Three Amigos

There is nothing like deleting old emails all morning only to break out into the ugly cry, Lola and Kat at first concerned,

Mom, is it Sammy?

He died two years ago, my 14 year old dog.


Mom, you can put these blankets around your shoulders to make it all fancy,” Lola consoles, of course, by fashion wear. She once told me she was in my tummy and the whole time she was thinking, “When, oh when, are they going to let me change my clothes!”

Kat studies me when I cry, analytically, like she has never seen my face before, or if she were logically counting tear drops for a homework assignment.

The only thing worse than having a broken heart is your kids knowing it.

Then, they put on my “favorite” song, despite the fact I hate Katy Perry, go figure, and did a dance show until I laughed so hard the snot didn’t even bother me, the pain burning in my heart was numbed like someone slapped vapor rub on it.

Before you know it, the moment passed, they were fighting over the wi remote, my puffy eyes are all thats left, and I say loudly, “Act like a real writer!

I was going to write about something serious today, and actually you know, edit, or read it, for the love of God.

I was, I REALLY was, but I found this in my email account, no date, before I had a blog I suppose.

“Wow. So, we were running a “CRYSTAL GIRL” errand, which Kat, Lola, sometimes Nana and I, are the Crystal Girls, an exclusive group, and Kat and I start scheming. So, I say, “Kat, you know where B lives?”

“Whittaly.” No, I say, “FLORIDA,” with a smile. Lola first says, “When I see that nice man B, I am gonna kiss and love him and hug him” she said, eyes so big!

Kat said, “Yeah, and HE is a NICE man, and DADDY likes him, and on the chatter went…
Then it hit.
Lola crumples her face and says, “And B will NEVER ever Eat Bad Stuff and TURN his HEART BLACK and leave us or die, Mommy! NEVER, EVER!”
Knocked the wind out of me…… 

I pulled into the QT and parked the car, and looked at her.

“Lola, love, tell me where it hurts.” She shook her head, “NO!”
Kat put her hand on Lola, who put her head into the leather, and I said, “Lola, my heart hurts because of Papa, does yours?”
She gave me one eye from her pudgy baby hands, peeking in, through the tears. “And I don’t know if Daddy or Nana or my boyfriend B will die or leave, but…”
I was about to launch into one of my Mommy speaches, and I am one of those moms that has to annoy even a seven year old to death to make sure its all said,
so Kat interrupted, “Lola, she said.. You’ll always have me.”
And they hugged and I wept.

This morning ended up a lot like that, no babies, now big girl dance queens, in my heels and sunglasses, on a fake stage, but even the same, it hit today. And no mommy was there to give a fake speech, but who needs fake speeches, and living dogs, old boyfriends, dads, holidays, phone calls or birthday parties? Not me. It is far overrated when you have Katy Perry twins, singing badly and loudly, my words from the email blurred into one as I cried all over again, reading the last line.

And they hugged and I wept.

Introducing “The Other Woman”

I just received a comment from a reader beneath a blog I wrote about my father, one in which I expose my hurt, my pain, the loss and destruction of being his child.

I am not one to like my personal truth being read, much less on such public display, my idea as a writer was to heal my wounds.

Little did I know it would become material read by over 10,000 strangers, a thought that makes me want to vomit, but I write to heal me, and if in any way

possible it helps others not feel so alone on this journey, I am grateful.

I also know that to expose myself comes with consequences, some good, some bad, and I do not publish anything without thought to the people affected, a reality that weighs heavy on my heart. I am indifferent to most comments, try my best not to think of them, never wanting to write for an audience, always striving to focus on my art, my truth. I feel my writing is just a projection, that a computer screen is capturing one moment of emotion or thought, so to be loved or hated, I do not feel personally attached to either thought. I write not because I want to, but because I must, and I let the readers do or say as they will. It is their right.

However, in this case, I have decided it is my right to reply in anyway I please, not in spite, but in addressing the child within, the outrageous injustice that she has endured will be heard and if it comes out politically incorrect or even a tad sarcastic or angry, so be it.
She has been through enough.

And here, is what this stranger had to say:

lea hickman
Submitted on 2011/04/01 at 12:03 pm

“Katie, You are certainly entitled to your opinion about your father; however you are his daughter and he loves you. Reaching out is never easy, especially after a divorce, but your dad wants a relationship with his kids and granchildren, and you should consider his feelings. STOP being selfish!”

