Opal’s Old Friend

Sam Spade2

It seems like when I am both bored, and I have a little time on my hands I stumble across information that is a combination of freeing and sometime saddening all at the same time. I am the proverbial Pandora who will open that box, knowing the likelihood of it unveiling painful truths outweighs any possible good.

It’s how I found out my stepfather had died, alone in a nursing home. The upside is through his death I forgave him the not-so-minor infractions I had cast upon him and carried around with me like a brick for years. I’ve located a mugshot of an ex that I can’t scrub from my mind. The list could go on for the people I’ve located and at times I like to think I am my own kind of special Sam Spade, but the truth is patience, and Google can locate almost anything, or anyone. Facebook helps too.

There is an exception for my master techniques;  three people who have seemingly slipped through the cracks. Two are from my childhood, and finding them was never as great of importance as it was great curiosity. But one — one was a friendship that slipped through my fingers about 16 or 17 years ago, in a haphazard, “Oh I’ll pick that up in a moment” kind of fashion.

That last one I located today. Sort of. I’ve located the information to confirm she died at the very least a few years back.

I suspect if my amateur detective skills could have held out a little longer, or she could have held out a little longer for those thin gossamer web strings to finally envelope her we might have reconnected. But those are the pipe dreams of someone who wasn’t ready to say goodbye forever like.

I write about her without saying her name, because I feel like the glass will break and the finality will be dirt and stones, if I say out loud that “She has died”. Plus even in death I really strive for not calling people out specifically both past, or present.  This way, I can emotionally still be looking for her, like I have all these years. That’s me, denial in its truest fashion, weaving fairytales to keep the boogeymen at bay.

2015-01-23-NOTOXICITY-thumbI have written a ton on the No Toxicity rule in my life, and the magnet I am for whacked out people who flock to it. I rarely write about those who have rescued me, knowingly, or otherwise from these situations. I’ve had three deep toxic relationships, all with other women, and all in platonic ways. This isn’t the story of one of the three, Opal we will call her, but of the un-seeming hero who unknowingly rescued me afterwards.

See sometimes good things come from bad times, everything happens for a reason.

There are those rare individuals who for reasons none of us will ever know are professional Shit-Stirrers. Toxic Narcissists.  People who create chaos just for the hell of it. Bored housewives (in my cases), emotionally unstable, drama seeking sycophants.

The details on Opals actions are irrelevant. Suffice to say she mind-fucked me for reasons as I’ve listed above I just don’t understand. Some of it was very weird small stuff, and some of it was pretty big. Regardless, I was deeply entrenched in Opal’s life, as she was in mine. Our families were deeply connected. All sorts of stuff. Plus I was in a pretty vulnerable position, emotionally, physically and financially.

When it all came to light, and for some odd reason when this stuff  really does comes to light, you simply cannot un-see it. You can’t brush it under the rug and pretend the psycho sitting next to you is someone normal, unless you yourself are a bit twisted too. No, generally speaking you have to make large sweeping arcing motions to remove them completely from your life. Grab it by the root and tug the hell out of it until you’ve banished it from your world.

So despite how this was going to affect me including cutting me off from most everything I had grown comfortable with, everything I had learned to depend on – I made the healthy decision to grab this root and burn it.

It wasn’t easy.

When the dust settled from this chaos and I looked around my life, things had definitely changed. Most of it would be 100% for the better, but at that moment I wasn’t aware. I only knew that for the first time in a very long time, I felt very small and very alone. But in the dramatic fashion that this tale is spinning, there stood this figure in the distance. A figurative bloodied and battle-worn casualty in her own right, having fought the same dramatic war, with the same drama prone Opal, just on a different battlefield.

I had known her for years, as she was Opal’s other best friend. When my youngest was born, they both came to visit me, bringing sweet gifts. There were a couple of social situations that we hung out together in, but we were just a tad wary of one another. Frankly she intimidated the fuck out of me. Aggressive, blunt speaking, and self-confident. (Which by no coincidence I have been called as well) My daughter who knew her as a wee babe described her as a thin version of Roseanne. It sort of hits it on the head with that one.

How does that saying go; Any enemy of my enemy is a friend? I can’t recall the exact circumstances of our first solo meeting, but neither of us were aware initially that Opal was out of the other’s life, so we treated each other in that same superficially friendly manner. I had no reason to begrudge her, but neither did I trust her. The feeling was mutual.

Of course the story would go nowhere if we didn’t quickly figure out that things had disintegrated for both of us with the same person. We quickly compared notes, war stories, the whole lot. I laugh to think what a big deal it was back then. One would have thought us high schoolers for all the drama, not the 30-something women we were. But I think in retrospect it was highly important for us to have each other.

There is a saying that people come into your life for a reason, and in consideration I think we came into one another’s lives for a very important reasons. Opal had been her best and almost only close friend for decades. Opal had been in my life for about half that time, but I relied heavily on her as a friend, a confidante – she was practically family for both of us. The betrayal, and hurt we were both going thru – it was crucial that we had an ally that understood. Not a husband, or an outside friend who could comfort us, but someone who would let us tear the proverbial carcass of this unhealthy relationship to shreds, sit there licking our lips, and our wounds – until we were bloated and exhausted.

And that’s exactly what we did for each other. In ripping thru the being of who Opal was, it helped us heal.

We also found that one reason we weren’t closer over the years is that Opal had whispered secrets, and untruths into our ears about one another. Once the indignation of “She said WHAT?” wore off, we actually had fun comparing all the things we had been told. Of course like the emotional school aged children we acted like, we relished in the thought of what our new found friendship must be doing to the psyche of the banished Opal. Maturity wasn’t our strong suit when we were in pain.

Fortunately the friendship that was founded in this pain, wasn’t completely built on it. We found once the character ripping of our common enemy had ceased, that we had this true common core of a friendship. The things that intimidated me about her, I soon found out frightened her about me. No surprise there. I mean not now. We spent so many hours in her kitchen talking and laughing. Her laugh was infectious. Her whole body shook and she would throw her head back.

Damn I had to stop there for a moment as I remembered her. Sitting in her kitchen/dining room, her smoking her thin dark More cigarettes, while we drank gallons of coffee with the swamp cooler blowing frigid air on us. Comparing stories, pain, happiness, life lessons.

She was a few years older than me – less than ten but close to it, and I soaked up what I could from her. She had a stunningly happy marriage with a very handsome man who equally adored her. She was the first woman who taught and lived by the rules that your husband came first. Before kids, before friends. Through this, their marriage was probably one of the strongest I’ve ever seen. I don’t think to this day, I’ve ever seen a woman who was seriously so happy to see her husband when he got home at the end of the day. He felt the same about her. They lived a comfortable life, enough for her to afford not to work, which was a good thing because she was terminally ill.

Yeah I purposely didn’t lead off with that.

She had a rare autoimmune disorder that her doctors and a few lawyers had agreed she most likely contracted in the 80’s when more than one set of silicone implants broke inside of her. A slow leak of poison absorbed into her bloodstream not once, but twice and left her with a nearly unpronounceable disease and a mastectomy scars that a woman her age should never have. Surprisingly enough her original implants weren’t a vanity set. She had suffered breast cancer at a rare and very young age that had led to a complete full mastectomy. When it was all said and done, after two botched implant surgeries, she was still left with those mastectomy scars. Horribly ironic isn’t it?

So because of this disease which primarily affected her muscular system, she didn’t have to work. Now me, I was working and driving to hell and back with whatever small piece of crap car I could afford back then trying desperately to make ends meet, and not always having a successful time at it. I decided at one point that I would start my own housekeeping business as a second job to supplement my income.

Looking back on that, it might not have been where I should have leaned. I wasn’t the best at this new venture. I mean sure, I knew how to clean MY house, but as any housekeeper can tell you, it’s really about those spaces that we forget about. I wasn’t good about cleaning those.

I had three new clients right off the bat. My brother was managing a small apartment complex and hired me to clean the old units that were recently vacated. I don’t think he appreciated the work I did, which was the first indication that my business idea might not have been the best one. The second was a friend who had more time and money then she knew what to do with, and found the oddest jobs for me to do like cleaning the crystals on her chandelier.

The third was this friend. She lived in a pretty decent sized home. Not palatial, but large. She immediately fired her current housekeeper and hired me on, which definitely led to the pressure of getting the job done correctly.

I had decided at the beginning of this sojourn my best bet would be to charge by the hour unless it was a straight job like the ones my brother was offering me. A house her size with the items she wanted should have taken me about 3-4 hours to get done. Except that every 30 minutes or so she’d declare I needed a break, and so more coffee was drank and more cigarettes were smoked and the swamp cooler took care of my now sweaty brow. About six hours would pass, with at least 2 ½ of those break times and finally the house would be done in time for her husband to get home. She’d always have him pay me for the full six hours, and then throw another ten or twenty on top for a tip.

