Amusement Parks

Every summer when I was a kid was spent at amusement parks.  We went to Six Flags Magic Mountain the most and Knott’s Berry Farm came in second.  There’s sweet nostalgia in the biting smell of chlorinated water, the burn of heated oil frying funnel cakes, and the clank and roar of a roller coaster loaded with excitement.

We would go in groups and make sure we were able to ride together, asking strangers to ride ahead of us. We were in large groups, playing hothands or slide in line as we would laugh and gossip and talk about cute boys.  Sometimes we would split off to ride different rides, and meet up for lunch at a designated spot and time.  It was an endless day of rides, plotting our day in a progression across the park, acre by acre, ride by ride, greasy treat followed by too much sugar.  And water rides.  The water rides were a morning, noon and night treat because in the morning and at night the lines were short, and at midday, we talked and got sunburns and didn’t mind waiting two hours for a ride that lasted less than five minutes.

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” – Carl Jung

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Boysenberry ice cream, and topping with Bavarian cream, whipped cream and churros.  Jealous? It was too sweet toward the middle. 

I was given about $40 and I had to really consider if food was more important than an airbrushed shirt.  All day in line with a cute boy and hand holding was different from back in the real world where we had friends that watched closer and had opinions.  I still remember a ride on Free Fall at Magic Mountain with a cute boy holding my hand and giving it a squeeze right when we dropped and for the first time really yelling on a ride because I generally smile and enjoy the drops and turns. He was flipping his baseball cap on and off his head with the visor and his hair was slicked back like a helmet. His name was Manny.  He changed the experience that day. 

“She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.”—Kate Chopin, “The Awakening”

Yesterday I took kid3 to Knott’s Berry Farm.  His older brothers were at Anime Expo with their Dad so we had a mother and son date weekend. Age has done some wicked things to my body and things feel different.  They look different.  There was a determination to make the day one where my son could just be a kid.  It happened on our way into the park when I was telling him that my last trip was before I had kids when I went with my Dad.  Knott’s honors our Veterans with free admission around Veteran’s Day.  My son wanted to go then so it wouldn’t cost me.  It was then that I realized he was so concerned about having enough that I wasn’t allowing him to be a child.  He was worried about money. Before we set foot inside the park, I looked him in the eye and said the only thing he needed to worry about is how much fun he could have, and keeping me from puking.  He kept having moments of making a request, and then covering it up by saying he was just kidding.  I spent the day telling him that his thoughts, opinions and desires are important, and he doesn’t have to be kidding, but any requests that had to be denied came with a reason that even he could validate.  If at anytime he had to go to the bathroom, was hungry or thirsty or wanted to see or do something, it was up to him.  There were limits, such as climbing on railings, but I wanted to stress how important his childlike innocence is to me.  Figuring out being a single mom is stressful and I didn’t see until that moment how much it was weighing on him as well.

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I kept picking up the geode and putting it down.  When it was finally cut, it was beautiful but I laughed because I immediately saw a vagina.  I’m such a child. 

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” – Carl Jung

My stomach was different when I was younger.  It was stronger.  I was able to ride anything and shake it off to ride the next big coaster by the time we got through the long line. I loved the loops and riding backward. Now I don’t.  Now the loops and spirals make me want to vomit.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been able to stomach a Merry-Go-Round.  I get dizzy.  But rides that twist and spin tend to make me want to vomit now so I avoid most rides that are not wooden coasters.

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.” -Carl  Jung

There were many rides where I stood in line with my son and waited with him, only to step through and wait for him to ride alone.  Or I asked if others would ride with him.  It wouldn’t have been fun for either of us if I got sick and we had to sit the whole day.  I know my limits. Mind you, only a few weeks ago, I got car sick in someone else’s car.  (It might have just been a bad date and a reaction to him.) Wooden roller coasters are made for steep climbs and tremendous drops.  I love the weave back and forth. While Ghostrider made me burp like it was a Beerfest, I didn’t want to hurl.  I was smiling throughout the ride.

At one point there was a family behind us complaining about the long wait. My child started to grumble.  I pulled my son into a hug and told him the long wait wouldn’t get any shorter if we started complaining and it just means more time to hang out and give him my full attention. Then we started tickling each other. 

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” – Carl Jung

My son loves terrifying rides.  He feels fear and excitement and will talk about being afraid, but he’s also very determined to ride in spite of his fear.  This is bravery and I am so proud of him.  At one point his determination made a grown woman suck it up and go on a ride she almost backed out of. 

Throughout the day, I was declining rides because of a fear of being sick.  It’s a solid concern considering how consistently I get sick, but still, I kept chickening out.  The times I did get on rides, I laughed and screamed in joyful exhilaration while my son rode next to me with terror etched in his 9 year old features.  At the end of the ride, he was happy and excited and wanted to ride again while I was happy during the ride, and sick afterward.  I’m not sure what it means yet, but it means something, right?

