surviving outside adventures


Because it is Throwback Thursday I had to dig up an old photo to share…preferably one that won’t embarrass my four adult children. I just love this picture of my brothers and me for so many reasons.

The awesome that was 1970 fashion.

That pose.

Dear gawd, those damn pale, blue, cat’s eye glasses! I know my friend Kale praises me for being a hipster when hipster wasn’t cool by wearing those sweet frames; but trust me, they might have been ultra cool in the early 60s but  in 1970 definitely not. I cringe today every time I see someone wearing such frames…and yes, I’m kind of jealous that someone else pulls that look off and makes it look good.

Those tore up shoes of ours.

My brothers.

Randy.

Billy and his golden curls.

What lies behind that dead end sign on the street we lived on in Ben Avon during the summer of 1970.

Adventure! Grand, dirty adventures! A creek to wade in and swim in and even drink from. We had no clue what flowed from the giant drain pipe a little ways up the creek. We were kids. Kids who, if the sun was shining, were outside until the street lights came on because that was the way that it was.I seriously doubt Mom ever knew what we were doing and we rarely told her.

Who’s going to tell Mom about getting scratched by the raccoon she was playing with in the creek? Certainly not me. I could only imagine the trouble I would get into for that.

Are you going to admit that you literally rolled in poison ivy because your best friend and sister yelled and screamed at you to “STAY AWAY FROM THE POISON IVY!!” and you HAD to prove that you were immune. Randy never did even while scratching at literally his entire inflamed, itchy body.

Adventures behind the dead end sign, down the hill and in the creek were soon replaced with multiple other adventures because we moved…we moved a lot. A LOT…and because if the sun was shining (and sometimes not) outside was where we were until the street lights came on.

There were late night games in a local cemetery running from grave marker to grave marker, hiding and tagging one another.

Nobody tell that we snuck out after dark.

Oh those endless hikes up and down Robinson Road, which as children seemed huge as a child but not so much when I drove there the last time I visited back home. We chased cows in a nearby cow pasture and played in yet another creek…that also had a giant drain pipe emptying into it. Closer to home there was the trash barrel where the trash was burned and where we often played the Will It Burn? game because we had to try and discover what will burn and what will not.

Trees to climb.

Electrified fences to touch.

Circuses to perform complete with a high wire act on the clothes line in the backyard.

Open fields to run through as thunderstorms rolled in.

And so much more.

As children it was all so much fun…but sometimes not. I used to hide my books outside because sometimes I just wanted to sit and read…even if the sun was still shining and it wasn’t time to come in and make dinner or go to the store a mile away walking alone along Route 22 to pick up cigs and milk and tampons for Mom.

Boy was I shocked when I found out what those tampons were for a few years later!

As an adult and a parent I can’t help but sometimes cringe just a little. Okay, cringe a lot…especially about what the hell was likely draining in those creeks we always ended up in and that raccoon.

Still we survived…no rabies for me!

Different times back then we say. Still I often channeled Mom myself chasing the kids outside to play and make happy adventures. My favorite visual is Abby sitting on the curb loudly boo-hooing because “Mommy MADE me go outside and play!”. Still my clowns made their own adventures because it was their childhood and their time, their neighborhood. No creeks or raccoons or cow pastures or highways to walk along to go spend their 50¢ allowance on a small bag filled with penny candy. They were different kids, with different parents, growing up in a different place in a different time.

Still it’s a wonder they survived some of their bigger misadventures…that I know about and DON’T know about. Blame it on the bad parenting. It’s a wonder the four of them have reached adulthood.

I wonder if Hollie thinks that as she watches her children embark on their own great outdoor adventures in a different time and a different place?

Or perhaps she might better understand why mom would make them all go outside and play.

the sunshine peeking through the dark


The world continues to turn, life goes on even when you find yourself stuck in the muck and mire of depression and anxiety…which I have to say only adds to the isolation, loathing and fear, yes, fear.

August has been a month of suckage personally and globally, hasn’t it? Someone I know suggested perhaps someone should unplug August, wait a minute or two and plug it back in. Who knows? It just might work.

But in the midst of the fear, turmoil and shit-fuckery in and around our world right now there has been some good things too. We should try to focus on those things…with all our might. I know that I am…with all my might.

In perhaps one of my blackest of black moments yesterday I received the kindest comment from someone I know thanks to our children. She wrote:

The dark periods are always tough. Feels like the sun will never come out again. But it will. Hang in there and know that you are loved and appreciated. Have I told you how much I enjoy your blog? Even when you write about the rough times I somehow find it encouraging and inspiring. Maybe that’s the point. You write even when what you are writing is hard. I think that is the sunshine peeking through the dark.

And then I cried. Rest assured, friend, they were happy tears. These words came at just the right time, thank goodness. So did the call that I have an appointment in three weeks….yes, three weeks because that is how awesome and easily accessible mental health care is here in the Central Valley. We’ll muddle on that another time. We’re focusing on the sunshine peeking through right now. Truthfully, getting the appointment was another bit of encouragement and whisper in my head to just keep on hanging on because we will get through this. And so hang on I do.