To be honest, I am betting that her old housekeeper did a much better job than I did.

After about six months, finances started to get better and I was able to hang up the shingle to the housekeeping business. Thankfully because despite my efforts with flyers, business never really did pick up further than those three clients. But you know? Her help – her generosity, put groceries in the house for me and my kids more than once. I kept my dignity without taking a handout, and she dealt with a relatively clean home with top-notch chit-chat for six months.

After the housekeeping gig ended we still remained tight. She was more than just generous with her money, but with her time. When life and work started to pick up for me, she stepped in and took care of my youngest on those odd days where day care wouldn’t work out. In fact her mother became a pseudo grandmother for my wee one. Eventually, as it happens at times, life started to get in the way. Her health would take small dives and she wouldn’t be up for company. No sooner would she get better, then life on my end wouldn’t afford me the time for her.

We slipped up and lost complete contact when I made a move in the mid 90’s, Weirdly I don’t recall how now, but somehow we located one another. We made plans to get together and I was so excited to see her. She had new boobs, saline this time, she told me. She bought those along with her new house when she won the lawsuit no one expected her to live long enough to see, for those botched silicone jobbers. Unfortunately at this time, I suspected pretty hard that her health was declining.

Yeah, that terminal illness that had given her five years to live? She had surprised everyone by living double that, and they expected more with new advances. But the toll from the medications she had taken, and the disease in  general had placed its mark on her. But – the boobs did look fantastic. 😉

That instant connection we had all those years back – it faltered this time. It didn’t feel forced, but we didn’t slide right back into things like old times. I think that is normal in some friendships. We got together a couple of times more, and then things got quiet as they were prone to do. A year or so later, I made another move, and didn’t tell people. Not on purpose, just life. A year or so later, I sent out Christmas cards, only hers came back with that yellow sticker that say “Occupant has moved”  and a new address was listed. The holidays were past, so I just tore the sticker with the address off and placed it in my phone book, figuring I would reach out the following year.

I think I stopped sending Christmas Cards out that year.

Some might wonder why, knowing she had fragile health issues, why I didn’t stay in better contact. I don’t really have an answer for that. Some denial. Some forgetfulness.

Enough years passed by that by the time I wanted to reach out to her I was hesitant. You’d think that a person who has dealt with her share of death would understand that it’s okay to say the words out loud,  but I was terrified of bringing those words back into her husband’s home. Like her husband wouldn’t have recalled this on a daily basis forever. I simply didn’t want to remind him. So I hemmed and hawed over writing a letter, finding different excuses.

Outside of the address I had on that paper – I wasn’t certain it was even current anymore. Years passed, technology improved, so I started by looking them all up on the magical internet. I couldn’t locate him. Or her daughters. Not a sign on Facebook. LinkedIn. None of the social sites had a whisper of them, at least not to my prying eyes..

But every few years I’d still try. Type in her name. By now I added the word Obit to her name. It was a relief to never get a match, and I shakily pictured her holding on, showing those doctors that 5 years could turn into 20.

And then today I found one of them. Surprisingly through Opal who I stumbled upon. Finding one easily led to a door that found another and another door leading to another, until the entire family was there. Monumental moments in pictures that would have required her presence – she just wasn’t there. The husband who adored her so much, now has his arm draped around another woman. A much less attractive woman in my eyes, but who am I to judge?
It didn’t hit me as a shock. More of like a sad eye-opening realization. The wondering off and on through the years was quietly closed with a soft click. I thought of this rough, harder than nails woman who scared everyone, when in reality had the softest emotional side to her. Who  was such this little dynamo of a friend who made me laugh and laugh; who unknowingly took such care of me emotionally when I needed it, not to mention financially, when I probably needed it the most, and the tears were there. It’s a stale sadness if there is such a thing. Something I think I’ve known for years but couldn’t express because I wasn’t certain. It was my lunch hour, so the tears could slip without being seen or heard. At one point I titled my head back, an old trick I learned when I was about ten that doesn’t really work, as eyeballs don’t reabsorb tears.

It’s weird in closing because I can’t say “Oh I’ll miss you …” because it’s been so long. I guess I feel this lump in my throat for who and what she was to me at one point in my life. I slipped a tear or two more when I saw her youngest is married with a child. That would have made her very happy.

I was happy my daughter recalled her, even in that Roseanne Barr kind of way. Children’s perceptions can so often be sharper than our own. I guess in ending this, I need to remind myself to be that friend to someone, even if it’s for a short time period.

You never know the last mark you’ll make.

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Dramatic Ramblings from the Swamp of Sadness

Sheep in Rain

My mother once told me that sheep were the dumbest animals, because they never had the sense to come out of the rain, and could actually drown if they held their heads up.

I don’t know if that is actually true, but for the past couple of days I’ve been dancing this slow dance of muddled sadness, that both feels sort of painfully good – like stretching out a painful Charlie horse; and at the same time it feels like I’m slowly drowning in a very light rain. Like the aforementioned sheep, I wander in confusion and consider just accepting the drowning.

I am precariously balanced between light and dark emotions. Gratitude. Anger. Overwhelming Sadness. Guilt. Love. Shame.

I worry that I am secretly a masochist for the dark depths of any emotional pain because I’m not doing anything but existing in this feeling, but at the same time know I can flip a switch and turn this off and feel nothing. Just go blank, where the only existence of this pain is this dull throb in the pit of my stomach.

Fellini Clown

Neither is right, but the latter is closer to what I do, because one must get up in the morning and exist. So I surround myself with people, and put my clown face on. But in some Fellini-esque poetic way, I see this clown mask looking back up at me, while silent tears glide down my cheek. Dramatic in thought, but the reality is I greet you with my same soft shoe dance, loopy painted on grin, that ultimately ends with a squirt of seltzer in your face. Everyone claps and the clown moves on.

Kurt’s ashes were spread recently. I can’t go into any more detail than that, or I will lose it. I can’t talk to anyone outside of my youngest about this, and even that is a bit censored. She’s my champion in this, but one can only take so much.  I think the truth is, I’ve lost my ability to be vulnerable with people regarding this. No one gets it, no one will, so shut up about it already.

It fucking sucks.

As usual, this situation makes me angry at the world. Anger is my go-to for sadness once the tears dry up. Actually I don’t even need the tears to dry up, because sometimes those really hot angry tears are cleansing too.

I battle this logical side that tells me everything I am going through is normal and natural. I hate the logical side that tells me I can’t claim being excluded if I left this party decades ago.  Have you ever been so damn angry at someone for being right? Imagine that anger pointing inward.

Then as always, at every emotional party Guilt comes dragging in last; looming large like some over-sized Henson Muppet, bumbling around, bumping into everything while constantly apologizing. Sometimes I feel if I had a nickel for every apology I issued, I’d be drowning in coins.

I want to soothe the emotional side of me that carries on like a toddler, screeching at the world. Aiming my misdirected anger at anyone ignorant enough to get in my way. I am at this crossroads and I don’t want to talk about it, but moreso I don’t know how to talk about it. So I write a jumbled mess of descriptive emotional words learned in therapy years ago, when it seemed like Angry, and Scared and Happy were the only ones I knew.

I understand that there might be people out there who can help carry this burden but I’m angry at all of them. I’m angry at the entire fucking world today, but when you see me I will smile. My chest will constrict and I will look upward, the oldest trick in the book on having your eyes re-swallow tears, but I will smile.

Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, I need to figure out a way to take a 15 hour car ride to this beautiful lake in the Rocky Mountains and finish my good byes. I don’t want to do it alone, and I don’t want to do it with anyone. I relish the idea of the drive alone, and I dread and fear it.

Maybe this is why the sheep die in the rain. They aren’t stupid, they are just vastly confused.

Mother’s Day

Mothers DayWhen I was a little kid, I thought all Mother’s were addressed as Mother. I don’t think it was until I was 5 or 6 and saw something on television using the endearment Mommy, that I realized there were other names for calling your mother. I asked my mother, “Why don’t we call you Mommy?” and her response was, “Because I’m your Mother, not your Mommy.”

I don’t really have a way of explaining that answer, but I got it. We never attempted to call her anything other than Mother, not out of fear, but just because that’s the way it was. Ok, maybe a little bit out of fear. And I confess in my eye-rolling teen years, I may have under my breath, called her other names.

Over the years in telling that story, the line has changed to have a little more vinegar in it. I dramatically play up my relationship with my mother to be something a little bit Joan Crawford-ish, because truth be told in a cleaner manner, with a lot less hangers involved, and without the hysterics and drama, I think she was a teeny bit like Mommy Dearest. I wrote my notes to her that way in high school and she was in on the joke. But I loved the hell out of her anyway.

I’m noticing sadly how it’s becoming more and more common for friends of my age to have lost one or both of their parents.

