Thursday, July 29, 2010

Progress, Not Perfection

I've had some requests for Before and After photos.    I've been dragging my feet on doing this for a couple of reasons.

The first one is a practical one.    I didn't realize it, but I avoided the camera for - apparently - the past five years.     The pictures I do have I did the old put-the-kid-in-front-of-me-so-nobody-can-see-my-body trick:


I avoided candid shots; I didn't want to be captured in an unguarded moment, before I could arrange things for maximum concealment.

The second reason is that it's emotional for me to look at the Before pictures.     I've written about it a lot, but I really didn't have any concept of how much weight I had gained.     I chose not to see.  

I'm not a vain person.    I'm not hung up on looks.    When I look at the Before pictures I remember how happy I was, how good I felt to be sober and free.    Seeing how much more I weighed doesn't change that for me.    

What I feel is a pang of sadness.   The pictures are irrefutable evidence that denial is a powerful thing.    It's not that I knew I weighed too much and didn't care (like I claimed), it's that I really didn't have any idea that I had a problem.   With weight, with food - any of it.   

It's okay, though.    I know, now, that I don't grow if I don't face painful truths.    I don't grow unless I have the guts to look problems in the face, stare them down and make changes.   

I remember getting these pictures back - both are from my trip to Bermuda for my 40th birthday - exactly one year ago.     When I saw these pictures last July, I felt a pulse of fear when I saw what I looked like, and then I mentally slid the truth to the side.    I quickly went through the pile of pictures and selected a few that didn't show much, that caught me at a flattering angle.   I didn't look at the ones that showed the truth.   I found a couple of these pictures, unedited and ignored, in my computer:





I'm learning how to pay attention to my gut reactions; I practice keeping my finger on the pulse of fear or avoidance.   I'm trying to pay attention to unconscious thoughts, those thoughts-beneath-the-thoughts, because I want to be conscious; I want to be aware.      The truth is far scarier when I'm hiding from it.

Because once I face the truth, I can do something about it.    I can set myself free.   







Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chasing the Moon

Would you rather be right, or would you rather be kind?   I was asked this recently, by a close trusted friend.

Most of us would choose kind, I think.   Or we would say we'd choose kind, because it seems the more noble choice.   But in the world of recovery, kindness only gets you so far.   Kindness, in fact, can be deadly.

I struggle with the hard truths.   I prefer a softer, gentler approach; I want to be someone's soft landing.   It's ironic in many respects, because what got me sober wasn't a kinder, gentler touch.    It was being told the cold, hard truth, over and over.   And it wasn't until I had no other way to go that I finally agreed to give sober a try.

Ideally, kind and right aren't mutually exclusive.    This trusted friend of mine has a way of delivering hard truths in a non-threatening but decidedly firm manner.    The thing is, though, that I'm open to hearing those truths, so the message doesn't need to be delivered with a sledgehammer.

When someone is fighting for their life, kindness can get in the way.   Addiction is a life and death struggle.   Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but eventually.    Because here is a cold, hard truth:   if you are an active alcoholic the elevator only goes one way.   Down.   

At some point all the hand-holding, "yay team!" words of encouragement, heartfelt hugs and long conversations don't work.    At some point I have to stop and say,   "Look.   You're in a fight for your life here.  If you don't stop, you are going to die." 

But if someone doesn't believe it, or doesn't care, words don't matter.   Ask anyone who has ever begged an alcoholic to stop drinking.   

The most common barrier is getting someone to admit they are an alcoholic.   The A word.   I tried everything I could think of to avoid that diagnosis, because alcoholics can't drink.    To someone who doesn't want to stop drinking, who believes with all their heart they can control it, the A word is terrifying.   

I learned in recovery that I'm not supposed to call another person an alcoholic, because it's an inside job;  only that person can know if they are an alcoholic or not.   And that's true, to a large degree.   I have spoken with people near death who don't believe they are alcoholics, and it isn't up to me to tell them they are.   Because it won't matter at all until they believe it themselves.

But that doesn't mean I have to cover up the truth.  Forget semantics, forget the A word.  

Here is another truth:  if alcohol is slowly taking over your life, one day you will get sober or it will destroy you.    

If you find yourself opening your mouth to protest - offer reasons why you aren't that bad, how you can control it, give examples of ways you're functioning normally - pay attention.   Social drinkers don't need to put all those rules around their drinking.

All the flowery speech and hand-holding isn't going to save you.   You're going to have to figure out if you want to save yourself, first.

Some days it feels very hopeless.   Watching someone fight hard to hang onto their sickness, thinking it is the only thing holding them together, is very painful.    Some days it feels like I'm just chasing the moon.   It's easy to be hopeful - maybe it's a little closer now?   But, of course, nobody catches the moon.   Nobody has that kind of power, no matter how much they wish they did.   

Sometimes being there to grab an out-stretched hand or offer words of encouragement is the exact wrong thing to do.    Sometimes the outstretched hand has to reach out and discover nobody is there. 

I'd like to believe I can catch the moon.   I'd like to believe the power of love is enough to get someone sober.  

It isn't.   What gets people sober is the power of the truth.

Monday, July 26, 2010

I Am A Total Loser

I realized this morning, as I struggled to pick up Finn, that he weighs 42 lbs.   I have lost 42 lbs.

Just for kicks I walked around with him on my hip for about five minutes.    It doesn't seem possible to me that I had this much extra weight on my frame.

Eating healthy has woven its way into my life in such a way that I don't notice, really, that I'm dieting.     Part of that is Jenny Craig - the meal plans make it so I don't have to think about it too much.

I'm at the point where I'm weaning off their food, substituting more and more meals each week with my own creations.    I thought this would be more difficult than it is.   Maybe because it is summer, and grilled veggies, chicken breast, or a veggie burger are easy to do.  I just throw my food on the grill next to the hamburgers, sausage and hot dogs my family is eating.   

I have discovered I love salad - crisp, cold veggies are the perfect meal on a hot day.    My favorite dessert is fruit salad with a tiny dab of whipped cream on top.   

The biggest change so far is portion size.   The first two weeks of Operation Get Healthy were a hard dose of reality.   I tore open the box for the Grilled Chicken Breast sandwich like a crazy person, and my face fell when I saw the whole sandwich was no bigger than my palm.     In the beginning, the pasta meals looked like an appetizer - six or seven bites and the whole thing was gone.

My body, which knows how much food it needs (as opposed to my brain, which has no clue) adjusted after a few weeks.  

Now? It's a mental game.

I have tough moments, when all I want is a big bag of salty chips or a huge plate of sausage stir fry.     I don't really have a sweet tooth - it's the salty, cheesy carbs that call to me.    I can't let myself get too hungry, I've learned, or once I start eating I have a hard time stopping.     In general, I eat something about every two hours.    If I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, I'm very rarely hungry at all.

