Over Board


Since I like to write about life in “metaphors” and “allegory” I would like to directly confront any haters by describing my life as a big Carnival cruise ship.

When you spend 33 years steering your ship with the same beliefs, illusions, escape mechanisms, denial and self defeating behaviors, you know how to steer, because its the way you were taught. It’s the way you always have done, the way your parents and even their parents taught, a map passed down with just one compass, a set group of working members that trust you to steer the way they taught.

Rejecting their way of navigation is to reject them, to question that any idea outside the script they have written for you is rebellious and ungrateful. By asking to maneuver this ship, your own, the way you hope, the way you dream, causes narcissistic panic and rage, for such a request slaps ingratitude, defiance, and no amount of love by either party changes this fact at all.

It is their fear of all fears, to lose control.

But you cannot dance for them, steer for them, look at a map that has nothing to do with you and pretend you are doing a job GOd made you for, not even for the love you feel for them.

It is too great a cost.

Trying only comes with their reminders of your past navigations, life boats of passengers that would leave, that little failed  marriage, financial irresponsibility, their hearts heavy with concern, so naive and desperate for love and approval, you believe them.

The drama and unhealthy anxiety and loss of weight and who had to bear such a thing watching you destroy yourself?

Your heart sickened and you would agree especially when the trump card fell, like how your children were at stake, and as my mother said when I excitedly announced my acceptance to Photography school, “But honey, your children need you. A good mother knows  you can’t ever get back your children’s childhood.”

But I had waited till Lola was in Kindergarten, my heart felt it true that I had real gifts, people had told me about my writing and photography, something my mother claimed she wouldn’t read.

It was just too unbearable for her.

Not to mention being the family laughing joke, the dating disasters, financial dependence, and so you went along, so you laughed with them.

So crazy, how could YOU be qualified to run your own ship?”

They meant to shut up, find a good man, stop causing drama, and do not ask questions that make them feel, look, or examine pain, but one last thing. DO not take front seat or that would mean that they may be put out of a job, a job they invested 33 years in keeping. One thing I have learned is that nothing is more important than their own illusion of control, that you somehow are responsible for the emotions, existence, needs, and life path of another simply by being born.

In your birth, you are their ownership.

But, what if they were right?

They always were.

Could you possibly be that arrogant, even crazy, to believe that something inside you knows more?

Read their map, take passenger seat with their compass, and they promise, you will always be safe, loved, and in God’s loving hands.

In many small moments of defiant self assurance and your own part brave, part powerful, part narcissistic inner guidance, you throw the compass over the side, rip their perfect map and do horrible things like go to school, take on boyfriends not of their knowledge or choosing, at 33 mind you. You refuse calls, break cars, and cry over missing your babies.

They tell you that this is abuse, this defiance of role, the writing, and you failed them by not taking the destination they paid and invested financially and emotionally for you.

In your young naive attempt for all that you have fought for, you throw up the middle finger, rip their map, not just in half with a clean line you can tape back later for emergency, but in many teeny pieces throwing them up in the air.

You clearly have no idea what you have done.

They watch in horror, announce insanity, and so you hear the many heartbreaking lies from the ones who KNEW you, who were watching, who cried and held you, so you dive deep in denial as your reputation is smeared, like a knife you know is cutting and bleeding in your back, but you refuse to pull out.

Sometimes pretending the pain isn’t really there is less painful than the wound itself.

And sometimes, this exact point causes you to never fully examine your wounds, your life, your loved ones, I believe, is a promise that you will in fact, become them.

The repair is not possible you realize as your heart slices to pieces, your children are no longer called or seen, even the ex that supported them is deleted next to you off of facebook, birthdays and holidays are ignored, with the exception of a lovely card, only for the grandchildren, who have been left to you for the explanation of why an entire extended family, aunts uncles and cousins, are gone. I couldn’t bare it. My babies most claimed to being loved were now pawn to a woman who claims I will not let her see them.

And so, you have what you have asked for, a ship, gulp, and no one to control the many anchors and nets, food preparations, or storm safety regulations.

You have a few passengers to take leadership of, all watching with careful scrutiny as to how this captain will maneuver without any map, an illogical quest for certain, and you can feel some of them smug at their obvious belief you will hit the rock of Gibraltar, or drown the entire boat from your selfish, ignorant, irresponsible and reckless decisions.

