Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A simple, happy life

This may be the happiest I've ever been.

I feel like I've finally settled into myself...into the Life I Was Meant To Have.

I can stop--probably for the first time ever--truly stop and collect myself. Stop the noise in my head, when I need to.  Stop the frantic-ness that can be Me.

I have created this day-to-day life where I am outside a lot. In a bathing suit. Barefoot.

My yard is filled with palm trees constantly threatening to drop concussion-inducing coconuts. I fall asleep on especially windy nights to palm fronds hitting, swishing, lulling.

My boys are almost always sun-kissed--their long manes lightening with the sun. Vitamin D, this family is certainly not lacking.

I listen to country music now--a lot. I find it soothing and it makes me smile.

My back patio double doors are often open.

I do yoga and I meditate on pavers warmed by Saturday morning sun, overlooking the turquoise water of a pool that is quite worn--everything but fancy.

We know our RV is always sitting in the yard--an escape, freedom--available any time.

I have good, good people in my life.  A full house on New Year's Eve (after thinking "no one is coming...we are living too far East now") with family and friends and kids, dancing The Wobble in hysterics, singing every Florida Georgia Line chorus, dancing merengue to the songs of my childhood.

I am happy in my own skin--in spite of its weathered, far-from-young-and-smooth surface.

I am married to a man who, even after nearly 15 years, I can't believe I was actually lucky enough to find and coerce into attempting to put up with me.

I live in a cozy little house--with walls the color of that pool water and shelves made from driftwood we found on beaches and collected through the years.

Yes, I've been lucky. But I've made choices. I've taken chances. I've trusted. I've dared.
And this--this is the happiest I've ever been.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Why your soulmate has got to be yourself - Throwback Thursday

When I got divorced at the ripe old age of 25 and moved into my first-ever apartment of my own, I put up a poem on the back of my bedroom door. That door eventually morphed into a sort of inspiration board. I taped torn out quotes and pictures and images that were meant to inspire me. What they did at the time, actually, was help me get through a really rough, disorienting stage of my life. Sixteen years and 3 different homes later, my messy back-of-a-door pseudo board is now a real bulletin board with completely different clippings and quotes and even purpose. Luckily, my board now just makes me happy and reminds me of moments and thoughts and a little bit of who I am. The only thing that remains is still that poem.

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

~Derek Walcott

Now, it's more of a reminder of the stranger I was to myself, and the "elation" and gratitude I feel still today at being able to "feast on" on my own life. But back then, here's the story behind the poem:

Why Your Soulmate Has Got To Be Yourself
*Originally posted here on April 12, 2013

I tore that poem out of the back of an Oprah magazine so many years ago, that I can barely remember. I laminated it and taped it up to my bedroom door, right next to my full length mirror. I didn't particularly reread it often; it just kinda stuck there. Every once in a while, I would read the lines: "The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door...". 

When I moved out of that little apartment, the only place I ever lived in by myself, during the most difficult time in my life, I carefully peeled back the tape's edges, packed it up along with some race numbers and quotes that had joined it on what had become my Inspiration Door (if you will), and took it with me.

The poem, once again, was carefully taped back up in my new home: the starter home I was now sharing with The Love of My Life. I was happy. I was fulfilled. Yet, the poem went back up. I didn't read those lines so often anymore, but I couldn't part with them. They needed to be there.

After a few years, one child, more joy, I untaped the laminated page once again, and packed it up to my Corner Lot Home in Suburbia (how the hell did that happen?!?) with my  Still Love of My Life, and up the poem went.

Those words, with me, for so long.

I barely remember the girl who needed the reminder...the girl who I used to be.

So very long ago, I would not have greeted myself at the door. I certainly would not have invited myself to sit and eat and drink.  I'm not really sure why. I just know that I couldn't own up to who I was. I couldn't really be proud of myself because I was too busy worrying about who other people thought I should be.

At some point, when the shit started hitting the fan inside my head, when I could stand the self-imposed repression no longer, I started to break out, little by little. Eventually, my little acts of rebellion turned into full-fledged metaphorical kicking and screaming and clawing. I needed out of that cage. I needed to fly.

I'd love to say that when that moment came, I simply went. But I didn't. I was hesitant and unsure and unsteady. In general, I was a fucking mess. The few people who I was blessed enough to have at my side suffered right along with me. They stood by me. They listened. They advised. They nodded their heads. And, when necessary, they'd shove me out of the cage I would occasionally fly back into to cower.