Yesterday, I went shopping.   I'm getting excited to go to the BlogHer conference in New York, and I wanted to pick up a couple of things to wear.    I haven't bought clothes in a while; I don't want to invest too much money in outfits until I've reached my goal weight.   

I grabbed a few pairs of shorts and tee-shirts and headed into the dressing room.   Everything was too big.    That has never, ever happened to me before.

I went back out into the store and got smaller sizes.    When I slid a pair of shorts over my hips that is - no joke - five sizes smaller than what I was wearing back in March, my mouth dropped open in surprise.   

I'm not obsessively weighing myself, or thinking about food.   If you told me at the outset of all this that I could lose 42 pounds and it would feel, well, easy, I would have laughed in your face.    I don't mean to imply that it's effortless, because it's not.    It's a matter of making a series of good choices throughout each day, and with time that comes more naturally.    The siren call of cheesy, salty carbs is getting quieter and quieter.

Besides, I can eat carbs.  I can eat cheese.   I can eat salt - in moderation.    I used to hate that word.    For years moderation was a concept that eluded me.    One of my favorite recovery sayings about having a drink is:  "One is too many, and a thousand isn't enough".     The same thing can be said, for me, about food.   If I can stay away from the first potato chip, cupcake or cookie, I'll be okay. 
I never understood this before, but I unconsciously ate in response to moods.   Boredom was a big one for me.   Anger was another one.    Now I have a little test I give myself when I'm tempted to snack.   If I'm really hungry I'll eat the carrot sticks, or the piece of fruit.   If I don't want those things, but rather something to fill an emotional need, then I need to do something else to address how I'm feeling.  

Eating healthy, losing weight, isn't a state of deprivation.  It's a state of mind.   Instead of dwelling on all the things I can't eat, I try to focus on all the possibilities, the freedoms, I have now that I didn't before.   Like picking out an outfit because I like it, not simply because it fits.   Or running a 5k.  Or waking up in the morning without an aching back and creaking knees.  

I also realize, now, how much the mental game comes into play.    I don't weigh myself during the week, only at my weekly Jenny Craig appointment.   Last Wednesday I went in feeling like I was having a 'fat day'.   I was convinced I had gained weight, and prepared myself mentally.    I was completely wrong.   I was down another two pounds.  Other times I'll think I've lost more than usual, only to find out I haven't.   

It proves to me once and for all that much of what my brain tells me is complete bullshit.  

It also proves that slow and steady wins the race.    Although I'm following Jenny Craig, I chose it because it doesn't feel like a 'quick fix' to me - it doesn't smack of a fad diet.    Because the end goal is to get off their food and standing on your own two feet, I don't have to worry about a lifetime of buying special foods or taking a special supplement.   I've been there, and I know it doesn't work.

I'm within 15 lbs of my goal weight.   And when I get there? 

I will have lost the equivalent of my 7 year old.  

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Answers - Part Two

Thanks again for all the great questions!   Here is Part Two of the answers:

Question: how'd you come up with your kids names?  Both times we used a baby name book.   We decided on Greta's name right away.    We were reading the book together, and both pointed to her name and said, "That's it!" at the same time.    What is great about her name is that my mother's heritage is Swedish, and Steve's father's side is German, and "Greta" is both a Swedish and German name.     We had a much more difficult time deciding on Finn's name.    We wanted something unusual, but not so far off the page that it would get him beat up on the playground.     Steve's mother's side of the family is Irish, and we loved the Irish boy's names.    We narrowed it down to a few finalists, and after a few weeks "Finn" just seemed to fit perfectly (his full name is "Finnian").     It suits his personality perfectly. 

Questionfavorite book?   Oh my.   I really can't come up with just one.   I did a post a while back about the books and authors that have influenced me the most, so I guess it's easiest just to direct you here.    It's easier for me to name some of my favorite authors, and they include  Sue Miller, Jane Smiley, John Irving, Kelly Corrigan, Jodi Picoult (some of them), Stephen King and the Dalai Lama.

Question: what inspired you to make jewelry?   Again, I blogged about this here.   It's easier to send you to the post than to describe it all again.  :)

Questionon facebook/twitter/etc. i often see status updates that say something like "gosh i need a drink" or "settling down for the night with a glass of wine!" do statements like that bother you, and do you try to distance yourself from people who update like that frequently?   In early sobriety, reading things like that was a punch to the gut.   They made me feel "other than", different, broken somehow.    They amplified the feeling of loss I felt that I couldn't drink.    I stayed away from situations that involved drinking, but in main stream media (commercials, magazines, social media, television shows) references to drinking are everywhere.     With time, I was able to see a wine commercial without wanting to cry, or read a facebook update like "Is it 5 o'clock yet?  Mama needs a drink!"  without feeling a profound sense of loss.   Now I'm able to take all that in stride.    I think, though, that if I wasn't working a program of recovery, things like that would quickly become difficult to read, because it would poke at the feeling of not fitting in, not being able to have fun, not being normal.    When I read things like that now, I think about the amazing sober network of friends I have - of all the compassionate, smart, funny, loving, brave women I know who are out there rockin' it sober, and I feel grateful, not like an outcast.    I think about how if I hadn't stopped drinking, these amazing people wouldn't be in my life.   No matter how badly I may want to drink at any given time, the fear of losing those people is far more powerful.

QuestionHave you noticed any financial benefits to quitting?   Absolutely.    When I was about three months sober, Steve came across one of my bank statements from the last month of my drinking.   He showed it to me, and I nearly fell over.    Just about every single line item was a liquor or convenience store, and the total amount spent that month on alcohol was staggering.     When I was drinking daily, I never bought alcohol in bulk (it was a way to keep up my denial - if I'm buying a case of wine I must have a problem, right?).   So I would go to a different liquor or convenience store every day, trying to make the people who worked there (like they cared) believe it was my once-weekly stop to stock up.     So every day I was spending anywhere from $8 - $15 on wine.   If that averages out to $12/day - that is $360 a month, or over $4300/ year on alcohol.

QuestionHow did you handle pregnancy and abstaining?    I didn't drink during either of my pregnancies, even though when I found out I was pregnant with Finn I was drinking every night.    Part of it was a protectiveness of the baby - it's one thing to destroy my own health, it's another thing to destroy the health of an innocent fetus.     So that was definitely a big part of it.    But another thing was equally powerful - I didn't feel an urge to drink when I was pregnant.   When I was pregnant I felt a sense of identity - the pregnant mother.    Everywhere I went, once I was visibly pregnant, people were exclaiming over the pregnancy, gushing with congratulations and stories of motherhood.   It all gave me a feeling of belonging I had never felt before.    So that 'hole in my soul' that I carried with me when I wasn't pregnant just kind of evaporated.    Within three months of giving birth, each time, I was right back to where I had been before with drinking, if not worse.     I used the fact that I could just stop for nine months as my strongest argument that I couldn't be an alcoholic.    I know now that alcoholism is a progressive disease, and it doesn't matter how long you abstain - the minute you pick up the first drink it is only a matter of time before you're right back where you were.     I learned in rehab about the physiological reasons for this - I won't get into it here, but it has to do with how the narcotic effects of alcohol travel through the brain.     It was comforting to learn the physiology behind it, to know it wasn't because I'm weaker than everyone else.    It also helps me stay sober, knowing that no matter how good I feel now, the disease is lying in wait - in my brain - and it will wake right up if I drink.