And this is my reply, of course, in Dear Abby blog form, but just in a more “OBVIOUS”

“Wow. Lea Hickman. You certainly know how to make an appearance. I suppose introductions don’t seem to be needed here since my letters never received a reply, but I guess you know that. I never really thought my personal blog would be the place for a mistress to have a platform, but you are not just any mistress, but one who actually gives advice as well? I should be so honored.
Well, here is your moment and so lets just open up this can of worms shall we?
First off, please don’t be offended that I have not included you in any of my blogs or invited you over to personally say hello because it has been my impression since I was a small child that you were the psychotic ex girlfriend of my father, imagine that?
Yes, he said many times that you were prone to jealous rages over his adoration of my mother, that you could never be one to recover from his rejection.
I never knew he was such a stud.
Lucky girl, you are.
I wondered many times if all those calls and appearances in my childhood and adult life were fatal attraction, and funny thing about a woman’s intuition, I truly did give you the benefit of the doubt.
Perhaps he was just in denial.
It just seemed strange that my mother, who was of course, “THE love of my Dad’s LIFE, and THE ONLY love he EVER had,” normal gross announcements he made to her almost daily, was not apart from him even a day for my entire life.
I just didn’t know how to prove you, understand?
I will say I never thought about electronics, like say, computers, the one thing my mother doesn’t know much about, so I apologize for not connecting sooner.
I think it is lovely that you care about his relationships so deeply, I mean really, to reach out to me in his name is well, so kind of you, and effective for sure.
What daughter doesn’t want to run to Daddy when his ex girlfriend psycho perhaps mistress appears on her blog to defend him?
It is romance at it’s best.
I know. Maybe you can come by, the two of you, the reunion will be just beautiful, and I’ll be sure to vacuum. We shall all hug and cry and sing with joy, my two daughters love any excuse to eat cake, but it might want to be in secret you know, just in case, our party were to “get out” and upset family members.
People are so sensitive about these types of things.
Did you know my Dad and Mom ate a lot of cake, together, like 34 years of cake, gosh, that adds up to how many cakes a year for how many special occasions?
Wow. That is a lot of cake.
And I do appreciate that call to not being selfish, and I know I struggle here, I certainly do.
What do I call you again? Oh, Lea.
There I go again, being selfish. Maybe Grammy could be a pet name, just between us?
I am working on that selfish thing. My father certainly could have used more help in raising me. He told me what love is, but maybe you have a better view.
You are a fine example of exactly what my mother should have been you know, to get and “keep” a man as kind, selfless, loyal, and honest as my father.
Oh, but I would keep an eye on the credit card when desert comes.
Between us, he may have stolen it, so just proceed with caution, perhaps take your purse with you to the restroom, and lock it in your home if he accompanies you.
He is known to have 38 aliases and prone to using other people’s social security numbers. Whew, what a handful he is!
But listen, I do want to congratulate you on defending him, and perhaps you also are aware of the 22 page hate mails, mostly stripping my mom of all her dignity in outrageous lies meant to hurt her, not us. I mean who can blame him, right?
Oh and how he loves his grandchildren.
I think he met, no, not sure about my precious nephew, but he did get my little girl a train set one year. Kind of confusing to them, this overwhelming love.
Perhaps it overwhelms them, I don’t exactly know.
I suppose it is hard to blame him, even though he is definitely responsible for years of therapy, and along with the stalking, broken promises, and forgotten boundaries, you may need to give him a loan to help him with this healing Lea!
Not to mention the occasional run from the IRS, abandoning his family over a car, a nice one, the one in his mommy’s driveway? I know I am just his little girl, but really, that car smells brand new, don’t you think?
He used to love to joy ride with mom and I in that thing, and we would go to Bruster’s and get ice cream, and this funny thing happened once, he played this song by Chris Isaac, “Somebody’s Lying,” and I just poked him on the side of his arm, while we just laughed. He always thought I was just hilarious.

But, not to put a damper on anything, cause I am uncertain to your status, on facebook you see, the status of your relationship is what makes it official, anyways, keep this one little thing in mind. If it does go a little sour, don’t be surprised to find dead roses in your mailbox, surround your entire family for holidays with weapons, but use bats so the children aren’t nervous, and always tell him how selfless and wonderful he is, that he did the BEST he KNEW to do, over and over until your eyeballs fall out and every bit of life force has been drained out of your ever loving soul.

