Friday, 19 August 2016

Single or Married. It's up to YOU

My therapist told me shortly after I separated, "You could be married today."

That hadn't occurred to me.

When you separate, you think you will never find someone again.

Too soon! Too hard! Too old! Too much energy! Too embarrassing! Too, too, too!!!

But here's the thing I've discovered since: my therapist was right!

Every day folks, complete strangers approach me and share the details of their lives. I appreciate being approachable. Why? Because they need someone to talk to, and I need someone to listen to. Learn and leaning on one another is important. Plenty have listened to me, and continue to do so...

Today, was my turn to listen.

Had a lovely chat with the man who shuttled me home today. His name was "Martinez".

Assured me the only Renee's he's ever known were men. Thought maybe I had gotten my name wrong? I assured him it was indeed my name, and meant in the most feminine of ways. He didn't look convinced.

First time that has ever happened. But I understood. Our frame of reference was different. I got it.

There is one thing we all have in common though: relationships.

Small talk led us to the revelation that this weekend he intended to sleep. Which irks his sister (that he rents a room from) . "All you do is sleep on your days off."

IS that all you do? I asked. Yeah, but I'm happy.

I wasn't so sure about that.

He muttered something in spanish and I responded casually in spanish. Shocked him.

"Habla espanol?"

Como no (of course). Listened to it for thirty years. My husband is from El Salvador. My ex husband.

The rest of the way home we spoke entirely in his language. He began to share freely and I listened:

He's 50.
Lives in Anaheim.
Divorced six years ago after 27 years of marriage and four kids.
Wife didn't like that he played "Basketball".
Were you really playing basketball?
Have you ever said you were playing basketball and were playing something else?
Mischief in his eyes answered my question.

So, your life took a completely different path because you decided to play a game of basketball one night and you came home two hours late and she threw you out?

Just shook his head and smiled.

You are where you have been showing her you want to be: Single.

Aw well, no one should live with all that anger. (He said this).

I'm ready to have a girlfriend. Take to the cine, the playa, dinner.

Then he asked me, "What about you?"

Eh, I'd like someone. I'm ready.

What are you doing about it?

I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Nothing." Can't force it.

Dumbfounded, he looked at me like what was I waiting for? You're just gonna except it?

I smiled and shrugged again. I've dated. What's the point? Men and women desire different things.

Wished him well as he pulled onto my driveway. Hoped he found someone to date-and suggested maybe he should try and find a girl who prefers one on one basketball? He laughed and shrugged.

Went to pick something up I needed after that. In the time it took me to sign the bill and gather my things, (all I said was it felt nice in the air conditioning) I learned the interesting details of my sweet sales ladies life:

She's in her fifties.
Raised in Fountain Valley, spent the last sixteen years on the east coast.
Its so hot in the summer there. Winters are worse though. Gray. Gray. Gray.
At thirty seven found herself alone after a terrible first marriage ended.
Decided to treat herself for the first time ever to a beer.
Went to a bar, sat down and met a man who changed her life completely.
Married him. Good good man.
Found out he has a daughter that is "really" his (we had the test, you know). Terrible teenager, but she is in her thirties now, has two masters degrees and is a teacher. "We all have peace now that she has gotten her life together."

Because you treated yourself to a beer you met and married a wonderful man, experienced life across the country, and gained a step daughter?

Yep. My life turned around. :-)

I said, "Buying that beer for yourself was your way of showing the universe where you wanted to be: Married. Happily. And then it happened!"

She beamed with joy.

Today, the universe used these lovelies to remind me: I am where I want to be. For today, anyway. If I really want the other, I need to make me the best I can be. A better me will attract a better him. Just gonna put it out there: I want to married one day again. Not this year, still healing and growing. Finding peace in my solitude and truly appreciating when others bless me with their presence. Getting my kids through senior year. But one year not too far after that. Happily, this time.

Okay universe, work your magic.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016


So much of our days, weeks, months and years are spent looking at the choices we did not make; the paths we are sure would have brought us to a place where no regrets live. I struggle with my regrets. And I've achieved some pretty great things in my life. But, it doesn't matter, in the end, because its the paths we take out of fear (and we ALL have walked these lines) that cause us to suffocate.                                                     Woke up this morning needing to find perspective, if only for today. Just today. Because I could not contemplate another tomorrow like yesterday. It was heartbreaking.