QuestionNot an addict (well, chocolate), but a child of an alcoholic and with an addictive personality. So, what I want to know is, how do you cope with all the stress of life, the universe and everything now that you're not drinking? What helps most?    Talking.   Hands down, talking about how I feel helps the most.    Not just talking about how I feel about drinking, but how I feel about everything.    Before getting sober, I never talked about my emotions - I barely acknowledged to myself that I had them.    I didn't know what to do with anger, sadness or resentment - it's as if I felt like somehow I wasn't allowed to feel badly.   So I stuffed everything down, buckled down, moved through life without ever processing anything.    When the negative emotions got loud, I'd drink to manufacture a better state of mind.     As a result, I never learned how to move through bad feelings, how to be vulnerable, how to ask for help.     It's still something I have to work on - A LOT.    When things are tough - like the witching hour and the kids are driving me nuts, etc. - the first thing I have to do is acknowledge to myself how I'm feeling - cranky, bored, angry, frustrated.    Just putting a name to the emotion helps a lot.    The second thing I have to do is talk about it - call a sober friend, or a regular friend, talk to Steve.    Putting words to my feelings diminishes their power over me.    Left to my own resources, I turn molehills into mountains, I start thinking I'll never feel better again, I 'kitchen sink' my emotions - they snowball out of control quickly.   I need help keeping things in perspective, and my support network helps me do this.     With time, I can do this on my own sometimes - find a quiet corner and meditate, or pray - but if I don't stop and acknowledge my feelings I'm in real trouble.

QuestionSome people feel alcoholism has a genetic component to it - what are your thoughts on this? Do you talk about alcoholism with your kids yet? Or if you don't, do you have thoughts on if/how you will in the future?    I personally believe alcoholism is a disease.   I know it's kind of a controversial topic, but the American Medical Association and other organizations have acknowledged alcoholism as a disease since the early 1950s.    I also believe it runs in families - I see far too many families ravaged by addiction to believe otherwise.    I'm adopted, so I don't know the medical history of my biological family, but I'd be willing to bet addiction is in there.       As such, I am very concerned about my kids being more susceptible to addiction.   We deal with it by talking openly and honestly about it with them.    We don't tell them any more than they ask, because we don't want to give them more information than they are ready for, but we answer all their questions honestly.     As they get older, we'll keep talking.   I hope my experience gives me some street cred with them as they get older - I know from which I speak - but I'm not naive enough to believe there is anything we can do to stop it from coming, if that is the way things are going to play out.    All we can do is be powers of example, I hope, and keep communicating as honestly and openly as we can.     I want them to have a healthy fear of alcohol, but it's not up to me alone, of course.    

QuestionTell me it will be okay.    If I quit.    I saved this one for last, because it hit me hard, and I've given a lot of thought to my answer.    I wish I could say it will be okay, but of course life isn't like that.   I can say it will be hard - the hardest thing you've ever had to do, probably - but I can also say that it will be worth it.    That you will be free - freer than you can possibly imagine now.    You will live an authentic life, be present for everything - good and bad.    It's hard to find words to say what a gift this is.   Sometimes I look at people who aren't alcoholics or addicts, but who I feel live an unexamined life, and I say a prayer of thanks that I was forced to stop and take a good hard look at what my life means to me, what kind of footprint I want to leave on the world, what I want to mean to other people, but more importantly what I mean to myself.      No matter how difficult things get in sobriety, I am present in the moment, in touch with my feelings, and able to surrender and be free.    It's amazing.   

Truly, staggeringly, amazing.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Answers - Part One

Thank you, everyone, for your questions!   I tried to answer as concisely as I could, but I didn't want to skimp on my answers, either, so I'm posting the responses in two parts.   Here's part one:

Question:   Was there a point where you knew without a doubt that you had a problem with drinking? If you did, at that moment did you think you were an alcoholic, or did you think you were a problem drinker? Also (again, if you had that moment) did you think you would end up sober or did you believe you could control it?

I knew I felt differently about alcohol than "normal" people for many years. Thirteen years ago I read Caroline Knapp's Drinking, A Love Story, and I saw myself in those pages, not because I did the same things she did, like hide alcohol, black-out or obsess about it (that would come later), but because I felt the same way she did about drinking. After I read that book, I wrote this in my journal, in the fall of 1997:   I feel like I'm standing on the edge of a dark, deep abyss, and if I'm not careful it will swallow me whole. I was writing about my relationship to alcohol. It sounds insightful, to a degree, but the subtext reads like this to me, now: I'm not as bad as her - not nearly - so I'm going to be sure to watch my drinking so I don't end up having to quit.

There was another moment - the moment I knew I was an alcoholic - and it came almost nine years after reading that book. I woke up one night at 2am, shaking and sweating, and went downstairs to get a glass of milk. Instead I stopped at the liquor cabinet and did a shot of whiskey. Up until that point I rarely drank hard liquor, I never drank during the day, and I had never woken up shaking. Once the whiskey hit my stomach, the shaking stopped. I vividly remember thinking: well, that's it then. I'm an alcoholic. My next thought was: nobody can ever know. I couldn't imagine a life without alcohol, so I just drove it deep under ground. I drank for another year knowing I was an alcoholic, but incapable of admitting it to anyone, and tried everything I could think of to moderate (not stop) my drinking. Nothing worked, and with each attempt it just got worse and worse.

Question:   Did you go to college? What did you major in? I went to Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. I was an indecisive student, and majored in Psychology (didn't like statistics), then Philosophy (didn't like the endless conversations about nothing) before settling on French.

QuestionDo you have one favorite piece of jewelry that you make? Or a top three? I don't have a favorite. To be honest, I fall in love with each piece I make for about a week, then I design something new, or figure out a new technique and I fall in love with that one. For about a week. I'm easily bored, so jewelry making is perfect for me - the design possibilities are endless and there are so many mediums and materials I haven't even tried yet. I'm always setting my sights on the next thing.

Question: Has your husband stopped drinking entirely since you stopped drinking? Or does he still drink socially? Steve stopped drinking altogether when I was newly sober. I never asked him to - in fact, I insisted that he keep drinking, but he didn't. After a several months he would have a beer or two when he was out with other people, and then eventually when he was out with me. Beer doesn't affect me like wine does, so I ask that he drink beer only. We don't keep alcohol in the house. If we did I could probably manage to stay away from it, but it speaks to me, distracts me, and it would make it that much harder, so it's not a risk I'm willing to take. He was never a big drinker, and he insists it isn't hard for him not to drink. I'll never understand that, so I stopped trying to.

