childhood memories ~write about them. Pretty much nothing is off limits, which I suppose could make those around me a little nervous…I mean it can’t be as bad as dating Taylor Swift (ouch that joke was so 2017), but I do like to publicly process some feelings through telling a story….

And tell a story is what I suppose I will continue to do. And maybe looking back on this year I see my story is bigger than I realized and it’s strung together through all these smaller tales. Perhaps there is a common thread that ties them all together and just maybe that thread is not a “thing”, but a “who”.

That who has quite possibly impacted who I am in nearly every relationship I have had, one way or another…My mother.

Fifty year old smiling, confident, super fun, trusted friend, loving partner, best mom I can be, me is comprised of an abandoned newborn, a stolen toddler, an abused mentally breaking down four year old standing in a West Virginia trailer park, a painfully shy and picked on elementary school kid, a suicidal middle schooler, a promiscuous teen, a high school drop out, a drug addict, and eventually a scared too young of a mom desperate not to repeat history….And they all continuously reach out for her ….My mother.

Well that paragraph was the condensed version of my most painful highlights and probably sounds a tad whiney and like I’m blaming my mother….Poor moms, always getting the blame 😉

I swear that’s not where I mean to go with this. In between those house of horror moments were love, light, and beautiful experiences that also played a significant role in shaping who I am and how I view the world. I know I’ve been blessed a million times over.

And how can I say I’m not blaming my mother when I make the bold statements that I do, you ask? Because I’m simply not, I’m merely acknowledging a fact.

The fact that mothers are creators, they are life giving powerful feminine forces and from the moment we are born of them as tiny vulnerable humans in an overwhelmingly huge world, they are the closest connection we know. Forever tethered by the phantom cord that once nurtured us into existence.

I do have enough life experience and especially after having made an abundance of my own mistakes, to know that nothing this woman did (or does), regardless of how much it seemed like it, was she doing “to” me. She’s just been surviving in this world the best way she knows how and because of this I don’t hate her. Plus there’s the fact that she did quite literally give me life….So there’s that. Thanks mom.

Still though, I feel compelled to continue to tell our mother/daughter story because it’s my story. It’s not to shame her or garner sympathy, but just because it’s my most intimate, complex, love story.

She was my first relationship and my first rejection. I carry part of her with me into everything I do and I can never fully escape her. When I look in the mirror I see her face. And when I look again at all my seemingly random blog posts, she’s almost always somehow intertwined in them. She is everywhere.

And so perhaps this writing adventure of the past 12 months, that started as an outward “mermaid” attack and quickly turned introspective, brings me to the biggest full circle moment of them all. I’ve gone straight back to the absolute utmost beginning!

So cheers to a year of self reflection, the beginning of finding my voice, a little healing and as always a lot of love. And that’s all I got for now. I suppose more shall be revealed….

Thanks to anyone who may have found themselves following along. Xo

.

Cat Tales 🖤

I’m grieving … I’m grieving a 17 lb black cat named Massacre.

A 17 lb black cat who 16 Valentine Days ago was born to a feral park dwelling mama.

Massacre and I had something in common…

My mother dwelled in the same park and was a bit feral herself.

Shortly after this (then) scrawny black kitty was born, his cat mom fell victim to a speeding car and it was my tent living mama that scooped him and his three siblings up to save them from the fate of being a raccoon’s snack.

It was an on again time in our long history of on again off again rotations. It was also just weeks after January 27th 2005, a significant turning point in which I was learning to find my feet in a new way of living and my life was changing in so many ways.

Most changes were of the both necessary and positive variety, but one heartbreaking beyond my control change was that I had to say goodbye to my own little feline partner.

~Gypsy~ Beautiful 13 year old calico Gypsy…Gypsy who was older than two of my children. Gypsy who outlasted a marriage and subsequent relationships. Gypsy who moved half way across country with me twice. Gypsy who I loved more than I’d ever loved a pet. And I had loved many a pet.

Gypsy relaxing on the balcony of our Florida condo where she was the queen of the complex ….everybody loved her!

Much like my mother had saved Massacre, I too had snatched Gypsy straight from a cruel fate. She was a 2 lb, flea & mite ridden, eyes swollen shut, ball of snot whose barely audible 3 am mew alerted me to her location next to the dumpster behind the sports bar where I was a cocktail waitress.

