Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Done List

Had so many things crossed off the To Do list, had to start a whole new list. Problem. Didn't just sit with that crossed off list and kiss the ground I walk on. I impetuously (we're not going to call it "compulsively") got out the paper and made a fresh list.

So, because not enough has been made of what I've been able to do this summer in between endless trips for snow cones, frozen yogurt, glazed donuts and talking/waiting/holding life in a freezing pattern about the ice cream truck, I decided to make a DONE! list. Read it and weep:

1. Cleaned the garage

2. Cleaned the outside toy box

3. Re-organized the whole garbage/recycling system at our house, and replaced in newly cleaned garage

4. Purged and re-organized the pantry

5. Went through all drawers/cupboards in the kitchen and sorted, purged and re-organized. Now I have an empty cupboard (it's tiny, but still...) and an empty drawer. Makes me happy every time I open them and see nothing in there.

6. Filled my car three times and hauled everything to Goodwill. The man's name that helps me there is Solomon. Say it with me, NO ACCIDENTS!

7. Filled my car innumerable times and went to the recycling center.

8. Filled my whole car with old and rusted shut paint cans and took them to the hazardous waste site. Guy that helped me saw the sticker on my car with the name of my kids' school and his wife works there. Totally know her. Say it with me...

9. Found a stack of old e-mails that will help my cousin write her memoir. Not only found them, but sent them to her. She was excited. I was more excited.

10. Cleaned my medicine cupboard. Praised God we don't need 1/2 the stuff in there we at one point needed.

11. Cleaned the attic crawl space and made it a place for luggage. Either need to start going places or purge the luggage, too.

12. Got rid of everything that Rojo doesn't use or doesn't fit him anymore. Took all the faded, tattered posters off his wall and hung up crosses, framed collages and his Baptismal gown, instead. A holy person should live in a holy room, don't you think?

13. The minute Woohoo left for three weeks in June, I hyper-organized her room. Instead of being mad I touched her stuff, she was grateful for the big head start, and has managed to sort of keep it that way.

14. Got rid of most of the clothes that don't fit me. If I got rid of everything that doesn't properly fit, I'd have five things to wear.

15. Got out all the artwork with broken glass, removed (and recycled) it, then reworked some frames/glass/art and re-hung in different places.

16. Weeded the yard within an inch of its life and then sort of kept it up the rest of the summer.

17. Built myself three new Target cabinets for our bathroom and hauled the nasty ones away.

And, tomorrow I will haul two giant tubs of paper that needs to be shredded to my local UPS. Was already planning on going to that UPS to make a return ANYWAY, then with a few clicks of the computer learned that it is also a contracted shredding center. Say it with me!

 * Photo from

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Ever since I was told my book was "almost there," I haven't touched it. It is in a pile right next to my desk taunting me, but nothing about it beckons me. Quite the opposite. Instead I am knee deep into a complete purging of all the extra stuff in my house. No drawer is safe. No closet. No nook. No cranny. Today I will go drop off two large shelves worth of old paint at the hazardous waste site, wash those shelves like there's no tomorrow, and be blissed out as I put freshly reorganized totes in their place.

All the while I sort, toss, haul, and wipe, I am listening to soothing music and lost in my thoughts. It's a good lost. It's actually, the best kind of lost. It's a mindlessness kind of thinking, much more like meditation than anything else. And as I go through old things, I see that I am truly done with them, and that is healing. Done with taxes that go back to 1999. Done with different phases and eras of my life I don't care ever to go back to. Done with projects I thought I'd finish but have freed myself from ever needing to. Done with some of the boxes that hold hard times, too: all the paperwork that went with my father's death. All the different information on therapies we tried or considered trying. All the ventures I toyed with that didn't pan out.


It's time to make my house, and especially the basement, no longer a graveyard. No longer a place where things that are over, are stored forever. Keepsakes need to move. Junk needs to move. The energy needs to move.

What I am finding as more goes out the door, is that new reservoirs of my own energy and creativity are freed up, too. I am no longer considering the purging to be writing avoidance, but pre-writing. A necessary step towards being in a place where I can allow more in, because I released a bunch. It's really recycling, if you will, a recycling of energy.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Each of Each

You will be as surprised to hear this, as I was to feel it, but I'm actually not that excited for school to start next week. I am excited, but I'm lots of other things, too. Nervous. Anxious. Sad. Reflective. Nostalgic. You-name-it. Rojo will start in a program I worked years to help create. I vacillate between, "Yea! Finally!" to "OMG, I hope they aren't sorry! This is a lot of responsibility! I sold them a bill of goods!"