Oh, and do tell your daughter I said hello. In high school, she once told me we could be sisters but I wasn’t quite sure what she meant, not until today that is.
Maybe you should mother her since I do have one of my own.
You should meet her one day, or I believe you have.
She is not perfect, but she did love my father very much, as we all did.
He just never saw the value of real love, a perfect offering even in all his failures, until it was way too late.
I’m not sure how any love is more pure than a child for her own father, especially mine, because I wanted to die before I lived one day believing my daddy, the man who hung the moon, could become this. This is the unspeakable crime to a child, this is not the man I remember nor he is the man I ever wish to know.
But perhaps I am just selfish. Perhaps you can give him the love he never had. Perhaps you are the perfect woman to show him love, for trust me, every woman till now, his own daughter, can not. Perhaps you were the only one he loved all along? Perhaps he doesn’t know what love even means? Perhaps you can teach him.

Shame Erasers Part One

The ugly truth about writing is that it is not something you choose.

It chooses you.

I have been avoiding this blog like crazy.

Writing is the only way I know how not to lie.

One of my favorite writers said we have no choice to write or not, that inspiration is bullshit. She said you show up, every day, like all other writers, because it is your job, and that is what you do. Fine. But I don’t have to like it.

Shame Erasers Part One….

I wish I could write this in outline, or power point, to make it less blinding.
I need lists to make even grocery stores less frightening.

Its like I have been living with the sound of a dentist drill in my mind,
an irritating awful pierce demanding I sit down and write.
I just want to get under my covers and hide.

A man I have been dating wants to be my boyfriend.

Good God. That statement even looks as dumb as I imagined.

I don’t need to tell anyone I am a free spirit, a boastful pride in the fight I put out for that freedom. I love being and going, free to kiss, flirt, drink, touch, dance, and to be single is bliss. Utopia is Granny panties or lace thongs worn just for me, ice cream out of the box,
a delightful bed with no sweaty needy hairy man waiting on me to get there,
asking where I went, why my cell phone wasn’t charged, or if I knew how dangerous dancing, live music, oh, and the other hairy sweaty sex crazed filthy mind controlling men I hang around are.

These are the men in past I have referred to as boyfriends or husband, and believe me, it never ends well.

It begins with a promise they make after four beers while I am in red heels,
a short black dress revealing cleavage and legs, leaning in with my glass of red wine.
This is not my first rodeo people.
I laugh at the thought of life and cramps on the bathroom floor,
Lola being put in time out for talking about hairy pee pees, Kat irritated Lola stole her label maker.
And so, my response is usually, “Good Luck,” said with ease and flirtation, ending with me in my bed,
my girls safe and snug a room away. Bliss.

And so, today, for my mini series, you understand the pitch I gave, the same one a million times over it feels, but now there is one man who refuses to sign.

He will not budge. The immovable mountain I can not climb, cross, surround, depart from. He has the most annoying response ever to all these questions I spit, like nails, all the time, every hour.

“I want you.”

Seriously? That is not the correct answer.
That is actually kind of stupid.

And he smiles patiently, a man I named THE COLLECTOR, his house full of little groups of old cameras, beautiful treasures in all types of forms, put together like a kid building legos, but with art.
I can’t decide if I am experiencing love, horrific fear, warning signs from God, or intimacy.
He is like a nightmare wrapped up in a teddy bear, the very thing that looks so soft, I am suspicious of how it is stuffed.

Is this what people call love? THIS is the feeling women crave?
I feel like I ate too much beef jerky and got on a six flags ride I can’t get off.
Is this vibe what we are going for on romantic comedy movies,
which are all hired actors by the way, who are divorced three times over,
a side fact for the romantics to chew on.

I must lose him or commit to him, which I think has brought up every issue I have.
He kind of just required it.

How dare he? How dare a hairy sweaty man be so good, so kind, so sweet?
I don’t know how to control this ridiculous man, and I am mad with love and hate over this lack of control, especially in bed, as if every secret I have invites him inside with little thought to what this could become.
There should be prisons for people like him, torture chambers.

I don’t know what is bigger.
To lose something so big it will destroy me and all that I have worked to become.
Or to live in this, this fear, so ridiculous and mind altering, I just can’t do it. I have to get rid of him and fast.
Clyde says that is extreme.
Clyde says the things everyone says, and asks this question, which makes me laugh, for reasons I am so happy he doesn’t understand.


I know this question.
It is designed to see that a simple truth holds the key in hoping that there is nothing to fear but fear itself.
I wonder if Clyde as a grown man had been told by his father point blank,
a man he had known and loved his whole life that he was an investment,
a bad one that never paid off. Then stand in the ruins of a life built on lies while the masses poke and smile,
asking for news on the latest man, a humiliation that rubs like a skin burn, a deep pulsing heartache no
words can describe.

