For Em, Wherever I Might Find Her

Golly, I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve never regretted writing candidly about hard things, and conscious writing has opened doors I would never have even found, let alone had the ability to turn the key. Sharing the painful and powerful parts of this years’ long journey has helped me deal with really hard things in healthy ways, and has enabled me to grow and have courage in places and ways I never imagined. It’s who I am.

Until Jon, I had not dated anyone seriously enough to let them meet my kids. You want terrifying? Introduce someone you really like to the three most important someones in your life. I knew almost immediately that this was something different. I decided to protect this tiny fledgling of a hope– not for public consumption. Not this time. It wasn’t just my three kids, who had been through so much, but he also has two children, and everyone needed to be handled with such care.

One of the things that drew us to each other is that his oldest and Bean have the same Aspergers diagnosis. I didn’t have to explain about Bean, or interpret or run interference with my peculiar kid- he totally got it, and he rolled with it. You want a direct line to the heart of an ASD mama? Love her weird kid. You want a guarantee? Have that weird kid totally love you. Bean, who seldom takes to anyone, would wait for him at the front window, running to jump into his arms when he’d push our gate open. Jeffrey and Abby were only slightly more reserved. I was melting, and quickly.


The thing about second chances and second marriages is, it’s a whole different animal than it was the first time around. You’re no longer dewy and star-crossed, naive and giddy. You know how hard it can be to make things work, how hard it is to raise kids, (particularly kids with special needs) and if you’re divorced, you know the pain and sorrow that goes with that severing, regardless of the certainty of your decision. You also appreciate things you may have taken for granted or not realized were important when you were younger. These were common ground.

Nothing about this journey has been fairy-tale or idyllic. There were ups and downs, and there were times I doubted everything. When you come out of the ashes of a terrible divorce, when you battle back to the light to stand on your own two feet, the idea of moving back into a space of trust peppered with mutual dependance can be terrifying. I knew I could continue on doing it by myself. It was safe. It was the known.

But I also knew ‘safe’ was a cop out. This man was everything I had ever dared hope for. I wasn’t capable of turning away— it was time to take a deep breath and say yes to life again.


So when he sent a dear friend to pick me up for a lunch date and she instead turned the car towards downtown, and when we walked towards the Lincoln Memorial and instead found a young man strumming an acoustic guitar, and when Jon walked across the footbridge and gently took my hands in his and knelt down, there was no other. I was looking love in the face. It was time to say yes.

All of that culminated last Wednesday when, with little fanfare, five kids, four friends, and our bishop, we were married. It was simple, small, and ridiculously happy. My family and friends adore him, and the love and support shown by his entire family not only to me, but to my children has made my heart burst with joy.


Glint in my Eye

So I’m sitting here, wavering between honest optimism for the coming year, and trepidation that if I say that too loud, a Thor-like wrecking ball is going to swing in to flatten me. I don’t want to be superstitious, and yet, when one has a year like I’ve had, it would be foolhardy not to look around like a hunted gopher before I pop back up.

And yet…

A tiny flame flickers in the stillness deep inside me. There it is. It feels like hope. I think I have hope. I am fighting with wanting to claim it with all my might from the rooftops. But I’m kind of scared to. I’m still dusty from all the knocking-down and ass-whooping last year dealt me. But there is this tiny bravado inside me- it’s not big enough to make me thumb my nose, but it’s big enough that I have a glint in my eye.

Today, I’m standing. Tomorrow, I may get knocked down again. But I know one thing: I’ll get back up. Every time. I may not want to, it may hurt, and I may cry. But mixed in with the tears and dirt will be that glint in my eye, and the getting back up.

Happy New Year.

Don’t Ask Me How I Am

Today was a hard day. I don’t know why. Some days I make it through feeling strong and directed, others, like today, I bumble along, a raw nerve-ending overreacting to every stimuli. My nerves bubbled to the surface in clumsiness; all day I knocked stuff over, dropped things, dodged when I should have ducked. I forgot to eat, then felt sick when I did eat. My head throbbed and I was cross and grumpy with the kids.