Then there's the fact that Woohoo starts her senior year of high school, and this will be the one and only year they'll be together there. While doing some preliminary clearing in the basement, I found the scrapbook I made of her K-8 years. (It is the one and only scrapbook I've ever in my life made.) It's true what they say, the years fly by. Soon she will be out the door and on to college, and life under our roof will never look the same for her, for us, forever.

As rough as this summer began, it has ended up being lovely. Rojo has gained so much independence and maturity, he needs me a fraction of what he started out needing, which is to say, a round-the-clock playmate/entertainer/driver/etc. He gives me several breaks a day and if the weather stayed lovely and he could "work" four hours a day and spend the rest at the dog park, he'd be happy, and so would I. It makes me think of all kinds of jobs that would be perfect for him after high school, and realize I don't need him to be gone all day every day, just consistently so we both have routine and breathers.

I asked him this weekend how he was feeling about high school. "Are you excited? Are you scared?"

"Each of both," he said.

My friend Terry has a family expression, "Each of each." When asked, "Do you want ice cream or pie?" and the answer is you would really go for a little of both, the answer to such (silly) questions is, "Each of each." I've been thinking a lot about that expression and Rojo's new Rojo-ism, "each of both," and thinking just how apt they are. It's not one or the other. It's not even simply "both." It's each of both, each of each.

 * Photo from

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ride 'er 'til She Bucks Ya

My on fire streak lasted four days. Cleaned the hall closet top to bottom. Cleaned the pantry - put like with like, what a concept. Cleaned the laundry room. Filled my car and went to Goodwill, did the same thing the next day. Made a dent in the basement (am giving myself all year to plug away on that purging project), but did get some of the chaos under control.

Went to bed last night feeling like, "Wow! My life is so manageable! I can totally do this! Look! I can run the show, get everyone where they need to be, and tend to more than the superficial cleaning of this home! I have it all figured out!"

But then today I woke up and the streak was clearly over. Whatever it was that was working, was not. Back to the spinning of the wheels. Back to the never stop moving but never get anything done routine that I know so well. Back to "normal."

At least now I know a streak is possible, it's not predictable, you can't put it on your calendar and plan for it. You just have to strike while the iron is hot (the latest expression I taught Rojo). You have to ride that bull until she bucks 'ya.

Then get back up and do what you can to hang on.

* Photo from

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Love it When that Happens

Know how most of the time it feels like you're swimming upstream? Spinning your wheels? Banging your head against the wall? Everything takes twice as long as it should and is needlessly frustrating and complicated? Just me?

Know how every once in awhile you have a day where the opposite is true? The stars line up and everything just clicks along? Had one of those blue moon days yesterday. Thought I had a day to dread: mammogram, LensCrafters, a whole list of Must Dos that I was not looking forward to.

Got to my mammogram early, they got me in early, whole process took just a few minutes and was as painless and simple as that procedure is capable of being. Arrived home with time I hadn't counted on, so took Rojo's bike into be fixed. When I asked if the three things I needed could all be done that day, they gave me the, "We'll see what we can do," answer with the not-bloody-likely look. They called an hour later and were done. $49.95 total, parts and labor, and his bike is good as new. Plus he has a rockin' kick stand now.

When we'd taken a recent day trip to the beach, I'd tossed Rojo's glasses in the beach bag when he needed his sunglasses. Scratched the hell out of them. I (briefly) considered making him look through (badly) scratched lenses as opposed to my having to deal with a trip to LensCrafters and spend another $200 replacing the lenses we just got in March.

Got to LensCrafters and they asked if I'd happened to buy the Protection Plan when I got the glasses. Rang a bell. Turns out that yes, I did buy the plan (love when I surprise myself with my own foresight).  "Well, then, that will only be $25 to replace them, not $199 like it would be without the plan."

"Yea!" I said.

The kind woman punched in a bunch of numbers and soon the computer screen we were both looking at said, "Balance Due: -$17.50."

"Does that mean I have a credit of $17.50?" I asked.

"That's weird," the woman said, "I've never seen that before. Let me call my manager."

She did just that, and yes, as a matter of fact, LensCrafters owed me $17.50 to get new lenses.

Still don't know how that is possible, but took the money and ran.

Now Rojo is stylin' in his scratch-free lenses, I am $17.50 richer, and have a renewed sense that life doesn't have to be as hard as I make it out to be, if only I allow that to be true.

Loving People with Less

A friend of mine just started a new blog that I want to point you towards, Loving People with Less.