That was how our story began. It ended 13 years later with me handing her, weak and sick, over to an animal hospital worker, who was also a friend and had promised to stay with her during the end because I was too selfish and scared to be there myself.

How I’ve always wished I could go back and do it differently…but I guess all the wishing in the world can’t turn back time…

Meanwhile back at the park the orphaned kitties continue to thrive in my unconventional mama’s care and my loss of Gypsy immediately inspires mom to insist I offer a home to one of her motherless kittens.

My loyalty and grief at first cause me to refuse but she wears me down and I agree to one. Then comes the call suggesting I take two as she was only able to find homes for two. I agree.

Kitty delivery day arrives as mom steps off a Jitney bus with a cat carrier containing not two, but three 6 week old kittens. “A home fell through, but it’s ok, just pick the two you want and I’ll figure something out for the one you don’t” < this is the suggestion she makes as my three daughters stand before me already each with a squirmy meowing kitten in hand.

So yeah. I kept three.

The older girls immediately devised an ownership plan. It is decided that really our dog belongs to Andrew so he’s covered in the pet department. Shauna selects the black and white male as Colette is content with the black and white female. Oreo and Pookie have been named and claimed.

A very sweet two year old Tia is not only happy with her left over solid black cat, but true to her nature offers to share him with me. Her older sisters support this decision and Massacre is deemed “ours”….mine and Tia’s.

This is not necessary, I do not want a new cat. I look at this fleabag menagerie and my heart aches for Gypsy. I’ve been conned and now I have a brood of four legged mouths to feed that just serve as a reminder of the cat relationship I lost.

Time passes and the cats grow. They are fine cats. They are loved cats. We are a seemingly happy home and all living things appear to be well cared for. Still I keep my distance.

Im convinced that to love them too much would be a betrayal to the cat who I already feel like I abandoned in the end. I need to at least mourn her properly.

And so I do. And then one day it happens, and like so many defining moments in my life I look back with an awareness of the exact time and place which within a shift occurs.

I am sad or mad or something that I can’t quite process. I sit there on my couch and this now very large black cat hops up on me. His weight is a significant presence and I feel it ground me, bringing me fully back into the present moment. As I pet him he purrs loudly. I look into those beautiful green-gold eyes and feel overwhelmed with love for this comforting creature. And so our love affair begins.

I don’t know why in that moment, probably a good two years after this cat had already been “mine” did it become ok to love him so completely, but it did. He wasn’t just mine anymore, I became his.

I became his in such a connected way that at 5 years old when I almost lost him to organ failure I refused to give up and willed him to survive. With the help of medicine that was only meant to comfort not cure and a friend who came over two times a day to give him fluids by injection I watched the yellow in his eyes clear and the weight come back on. His Veterinarian was shocked and could offer no explanation for his complete recovery. I never took a moment that came after that for granted.

He saw me through recoveries just the same. Both illness and heartbreak. With one fat black paw on one shoulder and the other on my other, he would lean his forehead against mine and literally hold me. Again I say his weight had such a substantial grounding quality and his ability to love me was perfect.

So perfect that he remained a good sport through household additions of both the four and two legged kind. Oh wait, and even a three legged one at that!

Calypso ~ she’s a sweet story on her own ❤️
Massacre & Memphis
He didn’t even bat an eye when along came an 80 lb German Shepherd (not to mention SheRa’s owner who he could have easily felt bumped him from some of his snuggle time 🤍
Let us not forget Piccadilly the Wonder Goat …
Man that cat was a good sport 🖤

He was a gentle giant if ever there was one. I would frequently cup his face in my hands, look him in the eyes and say “you can never die Massy, don’t you ever leave me”.

I thought we had a deal, but on February 15, 2021 the day after he turned sweet 16, something happened inside him that couldn’t be willed better.

We are in a quiet room. Massacre is calm and wrapped in the cozy blanket I held him in on the drive to this location. It is fitting that Tia and I should be together in comforting “our” cat during his final moments.

I kneel beside the table he is laying on and gently press my forehead against his. He responds with a purr. Tia strokes his fur and he continues to purr softly until he drifts off to one last sleep.

Now I grieve. My grief encompasses so many elements from the very easy to understand feelings of missing my cat that I loved to the more complex feelings toward the woman who gave him to me.

And just as it was 16 years ago it is again only weeks after January 27th, and the same as how Massacre just had a birthday, I too in a very significant sense just turned 16.