Yesterday, I noticed the fluid levels were low on my car, so I stopped at the auto parts store and asked them what I needed. I was proud of myself, and poured the whole gallon of antifreeze in the reservoir in the engine. This morning, when Abby and I went out in the garage to get in the car, the floor was flooded with slick pink antifreeze. It all dripped out overnight. Great. Now what? Can I drive it? I dunno. I backed half out of the garage so I could at least sop up the pink fluorescent goo with newspapers. I looked underneath the car, but honestly, like I know what I’m even looking at? I snapped a picture of the goo so I could show the mechanic, and another of the underside of the car where it was dripping. Why? Who knows. I’m a blogger. I document stuff.

So what did I do then? Why, I drove to the carwash. I can’t take a trashed car to the mechanic. Sometimes I’m such a girl. I used one of my carwash coupons, and sucked up all the old french fries and lost Lego pieces with the industrial super-sucker vacuums, then drove through the “magic robot rainbow carwasher”. I had nothing to do with that name.

I drove to the Jiffylube where I last got my oil changed, for not other reason than the guys stand out at the curb and wave at us when they’re bored. The were so nice. The looked at it, added oil and washer fluid, and didn’t charge me anything. My radiator is cracked. Oh, and I had overfilled the reservoir. Yeah.

Then, since the Soon To Be Ex was not returning my phone calls lately, I drove by his apartment. His truck was there, so I went in the office and asked the lady if she could call his apartment and have him come down and meet me. I guess he’s answering for others, because she got him. I waited in the parking lot, and kept Abby in the car. It was tense but brief, and it was public. I just shut the door and put on my sunglasses so he couldn’t see my eyes well up.

Then carpool, kids, homework, dinner, baths, jammies, a cartoon, books and bed. Oh, and some laundry happened in there somewhere too. As well as a phone call with my sister-in-law, whom I love.

Then, in an attempt to learn to use this fancy, awesome new computer, I went to and it told me I needed to download update. I said “sure, sounds great” and clicked the prompted buttons. Then, when it was done, it told me to restart my computer, which I also happily clicked. Then, catastrophe. The whole computer completely froze up and nothing, NOTHING would move or turn on, or turn off, or exit. Nothing.

I’ve had this computer for a matter of days, and I’ve broken it. I burst into tears, feeling incompetent, helpless, frustrated and just plain overwhelmed and mad. For a solid hour and half, I try every fix and trouble-shooting idea in the Mac book. Nothing. Just a spinning gear and a blue apple.

In tears, I go downstairs to fire off a pathetic email to my friends who might be able to help me from Old Bessie. In the five minutes I am downstairs, the Mac here fixes herself. I have no idea what happened, or why. But I got down and gave some heartfelt and teary thanks, then sent out another email begging forgiveness from my logical and mostly male friends for my tear-filled email.

Only 19 more minutes to this day. It’s almost over. Here’s to a better tomorrow…


On my left hand there is a pale band of tender skin where once a promise wound. My thumb keeps wandering over to twirl the band that is not there anymore. Each time I find it missing, my heart lurches a little and then I remember…

I took my wedding ring off today. It’s in my grandmother’s jewelry box, in the little white leather box it came in, so full of hopes and promises. Something about the act itself, of putting it away, when I imagined wearing it forever, has cleaved my heart anew. Today was a hard day.

Settling In

t’s hard to know what the new normal is. Unlike when you are a kid, and you think adults know stuff, being an actual adult lets you in on the big secret- there are no answers. There is no big book of knowledge that cues you in on how to handle difficult questions, answers that suck, days that grind you down like a steel rasp, and dawns that take too long to come. Sometimes, things are just hard.

My children look at me and plead for answers I haven’t a clue how to give. My eyes well with hot, biting tears, and I hope telling them how much I love them is enough. Their eyes brim and overflow, and with the tears come more questions I cannot answer. I am the mama. I am the buoy. I am who will keep this fractured ship afloat. And I have no idea how.

Taking it day by day is even laughable. Really, its hour by hour, sometimes minute by minute. Waves of feeling strong wash over me, and I am renewed with conviction that I CAN in fact do this. Then the sun sets, the kids go to sleep, and the demons crawl out from under my bed and torture me with their unanswerable questions and demands for a future I cannot see and never planned on having.