I lost my mother at a much earlier age, and I think I may have even written about it before. If I didn’t, then I probably meant to. I don’t know, I find myself forgetting all sorts of things lately. Aging sucks, because not only do you forget things, you go off on side tangents that have nothing to do with your point. 😉

I, like most who have lost their mother’s, find myself thinking of her stronger than ever with Mother’s Day around the corner. You can’t help it. Social media is running those meme’s that state something like, “Bark if You Miss Your Mom!” and everyone replies “Bark, bark, bark!”. TV and internet ads are reminding us to remember the one who loved us most. Until next month when they’ll remind us that Dad really loved us more than mom.

Confession: I, at times had a teensy flame of resentment about Mother’s Day when she was alive, because I didn’t really feel like I got a fair shake in things. I too was a Mother, but every second Sunday of May it wasn’t about me being a mother, it was about getting out to her place and honoring her. Coming up the funds to find the perfect gift when I was struggling to get food on the table for my little ones. Sounds self-centered, like I should be running around whining, “But what about meeeeeee!”, but these were all very well hidden inner resentments, and like I said, teensy in size. Truth be told, by the time my kids were in the picture, I actually really liked my mother. I enjoyed time with her. I think I just wasn’t a fan of the pressure.

Plus that old adage of be careful of what you wish for? Yeah for the past 17 years I haven’t had to worry about that perfect gift. Not a great trade off. OMG Universe, for Christ’s sake, can’t you take a fucking joke!?!

Funny how one would trade a barrel of those flames of resentment to spend another Mother’s Day with the one we love.

On a side note about this, I have this – well an old therapist once told me it was a coping mechanism – about finding the silver lining in every single tragedy that befalls me. Again, I think I’ve touched on this before too. I called it my inner Pollyanna, and I had thought myself pretty cool for dreaming a way to deal with things because hell, it got me thru everything. I found in therapy the reality was, it just made it more difficult for me to cope with the real issues, like pain and anger. Anyway, I didn’t get into that therapist until after my mom died, so that practice really was one of my survival skills when she died. Finding a silver lining. And that was it – not having to stress over the perfect gift for any holiday, or having to give up Mother’s Day. That’s all I could come up with, and I thought I was pretty damn clever on getting myself thru those holidays holding onto that thought.

Thank God for therapy and straightening THAT shit out.

I know that a lot of people post on social media that they really wish they had that “One more Mother’s Day” to spend with their own deceased mothers. I thought on it for a moment and realized bullshit, if I could have her back for a day I wouldn’t want it on the biggest puff-piece of a holiday, that some of us more selfish types might actually resent a bit. I’d like her back on an ordinary Thursday, or preferably a Saturday afternoon.

I’d pick her up from wherever that depot is that you get the dead for a day. Amtrak? Greyhound? Do the dead travel by ordinary measures? I’d hug her like her life – or mine for that matter — depended on it. One of those super deep, super long hugs where you hold on tight, and rock one another slowly, inhaling and taking everything in. I always loved my mother’s hugs because they were sincere. I’d sniff deeply, hoping to hold onto the scent of her until we met again. She always had this intoxicating odor about her that was a mix of cosmetics and cigarette smoke. Sounds unappealing, but on her it truly smelled lovely. It smelled like Mother.

I’d take her straight to my place, and unlike most, we wouldn’t have iced tea, or a cup of coffee. Ironically I’d probably make her a Ginarita. What the hell, it’s not like one more drink would kill her at this stage of the game. Ouch – really? Did I say that out loud? She would have laughed at it.

I think I’d make it a show-off day for me. Not to fulfill my ego, but to show her what a damn good job she did. I’d take her on the two minute tour of the condo and praise her for everything I had. She had taught me both purposely and inadvertently tons of independence, and I think she would be so proud of the achievements. The girls grew up to be lovely adults. I bought my own condo all on my own. My career made a pretty cool turn to my advantage. I’m not certain if she would be happy that I was going solo in life. She’d either appreciate the hell out of my gumption for accepting that I didn’t need a man to make me happy, or she’d be sad that I was alone.

I guess it would depend on if we grow emotionally when we are dead. My fantasy says we do.

I’m mixed over wanting to spend the time with her alone, or share her with her granddaughters. I think to be perfectly honest, my selfish side (surprise!) would win out, because every moment I had to share her would be a moment less without her fully. I’d show her pictures of the girls as they grew up, and tell her all about them and hope that they wouldn’t be too angry with me later. Better to seek forgiveness and all that happy horseshit as she would say.

By now I think the Ginarita (or two) would have relaxed us both (we both tend to run on a tighter wire than most) enough to just talk. Drinks, her favorite smokes, and chit chat. I’d remind her laughingly of how we could get on the phone some nights and talk for 2 to 3 hours at a stretch. On this day, the talks would be both lighthearted like they were in the past, and serious because I only had the day.

I’d apologize to her for two things; First and foremost for being so damn angry at her for dying. In grief comes anger, and I know she would understand it, but in anger comes bitterness, and it took me a little bit of time to untangle the pain from the anger and really heal. Not Pollyanna heal like I mentioned above.

Then I would quietly and without fanfare just let her know that I knew what she went thru in her short marriage to my dad, and how sorry I was that she ever had to experience that side of life. I didn’t discover a lot of these things until after she died, and it placed so many things into perspective about who she was. I mean So. Many. Things. I grieved for the life she lived when I found out those circumstances, almost as much as I grieved for the life she no longer had. I would want her to know how goddamn much I appreciated her protecting her children, and not having them grow up with a stigma of bad parentage.

I have a thousand questions, and in thinking about the reality of this fantasy I wonder, would I want that time spent on me asking her them? Are those answers so important that I would give up moments of a perfect fantasy to have them answered?

Sometimes when I drive home from work and my mind starts to wander, I wonder what info I wish I really could glean from her. A lot of times the child in me comes out, and I want to ask, just like my little one still does with me, “What does it mean when I (fill in the health issue) …?” I want to know, had she already gone thru menopause by the time she died? Did she have any health issues, other than what knew? What should I do about this or that?

Basically, I want my Mother.

But you know, it’s been 17 Mother’s Days without her, and I don’t think having those answers would change anything. I think using up the time with unimportant trivial bullshit like this would be a waste. It’s like having one free wish on a hot day and wasting it on wishing for an icey cold Otter Pop. Wish for more wishes, damnit! You always wish for more wishes!!

So no, I wouldn’t ask her the Mother questions. The answers that I won’t have about my own health now that I am nearing the age she was when she died? I can enter into that darkness and just sort of see what happens.

Instead I’d ask for stories.

She was a pretty private person, and I now understand why in some areas. But unlike me almost forcibly verbally vomiting stories to my own girls – a bit in excess for probably these exact reasons – I didn’t really know much about who she was BM – Before Motherhood. When she died, that killed me the most. Not knowing who she really was.

I’d pull out that old photo album that I found after she died. The one I never even knew existed until she died. Pictures of her in high school, at parties and weddings looking like someone I never knew. It was someone I never knew. She wasn’t someone’s daughter in these pictures – that person I knew from my grandparents. She wasn’t someone’s mother. That person I knew too. This was a young woman, on the precipice of life, laughing and dancing and crushing on boys. I’d ask her to tell me about that person. Naked questions that she never would have dreamed of telling me in life, I’d hope she could tell me now. I’d ask her scandalous questions. I’d ask her silly ones too.

I’d ask her about her fears as she aged, and as her children aged. Did she worry as much as I do? I’d ask her about compromising her love life, (as it seemed to me) and if she would trade that if she could do it all over again.

I think when I had these stories, these details, it would fill in a lot of the important questions that have been left smoldering for the past 17 years.

I know the day would be filled with a lot of laughter, because my mom and I could really get each other going. I would secretly record her laughing so I could listen to it later. Sometimes it’s hard to remember, until out of the clear blue it comes out my mouth, completely unexpected.

Before I said good bye, because I know how rough that would be, I would ask her to help me figure out to bring my brother some peace. Her sudden death and their being on the outs when it happened, really messed him up. I’m not certain what she could do, but because this is my fantasy I’m going to say I know she could do something to make it right.

The good bye, I can’t even really write about, because honestly even imagining it in writing will rip me up emotionally. It would be rough – as rough as losing her the first time? I’m not sure. I think in some ways, yes. But worth it.

I am not a fan of the analogy “Hug your (fill in the family member of your choice) a little tighter tonite.” It’s a bit contrite for my taste. But seriously, if you are fortunate enough to have your mother around for Mother’s Day, maybe give her an extra squeeze – from me. She’ll never know I was in on your moment.

Don’t Stand So Close to Me

don-t-stand-so-close-to-me

Today they located the 50-year old Tennessee man who took off with his 15-year old student about a month ago. I don’t know the details of his capture except that he surrendered without incident.

I couldn’t help but wonder what goes through the mind of a man that age when he makes that final decision to take off with a girl that young.