Question: I'm giving birth to my first baby on Sept 7th. What are people not telling me about how awful it's going to be?   I hate the book What To Expect When You're Expecting. It makes it seem like pregnancy and childbirth follow some kind of blueprint, and sets - to my way of thinking - totally unrealistic expectations. Every single birth is completely different, and expectations just lead to unnecessary disappointments. I gave birth 'naturally' (sorry, can't bring myself to type the V-word. I hate the turn of phrase 'naturally' - there is nothing natural about pushing something the size of a watermelon out something the size of a lemon) the first time and the second time ended up being an emergency c-section. Each delivery has pain, fear, wonder, joy and awe, sometimes all at once. And, as my friend Damomma says, at the end you get the most incredible reward possible.

Although two things came to mind at more of a nitty-gritty level. Somehow nobody told me (or I decided not to remember) that after the baby you have to deliver the placenta. They made it sound so, well, tidy. It wasn't, at least for me, and I wish I had known that. Also - and I guess this is common - when the adrenaline of giving birth started to wear off I shook uncontrollably for about half an hour - it scared me a lot, but I was assured it's perfectly normal. All I know for sure is that once that baby was placed in my arms (or, in the case of the c-section, nuzzled up against my cheek), all the pain and fear dropped away like a stone. It's an amazing experience - no matter how it happens - and CONGRATS!

Question: what color tutu will you be running in at the BlogHer 5k? ;) And how's it coming? Will you give us a preview??   I haven't even bought the material for the Tutu yet. I'm such a chronic procrastinator it isn't even funny. But I'll be spending a few days at my Mom's before I leave for NYC, so I'm going to hit her up for some help (okay, Mom?) :) And yes, I'll post a preview. I think.

Question: What city/state did you grow up in? I grew up in Wayland, MA - west of Boston. I've lived in California and France at various times in my (young) life - and I'm a die-hard New Englander. I love it here.

Question: What made you decide to be open/public about your recovery? I have always been open about it - and even in the early days I didn't really consider not being open about it.   At first I did it to keep myself safe. I wanted close friends and family to know, so that when I was around them I had to be honest, had to be sober.  I am very respectful that my decision to be open is a personal one, and I consider anonymity to be the cornerstone to the program of recovery I follow. That is why I share only my own experience, strength and hope.

A big reason I started Crying Out Now, though, was that I witnessed first-hand how healing it is to share with other people who understand, and I wanted to provide an anonymous, safe, place for other women to open up, talk about their relationship with alcohol.   It was so freeing for me to finally understand I wasn't the only one - far from it - that I hoped it could be a place for people who don't have any other exposure to a recovery program to learn, ask questions, and find a safe community.    So far I'm blown away by the response - in a good way.   If you want to read about courage, witness real live miracles - stop by and read a few posts.     Their words are grace in motion, in my opinion.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ask Away!

One of my favorite bloggers, Corinne of Trains, Tutus and Teatime, posted this idea, and I loved it, so I'm totally copying her.   

She did an "open book" question and answer post.   I get lots of questions in comments and over emails, and I try to answer each one, but it's tough to really get into it in the comment section, and for many reasons people are shy about emailing (but don't be).   If you have a question about drinking, addiction or recovery and you don't want to identify yourself, you can comment anonymously.  

So I'd like to have my own open book question and answer session - you ask and I'll answer.    Anything - be it about addiction & recovery (by far the most frequent questions I get), parenting, jewelry, me, weight loss - all the things I talk about on this blog.   Or anything else you are curious about and never commented on. 

It feels a little self-indulgent to do this, and perhaps it is, but I'm curious.  Sometimes I feel like I go on and on in this blog without a lot of direction, and if there are things you want me to touch on more, please let me know.   As Corinne said - I'm an open book!   Ask away.    I'll respond to your questions in a couple of days, for my next post.  

And if nobody comments or asks anything, I'm cool with that, too.     I think.  

If you do nothing else, be sure to check out Corinne's beautiful blog - she is an incredible writer, an accomplished photographer and a sister in sobriety.     You won't be disappointed.

-Ellie

Monday, July 19, 2010

Out of The Blue

When it comes, it comes in low and fast, like a stealth bomber.

It's a sunny, humid Saturday evening, and we're back out at the beach camp.    I dip my hands in the hot sudsy water and swipe the sponge across the brim of a big, blue plastic cup.

Rum drink.

The words roar through my head like an out-of-control freight train; there one second and gone the next.

I start to hum, and I realize I'm doing it because the words were so loud in my head I felt like my family in the next room could hear them.    Crazily, I think humming presents some semblance of normalcy, when of course the opposite is true.   

Rum drink.

I swipe an arm across my forehead, sudsy drops dribbling down my wrist.    My mind goes back to a different time in my life, when this blue cup was full of dark rum, guava juice and crackling ice cubes.  
It was my favorite cup for rum drinks, because of its size.   One drink was the equivalent of two or three.   

I remember coming back from a long, lazy day at the beach, suntanned, salty and relaxed.    My husband threw a couple of steaks on the grill, and as they sizzled away I prepared my specialty.

Rum drink.

The ache comes, deep in my belly, and spreads to my chest and arms.   Everything feels heavy, slow.  

God, I miss it so much.

The hole inside me yawns wide open and my mind probes it like a missing tooth.    It's 7pm, and by now I would have had one drink, probably starting on a second.   Not drunk, not sober.   Just a pleasant hum, as I sat with my husband and watched the sunset.   

The in-between time, when I could enjoy a drink or two like everyone else did.   Before all the bad stuff started, before the obsession set in.   

"You okay?" Steve asks, appearing at my side so suddenly I jump.

I realize I'm leaning heavily on the counter, my soapy hands hanging into the sink, and the water is still running.

I look up at him and force a smile.   "I'm fine," I say.   He waits a beat, looking at me quizzically.    "Really!  I'm fi-"   I stop and hang my head.   "I'm edgy,"  I whisper.   "I want a rum drink so badly I can taste it."

"What can I do?" he asks.    When I don't respond, he offers to take the kids up to the lighthouse.  He'll bring Greta's bike, he says, so they can practice riding around in the grass.

I nod, silently.   He ushers the kids out the door, plunking Greta's helmet on as they leave.    It sits crookedly on her head as she pedals away.

I rinse my hands and dry them slowly, waiting for the heaviness to pass.   Next door there is a loud whoop of laughter, and the clink of glasses.   

Rum drink.

I know what to do, but I don't feel like praying.   I don't want to surrender.   I don't want to talk about it.    I just want one damn rum drink, and if I can't have that I don't want anything.  