I even smiled just a little because of this:

My little sister, who is taller than me, is ENGAGED!!! Even better, for the first time ever, I get to be a bridesmaid. 53 (my age when she and Matt will be wed) is most certainly NOT too old to be a bridesmaid! I’m kind of excited. Of course I’m excited for Ange because that smile of hers says it all. But I have to also say that I am excited to finally be a bridesmaid. No more Wedding Singer or Guestbook Girl for me…Kim Robbie, do you remember the conversation we had  some time ago with Jacquie Henry about “Guestbook Girl“? For those who might not know, Guestbook Girl is the job the bride gives to someone she is friends with or close to…but not THAT close to. Of course we concluded then that it was good to be Guestbook Girl…for so many reasons. But today, right now, I am pretty happy and more than honored to be one of my sister’s bridesmaids especially because the colors she has chosen are perfect for me.

And then today this:

Oh yeah.

The nanny-boo-boo haters may hate on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge because they seem to have so much time to spend putting down something good happening right now rather than maybe all the crazy, shit-tastic things happening in the news right now but I still accepted the challenge put out there by Christy.

Ice cubes inside your underwear, so not good. But this, this was good.

But just in case one wonders if something like this viral giving movement that has raised to date over 31 million dollars since July 31 is really a good thing, check out THIS ice bucket challenge…watch the whole video too.

Oh and if you have yet to be challenged, I challenge you…yes, you. Do it and be sure to give if you can too. If you accept my challenge…you have 24 hours…please leave a comment so I can share with you the sunshine that having icy cold water dumped on you and giving brings.

surrounded yet alone as the world goes on


I’m still here. Don’t be afraid. I promise I’m here and hanging on…barely, but hanging on. And meanwhile, the world does go on as it should…even when it seems to be a big shit storm happening like it has this past week in the news.

I forced myself to go to a small gathering the other day and pretty much as soon as I got there I thought to myself that it was a big mistake. It’s was not because of anything or anyone there. Not at all. It was me. It was the oppressive black cloud that lately has become all the more dark and oppressive in my heart and my mind. Sitting there surrounded by acquaintances, celebrating good things, I forced a smile on my face and the occasional laugh while thinking the whole time of that quote from World’s Greatest Dad that everyone is sharing all over social media because Robin Williams and depression and suicide.

I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.
~Robin Williams as Lance Clayton in World’s Greatest Dad

My life, my world, my reality, my story right now. There’s so much more going on in the world around me that I should be worried about, that I should care about, that I should want to try to understand and to change:

  • The “serious” homeless problem in Manteca especially the scourge in Library Park…yes, the same Library Park where the homeless actually helped Abby and her friend to clean up in and around the gazebo before Hollie and Ben were married there four years ago.
  • The fact that there isn’t a homeless problem in the town of Ripon, just 7 miles south of us if I am to believe a local reporter’s opinion. Never mind there isn’t a problem because those who are homeless know that the police will pretty much chase them out… I learned that the last time my brother, the one who is homeless, visited here. It was amazing how he knew through “networking” where one could go and where one should never go…courtesies or no.. Ripon was on the don’t go there list.
  • Two recent drive-by shootings, one in the middle of the day literally in front of a friend’s home in the “good” part of our city and police won’t comment on whether or not they are gang-related or even related to each other.
  • Michael Brown and Ferguson and the police and race relations and who is affected and who is not and white privilege.

Don’t forget Gaza and the Ukraine and the Ebola outbreak…

Is it any wonder no one else is as depressed and nearly panicked as I am right now?

The homeless problem here in Manteca is indeed a real thing. It’s real pretty much everywhere else…except Ripon. I’m not so sure if it as serious as what I have witnessed in San Francisco or San Jose or Chicago or New York. I do know that there seems to be a lot of assumptions made…drugs, crime, danger to us good citizens who have a roof over our heads and no longer feel comfortable to use the restroom in Library Park or walk along the Tidewater Bikeway or hang out at the Historical Plaza at Spreckels Park. Some of that is real but then I recall the 5 homeless men who offered to my daughter and friend to pick up in and around the gazebo and then remained sitting quietly in the background as witnesses while we celebrated Hollie and Ben’s wedding. I think of my brother and his friends who regarded their lifestyle as adventure traveling from job to job, town to town, state to state. Listening to friends discuss how serious this is here in Manteca and how awful they all are in plain site, I can’t help but think this is a problem that won’t be solved anytime soon especially with this perspective.