Is he making that one last mad dash for the finish line, knowing in his heart of hearts that there is no way this ends pretty, but if he is going down, damnit he is going down in flames of passion? Or was he actually delusional enough to think in time this would go away, and that all they needed to do for now was keep their heads low?

I read that he got cash so he couldn’t be tracked by credit cards, but then I read that it was less than 5k. How far will 5k take you in this day and age? One doesn’t retire in Mexico with their child bride on a mere 5k. One can barely rent an apartment with deposits and last month’s rent on 5k.

I also read that prior to his leaving, he investigated if his model of vehicle could be surreptitiously tracked, but then did nothing to disguise the obviously reported mode of transportation. He didn’t trade the car in, or even swap out the plates, so every day must have been torture while he trekked from Tennessee to Northern California. The car of course, is what eventually nabbed him.

Was he thinking on the day he took off, that he was taking that one last roll of the dice and going for it? Betting it all on black, knowing his chances were against him? Was his love or lust or whatever he convinced himself and her of, something he knew he was going to go down for, but worth it nevertheless?

When I stop playing mental detective and started to think of the lives; her father, his wife, his children — it saddened and angered me. This is big, and when one is going to play Humbert Humbert to her Lolita, one really has to have the brain capacity that stretches a bit further than whatever this man was thinking.

Trust me her brain isn’t capable of figuring this all out. Her brain isn’t worried about what will happen tomorrow. It’s caught up in the melodramatic nuances of his understanding her, which is so damn important when you’re a 15 year old girl. To be treated as, thought of and looked at — as an adult. It’s all about what he invokes in her today. His age probably even entices her. Her brain at this time is capable of adoration, something he probably doesn’t get a lot of from his wife of over thirty years. You know the woman with the fully formed brain, who has stood by him all these decades.

I had a mad, crazy obsessive crush on a 38-year old man when I was that age. 15 is a dangerous age for teenage girls. And sometimes for the men who surround them. Circumstances of who he was are irrelevant at this point, but I can say whenever I hear The Police sing, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”, I think of him. Not because he was a teacher. He wasn’t. Because Sting nailed it with that first verse and when I hear it, I’m there again.

Young teacher,

The subject

Of schoolgirl fantasy

She wants him so badly

Knows what she wants to be

Inside her there’s longing

This girl’s an open page

Book marking, she’s so close now

This girl is half his age

I laugh when I think about how crazy deep those feelings seemed, and how if I could have talked to someone about them, you could have never convinced me of how irrelevant they were going to be to the overall spectrum of my life. Yet today I couldn’t tell you his name if my life depended on it. I vaguely recall his looks. Dark curly hair. I think there was a beard, which is funny because I hated beards when I was a teen. Pubes on the face I would call them.

Like this girl I imagine, I thought I was pretty decent at hiding these emotions from those around me – himself included; but I might as well have been walking around with a huge lit up neon sign that pointed out Intense Crush Here. You know how smart you thought you were at that age.

Initially I don’t think he knew. He didn’t know that every joking comment, or hello, or whatever else he may have said in passing or casual conversation with me, was nearly quite literally gasoline on this proverbial fire of feelings that I had for him. My coy attempts at flirtation with him, which in retrospect was fortunately never sexual, was probably cute to him. Or maybe not. Maybe I am giving credit here to a man who was having the beginning thoughts similar to this recently arrested teacher. Maybe he knew exactly what was going on.

Eventually he figured it out. Fortunately once this happened, he did something about it. One day he was just gone. Like !POOF! — gone. I panicked. I cried. I had no one to really talk to about it, because it was this secret. Friends would have thought me insane for feeling this way about someone so old. More than twice my age. But other adults knew, because yeah – that neon sign I wasn’t so clever in hiding. A close adult gently and delicately explained that he felt it was healthier for me if he wasn’t around, and didn’t want a dramatic good-bye. At this point, I knew that she knew. She knew, that I knew — she knew. But we both allowed me the slightest amount of dignity to not speak of it. I swallowed my hurt feelings. Hurt that he was gone. Hurt that he didn’t say goodbye.

I was lucky that he knew 15-year old girls do not always think of consequences, and that the temptations of lust carry a very hefty price tag. I was devastated for a very short period of time, and dramatically probably thought I would never get over it. And then magically, like youth tends to show, one day quite soon after I wasn’t so upset by it. Then decades went by and I simply forgot his name.

He did the right thing in leaving. Silently. I wouldn’t have at the moment been convinced by anything anyone had said, so the temptation simply had to be removed.

In thinking about this reported-on-child of fifteen – and fifteen IS a child, no matter how adult the outer layers look, I hope that someday she gets over this. I hope that her family and her friends and the public at large let her get over this. I hope she eventually meets a boy her own age and someday forgets the name of the man who wasn’t smart enough to leave.

As for him? I’m not sure. I initially wrote throw away the key, but strangely enough I actually feel a little bit sorry for him. I know it’s wrong of me, but I just go back to that thought of What were you thinking? and realize he wasn’t. And for that lack of thought — his life changes forever.

 

 

Control Freak

Control Freak Lorelai

People get Control Freaks wrong most of the time. We really are so misunderstood. It’s almost perceived as this selfish way of wanting to have things your way all of time. But if you were really to dig, it might sadden you to find out that the reality is that most of the time it’s just a behaviour learned at a very young age because so much chaos was around. We – They – just want everyone safe and happy, and time has taught them, they are the only ones who can make sure that happens.

I say most of the time, because sometimes I believe it’s purely inherited. I think sometimes it’s just a matter of someone being born with their wiring completely tweaked. (My mom was one of those) There are neurological and psychological medical terms for those types, that I’m simply not educated to bound on about.

But the Learned Control Freak? That one I know about.

This is for those children who create the need for control, out of a need for safety. Children are resilient little fuckers, and thru drilling down to those safest ports of their imagination and adding to that the natural instincts to simply live, they can create coping mechanisms that are out of this world. It’s sad when you take away the kernel of sarcasm from this, but I’m not writing to delve on how fucked up childhood is for a great many of us.

No, I’m looking at the problem in those immature coping mechanisms that kept the kids safe.

Hence the seed of the Control Freak is born.

Mine was double-fold. Hell, realistically it was probably triple-fold in my reasons, but it wasn’t until I went into yet another round of therapy as an adult that I started to understand the how’s and why’s, and that ultimately this learned behavior wasn’t just going to go away. Let alone overnight.

Let’s face it, no one really likes a control freak.

control-freak_001

I also learned that it was very common for those of us with inner Control Freaks to have their counterpart, the Stress Monster. I hated the stressor in my mother, and moreso that it was a gene in me. I despised growing up with someone who’s internal mechanisms were wound so tight it kept those of us around fearful of the inevitable SNAP! , simply because life happened.

I knew it was from things being so beyond my scope of control that I clenched tighter and tighter. The more I clenched the wider my realm of making those around me unhappy grew. It frightened them, just as it frightened me as a child.

I don’t think I became more cognizant of it then when my girls were tweens and teens and I was trying to build a small gardening shelf for my patio. The design structure was pitiful, and no sooner would I have it built, then the entire thing would collapse and my stress monster would ROAR it’s ugly roar. I don’t recall if I made mention that I would go nuclear if it happened again, or if the girls just sort of knew, but sure enough build-collapse-repeat happened one more time and the next thing I knew the girls were scattering like chickens. My immediate blinking reaction was that of confusion, until I saw that their decided place of refuge was a locked bathroom, and only one made it in. The other was on the outside struggling with the door and pleading for help to get in.

The roar of frustration was doused like water on a campfire and it became a falling fit of giggles for me. The girls quietly came out and saw their crazy mother wasn’t screaming, but laughing, and soon the three of us were laughing, them explaining how bad it looked to them, me building this shelf that would topple each time.

As funny as it was, it was also a reality call that the two people I cherished more in life than life itself were terrified of me when I was stressed out.

Did I call for therapy that next day? No. But the moment stood with me strongly enough that it was soon after.

In therapy the first thing I had to learn to recognize the physicality’s of trying to control things; clenching my jaw, tightening my chest with smaller breaths, balling my fists, even squinting. All things I did unconsciously, but learned as a child. It’s tantamount to the adolescent who feels if they are very quiet and very still they will go unnoticed. It’s also a physical way of wanting to literally control time and movement around you. Putting the brakes on life so to speak.

The best thing and most commonly suggested, would have been for me to learn meditation. It’s calming and peaceful, two things I really needed. But it’s honestly so hard for me to meditate that it seemed like more work than the reward offered. I envy those who are capable of turning their minds to the silence mode. To mute the thoughts and go someplace blank. It’s nearly impossible for me, regardless of the tapes or books read.

I hope someday. For now, I learned to breathe. Yup, sounds simple, but you would be amazed at those who don’t realize their breaths are small and shallow. In learning to breathe I was making myself aware of every physical aspect going on in my body. I loosened the fists and let the jaw go slack. I would tell myself (and later my children), “In with the good – HOLD – now out with the bad”. I started to make myself aware of the good energy I wanted and the bad energy I was holding on to.