Sighing, I slip my feet into my beat-up sandals and make my way towards the lighthouse.    As I come around the corner, I see Steve has attached a rope to the bike and he's pulling Finn, who is sitting on the seat with his legs sticking straight out.    Finn throws his head back, laughing.   "Go Dadda!"  yells Greta.    

I stand and watch, an outsider.    The sadness hangs on me like a heavy shell.   

"MOMMA!    Look at me!"  Finn yells, and then hiccups loudly.    Greta doubles over with laughter.

After a bit, they make their way over to where I'm standing.    "Better yet?"  Steve asks, raising an eyebrow.

"Not yet," I admit.  "But I will be."

"Momma, will you pull me?"  asks Finn.

I start to say no, and stop myself.   "Okay," I reply.    My hands feel like they are moving through molasses as I reach for the rope.   I start to pull him, slowly putting one foot in front of the other.

"Faster, Momma!"  he yells, and I pick up the pace.   

"Faster!"

I'm trotting now, Finn bouncing along behind me.   I feel ridiculous, but I start to giggle.    

"VRROOOOOM!"  Finn yells.

With every step I'm lighter, and I feel my heart soar, laughter bubbling from my throat. 

The sadness cracks open and drops away piece by piece, trampled underfoot.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Caterpillars, Broken Hearts and Little Victories

Being Finn's Mom is challenging for me.   I spend a lot of time thinking about it, trying to piece together why.

He's very attached to me, which is both a blessing and a curse.

Finn is a snuggler - some part of him always needs to be touching me.   If we're in a store, he's hugging my leg, or slipping a sticky hand into mine.    He's always climbing into my lap, nuzzling my chest, or planting a spontaneous kiss on my cheek.    If I'm on the couch reading or watching TV, he'll climb up next to me and lean heavily against my side, sighing contentedly.   

No less than four or five times a day he'll spontaneously run up to me, fling his arms around my legs and say, "I love you, Momma."   

But all this loving comes with a darker side.   He wants my attention, no matter what.  Even when I'm angry with him, he grins this smirky grin because he knows he has my undivided attention.     

He's a mad scientist - always mixing things together to see what will happen.    It's a common occurrence to find a water cup full of ground pepper, or a little dish filled with soap, shampoo and toothpaste.    He plays with his toys, but he wants to see what would happen if he floats them in water, draws on them,  wraps them in tape or bangs them with a block.   Very few of his toys remain in the condition in which he got them for very long.

He doesn't want to play, he wants to alter.   Everything.

He leaves messes in his wake that boggle the mind.   I've tried everything I can think of to discipline him - time-outs, making him clean up the mess, prohibiting the use of the television or computer.    His response is, invariably, "I don't care".     I always follow through on the punishment, and he always abides by it.  

But the altering, the experimenting and the messes don't stop.  
Yesterday I walked into the bathroom and lost my footing, nearly cracking my head on the bathroom door.   Finn had been playing with the handsoap, squirting it in what must have seemed like interesting patterns on the floor.  

I was furious.   I marched him into the bathroom and pointed at the mess.  

"What is this, Finn?"

"Dat?   Dat is a pitchah of a storm.   I made it for you.    Out of soap."   He's grinning up at me, eyes bright. 

I scold him, and he smirks.   I lecture him about taking care of things, not ruining the floor, not wasting soap.  I say things like, "you have a house full of toys, and yet you keep messing about with things that aren't supposed to be played with!"  He looks at me intently the whole time I'm speaking.    I make him help me clean up the mess, and as we start scrubbing he looks at me and says, "Dis is fun, spending time with you, Momma." 

A tidal wave of fury and desperation rises up, and I'm at a loss.   I've tried everything, and still - STILL - this kid has my number.     What he wants most is me.   Even when he's in trouble.  Even when I'm scolding him.   I should have made him clean up the mess on his own, I know that, but that ends up creating a double mess.    After the mess is cleaned up, I tell him I don't want to be around him for a while, and put him in time-out.

"Okay, Momma,"  he says cheerily.   "I'll miss you when I'm in time-out, but I know you won't leave me.  I'll see you when I get out!"

As he sits in time-out, I think.    I search for something that will get to him, something that will make a lasting impression.    He doesn't have a favorite toy, he doesn't care about TV or computer that much.     What he cares about is control.    How do you take a four (and three-quarters) year old's control away? 

When I let him out of time out, I decide to try something new.    I tell him that because he doesn't treat his toys well, because he plays with things that aren't toys instead, that every time he makes a mess like he did today, or breaks or ruins something, I'm going to give a toy to charity, so that a kid who would love to have toys like he has can play with it instead.

He blinks twice.   "You're going to give my toys to someone else?"    He's incredulous.

"Yes," I respond.   "I'm going  upstairs now to find a toy, and I'm giving it to charity this afternoon.  Because of the mess you made today."

I leave him standing, puzzled, at the base of the stairs, and search around his room.    I find a caterpillar Webkinz he hasn't played with in ages.   But it's not cut-up, or covered in marker. 

I march downstairs and tell him that I'm giving the stuffed animal to charity.

He starts to wail.   "But, but, Momma!   I love that toy!   I was gonna play wif it today!!!"  

Score one for Momma, I think.   I walk, with great ceremony, to the kitchen and put the Webkinz in a paper bag, mark it "Charity" and bring it out to the car.

Finn is inconsolable.    Score two for Momma, I think. 

He sobs and sobs, pulling out every stop:

"Momma, you just bwoke my heart!"  

"I going to tell everyone how howible you are!"

"I miss Catahpillah so much I think I'm going to DIE."

"Momma?  I think I'm sick.   You know what would make me bettah?   Catahpillah."

"I hope dat boy who plays wif my Catahpillah loves him like I do."

I sit on the couch, read my book and pretend to ignore him, but inside I'm smiling away.   I'm hoping that maybe, finally, I have found something that matters to him.  He's not upset about the toy he barely played with, but rather his loss of control over the situation.    Something new and different for both of us.

I worry, though, there won't be a lasting effect, that he will forget about it quickly.

That night, as I'm tucking him into bed, he looks at me sorrowfully and says, "Momma?   Will I evah stop thinking about Catahpillah?   I just miss him so much.    I pwomise I won't make messes." 

Score three for Momma.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Operation Get Real

It had been a while since I went to my Jenny Craig appointment, because the kids were sick, I was sick and then we were on vacation for two weeks.

So I was nervous yesterday going in for my weigh-in with the world's cutest weight loss consultant, Jen.

I was already building up the excuses in my head - not for Jen, really, but for me:   we've been sick, I was on vacation, I did the best I could but it's okay if the numbers aren't as good as they have been.  I was emotionally preparing myself for the worst, because I'm fearful of becoming dispirited. 

Before leaving to go away I went to the Jenny Craig center to buy more food - I stocked up on the non-perishable, non-frozen options they have, because the fridge at the beach camp is small, and with no electricity there is, of course, no microwave.   I'm at the point now where I'm slowly weaning off the Jenny Craig food, learning how to prepare my own healthy snacks and meals.   

