On your nameday…

name

I’ve shared a time or two that over the years, and thanks to my wifey, I have taken to being called Vee. It was foreign to have a nickname to me, being as all my years of growing up I was merely known as Virginia. It isn’t because there was lack of effort, friends, because shit did everyone and their mother try to give me a shortened version of that. Except my own mother.

There was Vicky. Almost every damn Mexican friend or family member of mine tried to throw that gem at me. Uh uh. Nope. #Hardpass. I am NOT a Vicky. I don’t even know why it would just make me mad beyond belief when I would hear it hurled my way. It just did. Call me Vicky and we are not friends and I’m probably shooting death daggers out of my eyes at you. Then there’s Gina. Ginny. Virg. <–Oh YEAH. THAT happens more often than you think. Insert eye roll. There were a select few that tried to get Gonzo rolling in college and I abhorred that but let it fly because it was UW and I was trying to fit in. Let’s see….oh, the a-hole elementary kids I went to school with tried to pin me down with Virgin. So original. I may be rolling my eyes again. It wouldn’t be a stretch if you guessed that some of those dweebs tried to call me Vagina but always got themselves caught and in trouble (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE) so whatevs on that.

It got me thinking. Did my Dad ever think that naming me after my Great-Grandma would cause me so much grief? Was he ever like, well, it DOES sound like a body part if you’re dedicated enough to trying to make someone feel bad….hmmmm. I’m guessing no. I also think his Great Grams probably never got teased like that. Mexico can be so much more mature than the USA sometimes, guys. They don’t have time for that ish.

It doesn’t end with the constant want of giving me a nickname. I get that my name has eight letters and that’s too much for us lazies. Yet bear with me. There’s the MISSPELLING. Ohhhhhhmaaaaagaaaawwwwddd, if we could just remember, just ONCE, that my name is a state. It’s one of the original thirteen colonies, for all that is mighty! And yet, constantly, an ‘i’ is forgotten. And it’s always the most needed one. Lol.

It reminds me of this time, a few Christmases ago. My Mom happily handed me a gift, wrapped exquisitely and proceeded to play Santa with the rest of the fam. After reading the tag, I shot my hand up so fast. “Excuse me, Mom. This gift isn’t mine.” She turned, confused. “It is,” she reassured me. “Nope. Uh uh. It can’t be,” I fired back. “It says, To VirGINA (read: ver-jYna).” Everyone had a good laugh, she shot something equally as funny back and life carried on. It just didn’t stop there.

Now, I know there’s a certain coffee place (you know the one) that tries their hardest (or do they?) to put your name on their cup. It’s that clever marketing, because it makes you feel welcomed, like a friend when they call you up to the counter for your Americano or macchiato or whatevs. I mean, does it really matter? Maybe they know they are spelling it wrong just to get a rise out of you. Or maybe it’s to show you that life is short and there could be better ways to imagine your name.

Either way, I laugh at the many misspellings my old lady, stately name has brought out of people. Don’t think for one second that when I say “Vee” it’s always correct, either! I would love to hear about things you have personally seen in respect to your name, because even the easiest ones can be SO MINSCONSTRUED! And let’s all laugh at it, because like I said earlier, LIFE.IS.SHORT. And I may have been clapping at that last part.

 

Girl, be brave

brave

An AHA moment for me came recently.

I talk often of changing your life if you aren’t happy with it. Rewrite your shitty first draft, great things don’t come from your comfort zone, make today day one rather than  one day, etc. It’s a notion I have taken to heart so deeply, because life is so short. IT.IS.SO.SHORT. If you can do what it takes to stop being unhappy, I WILL CHEER YOU ON! Even 100 years is not but a ripple in the waters of this world.

Except, change is hard. I talk a lot about that, too. We all either work with or have worked with or know people who are hesitant/against/vocal about change. It’s hard, friends. I get it! Even the most adaptable people can find moments of struggle. I like to say that it takes one moment of insane courage to change your life. You just have to find it. A recent interaction with a friend experiencing a lot of change right now made me step back and re-evaluate my life motto. It’s incomplete.