They are waiting to be right.

The others left are a little scared, with life jackets all on, you notice, a fact that makes you wince, seeing as there is only bright sky and little waves, but they have swimmies, goggles, inner tubes and helicopters on call.

So you will prove them all wrong. You will prove you are the Captain, the first to use an inner guidance and new technology from within. You are living your destiny, you say in the mirror at night, certain the gods will protect you and the ripple effect of your intentions will lead you and your girls to freedom.

You believe with all your might you are called to do so.

And in front of them all, in front of yourself, you run your ship directly into a glacier.

And another one.

You see with terror that the water has began to fill the first cabin of passengers and it is your fault, these passengers you have grown to love as your own family are all affected, their money and resources drained, their thoughts of your motives and choices are murmured below, but you can hear them all.

They are losing trust, amongst the chatter, you feel their worry and anxiety over you, causing great pain and a responsibility greater than you ever knew before.

That is the worst part of being a captain.
Letting down the ones you want nothing more than to love and protect that have no choice but to drown or get hit amongst the rocks with you.

I was in the McDonald’s drive thru, with Lola my cheerleader, Kat my critic, and I saw her eye me in my rear view.

She must have noticed I buy nothing for myself, even food, something she comments on, aware at too young of an age that mommy has had an excruciating break up, must move out without any idea where to live, needs extra work and fast, and is heartbroken mostly over missing them and wondering if in fact, everyone was right, once again.

“Mom,” she said, with authority in her voice, even at 10.

I was scared to look up.

“One day mom, you will have a big house and a man that is your real soul mate, you’ll see. You will go on trips and buy things and mom, you can do it. One day mom.”

“Yeah!” Lola cheered from the back, shouting, “YOU WONT ALWAYS HAVE NO MONEYS!”

She kept eating her fries while I said nothing, afraid to show the tears sliding, the belief they have in me had nothing to do with my past behavior, all to do with what they knew I was capable of.

“And a child shall lead them.”

I had already took on a first captain, one with a snarky spitfire of personality and courage, to test the waves, an open book of brilliance and psychological passion which she has mysteriously gained at such a young age.

Ya’ll know her as Thelma.

I hired her to research and build a new map you see, my courage and passion to my cause quickly passing, so I asked her to find a much better working compass, a growing regret was quickly coming with the realization I threw away with the first one with little indifference at the time.

She has bad news.
She cannot give me a new compass.
She WILL not give you a new compass.
She says it like the truth blazer she is, something I often brag will make her the greatest forensic psychologist of all time, but with me, you see, I demand she change the very core of what makes her beautiful and unique.

I explain carefully that I just want her to say it is okay.

She explains details over my ship with little patience and logical direct blows. She tells me I am the leader of this ship, not her, and not the ones before, and I have a choice. I will lead the ship I call my life, for good or bad, or not.

My knees go weak, not knowing I had unconsciously looked for the exact replacement of what I knew for all my life. I just saw pain, blinding white light, and an evil girl who cut up souls and served them on strawberries.

It took a lot of time to see the real Thelma, not the woman I only projected upon as “mother.”

On many occasions I imagine I might have challenged her to first deck where I would wrestle her lady like uppity ass to the ground, but in fact, something worse happened.

I realized she was right.

What the fuck was I thinking?

I did what all confident self seeking freedom fighters do and cried, begged, demanded she do it, fell faint on the floor from the magnitude of it.

She just rolled her eyes.

Until the breaking.

Something had to be changing for she was evolving into the nurturing and kind friend, the co caption I was used to was not empathetic, even harsh.

It was the first time I saw her as she was, and had always been, but from my own dysfunction and terror of being abandoned had blinded me to ever seeing the real her.

I saw after a year that she had no life jacket on or life boat pulled to the side, nor had she ever.

How could I have missed this?

So this was the breaking, the pounding of my knees to the ground, the layers of unworthy unloved messages and beliefs began to take over, and I had nothing left to fear.

In that moment, I had and was nothing,

The interesting thing about pain is that some pain keeps you stumped for years, and I had the tears of a clown with the make up dripping off, only my true sad self to let through and all of it, all of it, had been not my fault, but my responsibility.