“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” -Carl  Jung

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Rewriting the Past in the Present

I woke up early yesterday and decided I wanted to walk over memories made in San Pedro in 1997. It was my first thought at 6 in the morning. Actually, I waffled back and forth for a few hours while in bed, thinking I would take a niece. One didn’t answer her phone and the other two were busy being productive young adults.  I checked the weather report to see if those insane winds we just had would revisit and threaten my comfort at the beach. No crazy winds and it’s too hot to not wear a bikini.  I’ve been to the beach alone plenty of times, but to go alone in a bikini is another thing altogether .  I almost stayed home, but I noticed the toe nail polish I chose earlier this week matched my bikini and took it as a sign and finally left after 10.

The boyfriend I had in 1996-1997 was a special guy.  He was German and El Salvadorean.  We met through friends.  He knew them before he left Los Angeles for Far Rockaway, New York where he finished out high school with his grandmother because he was out of control in gang life here.  He came home with an accent that I will always have a thing for.  I think it was just the way he straddled ethnicities and racial identities the way I do.  He didn’t fit in one place just like I couldn’t and he felt like home. He was the type to remember every month anniversary with flowers.  He remembered I’m not fond of baby’s breath and each bouquet was unique and beautiful.  He designed a lot of them himself. Before he bought his Mustang, he would hitch a ride with his best friend who was dating my best friend.  Once, he rode his bicycle from his home in North Hollywood to my home in Elysian Park just to see me.  He always had a hiking adventure planned, or wanted to take me out somewhere special.  He bought me a couple of dresses, and had a great sense of style. He once bought himself a jacket but gave it to me when he saw how much I loved it and how happy it made me. He made serious things fun, and sensual things funny.  I was devastated when our relationship ended. There were other men and a whole marriage happened since then, but I had always cherished this one memory in San Pedro and it was time to walk through it with the clarity of time.

I took the 110 Freeway to the very end.  I remembered when he drove and I fell asleep.  Falling asleep while someone else drives is always a sign I feel completely at ease and trust the person I am with.  I think falling asleep with someone else means you feel safe enough to give them your vulnerability.  I remembered waking up on the way because he had decided to race someone else on the freeway and the speed change and swerving woke me.  I startled awake, freaking out a bit and he laughed at me.  I laughed too, and only now see I would have been justified in being angry that he was always driving recklessly with little regard for my safety.

I got to the Korean Friendship Bell and walked around for a while.  I remembered holding hands and walking around the bell.  He was so happy and he looked all around, but I was just focused on watching him.  We stayed on the concrete path around the bell, but I didn’t yesterday.  I wandered around the grassy hills all around because I wanted to explore all sides.  I want to see all there is to see.  I love a good view and forgot how much I do in the flow of being so much to other people.

I drove a block from the Friendship Bell and parked at Pt. Fermin Park.  We had hiked down from the park almost 20 years ago, then we ate Cheetos and  made sandwiches from all that he packed in the lunch he surprised me with.  Today I hopped the wall like we did before.  The fence seemed bigger today than it did before.  The “No Trespassing” signs were everywhere. And people were still ignoring them. I wore a bikini today with a tank top and skirt over it.  I put on my river shoes at the car and hiked down the way we did last time.  It was steep and at times completely terrifying.  I forgot about it because he made me feel safe back then. I focused on one step after another, and secure places to hold onto while the dirt shifted and wrapped around me feet, sliding me further along than I planned in many places. When I got to the bottom, I started hopping from rock to rock reminding myself of a goat, shocked and excited that I made it all the way down the cliff face without falling or injuring myself.

I walked around and looked at the life in the rocks. There were sea urchins and anemones.  There were so many tiny hermit crabs in the small tide pools.  In one area, I saw three sea slugs at once, and clams with long arms reaching out to hold on during the rise and fall of the tides and violent crashing waves.  The High and Low Tide schedule I had gotten from a lifeguard in Malibu informed me that we were already at low tide, and as I watched, I remembered seeing millions of starfish, when I couldn’t spot one today.

At one point I saw a man hike over the rocks from the eastern side of the shore.  He stood at the base of the cliff, ready to head back up and he seemed content to enjoy the waves that were crashing and flooding around my ankles as I stood on boulders and watched a rocky shelf appear out of the Pacific. I smiled his way because it was a friendly place to be and everyone there was happy to be there. He waited and when his girlfriend joined him, I could see she was wearing strappy sandals.  I remembered with gratitude the last time I was there and I was warned to bring sensible shoes and had a hand to hold and constant guidance over the rocks.  I could remember and feel the love through all of these years and it was a great feeling as I released that memory of his gentle kindness.  I took a moment to reflect on the selfishness I witnessed today and redirected my thoughts as I saw the parallels in this stranger and my own life. It was Magic Mountain and Disneyland all over again, where we lost kids for a while.