Defining life moments can be grand when looking at them up close. Most of us can pinpoint very certain occasions in our past that changed our journey. We have to zoom out, though, to see that it was many, many decisions of bravery, of that insane courage that got us to that point. Not many things in life are sudden. Not many at all. I shared a story, a while back, of how my re-birthday was April 14, 2012 because that was the night I jumped out of a moving vehicle and ran for my life. Yes, it was such a big minute in time. If a movie were made about me I can guarantee that moment, so powerful and unmistakably brave, would have the heart stopping, dramatic music playing during the scene. I didn’t need music that night, though, because my heart was pounding hard enough in my ears to have drowned any sound out, anyway.

My story of leaving a decade of abuse is tough to talk about. Still. Yet, I keep doing it because a) it’s aiding my healing and b) it’s helping, even if a tiny bit, change the view of domestic violence, because there is a stigma. In my opening up about my experiences and how I left, what I learned about the process, my self-discovery and how I and my family still deal with it now has shown me something deeper. There’s a c) now. There have been people reaching out to me for help, to get some questions answered, or just to share their story. Not just about domestic violence, but so many issues. Eating disorders, self-hatred, molestation at a young age, rape. I’ve been told things that just break my heart.

There are statistics about domestic violence that I know very well. One in four women experience sever physical intimate partner violence, meaning they are together, or dating, or married. One in four. Without meaning to, when I’m surrounded by a bunch of females, I think about that number. I think about the many people who probably think it can’t possibly be that high, except when I’m in that group, that is me. One in three woman experience physical intimate partner violence, so maybe they didn’t have the shit beaten out of them, or were choked or forcefully shoved into concrete, but an abuse of force was used on their bodies. This doesn’t even account for the verbal, emotional and psychological abuse that organizations such as *DVSAS, of which I am on the board, recognize. The court system tends to only recognize physical abuse when requesting a protection order. The other forms of abuse are harder to get legal help with. They are even harder to prove.

I sat with a friend not too long ago, during a hard time in her life. I held her hand, hugged her, listened. It was hard. When I think of my story, the things I went through, my one big moment of bravery to leave, I only thought about it from my point of view. That makes sense, right? I watched it through my eyes. While I was sitting there, hearing reasoning and worry, vacillation between two shitty choices that just creates deafening guilt because there are repercussions either way,  and justifications being made, I listened harder. I thought of my experiences and how I did the same things. When we parted ways after, I got in my car and cried. I remember my one huge shift; calling Kulia on the side of the road in the middle of the night, trying to remember where I was and coordinating how I could stay hidden, just in case but she could still find me. All of a sudden there was a movie playing in my head of all the many other courageous moments I had, like when I shared that I was being abused and when I took the time to write down when he hit me that I could remember and put dates to them. I was back in my work’s lunchroom, sitting on a dirty 70’s style couch, dialing the numbers to numerous divorce attorneys and meeting no success because not having money gets you turned down from help really fast, friends. I was sitting across from my manager and assistant manager, on the eve of my last day of work with them, answering why I haven’t been myself the past couple of weeks, why my work was suffering. They thought I had leaving-itis. They made it clear I had let them down. Not once did they ask me if I was okay or safe. Not once did I offer that information up.

I never thought about Ku’s side. Of how it must have felt to hear someone tell you things no voice should ever share. As I sat in my driver seat, I texted her and told her I was crying. That I don’t know how she did it, I don’t know how anyone does. How do you sit there and have your heart break over words that cause so much pain, how do you hear them blame themselves, call themselves selfish and not scream out in agony? She listened so intently without telling me I was worthless, a piece of shit, only thinking about myself. She didn’t hurt me when I needed love. She was pure grace while I fell apart and I never even noticed how. And being kind of, not all the way, but sorta, in that boat was so.damn.hard. It shook me to my core. If it did that to her, I couldn’t tell. All she ever did was hold me. If you had that or have that in your life, someone who was unconditionally there for you, get up and go hug them. Run to them, kiss their cheek, tell them thank you. You probably already have, but do it again anyway. Life is short.

