45.

Wow, 45 years on this planet. Incredible. I’m grateful for the time I’ve been allowed.

Facebook has this wonderful way of reminding you of what your recent years have brought with its “On This Day” memory feed. It brings me a lot of laughter and even a bit of sadness. It’s bittersweet to see past birthday wishes from friends who have moved on to whatever comes next for us. I am now older than some of them when I was born many years after they were…It’s a good reminder, though, to sit with gratitude for my extended time.

And I’m old enough now to sit with my memories without regret. I can think about the thousands of experiences I’ve had, the people that have come and gone, the dreams that never came true and the many that have. Hindsight and all that, right? I can fully appreciate it now.

Those old posts also remind me of goals I’ve had along the way. Where those unfinished plans once brought heightened anxiety, today I thought about the things that did get done, and I reflected on the obstacles that kept me from accomplishing the others. Instead of being upset that I still haven’t finished a novel, I cut myself some slack. I’ve written thousands of words through the years, after all. I’ve been published in magazines and newspapers. I have four novels fleshed-out and have been concentrating on one for the last few weeks. Tens of thousands of words. I know they’ll all get done.

I have time.

Besides, the kids are having their own pre-teen adventures, and they need their space, so I get a few extra minutes every day to write and create. The time they need from me is concentrated with the really good stuff, too, and I’m grateful they share what they do with me. One shares every detail; one tells me what he can. It’s not always easy. People never are. Luckily, I can read both of them without the words, even if some days it’s like picking apart a poem to get to the truth. They’re complex creatures, my kids. I love that most.

They’ve had their first heartaches (!). They have opinions separate from mine (we actually encourage it). They know how to do things that others can’t (Rhiannon’s starting her fourth year of piano and has written short songs! Sebastian creates board games to rival Parker Brothers!). They’re proud of those things. And they are becoming – every day – more solidly themselves. I know they’re both excited and scared about that. We’re closer and closer to adolescence…

Tony and I are at the point where we let them make decisions. We expect the truth from them, and – while we’re still guiding them – we’re evolving more and more into a support system instead of being the puppet masters. We have high expectations, but at the end of the day the most important thing is that they know they’re loved.

They are excellent huggers, too.

I love their friendship. They’ll talk, and I realize they have conversations we didn’t hear. They have inside jokes. They fight less and less, and we’re a talkative house, so arguments are inevitable. I know that they’ll always have each other, even once Tony and I are gone. I’m glad for that.

Rhiannon is my heart. She’s kind and smart and beautiful. She’s more than I ever expected. I look at her with awe that I ever had a life before she existed. It seems impossible that she’s so new to this world! I am truly privileged to be her mother. And she loves me more than I knew anyone ever could. Sometimes I cry thinking about how lucky I am.

Romance through the years? Ugh. I didn’t know what I was doing! I’m finally figuring it out. Tony is my best friend. God, can he infuriate me. He pushes, and I push back. Our past relationships have made it impossible for us to keep things bottled up, so everything bubbles over. All of that raw beauty. All of this intense beautiful love. I’ve never had a man love me like he does. He loves me, not some construct he created in his mind. He wants to know me. It’s such a gift.

He’s a great man. He works hard. He loves his son and wants to raise him to be a good man. He’s stepped up for my daughter and wants to raise her to trust that people keep promises. He loves her as his own. He is like a fierce warrior who would die protecting us.

It’s amazing.

So, yeah, 45.

There are some leftover goals to tackle, along with, you know, being a mom and wife, running a business, being a community leader, being on a theater board, and still being available to deal with my parents and brother. It’s busy.

And I love it. I’m grateful to be here.

 

interview with a 6th grade girl

Thought I’d get some insight on life straight from the source…

Q: Do you think it’s better to get the latest video game console/computer/phone or to have an honest relationship with your parents? (BTW, I’ve seen people have great relationships with their parents without the honesty.) Why?