Decided to remind my head and my heart what I don't regret:

1. Writing. If I hadn't put down in words my angst, pain and fury and fear I would never have learned our emotions live outside of us. While I carried them around with me like undesired necessaries, I found my happy constantly at war with my sad; often convinced the latter would win out in a self fulfilling prophecy. Here's the thing: Subjectivity kills. It wasn't until I placed each of my adversaries on paper, that I could step away and look at them objectively. They became simply pawns in a game I was the master at--a game I decided I was not willing to lose. Objectivity strengthens our resolve.

2. Serving others. Since I was a little girl, I was taught by strangers the survival of many is due in great part by the service of the few. Foster parents care for the children of parents who cannot. Shelters house folks who cannot provide housing for themselves. Those fortunate enough to exist without mental illness understand the importance of caring for those destined to become lost in their own minds. Every time I give of my experience, my energy, my material possessions, my heart I stand taller. Wanna give more. Realize how very little I need. Serving is a selfless act that takes our attention away from depression, anxiety and all those evil opponents that want us to believe this life is all about us. Doesn't cure those very real disorders, but the buffer created by helping others takes the focus off. And that's a good thing.

3. Loving. This seems like an easy one, but for those of us who were traumatized at an early age, loving is an act of bravery most cannot fathom. Not able to allow love to flow until I had bore children of my own, left me side swiped; my lonely self inflicted existence for thirty three years was so terrified of having to open my heart, I went into shock only moments after they were born. Could not stop shaking. Crying. I decided to love. Open hearted. Filled me with a sense of peace I have not since been able to replicate anywhere else except when I write. Loving is the only thing that matters.

4. Accepting who I am. Nobody knew my past. Nobody. There were shadows some would see follow me around, and I'd get questions now and again, but my brief response would soon put the inquiries to rest. Then, in my late forties, I began to write on Facebook. Never consciously aware; seemed like the keyboard worked itself pouring out my stories, the wall of refrain melted away. And folks began to heal and hope for their own lives. If I could get past the horror, surely they could. Embracing my scars, owning my ugly background started me on a path to come full circle. Isn't that what we are supposed to do in this circle of life?

I am a good person that has made some devastatingly hurtful bad choices. No denying it. I am also a woman who has taken who I am and used those mistakes and what she has learned over the long haul to benefit someone else. Lots of someone elses. Both of my paths have seen the worn soles of my feet. Today, I will focus on the paths that made others lives just a bit better. Tomorrow? I am going to keep those in mind when I am standing at the next fork in the road--because there is always a fork in the road. Its when we forget to honor our good stuff that the bad stuff repeats itself.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Ask your dad about his life!

June 2014

Last summer, I was going through the roughest time of my entire adulthood. Dad lives an hour away but would drive out and spend long weekends with me. I was numb, void of life, depressed, given up. He'd sit and talk with me. I learned more about him and his life than I had all the years before. Here are some of the cool, interesting and somewhat surprising facts my father shared...

1. Number 11 of 12 children. His mother was epileptic and died in childbirth. Never knew her but when he speaks of her, he still gets that little boy look of love one has for their mommy.

2. Dad grew up in an orphanage. Happy there. Three meals a day, schooling, and a present for Christmas. His favorite memory? Playing cards with the nuns!

3. Grew up in Joliet, Illinois.

4. He and his older brothers were the best dancers around. Won contests. Mom wouldn't dance w/him.

5. Worked tending/managing bars back east. Hired Sonny and Cher to perform.

6. Did a stint in the Air Force. Hitch hiked out to his post in Alaska. Stopped off in Montana. Got into a brawl at a bar there and tore up the place (seriously, like you see in the movies).

7. Married three times. Once for three weeks to a Playboy Bunny! Stunned, I asked why only three weeks? Didn't you love her? "Good God NO!" Why did you marry her then? "Eh, she was beautiful. And she kept asking me to marry her."

8. Mom was his third wife. Married forty years. He is 6' and she was 4' 11". Never saw two people laugh so much together. Fun fact: they owned a 60 acre farm outside of Knoxville, TN for awhile. Complete with pigs!

9. Over the years, they had over two dozen foster children. Adopted four. Had one biological. Shortly after my adoption, dad placed his arm around my shoulder and said, "It does not matter if you're my blood or not, you were hand picked and that makes you special."