Yes, you can make a giant, easy-to-see step of epic proportions to change your life. Just remember that you are also taking baby steps, even if they are hard to see. And don’t you ever give up on them. Those baby steps are making progress. I guarantee it. If you need help, someone to talk to, or a place to feel safe, we are always here for you. I am always here for you.

*DVSAS stands for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services. This phenomenal organization is located in Bellingham, WA and is open to anyone needing help. You can find more information at http://www.dvsas.org including how to volunteer, donate and/or attend one of it’s upcoming events. Not everyone will be as vocal as I am. That’s okay. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

dvsas

 

What makes you Family?

IMG_1783[1]

Looking fly at Waialae Country Club before Ka’eo and Denalee’s wedding 5/27/2017

In my 9-5, our team recently took a Strengths Finder assessment. It’s meant to aid in leveraging where people’s strengths lie, rather than focusing on their weaknesses. After answering a whole barrage of questions, a report was comprised, giving each of us our top five and explaining them. I wasn’t surprised by any of my list. In my last few years of self growth, mostly due to personal development and being honest with myself, I sort of already knew them.

The definitions of each strength were what really filled my cup. Knowing I love to learn is one thing, but an assessment stating that I probably collect books blew my mind! How could it know!? The best one, though? One of my strengths is connectedness. Just seeing the word made me nod my head in agreement. I thought it meant something about my ability to connect with others. How I reach out and force friends to stay in touch with me. It’s easier now, with everyone being cyber-connected. But guys, I used to send LETTERS to my friends. I thought I knew connected. And then I read the definition and was floored.

Connectedness: Things happen for a reason. You are sure of it. You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected. Yes, we are individuals, responsible for our own judgements and in possession of our free will, but nonetheless we are part of something larger. You are a bridge builder for people of different cultures.

That wasn’t all of it, just a smidge. However, I loved all the words it entailed. I have always believed that life is not a string of coincidences. How could it be when epic changes could happen from seemingly minute happenings in the world?

When I was in my seventh year of my own personal hell, my ex-husband decided we needed a trip. For his own personal reasons, that he didn’t disclose right away, he chose Hawaii. It’s one of those places that most of the world, at least from where I’m standing, dreams of going. I wasn’t a big fan. We almost never had money, and even when we did, it wasn’t managed well. He had control of that and it stressed me out to think what was being shelled out on this trip, when back home the boys were being fed with food stamps. There just wasn’t changing his mind when he wanted something. I remember being on the island of Oahu, driving down roads and seeing beaches and landmarks, gazing at them in awe.

Somewhere along a winding highway towards the windward side, he told me he was thinking of moving us there. I read it as: this will soon be our new home. It was pretty enough and promising enough that I gave no fight to the discussion. I sighed, asked him when and succumbed to the inevitable. It didn’t take away from how breathtaking Hawaii can be. The water is colors you can pick out of a Crayon box but can never replicate. You can see the bottom of the ocean, you can gaze out and see the curve of the horizon. The sun warms your face and slivers of that make it into your heart. Hawaii called to me and I let it. I remember the rest of the few days we were present, I would think about where we would land when we got there. What roads would become more traveled by me? Who would become my friend? How would my life change? I thought up so much and could never have imagined what Hawaii would come to mean to the boys and I.

If you’ve read anything I’ve written, hopefully it is the story of Ku and I and how we met. You see, meeting Ku was when Hawaii stopped being a place for me and became a feeling. My ex later described it as the biggest mistake he had made. For me, it was the biggest gift. Not only did I find who would captivate my soul and awaken my heart, but we found a second family. You see, I know the boys are loved by his family. They are his blood, too, and there is this fierce protectiveness and almost possessive feel they give to family get-togethers. It’s like the Lannisters incarnate, minus perhaps, the incest.