So I’m left thinking that maybe we actually do sometimes get a chance to go back and do things differently and I’d like to believe it wasn’t just Massacre I was kneeling beside at the table there in the same room my sweet Gypsy girl drifted away in 16 years earlier.

Perhaps eventually all things come full circle.

Travel in the time of Corona 🚙😷

Destination chosen. Time off work secured. Lets get a packin’.

When making the usual travel choices and checklists we can now factor in these considerations….Covid test appointments scheduled for before travel and after. Yup yup. Do we dare risk an airport and airplane? Nah, let’s drive. Do our hotels have sanitizing procedures in place? They sure do. Have those we’re visiting tested negative, been vaccinated, or already had Covid-19? ✔️✔️✔️

Mask on, extras packed. Here’s to 6’ apart.

Big difference from last years carefree travels to Mardi Gras where my biggest concern was securing enough outfits with gold, green, & purple sparkle.

Bodies squeezed together dancing in the streets and sitting on dirty curbs while waiting on parades. Catching plastic beads and trinkets thrown from passing floats, touched by dozens of unknown hands. Who knew how strange that would seem by the following year.

Apparently Mardi Gras was the original “super spreader” event before we really grasped the dangers right around the bend. Surprisingly enough (especially considering that tidbit of info) I myself have not had Covid. I tested negative for the antibodies as recently as a couple weeks ago. Who knows why some people get it and others don’t, even after exposure.

My good fortune in not contracting this highly contagious virus does not make me feel invincible and I still take it quite seriously. How could I not when people I love are considered high risk?

Or actually ….how could I not when any human I come into contact with might be a high risk candidate?? It’s about more than just me.

Ok ok, getting a little preachy here….I’ll stop with the passive aggressive shaming of those who don’t buy into this whole “global pandemic” thing.

Honestly I shouldn’t go getting too sanctimonious as I probably fall somewhere in the middle myself.

Am I willing to tweak my lifestyle and do my best to be safe and keep others safe? Yes! Am I willing to stop living and stay home 24/7? Uhhh…no. That’s a big huge N-O-.

And so I do my best. I travel by car to avoid public transportation and crowds. I test regularly. I wear my mask in public. I limit my trips into stores. And whenever possible I keep that 6’ distance. It’s kind of become second nature by now. Here’s a god awful phrase ….it’s the “new normal”…. < haha I know that’s so obnoxious!!

Obnoxious or not, it’s life. Life on life’s terms. We’re living in the days that will be recorded in the history books of the future, and like all things…this too shall pass.

Even pre-Covid I was always down for a good road trip, and now that has become the preferred vaca theme. Keeps me and whoever my travel partner(s) may be just a little more self contained.

This most recent trip my travel partner was also my life partner and in fortunate news, we do well self contained in confined spaces. I’m sure for many travel partners (much less life partners) that’s not always the case, so hooray for us, we rock!

I’m being serious …want to test a relationship?? ….Get in a car and cover a total of almost 4,000 miles in ten days! Throw in a little her meeting his dear old friend and him meeting her father to inspire just a few nerves.

Update …everyone loved everyone …damn that went well! Again I say it, we rock!

Oh Corona, you may have forced my hand and made me dial back my travel itinerary….no international excursions and no popping in on a celebration of music and life (with its fair share of debauchery) this year, but cheers to inspiring visits to new cities as well as long ago favorites.

Sometimes I may miss the energy of a crowd, but oh how I adore wandering with my love down to a quiet riverfront, through historic cemeteries, lazing on a riverboat, or biking a (high bear activity<for realz, the sign said so) trail.

And yes I’m a fan of hopping a flight, dozing off and being somewhere far away and new when I open my eyes, but I do love the things that happen as a car rolls down a highway and the miles pass….conversations both silly and deep, singing along to songs, and random roadside stops.

I may not be making as many trips as I’d like, going as far as I have in the past or had planned for the future, and I am definitely not seeing everyone I’d like to spend time with these days, but I sure am savoring what I have, with who, and where.

Stay safe y’all and if our paths cross out there I’ll be sending ya an air hug and blowing you a 6’ away kiss 💋

2020 Survivors

I know we’re all basically feeling like we should get an “I survived 2020” tee for making it through this year < wow that sounded more clever in my head, seeing it in print I’m confronted with the thought of just how many did not.