Next was the emotional garbage. I had to learn that the praise I internally gave myself for bounding back from tragedy so easily wasn’t really a good thing.

Seriously.

I called it my Pollyanna mechanism of always finding the bright side. I thought myself at times genius for my ability to overcome any type of loss, by thinking of all the good things that would come of it. But again it was me controlling only the good things in life to happen. That in itself isn’t a bad thing, unless it’s the only thing. Hence the hard time I had forcing myself to cope with my son’s death. Not that there was a bright side to that. In that case I simply refused to focus.

I also had to learn that my need to manipulate situations was childlike in wanting to make sure that everything turned out fine. See most Control Freaks are only controlling things — wait, let me correct this – are only attempting to control things, because they have this insane need to have things go right. For the rest of the world, a minor thing going wrong isn’t a big deal, but for a Control Freak it has the potential to spell disaster. It’s that fear of the disaster, the anger, the chaos that keeps us propelling to control things.

Imagine living in a home unlike most, that if you simply turned the doorknob to open the door there was a 75% chance you would be slightly, or severely electrocuted. You never knew when it was coming or how hard it would hit. But you learned by twirling twice, counter clockwise that you completely disabled the shock. The shock might have been painful or fearful enough that you didn’t want to take any chances, so not just at your malfunctioning broken door, but at every doorway you did this strange little twirl, just in case. You’ve created an unnecessary pattern to keep your tiny self, safe.

This is an example of the birth of a Control Freak. It’s nothing more than a child looking to keep themselves safe from hurt. Or keep their siblings safe. Or sometimes their parent.

I’ve been a work in progress for about the last ten years. Unlearning controlling behaviours is fucking difficult, let me tell you. One of the first things I did, probably wasn’t for the best, but I’ve learned to give up on time. Control Freaks love to have things on a timely schedule. Their enemies are people who are perpetually late. Of course God placed into my life a family that I would love as deeply as my own who would simply be late to their own funeral. That used to be the gasoline to my fire, until I learned that I didn’t need to be places fifteen minutes early just in case. I needed to be chill if a person not being there exactly when they said they would.

Now I’ve found if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, and I tend to be a little late to everything. I can’t tell you how in so many ways that is absolutely freeing.

I’ve learned to state and mean it when I say, “Whatever you want, I’m good with.” I’ve recognized that going along for the ride isn’t a euphemism for I’ll drive. That being a lemming, a sheeple at times has its redeeming qualities, as long as we aren’t going over a cliff.

BUT — For all the work I have done; for all the deep breaths I have taken and all the pep-talks I have given myself I can absolutely go to that stressed out, need to control things , inner-rubber band place in a heartbeat when things even slightly begin to tremor with the possibility of chaos. Or as I see it, things that go wrong in life.

Last night my cat started this pronounced limp with her front right paw. I already have issues with her tiny little front paws, because I believe the vet who declawed her (she is a rescue and was declawed before I got her) did a butcher job on her. Her paws are so teeny-tiny. There have been a few times in the course of the eight months I have had her, that she will almost look like she is favoring her other paws, but it’s so momentary you wonder if you had imagined it. Last night there was no mistaking it, and of course it being Easter there are no vets open. Emergency Animal Care would have been a fortune, and there is a tiny part of my brain that said to wait on it, that she wouldn’t die over night from whatever this was.

The Control Freak in me though? It awakens at moments like this. It throws off all of those covers of sensibility, and therapy and relearned ways to deal with things, and it – well it takes control, like a Control Freak is supposed to. It gets out the Control Freak Flag and alerts the Stress Monster, and blares all the horns.

It looks at the cat and determines that a). If your selfish ass had stayed home Saturday, or at the very least came home the previous night you would have seen what happened. And b). the way that the cat is lying there (relaxed) is most definitely a death prone position. You cry to the cat (sort of a newly learned behavior, so kudos there to me) and apologize to her for being such a shitty parent, and wail when she limps on it even more. And then you clean because damnit, something in this house needs to be controlled. (this was actually a boon, because I have been living a slovenly life since the return from my last vacation) Many Control Freaks are also Clean Freaks. I must have ducked when that portion of the disease came by so the closest is when I’m out of control, I like to clean. Or shop. But I cleaned last night.

This morning when I awoke, I groggily recalled something bad had happened the night before, and it wasn’t until I heard the “meows” coming from the hallway (she is very polite and calls me from my open doorway) that I remembered with a heavy thud. The Cat. I got out of bed, steeling myself for the worst only to be greeted by my fully functioning four legged feline. No limp. I got out the feathers she likes to play with and she jumped up on the couch, and back down and showed no sign of injury. She was her purry, bitey wonderful self. All that tension that I had apparently carried with me, and laid upon my body like boulders, dissipated and this sense of tiredness (I think normal people call it relaxation) flooded me.

I love that feeling.

I still have a few Control Freaks in my life today. Some I simply recognize the behavior. I don’t call them out, because I would have hated to be called out when I was in the midst of my disease. But it’s there; the need to be in control of everything around them. Some don’t have that undercurrent of a stress monster living in them, and I’m happy to see that. Some sadly do, like my oldest daughter. I think she found it be some sort of weird badge; similar to the Pollyanna thing I had – a weird badge that tied her to her grandmother. But in time she saw the devastation it causes. The wildfire effect it has on people around you, and how they want to flee your presence when you are like that. But she doesn’t know how to completely control it, so only the very few who can love her despite this can tolerate her at times. I think — I HOPE – she will figure out a way, seek therapy, do meditation, whatever, someday so that she can have a semblance of normalcy to her life.

For me? Well those who know me very well, or for many years probably think I’ve mellowed a bit over the years. I know how much progress has been made, because I know internally how bad it was for me for so long. I learned to embrace the frightened child (who was afraid something horrible was wrong with her kitty last night) and hold onto the side rails because the Stress Monster was awoken.

I also know that in case of an emergency, I would want to be with me and my Control Freak, because damnit we have shit under control in cases of crisis!!

In those moments, just look for my wrinkled up Control Freak Flag. It’ll be waving in the wind.

I’m Bitey Too.

Cat_teeth

 

You know, I find myself writing on friendship a lot. Perhaps with the elimination of a romantic relationship I focus more on my friendships? Or as I think it to really be, perhaps as I get older the more they mean to me. In turn, they affect me stronger. When they are good, they are great, and when there is a bump in the road, I feel like the Princess and the Pea. I feel that damn pea with every move I make.

Add the socializing I do between Faire and Travel on top of my normal life, I am lucky enough to meet some really cool, interesting, — truly fantastic people. Some develop into real friendships. Some we don’t see each other much outside of these areas, but it’s always a warm reunion when we reconnect.

I guess ultimately I consider a friendship real if I would be willing to host you in my home. I take my home serious, and I take my friends serious. So combining them both is equivalent to having earned your badge in Friendship to me. I think my friends are pretty aware of this, because I seem to host a lot of small get-togethers.

Have I mentioned that I took badge earning in Girl Scouts pretty damn serious? 😉

There is also the flip side to these quick meeting friendships, because you are sizing everything up in very short spurts of time, mostly during times that consist of alcohol and frivolity. Two of my favorite things. 🙂  I love everyone after a cocktail or two, which is hindering, because I definitely do not love everyone the next day. Additionally it really doesn’t give you a good and true indicator of a person’s character if you only spend a few days a year with them, and maybe talk via text or Facebook.

Your bullshit meter reader, your intake of what sets these people off, what makes them good, bad or indifferent has to be pretty tuned up, or you’re bound to have hurt feelings or worse. Those who know me well, know I had a recent friendship born of my travels turn very ugly, and very southward. I regret nothing (she screams, as she is led to the gallows!) outside of allowing this charlatan of a person into my home. See, back to how serious I take my home. The rest is on me.

Sometimes it’s the little things that shine the most light.

I was having a conversation with someone I was bonding with this past weekend at the Opening Weekend of Faire. We were in those early moments of drunken friendship love when she mentioned to me quietly, “You know, I really don’t like many people…” and I responded back, “Me either!”, laughing in agreement, which is honestly how I felt that moment. Not that I hated everyone, but that I could relate to her comment about not liking everyone.

I realized in a more sober, less fawning moment I would have clarified that statement to say, “I like most everyone I meet, I just don’t become friends with them easily.” – Close friends I should clarify. Those few rarities where the friendships move at lightning speed?  They have a tendency to end like the above mentioned charlatan. I am a sloth when it comes to friendships that will last. I am moving very slow so that I can size things up, because if it moves too quickly and I get caught up in? I will ignore my meter readings, and ultimately – well I’ve explained it twice now. 😉

I think I am pretty damned friendly. I might be quiet when I first meet you, because deep down I am shy. I know, laugh your asses off over that, but trust me it’s true. I overcompensate that shyness most of the time with an overabundance of in your face love, but that’s usually only after a couple of drinks, and then I’m just like a big friendly Saint Bernard, licking and slobbering all over you.