I won’t compare Ku’s family to Game of Thrones. A) they are human. They are kind and caring and I never feel like I’m about to be stabbed in the back. There’s no b. I do that, often.

Kulia’s family welcomed all of us with open arms. It has never felt forced or weird. There is this sincere love that you feel deep in your bone marrow that is so genuine. So pure. Hugs warm you like bowls of chicken noodle soup on a fall day and kisses on the cheek radiate rays of sunshine down to your toes. Her family and their love for the four of us was unimaginable and perfectly imperfect. I know that’s a hard level to achieve for most blended families so I cherish it and work to keep it seamless. I think it’s because I have seen weird and judge-y and mean (did you see how I compared my ex’s family to the LANNISTERS?) so I can be grateful for what we have been given.

The boys recently traveled to the East Coast with their Dad. When they came home yesterday, the meanager asked to speak with me. He told me about their trip and feelings he had while on it. He shared some stuff that was sad to listen to, about how they felt awkward around new family they met for the first time. It’s so alien to listen to because oftentimes I neglect thinking about the other side of what the boys deal with. The amount of time they are with us makes me think of us being their main family. It’s fair and yet unfair, right and yet not accurate. They have a whole other set of people that have come into their life in one way or another and I should have been preparing them for what might come.

My meanager reminded me of how treasured they feel in Hawaii. “Mom, you know how all of Ku’s family just loves us and never makes us feel weird?” he asked me. I struggled to find words because I just know it to be true. “It wasn’t like that in Virginia. We kept being reminded they aren’t our Aunts and Uncles and we couldn’t call them that. Her mom kept correcting us. We had to call them Mr. and Mrs. It was just awkward. Everything felt awkward.” This coming from the son who likes hugging the least. The thing is, our boys are lovers.

It was hard to hear and all I could do was tell him I was sorry to hear it. I told him I was so happy he was home because it’s never the same when they are gone. I hugged him and let him tell me how his feelings were hurt. I reminded him how sincerely and genuinely so many care for him and his brothers. That some people take time and maybe have a hard time accepting change, for lack of better reasoning.

I just really wonder what makes family, family. Ya know?

IMG_2696[1]

Sam, AB and Moose at our wedding, melting our hearts and making everyone cry happy tears

Dear Daddy

 

IMG_2751[1]

Photo taken by: Shannon Sasaki Photography

Dear Daddy,

I got married last Sunday, the 2nd of July. It was the day after my grandparents celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary, which meant a lot to me.  I know you didn’t go and I know why, but  I wanted to share the details with you, because you haven’t asked yet and I really wanted to tell you about it at lunch the other day, but I would have ended up crying, and nobody likes a sad lunch.

From the moment I woke up, I could tell it was going to be gorgeous. The sun was shining and so was my heart. I didn’t think about whether you would change your mind or not, like I had for the last few months. I just felt excited and ready for all the memories. Ana and I went to get some decorations done first thing, which was a great idea. You remember Ana, right? She’s played cards with you at the restaurant before and she’s my best friend. She thought you would come even though I kept telling her it was a lost cause.

The weather could not have been more perfect. There was a slight breeze and so much light. Light in everyone’s eyes, in their hearts. This wedding meant a lot to many, especially me, and I wanted you to see that. I know you don’t understand homosexuality and gay marriage, but I know you understand love. I wanted you to see it. None of us could stop smiling or laughing easily at everything. I remember looking at all our friends’ faces and thinking, this is how I want to live every day for the rest of my life. Smiling and laughing this easily. It was a jovial sentiment and it was catching. I just know your heart would have felt lighter. You just had to make it there.