A: Personally, I’d rather have the honest relationship, because it makes me feel better and less anxious. That way I can ask for help with something without having to share a bunch of things that have already happened and risk getting in trouble. Also, that feels kind of like lying.

Q: How would you create your perfect day?

A: Um, well, huh…That’s hard!

Q: Why?

A: Because it’s not really what you do in a day that makes it perfect. It’s who you do it with and why you’re doing it. It could be going to that cool hot springs place in Idaho City, or it could be picking up trash in the side of the highway. It just depends on the people you’re spending it with.

Q: Dogs or cats?

A: Cats! Definitely.

Q: Why?

A: Well, there are a lot of cats that play fetch! (Laughs) And cats are softer. Also, dogs I don’t know make me nervous.

Q: New or thrift store?

A: Mom!! What is it? Clothes…makeup…

Q: (Laughing)

A: Because if it’s makeup, I definitely want it new!

Q: I agree! Gross! What about clothes?

A: Thrift store, except underwear. (Giggles.)

Q: What’s cooler? Doctor Who or comic book superheroes?

A: Doctor Who! Definitely!

Q: How to you react when asked a hard question? Is it better to be honest, or is it better to be agreeable?

A: Well, if I have to say anything, then I’d better be honest, because I’d eventually have to spill the beans. Even if it’s something as stupid as, “What’s your favorite cheese?” Even if you want to make someone feel good, eventually you’d probably slip and say the truth. Better to just be upfront in the beginning.

Q: Are you looking forward to being a teen?

A: Yes and no. Yes, because there are a lot of cute clothes (laughing), and I get to pick fun classes. No, because of everything else. Puberty…that’s everything else.

Q: Do you want coffee?

A: Decaf. And I like cold drinks better.

Q: You’ve done private school, dual-language classes, and a gifted program, and you’ve always been able to be in tiny classes. Would you rather be in a big class and hide out, or would you rather be in a small class and always get attention?

A: Small class with lots of attention!

Q: How’s my breath? [I just had coffee AND sharp cheddar…and she’s inching closer to me, so I breathed on her.]

A: It’s like bacon and coffee. It could be worse.

Q: Gilmore Girls?

A: Yeah.

luck

Do you believe in luck? My belief in it comes and goes. I’m more into doing the work. It does seem, though, that some people are born a little luckier than others. For example, not all of us are able to get a small loan of a million dollars from our dad (don’t worry; this isn’t a political post).

Arnold Palmer said it best, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” You have to do the work.

People from both sides of the aisle like to take digs at Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump. They were, after all, born into wealth and basically handed dream careers in adulthood. The thing is, I’m not one who is going to say that they aren’t putting in the work needed to maintain and grow those careers. I’m a mom; I know what I’ll let my kids get away with. Being lazy and ruining my business isn’t high on that list. I’d fire them in a half-second, if they jacked-up something I’ve worked so hard to build.

My biggest goal for 2017? Work so hard that people think it’s my luckiest year yet. I have some business goals to achieve. I promised Maire a stack of rejection letters for my writing (proof I’m putting in the work), and they have to show up on her desk by my birthday in April, so I have less than 100 days. I’m president of a fledging business association that needs to fly, and I’m vice-president of a theater board that has pretty lofty goals for next season. All that and Pooka turns 12. There’s plenty of work waiting for me.

So crack open that fortune cookie – it’s our lucky year.

work with what you have

It’s no secret that I didn’t grow up with much money. I still don’t make a ton, which is my own fault, because all the decisions I’ve made over the last few decades have brought me to this point in time. And the choices my parents made formed my foundation, just as I’ve created Rhiannon’s.

All we can do is work with what we inherit and constantly work toward a better tomorrow, right?

I live a life that allows me to be right where I am at this moment – sitting on a red leather sofa next to a snoring dog while my daughter takes singing lessons. I even drove through a snowstorm to get her here. It’s what I do, making sure she knows how important she is. She knows I love her, and she knows what my expectations are. And I know she loves me and what her expectations are.