I need a shame eraser. I just don’t know where to find a parking lot of them, my shame for watching
this man in his stubborn insistence stay reminds me daily I was not free at all.
I was as sick and chained and controlled in my mind from fear now as I was with the sweaty hairy men.
This is a nail biting mind altering truth to me, MISS OBVIOUS, soaking in single loving bliss.
It is humiliating, scary, and makes me wonder if I might be seriously damaged, like beyond what I could even
exaggerate, so much that I could hurt him, a thought I can’t live with.
What if I were like my Dad?
What if my Dad left for reasons the Collector will find?
What if I trust someone who becomes a mad man, like my Dad, and the girls will have it done to them.
No, no, this is wrong, wrong, wrong. I know who did the crime.
I just can’t justify at the right time if it is him, or me, or both who believes the crime has to be paid.

And so here I am, with a freight train headed, in the complete dark, his mere existence mentioned and teased by well meaning friends makes me want to fall over the edge, my balance knocked, my leg shaking.
The girl with the mouth from the South is in trouble when she can’t talk, not to anyone, not about this.
I have found my personal truth lies within me but in this, in this, I have become the unknown.

Part of me hears Clyde say “Breathe,” and “Go Slow,” but I don’t feel that. I feel betrayal coming like a smoke monster hurling at my door, shadows cast from giant magnifying glasses, my fears coming from the ground whisper I am drowning and the life boat I need, well, he is running out of time.

The saddest part is I don’t know if I’ll drown before I can tell him I want him back.

Olivia Maddy Marie, a “Tribute” for Heather Murphy

When Kat was barely two, my boss at the time had a little boy named Alex, her favorite playmate, a child so full of life and contagious joy, there were no walls, counter tops or couch cushions that could contain him. He was a flaming spirit of play and laughter, a lot like his mom, and nothing he did could not be instantly forgiven.

One of the hardest moments of my life was going to his funeral, his mother bathed in unimaginable grief became no longer my boss, but part of my soul as I worked with her every day, my greatest teacher to date. She taught me that being in grief with someone made you not weak, but strong. I will treasure her for life for all the moments she allowed me to practice the art of loving someone who is drowning in grief, and the realization that there is no life jacket to throw, nor did she need or want one from me.

She taught me to look at life, death, love, loss, God, and motherhood through a whole new lens, but the ultimate lesson she gave me, is that you can not say, pray, wish, love, or cry the pain away. You have to just be there, sit in the devastation with her, and just be. It is the hardest and most important lesson I have ever learned.

When I left her and that job, there were lessons yet to remain. I quit to have Lola, to divorce, to grow, and in a full cycle, to return to the same job, changed, irreversible, yet so incomplete.

I had yet to meet Heather Murphy.

My first day back on the job, I found myself in the office with this beautiful young blond mother who in small talk about our girls, took out a picture of her incredibly beautiful Isabella, the perfect vision of brown springing curls and big eyes that would melt the hardest of hearts. Then, she took out a photo of Liv, her baby who had died not too long before we met, just a year old. I thought I could die of heartbreak at that very second, flashbacks of the same office, the unforgivable grief, all the details entirely different, the horrifying reality absolutely the same.

My new boss was a part of my soul now too, in an instant, like someone in heaven were snapping their fingers at me, to wake up, to realize she and I were strangers no longer, but together in that moment, for a reason.

It was bigger than me. It was bigger than us.

I don’t know if she knew it, but I knew it.

I watched that woman outside of my body for months, waiting, asking, praying, wanting. She is a spitfire, a hilarious person full of playful energy with a sneaky smile, sarcastic humor, kind gestures, motherly instincts, strength, and has an uncanny ability to do her job amongst men not just well, but incredibly well. She had walls as tall as Berlin, a tough exterior of strength and professionalism, calling me out when I needed it, running the place when I wanted to fall over from fatigue, but she remained. She exhausts me, sometimes mowing the grass at night, just because it needed to be done.

I believe it is her greatest strength and weakness, this strength, because everyone believes she is capable of everything, and sometimes I wonder is she just wants to sit in a chair and be rocked, mothered, taken care of, a realization that no one is there for her, but her, and she is responsible for everyone else.

Slowly, she let me in, and it took time, and the right moments of listening and asking, to hear her stories of Isabella and Liv, the moments moms exchange with knowing looks and hysterical laughter over what their children do and say, the joy that light us up and the acts that put our heads in our hands with worry. After time, I got to see and experience what happened behind the office door closing, the truths I was ready for, the job I wanted, fearfully, but qualified. I knew the job I had been trained for was not in counting money and doing side work, but in listening, crying, staying, and being.