On our way back to the hotel, Ana and I, we had a deep chat. About being perfectionists and how to let things go. I think somewhere in our mix of wise words, I decided I wouldn’t fret about you on my day. I was going to practice letting go and I felt at ease. She wanted things to be just right for me and I think in a way, she was being what I would have wanted to see from you. Kulia talks a lot about how her parents will be there for me when you guys aren’t and sometimes I think that’s unfair. Except, not this time. Her father is not a fill in for you but he was so full of love and excitement. He clearly wanted nothing but happiness for her on our day. For us. I know for both of us. Ana filled in for you.

IMG_2690[1]

We got to the hotel and started getting ready. There was a mimosa bar and food. Hustle and bustle and constant movement. I didn’t have it in me to think about you anymore, from that point forward. I was practicing letting it go, remember? Either way, I was having my hair and makeup done and chatting about Kulia and I’s crazy last five years together. How far we have come and how unstoppable we seem. It’s undeniable, Dad. We.are.good.together. We make goals and meet them, we push each other to keep growing. We bought an amazing house that we built, together. The boys, who I know were your biggest concern, are thriving. They have never been better. I know you see this. We all do.

I was thinking about that chat we had, our first serious one-on-one, when I moved back from Hawaii. I remember calling you on the beach, to say words to you that I had thought about sharing for over a decade. I was in an abusive relationship that I had finally left. I told you how he had treated me and you said, “You gotta respect yourself and do what’s right because you haven’t been living.” And then in the living room, that first night, you told me that divorce wasn’t the end of my life, but rather the start of a new one. Daddy, this new life isn’t what you imagined but I think it’s bigger than we could have both thought up.

I know it bothers you that I married a woman. I don’t see it that way. As I walked down the aisle, and saw the smiling/happy crying faces of those who love our love, I thought about math. Daddy, 3 + 1=4. I know that’s how you see it. But so does 2 + 2. So does 4 + 0. The thing is, there’s more than one way to answer a problem. All of those equations come to the same ending. That is love, for me. I didn’t fall in love with Kulia because she’s a woman. I fell in love with her soul. I feel like that’s more important than gender.

As we said our vows, I saw my Momma, Berta, Emily, Grandpa and Grandma sitting there and realized my wish hadn’t come true. Even in the midst of my own fairy tale, I couldn’t bippity boppity boo you there. And Berta was crying so many happy tears, full of love and joy for us. I almost lost it, in that moment. I almost cried.

We said our I do’s with the sun in our eyes and in our hearts. I am sorry you couldn’t be there to hear Kulia promise to respect and love me until her last breath. Isn’t that what every father wants? Someone to love their daughter almost as much as they do? Someone to help raise his grandkids to be gentlemen, to be life changers, to love and to respect? This is what I have, Daddy. And the thing is, I know you love Kulia for how she is with me. I know you can see it.

IMG_2698[1]

The night ended as it should. With a beautiful sunset, deep hugs, fun photobooth pictures that I know you would have had no part of, and silly dancing. Everyone was floating on a cloud of love. Mom looked so happy, so full of excitement for our family. Berta and Gracia were loving on us and the boys. Everyone was there for the right reasons and while I’m not judging you, I think you weren’t for the wrong ones.

It reminds me of when I was around 10-11 years old. Working at the restaurant taught me so much, and sometimes without trying to. I was working with Uncle Louis one day, may his soul rest peacefully, when these two ladies came in. One had short hair, the other didn’t. I was bringing them their chips and salsa when Uncle Louis pulled me aside, laughing. Those are marimachas, he told me. I had no clue what he meant, so he explained to me what lesbians were. He defined that slang, offensive word. It was the first I had ever heard of them, and I got awkward. You pulled me aside and asked why I was being rude to our customers. You told me everyone was equal and you wouldn’t tolerate that behavior.

Where was that guy on Sunday? Did you think of me at all?  You told me, after lunch, that you love me no matter what. Did you mean, even if you’re gay and married to a woman? Is that my biggest travesty in life? I didn’t start this blog entry to be upset with you, but a part of me is, Daddy. I know I’ve taken you for quite a ride with my life. This is by far the least offensive; I feel that deep down. Loving her is more right than so many other things. At the end of the day, I will never regret it.