As the rocks spread out before me, I realized that even in low tide, the water would still reach me, and wash around my ankles.  It still splashed the hem of my skirt even as I could see rock formations that were completely hidden when I first arrived.  It was this profound moment when it dawned on me that even in low tides, the waters will reach me, but they won’t over take me because they crash so far away from my place – my focus, that the little waves don’t matter.  It was a life lesson that I could apply to the roller coaster that is what started as a marriage.  Some days the waves splash much more painfully than others, but I’m at low tide, and it’s nothing like it was in those first months where everything was devastating and the water raged above me and there was no air to breathe or a sun to warm the chill of the icy waters.

I decided to hike back up on the other side where that couple had ascended the cliff.  I turned and took a picture where  I thought I had reached half way.  In reality, I was only half way to Sunken City.  Sunken City was a small community of bungalows.  The cliff began to fall and the homes were evacuated and relocated.  Two of the houses fell into the sea, but the place is full of bare foundations covered in graffiti. While waves lapped around my feet and sea life swayed in the tide pools around me, I could see several people up there, watching me, and I assumed it was the top of the cliff, but lower from where I hiked down. The climb from Sunken City to the park was the most difficult. It’s possible that if I had explored a bit I might have found an easier path. I reached the top and it felt amazing to do so.  I kept looking back and thinking, I could have died, and how dumb this idea was because I’m a Mom.

But I didn’t die and it felt amazing to do it on my own.

I kept smiling because I did it.  I did it without twisting an ankle, falling, or scraping my hands or legs. I broke the law in going past the signs that were placed for my safety.  I went down, then up the side of a cliff without a buddy or even letting anyone know what kind of shenanigans I had in mind.  My sister knew I was planning on going to San Pedro, but I didn’t mention the climb.  If I had one of her girls with me, I wouldn’t have made that part of our adventures, but I felt fine doing it alone.  I also talked to my Dad and he wanted to know what I was getting into.  I told him I was on a field trip in San Pedro and he mentioned how much he wants calamari.  I told him he could meet me at Santa Monica later and we could have dinner.

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Santa Monica Pier and Beach

I arrived in Santa Monica and sunbathed for a while.  I chose a spot near the pier where there is no swimming a fewer people. I had already hiked in my tank top, and spent the day sans sunscreen (poor planning) so my awkward tan lines are a product of that, but I spent some time on a beach in my bikini, completely alone.  It took a while to realize no one cared what I looked like.  It’s a truth I once danced in under the protective gaze of a husband and my constant vigilance over our children. Alone on the beach surrounded by other people . . . no one really cared about my stretch marks or soft parts and the ones looking sent a smile of appreciation.  I didn’t bother to go in the water.  I am fully aware of how cold it is, and the icy sting on my ankles and calves in San Pedro were enough.  I walked up and down the pier and again saw that friendly photographer.  He found a ladybug on my shoulder and handed it to me, saying it was good luck.  His smile was friendly as always.  He opened his arms for a hug, and I returned it with half of one.  My instincts are telling me I’m not comfortable with him in that way because how I feel about a hug says a lot, and I will probably avoid that part of the pier unless I’m walking it with someone who wants to hold my hand.  I mainly wanted to see what people are catching, but I haven’t seen any fish yet, so I’m probably not missing much.

I stopped in the aquarium under the pier to ask about the missing starfish.  The guy charging admission told me there was a virus that attacked them a few years back and there aren’t really any in our waters anymore.  He told me to give it three or four more years because the last time he was scuba diving, he saw some tiny ones and they’re coming back.  He was impressed with my observation and I had a few moments of joy at the attention to my curiosity.  I’m always curious, but it’s not always a good thing to be. I left and wondered if I should have flirted with him, but didn’t feel inclined to correct that.  I was still enjoying the way it felt to hike up that cliff and that feeling left little room for any romantic endeavors.

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Santa Monica Beach Sand Art

It was my Dad and sister’s first trip to Bubba Gump.  More than that, I was open to including them in part of my day, without altering my plans completely to make someone else happy. It was the first time I had been there since going with my family – with my ex.  It was nice to see their food joy and see them enjoy the pier as briefly as they did.  It was last minute, so they weren’t prepared.  I walked them to their car and then walked to mine where I pulled on a pair of jeans, then pulled off my skirt.  I slapped on my Uggs because they keep the sand and cold out and walked along the shore to catch the sunset before walking along the pier again where I offered to take pictures of strangers that were trying to catch their coupledom in a Santa Monica Sunset. I sat on a bench and smiled at the day I had while a musician played Greensleeves.  I spent some time singing along to some K-ROQ classics with Rock and Roll Jesus, and one of these days I will take a picture of him. He sings and hustles almost every day of the week.  Most of them do, and I admire that. I had a bag of cotton candy to myself.  It was my reward for not drinking my calories at Bubba Gump when I had their unsweetened tea.