No money can account for that kind of work, the work of one soul inviting another in, the exchange of pain so unimaginable and unreachable, it is what I believe, the very hope to see life each day as priceless, to approach death in humble awakenings, the thing we fear the most, the loss we never want to imagine. It is a gift and she let me unwrap it, the images of Liv and the stories, her chest of toys and lasts, her journals of letters she writes her, the guilt and horror, the daily hell of waking up to a nightmare you can not numb or escape.

I wrote of Alex, back in the day, and I still have those memories on file, an imprint on my soul, but I was too afraid to share his story and life, the fear and pain a choking sensation around my neck. But, I am ready for Liv.

Alex changed me but Liv freed me. Becky taught me to be in the mud, in the dark, in the grief, and she shown like a star so bright, it was too painful for most to witness. Heather has shown me in your vulnerability, you are invincible. She walks the line of greatness and destruction, a beautiful mess, a tragic disaster, and I know she is afraid of going crazy with her own fear, but I know it will be the arrow to show her the way home.

I am waiting for that day she knows. I wonder what will happen when she arrives, the arrow slicing her heart open, her blood a price will become her gift to herself, to the world. It is a miracle what the human Spirit can endure, that every bit of pain of her loss is giving the world a different lens, a price too high for any mother to pay, and for that, I am so very sorry. That line is almost too pathetic to write, how sorry I am to even write it.
What the hell kind of word is sorry for the price you have paid?

I still will not be sorry to hope, to cry, to endure, to give gratitude, because that is just a piece of what you have given me. I hope to share her with the world, through her mommy’s eyes, her life so big and full and immeasurable in moments not only a mother can understand, but all who have seen angels, walking or not. Her Spirit is too beautiful to have gone anywhere but here, and I feel her now, as I write, and I feel it every time her name is breathed, every time I see her mother cry.

…..I hope you will feel her as well, the anniversary of a year since she left, published on the hour she took her last breath, and I ask that today, you say a prayer for Heather, light a candle, release a butterfly balloon, open your heart to the life you have been given, and remember.

I Love The Way You Lie

In my family dynamic, I played the role of the “Secret Keeper.”

I remember as a small child witnessing and absorbing the energy of my father, a very fun loving charming character, a man who I have many traits from, one example being that he skipped his graduation to go to an “Allman Brothers” concert.

He was hilarious and free spirited, a seduction that always helped me to put him on a pedestal, my mom our polar opposite.

When I was a child, she was about rules, education, religion, and character building.

She is a lover of books, prayer, raising children, drinking hot mocha, needlepoint, discussing topics such as the names of God, her passion over learning the Bible in original Hebrew, a passion she could discuss for hours, dissecting lines of the Bible was part of her every day life.

In attempt to to not be in “trouble” with his wife, in the beginning, he would betray her in small ways. He would take me for rides and errands, tell me to open the console, asking me to open a cd we both knew she thought offensive, wink at me, roll down the windows, play it loud.

It was fun, and I love music, car rides, candy bars, and being silly. We both hated church, rolled our eyes when she began her daily scripture lessons, and I felt special, not just because I was like him, but because I thought love meant being someone’s secret partner in crime.

As the years progressed, the secrets got bigger, and they started to hurt, like a pulsing sick heart beat I hated but couldn’t stop, and I was too confused to really know why. The very thing I loved became the thing that was making me sick, and I hated being near her, my own mother, because she reminded me in her innocence of all the years of silent crime, an offense I put on myself, a blame I did not know was not my own. I believed in being his favorite that I owed him.

He bought me a brand new car, and for all the fun we had, the money secretly given, the inappropriate jokes shared and enjoyed meant I kept my mouth shut. As a teenager, he caught me having sex, and while my mom was away, he walked up a long flight of stairs, opened a door, turned on the light, my boyfriend pulling up his pants, my shame and horror rising like a hot air balloon.

I remember he shook his hand, walked out the door, asked us to shut off all the lights. My mom just that past year dropped me off at church youth group, a place where the last day we all held hands in a circle, pledging our virginity to God. I cursed God, not having a clue why.

Maybe I was made for hell.

I waited like a deer in headlights when she came home, my guilt making me want to vomit at her very welcoming hug, and I realized he had said nothing. I believe he thought he did me a favor.

In keeping his secrets, he would keep mine.

I began smoking, my jeep being taken to the gas station, the pack of cigarettes fearfully forgotten, left on the front dash. He came back with a tank full of gas, money for a night out, and I waited, terrified. He hated smoking. I waited. He said nothing, which said everything. I finally got caught, by a group of church friends, my mother horrified, her and my dad on the couch, while she sat there for hours, crying, yelling, asking me how I could do this to myself, to her.