As rough and tenuous and unstable as that time was, I remember I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Those were the days when I'd read those lines: "The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door" and I actually believed it. I  knew the time would come. I just wasn't there yet. So I'd hang onto that when I felt frustrated or low or dark or worthless.

What happens in our lives that we start to feel that way about ourselves? What combination of events have to happen that some of us get to the point where we do not smile at our reflection in the mirror...that we would rather sit and have wine and bread with anyone else but ourselves...that we look to someone else--a spouse, a boyfriend, a child--to fulfill us, to make us feel whole and worthwhile? We depend on someone else's acceptance because we can't find it for ourselves.

The poem is still there, but I almost never even notice it anymore. It's just one more slip of paper on my closet wall. And certainly, there are days that I don't like myself so much. That I question whether I did the right thing or said the right thing or looked the right way. I second-guess myself. For a moment, I wish I could be more like (fill-in-the-blank-here) or a little less like myself. But on most days, I am able to invite myself in, open a bottle of wine, and feast on my own life. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Little Miss Understood

Drawing credit: artprojectsforkids.org

sometimes I wonder
being misunderstood
and chronically
is actually a good thing

a sign
that you are
your own person

that it really does not
occur to you
that what you
or how you chose
to live your life
was not
The Way You Were Supposed To

if perhaps
instead of it
being a curse
or a burden
it is
in actuality
of light
that dances inside of you
all the time

you were born with it

and it is that light
that sometimes
Everyone Else

but that beam
is a lighthouse

it signals to the others
that are not Other


and it lights the way
as you stumble
second guessing
trying to
fit in
be more this
less that
definitely always much less that

that dancing guiding light
it is there
even when
you have to squint

no matter
how inconvenient
it is
to be
by so many
so often
is actually a good thing

This poem was inspired by a little fairy who walks around with a light so big inside of her, it's most definitely blinding (in the good way); but it's really about myself and everyone else who is just a little different and often misunderstood.

Monday, March 28, 2016


no one

is as happy

as We.

we have




we are always

on the same



the same things


the same priorities

at the end of the day

it is always

each other







amidst all the bullshit

that comes


every day


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

My sister HAD breast cancer (Or: Time to pop open the sangria)

This one has a happy ending.

Usually, I don't like to know what happens at the end. No spoilers. But this story...this one I prefer starting with the ending.

My sister battled breast cancer. And won.

I hate those terms, even as I write them: battled, won.

What does that mean? That the people who didn't end up with clean pet scans three years later didn't battle? Didn't fight? If she, God forbid, had not made it, would I have said she had lost?

The truth is, I suspect, that she was lucky. Or that it wasn't her time. Or it wasn't meant to be.

Whatever it was, whichever cancer cliches I choose to use to describe it all...the ending is a happy one.

On November 3, 2012, my sister had an elective double mastectomy. I sat in the waiting room, cross legged in a scratchy chair, trying to shut out my parents' terror and my brother-in-law's fear by writing about my own. I haven't reread that post, ever. I plan to when I'm done with this one, but I will force myself to wait until I hit the "publish" button here before I go there. I want this post to be a clean purge, one based on what I am feeling and thinking now, and what I have thought the last few days, and what I have learned from her cancer; not a post that is reminiscent and dramatic because of that one.

Today, my sister received the news that her full body pet scan--the one her oncologist said would serve as her "closure"--was clean. Three years after a diagnosis, what seemed like a million surgeries and complications, a bald head, plenty of follow-up blood tests with good news...the final test. Her closure. Supposedly, she is now just like one of us: her statistics are pretty much almost the same as mine. Maybe yours. Maybe the guy in the cubicle next to her. She is...what? Cured? Done? A survivor? Regular? I'm not sure what to label it, exactly, but I like when an oncologist tells my sister this is her closure. I like when they use a machine so powerful it can look right into her body and find any chance of cancer, and then tell her: Nope. You're good. 

A happy ending.

Her cancer changed her. That is for sure. But it changed all of us, I think. I know it changed me. It was like I had that post war shock thing: it vibrates inside of me harder now than it did then. Back then, I was all head-down-get-through-it-taking-care-of-business-matter-of-fact. But later, it was like I lifted my head and looked around, confused, dizzy, shaky, like: Holy fuck, what the fuck was that? My sister had fucking cancer. My sister had fucking chemo. My sister could have fucking died. 