I left and took the streets again.  This time I thought I’d take a new street, which is something I used to do all of the time and how I found my way to Will Rogers.  I used to just drive and take streets that were interesting.  When I was younger, I kept a Thomas Guide in the trunk in case I got lost.  I got a little lost last night and when I asked Siri to rescue me, I started laughing at how far off I was.  I pulled over because I didn’t trust her sense of directions, and looked at the map and saw where I went wrong.  I made two left turns where she was sending me right, and I knew where I was again.  That is growth for me.  My greatest adventures through Los Angeles used to be in getting lost and mapping my way out of it.  Then I dated gang members.  My ex was the only one to get jumped into Vet status, and that was after we had started our family.  No one got jumped out. They’re still gang members. They will always be afraid to “get caught slipping” in a rival gang’s neighborhood.  They will avoid certain areas in the off chance someone will recognize them, and it’s not as simple as saying you have the wrong person.  For some reason, it’s possibly worse to deny you’re the person that made really bad choices.  I remember getting lost around the Citadel with the ex.  I went into a full on panic attack.  Last night getting lost gave me joy and great belly laughs.  I laughed at myself and laughed at how exhausted I was, and how much I was enjoying the ride home.  I even smiled through departing Dodger traffic, and decided it’s time to look for a schedule because that area affects my escape hatch trips.

It was a lovely day and I’m so glad I listened to Goddess Gloria when I met her in that child support court and she suggested I re-do that memory in San Pedro.  She was right.  It was a good memory and he was a great guy, but he had a cruelty streak that I saw in how he treated my younger brothers.  I would never introduce him to my sons because of that.  It wasn’t okay then when I was a selfish big sister, but I’m a mom now and it’s my job to protect my kids.  I take that seriously.  He had a problem with accountability.  Nothing was ever a result of his actions, and I have enough sins of my own to cover.  He’s another person not worth looking up, but that memory was special and I needed to see it for what it was and making new memories – memories of my accomplishments and my growth made yesterday so much more than what happened in 1997. And my old lady knees feel great. It’s my calves and thighs that are looking for a day of soaking in epsom salts in my jetted tub. It hurts to move but I’m smiling.

Motherhood as Leadership

I was one of those Leadership kids in my Freshman year.  Over 20 years ago it was the last year of Junior high and not the first year of high school. We had meetings and someone took minutes, but it was really a free pass out of class to run around and plan school dances and fundraisers.  There was so much more to what it was supposed to be, but I only ran for my office as a popularity contest on someone else’s social agenda.  I got the hall pass and sweatshirt and front and center seats for major assemblies, the panorama picture and graduation.  We booked the d.j. and diluted fruit punch concentrate into hydration for the circles of dancers that showed off their moves, but would pretend to be wall flowers as soon as the lights were back on.  We sold tickets and decorated a depressing boys gym into a room suitable for raging hormones, gross insecurities and cliques of kids rushing in hordes for potential dance battles and fist fights. I never understood what the goal of the class was meant to be because we had a series of tasks but I didn’t have the understanding of the reasons behind them.

In recent years, my thoughts on leadership have grown.  During my last pregnancy, we spent a lot of time at amusement parks.  The ex lost over 100 pounds and he wanted to go and keep going with his new-found energy.  We had littles and I was pregnant with another couple’s twins.  We would walk in a line where he would lead and I always took up the rear to make sure we didn’t lose anyone.  That was when I decided I wanted to be more than a mom.  I wanted to be a leader to my sons.  It was in noticing that our pace wasn’t set by the most capable, but by the one that needed the most guidance and hand holding, which switched between kids several times per hour.  In taking the rear, and making sure my kids were on course, I was guiding them. I was encouraging them to catch up to Daddy and watching that they didn’t wander in a different direction.

Leadership isn’t about telling people what to do and expecting them to jump because of your position or their fear of you.  It’s not about puffing up your position, but letting your team know the ways they are a valuable and essential part of your team. It’s about guidance and encouragement to lead your team to want to do better and think in ways that promote the team, and not the individual. Leadership means the leader is as much an integral part of the team as every single member, but the leader is accountable for fostering a culture of advancement.

For my family, leadership is about establishing a compelling direction and for now that is a direction founded in acceptance and unconditional love.  No matter what choices they make in life and love, they know I will always love and support them.  Soon after they started telling me they loved me, I started telling them that I will always love them, whether or not they love boys or girls. Their choices might not always make me proud, but I will always be proud to be their mother.  I do my best to encourage open communication and I don’t place my shame or my feelings on them if I can help it.  I help them solve problems and the day they stop coming to me with them, is the day I know I have failed them as a leader.

