"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Friday, January 27, 2012

Decisions, Worries, and Missing San Francisco


I am up tonight, struggling. Struggling to sleep, struggling to make an important decision, and struggling to understand how someone related to me can be doing horrible things that are hurtful and incredibly selfish. It frightens me.

Earlier tonight that I was scanning through San Francisco photos from my time living there, and searching out my friends from that time in my life on Facebook. It seems that when I am struggling with something, I often miss the Bay Area and try to “visit” there visually, or through my friends who still live there.

I may be romanticizing things a bit, but that was one of the happiest, most fulfilling times of my life. My only regret is that I didn’t realize how magical that time was when I was living it. Do we ever? I wonder that. Right now, I know that I am living the absolute happiest time of my life. I know that having my husband, sharing a life with him, is the fulfillment of a dream I never thought would happen. So, I do appreciate now. But, this was a dream I had given up on, so I think it is more natural that I realize what I have now, and how precious that is.

When I moved to the San Francisco area in October 1998, I had no idea what was going to happen. I had only been to San Francisco a handful of times before, and I didn’t know if I would sink or swim in a new place where I knew almost no one. Before I moved, I was living in Atlanta, Georgia, and while in San Francisco on business for my company, I found out about an opening at another company, interviewed, was hired and the new company wanted me onsite in two weeks. It was frighteningly fast, and left me no time to think. It was a blessing in that sense. I think if I had longer to think about it, I might have been too scared to go. I was so different then.

Once I was moved and working, it became evident that I had lucked into the perfect place to be at the perfect time. I was working hard, and being appreciated in a way that I never had before, in a way that I didn’t even know was possible in a workplace. I was rewarded with praise, support from upper management, and an amazing group of co-workers who made work so much fun. It was the perfect atmosphere for me, and I learned and grew so much. 

That decision in October 1998 literally made my career for me. Were it not for that decision and that position, I would not have had all of the amazing opportunities I have had since then. Sure, I have been through layoffs and work struggles. But, because of that first job in the Bay Area, I have had jobs, responsibilities, and experiences that have made me who I am…not just as a marketing professional, but as a person. I am forever grateful for that, and I know not everyone is so lucky, even when they are more than worthy through their education and work experiences.

So, I understand why I go back there in my mind when I am having inner turmoil. It is not just missing the city, I think it is also feeling comforted by those accomplishments, the appreciation, and the friendships I had there. To this day, I can email friends from that time and feel such a connection. I was so fortunate that so many people wanted me to feel welcome in a new city and a new job and went out of their way to make me feel a part of everything. I miss that. I miss them.

I have friends that mean everything to me, and for the most part, they are all scattered across the map. I am thankful for Facebook because it is so hard to keep in touch through emails and phone calls. Seeing the pictures of everyone’s growing children, sharing in birthday celebrations through status updates…I love it. I love that in that sense, we are all still connected.

I know I can’t run away from the things that are troubling me tonight. I know putting a country’s worth of distance between me and some of my family won’t really solve anything. I know that if we moved to California tomorrow, everything wouldn’t be perfect. I am just longing for a time when so many things in my life were running smoothly. I was making good money, I loved where I lived. So many of my friends were a short drive or a quick train ride away. I loved the work I did and felt appreciated. A lot of the pieces were in place. And honestly, at times and given my family history, it did help to be farther away.

My husband Shea was the only missing piece. And now that I have him, I wish I could turn back time a little and share some of those experiences with him. 

I am rereading these words and wondering if I sound crazy. 

It’s always hard, I guess. Things are never perfect. 

But, tonight, I am dreaming of the beautiful memories I have of California: My drive into work those first years when the views of the city and the Golden Gate would take my breath away, my first trip to the beaches at Inverness and the small pebbles that made up the sand, the small grocery markets with their cornucopia of beautiful produce and fresh-baked bread, my little apartment in Walnut Creek with the tall purple flowers outside my window, the quaint street in Los Altos where I spent so many Saturdays walking from shop to shop- always ending in the antique store that I loved.

Tomorrow I will wake up with the same decisions to make, the same worries, and the same struggles. I will walk outside and smell the salty air and be thankful that I can spend my lunch break with my toes in the sand if I want to. It will all be ok. But tonight, my heart is in San Francisco, and revisiting a time over a decade ago when so many things were just beginning for me, a time when I took a chance and made a sudden decision that changed everything—all for the better.

The artwork above is by Megan Nolton, view more of her beautiful work by clicking here.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Three Years with Bear: The Heartbeat of our House

Each year, I mark this day as Bear’s birthday. He was actually 12 weeks old when I adopted him, three years ago today. But today is the day he became mine, and I became his, and we changed each other's lives. So it seems fitting to celebrate today. His actual birth date is a little uncertain anyway.

One of the things that struck me about Bear the first time I saw him, was the incredible expression in his eyes. He was so calm, laying outside a Petco pet store where I was innocently going to buy a friend a gift for her new puppy. I had a moment unlike any other in my life. I saw Bear from across the parking lot and felt instantly, “that is my dog”. It was the wrong time for me to be adding another furry child to my household, I was out of work, struggling, depressed and overwhelmed. Not exactly the time to add a puppy to the mix.