The reality of it: that cancer had actually touched one of us...not like a story about someone at work, or a parent of a friend, or a third cousin, or my 80-year-old grandfather. No, this was real. This was my healthy, loud, always-looked-younger-than-her-age, not-even-fifty-years-old sister. This was one of Us.

It made illness, frailty, mortality all real.

I have always tried to live life Big. My husband and I, we don't wait around too much on things we really want to do. We don't wait for the weekend to have fun. I have always tried to see life as finite and urgent.

But this...This...this just made me see that way of thinking as a Necessity more than a Philosophy.

And even the way I see my sister has changed. When the shit truly hit the fan, she did what she had to do. When she had drains sticking out of her body for days, she'd call them her "balls" and swing them around and make jokes. When she admitted that losing her hair scared her more than anything else, she shaved it off. When she was done with the physical fight, she turned inward and made her Self truly happier. When she was told it was better to stop thinking about it, she got herself trained as a volunteer to help other women going through it. She has been brave and real during all of it.

When she was waiting for these results, I really truly believed they were going to be okay. Something inside of me told me she was done with this. She had come out of it on the other side.  Today, this chapter of her life is closed, as far as I'm concerned. She deserved her happy ending.

**Follow-up: So yeah, I went back. I read the post. And now? Well, let's just say I'm gonna drink a lot of fucking sangria on Sunday with my sister.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Routine Life: A (Poetic) Throwback

Routine. For me, it brings on
Dread and Calm. Resentment and Certainty.

Routine allows for Life to be

Still. Easy. Expected. Smooth. Contained. Controlled.

But along with routine, comes the

Boredom. Restlessness. Tedium. Complacency. Stagnancy. Depression.

Routine has become almost a requirement.

Without it, the day to day

Becomes unmanageable. I lose my grip.

And so, Life becomes a series

Of rushed timelines, deadlines, and bedtimes.

Within these tight constraints of Life

I've realized the necessity, the power

Of veering away. Defying the restrictions.

A spontaneous night with wine, conversation

Becomes almost like a rebellion against

What Life has required of Us.

An occasional alarm clock ignored becomes

A snub at responsibility and reality.

The routine, I've realized, is only

Effective when I'm willing to bend.

Break away, every now and then,

And remember what my Life is

And who I am without routine.

This poem was originally posted here on December 3, 2010

Monday, October 19, 2015

I think I might be a mermaid

"I don't know why I'm so happy today."
"Because you spent the last two days on the water." 

My husband had, as usual, pointed out the obvious. I hadn't even made the connection.

We spent the whole weekend on or near water. Saturday, we participated in (get this) a local cardboard boat race. We spent the morning at a marina, along with several other local families, building and decorating boats made out of nothing more than cardboard, duct tape, and lots of imagination. When it was our turn, I thought surely the boat we had constructed, The S.S. Ohana, would either buckle, tip over, or immediately sink.
But, nope...much to our surprise (and admittedly, glee), the Ohana stayed afloat as we paddled not one, but four laps, and won 1st place for Overall Design and 2nd place for People's Choice (I'm sure it didn't hurt that we had a small mob of friends and family cheering for us).
The boys lifted those trophies in the air with such pride, you would have thought they were Superbowl tropies. By the time we left, we were all sunburned, salty, and soaked.

Sunday we woke up early and spent the day on our friends' boat. I couldn't believe that in spite of being major beach bums and living near the water our whole lives, we had never spent the day on the water like that. Our friends must have thought we were pretty ridiculous: I took pictures as if I were a tourist on vacation, we oooohed and aaaaaahed at every sight, and the four of us couldn't stop grinning all day. At one point, we were speeding along the intracoastal ("Go fast! Go fast!" the boys would chant) and I was sitting up front. The wind was so strong, if I turned my head, my sunglasses would fly off. The boys were up on the bow, their long surfer dos blowing like lions' manes. Hubby was back by our friend, who was driving. One of my favorite Kenny Chesney songs was blaring. I looked back at Hubby, who flashed me a very satisfied grin, and the look on his face reflected exactly what I was feeling: pure, absolute joy.

It didn't matter that the skies were a little overcast or that the water at the sandbar where we docked to swim was a little chilly. All that mattered was that feeling: I wasn't worried about bills or cleaning the house or what I was going to cook for dinner that week. There was no room in my head for the silly and not-so-silly anxious thoughts that so often plague me (or should I say with which I plague myself?). They were all pushed out by the wind and the music and the feeling of being on the water.