I love you, Daddy. No matter what.

img_27761-e1499711357480.png

These five locos

 

Body Image Vibes

IMG_2377“Mom,” my oldest says to me one night. A deep, pensive night. He has stuff to say to me and I make sure to turn to him to give him some undivided attention. Sam, my meanager, as I lovingly call him, has always been a deep thinker. English is his second language; he didn’t learn it until he was in kindergarten. I thought it was the right thing to do, definitely thought it would give him a leg up in the world. Being fully bilingual before he started first grade would have been an awesome gift. Except, that didn’t happen. He was fully immersed in his class, had no classmates to converse with in Spanish, and began struggling from the word go. He doesn’t have either language mastered. His brain just wasn’t wired for it. I try to remember that when he is trying to chat with me and cannot find his words. Tonight is no different.

“Sometimes, when you come to pick me up at school, people see you and start laughing. They say, Sam, your Mom is so fat. It really makes me angry.”

What do you say to that? I want to tell him it doesn’t bother me, that my size doesn’t determine my worth. I find myself saying these words, but the truth is, it does affect me. I would be being untruthful if I didn’t acknowledge that. I feel myself go into robot mode, tell him that it’s a cheap insult and he should shrug it off. That him getting upset shows that he loves me and that’s all that matters to me. I speak slowly and with little emotion. The last thing I want to share with him is that I’ve been hearing it my whole life and it sucks and I try to not let it define me. Except, it does.

I can almost pinpoint the moment I realized I wasn’t looked at the same as some kiddos along with the moment I realized that when someone really wanted to hurt your feelings, especially if they were family or friends, they would immediately go for your biggest insecurity. It’s something I have a hard time doing today, even when I really want to. Cutting people with your words is easy, but what are you sacrificing to gain a moment of superiority? For me, it was my thighs. I’ve heard it all. Damn, check out those stumps! Oh, hey thunder thighs. Your legs are COTTAGE CHEESE! I started saying it myself. And what’s worse is when I’m having a really shitty day, even now. Even in these times, because nobody says horrible things to me like I do; I will stand in front of a mirror and tell myself I am fat, ugly, have the most horrendous thighs, the biggest baby apron, the widest bat wings. I tell myself all of it, because I’ve been hearing it for so long.

These thighs of mine have been the cause of a lot of stress, learning, working around. I’ve dealt with chafing, pants not fitting right, clapping when I go down stairs, ruined pants, not fitting in chairs, having to turn sideways to fit through aisles. They are chock-full of cellulite and jiggle. They are HARD.TO.LOVE.

Enter yesterday.

I was fresh back from NOLA, feeling really bloated and blah. Traveling makes me swell and even more self-conscious. I decided it was a fat pants day. Squeezing into my normal pants and feeling gross just didn’t sound like the kind of 24 hours I wanted to have. I headed to work and visited with friends. It was all making me feel better until I sat in the conference room and felt something cold on my inner thigh. And then it dawned on me. My pants had ripped in the inner thigh. AGAIN.

These are the kinds of things some people just won’t get. They don’t understand it. Their clothes don’t have to be replaced more often because their legs, butt, arms, whatever aren’t breaking down their articles of clothing faster. It’s humiliating and frustrating having to explain why I need a new pair of jeans or leggings. Why I don’t wear skirts or dresses as often as I want. It’s harder still to acknowledge that even though I am far into my journey of getting healthy and fit, I STILL HAVE BIG ASS THIGHS. AND A STOMACH. AND BAT WINGS. When I run into people, I feel like they are sizing me up (pun intended) because I CONSTANTLY size myself up. I don’t understand why I’m a year and a half in to this and I’m not a size 12 like I so desperately want to be. I try not to be envious of the people who cut out soda and lost ten pounds immediately. My body works against me every single day and I don’t get it. I got divorced and gained weight, which is opposite of most people. I get stressed out and gain weight. I stop eating and the pounds pack on quickly. I eat less and samesies. I weigh myself every day and it goes up. I weigh myself once a month and sure as shit, it creeps. Yes, I lose inches but my brain cannot love the scale no matter how hard I try to convince it.