I think you'll be inspired!

love. * Photo from

Friday, August 19, 2011

An Interview with Michelle O'Neil

Those of you that read this blog know I love. Michelle O'Neil. I love Michelle and everything about Michelle. She is my human. I don't have heros, I have certain humans that I wholly admire for their amazing ability to be human. She is a shining example of such a human. She is a wonderful wife, mother, friend and writer. Her writing speaks to me in a way few other writer's words do.

I have had the privilege of journeying through with Michelle on her memoir-writing path since 2006. I even got to read a much earlier draft of this book, which has come so far and is such an example of what stick-to-it-iveness and skill can do!

Friends, I bring you an interview with writer Michelle O'Neil:

1) Why did you decide to write your story as memoir?

I played with the idea of fictionalizing it, but no matter how I tried, it just didn't feel right. One of the themes running through Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar was this fear of being found out, and trying to hide. Having to pretend what was happening in our home wasn't really happening. Shame. I think writing and publishing my story as fiction felt like more hiding. Hiding is no longer tolerable to me.

2) How did you know what the framework would be?

Initially, I wrote a really long, everything but the kitchen sink, get it all out version, (you now Carrie, you read it…poor thing) and then spent a very long time whittling away at it. As I was writing, I would remember songs, TV shows, fashion trends and memories came flooding back along with the scenes. I had tons of material.  

3) How did you decide which episodes to include, and which ones to exclude?

Once I figured out what my point really was, it was easy. My point, was to cultivate empathy for kids growing up in dysfunctional homes. To humanize them. Not to feel sorry for them, per se, because there is a tenacity there, but to open up what might be going on for them, their rich inner worlds, so they might not be written off by teachers and other adults in their communities. Small actions on the part of healthy adults had a profound impact on the trajectory of my life. I wanted people to know it doesn't take much to profoundly help a kid from a troubled home. Sometimes just inviting them over for a meal can teach them skills which will serve them well.

So once I was clear on that, it was easy to figure out what to keep. Not necessarily easy to cut, because you get attached to your scenes but you've got to do it!

4) How is your family reacting to the publication?

For a very long time in our family, I believe I was seen as "overdramatic" for taking a hard stance against my father. He was not invited to my wedding, we were estranged, etc. Reading my book has helped others in my family better understand the reasons for my decisions around him. My sister was often out of the house and did not experience as much of our father's dysfunction as I did. She was off living an adult life while I was still in the thick of it. And there was a lot she had just blocked out. My brother, being a boy, had a completely different experience. Both are dealing with our father in their own way right now, but I feel loved and supported by them. 

My mother has always been very supportive of my writing and doing whatever it is I need to facilitate my own healing. She is not sure she's ever going to read Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar, and I support her decision not to, if that's what she chooses.  

My young brothers are from a different time period, a different world! I'm not sure the story even interests them that much and as of yet, I don't think they've read it.  

5) When will you have your kids read it, if ever?

For a long time, I didn't even let my husband read my manuscript. I had this fear it would be too painful for my loved ones to bear. The thought of my children one day reading it paralyzed me and made me unsure about  going forward with it. Children of dysfunction often feel they are "too much" or a burden.

Something shifted when I talked with a therapist about it. She assured me my husband was a grown man, and he could take it, and sharing my story was important for our relationship. She was right.

I feel certain my children will one day read it, (we've agreed to revisit the issue when each is at least fifteen) and I'm confident they will not be devastated by it, but proud of their mom, for breaking the cycle so they might lead happy healthy lives. 

6) What has surprised you from the whole process?

With technology today, it is much easier than I thought it would be to independently publish. Gone are the days of having to order a thousand hard copies to sit in your garage and mock you. With print on demand there is very little upfront cost. Of course if you don't want your book to suck you should invest in good editors.

7) What would be your advice to someone just starting to write memoir?

Have a writing practice. Make time every day to write (or almost every day). Write everything. Especially that scene you'd rather not. Eat good food and drink pure water, and sleep. And step away from the computer and exercise. If you are just starting, just write. Don't worry if it is good. Don't share it with many people while it's new and tender. Go to writing workshops and find friends like Carrie Wilson Link, Jenny Rough and Courtney Sheinmel to have in your corner. Seriously.

8) What do you know now, that you wished you'd known then?

I know now, that my writing, whether brilliant or sucky, does not determine my value as a person. If I'd really known that in the beginning, I'd have taken myself less seriously and had a lot more fun. While I am always learning and striving to be a better writer, life is supposed to be fun.