My goal for my family is to foster relationships that build each other up.  I hear it gets easier when brothers are older.  Leadership in this way takes the direction of enabling a structure of support.  It’s encouraging them when they play together and discouraging destructive competition. It’s in helping each other to do well.  It’s a thank you when one sacrifices for the other, or when one helps with a homework problem explanation when my reserves are low and I need the perspective of someone else in my single mom home.

One day the authority I empower as mom will help my children internalize my ideals.  When those thoughts become theirs and they understand their own manifest and latent benefits, they will idealize and live out these lessons in every area of their lives.  Leadership teaches others to lead their own lives with intention.  It’s not enough to be an angry mother with timbered calls of authority.  It’s the gentle guidance that makes them search for answers on their own, with nudges from me that lead them along the path I had scouted in my own adolescent adventures.

It’s been a difficult year.  There’s no way to sugarcoat that. Being positive is part of my personality but it’s also about leadership.  If my kids see that I can be positive in a negative situation, it shows all of us that our answers are not impossible. It’s about knowing I will make mistakes and just get things wrong. It’s allowing them to hold me accountable and asking them to call me out on my prideful ignorance.  I frequently remind myself to be the mom my children deserve, and not the mom I feel like being.  I let them know that our family is ours, and our home is not just mine.  It helps them find enthusiasm in being part of our family and obligation becomes privilege.

I believe leadership is found in doing what is right, rather than what is easy.  It falls in line with financial stewardship and embracing the idea that you don’t know all of the answers, and you don’t have to, but your curiosity will be rewarded with at least trying to find the answers.

That Time I was the Other Woman

It wasn’t on purpose.  It never was.  He was sweet and made her feel like his world was better with her in it.  He wanted her to meet him while he was working because he was always working and she was his happiness.  Her new soundtrack was about the longing and love he made her feel as they sat and talked and kissed in her car while he was on a break.

She only saw him at work.  He was on location and she was happy to follow him on sets all over Los Angeles.  He would wrap warm arms around her and lend her his jacket.  She wore Versace Red Jeans and he wore Versace Blue Jeans. It was unintentional but it must have meant something in the signs she was searching for. They would smoke cigarettes together, and he would light hers with the Zippo lighter she bought and had engraved with his name. He always lit her cigarettes in a show of old Hollywood chivalry. His house was in Rancho Cucamonga and too far for her to visit, but he told her she would be proud that he mowed his lawn every weekend.  He only had his kids on weekends and he wanted her to meet him at his house one day – to meet his kids.  His kids were his world and his ex girlfriend wasn’t in the picture anymore. His work schedule made it hard to see them anytime but the weekends.

Her friends didn’t believe he was real because they never saw him but made fun of his last name and called him Mango.  He was sweet and they gave him a code name she loved.  Her friends saw the shiftiness and wondered why they never saw him.  If he loved her, why was it so easy to stay away from her?

His story began to shift in the days and weeks they dated. Working as a gaffer was hard work and long hours, but eventually he became the supervisor of the security company on most sets.  She didn’t question his lies because it didn’t matter what he did as long as he kept making her smile. The ex was all the bad in the world.  She was the source of his pain and she took all of his hard work and spent it and didn’t care about him.  She went from ex girlfriend to ex-wife in a few dates, because his dishonesty was killing him and he needed her to know that she meant enough to be open and honest.

He met her at her favorite pool hall with his son Michael and brother Jason.  They played 8-ball.  Michael was sweet and shy and happy to be with his Daddy and Daddy’s friend.  Daddy kissed his friend, but friends sometimes kiss and it was innocent to a five-year old.

She met him at work and his co-worker told her that he was still married, and she shouldn’t trust his lies because his lies were destroying worlds.  She couldn’t believe that.  His words brought hope and happiness.  His words made her feel lovely in all of the low places because he wanted her but loved her enough to wait and fill their visits with words and kisses and the kisses were chaste because he respected her.

One day she ran into his brother on a location set.  Jason felt bad that she was so misled and he gave her the honesty his brother was withholding.  She was dating a married man who went home to his wife every night and beat her when he was angry.  She was dating a married man and the proof was irrefutable. Jason took her to meet their mother and unwrapped her Christmas gift in memories through a scrapbook wedding with grand babies. Her boyfriend was the groom and the Daddy and she was a homewrecker.  She was a trollop.

Jason wanted to touch the places she wanted to be touched.  Jason knew how to pull her across a dance floor and wanted to show her what he thought the meaning of life was and it filled the spaces her boyfriend left.

She would never kiss her boyfriend again and dumped him because he had a wife.  The longing and pain were real. He was pretending but it was real to her. She wouldn’t see him again, though he begged her and she missed him.  She would want closure because it was a word that meant she might not have been wrong to give him her heart. She would spend weeks feeling like the lowest scum on earth for being with a married man, for feeling like her happiness could justify the destruction of a family.