Today was hard. I need small victories, tidbits and breadcrumbs to keep me moving forward. Today was a famine.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll eat.

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Looking Forward

So. Perhaps I’m more poetic, more heroic, when I’m also being vague and cryptic. Perhaps reading Dandelion is more fun when you don’t know the names of the demons that are haunting me. Perhaps. While I’ve held my cards close to my chest for a while now, I’ve also made it no secret that my heart was breaking.

Three days before I left for Houston, I filed for divorce.

There is a lot of personal pain that will remain just that- personal. This was not a step I took lightly or with anything but the most serious gravity. I tried everything humanly possible to keep from taking this step, but once the time came, I knew what I had to do. Publicly, all I will say is that sometimes the agency of others really sucks.

Right now, I am protecting my children. I am trying to keep our lives as normal as is possible; we are all tender and raw around the edges.  The kids spent the time I was in Houston down in California with my family, and I flew to the bay area to pick them up straight from Texas.

Now. I turn my weary, red eyes to the horizon, and I can see tiny glimmers of light. I don’t want to get too excited to soon, but I really, really think things may be looking up. The road is hard and there will be bumps, I am well aware. I know there are hurdles I cannot yet see; being a single-Mama is nothing I ever planned to try. But I’m going to make it. I really, really am.

The Lord has abundantly blessed me- with friends, family, talents, faith and hope. Now is the time for me to pull myself up, dust myself off, count my blessings, and get to work. And that’s just what I intend to do…

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The Edge

There is a scene in one of the Indiana Jones movies where the scary native guy reaches out and plunges his hand into the chest of the human sacrifice, and then pulls his clenched fist out holding the still-beating heart. Left behind is a gasping, vacant, chasm where his heart had been.

How can something hurt so much? How can you remember to breathe when pain obliterates even your vision and you find yourself a shadow- a yawning chasm of aching sorrow and grief?

How do you love someone so much, so entirely, and yet find yourself standing at the rocky, sharp edge of having to let them go?

I don’t know.

But here I am.

Baskets of Worry

Usually- or at least I fancy “usually”- I try and come up with creative ways to describe my mind- allegories, stories, parables- yet now, I don’t have the spirit to even try. I’m worn out. Down. Raw. Tired. Hollow. Sore. Chris Cornell’s voice is playing on loop in my mind- “… sitting in the corner like wet ashes with x’s in my eyes…”

My house is a disaster. I can’t even find a place to begin, and if I could, I don’t know that I’d have the gumption to start. It’s like the dutch child with their finger in the dyke; if I move from where I’m holding up the wall, another part will just spring a leak. I’m paralyzed, and lying down and going to sleep just sounds so much better than stretching my exhausted, quivering arms to try and stop another breach. So tired.

Eighteen months and counting…

Thoughts swarm my head like vultures on fresh carion. What next? How do we keep our house? Where is the help for us? We just want to work- to pull our own weight. The tunnel is so dark, my eyes ache for a glimmer of light. The darkness plays tricks on me- I feel things, see things that aren’t there, and lash out against things imagined, collaterally hurting those close to me in the dark.

A house of order? My yearning mocks me.

There is no order here except the Order of Waiting. And getting in each others way- while waiting. We have our thick baskets of Worry around our necks. They make it hard to get close. The baskets creak and strain, letting the Other know they are too close- to watch out, or the contents may spill in the dark, and then who knows what will be set free. It’s better to lug them around- at least we know where they are, the Worry.

Fat: Part I

I’m fat. I’ve always been a bigger person- I mean, size 12 feet? Come on. Even at my ideal weight, which according to “the charts” I haven’t seen since seventeen, I’m no shy violet. I’ve basically come to terms- even embraced- being bigger than the J Crew models, and never being able to order anything from Anthropologie.

Being big is one thing. Being unhealthy is entirely another. Gaining weight is like being the proverbial frog in the pot of gradually warming water- a few degrees hotter, a few pounds more, and pretty soon your legs are in some Frenchman’s mouth- or um, maybe I lost my metaphor. Either way, somewhere I went from being a big, healthy girl with strong legs and arms and slight tummy, to being just unhealthy.