Thanks so much, Carrie!


Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar is available in paperback on Amazon or in ebook form on Smashwords

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

With Ease

Night number two of the reunion was super fun, too. Got to talk to some of the people I didn't the night before, and go a little deeper with those that I had. Really nice.

There were unexpected connections, small world stories, then just before I was leaving (after being there six hours), someone came up to me and said, "Oh, you're leaving, darn, I really wanted to talk to you." So, of course I stayed another half hour and was glad I did. He said, "I just wanted to tell you how much I liked your dad. I had him as a business law teacher, and now I'm a lawyer practicing business law."

On the way down to Eugene I stopped and saw really old family friends, spent a couple hours with my "twin" (born on the same day), her older sister and elderly parents. They knew my parents before they were married - knew my dad before he was even dating my mom. Both my twin and I have dad's with the same name, born four days apart. More than a coincidence, don't you think?

These two experiences book ending my weekend were nice extras. Wasn't expecting to go to my reunion and get stories about my dad that made me smile, made me soften, made me know him and appreciate him in a way I don't always.

Then, right before my two buddies and I parted for the weekend, one of them told us about her time with an intuitive healer. The woman asked if she'd been using a belt sander. As a matter of fact, yes, she had. The healer said, "Did you sand with ease?" As a matter of fact, no, she had not. "Do everything with ease. No matter what you're doing, cooking, sanding, laundry, talking, resting, washing dishes, driving, do it all with ease. Say to yourself, 'I am cooking with ease.' Add 'At ease' to the end of everything.

Like that better than "mindfulness" or "with presence." So, I said goodbye to my friends with ease. I drove home (in lots of traffic) with ease. I greeted my family, took Rojo out for frozen yogurt, and didn't unpack until today. With ease.

All day today I've found myself narrating what I'm doing. "I'm going to Trader Joe's with ease." "I'm parking with ease." "I'm putting things away with ease," etc.

And so I offer those helpful words to you, with ease.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Reunited, and It Feels So Good

Having a ball at my 30th high school reunion. Last night a bunch of us (30?) gathered at a bar that we had virtually to ourselves, outdoor seating, and enjoyed a lovely summer evening getting caught up on each other.

In just a few minutes my two high school buddies and I are meeting to do it all again tonight - this time at a restaurant, with appetizers, dinner, the whole 9-yards.

Something so neat (and slightly weird) about being in a group where everyone is exactly the same age. Only time that happens anymore, and that is only every ten years. School is like that, isn't it? We put kids into homogenous groupings according to age, and then we break it further down into abilities, interest, college bound-ness, and the like. I was in education for years, I get it. But life is kind of like that, too, much as we may spend large amounts of time with a wide-variety of people, we tend to group ourselves according to what we have in common - our shared interests, skills and lives.

The great thing about a 30th reunion, is that everyone is so over themselves. We were all commenting on how much more fun it was than the 10-year, where we all had our heads up our you-know-where, thinking we were it on a stick with all our 28-year-old know-everything-ness.

Twenty years later we've all been humbled. We now know how little we know about most things, and what we do know, we know. And don't need a committee to agree. We are comfortable with our knowing and unknowing in a way that only a few hard knocks can provide. Nobody gets to 48 unscathed. Some might present as though they did, but if you talk to them for more than five minutes, you quickly learn that is simply not the case.

STM's advice to me before I packed up the CR-V and drove the two-hours south, was simply this: "Everyone wants everyone else to be happy and well. That's all we want for each other at this point. And to be at peace."


 * Photo from

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Kathleen is 50 today! Happy birthday, Kathleen! Does she, or does she not, make 50 look HOT? I know! C'mon, could she be any more beautiful? And that's just her outside!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and this one certainly is. There she is right behind me, gentle hand on the shoulder. Guiding. Listening. Being present. Loving. We're starting our lucky thirteenth year of walking/talking/living side-by-side.

If we are judged by the company we keep, please, judge me! If I am but a fraction of the "company" that she is, I'll be happy!

Let us all raise our glass to friends that keep us sane. Friends that never say, "I know, you already told me that." Friends that forgive. Friends that root and cheer and champion our dreams. Friends that help raise our children. Friends that are friends with our other friends. Friends that don't believe in scarcity. Friends that make sense of the nonsense and add joy to the joyous!

Love, love, LOVE!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Passed Up

It's official: I am the shortest one in the family. Just in the last week Rojo has passed me up, not by much, but enough. Considering that he is STM, Jr. in a million different ways, I'm sure he'll eventually be way, way taller than me.