He just shook his head, repeating her lines. I watched the way her and the boys communicated, the way they played sports, made friends, had school projects and golf tournaments, and I viewed them as authentic, whole, and smart in their choices. I was their crazy sister, and my shame felt like a hand around my throat.

I was a constant source of pain and trouble to my mom, and she went in and out of blaming herself, once asking, “How can four children be raised the same and you be the person you are?” So I took her shame as well, certain she did not deserve it, my presence a reminder that she believed she had failed me.

I became to loathe the very thing I had loved.

I wept in my shame of being the favorite, and even worse, having once liked it. I went to college and did a lot of drugs, and I mean a lot, snorting anything I could put up my nose, and my Dad would put 1000 here and there in my accounts, never asking why, my mom always saying she missed me, that something was wrong, calling me every day, her very voice made me squirm, my secret side life had began to control me, and I was going to die.

My only thought was, “Please God,” as blood poured out my nose and my heart pumped too fast, and then slow, in the scariest slow rocking motion, and I was watching it from outside myself, my own spirit suddenly aware that I was watching my body, but I was not in it.

Please don’t let me die. Not for me, but for her. If I die like this, she will never forgive herself.”

So I lived. I paced the house for days, still awake, and I knew I had to tell her. If I was going to die, she was going to have to know first. I owed her that. I wrote her a letter that said every drug I had done, what I did, that I had sex, and locked myself in a room to read it to her, a moment that crashed on her like a brick building, falling to the ground, shattering walls, glass, the noise of wailing and screaming, hatred and pain.

I had done this to her.

I had done this. I just did not know why. I was not allowed to come home, and I was relieved, my guilt begging for punishment. She made a bold statement that it would have been easier to have me die to see me turn into this, a statement I etched on my soul with glass, needing the blood to pour to remind me I was human, because I believed I was of something else, something dark, perhaps evil.

On our last conversation, she said my Dad was coming, and that she had argued this to her death. She went on a fast, unable to leave her room, traumatized, and I did not know what to expect. He showed up, hugged me like I was the little girl that played cds in his car, his baby, and he was coming to save me. He told me to put on something nice, that we were going to eat my favorite seafood, asking, “Aren’t crab legs your favorite?

I was shaky, barely able to walk up the stairs of this nice restaurant, his comments about the beach, the town, asking me about my friends, telling me to order whatever I wanted. I felt like I was outside my body, looking in. At the table, he consoled me.

He reminded me how hard it had been to live with mom, how difficult and stubborn, how it was nearly impossible to talk to her. I will never forget. He was sipping crab soup, “delicious,” he had said. When we got in the car, he put it on speaker, and told her in front of me that I was wrong, terrible to have done this, that I had lied, betrayed them, agreed to not come to Christian counseling. She wept and yelled, furious, and undone in her grief. It was my moment.

He ended the call, expecting a little ride through town, to see the sites. In this moment, I did not decide to die. I decided to rise. I had never said an unkind or curse word to my father in my life.

“Who the fuck do you think you are?” I said it with power, conviction, and strength. The car was moving, my hand on the handle, while he nervously locked, while I unlocked, he locked, as he looked at me in shock, like I had slapped him. “Get me the fuck out of your car, you fucking asshole.”

His eyes began to become dark, his speech stuttering, his voice raising. “Young lady,” and I jumped out of the car, him driving next to me, my boots walking me nowhere, but somewhere, anywhere, the possibility of life opening like a flower handed to me by God. I had a lot of walking to do, years and years of walking, healing, and everyone judged me, as harsh as I did, but that day, in my brown leather boots, I realized who I was, what I was made of, that in doing this, to the man I worshiped a god, I could do anything. I am not a fan of rap, but have always loved Eminem, knowing he is all they say and more, in his speech, his addictions, his attitudes to women.

But, in his hate, in his crime, in his guilt, I connect to him, love him for his truth, knowing myself what looks so real to everyone else, can not be judged. When I heard his last song, hearing he had gone through rehab, the first note grabbed me like I was being held in place, someone’s strong wrists holding me down, my heart beat slow, my attention caught in every syllable, every word. “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn, but that’s okay, cause I love the way it hurts. Just gonna stand there and watch me cry, but that’s okay, cause I love the way you lie. I love the way you lie…”

The tears fell softly and powerfully through the beat, and I knew her, the girl singing was me, and I didn’t need a fist to know what it meant to be burned, by the very match of a man who called you “Daddy’s Girl,” and knew what it meant to love to hurt, because to hurt was being better than not being loved at all.

