Category Archives: Uncategorized

Judy July

The day we said goodbye, on Tuesday July 30th @ 12:22 pm was the worst day of my life. We surrounded you, touching you, saying the Lord’s Prayer, just as you had wanted. I was at the head of the table, hovering above your face, watching your soul depart with your last breath. I couldn’t imagine life without you in it. I hadn’t yet thought about how you wouldn’t be here to guide me anymore, about how you wouldn’t be at the other end of my phone, or how you would no longer be popping into the office unannounced with some new idea on how to grow the business. I hadn’t yet thought of how my boys would no longer have their grandma Judy, or how our garage sale Saturdays had finally come to a bitter end.

Yet you had asked me, beforehand – for weeks, to be your ‘hero’, and talk everyone else into accepting your end. So I did, but somehow these four years later, I have not accepted it. Maybe I never will. Because your voice still steers my every direction even more loudly than it did in life. Don’t get me wrong. I have no regrets besides the fact that you left far too early. I was one of the lucky ones who got to be there at your end, and comfort you until you didn’t know any better. I got to joke with you about what you would wear to your ‘big day’, and paint your nails for your own funeral before you went into Hospice. Oh, and that Hospice, that has recently closed.

And yes, life has gone on, and a million changes have happened since your departure because your courage – well, you passed that on to me. That is the best inheritance a daughter could ask for, especially a daughter who struggled with decisions her whole life. Mom. You were not just the glue that held everything together, you were the heart. You pumped us all full of gratitude and zest for life. You made us all want to leap out of bed in the morning and take on the world (I mean, after those dreadful teenaged years). I will never stop being grateful for your life, because you not only gave me life, but you taught me how to live it. I will forever be in your shadow, living to make you proud, because in the end – I understand that you made me who I am today, and you will forever be my greatest blessing.

To my Church

Dear Church,

I was raised to believe in you, believe in your promises and in your grace. I was raised to believe that the direct route to God was through Christ, and through you. I committed to you, and committed my children to you. But I need a divorce.

In order to marry my second time, I had to absolve my first marriage. My first marriage happened first without you, but my husband decided he wanted to be a part of this, and so we married under your shadow and through your promised. But we had to divorce, because he wanted to kill me.

And so we did. We divorced. When our child was less than three, we annulled our marriage. He married another and I was engaged, and it was the right thing to do.

When that marriage also failed, because he chose drugs, I knew that my Faith life was being challenged directly.

Now that I am engaged again, I feel the need to take a stand against you. Not against God, and not against Christ, but against my Church. The Church that has always protected me, now feels more like a threat, and something that has isolated me from it’s comfort and love and solace.

I have been disowned. My 2nd husband is AWOL and there is no way of absolving that marriage. Even though my future husband is ‘all in’ with the idea of conversion, I know that it’s an impossibility. And that is okay.

At some point, we must surrender and realize that every closed door is an opportunity to something more, somewhere closer to where we are meant to land. So it is. And so it is.

So while I love everything you have been in my life, I must say farewell, and understand that THIS is what was meant for me and my journey. To have my Faith tested so directly, and feel only closer to my God, somehow that makes it all make sense. And I know that this is where I am meant to land – finding our own way without the direction of my mother, but with the Faith and guidance of My God.

Left Behind

I remember being 7 years old, in flanel footed pajamas, with a Dorothy Hamill haircut – blonde version – and a big half-toothless grin. I remember that it was well past bedtime, maybe even as late as eleven, when I stood there peaking around the living room corner, just watching. 

At that moment, I wanted to be all grown up so badly I could almost taste the freedom. I didn’t want a bedtime. I didn’t want to go to school. I wanted a job because then I could go to McDonald’s for lunch and drink that yucky coffee stuff all day OR I could eat as many french fries as my paycheck would buy. Whatever, right? I mean being a grown-up meant everything. No limits. No rules. Nobody telling me what to do.