We lost (and still are losing) astronomical numbers of people to Covid 19, and of course many of us lost loved ones to a suicide, cancer, and tragic accidents, and how can we not pause and think of those who died by the hand of police brutality.

This year we took notice of racial injustice like never before when the dying gasps of a man calling out for his mother and repeating the phrase “I can’t breathe” was heard around the world.

George Floyd, Elijah McClain, and Breonna Taylor are only a few of the names chanted in streets, the list of lives wrongfully extinguished far too long and too many names not even known.

2020 is certainly a year not to be referenced lightly. Perhaps it’s challenges impacted us collectively more than any other year, or maybe that’s just the way it feels to me.

Still though, reining it into a more local level evaluation, even for all its surreal extremes I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out of gratitude for all the good in my life. And as always, if I look for it, there is so much good…

Though It hasn’t all been sunsets and snuggles, there sure was plenty of that.

The most difficult personal loss for me this year was saying goodbye to someone I loved my entire life, but this year also brought new babies to the family and engagements and these are the things that hold the promise of hope as life carries on.

Milestone celebrations were scaled down. Travel plans may have been canceled or altered, but that is a small price to pay when you consider it’s about staying healthy and keeping others healthy. And especially not the worst thing when you’re fortunate enough to call the NoFo home. < A fact that is never lost on me!

My beloved live music…sadly summer concerts were all postponed, but I did leave the shore with a fine singing sailor every chance I could…making it a magically musical summer in it’s own right.

🎶⛵️

I am by nature a social creature and while I truly missed all the friends and family I couldn’t see, I have however appreciated the opportunity to form bonds all the tighter with my quarantine crew.

And I know how privileged I am that so many of the terrible things happening leave me and mine largely untouched, and I know that just because I get to exist in this blissful little spot where blessings can be so easily recognized, that those awful things are still happening. I know I have a responsibility to not get swept away in ignorance and forget to fight the good fight.

In my positive proclamations I certainly in no way mean to be insensitive to the loss, the isolation, and the devastation many have faced through 2020, the pain for so many is so real..I know this.

I pray for all those who experienced the worst of 2020 that they may find peace and love abound in 21.

May we all continue on a healing path, with strength to endure the difficulties, gratitude for the grace, and respect and compassion for our fellow humans.

Happy New Year!

Holiday Hell 🎄🔥

If there is indeed an afterlife and if my life of sin should assign me eternal damnation as my ever after, I have a pretty good idea what my personal hot spot will look like.

The glow of Hell’s fires will actually be the soft twinkling of holiday lights. The background noise won’t be the tortured moans of my fellow damned souls, but rather nonstop (perfectly pitched) caroling favorites, and of course there will be the smell of freshly baked goods wafting through the air.

Almost sounds like heaven, but wait….all the while I shall exist in this perpetual external December paradise, whilst carrying the constant nagging internal twisted anxious knot that tells me I’m not happy enough.

Happy Holiday expectations….Where exactly did this stem from? Did I have such ideal childhood holidays and that somehow set this incredibly high bar? I can’t imagine it’s that.

Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t the stuff nightmares were made of or anything. They just weren’t a Norman Rockwell standard either.

There was love, gifts, and good china set around the dining room table (a table only sat at for a holiday meal) but you know, they were just kind of falling short in the special department, with their baby shrimp cocktails in a jar and fruit salad out of a can, how lackluster…

So if it isn’t the long ago ghost of perfect Christmas past haunting me, It must be my very own wild imagination fueled by books read and movies watched that scream of the all encompassing “holiday magic”, that really piles the pressure on.

Add a few kids into the mix and boy oh boy does that make you really feel like you have to make things emulate that sought after perfection.

We all know perfection is unattainable under the best of circumstances, but hey let’s sprinkle in some active addiction for good measure.

What you have now eventually leaves you with a highlight memory reel of holiday mishaps and let downs of some colossal proportions.

Let’s review…there was the time I was newly separated, estranged from family (by my own doing), in a sweltering state I hated, with three wide eyed youngin’s scratching up a storm with the chicken pox…What could make it worse you ask? If I had the chicken pox too and my current budget allowed only for Dollar Tree shopping.

Wait a second, if I remember correctly that Christmas actually turned out OK.