Yes; kids have expectations, too.

I’m still working out how to turn this life into one that makes a decent amount of money, so I can help her meet her own expectations. There are many options, and I’ve never been afraid to take risks, so I know it’ll happen. When you start out with very little, you’re less afraid. You know you’ll be okay, even if you have to drive $400 cars and eat a lot of beans (been there!).

In the meantime, I’m grateful that I own a business that allows me the time to be an actively involved mom, to volunteer, to work in the arts, to join committees that make a better community, to be the person others can call when they need help. To be free.

I’ve been able to braid all the many pieces into a beautiful life. I’m lucky.

As you think about 2016 and wonder what’s ahead, focus on how you can take this moment, this second, and expand it. Whether you’re the CEO or a new-hire, what can you do with what you already have so that you can sit at the end of 2017 and know you made the best of it?

1983 versus 2016

​Every time my kids complain about summer camp, I wish I could take them back to the summer of 1983, when I was 11.

They could hang out in Yreka, where the only things going on for me were trips to Ringe Pool, the occasional day jaunt to Jones Beach (not THAT Jones Beach – a sandpile off the Scott River), playing on the hill behind my house, the responsibility of my then 8-year-old brother, and entertaining my mom. I’m grateful for my friend Devanie, who kept me sort of sane.

(That’s me in 1983 rocking the argyle socks with short shorts while Devanie gets to swim…)

They could experience the pain of no home electronics, no internet (NO YOUTUBE! THE HORROR!), 13 channels, and the boring drive to Medford in order to visit a mall. They could pluck cheat grass from my dog Macc’s paws. They could – gasp! – ride their bikes a few miles to TJ’s Pizza in order to play video games (at a quarter a turn – not cheap!).

Instead, I get to hear how they wish they could stay home so Pooka could watch YouTube and Boy could play on the Xbox and how life isn’t fair and why don’t we let them have sugar cereal anymore and how they would be really good and not fight and blah, blah, blah.

JUST. GET. DRESSED.

helpless

My mom and brother have schizophrenia.

When I was a child, I thought my mom was homesick for the Philippines and that my brother just copied her odd behavior; when I was a teenager, I thought they were severely depressed and angry. As an adult, I started to understand there was something else wrong.

When I was 38, my dad called, “Your brother might be on his way to your place. He cut every wire in and out of our house and yelled that we were spying on him for the government.” My brother did eventually show up, demanding to live with me. Instead, I used his paranoia and convinced him that the best way to “stick it to the man” was to collect disability benefits and then he could live on his own. All he had to do was get an official diagnosis. “What could I be diagnosed with?” I gave him some explanation based on my own anxiety and depression, and we went to the hospital. After a couple of weeks on meds, he walked away from treatment and has never returned.

A few months ago, he ended up in Boise again. He was the best I’d ever seen him. I thought things were good. He was sober, going to meetings, and claimed to be “vacationing in Boise.”

I was surprised that he was so healthy, because weeks prior he was out of it. He’d told me he wanted to go to Alaska to work. I gave him our Alaskan cousins’ info and got a strange text a few days later stating that someone had stolen his identity and was texting as him, that he never had any intention to work there. I knew it was him that had called asking, but I shrugged it off. He said someone was trying to pin drug charges on him and had hacked into his phone. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if that was him being delusional or him trying to use his diagnosis to get out of trouble.

Over the last few weeks, he would pop into my salon here and there. I gave him a haircut and some clothes. He got temp work and started making money. He really seemed okay. I didn’t see him for a month, but I wasn’t worried. Then he came into my business trashed last week. He was slurring and swaying, “I’ve been drinking for days. I think I was fired. I’ve made inappropriate choices and I’ve been using meth again.” He looks like he’s lost 30 pounds, his face is puffy, and his stuff is missing, so he’s dirty and getting dirtier by the day.