I remember also that my parents caught me watching. There they were with their friends, having a late play date, just sitting around playing cards and laughing with not a care in the world. There was nothing wrong with that, and certainly nothing I couldn’t also do if only I could join. For the most part, my parents were super cool like that. They would catch me up, and let me join in, no matter what time. I didn’t really play cards. I mostly just liked listening to everybody’s stories. By myself, I was a shy little bird, but with people I trusted – like my parents – I had social super powers and could always transform into the life of the party. 

I ate that feeling for breakfast, or at least I wanted to. I loved being a part, and loved not feeling that I was missing out. 

At slumber parties, I was the last one to fall asleep, and the first awake before the sun. I was terrified that I would awaken with shaving cream all over my face or toothpaste between my toes if I even dozed off for a minute. So I didn’t. Plain and simple, just like that, I didn’t sleep. 

Some things never change. I still fear being left out. I still dread missing out on the fun, but I especially hate missing out on good conversation. I still eavesdrop in restaurants because of that, and still have a hard time focusing on just one conversation in social situations. I mean, what if I learn something, or have something really funny to add? That would be just terrible not to be in the right place at the right time. And the right place is always where conversations are happening, right?

Then again, maybe not. I don’t know. Conversations can become fights or confrontations, so they’re not always positive. I get that too. The thing is, I think that being an only makes us want to a part of something even more than folks with siblings. I think we have an intrinsic desire to be a part of something more than ourselves, no matter how much we enjoy our alone time. Then again, maybe this is an only/ orphan thing? I don’t know. Really I don’t. But I do know that I never eat lunch at McDonald’s or eat as many fries (or any really). I do drink the heck out of some coffee though, because I still want to be the last one down.

Only As alone

As onlies, we pride ourselves on being able to cope with life solo. The truth is that we can’t, at least not in healthy ways. We need something more, just as everyone needs something more. More importantly, and more accurately, we need someone more. Everyone does. I don’t care if you have siblings or parents or even grandparents there with you fighting the good fight, you need someone more. God is that someone more. 

We were not created to go through this life alone. It’s much too difficult, much too lonely to go it alone. Your friends won’t always get you. Your parents won’t always get you. Your significant other won’t always get you. But you will always be accompanied by your creator, our creator. He does not abandon, even though it feels that way, even though you have pain and questions and doubt. There is a method to His madness, and who the heck are we to question such madness.

No matter how many deaths I’ve been dealt, one thing I never fully give up on is God and His love for me. If he didn’t love me, I wouldn’t exist, neither would any of those wonderful beings I’ve loved and lost. He didn’t ‘take them away’ as punishment. Living with God is the opposite of punishment. Yet if we don’t have faith, those of us left behind view this world as punishment. Faith allows us to see that we are left behind for a REASON greater than ourselves.

So as you lay your head down tonight, remember to thank Him for the opportunity of gracing one more soul with his goodness, of blessing one more loved one with his Truth and Mercy. Let us see that this life isn’t about us, but about something so much greater than we can fathom. That is God’s Love and Mercy and Grace.

Empathy

It started this week, with the introduction of a special needs child into my son’s daycare. To be fair, my son is 9 and he’s trained in karate. I don’t worry much about him physically because I have seen him defend himself better than I could defend myself. But when I drop him off into a different room at his daycare on winter break because one of his teachers is quarantined off in a larger room with the newest child because she is having a meltdown, I am forced to take pause.

I don’t know anything about this child other than the fact that she is new to his aftercare and she has special needs. But what I see is a drink spilled all over the floor, the dress-up stand toppled over, and her one-on-one teacher and this child herself thrown into their own war at 8:00 am.

We couldn’t enter the room. My son had to go into the peaceful room with all the regulars. Still, my heart went out immediately to the special needs girl, her mom, the teacher, and my son who has only been taught empathy.

When my child came home bragging about his new best friend in 3rd grade, telling me about how he was ‘special’ and how sweet and endearing he was, my heart melted. When the same child tried to reconcile me with my own best friend over our summer vacation, my heart melted as well.

He is a sweetheart. Despite the fact that his dad isn’t around. Despite the fact that he could be very angry with the world right now. Despite the fact that, coming from a broken marriage, he is supposed to be a wreck. 

I am blessed.

Why?

I will take no credit.