I had packed my stuff for a run in the afternoon. I changed and drove to a nearby park that has trails. I told myself I would run for 2.5 miles and then go home. Becoming a runner has been one of the bigger surprises that I took on in 2015. I constantly told myself I could never do it, and then little by little proved to myself that I could. I am by no means a sprinter but I can go long distances. I remember being freaked THE HELL OUT to run a half marathon and so I committed to, signed up for, and paid for one. I dove into training and worked my ass off, but only figuratively. The day came and I did it without stopping once to walk and it was phenomenal. Except, then I stopped running diligently. I let excuses win more and more. I told myself it was okay, because I was still getting other workouts in. Sometimes.

Now I have another goal in mind, much different than a half-marathon. It’s Ragnar season and I was invited to be on a team for the second year in a row. The thing is, I was more prepared last year because I was still running some, not as much time had passed so my endurance was still up. I also took on a longer run position, with my first leg being over 5 miles long. Running 2.5 right now doesn’t seem like much, but it is. It’s eternal.

I was on the trail, going slow and steady; much slower than I am happy with but continually telling myself that at least I am out there. Usually I will incessantly check my running watch to see how far I have gone and what my pace is, but that makes me crazy and get hard on myself, so I mentally tell myself I won’t do that today. And I don’t. I stay true to my word. When I run, I don’t use headphones. Listening to things, especially music, distracts me. It’s bizarre and unheard of, apparently. Me? I like to run in silence. I’ve found a tranquility in the pain, beauty in the rhythmic movements. I focus on my breathing, control my gait as much as I can. I revel in the landscape and admire our Earth. Running did things I couldn’t find a way through. It reminded me how to be proud of myself, what it felt like to reach a goal. It helped me reconnect with my emotions on a very cellular level. Ku likes to joke that running made me human again and the reality is, she was right. I didn’t cry for a number of years after leaving my abusive ex. I was certain that all my tears were dried up for good. Running brought that ability to feel deeper back to me.

The one thing I had on was my mileage tracker. A velvet computer lady voice that tells me when I hit a mile. I hit two and thought, half a mile to go. I had fleeting thoughts about walking. My mind tried to convince me that nobody would know, because no one was around. Except, I would know and I would speak poorly to myself. Heaven knows I don’t need more reasons to do that.

As I’m trying to reach my goal, I pass a playground on my right, where there are two older kids playing on a tire swing. A young teenage girl is trying to swing a similarly aged boy and they are enjoying their time. She must have caught a glimpse of me, huffing and puffing along the gravel trail and she points and starts laughing.

“Look at that fat girl try to run.”

He turns and starts laughing, too.

Yet I just truck on, because they are right. I am fat. And I am trying.

I looked down at my run watch and realize I’m at 2.6 and then I think, well, that’s closer to 3 so I might as well run 3 miles today. What’s .4 more, at this point? And not far up ahead, a runner is coming towards me in the opposite direction, wearing a hot pink tank top and cute little running shorts. Now there’s a runner! As we get closer to each other, she smiles and in turn I smile back. She waves to me and says, “Great job!” It means so much more to me than those kids.

IMG_2384

You see, I do have thunder thighs but when I finished, I took a moment to stare down at them, with my hands on my knees, trying to catch my breath. These bad boys helped me leave a decade of domestic violence behind me. They helped me jump out of a vehicle and run for freedom. They have taken me across multiple finish lines after so many miles, so many more than a lot of people have run, they have helped me walk into new opportunities that have been life changing and in NINE DAYS they will walk me down the aisle to the love of my life. Yesterday, I could have hated them more than anything but after a small poor-me moment, I reflected on how far these boom sticks have taken me.

And I loved them.