The same is probably true with regards to Ferguson. I tried to follow the story this week when I had the energy beyond just getting up. I’ll be honest, I don’t understand. How can I really? I am a white woman raised in a white privileged world…yes even growing up on Food Stamps and Welfare living in a single wide in a trashy trailer park I still enjoyed a certain amount of white privilege. I can try to sympathize with what has been happening in Missouri this week but I won’t understand. It’s not my world. It’s not my reality…just as being homeless is not. That point was driven home in a big way this morning reading what a friend shared on Facebook of his experiences 30 years ago as a young, educated, hard-working BLACK man being pulled over while driving his nice car TWELVE times and handcuffed SIX times with no probable cause. Being the positive, thoughtful man that he is, he continued to share that he would like to think that things have improved over the years but it hasn’t…perhaps it is worse…perhaps it will get even more worse.

I just can not imagine.

Nor can I understand the way that this reality has affected brilliant people like Karen.

It’s all part of this “burden” of white privilege that really isn’t a burden for me or my daughters or my son unless I don’t school myself and my family about it and its reality that is our reality and not the reality of people of color in the ghetto and in the “good” neighborhoods. We must become aware of how racial privilege and our unconscious bias perpetuates a system of injustice. No, I don’t pretend to understand completely now. I can’t imagine that I ever will because I am not a black man or a black woman or a woman who has given birth to a mixed race baby or a mother raising a black child. But I do know that my eyes were opened a little bit more and I listened a little bit harder.

boom, boom, boom, even brighter than the moon, ‘murica and all that sh!t


I really don’t care what you all might think but I hate the 4th of July.

Sorry.

No, not sorry.

I miss my brother. Today is his birthday. He should be here. But he’s not. Yeah, it’s been ten years, I know.

Whatever.

Grief is weird like that. It changes shape, but it never ends. Birthdays are hard. Birthdays are real hard. You bury your brother much too young then maybe you’ll understand. On second thought, I hope that you never do understand.

Thank goodness for my circus. They might not totally get the tears, the melancholy I feel when everyone else is waving the flags at the parades or boating and drinking or barbeque-ing or the blowing up fireworks because it’s ‘murica. But they do love me. They do care. That’s for real. We all should be so lucky to be surrounded like I was today…even when I was alone, sitting in my car at the car wash crying. I had this to come home to.

‘murica!

When I look to the sky something tells me you’re here with me
And you make everything alright
And when I feel like I’m lost something tells me you’re here with me
And I can always find my way when you are here

 

this time on my own terms


I have to confess that as much as I LOVE holidays, I kind of hate them too. They almost never fail to disappoint. Such is the life of a survivor I guess. No matter how scary, no matter how toxic, I have always held out hope that Christmas, birthdays, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Independence Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Arbor Day, ‘Any” Day would be warm and love-filled and absolutely, most definitely toxic drama free. That hope beat with my heart through my childhood and went on limping into my adult life. Yeah, but “hope in reality is the worst of evils because it prolongs the torments of man”. Thank you Nietzsche! You so totally rock…and suck just a little bit.

Still I remained ever the optimist with hope in my stomped upon heart because I am what I am and I continue to be so in spite every single drama-trauma that is often holidays in my life.

You gotta have hope, right?

But as Mother’s Day approached bitterness seeped in. Why hope for all the things everyone brags about every holiday on Facebook: being surrounded by the kids and their spouses and all the grand babies, showered with gifts galore which must all be shared on Instagram, the blowing of the bubbles, the kite flyings, the brunches on the beach, the surprise parties, the barbecues and on and on and on. Why wish for these things? Why hope that you would be invited and included when you know it won’t happen?

Fucking Nietzsche!

Reading Annie Lamott’s essay again certainly helped to add to the bitterness.

Dang!

Right?!

I can see some of the points Lamott makes. I mean, for me at least, it seems that holidays that are important to me have become a chore for others; as in oh geez, we better do something for mom or the wife here or she’ll be mad and when mom ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy…The last couple important holidays to me have felt exactly like that. Maybe that’s how they really were or maybe they were but a part of my own imagination. Still the last thing I wanted was a forced celebration because we have to kind of thing.

Then Bill’s grandmother passed away. And Mother’s Day was but two days away. And all I could think about was Bill’s mom, Hazel’s daughter, without her mother for the first time. And Mother’s Day was coming. And I was soured by the whole idea of this is my day. And…and… Saturday night I insisted Bill go be with his mother.

Sunday morning there were roses, waffles and mimosas and bacon…yes, bacon…a lovely hand-made card from my beautiful son, small gifts that are so me from some of my girls, bear hugs and sloppy kisses from my grandbabies, FaceTime from my daughter living in LA followed by an afternoon of mimosas and chick flicks while my darling husband was in Santa Cruz with his mother. There was even a text from my brother, yes, that brother, with Mother’s Day wishes and gratitude for me taking care of him when we were little. Dinner came later than usual after Bill came home with a delicious salad, roasted rosemary potatoes and a dirty martini prepared by me and a perfect medium-rare steak grilled to perfection by my darling husband.

Mother’s Day celebrated, celebrated mostly on my terms. No tears. No pain. No suffering. No drama. No trauma.

Mother’s Day on my terms.