My son as been partially raised by his older brother who has just turned 16. His heart, his sympathy, his sensitivity, he got it all from his brother, and he is amazing. They both are. People want to say that I’ve done an incredible job by myself, but in truth, I am blessed. Completely and totally blessed.

No matter what happens in my life, I will never want for anything more than that. Two sons with hearts, compassion, and sensitivity enough to accept differences, strive to be better, and enthusiasm for humanity. It’s rare in this world, and I am blessed to be an observer and a receiver. I don’t know that I deserve it, but they make me believe. In miracles.

My Own 2 Ft.

Strong. This is how people I don’t live with have described me lately.

Interesting really. It’s the opposite of how I’ve felt. Or maybe it’s ironic? It just depends on the mood I guess, or whether you’re with the coffee gang or the party animals.

My oldest son told me that ‘strong’ is what people see when they look at me. All 4′ 11 1/2″ of me. They see someone who is steadfast and firm in the face of sorrow and tragedy. I see me as someone who acts best in roles that are the hardest to play. Don’t put me at a poker table. Don’t ask me to cover for you with a mutual friend. I suck at lying. I suck at acting. But when the poo hits the big-ass fan, something weird takes over me and carries me on his big-ass shoulders. 

I know. This isn’t how we envision footprints.

This is how I live it. This is how we live it.

Miracles aren’t always slap-you-in-the-face-with-a-big-burning-bush sorts. Sometimes they’re of the everyday wake up with a new sense of purpose types. We’re not standing on our own 2 feet then. We’re standing on something much bigger. Sturdier. Something we can’t touch, but something that can pick us up and carry us through.

‘That’s my footprints’ we think.  ‘I carry myself’, we think. 

True Faith, true character, true living comes from crawling in the dark, tears leaping from our bagged eyes, and just when we think we can’t take another stride, we find ourselves. Running out into the light that we never knew was there in the first place. Running with direction instead of running with scissors. Because we are carried after all. Two feet, one head, and millions of prayers along the way.

40

The leaves are falling already,

Their colors never had the chance

To change.

Like loved ones taken

Too young.

Or the last bloom of summer.

Those who say they have

No regrets haven’t lived, or are good liars.

Because no one ever got it right

Every time.

The shadows tell their story too,

Moving ever-so-slowly across the rock walls;

Cold, giant, and underwhelmingly welcoming.

They’re sneaky – those shadows.

We want to climb & capture them,

But they are only ghosts.

And ghosts never change either.

Nor do they have regrets.

At the middle of life,

And I have my color,

And time – 

For now.

Hanging Tough

The New Kids on the Block aren’t so new or so together as they used to be. Prince has passed on. Robin Williams let go of life. Every day another shining star from our childhood dims from this earth into the subtle distance of memory. Our parents are aging or dying, and our favorite high school hang outs are closing or being torn down so that new Starbucks and Targets can emerge just like in every other city across America and beyond.

Life is like that. The older we become, the faster time flies by. It’s something we hear every day from our friends in real life to our virtual Facebook newsfeed friends.

And yet, here we are. We are leading our nation into new places, with new positive outlooks and perspective. Some would say we are becoming more self-aware, opening our minds to different cultures and lifestyles. Others would argue that we are moving further away from God. But something on which we can all agree is that life is a great big circle. We live, we learn, we die. It’s in that learning part that we learn purpose, and consequently feel what it truly means to be alive.

We exist day to day. We commute to work, milk our lunch breaks with the little errands we have no other time to complete, hustle back to work, and then commute back home & off to the extra stuff that makes us happy, but that we have to pay to do. We parents make choices that either enrich or compromise our children’s growth, and we constantly strive to find balance between the happiness of our children and the fulfillment of ourselves.

Life is like that too. The older we become, the easier we achieve balance, because we learn to meet our experiences halfway. We learn that just going through the motions is surviving, while growing through the emotions is thriving. But we are forced to be uncomfortable. Change does that. Relationships do that. And life demands that. We were not accidentally placed here on this planet simply to procreate. What would be the point in that? We are not amoebas. We are not ‘mere animals’. We are humans, with brains and feelings, and logic. If you ever doubt the reasoning behind the creation of Eve, try to live just 30 days completely solo, with no human interaction. We were not wired to be islands. We were wired to be continents, made up of millions of tiny countries.