She would never again date a married man because the point of marriage is that you aren’t open to dating. What this boyfriend taught her would settle into solid lines never to be crossed because he taught her what marriage isn’t in the weight of what she danced in.  His allusions made her feel beautiful and the unfairness of his lies made her wonder how much was real.

She would settle for a man who wasn’t handsome but made her feel desire that consumed them both.  He wasn’t successful but she found home was in his arms. She would learn to trust him through the times he betrayed that trust. She would wait in faithfulness through his solid and malicious rejection, until she would decide that she had enough of what he offered and she would want more joy than he could ever give again.

One day she would look up the old boyfriend because cyber stalking is her gift.  She would see that he is divorced and looks nothing like he did in her memories. In 16 years, his children grew into beautiful expressions of their parents.  She could see that the pain he caused them cut him out of their pictures and likely their lives. The shadows of released inhibitions weighed down the happiness in his smile and though he now tips the scale far less than he used to, he stands as though there is more weight on his shoulders.The fading tattoos that were one or two now mapped destruction all over his entire body. She would decide he wasn’t worth a hello.

She would continue looking up other ex boyfriends to hold them up and see if she would want them back.  She would decide to keep the memories they gave her but that they weren’t worth the friend request. They weren’t worth a revisit.  She would pour herself a fresh cup of coffee and daydream about the shape and form of her next lesson with a Cheshire cat smile and joyful anticipation.

Have a Drink with me, part 2

My kids are home this weekend and the coming storm means we’ll be home.  That makes them happy and it means I can lounge in pajamas and maybe bake some comfort. This coming kid free weekend I will be working up to the idea of relaxing inebriation, but I’m learning it’s not just my comfort zone that needs stretching.  My family is used to seeing me as the designated driver because I put my ex’s wants first.  They’re used to seeing me sip a soda or water or anything non-alcoholic because I needed to be ready to Mom through a situation without worrying if I need a driver. I’ve written about my relationship with Drinking in the past, but I’m fleshing things out a bit today.

Kid3 was with me last night and asked for soda.  We rarely have it in the house and I gave in to a 12 pack of Coca-Cola for my boys because a once in  awhile splurge should feel like a splurge. I picked up a purple bottle of Viniq.  I used to love Alize and Moscato d’Asti was my favorite wine until I had a reaction that required Benadryl.  I think it might be a good thing to try.  Over ice.  With a splash of club soda. I have a great drunken memory of drinking Alize on the floor of Pro’s Billiards and telling my friends they were beautiful and asking if I could kiss them on the nose. I was loads of fun until I ended the night calling the boy I was nuts about and asking him why he was such an unfeeling asshole.  (I’m so not kidding about not being able to handle my liquor.)

Kid3 didn’t like the idea of me drinking and didn’t want me to buy the bottle of Viniq. A few months ago he said his Dad drinks a lot when they aren’t around, but I never prodded.  We’re grown ups.  We can pay taxes, vote and buy our own booze and cigarettes. I wasn’t planning on drinking in front of my kids, but he was determined to let me know he doesn’t want me drinking. I promised him I wouldn’t drink it in front of him because I wasn’t going to drink in front of my kids anyway, and I wanted it because of the pretty shimmery swirls. It was on clearance and cheaper than his lava lamp. We got home and kid1 had a problem with it too.  He pointed out that nothing good comes out of drinking.  My pretty bottle may remain a pretty bottle for a while.  I have other bottles that have gotten far less attention and no one will notice a dip in their levels. This morning I told my sister about the bottle of Viniq and she said, “wow, you’re going all balls out.” That made me giggle, and yes, we talk like that.  I very rarely write like that but spend enough time with me that I feel comfortable telling you the many things that I don’t write about and I will talk like the teenage mom that doesn’t want to grow up.  My walls come down and my censor is silenced. When I’m comfortable enough, I talk with my inner child more than I talk to my inner porn star and my inner porn star has made a few appearances on this blog. I’m very in touch with who I am and what makes me special.

Right out of high school the start of my week was about pizza, beer, cigars and Monday night football.  Sometimes alone, but often with friends.  A normal gathering included one to three 18 packs of beer for a group of 4 or 5 .  Back then it was MGD or Corona and sometimes Heineken and Mickey’s. It took a while to decide I wasn’t nuts about beer, and when alone, I would experiment with a bartender’s bible in one hand and a jigger in the other.  I loved peach schnapps and would often drink Sex on the Beach when home alone. At bars, I ordered a Cape Cod because back then I was often in dive bars where the drink was different depending on who made it and people rarely got cranberry juice and vodka wrong. I liked apple martinis that tasted like blow pops, and not at all sour.  I don’t remember how to make these anymore and I misplaced that bible many years ago.