I’d say most like me when they meet me. That’s how I feel when my confidence is at a normal rate. I’d say most tolerate me, on those days my confidence is ebbing low. And let’s be fair, some simply won’t like me for whatever reason. I have a few of those too. But through it all, my mother raised me to be nice and damnit I am, no matter the circumstances. Manners are a huge thing to me, and I try my best to abide by what I was taught.

What might change your meter on whether or not you like me is that I am direct. Very direct. Not Asperger’s direct, but a hair away from that. I won’t ever embarrass you (unless it’s something I think you could take, or if you’re embarrassing someone else, because I loathe meanness), but unfortunately If I get to know you, and feel comfortable with you, I might overstep some boundaries. More than likely it’s because there are times I really think we get one another and for that reason it’s okay for me to ignore those boundaries. Or think they don’t really apply to me.

Like I might try and counsel you, or give you unsolicited advice. I really am trying to work on that, and if you give me a moment to reflect I will realize my boundary crossing was out of line, and trust me I will slobber apologies all over you.

I did that with a new friend I had met on my last cruise; She was one of those super sweet gals who wouldn’t hurt a fly and I (inadvertently) got in her face (metaphorically because I’m not a physical in your face person unless you really piss me off. Like nuclear piss me off, which has probably happened once or twice in my lifetime) with advice she neither asked for, nor needed. Truth be told I was a little frustrated with her issue, and I liked her and I was a little too comfortable with her too soon. Honestly the second I looked back at not what I said, but how I said it, especially with someone I really didn’t know all that well, I couldn’t apologize enough to her. Today when I think back, I realize despite my intentions (which were good) I cringe to think I offended her.

So there is that. I stick my foot in my mouth way more than I should. That would be the side effect of having me as a friend. May cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, bloating, and foot in the mouth said the announcer off camera. And I feel horrible about it, because hurting people’s feelings is a big no-no for me.

I do get that I am not everyone’s cup of tea, and that either you will be on the end that gets me and loves me, or you will be on the end that is possibly offended by me. I offer sarcasm, a wretched potty mouth (that ironically is always at its highest volume carelessly, when a small child is around), a wicked sense of humour, linebacker sized shoulders to cry on, tons of humility and ferocious loyalty. I’m like if a Dog and a Cat could mate, this weird hybrid thing would be me. Not like CatDog the cartoon (for those of you who had children in the 90’s). I’m aloof and speak what I think a little too freely, but I will run and fetch that stick if it makes you happy. I’ll protect you, even if I am the size of a Chihuahua. (Which I’m not)

Catdog

When Eva, my cat, needs attention, she talks to me. When I am dense, or playing dense because it entertains me, she bites me. Not hard. Never broke the skin, but enough to say, “Hey! Stop being a total dick here and play with me or talk to me!” I don’t get mad at her for biting me for those reasons, because she’s not getting through to me in other ways, and I know she didn’t mean to hurt me.

Are you following the parallel here?

Now there have been a few times when I am being lovable, or tending to her needs and she is just in a crappy mood and her bites come thru a little harder. For no reason, other than she is being a dick. Once when I thought we were having cuddle time (or as close as cuddle time is possible, because this cat doesn’t cuddle) she almost bit my ear. Now I was the pissed off one, and telling her to stop being a total dick. Do I think she was aiming to maim my ear? No, I just think she wasn’t paying attention to how hard she was coming across.

Totally get that. Pissed me off, but I totally get it.

Sometimes I am irritated, or sometimes I am dense and I totally don’t get how I am coming thru. But the times that the bite came thru stronger, it wasn’t because I aimed to hurt more. I get that Eva doesn’t understand if I call her a total dick (which for the record I haven’t used that term with her. Not certain why I am using it here so much), but she KNOWS if she has gone too far. My words, my tone – they tell her. Does she care? Well, she’s a cat, so no, not really, but let’s pretend she has some human or at least dog tendencies. – Anyway, my point is getting buried in cat fur here – my point is that if I bite a friend I usually know based on their reaction. It’s rare that I find out “Whoa, that comment you made back there really offended/hurt/angered so&so” leaving me in absolute surprise and confusion.

But guess what? Sometimes I apparently have no idea my teeth brushed by you. Maybe I didn’t even bite. Maybe I growled. Fuck, maybe I smiled and you took it as a growl. I know with some animals you aren’t supposed to show your teeth, because it’s a sign of aggression. I think that must have been what happened. I smiled, or just apparently breathed wrong at this new friend and offended him.

That manner’s thing I mentioned above? I really mean I have good manners. I am an abundance of “Thank you” and “Yes, please” and “Excuse me” and “I’m Sorry”. I’ve never had an issue with saying “I’m sorry”. When I offended the sweet travel friend, I didn’t excuse my behavior by saying “Oh that shouldn’t have offended you.” No, I said, “I’m so sorry.” And I meant it.

Sometimes I will even say I’m sorry without knowing why I am apologizing. Not because I am a pushover, but simply because something I did – carelessly or by mistake – offended or hurt you. BUT – so that I know not to do this again, I really appreciate you at least fucking telling me what I did wrong. I mean, seriously.

This weekend during a conversation I offended a friend. I didn’t know because this friend said something, I knew because they didn’t say anything. I could only get out of him that I did something. I asked and got no reply. I groveled a little bit and asked again. Crickets. By the next day, we all pretended it was good. I wasn’t completely vested into the conversation that day, so I sort of let it slip thru.

Only by that next day, that VERY DIRECT side of me? She wanted answers. Not rudely. I tried to sit on her, because I realized “Hey, we apparently don’t know this person that well, and you might just offend again!”. I tried to muzzle my direct self. Muffle her questions, but to no avail. I didn’t think it was rude of me to ask what I did wrong, so that I wouldn’t do it again.

But apparently it was. I was overstepping those “boundaries” again. I was, I believe the word used was presumptive. About what? Your guess is as good as mine. I had fretted over it the first night, tossing the conversation to and fro. Re-reading it (because it was all online) and for the life of me, couldn’t find a thing. I looked at from an outside perspective and still came up blank. And just when I figured “Oh well!” and moved on, it happens again. Bite me once, shame on you. Bite me twice, and — fuck you.

I could have been a bitch. I certainly toyed with the idea. Like Eva, I’m bitey too. Only unlike Eva, I do sometimes leave marks, and it’s nothing I am proud of. I figured if I already offended him without trying, what kind of damage would I do if I did try? So I rearranged the issue, and didn’t make it mine anymore. I figured this was something that I discovered about this person that ran absolutely the wrong direction of who I am. Instead of direct, this was evasive and well — to be perfectly frank and since we are so fond of the word in this post – a little dickless and cowardly — but “who am I to judge?”, she says in her most judgy voice.

It bothered me to think I hurt a friend, but later I realized I didn’t have the friendship with this person that I thought I did. A friend, even a burgeoning one, would have answered my countless questions asking what I did wrong? How can I fix this? Maybe I assumed too much. Maybe I was too freely Me. Thankfully, after this post, the issue is no longer mine and seriously I am okay with it.

I AM a good friend damnit. Confidence high or low. I am a flawed human, but a good damn friend. And if you don’t believe me, just ask my cat.

But watch it. She bites.

Southern Caribbean (or how I really miss my Nikon)

Just finally coming down off the high of my latest travels. I think this is probably one of the best trips I have taken if measured in terms of complete relaxation. I decided to literally go with the flow for nearly everything, which made the excursions and ship experience itself much different than previous cruises.

To boot, I’ve upgraded my bucket list; It’s my intention to eventually visit and semi-educate myself on every island in the Caribbean. Now to get a map and start working on this New List.

While my forte (do I even really have a forte?) is really not Travel Blogs per say, l’m going to give this a try.

First I should start by saying this trip wasn’t all the Southern Caribbean. It’s booked as such, but in looking information up on the islands, I found that technically only two of them; Aruba and Curacao, are considered part of the South.

That’s about as much education as you will get from this particular entry.

I think. Let’s see as we go.

Starting Destination: Puerto Rico

Let me start by saying this particular bucket list of mine will eventually rack up quite the airline miles. Outside of living in the Pacific Northwest, or perhaps Alaska I don’t think I could fly from a worse U.S. starting point for the Southern Caribbean; Los Angeles. While most of my friends were flying four, maybe five hours, my travel time was twelve hours without time change. With time change it gets a little foggy, because it calls into state my inept math skills, and my fascination and yet inability to understand time travel. (Yes, I’m aware that I am not time traveling, but it always feels that way to me). I’m four hours behind Puerto Rico time, so I guess technically I only travelled 8 hours, minus 1 between flights give or take. Whatever. It was a long fucking trip that had me in the air at 8 AM and arriving my final destination by 8:30 PM.