But, oh, am I ever so thankful that I did. I have written before about how Bear rescued me. We rescued each other.

For years, I dreamed of having a dog, but my job required constant travel, and it was never realistic. I had this vision of the relationship I would have with a dog, partially from my friend’s relationships with their dogs. But, I never dreamed how much this boy would mean to me. I adore my three cats, but there is something so different about my relationship with Bear. I marvel constantly at how Bear communicates with us and us with him, when he can’t speak (although he tries), or communicate with us in “normal” ways. There is such a bond of love there, such an unfailing comfort, that I now can’t imagine my life without it.

From the minute Bear met Shea, who later became my husband, they were crazy about each other. I am so happy and thankful every day that the man I married is as tenderhearted as I am (sometimes even moreso) when it comes to our animals. He worries over Bear if he isn’t feeling well, pampers him at every turn, and gets more joy out of seeing Bear happy than he can contain. I adore this part of my husband, and cherish the relationship they have.

I wrote something a month or so ago and referred to Bear as the “heartbeat of our house”. It is so true. When we come home after a trip out of town and Bear is still at his doggie daycare, the house seems to have lost all of its energy and heart. Coming home without his excited, wiggly butt, over-the-top reaction just isn’t the same. We find ourselves missing him after only a short time away, and being as excited to come home to him as he is to see us.

During the last year, my husband and I had many things and people to be thankful for. We also had a tough year, as Shea struggled to find work in a horrible job market and sluggish economy. There were days that I didn’t feel I could console or comfort Shea, and it broke my heart. But, without fail, Bear could break through and make Shea smile or laugh, and escape stressful thoughts. Coming home after fruitless job interviews or frustrating days of searching could be instantly remedied by Bear’s enthusiastic happy dance at the top of the stairs each night. I witnessed how magical that unconditional love can be, and the power to heal and comfort that seemed boundless.

The calm puppy I saw that day three years ago, bounded to life after a few days in my home. I think Bear had been a bit depressed, too. He was at a shelter, biding his time, and (unbelievably) due to be put down. Then, on January 17, everything changed. For both of us.

So today, Bear will get a few extra slices of his beloved cheese, an extra treat or two, and his own special dinner. He will get to go to the beach and chase the seagulls and if he’s lucky, drag my unsuspecting husband into the surf when he senses Shea is not paying attention. He will get lots of hugs and kisses, and a special thank you from his mom for all the love and joy he has brought into my life… beginning three years ago today.

Read about the day I adopted Bear here.

Read last year’s entry, Two Years, here.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

All That Was Treasured

I fear fires, disasters, endings without goodbye-- the storms of the shore with wild, whipping winds, tearing at the screens of the windows that look into my world and all that is precious to me. I fear headlines telling a tragedy befalling us, when just yesterday we were so blissfully living, unaware of what was coming.

I want us to light on blades of grass like butterflies just outside our door- safe and normal, weightless and free, and then retreat back into this cocoon, this womb, that houses all that means anything to me.

I fear losing any part of it, watching him suffer, leaving him behind, or the heartbeat of our house gone silent. I tremble at the thought of any of those things, yet can't and don't keep the terrifying images at bay, instead inviting them in to fill the overly safe and secure parts of my mind and heart.

My body is unwell and imperfect, scarred and wracked with pain at alternate moments, and I am suddenly in a room surrounded by the smell of sick and loss, a room that has been mine so many times before- in all those cities when I was the deepest shade of alone. The same bright lamps and crinkling paper in lieu of bedsheets. Eyes peering into mine meant to cure, but instead judging my small complaints in the midst of the larger tragedy just down the hall. I will be back here again, alone, they think.

But, I am not. I am achingly comforted by the graces of love that surround me in dark chasms, sad memories, daily triumphs, and the lighting of birthday candles.

I am here among the living, finally, the white dress on sand, the veil aloft in the salt-kissed air, taking flight- the lift of Chagall's brushstrokes, a memory- my hand being held by his heart.

I am transported from one life to the next in the instant of a shutter click- the warmth of the camera's flash against splashes of sea foam after decades and decades of landlocked thirst.

So here we are and I tremble at night in fear of limited time, lost moments, taking for granted the scenery in between slow-cooked dinners and shared laughter. I fear regret for every misspoken word, or missed apology.

I see the world's pain, a new chapter each day, reduced to type-written words beneath a byline of someone who knows nothing but dates and times. Nothing of bonds and secrets and private languages of breathtaking fluency... all that is truly lost. It is a greater deep than all the ocean's measure, it is unspeakable, haunting, unimaginable.

I want to keep it all from our doorstep, from the moments he is in the car on the way to work and a siren seems in perfect unison with his route to safety.

I want guarantees, I want promised safety from a force bigger than me, bigger than us.

I want the assurance of more years here than back there. It is not an order we can place, choosing the span of years we will be given like wedding china patterns. No agreement can be drawn airtight to protect us, signed in blood with years of safe passage...a future of nothing unplanned or shocked with pain. Growing gray and wrinkled together is not a preference to select, just the silent hope of our vows.