The first time I realized it was walking into a Target. My reflection caught in the sliding doors, and I thought “Who is that big lady?”- Doh. It’s me. Holy crap. Ouch. It’s not a comfortable feeling. So what did I do about it? I bought a can of Pringles and checked out the sale racks. I’m already used to not being able to find shoes in regular stores, so what if I have to shop in the big-girl department? Except… except…

There’s so much more to it than that. Isn’t there always?

I’ve been on every program in the world. None of them have fixed me, even when I didn’t need fixing. Even Weight Watchers, which works, if you want to write down everything you eat and think about food every second of every day for the rest of your life. (I don’t.) But I’ve done their program. Three times. Nutrisystem. Slimfast. Suzanne Somers. Fit for Life. No carbs. Vegetarian. Vegan. Nothing white. The crazy lady in the 90’s with the shaved head… no, not Sinead O’Connor- the other one.

They all work- in the short term. But what they don’t get to is the “Why”. And that’s where I am now. A plan that will bungee-cord and whip-lash me back up after a short, exhilarating fall is not something I can stomach. Why? Because every diet out there is about the food. And I’m not fat because of the food.

I know what to eat. I’m a smart, educated woman. I know what’s healthy and what is just dumb. So why do I reach for the can of Pringles? Why have I gained 20 pounds in the last year of unemployment? Oh, there are so many “Why”s. And, that, think, is the answer to my question. Why. Not “what”. Not what , or points, or grams, or carbs, or combinations or calories or anything. It’s about WHY. And, until I solve that problem, everything else is just a Bungee-cord jump… good for a cheap thrill, but not taking me anywhere.

Collateral Damage

Warning: The following is not pretty, and contains strong language. Those with weak constitutions or a penchant for judgment might want to go outside and play instead.

As Sidalee’s mama said, I dropped my basket last night. Going on seventeen months of joblessness, like an overstretched rubber band, I snapped. As with most things dropped, it wasn’t pretty. There are shards of my self-respect and pride still scattered about, and I tiptoe around, carefully placing my feet as I look for splinters worth salvaging.

There was yelling. And crying. And lots of tears. And a lamp that might never work right again, since lamps aren’t really meant to be used for batting practice. It was a full-on fit. I’m glad my children were not awake to see mama lose her shit.

The odd thing is, there was really nothing in particular that caused me to break. It just… happened. After the kids were all bathed, jammied and tucked in, I fell into a heap on the bed, and I must have dozed off for a bit. David came in, and not realizing I was asleep, turned on the light and began to go through the mail. That was it. That was my scene of domestic terror. Bad, huh? Yup. The light was on. And evidently that light was a red matador’s cape to my sleep-addled and stressed-out brain.

I started crying and picked up the lamp and threw it at the wall. To turn it off. Go big or go home, isn’t that what the hip kids say?

My poor husband had no idea why his usually somewhat normal wife was suddenly throwing things and crying like a banshee. Honestly, neither did I, but I was suddenly filled, absolutely filled  with anger, rage, sadness and fear. Like a firehose with the nozzle wide open, I couldn’t stop it, and it all just exploded.

My fears and frustrations roared out amid torrents of tears. What if this is the new normal? What if one of us gets sick, and we have no insurance? What if David never finds a job? What if I have to put my children in day-care and get a paying job myself? What will happen with Beanie’s therapy if that happens? What are we going to do now that our savings is completely, utterly gone? What can we sell? I am SO mad at you! How will we pay the mortgage in May? What else can we cut out? I am SO angry! What if I can’t hold all this together anymore? What if this hell never ends? What if I run away? What if we lose our home? What if… what if… what if…

Messy, powerful stuff, those emotions.

David and I spent the rest of the evening sorting through the emotional wreckage. Tears like that leave you spent and exhausted, tender and raw. Eventually I fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Today, I am spent. My eyes are swollen and my face is pale and tired. I hugged the kids tightly, kissed their fat pink cheeks and sent them on to their happy school days. David and I, both shell-shocked, are giving each other a lot of latitude and room today. The house is quiet, and except for a night-table lamp that may or may not work again, there is little visible collateral damage.

So, we pick up the pieces and carry on. Another day… and another and another… and someday, one way or another, this will all be over. I just wish I could tell if the light at the end of the tunnel is sunshine or an oncoming train.