I had no idea what the scale would say.   I tell myself over and over that it's not about the number - and for the most part, it isn't.   Until I'm standing in front of the scale, and then I realize it still holds power over me, despite my best intentions.   Because of this, I don't weigh myself at home.   I wait for my appointment with Jen, so if the news isn't what I hoped she's there to talk me through it.

I kicked off my shoes, took a deep breath and stepped on the scale.

Jen let out a little whoop.    "WOW!"  she said.   "Do you know that you've lost a total of 38 lbs?"

I smiled, letting this information sink in.     Over vacation, by sticking to their plan and being active on the beach, walking and swimming, I lost another 6 lbs.

Beaming, we went back into her office and she gave me a quiet smile.  "I want to show you something,"  she said.  

She flipped to the back of my file and held up a printout of the photo she took of me at our first appointment.

My heart caught in my throat as I looked at the picture, and tears welled up in my eyes.   The kids were with me, and I didn't want them to see me cry, but tears came streaming down my face anyway.

Greta peered at the photo.  "Momma, were you puffing out your cheeks for that picture?"

I know the woman in the photo is me, I just don't remember looking like that.    I don't look awful - I'm smiling a big, confident, hopeful smile.   My expression is strong, happy and determined.    But I feel like I don't know the woman in the photo.   I had no idea - literally no idea - that I had gotten so big.

It makes logical sense, of course.   A person doesn't lose almost 40 pounds and still need to lose more to be at a healthy weight without having a fairly serious weight problem.   Logically, the numbers make sense.   

What floored me was the level of denial I was in to get that way and not even know it.

People tell me I look good, and of course I love hearing that, but Operation Get Healthy is not about vanity.   At the outset of this whole thing I wrote about how I was tired of being controlled by my unconscious thoughts.   I had worked hard on my emotional and spiritual health, and to me it made sense that my physical health was next.    I came into this project at the top of my mental game.   I just wanted to have more energy, to feel better, stronger.  

Looking at that picture, though, I realized that there was more at stake than just physical health.

Recovery, for me, is a journey of self-care.    I'm learning, slowly, how to put up boundaries, how to gently assess my spiritual and emotional health and slowly make changes that keep me balanced, safe.    I'm figuring out how to be more vigilant about the ways I sabotage my well-being.

I realize, now, that the things I told myself -  I don't care about physical appearance, it's hard to eat well and cook for a family, I'm active because I run around after my kids, I don't eat a lot of sugary snacks - were sneaky ways to avoid looking at the cold hard truth:   I'm overweight.    Significantly overweight.

That is how denial works, we tell ourselves the things we fervently need to believe to avoid painful truths.   I had been there with drinking - I know the situation isn't good but it isn't that bad either, I drink more than other people but I can still function, I deserve a drink at the end of the day because raising kids is hard work - and after getting sober I could see the role denial played in my addiction.   Despite all the evidence to the contrary I really, truly believed I wasn't that bad.

That is why I cried in Jen's office, because I could see that the same thing had happened with my weight.   I really, truly didn't think I was that heavy.   

Other people didn't appear to see it, either.   "You've lost 38 lbs!?!   But, you weren't that heavy, were you?"    I hear that all the time, and I don't think they are just being polite.   My close recovery friends, who always tell me the truth, said to me last night "You know, now that you've lost the weight I can see that you had a problem.    But honestly?  I just didn't notice before."

And that's how it happens.   It's hard to face yourself.    I realize I went into this weight loss journey the only way I could, by believing I didn't really have a weight problem, that I just wanted to feel better.    I approached sobriety the same way - I'm not an alcoholic, I just want my life to get better.  

I'm not going to question it, though.    I'm learning that there are greater powers at work in my life, call it a Higher Power, call it what you want - it doesn't matter.    When I get out of my own way, out of my own head, when I stop believing that everything I think has to be real because I thought it, paths unfold before me that I could never have seen on my own.

That, to me, is Grace.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Where The Heart Is

We're home.

We spent the past two weeks almost entirely off the grid.   This afternoon we slumped into the house, suntanned, tired and more than a little grubby.    I threw the large duffel bag full of smoldering dirty laundry onto the floor, peered into the fridge that contained one piece of hardened cheese and some shriveled strawberries and groaned.


The kids ran to the television and gave it hug.   They haven't watched TV, been on the computer or played a video game for over fourteen days.   

I glanced around, nervously, at the house.   The air felt flat, stuffy and unfamiliar.    Little piles of stuff waited around every corner.  I tried to straighten up as best I could before we left, but I was coming down with a cold that day, my head swimmy with fever, and mostly I just shoved things into corners and fled.

That mental ticker tape that lay dormant in my head for the past two weeks woke up:  I need to go grocery shopping, start the laundry, sort the mail, get to all the backed up jewelry orders, return phone calls. 


And I felt it - an edginess, an itch to run around and get things done, a dizzying feeling that I'm way behind on everything and I'll never catch up.     I felt disconnected, removed, out-of-sorts.    I stood in my kitchen, frozen, wondering where on earth to start.

I idly fingered through the mail - bill, bill, really big bill, reminders for overdue library books, forms to fill out and return, invitations for things that have come and gone.  

It all made me want to lie down and take a nap.   That's what I'd do if I were at the beach camp.    We did a lot of snoozing out there, curled together on the big soft bed, a cool ocean breeze floating through the window.


As I teetered out the door two weeks ago I had a pit in my stomach, wondering how in the world I was going to survive out there without my precious electronics, distractions, long chatty phone calls, blogging and twittering.    I couldn't fathom fourteen whole days together with nothing but mother nature, a few board games and our own selves to keep us entertained.   I thought we'd make it a week and then we'd just come home, desperate to get back at it.


I was wrong.   Blissfully, wonderfully wrong.   

Those things that I feel keep me afloat in day to day life - the computer, television, packing the day full of appointments, playdates and activities - I didn't miss them at all.   

I felt completely untethered - my cell phone battery died and I didn't want to charge it up, because the silent phone was such a relief.     No electricity meant no vacuum cleaner, no dreaded washing machine or dryer.    Things got damp and sandy and we hung them out on the line.    Who needs clean laundry when you live in your bathing suit?     We cleaned off by splashing in the ocean and rinsing in rain water when we got home.  

It was so freeing - my kids looked like little urchins who lived in a sand pit, and it didn't matter one whip.

I don't really want to get back at it, not at all.    I will, of course.   The washing machine is humming away in the background as I type.    I called some friends, got caught up on their lives.   I took Finn to a friend's house for a playdate, went grocery shopping.    

Now it's midnight and I can't sleep, because that nervous chattering in my head won't stop.   My brain, against my will, is ticking through tomorrow, all the things that have to get done, and it's giving me a belly ache.