You can judge me, but I won’t bring him into my home. My kids’ safety is my number one priority, and I can’t trust him. He refuses to get into treatment and says he isn’t schizophrenic, “It’s my electromagnet field giving you that perception.”

He’s hovering around my business, making my clients nervous. He barges in, insisting that I have his things. He was upset that I threw out his dead phone battery, even though I replaced it with one that worked, “I like to keep things.” He’s upset about his missing bag, which is full of old Styrofoam coffee cups he won’t toss and a pair of shoes he found on the street.

And I don’t know what to do.

My dad says to call the police. My mom, apparently, is also going downhill. She sleeps in ten-minute increments and then yells gibberish. He hasn’t slept and also feels helpless. He tried to get her committed somewhere, but the current laws state she has to sign herself in and she won’t. He knows it’s just a matter of time before she loses it in a store, and then the police will be involved. I don’t know if he’s worried or hoping that will happen…

Most of our homeless population is like my brother. They should all be in hospitals. They used to be. President Carter tried to make sure funds were in place to care for the mentally ill. President Reagan, former governor of my home state California, followed his state’s model and made it nearly impossible to institutionalize them. Those funds were blocked and the “crazies” were let loose onto the streets. Violent crime and homelessness increased.

And people like me and my dad were left without the right to check our schizophrenic family members into treatment.

So what happens now?

becoming

My daughter did her fourth commercial yesterday. This was a significant one, because it was the first time she had to audition to get hired AND she spoke. She was the lead of her vignette.

Everyone was amazed at her composure and maturity. They were sincerely impressed with her consistency and ability to be directed. They were extremely happy when, after four takes, the director said, “We’re good.”

He looked at me, surprised, and said, “She’s good.”

And she was good.

I’m always proud of her, but yesterday I felt something different. I could see her becoming. She’s becoming a professional. She’s becoming someone that adults know they can rely on. She’s becoming this person that is beyond me. I thought about that as everyone high-fived her. She’s at that point in time where she is creating her future, and my job is to support and step back until she asks for me. I felt a mix of happiness and longing.

The longing was its own mix. Part wanting to hold on to my little girl; part wanting to be at that phase of becoming again – this time with a mother like me. That sounds arrogant, but let me explain. When I was in the becoming phase, my mother, a schizophrenic, would get jealous. While she was proud of me, she would rage about her own missed opportunities. I would buy myself the perfect jeans, my mom would hear people compliment me, and I would come home from cheer practice or dress rehearsal and find that she had cut them to fit her. Her response? “They look better on me.” She would show up to football games overdressed in hopes people would see her, the mother of one of the cheerleaders, and say, “You look young enough to be her sister.” And she did. And she acted like it. And I felt both protective and pissed.

Rhiannon is smart, talented, and beautiful. There hasn’t been a day when I have looked at her and been angry about it. Because of my own childhood, I even look for that anger, like yesterday. What am I feeling right now? I wanted to check in with myself and see if that weird, almost mythological, jealousy had arrived. Nope. I watched her and the crew and felt that all was right in the world. Somehow I helped create this fantastic creature. What I felt was closer to awe.

She’s becoming.

And I realized I am becoming, too. I am the master of re-creation, and I am becoming, too…Becoming a mother who can really relax, knowing that the only addiction Rhiannon has is the need to do more film. Becoming a different type of business-owner, a different type of wife, a different type of step-parent, a different type of artist.

What I am not becoming is a version of my own mom, who is/was not well, and couldn’t see her daughter with awe. And I can feel sad that my mom and I will never have that. Sadness is okay. Because of that, I am a damn good mother myself. When I talk with Rhiannon, I’m saying what I wished my mother could have said to me, and it makes me greater. Because of that, Rhiannon’s star can rise as high as she wants it to go. She’s amazing, and I’m in awe.