I wasn’t stumped at all. I was aware I had done nothing I had set out to accomplish, that intentions mattered nothing, that I was in fact, the scum on the bottom of the scummiest bottom.

So the reality I had been missing was that she had not changed into anything, for I saw her, my biggest defender, fighter, support and friend. It was I who was the one changing, the parts of me who kept her and the world away were the ego and I had none left, not anymore.

Then I heard some music, coming from bottom deck, Justin Timberlake I believe, blasting on the radio, my girls coming up to shake what their mama gave them, the ship half burned, ship wrecked, void of food.

True deliverance comes not when we are accepting mighty awards in front of all the people who didn’t believe in you, our shadows and ego convinced OUR truth will be rewarded, maybe even a podium or Ted Talk might come our way.

It just is never going to be that way for me.

It is in the destruction, when the tides have turned and all is lost at sea. It is in the shipwreck and pirates who betray again and again, so you find treasure in your laughter, in your glories, in your unforgivable mistakes, and if you have a lucky break, all you can see and feel is just peace.

These are the finest of any treasure a captain can find, when her ship becomes eerily still while the  dolphins came to say hello, jumping in perfect circles. One by one they come, dressed in costume, Kat and then Lola, Thelma and Dad, all the ones who love from a broken heart come to dance.

“You are the captain of your ship, the captain of your soul” is a quote I scribbled down way before I took on this journey, and I will not begin being grateful when I find the destination, the flag, the written map the gods reveal before me.

Sink or swim, with maybe one float left to hold on as I watch my boat burst into flames, it doesn’t matter.
I will dance just the same.

For everyone on board, from past to present to unknown to future known, this is the song I am dancing to, hoping you all are blessed, touched, and loved. It is you who have been God’s touch on my shoulder.


Michael Franti & Spearhead LIVE


For all the broken, a love letter.

Here I am, a month after deciding to never write again.

I have grieved hot collar soaked tears for accusations of my writing being “abusive” and “selfish,” a deer in massive confusion, headlights, big moving powerful blows to the body and soul have come out of nowhere, just me, licking my wounds, wondering what the fuck just happened.

If only I had been hit by a car.

I was afraid the intentions of my heart would never be shown, that if being known for 33 years brought this much adversity over my views on life and my journey, and I had lost valuable relationships because of that, well, I just gave up.

I gave in.

Beautiful things occurred as well, not just my relationship with Thelma, or the promise of our hard work beginning to take exciting new turns, my girls a daily part of me now, and sleep, I had gotten down to three numbers on my phone, even that had felt overwhelming.

The best news is that Lola and I share a room, and bunk beds, a post I can’t wait to write, for another day.

Tonight is about the pull to myself, writing being the nucleus to my soul, and I made a decision to that soul, the shame, the fear.

I will write, rather it be harmful, selfish, abusive, or cruel.

I am not responsible for the people I have caused pain, for they chose to read, and they chose to leave. I am only responsible for me, and if one day, I see that I was wrong, I will write about that as well, asking all my jurors and God, supposedly the ultimate Judge, for forgiveness.

I got a letter from my father, just a few hours ago, hence my inability to sleep, my frustration over my first post written with joy in my mind is now erased, his words replaced.

I have no doubt in my vulnerability been seen or read, and even with that, I ask how writing this horrible little blog could ever have served me, for if I were selfish, I would have kept my secrets and image, my relationships in tact, my little lie of a life safe.

Not today, nor tonight, the wound so deeply cut I want to run and run, like Jenny in Forrest Gump, get on a bus and ask God to make me a bird to fly far far away, a fist of stones I would throw, straight at him for wanting to hurt me again and again, straight at her for saying she loved me, when I weep for like a little girl, I don’t even care..

I want my mommy to tell me love is something real.

And she won’t even pick up the phone, nor return my last email, in which I begged like a pathetic teen for a boy who didn’t love her, to come back, to just please forget it all, say she was sorry, and do the right thing.

“Come back to me,” I cry, and she isn’t and won’t, the reality I sit in tonight, wondering what the fuck this God means by salvation, love, mercy, and hope, the very things she taught me, all the verses memorized still run through my mind.

I know something amazing will show up from this, in my silly positive little jar of bullshit or fath that removes all mountains, which I don’t know, but I will hold on to it, and wait.