10. I was often in awe of his resourcefulness. Dad never hired someone to fix something around the house. Figured out how to repair the thing himself. If he didn't have the tools, he'd borrow them. I can still see him lying on his back underneath the kitchen sink cussing at the pipes.

11. Family is everything to DAD. During my high school years, mom got a job at UCI med center working nights. After driving a diesel truck all day, dad would come home and cook dinner. He wasn't the sit in front of the tv and let the wife raise the family kinda husband. When he did watch, it was with all of us. TV and conversation is still something enjoys.

12. Blue collar worker. Always. But we never felt how close he came to not paying the bills sometimes. Took us up to Hearst Castle, camping, the snow, motor biking in the desert, and our Christmases were amazing!

13. Took me to a dinner theater once on a father daughter date. Eight years later, I remembered that place and went and got a job there--and that is where I met a nice guy in the cast who helped me get a job at Paramount Studios.

14. Moved to Arizona in his late 50's. Needed a job. Took a look around at the budding housing market and quickly found a niche--construction clean up. Bought himself a truck and he was in business. "Why not? What did I have to lose?" Prospered for ten years until he decided to sell it.

15. Dad is also the reason my ex and I began our own business. One day he was talking to his neighbor, "Hey, my daughter's boyfriend is looking for some part time work..." Four years into that job, my dad saw the ex had a knack for that, "Why don't you start your own business?" So we did.

16. Never known a stranger. Can talk to anyone. Great attitude. When asked how his day is he often responds with, "Well, I woke up this morning. It's a GOOD day!"

17. When mom got cancer, he cared for her, doted on her for eleven years. Got so adept at all her needs the nurses at the hospital would call him to come and hep with her special needs. Devoted husband.

18. Told me a couple years ago while we were sitting on my couch (during that lowest point) "You don't know how beautiful you are do you? You have so much more life to live. You, young lady, can do anything you want to do, you just have to want it."

19. My father is my best friend. I know, if you met him you'd like him. I didn't even meet him until I was twelve years old. We made sure to make up for lost time since then. My dad is the very definition of a good father. I'm a lucky girl.

Thursday, 25 February 2016


Had an unusually icky week, health wise. Asked the doc when the shaking will stop? The anxiety? He assured me it will go away when I settle into my new normal. The nausea? Probably a reaction to the anti-depressants, or the worry I feel about where I should move next; what to do when I get there- when I still have no clear plan?

All these unknowns piled up on me this week. Not good. Decided to leave the sorting, packing and hard decision making for another day and take some time for myself:

Slept in.
Visited briefly with a new friend who popped over to look at something I'm selling.
Went to the nail salon and had my mani's cured--had me a neck and shoulder massage as well. Laura has the best hands; always massages my upper chest area, the front of my neck, and under my arms. I forget how long it has been since I've had human touch, until I am touched. The fee was well worth it.

While I was out, I needed to stretch a bit more "me" time out of the day. Treated myself to lunch.

I wanted to see Jenny. I wanted to talk with Jenny. I needed the voice of Jenny.

The thing I adore about Jenny?

She is the same person no matter how her day is going. She exists above the chaos. She has been waiting on me and my family since my kids were three. Going on fifteen years now. She is even keel, on it, and one of the wisest people I know.

As usual, we chatted about our kids. Her son is twenty one now. Never met him, but I know him well.
This young man of hers was raised by a single mother; a waitress that worked two jobs most days to ensure her son had three solid meals every day. Nights were up to the boy. Grandpa was there, but the child knew his boundaries--and he observed them. Mom worked. The boy worked too--at his studies.

A few years ago, that young man of hers?

He was accepted to Berkely.
He was accepted to UCLA.
He was accepted to UCI.
He was accepted to UCSD.

Jenny didn't have to pay a dime. Scholarships and grants came easily, after the boy worked hard.

I asked once, "How did he score so high on the entrance exams?" She humbly took no credit. "He's super smart."  That may be, but I reminded my friend, she instilled in him a healthy work ethic: be proud of what you are doing, no matter what that might be, and apply yourself. The boy witnessed that through his mother's actions. And reflected it.