I won’t even get into my starvation issues on both flights, but suffice to say I will now be one of those old ladies who pulls out a baggie of snacks on planes in the future and offers you one.

Puerto Rico wasn’t my first international solo flight (and for those who correct me on the fact that technically PR isn’t international because it’s still part of the U.S., can bite me. It’s international to me. – such hostility in this blog! Ha!) – but it was the first one that I flew into alone for the first time. In other words I had zero idea of what to expect. The airport was small, and like my local airport in Orange County it apparently closes down early. We must have been the last flight in, which actually made the baggage pick up quick. I loved that a baggage/transportation guide was right there, and I never had to touch my bags (thank God because I packed a fuck ton of clothes). He grabbed them off the carousel for me, and had me nearly running after him to keep up til we hit a cab. I’d say seriously from departure of the plane to Old San Juan was maybe 30 minutes.

Puerto Rico, or Old San Juan (which is all that I really saw of it – that’s a reoccurring theme here; one destination per island) really was beautiful, and the people we encountered were so friendly. English was spoken I think literally everywhere we went, although we did have an interpreter with us when needed in the smaller establishments. It just really made things faster. English is just as prelevant there as it is here.

The first night we made the awful mistake of heading next door to our hotel; Senor Frogs. I was starved (read above about no food on the flights) and one of our roommates had headed over earlier and was told it was Ladies Night and for a small cover charge, women drink for free.

Plus they served food.

I heard food and booze and BAM! was sold. We paid something like six or eight bucks to get in, and get our little wrist band. There was absolutely no doubt that we were the oldest women in the place. And not by a couple of years. By decades. The first indication that we were not going to really score on that All-You-Can drink bennie, was the fact we had to order not from the bar, but from these strategically placed tables. The first one we went to, the bartender could a). Barely understand English (so see not EVERYONE here speaks English) and b). Couldn’t make a drink to save his life. I was ordering off his menu which clearly called out the liquors he needed, and he still had to stop and look up to see what he needed next. Eventually he realized he didn’t have even half the boozes required. In slight frustration I just revamped my order to a simple rum and pineapple juice, tipped him well, and quickly scurried away.

Being as old as we are, we were able to score the “Old Ladies Booth” (I like to call it), in the corner where the waiter kindly ran to the other manned bar-table and got us real drinks that were on the menu. The problem was it took him a good fifteen minutes between orders. The menus definitely were not highlighting the fact we were in Puerto Rico. It was chain bar food for all, except me, because I ordered spaghetti and meatball (no “s’ – meatball in the singular form). I had been taunted with it on my last flight. A bar serving spaghetti? I felt it was a sign from the Food Gods. Plus how can you really fuck up spaghetti? I was too hungry to be adventurous. With the music thumping at a bass level so high I could feel it in my chest, and conversation between me and my two friends in that screaming manner, as soon as we finished eating we pretty much hightailed it out of there.

Of course not before myself and friend sucked our drinks down as fast as possible, only to find we could have taken them with us.

The rest of the trip was a bit easier. We had a fantastic breakfast with the best coffee I had had since Costa Rica. Later we hit the large 400 year old El Morro Fort that sits on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic, with this spectacular view; as well as San Juan Cemetery, which I swear if I were inclined to be buried, I’d want to get a spot in there. We didn’t get a chance to actually head into the cemetery, but the views from above were unreal. Of course I have a weird fascination with old cemeteries, so it makes sense to me.

San juan coffee

Best. Cup. Of. Coffee. EVER. (Old San Juan)

 

One of the things this trip brought back out in me – starting in Old San Juan, was my inner amateur photographer. For reasons I am not completely certain of, after the big break-up, I just put the camera away. Whether it had anything to do with him or not, was moot. I took it out once, and it felt alien and foreign to me, and I haven’t really touched it again. Instead, I’ve relied on my iPhone which is so limiting. This was the first time I felt the longing of the lenses and the ability to get more detailed shots. I think the next vacation might require me to pick her up once again. Since I didn’t have her, I went ahead and did my best with the phone, shooting like crazy and feeling like I was missing an old friend.

San Juan Cemetery

If my body has to be buried, take me here please. (Old San Juan)

 

The rest of Old San Juan was good food, drinks and merriment. Hit La Placita de Santurce one night and it was probably one of the highlights. Even though it was teeming with American’s, it was very local and had more of the energy and flair that I hoped for in PR. We ended the night with a midnight dinner, where I opted to come out of my comfort zone and have dinner with strangers. Not random strangers. Three women who would be traveling with our group, but who I had never met. For seating purposes it made more sense that I ate with them, and in the interim, I learned a lot about them. Very sweet and funny ladies, who probably questioned amongst themselves who the kinda drunk & crazy lady that was seated with them.

We lost a day of sunshine to the unpredictable weather patterns of island living, but we made the most of it, and it gave me the opportunity to finish off a bottle of pineapple infused booze I bought at a local bar the day before. There was no way I was going to get that on the ship, so while in PR, do as the Puerto Ricans do.

San Juan Bottle

The bottle of pineapple infused “moonshine” that had to be drunk before boarding the ship.

 

Soon we were heading onto the ship where my roommate and I found the area we would be frequenting the most. It was like we planted our asses there and never left unless it was time get off the ship, or sleep, which is more often than it sounds in that statement. As I stated, it was a very relaxing trip.

First Island: St. Thomas

Our first port stop was St. Thomas, the following day. For educational purposes, St. Thomas is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and like Puerto Rico is an unincorportated territory. Just basically means it’s an area controlled by the U.S., but not in all matters. I had to look that up, because my illiterate self didn’t completely understand. I knew they were territories, but I didn’t exactly understand how or why.

Anyway, I opted out of any ship or group related excursions and trusted my roomie who had been here several times before. A group of us on her recommendation took a shuttle, and headed over to Coki Beach, which is apparently famous for its snorkeling, especially for beginners. It’s this perfect little beach cove nestled on what felt like the other side of the island. I think this was my favorite stop on all four islands visited, although I will admit the tractor-trolley type ride there had me grabbing on a few times, questioning our method of transport.

Driving thru St. Thomas won’t overly impress you if you are looking for pristine highways and drivers that stay in their lanes. It was rugged in some areas, and poorly developed in others. The drivers take these hairpin turns at terrifying speeds. Someone started to tell me the story of how one of these tractor trolleys went over an embankment a year or two ago in another location, and XX cruise passengers were killed. Not exactly the adventure I was looking for, but after this version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, I totally understood the plausibility of it happening.

Once we arrived the Cove and negotiated our chair and umbrella rental, we were set. The waters were a breathtaking turquoise and were seriously to-date the prettiest I had seen. The waters, because we were in a cove were calm, and that made wading or swimming an absolute breeze. The beach, while itself was small, was wide and had a large scape of eateries and bars that argued and vied for your business. Literally argued and vied. The place we chose eventually had the owner come out and apologize to us because of the drama between his staff and the neighboring place.

Coki2

Coki Beach, St. Thomas

 

We hadn’t been blessed with the greatest of waitresses, but I had ordered a bucket of beers and split it with a friend and was set. Taking a walk to one end of the cove placed me in the unincorporated area of Iguana City Central (I just totally made that name up), where about a half dozen carefully camouflaged iguana’s were spotted. Later a friend took the veggie remnants of her burger lunch down to the island lizards, and I clicked away on my iPhone while they slurped up bright red tomatoes. Again, my Nikon would have done a spectacular job there.

Coki

Tomato Slurping Iguana of Coki Beach (St. Thomas)

 

I really didn’t want to leave this little island paradise, and was almost granted my wish when during our group exit I came out of the bathroom and found none of my group nearby. With the roar of a nearby diesel engine I looked over and saw them all piled on the bus headed back, looking like they were willing or considering — leaving me. I am not sure I would have survived long on the island once the credit cards maxxed out, and I might have ended up on the rocks, begging for scraps with the iguana’s. I milked the fact they almost left me during the entire trip. That’s me, running a joke out until it crashes and burns.

I think on my next venture here, I’d like to take a ferry over to St. John’s, a neighboring island. St. Thomas is definitely on my list of “Y’all Come Back and See Us All Again!” places.

Second Island: St. Kitts

St. Kitts is almost the antithesis of St. Thomas. Again, I decided to go against the grain of established excursions, and follow my roommates advise, since she had travelled these waters so much before. There is nothing like the voice the of experience to guide you in my opinion.

Where St. Thomas was rugged and questionable in some areas, St. Kitts was manicured with beautiful clean roads. Where St. Thomas drivers use lanes and speed limits as a suggestion, St. Kitts follows their road rules to a T. Instead of an open tractor-trolley, we had an air-conditioned bus. The driver we got for our group, either mistook us for wanting a tour, or threw it in for free. I had the good fortune to sit up front with him, and felt bad at how much chatter was going on while he tried to explain the history of his homeland, so I really tried to seem involved and intrigued. Unfortunately a good part of the time I couldn’t quite understand him. He did get us to our destination of Cockleshell Beach.