If I can get through this night, the loss, the silence, maybe just maybe, God will arrive.

Voices laugh and snarl that I am an idiot to hope, not for one more soul, but tonight I climb on the top bunk, as promised, with Lola, who along with Kat, are the best things I ever did.

“Mama,” she whispered.

“Yes, baby?” I had the night light on so I could read the other night.

Her little red head popped over the top bunk, and she put her hands up in animation, “YOU are the best roomie I could ever have. I could just cry over how you made our room so fancy.”

I had given Kat her own bedroom, for which she in exasperation and tears, rightfully claimed her sister could not respect her stuff, talked too much, was messy, and stole her things.

She has become alive in my room, while Lola, in a room with my heels and real make up and art supplies, chats and chats, both of us in constant trouble for forgetting over and over again, to not talk.

I had thought just the other day, how I was ready to come back, to write about how no woman in a house full of treasure and closets as big as my room had what I had.

My heart is broken as well as my silly dreams but I will not let them take my joy.

I will die before I give it away, and if it takes all that I am and have, I will not just survive this, I will float.

The first thing I wrote on the Happy Wall is appropriate now, its message I never knew would vibrate so strongly, “God doesn’t give us victory over war. He raises us off the batte field.”

Good night, dear cyber hearts, I need you more than ever, and it is an honor to return to you, for you have been loyal on your end, and I deserve that gift, and hope and pray I am not what they say, but that someone out there, in this cold heartless world, will be seen, changed, not alone, soothed, or inspired.

It is all I have left.