I have always loved the ocean...the beach is where my soul is happiest. It's funny how I had this feeling of contentment last night and didn't initially realize it was because of how I had spent my weekend. Life is, even during the best of times, busy and hectic. It's easy to fill your weekends with errands, must-do's, home projects, and hours on the couch with mindless TV because you're too tired to do anything else. The days are long but life is short. And if you're not careful, you spend too much of it getting things done rather than really living. We measure the quality of our lives within the constraints of our achievements: promotions, raises, bigger houses, better cars, nicer landscaping, those last 5 pounds... But I'm pretty sure the greatest achievement is a life filled with as many moments like the ones I lived this weekend: playing, laughing, feeling free. I refilled my soul this weekend...
...with a little salt water.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Even the sweet ones will flip you the bird, apparently - Throwback Thursday

The boys are pretty good lately. They are (almost) easy. They are doing their homework (almost) without reminders. They don't fight (too much). They are even getting up for school (most days) without even one sleepy grumble. But going back and reading an old post like this one keeps me from feeling too smug... It's hard to believe that this deliciousness once shot me the bird, huh?

When Your Kid Flips You the Bird
This post was originally posted here on September 24, 2013
(I didn't even realize I wrote this EXACTLY 2 years today until I went back just now!)

Isn't it ironic?

That's what Alanis said, right? Yeah, life's like that sometimes.

It was just last night, for example, that I reread an old blog post entitled "Sometimes I Don't Like My Kid." It's my most popular post, stats-wise. I was chuckling (out loud) about how much easier Ben has gotten since that post...about how I could barely remember that feeling of really disliking my own kid and thinking that perhaps his behavior was out of my control...that feeling of wondering to myself: Who the F is this kid and why is he pulling this kind of shit?!? (Chuckle, chuckle.) It was sooooo long ago. (Snicker.) I was such a new, inexperienced mother. (Tee-hee-hee.)  My kid has since gotten himself under control (most days). I barely remember that feeling!

Yes, that was me, last night, chuckling away. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha.


And I suppose it was just that sort of cocky guffawing that got the Universe a little amused with me and decided: Oh yeah?

And so today, upon picking up my younger son at school, the son who is (supposedly) the more angelic one of the two (as if!), the one who tends to hide behind my legs in new settings, the one who is always described by others as "sweet," "marshmallow-like," "quiet," and "such a good boy," I was told he punched not one, but two, of his friends. Punched! One lucky friend got it in the stomach. The other, right on the cheek.

Apparently, it pays to be known as the sweet, marshmallow-like, quiet, good boy, because neither the teacher nor the bus driver did much more than admonish.

Mommy, on the other hand, made up for both of those suckers who have been fooled by his cherub face, dimpled cheeks, and Sponge Bob eyeglasses.

Once The Talk had been had and The Consequences had been determined, we went about our afternoon of homework, homework, and more homework, with a little bit of dinner sprinkled in.

It happened somewhere in between the dinosaur chicken nuggets and the homework completion: my baby flipped me the bird.


Like, for real.

Before you jump to the conclusion that Hubby and I are typical Miami drivers and flip the bird on a regular basis as part of our commute, I can honestly say that not only have I never shot a bird in front of my kids, the bird is not even my expletive of choice. For one thing, it's not an expletive at all: it's silent. And if you know me, you know I'm anything but. I'm more of a loud F-bomb kinda girl. (And before you get all excited and eager waiting for the blog post to come in which one of  my kids loudly drops an F-bomb, I'll have you know that being a teacher instills in you an almost superhuman-like ability to not curse in front of children.)

So where, then, did my five-year-old learn how to appropriately and accurately use Mr. Tall Man?

Of course...his (not much) older brother.

And where, then, did my eight-year-old learn it?

Duh. School, of course!'

So there I was again: wondering who the F is this punching, bird-flipping, bully of a kid and why is he pulling this kind of shit?!?

Of course, when I filled in my husband on the afternoon's events, he chuckled quite audibly, and immediately asked: "So there's a blog post in there somewhere, right?"

I was already typing as he asked.

*Note to self: If you happen to reread this blog post in a few years, do NOT chuckle, especially if the boys are behaving themselves.