I do not know my Dad, and I no longer make a judgment about who or what he has done or become, that statement has taken years and years to make. I have made my peace with him, with my God. I bless him, hope the best for him, but I will not stand and let someone burn my house to the ground. I will rise from the ashes, bless the match that lit my pain, light the torch to burn the lies, and use my voice to expose my shame.

Secrets make you sick.

I will not go down in my shame, allowing you to believe you were a great man, giving me everything I could ever want. You gave me cars, money, time, an education, and a house. You want what you always want.

You want my silence.

I love you Dad, that’s right.

But love doesn’t hurt.

Love does not keep secrets. It exposes them.

You can have all the stuff, but I am keeping my voice.

I love the way you lie.

Auntie Sage

When my oldest brother brought home his future wife, I thought she was feminine, sweet, nurturing, and kind.
She was the leader of a sorority Bible study, authentic and pure, and had this endearing innocence that made you want to hug her, but not, seeing as she is not the huggy mushy type at all, a woman who clearly respected her space, always dressed in Ann Taylor type fashion, with perfect accessories, an air of respect even in tennis shorts, and might I add, has great posture. I thought that was hilarious that she understood my brother’s ways of showing affection, so unnatural and rude, her being so lady like, and yet, he would throw her over the couch like a potato sack, or into the walls with his elbows. She would roll her eyes, indignant, and I would laugh, watching her time after time, be pushed into the pool mid sentence, and wonder how such a classy girl put up with a man who flirted like a twelve year old.
Actually, twelve year old boys are way more mature.
We laugh now that he had warned her before we met that I was a hippy, something I wouldn’t call myself, but can completely understand from his point of view. She is everything I am not.
She is organized, detailed, private, family driven, being from a large network of grandparents who competed to love her, she always saw the importance in traditions, the master mind behind every family event. She is the apple dipped into caramel of fall, the cotton candy of summer, the smell of Christmas in winter, and the table of colored dye and candy eggs of Spring.

I wonder if she knows how much I marvel at her abilities, at what is just natural to her, while I am always holding my list of the two items she has assigned, breathing and praying I don’t forget the napkins and the ice, showing up with them and realizing sometimes she bought them anyway, probably just in case I forgot.

I have seen her grow from a college girl to a married woman to a mother in ten long hard years, and when I look back, I am amazed at what I have seen. The girl who burst into tears at our first Thanksgiving meal as a wife, who apologized and apologized for being homesick, a feeling I so understood when I first married, it just broke my heart. I saw her grieve her father’s heart attack, nurse my brother through a surgery so intense we thought we all might die from fright, a diagnosis we thought could be the end. She waited five years before my brother was ready to have the Prince, my nickname for my nephew, the most beautiful baby boy on the planet. She has been in every step of our experience with my father, through the destruction, and like Divorcee, she has experienced something no one else has language for but us. My favorite detail in getting to know her is that she is not sweet like I thought at all.

She is a warrior, someone you want on your side, so loyal that if you cross someone she loves, or considers family, I would be scared to pass her in the street, her fury of anything unjust you can see in her eyes, feel in her disgust. All the women who have broken the hearts of my brothers along with certain family members I shall refrain from listing, I dare them to cross her.

She is intuitive beyond belief, and it is has been hilarious to see her interact with women she has not believed correct for my brothers. She once turned to me, pregnant at the time, when one brother now married, had brought a rather obnoxious girl eating ribs while arguing loudly to the dinner table.

That is not the girl for him,” she hissed.

She walked all the way to the opposite end of the table from her, disgusted, not speaking to her the entire night, rolling her eyes, and I laughed and laughed. She was dead serious, like it was personal, which family is to her, something I find adorable and scary, my dating life being what it has been, wondering what man Auntie Sage would think right for me.

She has been right about them all so far.

I thought she was a sweet girl that David loved dearly but it wasn’t until I had children that I fell in love with her myself. It has been a humbling shattering ten years since she danced as my brother’s date, at my wedding, and I know I have been a source of incredible fear and pain for everyone in my family, especially when the girls came, and our marriage had become toxic.

Auntie Sage, I shall name her, when I was only bones from stress and grief, showed up with new outfits, toys, and gifts, bringing family to me, if that is what it would take. Kat is just like her in so many ways, in her love of family traditions, and Auntie Sage has shown her all the ways a family can be.

Lola is in love with her shoes, and Auntie Sage, unlike me, gets nice shoes, expensive jewelry, and designer purses. She brings her fashionable new boots and never pays for anything but the best, and she loves them with such purity and kindness that it is making me cry now, wondering how it would have impacted me to have had an Auntie Sage I could always count on, a real relationship with someone who loved me unconditionally as a child.