God is Nappy Roots Fo Sho

Grief is an eery thing.
I began the night first thinking of Thelma, and how much she has helped me in all areas but the financial as well, and I had been making her handmade stationary, the idea struck that I should package it inside a box I painted as a car, a symbol of so much worry and anxiety that she has supported me through. The girls got quiet after picking up my paints and begging to play, a promise for another day, the thunderstorm hit, and before I knew it, I was in a room that looked like it had been hit with an art tsunami, my tears had found their comfort zone and fell like water in sync to the rhythm of the music on my ipod, thunder, and my thoughts.
I am in a strange place tonight, and even though there have been two deaths in a month, a mistress appearing in a blog telling me I am selfish, a visit to a friend who has a murdered child she is about to go to trial for, I say this not for pity but explanation that even though my life is blessed, I feel strangely removed from it.
Thelma had mentioned earlier, laughing, about how she had removed herself from her office upstairs because she felt so lonely up there, and it triggered me, deep wells of sadness surfaced to show me that is exactly the way I feel, all the time, with or without an office or people I love. I feel strangely alone, the kind of alone that I don’t know how to put my finger on, but certain that I haven’t felt it before.
I have felt loneliness, as we all have, no one is stranger to wandering this human experience not lonely, and yes, life is a breath and to exhale is part of being alive, a hit I know too well, a mother in law who overstays her welcome and leaves a bitter taste to remind you, so it does from time to time.
I felt it after the divorce, in the marriage, with my father gone, with men I chat politely to on dates I don’t know why I am on. I know in my head that I could call many people right now, at 2 a.m., all that love me but it wouldn’t matter, lonely is inside of me, follows me and I have been making friends with it, slowly, like a new friend in the back of a classroom no one speaks to but I always wonder why.
My mind began thinking of death, the two particular recent ones, and why people seem to always mention the survivors, shaking there head in gratitude for it, and I know it is the “political correct” thing to smile and nod, seeing that grace is always offered in times like these.
What I really want to say is surviving is not the fate I hope for, it is to live and survive with the people leaving us behind that makes me shutter, a “survivor” is to me, the ultimate experience of finality.
Our loved ones are at peace and leave us here with war.
And now, I don’t know if this is war, but to feel strangely used to grief as if I picked it up at Walmart without even needing a list, makes me wonder if I am always here, if it is a disease I caught without a cure. Wisdom tells me different.
And so, the painting of the box became a bizarre circling of all these thoughts, my mind trying desperately to find its way out, my hand moving the brush as fast or slow as the tears fell, the room is not lit well and I sighed to notice red paint all over my hands at one point, but I didn’t even care.
I don’t know what occurred, but suddenly I forgot what I was painting, and just started painting everything, file folders, shoe boxes, black card stock, this was to me the best night ever, all my thoughts drifting back and forth, but I felt such elation that something about taking black and putting color on it made me feel better, and so I would get purple, then teal, rush to find my reds, my tears fell just the same, but with a purpose.
My room looks like a child got loose in kindergarten camp, but as I continued taking the black and replacing it with color, the satisfaction I felt in seeing every corner of a shoe box differently was like I just discovered candy, and so I would paint over and over it, not even aware that nothing was changing, but just that I was going to be okay, not even the dark thoughts really scared me now.
I thought about how when I had it “all,” as a marriage and healthy children and parents that appeared happy, I was miserable. I complained, with money, with a man who rubbed my feet, with children who I don’t ache from missing like I do today.
And here I am, in a teeny room painting every black substance in site, in the middle of the night, more at peace with absolute awareness that every illusion I thought had made life worthwhile, was gone.
It was kind of hilarious, this moment of truth, sobbing in my Goodwill clothes to the idea that my life, even with its loss, is exactly the way I want it, that I live every day doing what I love, and I did pause in shock at my own self.
How crazy is that?
Why are humans only empathetic and kind and aware when they are brought to their knees, the suffering in each of us really does save us from ourselves.
And, I don’t know really know why or how, but a song looped in that I don’t remember ever hearing, and lost in my circular grief ridden moment, I suddenly was aware of my brush, looked at it as if I had just realized I had been painting, confused, put it down slowly, strangely looking at this bedroom as if it were not even mine.
Then, the beat of the music made me smile, and I’m not quite sure why, but it did.
I put my volume on my Droid to max, my one lamp lit, next to my bed covered with art and piles of fresh wet ridiculous paintings on my floor, I started to dance.
I did.
I danced on top of papers I don’t know what nor did I care, the song was just that good. It was here I saw making friends with the lonely was restoring my soul to a part of life I blink and miss every day, but not tonight.
I had more love and peace and gratitude with head throbbing and wet paint all in my hair than any dance club yet, being served too much jager with Man Cubs dry humping me from behind.
I am still drunk from it, this new way of seeing the lonely, the death and destruction, surviving, and remaining. The Spirit of God is aware of what I am not.
Life is a gift.
It is a precious beautiful gift that you don’t get back, tomorrow isn’t promised, and I don’t have anything to offer, no wisdom at all, as to why tonight I saw what I may forget in the morning.
But, I saw it.
That is the beauty of living.
To hold on for that next breath, that next day, the right song, the perfect hug to remind and comfort you on dark lonely rainy nights where sadness is all that you see, that you in fact are a miracle, a breathing beautiful walking miracle.
It is God, just in rap, on a random sync, showing me what I knew all along, that of course, he is black, probably a woman, and definitely a terrible painter, because that is exactly how he showed up tonight.
And lets see, maybe I can find the song, and you can see for yourself it had to be God, or at least well disguised for just me, who tends to normally appear blurry and closely to the bad relationship aisle with regret, vodka, and the walk of shame.
Lonely is looking better all the time.
Check out the Nappy yo, I dare ya.

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.


The One Who Got Away


I was waiting tables six years ago when he wandered into my section with a mutual friend, and I believe he ordered a couple of draft beers, something dark, and later, a cup of coffee, black.

He was very quiet, with a plaid shirt, tats, a hat he took on and off his head nervously. I noticed that he stared at me a lot.

Even more, I noticed how much I liked him staring at me and it made me flush deep shades of red, my hands shaking every time I filled his coffee.

He stared right through me, like he could touch me with his mind.

I didn’t know you could feel naked completely clothed, not like that.

He was there a few hours and I don’t think I noticed one other person in the smoky bar but him. Our mutual friend chit chatted about this and that, my stomach turning as I talked, feeling him stare straight through me.

And then, out of nowhere, as I talked fast and nervously, he interrupted,

YOU’RE MARRIED?” He asked it like he had just found out someone shot his favorite puppy.

I blushed. “Yep!” I shoved my ring out in front of the table, shaking, wanting to cry, not really understanding why.