Asked her what degree he is working for? Thought he wanted to be a doctor, but realized that is not for him. He didn't like UCSD so he transferred back up here to Saddleback until he figures it out.
Planning on attending UCLA in the fall.

What's he gonna study now? I dunno. Its up to him. He could do anything. But he loves school. Likes being on campus, in classrooms, completing his work. I encouraged him to teach. Told him when we don't follow our natural path, that is when the problems start. He needs to go and be where he feels at peace.

The takeaway from my lunch? Jenny didn't panic; she remained centered and confident her brilliant son will find his way, on his own terms. When he stops resisting, he will find his passion and his peace.

Such wise advice: when we don't follow our natural path, that is when the problems start.

I enjoyed my morning pampering my aching self, but my time with my dear friend Jenny? Her calm, logical, rational words of truth? THAT was just what I needed to ease my worried mind.

Gonna go and search until I find where it is I feel at peace. Naturally. Cuz this girl has taken the path to "problems" and she doesn't wanna do that ever again.

Thank you, Jenny!


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Sunday, 14 February 2016

Today's Drop of Grace

I thought, "Why not?" Bought myself a heart shaped box of chocolates. Bring the sweetness of life into your day, on your own. We must love ourselves first, before we can expect others to love us.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

My Grandmother Came to Visit

My grandmother has been trying to get my attention all week:

She wrote me a letter. Dropped it where I had to lean over, pick it up. Read it.

She has been the star in every one of my dreams for five nights in a row.

She left a photo of the two of us under the coffee table. My daughter brought it to me last night. Now I can't find it anywhere. 

She pulled me to a box filled with her treasured dolls, passed on to me. "Keep the favs. Sell the rest."

She is here with me. I am certain of her presence. But why?

Here's the thing...

I have never read that letter before. Ever. My grandmother always, always dated her correspondence. Always. This one only had "wed" at the top. If I hadn't moved that box last night, I might not have seen the envelope slip to the floor. Could have taken months for me to discover it. She wrote of my mother's passing. Her words contained such heartfelt personal thoughts. I was moved. Comforted. And dumbfounded.. I rarely pressed her about her daughters. She often just shrugged it off. Her letter was a gift.

I am dealing with truly being alone, once again. I am sitting on her couch asking her why? She takes a long drag off her cigarette. Doesn't respond. She never responds.

I studied the photo my girl found under the table. Gram and I are in an embrace. Of all the zillions of pics, that is the one that found its way out of the stack. To be noticed. To be felt.

I felt relief when I opened that box of dolls. Must only carry that which is important to ME now.

But, WHY?

Maybe to teach me: share my feelings, allow a vulnerability that is comforting to others? Write. 

Maybe to tell me: figure the "Why" out on my own? You can do this.

Maybe to remind me: I am being embraced, even now? Spiritually?

Maybe to encourage me: hold onto what is important to ME. Let the other go?

Maybe to get me to thinking: work it out, write it out, get it out?

Or, maybe it was all coincidence? 

Sunday, 7 February 2016

School was Tough, but their Mom was Tougher

Super Bowl Sunday

What an absolutely-perfectly-peaceful day-- for those of us who don't watch football, that is! 

Our neighborhood streets were lined with cars as we drove out of Ladera. Noticed banners strung in front of homes advertising: "Bill's Super Bowl Party Here!" Main streets, freeways, restaurants, and stores were all empty. Normally, it takes me fifteen minutes to get to the freeway; today it took me five. Popped into our nail salon too, and the employees were painting each other's toes! So nice to walk in and be served immediately. Made the overall experience relaxing, more enjoyable.

Took my kids and Joe the Yorky, out to Lazy Dog for lunch. Sat outside in the summer like winter weather and just chilled. Noticed right off, the energy around us was similar to when I was their age, living in Anaheim. Streets were calm, the world was quiet, and there was no wait to be seated at a restaurant. That common tug and pull of every day life, was absent. Instead, a serenity to the day was present, so completely different from what we've become accustomed to, behind this hectic Orange curtain we inhabit. I could not help but stop and take notice. 

With a deep sigh, I realized: I want that back. I want my kids to have that.

Truly, I have not had such an enjoyable two hours in a long time. We all felt at peace. And the direction the conversation went in was not lost on me... while we lingered over our lunch, my children began to talk about the things they appreciated in their lives, specifically academically. 