Oh I know, there was the one where I stayed up all night wrapping into the wee hours (amongst other things one should not be doing on Christmas Eve or any eve really) and upon running out of …eh…wrapping paper…yeah, yeah…that’s what I ran out for at 3am…wrapping paper! And when I stopped at 7/11 after picking up said wrapping paper, I managed to get my pocket book stolen out of my car. Boy did I wish I hadn’t left that “wrapping paper” in my bag…

Oh wait, maybe it was actually a Christmas blessing that I did, because now that I think about it, I went home and eventually to sleep and in the long run that wasn’t the worst Christmas either.

Ok, ok I have it …my pièce de résistance of shitty Christmas memories…oddly enough this one comes into play long after the financially struggling single mom days, and several years after the whispers of an actively addicted life had been silenced.

It was the year I did it all. I checked every box off the “How to have a perfect Christmas” list.

Step one-Cut down your own tree ✔️

Step two- Decorate early✔️

Step three- Take family into the city for a full day of holiday shopping, 5th Ave window peepin’, family pic in front of “the tree”! And add in any other hot coco sipping, ice skating watching, NYC winter wonderland goodness you can think to pack into a single day ✔️

Step four- The baking of holiday cookies, not only decorated as sweet as they taste, but packaged up in Christmas cuteness and hand delivered to friends and neighbors alike (be sure to have you and your elf (youngest daughter) wear appropriate holiday attire, consisting of Santa hats and ugly sweaters for full effect ✔️

Step 5- Dress everyone in their Christmas best and not just attend Christmas Eve candlelight services but be the family who stands up in front and lights the advent candles, recites the scripture, and exudes peace, love, & joy ✔️

Step 6- After the (non alcoholic) egg nog has been drunk, and holiday shows watched, and the traditional Xmas Eve present opened by each…tuck those kiddies into bed and let the sugar plums dance in their head….almost got to ✔️ that off …so damn close…until Mama’s melt down woke up their sleepy little heads.

This was also the year I lost my grandmother. The woman who raised me. Or more accurately saved me. The woman who grounded me, and who without I felt lost.

I recall now how I had grandly announced as the season began “I will not be sad this first Christmas without my Grandmother, I’ll celebrate the way she would have wanted me to”.

I checked those boxes off at warp speed like they were steps on a scavenger hunt and I was racing to the finish-line. I don’t think I stayed still long enough in a single moment to have been present in it. They are blurred memories at best speeding toward an epic crash.

The crash…that’s a memory that is sharply in focus. I can’t tell you what my children’s faces looked like that day in the city, try as I might, but I can see the disappointment and confusion when they awoke from sweet slumber to the sounds of shrieking and crashes, as I hurled whatever was nearby at the wall.

Embarrassing….yes, I know. It’s this thing that happens to me though. When I don’t honor whatever the feeling is I’m feeling, be it sadness or fear, or if I dig my heels into expectations of how things “should” look or be….things tend to come out sideways…usually as anger. Earth shaking, unreasonable, uncontrollable anger.

Side note > In my life this can apply to anytime of year, though as a tribute to this fa la la la time of year, I’m focusing on Holiday sadness and expectations.

I’d like to suggest that this amazing sense of self awareness I clearly have suggests that I have now nipped that little personality problem in the bud. Ehh well, “progress not perfection” is the phrase that comes to mind.

And so progress it is, but some days you forget. Some days you walk through the hap happiest season of all with a smile on your face while inside all you want to do is sit at a table reserved for holiday meals and eat tiny shrimps drowning in a glass jar of cocktail sauce and you don’t want to let yourself feel how much you’re missing the people with whom you shared those sweet ( what did you call them? -lackluster) holidays long gone by.

So maybe one December weekend you’re trying to make it all look perfect and then the crockpot overcooks the beef stew meat and undercooks the vegetables. And maybe the cookies you were baking fall flat. And maybe you start to feel mad at someone for things you already forgave them for, and everything feels wrong and you want to explode…but then you remember ….this isn’t some Holiday Hell you’ve been banished to and you’re the only one telling yourself how you’re “supposed” to feel.

On that note, it’s ok to call a friend and have a good cry, a heartfelt “I’m sorry” can work wonders, piles of mushy flat cookies are delicious, pizza is always an acceptable solution for dinner, and no dog ever complained about tough meat when being served beef stew.

And maybe the difference between heaven and hell is nothing more than your very own perspective ….And I’m just gonna be over here doing my best to remember that 😉

Wishing y’all peace, love, & the ability to be kind to yourself this holiday season ❤️