Sure, it’s extremely important that we as individuals are strong and independent. But just being strong and individually independent isn’t all together satisfying. No. What truly satisfies us, and the human condition demands it, is the fulfillment that stems from having an overwhelming sense of community. So that when one of us dies, the ripples transcend us. We unite, become stronger, and emerge as complete and joyful as we were intended and created to be.

As an only, and as a human, I have always toyed with the idea of just going off alone and becoming this very self-sufficient, self-satisfying person. I would live off the land, disconnect from everyone and everything I’ve ever known, and morph into this superhuman specialty who depends on no one, and needs nothing for her survival. And then I watched ‘Into the Wild’. My world was forever changed.

My own life has echoed the theme of Chris McCandliss’s life, even though I never burned my money, threw away my car, and escaped to Alaska only to be killed by a tiny little berry.

Sorry for the spoiler alert.

But we can all learn so much from his story, and from the stories of all those great stars we looked up to as kids. Life is short. We are individually okay. But as a unite, as an unbreakable body of Christ, we are so powerful, just as God intended. Don’t deny your true self. Don’t deny your purpose. Don’t deny that you need others. Even if those others hurt you, you are better off for the experience.

Life is like that.

Mr. Bojangles

We all have that ‘one’  – the one that got away.

My one was my dad.

Of course, I don’t mean that in the romantic sense or in any weird way. And maybe I need to qualify that statement and add that my ‘one’ is both my dad AND music. For a little girl who grew up bonding with her dad over song, who learned the organ alongside her dad who was playing the piano by ear, as well as the guitar, bass, drums, harmonica – really anything that played music – the man and the music were intertwined so tightly that you could never sever the one from the other.

While my dad passed from this earth young, my love for him and for the music he exposed me to live on forever. I am so passionate about music and the memories and emotion evoked by song that anytime I hear tunes like ‘Mr. Bojangles’ (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), or ‘Hotel California’ (the Eagles), I can almost hear him beside me singing still…almost 28 long years (and many lifetimes) later.

And, just like that great old 80’s song says, ‘There’s always something there to remind me’.

Yesterday, I was cursed with a stomach bug and was forced to stay home from work to let it run it’s course. Around lunchtime, when I would have otherwise been chowing down if it had been a normal day, I started watching a 4 hour documentary about Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. It must be explained that my dad had a thicker version of Tom Petty hair, and his name of course, was Tom. While I don’t remember my dad being a huge fan, it is fascinating to me that Tom got his big break the very year that I was born – 1976.  I took little cat naps during the documentary, but at the end and by some kind of osmosis, I had quickly become a life-long fan.

Just a few weeks ago, I purchased my first Tom Petty CD – Full Moon Fever. I’m pretty sure that purchase is what finally sparked my interest enough to spend the whole half of a sick day delving into his life story. This man is a legend, and truly, haven’t we lost enough of those lately?

In a sense, I felt as if I were watching my dad’s story, had he not been so sick and had he not died so early. My initial reaction was to feel cheated. My dad could’ve been that very Tom we still listen to today. He was born to play, to perform, and maybe even to write. But that wasn’t God’s plan for him. God’s plan was that my dad grace his small town and his family with the gifts God gave him. I was just fortunate enough to have been his pride and joy.

While I will never give up on music or on the memory of my dad, I have learned to appreciate both by compartmentalizing. When life becomes too much, or I’m plagued with the blues of grief or depression, music reaches in and pulls me from the trenches.

I believe that music is God’s way of reaching us humans in the present like a small miracle that reaches far into our spirits and shines its light into the crevices in a way that the light itself takes over completely. Music is the language of the spirit, the voice of Heaven, and the hand of God all at once,  because it becomes the bridge between our free Will and that deeper more peaceful place found through meditation, prayer, and song.

That’s the place where we don’t have to question who we are, what we’re doing, or the paths we’ve chosen. That’s the place we can simply be who we were created to be. My one that got away has gotten me away from all that is toxic and destructive, and I think that’s what they mean by ‘not forgetting’  where we came from.