With family, we used to drink Hennessy and it was my late grandmother’s favorite. The one from Thailand would drink it straight up with a can of Pepsi next to her.  I have no idea if my grandmother in Houston drank. The family shifted the shared bottle of Hennessy to Courvoisier. Drinking with my family is fun and funny and not every time I’ve had a few drinks was scary, even if my last drinking post gave you that impression.  I had plenty of scary moments that I could never reconcile with being who I want to be as a person and as a mom but they were nights when I wanted to drink alone in public. It’s not the drinks I had, but the choices surrounding those drinks that aligned with the path to self-destruction I was determined to walk on. I’m not afraid to drink or drink alone.

Alcohol never left my home.  I make coq au vin with red wine and cognac.  I add too many capers and a little white wine to my chicken picatta. My beef stew starts with beer and the darker the better, but I’m not picky.  I deglaze pans with dry red wine when I make pot roast.  Pork chops glazed in peach schnapps with shallots will always be a favorite.  I make hot buttered rum batter every Christmas and use spiced rum and whipped cream if a can survives the day with kids around after they’ve gone to sleep.  My kids still freak out a bit when they see me cook with alcohol, but then they taste what is familiar and see it’s okay.

Every holiday we gather at my mom’s house and there’s drinking. The holidays are a time for love and silliness and just enjoying each other. I rarely join in on the drinks but I plan on changing that when I am kid free and don’t have to worry about rushing out in the face of a sudden meltdown or ER visit.  I know I can hang around, grazing on too much food until I’m sober and not going to endanger the general public. I know I’m safe with family and that no one will judge me for not being able to talk without giggling or being overly affectionate. I’m not a binge drinker.  Not anymore.  Once I feel warm, I stop sipping and just enjoy the relaxed haze of intoxication. When it comes to drinking, I’m past testing my limits because we’re well acquainted and I have nothing to prove.

Scent Memories and Lingering Ghosts

There’s something so primal about a memory tied to scent. Infants at birth will use their sense of smell to know where food is coming from.  They are familiar with the sound of mom’s voice but her scent is instinctual. There’s an entire science of pheromones and secretions from sexual organs that call to sexual partners.  It’s really fascinating and gets me excited in all my geeky places.  Scents can flood your mind with memories, help your memory and brain function, boost your mood . . . Your nose is amazing.  Mine tends to spread across my face a bit like peanut butter. It’s adorable on my kids though.

I was part of the last minute hordes on an egg run at the grocery store this morning. Reaching for a dozen eggs, my nose started sniffing in the opposite direction from where I was reaching and looking.  A man walked past me and his scent hit me in the memories of 8th grade.  I don’t remember what he looked like.  It didn’t even matter.  He reminded me of a boy in a semester length typing class.  I loved walking past him because he smelled like his black leather jacket and Drakkar Noir.  I didn’t have a crush on him.  I just loved smelling him.

Dial antibacterial hand soap reminds me of a particular summer.  I once bought a ginormous refill bottle that lasted the entire summer.  There was a blonde skater who was in the middle of renovating his house.  He used the same soap in his bathroom, and that scent always reminds me of him. One whiff reminds me of him, but it only took two dates to decide he wasn’t worth my time or the free drinks.

Old Spice reminds me of a frat boy with a gift for a single handed bra removal, and a love of binge drinking. He was an engineering major, and dorky enough to be cute. He didn’t always wear it, but the one time he did left a memory that revives itself when I smell the original after shave. He loved how tall I was and had the silkiest black hair.  At the end of the day, commitment was never meant to be part of our relationship.

Sun tan oil reminds me of a season in skate shops and sandalwood scented sex wax.  That was a spring filled with Boone’s Farm, sage smudge sticks and nicotine kisses. It was a time when I could expect a hand picked bouquet of some neighbor’s flowers each day.

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Lately my scent memory reminds me I have a history before marriage and I will have a future after this one.  There will probably be a next husband once I get past the fear of being open to the first date.  I wonder what that will smell like.

The Connection Between Dreaming and Creative Writing

 

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In my early 20’s I had vivid dreams every night.  I would wake up and scribble every detail in a spiral one subject notebook. Sometimes they made no sense whatsoever.  Other times, I’d wake with clarity and my problems became puzzle pieces that fell into place. When they really had me guessing, I’d usually turn to the internet for a search and answers. These searches would tease out deeper meaning hidden in my psyche.

When I was pregnant my vivid dreams usually involved lesbian sex.  I learned to just laugh at those and enjoy them for what they were.  While I’m not a fan of girl kisses, my sleeping mind wasn’t against them at all. I carried so many boys in my Momma belly, it might have been their hormones.  The girls I carried shared enough of their hormones to give me pimples and horrible morning sickness.