And it makes it all more beautiful, more precious in the fragility that is the uncertain and unknown.

All I can do is breathe and sleep, and give love deeper than I did before I had these delicious moments, more than I loved even just yesterday.

Whatever is coming will come, in smoke and flames, forces of nature, the lottery of disease, or some other soul's greatest mistake.

And whenever the clock hands slow and halt for any part of what I have now, I will always have the moments before that, sandwiched between alone and now, deep in my heart and here on paper. All lovely, all precious and uncertain, broken and beautiful, until I too am just someone's memory- fleeting and perfect, finally safe and remembered- a part of all that was treasured.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Please Help!

There are so many writers out there that I admire, and these two folks top my list. If you follow a lot of writers on Twitter or Facebook, you have probably seen this announcement already.

Serge and Monica Bielanko lost their home to fire yesterday, and a fund has been set up to donate for them. If you can help, please donate, and please pass this along for more people to see. All the details are in Katie's post here. You can also click on the photo of the Bielanko family in this post to get to the page for donation information. Spread the word!



Monday, January 2, 2012

It's Never Too Late: The Triumphant Return of Alan Moore

I don’t want to have regrets. I guess none of us do. I have said many times that I can’t regret anything that has happened, because I am so happy with where I have ended up. I believe that somehow-- through fate or some crazy set of coincidences-- I am where I am supposed to be. But, if I am being honest, there are things both big and small that I regret. I have made peace with most things, and I think that is the the best I can do.
What I love about this profile on CNN, is that it teaches the lesson that it’s never too late. Even things that sound and seem crazy are attainable. Maybe not in the perfect way you once imagined, but in some way that resembles that dream and makes you feel complete.
So, imagine that your 61 year-old father or grandfather (or uncle or friend) told you he wanted to play college football. Can you imagine your response? It seems crazy, ridiculous, impossible.
Alan Moore made it a reality. At the age of 61, Moore is a kicker on the Faulkner University football team in Montgomery, Alabama, and is the oldest player to ever score in a college football game.

So many times, life itself gets in the way of our dreams. For Moore, it was the Vietnam War and then the need to support himself after coming home. He wasn’t able to go back to college, to pick up where he left off.
Not until now.
He kicks with a shoe with the word BELIEVE painted across the top. He mentions his mother a lot, and his memories of making her proud as a kicker for his small college before the war.
She would be proud now, too.
One of my favorite lines from Moore is "Assholes are great motivators." He said this in reference to those who didn't believe in him, or even made fun of his ambition to return to kicking. He speaks the truth. In the past, there were times when the people who didn't believe in me, who banked on my failure, alternately motivated me more than anyone or anything else.
But what is a also a great motivator is seeing someone put words into action, someone who makes the impossible seem doable.
Someone who makes my dreams, in comparison, seem easily attainable.

Someone like Alan Moore.
Alan Moore with his five grandchildren.

Please read the full profile of Alan Moore here.

 All photos courtesy of Faulkner University and CNN.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

The First Chapter of 2012

Since 2009, I have had the tradition of only making one New Year’s resolution, and that has worked well for me. Trying to achieve a long list of goals is overwhelming—and if I start making a list, it usually ends up very, very long. Especially when thinking about things I want to improve about myself. That list could go on for days.

This year, I have landed on one finally. This is going to be the year when I put my writing career first and make it happen. I am 42, and I have wanted this since I was 6 years old. I would say it is about time I got busy making it happen.

I am fortunate to have a nice following on this little blog of mine, and dedicated readers that send me such sweet emails of support all the time. In that sense, I feel like I am already a success in some ways. But I want what I have always wanted…to finish my novel, to submit to magazines, to really actively push myself to a point where I feel that I am doing all I can, and that every day is a small step towards that goal.

There are many runner-up goals for this list—I want to be healthier—to eat and to exercise regularly—but you know what? That’s something I should be doing no matter what. Another goal is to try and not worry so much—but that is also something that shouldn’t be a stand-alone goal—it should be how I am living my life. 

I am in such a good place to finally make my writing dreams come true. I have a husband that would move heaven and earth to help me make this happen. I have a job where I work from home and have the flexibility to shift my schedule if I am in a writing mood. I am in a place that inspires me, and a time of my life where I have enough life experience to draw from and enough of my own stories to tell or to turn into fiction. It’s time.

I have written in the past about a therapist asking me what my biggest dream was. When I told her I wanted to be a published author—she looked at me as if it was so attainable, that it could be done tomorrow. She talked about people that have unrealistic dreams, and how she knew (after reading some of my work) that mine was so doable. 

She paused a long time and looked at me and said—What are you waiting for? 

I didn’t have an answer then, and I don’t now. There are excuses—life, being busy, money worries, migraines, insomnia…a million excuses. But no real reason.

So, 2012, here I come. This is the year I will finish my novel and submit my work to every outlet I can. This will be the year I look back and say finally…what took me so long?

Happy New Year to all my wonderful readers and friends…I hope 2012 is full of love, hope, peace and happiness for everyone!



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