He laid his head down in quite a dramatic way, and I felt this horrible rush of guilt as I wondered for the first time as a married woman what it would be like to be completely free, having not made any vows, any commitments to a mortgage, a child, and a husband. My husband and I had long began the process of leaving one another when this gorgeous stranger appeared from nowhere, reminding me what it was like to feel again.

Our mutual friend kept telling him it was time to go, and it was. We were smiling way too much, connecting in a way that felt uncomfortable, and we both knew it wasn’t right. When he got up to leave, he put his arm around me in a friendly way, and leaned over and smelled my hair.

Mmmmm. God, your hair smells nice.” And just like that, he walked out the front door.

I relived that moment in my mind over and over for years, after having another baby, a separation that ended terribly, and finally, a divorce. I wondered about him a lot, but knew all hope had been lost, feeling for sure he was married himself, and that moment had been built up in my mind, completely forgotten by him.

And then he found me. He lived hours away but he still found me by searching my name through Myspace, and had just gone through divorce himself, and on top of everything, he was convinced that I was the only woman for him. It was a fairytale, and I was finally Cinderella. We fell in love over texts, hours of phone calls, and a trip promised, planned, just like our future together.

I waited for him in the rain, freezing, as he jumped off the train to see me. I felt like my life had just jumped off the pages of a romance novel, and everything I experienced with this man was so magical, so breathtaking. It was like I finally realized what I had been missing.

Until our last day together. He was distant, nervous, anxious to get home. I didn’t know what had happened or why but something had completely switched, and I knew by his eyes that something was so wrong.

I can’t do this, I’m sorry. I can’t.” He could barely look at me.

I started to sob, and he just left. He left me there without even turning to say goodbye. Just like the first time he walked out of my life, but this time, his steps haunted me.

It was brutal for me and I could hardly get out of bed for the next three months, my grief so heavy and my heart completely broken. Every day was a challenge, and I didn’t know it could hurt that bad to just be alive. Its a testament to the human spirit that just when I thought I couldn’t go on, I did. And slowly but surely, things healed and my laughter returned. Days turned to weeks into months and now more than two years later, having nothing but that biting moment of being left by a man I loved with everything I had, I get this text from work.

U were never meant to be mine but I love you. It has always bothered me that you weren’t sure about that. I’m moving even farther away- I wont be back.  I just pray you know how much hugging you would mean to me- how smelling your hair would make me feel eternal- how watching you eat would make me feel alive. I have lived on the memory of seeing you two Springs ago. Your an amazing woman. I will pray to cross your path once more. Be blessed.

Two years later and I can finally receive the closure I have always wanted. I can’t be angry anymore or sad that the fairytale he promised didn’t exist.

I can finally stop blaming myself for somehow not being enough, and I cried tears of relief that I had not been crazy, that he did love me indeed.

I can finally breathe gratitude for a boy who stopped me dead in my tracks. Its like a ghost from my past has stopped by to remind me how deeply I am capable of loving, how much I have to give.

He will always be the boy who stopped to smell my hair.

He will always be the one who got away………………..


Grief Observed

Yesterday I watched tenderly as a very old lady on a busy intersection, cane in hand, placed a stuffed teddy bear at the foot of a simple white wooden cross.

I was at a busy traffic light, on my way to work, and felt very much like an intruder, a witness to the horrific grief this woman was experiencing, tears flowing down her wrinkled cheeks, teddy bear being patted, picked up, placed down, and up again.

She couldn’t seem to make up her mind which direction of the cross the teddy bear should face and at one point, she just sat on the ground, staring, the teddy bear on her lap.

I wanted to open my door, ignore the honking people trying to get here and there to just sit with her, hold her hand, offer up a tissue or a hug. Instead, the light turned green and I can’t shake the image of her out of my head, as I said goodbye from my rear view mirror, watching as she took her hands off the bear and on to the cross itself, shaking from obvious sobs of grief.

I don’t know what happened or who this woman loved and lost. I want to tell her that she touched me, that she is forever connected to my soul, reminding me that death is part of being human, something we all have or will face. When you strip it all away, I am a breathing, loving, grieving soul, just like her.

So, I thank you, little old lady on Hwy 141 with hair in pink handkerchief, cane in hand.

I promise to pause and say a prayer for you when I pass by your white cross where you lost someone you obviously love so much. I am sure they were better for being loved by you.

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.