The thing is, it's not so cut and dry as it feels.  All the fancy bells and whistles of day-to-day life dropped away quickly out there, with barely a thought.     The kids didn't miss the television - not once.   They didn't even use their plastic beach toys.    Each day I'd lug the big bag of toys to the beach and it would sit, untouched, while they scrabbled in the sand with their bare hands, created hermit crab hotels and mermaids out of rocks and seaweed.


There isn't any reason we can't bring some of that magic back here.    It's right under our noses, all the time, but we don't see it because we're distracted by the flashiness of television, the seductive draw of the computer, the desire to distract ourselves from the one thing that matters most:   each other.


Summer, home full time with the kids, is hard.   Without the structure of the school year, the days stretch out seemingly endlessly.   I think back to the first couple of weeks of summer, before we got away, and how I would wake up with a feeling of mild dread thinking:   how are we going to get through today?  I would get kind of panicky, like I had to keep the pace moving because if we stopped we'd all go nuts.

I want to carry the feeling of stillness I felt out there, off the grid, with me over the coming weeks.   We got back to basics and it was amazing.    I want to remember that we have everything we need - more than we need - right here.    I don't need to jam pack each day, running around doing stuff.   Summer is a time of stopping, recharging, taking a deep breath and, gulp, enjoying time together. 


I'm going to try not to cringe when I'm asked, the moment I open my eyes, "what are we going to do today?"

The answer is simple, and it is a blessing:  whatever we want.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Going There

We're on day ten of vacation out at the remote beach camp. 

We're suntanned, grubby and everything is coated in sand, but we're relaxed and happy.

I haven't been out here with the kids for such a long stretch, well, ever.    I'm surprised and amazed at how well it is going.    Ten days with no television, no computer (for the kids, HA!) or Nintendo DS and we're all still getting along.    Days seems to fly by; we've established a pattern of breakfast, games or reading, beach, barbeque, more games and then bed.   

One other unexpected blessing for me is that I haven't really thought about drinking at all, with the exception of one evening when I was fixing dinner and a black mood hit me out of the blue.  I was cranky, edgy and irritable, and it took me a few minutes to figure out I was angry.   Angry that I couldn't drink or eat like a normal person, couldn't sit on the deck and watch the sun go down while nursing a cold glass of Chardonnay and indulging in chips and dip.   But mostly I was mad that I couldn't drink.

The feeling passed.  I went up to the lighthouse, breathed in the salt air, felt the wind on my face, and waited.   After about half an hour I was fine.

The fact that ten days have passed with only one bad moment is a blessing, for sure, but also kind of a curse.

I have only been to two meetings in two weeks.   Usually I go to about three (sometimes four) a week.  

Those niggling thoughts start creeping into my head - maybe I'm okay?  Maybe I don't need meetings?   Maybe - gasp - I'm cured?    

I don't mean cured like I'm no longer an alcoholic.   I mean cured like maybe I don't need to go to so many meetings, maybe I can do this just fine without them.

I don't usually talk about meetings (when I say 'meetings' I'm talking about that international organization that has helped hundreds of thousands - perhaps millions - of people get and stay sober.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, email me), and for good reason.    I'm not here to promote or endorse any particular way of getting or staying sober.   I'm very open minded about recovery - I think any way that gets you sober and keeps you sober is a good way.

It's important to note that when I talk about going to meetings, I'm talking about how I do it.   I'm talking about me here, and only me.

I love meetings.  I love the camaraderie, safety and acceptance I feel there.    When I go to meetings consistently I feel level, balanced.    At meetings I know I'm part of something miraculous, not stuck on the outside of the world, nose pressed to the glass, watching all the 'normal' people drink.

Meetings let me get out of myself for an hour or two, as I listen to other peoples' struggles and victories.    Many times I'll raise my hand to speak at a meeting and what I say surprises me.   More often than not, there is something lurking inside me that needs to get out, and I didn't even know it was there.

It is difficult to balance going to meetings with the demands of a young family.   Especially in early sobriety, after I had put the family through so much, it felt selfish to ask to be out of the house most evenings.    My husband's schedule is demanding, too, and having to be home three times a week puts additional pressure on him.   He doesn't complain, but the guilt I feel about it is there nonetheless.

I don't know why meetings work for me, and I don't care.   All I know is I feel better when I'm going, and when I'm not I feel edgy.

Until the past couple of weeks.   I thought I'd go nuts being away from meetings, but truth be told it has been kind of nice.   Nice to not have to rush around getting the kids ready for bed before I run out the door.   Nice to not feel that tug of guilt that my husband has to come home early.       

And I'm stunned that being on vacation, not going to meetings and not drinking has been, well, easy.    I went to a meeting a few days ago, and for the first time I felt kind of awkward.   Like being away from the group for a while has somehow put me on the outside.

Last night I was sitting, watching the sun go down, listening to the kids playing in the yard, and the thought came out of nowhere: maybe I don't need to go to so many meetings.  Or at all. 

My gut clenched.   This is how it happens, I thought.   I have heard it over and over - people get away from meetings, start feeling like they are okay without them, and days, weeks or months (sometimes years) later they think they can drink in safety.    Sometime after that, they drag themselves back in, beaten and broken, and say how it all started by getting away from meetings.     I've heard it - literally - dozens of times.

I'm having thoughts like this because I'm not at meetings to hear why thoughts like this are dangerous.    Thankfully, I'm still tapped in.   I still speak to people in recovery daily - even on vacation.    I know that the first thing I have to do is tell on myself.   So that's what I'm doing.

And as soon as we're back, no matter what my brain tells me, I'm getting right back into the fold.  

It's a disease that tells you that you don't have a disease.   It's always out there, waiting for you to let your guard down.   

It used to bother me when people spoke about alcoholism like it's some monster in a closet, like it doesn't come from inside them.    

Now I know better, though.   It whispers in my ear without my permission.    There isn't such a thing as more sober, but I work hard at my recovery.  I'd like to think that couldn't happen to me.   

That's just what it wants me to think.    Meetings, for me, are the only way I can combat the siren call of the disease.    The force field of love and support I get from other people in recovery is the biggest part of what keeps me sober.   

I find that love and support at meetings.  

For me, getting sober without going to meetings would be like dieting without counting calories.   It just doesn't work any other way.   There aren't any shortcuts or miracle cures, no matter how badly I wish there were.

And I only wish for the miracle cure when I'm away from meetings, away from that group of incredible, strong, funny, compassionate people who make me grateful - yes, actually grateful - that I'm a recovering alcoholic.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tutus for Tanner - Let's Do Some Good, People

I may have mentioned, in passing, at some point, that I'm running a 5k in August while I'm at the BlogHer conference.

Did I mention I'm doing it in a Tutu?

My good friend Heather got me all excited about running a 5k the morning before the conference.   She had all kinds of very sound arguments - it's for a good cause, raises money and awareness for Muscular Dystrophy, it's a great way to top off your weight loss, it will be a great ice breaker to run with the other bloggers.