I see how it affects them in their little spirits, the way they light up when she walks in, the excitement of what she might have bought, or what she has baked, or how she will react when they tell her the latest news.

When I had to leave Divorcee, the most painful tragic fearful place of my life, my brother and she tucked a check in my hand, told me not to pay it back, her chin up and stubborn, and I’ll never forget that. I will never forget the way she mothered them and Baby bro, her gifts to my life have been unmeasurable.

She has taught me a lot about life, about myself.

She has taught me that family has nothing to do with personality, which ours are vastly different, life experiences, knowing we both live life as virtual polar opposites on this planet. Our way of dressing and thinking and being are nothing alike, her dedication to service and church on Sunday something I have always respected, knowing I can not be authentic in a religious system, and yet, I wonder if my own girls should go with her, wanting them to have a full spectrum of what is out there, to choose for themselves, a role

Auntie Sage has played brilliantly in my life.

Family is not about anything but love. I thought being from a house of a bunch of men would mean that having sisters would be holding hands and borrowing clothes, finishing sentences and sharing dreams, talking for hours, a fantasy I always wanted, jealous of everyone else that had it.

Auntie Sage is not my twin, nor do we talk on the phone, finish any sentence without confusion, and I hate lists nor do I cook, while she probably wants to choke me, never knowing if I need to be reminded again for the one thing I need to bring, showing up after she works and works to make each family function perfect. Love transcends all the details, because she is my sister after all, my family, and I wouldn’t change a thing about her, not for any best friend in the world.

Happy Birthday, Auntie Sage.
I bet you thought I forgot. Okay, maybe Nana did mention it, but it wasn’t like I had not written it down.

You are everything I wished I was, so what would I do without you, to complete the missing parts, to fill in the blanks, to make ice cream sundaes and buy ribbons for the girl’s hair?
I would be just a half, but your balance has made this family a whole.

Not to mention, the boys would have married and procreated monster children we would have had to endure for a lifetime, so I consider you not to only be Auntie Sage, but the sole leader as disaster future wife prevention, a title I owe you for life.
That and your promise to take Lola shopping when she is sixteen, for sparkly shiny shoes, lipstick, her call to smell the differences of Gucci and Coach remain a mystery to me, being she is only four.
Me, Kat, and the Prince will wait for you guys to come home, eat whatever you have in the fridge, forget the lists and wander about till we find an adventure and we will burst through the door, late, to tell you guys as you model what you bought, and it will be family, a reminder of my favorite quote that “Normal is just a setting on the dryer.”

Cloudy with a Chance of Hurt Elephants

Tomorrow my little brother is getting married to a fabulous girl.

She has perfect teeth and golden blond hair but she has this really cool flavor to her as if she might just have been goth in high school so you forgive all her very perfect perfections.

She has a cat named Waffles and loves to read books to my girls, never skipping pages like me when I get tired of reading the same story over and over.

She takes her time and turns the pages so slowly, skimming her eyes over each one to make sure she caught every detail.

I love this about her.

Tonight can be described in cocktail dresses, the chatter of old friends meeting again, little girls in pearls, men in shiny ties and of course, the random clinking of glasses with forks to toast the future groom and bride.

It would seem as the perfect night for any rehearsal dinner except in our case, there was a big elephant in the room.

My dad wasn’t there.

Baby brother addressed this in his speech which felt like a small punch in the gut, my mom crying in to her napkin, apologetically. He did a good job and my heart filled with love and pride as he described our family as being put back together, but better and stronger.

None of us kids are very good at hiding big elephants; it is our greatest strength and flaw at the same time.

After a lot of work on my own daddy issues, including the grief and forgiveness acquired because of them, I was surprised at my hurt tonight. I mean actually surprised.

It was as if I wanted to put my hand over the hurt, the throb that seemed to beat with my heart, and look around to see if anyone else noticed what I did, this deep hurt, breathing and living and hiding inside of me. I am not good at hiding it, so I don’t know how or what to do with it, except go on, doing all the things that seem right, like attending weddings and taking photos and making blueberry pancakes for my little ones for breakfast.

I actually just told Clyde that it wasn’t even there anymore and tonight I feel so defeated, as if it is somehow my fault that I can’t confidently say I am moving forward, as if that isn’t what I want more than anything in the world.

I’m supposed to be joyful, grateful, always looking for the lesson and the rainbow on a dark cloudy night.

And I will. But, tonight, dear readers, I just hurt.