I would never complain while on a beautiful vacation in a gorgeous location, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was underwhelmed by almost everything on Cockleshell. The water, while beautiful didn’t have the serenity that Coki did. Getting in and out of the water alone was a little more challenging than Coki and the sands were rougher on my delicate toesies. I think my daughter would call this #whitegirlproblems. “Ooo the beach sand wasn’t as soft, and I could only see thru the water to a depth of 15 feet, instead of 16 feet at the other beach”, she whined while the violins played My Heart Bleeds For You.

St kitts

There really should be a Go Fund Me for the suffering endured here at Cockleshell, in St. Kitts.

 

But wait, the whining isn’t over: The wait-staff on this beach wasn’t arguing for our business, and all but ignored us (at least when I was around).I did most of my business at the bar, which was about as friendly and helpful to customers as a blood bank is to a mosquito. Have you ever had to chase a waitress down to pay her before you leave an establishment? I have.

They did have wi-fi, and tables with umbrella’s, so I was able to take pics and load them quickly. And seriously, all kvetching aside — I was on freaking St. Kitts! So what if it took longer for me to get that delicious Mango Colada – I was freaking on St. Kitts!! Drinking fucking Mango Colado’s on a Monday, no less! To be honest, the picture opportunities were actually better for me here, and this is when the jonesing for my Nikon really took shape. That should be my theme here. Jonesing for my Nikon.

Ultimately, would I want to head back to St. Kitts? Yeah I definitely think I would. I really loved how clean and pristine the island felt. I might pass up Cockleshell, that’s all.

Third Island: Aruba

I cannot say Aruba, or think Aruba without immediately humming or singing the Beach Boys line, “Aruba, Jamaica, oooo I wanna take you to Key Largo, Montego, baby why don’t we go …..” – Not even certain if I have those lyrics in the right order, it goes thru my mind every time.

I LOVED Aruba. Of course I did, it follows every single faction of shopping in my life which is: Leave me to shop on my own for anything; clothes, shoes, handbags, homes and now vacations – and I will find and fall in love with the most expensive item there, completely unknowingly.

I believe Aruba is ultimately for millionaires, but I’m sure an average Joe can either spend one day there (as did I) or save their pennies and vacation like a Peasant.

This was the first island that I did a paid excursion on. A large catamaran that took us out onto the clearest most beautiful waters. Snorkeling, swimming, rope swing and slide, plus booze and a little bite to eat. LOVED IT. Not only could I completely see myself living in Aruba, I’d have to have one of these Catamaran’s. I could deal with a smaller one. I’m not greedy.

Getting back from the boat, we opted to stay on the beaches, which are much more expensive than the other two we stayed at. First they tried to rent us an umbrella for $50.00. We could have bought a used umbrella at that price. Then there was the bickering over who was going to pay what to sit under these thatched umbrella’s (which let’s be honest here, we could not have bought one of those) that were going for a mere $35.00. I had enough and headed down the pier in hopes to find the perfect little beach bar and as fate would have it – there she stood. From there I sipped on a local beer (which I did not reorder – Mango Colado’s had stolen my heart) served by a local who spelled her name Janet, but pronounced it Jhah-NET, which is what I think all my Janet friends should go by now. Looked over the once again, but never tired of, turquoise Caribbean waters, watched the water sports and sail boats and talked with a new friend.

Aruba

The view I vie for during retirement (Aruba)

 

Time slipped by quick on this island, and pretty soon we were hunted down and told it was time to leave. I could have almost cried, I loved it there so much. In my retirement dream I want to find a little local wooden bar on the end of a pretty pier, that is run by a Jhah-NET, where we sit and discuss those crazy American’s and their politics and maybe the local goings on. I would erase the hotels and the fifty dollar umbrella’s and the Palapa’s (the thatched umbrella’s, and I’ll be honest I just looked up what they were called) would be free. I’d bring my freshly picked mango’s to Jhah-NET for her to slurry me up some tasty coloda’s with the local rum, and life would be GOOD.

Fourth & Last Island: Curacao

Our last island, and fifth day out to sea was Curacao. Curacao is a hard word for me to pronounce, because up until – oh this past December I had pronounced it Kur-raw-coh. Fortunately I heard someone else pronounce it while I was on my Vegas trip and realized I had been saying it wrong all these years. Not that Curacao comes into my conversation a lot over a lifetime, but I almost felt like Elizabeth Berkley in Shows girls when she pronounces Versace as as Ver-says. I looked up the phonetic pronunciation of it when I got home, and when I say the word I have to hesitate as I visualize the word Cure-ah-sow.

I’m sure when I hit the lottery and buy enough homes to island hop, that saying the word Curacao will be said so often, that I will simply slip off my tongue as easily as Peanut Butter. 😉

Curacao was the only island we didn’t beach it during the day. I had originally booked a small excursion with a bit of tour, bit of beach, but the call time to meet was 8:15 and by God this was my vacation, and I wasn’t going to work office hours by setting an alarm. I was willing to take the financial hit by simply ditching the event, but got super lucky when an honest soul took my spot on the excursion at the last moment and then later found me and paid me for it. I would have never known, and thought it quite commendable on her behalf to be so honest.

Of course I gambled this found money in the ship’s Casino the following night and lost it faster than it took for her to hand it to me.

Instead of the excursion, the roommate and a few friends ventured into town and walked the cobbled streets, which I both LOVED and HATED. I only hated it because I wanted my fucking camera so badly at this point! – This was a photographers haven, especially for people and buildings. We did our own form of a pub crawl and had a great time during it. Very relaxing, and best yet, I finally got some shopping time in.  Prior to that was me running in as quickly as possible to a small shop here and there buying my magnets. Oh and an overly priced, yet very loved ballcap. Haven’t bought one of those in years.

Curacao

Curacao

 

Curacao was seriously lovely, from the moving bridge which is similar to a drawbridge only this moves sideways, instead of up and down – to the colorful landscape and buildings, to the free roaming dogs, sometimes only with three legs. Made it back in from town onto the ship just in time to rinse, later, repeat as we repeated the same walking venture, plus about a mile or two to a hotel suggested to us by — well let’s just say fellow passengers arranged this. It’s rare that the ships dock as late as this one did (11 PM) so we took full advantage like a kid without parents for the night and headed out.

The location of the hotel itself was great, but getting there was a little more than I anticipated. Between the un-level walking that reminded me more of the streets of New Orleans, to the length of the walk itself, I was very happy that the hotel actually exceeded my expectations. When I arrived I was a grumbling little mess, but the moment I walked into the outside bar and restaurant which were nestled in this tiny little cove, all anger subsided. We had arrived just in time to get libations and watch the sun go down.

Curacao2

The sunset 430 miles north of Venezuela (Curacao)

 

428 miles from Venezuela. That’s like Vegas close. It’s the second farthest point South ever traveled for me (Costa Rica edges it out, just barely). Friendly, and clean. Not cheap, but not Aruba prices either. I would definitely come back to this last of our island travels for this particular trip.

The Ship:

The ship was a Royal, and it was nice. In fact, while I wasn’t overwhelmed by the beauty of it, it was probably one of my favorites. We had a great balcony room. I was really lucky with my roommate choice, because we just gelled really well living together for a week. We had been very new friends before, but I think the trip cemented things for us. Like, I’d have her out to my place for a weekend if she ever wanted. Can’t say that invite extends to everyone I know.

Back to the ship, there were some areas I really liked, like their promenade area, which is almost laid out like a mall. Very easy to locate what you are looking for. The nightclub was nice as well. Larger dance floor than most, and ample seating around the floor.

I can’t really report too much on the food, because that part about me taking it so very easy? It extended itself to dining hours. I literally never stepped foot in the dining room except when we were going from floor to floor in the beginning, checking things out. Plus we tend to do as our company does, and my friend almost seemed to have an allergic reaction to the dining room. While I wasn’t purposely avoiding it, and had even considered a point of going, the timing was always off for me. The buffet? It wasn’t too bad. Nothing to write home about, but I could always manage a meal when needed.

What I did get in lieu of the dining room was an evening at one of the specialty restaurants, which really did exceed my expectations. The food and service were exemplary, and the dining company wasn’t too bad either.

We only had two sea days, and those honestly flew by. Having had a lot of direct sun on those days that were at dock, I spent my at-sea days in shade, ass planted firmly in an area that had excellent cocktail service.

So that’s it. That’s my take on the four of the islands I was lucky enough to spend a small amount of time on. I still want that boat to retire on, taking it from island to island, until my time comes and they just throw me into the water and make me fish food.

Until then I will just bide my time and island explore to the best of my abilities. And take pictures of course. Lots of pictures.