Letter to an Ex X

Dear X,

If I had known what I know now, we wouldn’t have gotten married. We wouldn’t have had an amazing child together. I wouldn’t have stopped trusting so openly and without cause. I wouldn’t have been carrying around baggage. I wouldn’t question myself on every single decision. It’s likely that I wouldn’t have sold the family business. I wouldn’t question my mind.

But it happened. You conned me. You fooled me, my mom, my family, and your step-son. When it comes down to it, you felt unworthy. You started using more routinely. Because, I believe you were already using. You decided that you couldn’t do it without superhuman characteristics. So you sold your soul, and your wife, your ‘sons’, your dreams, for something that made you feel so good at the time.

I have a hard time understanding, because I haven’t been there. I won’t even take antibiotics. But I have been addicted to things. I ‘needed’ cigarettes for many years, and diet coke, and sugar. So that makes me just as ‘bad’, even though I manage to hold a job, pay my bills, pay for our child’s holidays, birthdays, school functions, soccer, karate, church functions, and playdates.

I have accepted that you will never be a part of anything financial in our child’s life. That you will forever disappoint him because you cannot test clean. I’ve watched every episode of Intervention. So has my boyfriend. We have talked in great length and depth about how we will never unburden ourselves or Ethan from this massive web of destruction you have casted upon our lives. I have had nightmares about what you are doing to destroy your life, and how that affects our son. He loves you, but he accepts that you are not here. You cannot be there for yourself, let alone him.

You talk as though everything wrong you have ever done is in the past, yet you have zero proof that you are any closer to that next milestone of where you ‘should’ be. You have clued me into how you cheated on your lab tests. How you used until 3 days prior, and then switched to suboxone – the very drug that now, people are getting hooked on. The very drug that could kill someone like me. I didn’t deserve this, but no one that lives through the cleaning up of an addict does. Why should I be immune?

I shouldn’t. That’s the truth. It was God’s plan for me, and God will continue to see me through. Losing our home, my car, your job, your income, your support, is not the worst of it. In truth, the worst of all of this rests in something much deeper.

Our child has learned that he can only depend upon one of us. Now, he is happy to lean on anyone else. This creates the gang-mentality that I will likely have to always combat. I always dreamed of having the family I didn’t have. That will likley never happen because of the environment your addiction has created within our lives. But as a Christian, I am supposed to forgive you, accept you, and turn the other cheek. And this is the worst part. I hate myself for not being able to do any of that.

You have ruined my life. You have ruined our child’s life. Instead of starting from the bottom and working our way up, I am forced to start in the trenches. Our son is 8. Your addiction, you say, began when I was 5 months pregnant. You are repeating what you knew. I am a workaholic, repeating what she knew.

You had a horrible childhood. Your parents both had serious issues, and were heavily medicated. They spent most of your childhood unemployed because of it. Guess who gets lost in the shuffle?

I refuse to disappoint our child. He deserves a family who shows him love, who teaches him how to love unconditionally. I may not be able to reconcile what you have done, but I can work to improve the future of our child. And while I may have spent the bulk of my life believing that I don’t deserve more, I believe that I absolutely do.

So my plea to you is this – please work on you. With everything you are, and everything you ever wanted, work on you. Make strides in that direction. Go to meetings. Make valuable friendships, based on trust and clean living. Pray. Listen to what God has to offer. Earn a living. Be a grown-up. Show our child what it’s like to be a man.

We will take your recovery seriously when you do the same. When you’re finished with the lies, the manipulation, and the fiction. Our son wants his dad back. You told him the truth. Now live the promise. I refuse to assist in the lying, in the promises, in the fairytale. The work is yours to do. Whether you do it or not, our child will feel loved, with or without you. It’s your call. I cannot do it for you, and I cannot help you anymore.

If anyone out there is contemplating destroying their lives, consider this. When you were a child, you had those lucid, beautiful moments. You will continue to experience those, but not if you are leaning on substances. Those are lies. BE YOU. Naked. Truthful. Genuine. And vulnerable. Beauty is found in solace and serenity. Not in substance.