I'm not a runner.   I'll run if you chase me with an axe, but my preferred method of exercise is to walk as quickly as I can, uphill, on a treadmill.  Or outside, where I do that ridiculous marching-duck-walk kind of thing - walking as fast I can without actually running.   I really hate running.

But I'm not one to say no to, well, anything.    It's something I'm working on, this "NO" thing.    Besides, it does sound like fun, and who knows?   I'll weigh about 35 lbs less than I did four months ago, so maybe I won't need to hire an axe murderer to get my butt in gear.

After she got my consent, she had one more tidbit to add.   "Oh, yeah," she said, like she just remembered.   "And you have to wear a Tutu."

That, my friends, totally sealed the deal for me.   I'm fairly sure I will not get the opportunity to run down the middle of the street in New York wearing a Tutu again in my lifetime.   That is, if I manage to stay sober.

But - really, truly, in all seriousness - it IS for a good cause.    To learn more about Tanner, go to Her Bad Mother's blog and read all about him.      He is an 8 year old boy with a huge heart and even more courage.   I can't do it justice here, so please go find out more.

I don't even know when the phenomenon of wearing Tutus to honor Tanner started - but I know it happens all over the country, raising money and awareness to fight Muscular Dystrophy.

One of my all time favorite bad-ass bloggers, Black Hockey Jesus, is putting his own unique spin on the 5k in New York.    Anyone who reads BHJ knows that he wouldn't just run this race any old way.    

He is going to run the 5k as many times as he can, over and over, and he's accepting pledges of any denomination on his blog - each donatation is good toward one 5k.   For example, if you donate $5 and he runs the 5k four times, your donation would be $20.  

He's inspired me in my weight loss journey, BHJ has, although he isn't one to want the recognition or praise.   If you don't know about the 365 BHJ Fitness Regime already, I'll explain it to you.   It's quite simple - on New Year's Day this year he decided he'd had enough of his gut hanging over his belt and decided to run at least a mile every single day this year.   Did I mention he likes to do things in his own unique way?

Since New Year's day he has run way more than a mile a day - although it started out that way - in any weather, at any time of day, no matter what.     He's lost a boatload of weight, but that was only kind of the point, I think.   He writes about liking to push his limits, challenge himself, find out what he's made of.

I understand that.

Now, I'm not crazy enough to run at ALL, let alone every day, but I admired his determination and spirit.   He's collected quite a few fellow runners along the way, kind of like a virtual Forrest Gump.   If Forrest Gump swore a lot.   As far as I'm concerned they're all nuts, but as I munched on my Doritos and read about his fitness journey, I was inspired despite myself.    

So BHJ running the 5k as many times as he can to raise money for Tutus for Tanner is the perfect fit - crazy, but with heart.   Because he has a heart, even though you have to sift through a lot of  F-bombs to find it.    It's a big part of why I love his blog so much.   He pushes limits, does things with language that boggle my mind, says so many things that ping around in my head and my heart but I don't have the guts to say them.   And he helps people.   He pisses off as many people as he helps, but by my way of thinking the people he pisses off are allergic to the truth.

All the blabbering on is leading to my point - please donate what you can to raise money for this worthy cause.  If you don't want to pledge on his blog, I've put the widget on the right hand side of my blog where you can make a one-time donation. Any amount helps.

I'm not going to try and raise money myself - it will be a miracle if I finish the damn race.   But I'll be out there in a Tutu and a smile.    And I'll post pictures, I think.  

And BHJ will be wearing a Tutu as well.  A black one.   Because that is so, like, edgy.

Fireflies

I'm in a chaotically profound mood tonight, thoughts pinging around in my head without structure or reason.   I want to grab the feelings and slam them onto the page, but graceful words elude me.

And so, I'll simply write.

We're still out at our beach camp.   The house is still - my children are sleeping safely in their beds, the dog is snoring at my feet.   My husband is somewhere out on the point, fishing.    I'm sitting out on our deck, enjoying the cool ocean breeze and marveling at the stars.   Out here, where there is no electricity, the stars shine impossibly bright.

I'm thinking about time.   How moments can grab you and rattle you to your core, only to slip seamlessly on to the next thing.    Those minutes, hours or days that feel like they are going to last a lifetime? 

They don't.

A week ago today I was gripped with fear as I whispered desperate words of what I hoped were encouragement and strength to someone struggling with the worst the disease of alcoholism has to offer.   I thought she wouldn't make it to the end of the day.  

Then I was hit with the flu and spent three days shivering under my covers while outside the thermometer read eighty degrees.    It was the kind of sickness where you can't believe you'll ever feel better again.

The weekend brought a break in the fever, and a renewed feeling of strength and purpose.   We spent long days at the beach, quiet evenings laughing, playing games, talking.


I watched in awe as my kids had their turn being young and free out here, smiling with something like disbelief as they played endless games of tag, hide and seek and capture-the-flag with the children of the people who were my running mates years ago.

Somehow over thirty years have passed with the blink of an eye, and it's my turn to be the Mom.

I snuggled with Greta on the beach as we watched fireworks burst over our heads.   She gave me a private smile and whispered in my ear, "I have a tiny, little crush on Patrick, Momma."     Patrick is the son of the guy who, just yesterday it seems, was sixteen and throwing pebbles at my bedroom window out here at the camp, wanting to know if I would come outside and talk.  

Today, forty miles out to sea on a whale watch, the kids and I squealed in delight as we saw an enormous humpback crest the waves, jump majestically in the air, barrel roll and splash back into the depths.   

In the past seven days I have witnessed little miracles, as the person I thought wouldn't make it woke up the next morning to fight another day.   

I watched as my kids splashed in the ocean, giggling madly as they tumbled over and over.     Just yesterday, it seems, I walked them inch by inch towards the water, their feet on my feet and their little fists over their heads as they gripped my hands.

I felt my heart swell as my Mom dug in the sand with Greta and my Dad hunted minnows with Finn, just like they used to do with me.

In the past seven days moments have slipped effortlessly from joyful to fearful, redemptive to mundane, sublime to ridiculous.

We have had temper tantrums, hugs, tears, skinned knees, angry words and raucous laughter.   

As I was sitting on the porch looking up at the stars, I was thinking:  it has been quite a week

But has it really?   It has just been, well, a week.  Seven days, all full of their own miracles, sorrows and surprises.   Time marches on with its own agenda, thoughtlessly buffeting me about in ways I can't predict.
  
When my family sleeps, when I have a quiet moment, I tend to try and compartmentalize the day - find a nice, neatly labeled box to put it in.   ScaryBoring.   Fun.   AnnoyingProductive.  

What those are, though, are moments.

Moments that tick by with impossible speed, adding layer upon invisible layer to life.


I want to pluck each moment out of the air, capture it in a jar like a firefly, so I can examine it to my heart's content.

But I can't.  So, I'll simply write.