I will carry the DNA of every child I carried in my womb for the rest of my life, circulating in my bloodstream.  For this reason, if you’ve ever carried a boy, don’t bother taking a gender identity test that isolates male DNA.  It’ll give you a false positive. Wait for a torpedo in the ultrasound when you go for the organ survey around 20 weeks.

For the last several years, I couldn’t remember dreaming at all.  There’s a definite correlation between my ability to write and my ability to be aware of any dreams.  I couldn’t write for a long time.  At one point, I couldn’t line up a paragraph and in frustration I would scrap it in tears.

There were many times that I’d start a journal and my husband would find it and read it and be hurt and depressed by it.  I hid them in the bottom of drawers and under mattresses. I taped them along the wall in our closet. Writing was a way to dump my anger, doubts and frustrations without lashing out at others.  He would later read my vitriol and internalize it.  Sometimes we’d talk.  Sometimes what I wrote would come back as a weapon against me in an argument at a later date.  Other times, it came out as anger or frustration that I would focus so intently on reading or writing that I wasn’t able to give him or the kids my full attention.

In one of my many bids to win him back, I destroyed journals I had poured myself into that spanned more than two decades. I’m not upset about that.  There was a lot of anger in them, and destroying them changed how I write.  Changing how I write was able to shift my perspective, and I’m happier for it. Although, in my early journaling days, I was full of male bashing jokes.  Bad male bashing jokes.  I miss the laugh. I would write the word, “platypus,” and giggle for a few minutes.  My favorite insults were “hamster penis,” “vulture vomit,” “penis dribble,” and “chicken weenie.” And no, chickens don’t have weenies. I love it that most days I can slip back into that teenaged me, and be silly and make people think I’m a decade younger than I am.  I can dance through a song while focusing on work because I can find that joy and silliness.  It’s never far from me.  My anger is.  I have most of the poems I’ve written throughout my life. The darkness that filled every moment is far from me.  I like who I am now, and I love that I’m not far from the silliness I used to live in, but it’s been a long while since I’ve told someone they were being a hamster penis.

Part of loving being a student majoring in English was that I had an excuse to have to read and write.  A grade depended on that and my performance would later be monetized. In theory.  Still waiting on that one.  I am not a fan of most literature taught in college courses.  It was typically dry and boring.  It took 4 valiant attempts to get through Moby Dick and I was proud of getting through it, but didn’t feel like I would ever want to read it again.  Children’s literature with the undercurrent of moral teaching and sexual perversion was more interesting than I anticipated.  You should read Little Red Riding Hood with me.  It will scar you in your childhood dreams.

The other side of being a student and using school as an excuse for my bookish fix is that there wasn’t room for creativity.  I would read countless dull literary masterpieces during the quarter, and on breaks go through several young adult paranormal romances because my brain needed the downtime, but I couldn’t plot and plan a story.  I’m more of a pantser anyway, and there are major plot holes when I don’t outline.  I tend to see them around the 40,000 word mark and scrap my manuscript and start over.  When I do plan, the writing bores me to the point that I hate revision, and if I don’t want reread what I’ve written, it’s ballsy to expect anyone to want to read it the first time through. This has happened at least six times. For some reason every time I read Twilight, I feel like I can be a writer.  I can do what she did there.  Then I read Harry Potter and know I’m not ready to create worlds, and “kill my darlings,” as Stephen King has said or written.

So now I’m writing.  Most of what I’m writing is getting published in these blog posts.  Some of it stays private.  I haven’t started on a book yet, because I can accept I’m just not there yet.  My prose isn’t achingly beautiful.  My thoughts are still chaotic.  But I’m writing, and with the words, dreams are teasing my resting mind, and lingering each morning.  It’s as if by writing, I’ve given myself permission to access the forbidden ideas held in check by fear of hurting my husband’s feelings.  It’s as if I have permission to work through issues and grow emotionally.  And I have.  You might not see it, but I do.

The best part is the way my mind can trail in opposite directions.  I woke up one morning on the tail end of a sexual dream.  It was tender and beautiful and not about my husband.  As the ephemeral tail of a lingering touch lost its substance, words filtered through my mind, with venom and angst about the wife I was and the many ways he took my giving heart for granted.  I was angry that I did it at my expense in the names of love and obedience, and his exit was about finding the happiness he deserved. They were such opposite thoughts, and they overlapped and still made sense.  As overwhelming as all of those emotions were, I didn’t feel overwhelmed in the least.  I could evaluate both what my mind saw, and the words filtering through my mind with my eyes still closed.  It was epic.

I’ve started lucid dreaming where in the middle of a vivid dream, I know I’m dreaming.  I’m aware that what is occurring is happening in my sleep.  Or sometimes I’m on the verge of drifting off and I’ll feel a dream trying to pull me in and I haven’t fallen asleep yet. Most recently, I was drifting off and a gentle hand on my shoulder was pulling me back for a kiss, and it was so real and not real that it woke me up.  It was awesome.