Lesson learned...No chuckling here!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

You are ten

I remember

that quiet solitary moment in the hospital
when everyone had left

I was left
with you
in my arms
your eyes were open
you were looking at me
and I didn't really understand
but I knew there was one thing
I could tell you
for sure:
that you were a lucky baby
that you had the coolest father
the best dad
of that
I was sure

you had this smell

I still remember it

I have no idea what it was
why you had it
but your brother never did
and I have never smelled it since
it was not baby cologne
or baby powder
it was

it smelled like being born
this smell

we still talk about it
remember it
your daddy and I

it has been ten years
you came into our lives

some crazy psychic once said
you were a special soul

you drive us crazy
but there is
this special bond

an awareness

that there is something

changed me, him

one decade

The baby

the one who had waited
to come when it was time
the only one who could have
filled the space
that we were not sure
even needed

and I am still
not sure
we could even come close
to being worthy
of being chosen
by you

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Last Stop: Charlotte, NC for Dave Matthews Band Concert

"No, Daddy, I don't want to sit. I want to stand the whole time so I can prove that I'm ready for pit next time." (That was Ben.)

"I'm going to wear my new DMB hat and tshirt to my birthday party so all my friends know I went to the Dave concert." (That was Kai.)

So I think we can count our last stop in Charlotte for the boys' first Dave Matthews Band concert as a success.

Everyone who knows us knows we are huge Dave fanatics, as evidenced here, here, and (the one that started it all) here. We look forward to our annual weekends away in Tampa and West Palm, and it's gotten to the point where friends don't even ask to tag along because, as one friend put it, it's like a "religious experience for you guys." So when the boys asked us last year to take them, we were very hesitant. Not only was it going to be expensive, but the shows are 3 hours long and let's be honest, this is not Lady Gaga or Justin Timberlake. There are no fireworks or costumes or dance routines. And what about all the drunk and/or high people? Were we going to have to spend most of the concert shielding their eyes or diverting their attention? And I will admit that we were not jumping at the idea of giving up one of our "Just Us" annual concerts. (I know, selfish parents.)

We decided that rather than take them to one of our sacred Florida shows, we would find one along the route of this trip. And although they were excited, we assured them beforehand that it was okay if they got bored or tired or didn't like the show; we would not be disappointed or give them a hard time. (In fact, we even told them we would give them our phones to play games!)

Well, did we completely underestimate these kids! Angry Birds was not requested even once.

Aidan Kai, who we were sure would be the least into it, begged for a hat and wore it the whole show (and has worn it with his pajamas for most of the 15 hour drive home today). He repeatedly asked for the binoculars and used them with a great intensity on his little chubby face. He would grab me or Daddy over to him and squeeze us, his face all scrunched up against ours, watching and swaying.

Ben actually had 2 of his 3 favorite songs played, and he recognized them and sang along with some of them. He insisted on standing the whole time to prove his pit worthiness. And at one point I spotted him doing some air guitar and air drums.
I couldn't get as many pictures of Ben because he was over in his own "space" and didn't like to be bothered too much during the experience...ah, Mama's boy for sure.

Both of them woo-hooed and clapped and threw their arms up in the air when the songs were over. Those two actually stood the whole three hours, never once complaining about the noise, the lights, the seats, or the ridiculous heat.

And every single person around us was so over-the-top nice and accomodating: people would move over so they could see better, come over and tell the boys they had the "coolest parents," high five and fist bump them when a good song came on... "Your boys are rockstars," one guy declared as he walked past us on his way out.

The truth is it didn't matter to us whether they loved it as much as they did or not. They asked to go, and we wanted to "show them" what this was all about for us. All we care about is that they find things in life--be it a band, a sport, a cause--that they are passionate about, that brings them sheer joy, like this music does for us. And, hopefully, watching us and everyone around us grinning and dancing and hollering will have taught them a little bit more about that.

So because the band never plays the same setlist, you never know what you're going to hear (which is why so many of us go to multiple shows each year). And last year, I had so wanted to hear one particular song, but they didn't play it during any of the concerts we attended. Last night, it was the first song of the encore. And as we stood there, all huddled up, our boys jamming on the seats next to us, listening to the lyrics, we felt like it was the perfect grand finale for our trip:

"...See you and me
Have a better time than most can dream
Have it better than the best
So we pull on through
Whatever tears at us
Whatever holds us down
And if nothing can be done
We'll make the best of what's around
Turns out not where
but who you're with that really matters..."