Not sure how the topic came up, but before I knew it, they were listing every project, paper and group assignment they had ever completed--commenting on the levels of difficulty and challenge--and the best part? They both agreed: it felt awesome to acknowledge they did all that, and they did it well! Lauren even giggled.

Both remarked on their favorite teachers and why--which was hard to narrow down because they sincerely cared for each and every one. What astounded me? The favs were the teachers that challenged them the most! It was evident, even back then, their instructors required a lot, but always had their backs. Each had an invested interest in my children's success.What better combination?

I know I've said it before, but my kids LOVED their elementary and junior high. LOVED IT!  Drove past the site where the modular buildings used to be today and Niko said, "It's just wrong." We all miss it. Stoneybrooke was tough but a wonderful place to leave my heart every morning. I used to say at drop off, "Love you. Now go learn something!" Our principal heard me one time, and chuckled. 

Niko wasted no time reminding me school was tough, but his mom was even tougher, "Remember when you would edit our papers and say, 'Is this your best effort?' And we'd have to do it over and over again?" He groaned, reliving how grueling the process was. But guess what? It was my turn to remind him, "By 9th grade, that research paper it took many others five weeks, to do? You sat down and punched it out in five hours the night before it was due! AND, you earned a 97 on it! 

Writing comes naturally for my kids now, but I kept setting them straight every time they began to wander off track, or get fuzzy with their thoughts. I am confident my efforts made a difference. That is what we are commanded to do, in all matters of life, with our offspring: we are entrusted to guide them, not make it easy; walk that tightrope carefully, and hope we all don't slip and land hard. 

Because thinking clearly, is clearly important.

I attempted to be present and aware in every way I thought was time worthy, but I fell short on many things (wish I could have excelled at math, but numbers are not my thing). Aw well, we can't cover it all can we?  We can try though. Even though I was saddled with a poor math brain, I am certain letters are my thing, my joy, my passion and I wanted my little ones to see that. 

I write. And now my children write as well.  At least that is something...

In the fourth grade, Lauren's teacher (she adored) called my girl, her "Writer girl". In the seventh grade, Niko's teacher told him "You ARE a writer." When he said, "Thank you, but nah, I don't want to be a writer" She said, "You should reconsider! " Writing is so much a part of society now; critical thinking is the focus in academia, an effort vital for survival in today's professional world too. 

Writing often, aids in strengthening that muscle. 

Expressing ourselves out loud is hard enough. Terrifying, even. That, they have to come to terms with on their own. With pen and paper? This mother did not want her students to be afraid of that.

That was my gift.

By the 9th grade, my son said, "Stoneybrooke was so hard, freshman year at Crean was ridiculously easy." I said, "That is the point. You work diligently early on, you push yourself, you discover you can do things you had no idea you could accomplish, so later on in life, things will be easier."

They are getting it. My children are becoming adults. 

My only regret? 

Wish we had slowed down a bit. Ran too much. Spent too much time in the car. Life was school, sports, dinner and homework. Repeat. Too much. Too much. Too much. I thought, because we could do it, we should do it. So much opportunity in the OC, if we don't take advantage...  

We were wrong. 

Our busy bees racked up the honors but they also grew tired, and the grumpies came, a lot. 

I asked them today if they had any regrets? The girl said no, not really, but I am glad we've slowed down now. The boy, "I wish we hadn't been going all the time, but it's cool knowing we did all that." He's proud of his accomplishments. I'm relieved. 

I think the big take away from today was... 

We tend to forget about the positives in our world when we get greedy with our hours, days, weeks and years. Feels like the choices we make begin to control us, instead of us being in charge. It becomes difficult to see the blessings before us, when our eyes are blurry from lack of sleep. I see now, we should have set some of that "busy" aside, and we should have done absolutely nothing. It is helpful when we feel the world around us is at peace as well. But we cannot control the world. Truly, we can only control the environment at home--oh well, except on Super Bowl Sunday!   :-)  

So, my advice? Take some time and plan nothing. Before or after the nothingness? Let it be.

Don't time it, either. Because, "Okay, you have two hours until we have to go the BBQ (or your sisters soccer game, or your brother's volleyball match)" is not really down time. The non-activity is still being clocked. Sometimes we need to NOT KNOW what we are doing after lunch. 

We just need to enjoy our lunch. :-)