Growing taller is not the only thing that Rojo's been doing this summer. I cannot believe the difference in him even since his birthday just less than a month ago. He is more responsible. He is more independent. He has better behavior. He is extra thoughtful and has good manners, especially when texting.

Yesterday he texted from the school to say he was going up to the neighborhood grocery store. "Do you need anything?" he asked. "I'll be back in 15 minutes. Love you. Bye." Actually, it's all in caps when he texts, just like when he types and prints, and come to think of it, speaks. He's an all caps type of person.

Our behavioral/developmental pediatrician has been after me for months, to get him to go up to that store just a few blocks away, get whatever is on a short list, and come back. Yesterday he initiated the whole thing all on his own. There's a lesson in there somewhere.

Not only am I now looking up to him, I am really looking up to him.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Age of Wisdom

Woohoo is getting all four wisdom teeth out tomorrow. Long story short, we went to a dentist and two oral surgeons before deciding to move forward. She will have major drugs and the whole thing will be over in less than an hour. We won't even go there with the out-of-pocket cost (no dental insurance) and why it's fine for some people to charge $2,000 an hour. Believe me, I've gone there, and it's a black hole. So, instead of a family vacation, she gets her wisdom teeth out. Could be worse. Could be a lot worse. Could be unimaginably worse.

Was reading up on the procedure and all the things we need to know for the days following. Turns out the third set of molars are nicknamed wisdom teeth because they usually develop in late adolescents - the age of wisdom.

Trying to remember that Woohoo is indeed in late adolescents. She is balanced. Hard working - been working 30-hours/week all summer and making good choices with her time off. No complaints.

Still. If it were up to me, she'd already have her two books read that she needs to have read by September 6th, ("But Mom, that's like a whole month from now.") She'd have her "common ap." sketched out for college. She'd have a rough draft of her personal essay. She'd have a master list of colleges and their respective admission deadlines and criteria. She'd be registered for the ACTs and SATs. She'd be boning up on the books I bought her for that very reason.

In essence, she'd be an anxious wreck.

But she's not. She's chill. She's full of laughter. She's got nice friends and they do fun/safe/appropriate things together. "Mom, I'm not there yet. I'll get there," she says when my own anxiety can't be suppressed another minute.

I have to remember that her road to college is not mine. She will end up where she ends up because that's where she needs and wants to end up. It will be fine. It will be better than fine. It might not be what I would have chosen for her, but this is but one of many future such crossroads.

Indeed, she is ready. She knows herself. She always does what needs to be done.

And she is wise.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

What Kind of Mother...

Ever since Rojo turned 15 and got a cell phone, he's discovered a whole new independence. Kathleen also gave him a bike no one was using at their house, and of course he did his usual buck-buck-buck-embrace dance he always does, just like he did with the cell phone.

"I don't want a cell phone. I don't want to learn to text."

"I don't want a new bike. I will ride my old bike. I am not getting a new bike."

Blah, blah, blah and so it went for months until we slowly but surely won him over. Now he's a boy on a bike with a cell phone ALL the time. At times he's a naughty boy texting WHILE riding his bike, but he knows the wrath that shall be upon him if he's caught one more time doing that.

He has taken to riding over to the nearby school several times a day and seeing who's there. Sometimes there are friends, usually there are strangers, whom, to Rojo, are simply friends he hasn't made yet. He is big on talking to all the people throwing the ball for their dogs to catch. Flicka must have had all that trained out of her, because she does not like to run after a ball more than once. Rojo could throw it a hundred times and has discovered the joys of a Chuckit. He's become something of a regular, and can tell you everyone's name, their dog's name, which dogs are good and which ones are rambunctious, which ones listen to his commands and which ones need him to "train" them.

Some of the people he talks to over there I know, too. Some, I do not. There was a day I would have had lots of judgment about a mom that sends her special needs child out on his own, to do whatever it is he is doing. There may be some of that going on - probably is. And here's the thing: I no longer care (too much).

I'll tell you what kind of mother lets her now 15-year-old special needs son "wander" the neighborhood. One that is three doors down. One that comes by often to observe. One that has her cell phone attached to her at all times. One that trusts her son has guardian angels. One that believes in the goodness of her community. One that believes in the goodness of most humans. One that believes her son is an excellent judge of character. One that is ready to let him spread his wings just a little bit. One that is tired of being with him every second of every day.

That's who.


Driving a car without brakes--stopping the card Fred Flintstone style, new year at college with new roommates, a house so filled-to-over-flo...