IMG_2381

In the throes of teen angst

I often share stories and insights from raising my meanager. People ask about it, reach out to me, thank me for it, you get the gist. Most times, I’m questioned if he really is mean and while the answer may vary depending on how he’s been the day I’m being asked, for the most part, he is not. He has teen moments, has begun his hand at trying to be sarcastic and witty, is becoming slightly moody, and sometimes is just downright pissy. More often than not, he is kind. He is caring. He is reserved.

Raising our meanager has not come with ups and downs, as I’m sure it is for anyone else in our shoes. Every time I was pregnant, I wished on everything and anything that I wouldn’t have any girls. I remember when I was in my adolescents and let me tell you, I could NOT handle myself if dealt the same cards. I was by no means the worst kid ever; I wasn’t a teen mom or became addicted to drugs, I didn’t have loose morals or party all night long at random houses, but I wasn’t an angel and I always thought I knew more than my parents. I had an attitude, I was miserable and made everyone else suffer along with me. No part of that made me want a daughter. Except, having boys hasn’t been balls easy (pun intended).

Having small men is constant energy. They are loving, curious, problem solvers (for the most part) but challenging. Raising boys has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Throw in the mix that we are raising them in a two female household, where neither of us has experienced wet dreams or random erections. Where we don’t understand the voice changing and giggle when the meanager speaks. We ask him questions in front of friends so they can hear the differences also, except he has caught on to that and is refusing to appease us. There’s the new fuzz above the upper lip and the increased body odor smells. We don’t physically and emotionally understand any of these things and yet we are balls deep in them, too.

For the most part, my meanager has been withdrawn. He spends most of his time in his room, where we let him escape the ridiculousness of his younger brothers because we understand he needs space. We ask pesky questions sometimes (read: I do) and from time to time we force him to engage in conversation or time spent with us. If he’s been particularly difficult, like failing a class and not getting his ish together, we might take him to Costco and make him hold our hands (read: me), gush over him and try to kiss him in public. Being a mom can be fun some days, friends. He almost always takes it in stride and knows we love him. We have each taken a role. He talks with Ku when he has girl questions or topics he feels I’ll blow out of proportion (as if that’s even possible). He comes to me when Ku isn’t around, because he’s convinced she’s more chill than I am.

I know, it’s damn frustrating.

And then there are times he sits down and asks me in his serious, sounds like he has a big loogie sitting in the back of his throat voice if he can ask me something. And I see a storm in his eyes that carries some emotional anguish. It could be something silly and yet it’s not for him so I take it serious and brace myself. I never know what’s coming but I know it has to happen.

“Mom, have you ever had suicidal thoughts?”

And there it is, a sucker punch to my side. I’m always on the fence with how real, how honest we should be with our kiddos. I mean Ku and I, because I fully understand every parent will have their own opinion of what is best. Sam is fourteen and I’m not so sure how in depth and raw I can be with him yet. Yes, I feel my chest tightening but I have to say something that makes him feel heard, understood, listened to. I decide to be real for a moment, because I don’t want to lie to my children, ever.

I tell him yes. That I remember being upset as a teenager, feeling like my parents didn’t understand me, didn’t care about me, that I was second to their business and their time. That I was fat and got made fun of, that I never got invited to sleep overs or parties. I wasn’t popular and I wasn’t good at sports. I was miserable a lot of the time and sometimes I thought about ending it all. I didn’t tell him about how I turned to cutting to feel better and have scars that will never fade from it. I keep it short and simple and then I ask him if he ever has.

“Yeah, after you and Dad split. I was really sad and thought I would never see my Dad again,” he shared. That makes sense. I had a protection order against him, he didn’t know our new address or phone number because he had gone from crazy to psychotic in the blink of an eye when I left. He was only allowed to see the children with supervised visits, which he refused to submit himself to. He went a long time without seeing his children and it was all of out selfishness. He wanted to know what would happen to him and his brothers if I died, where they would go if both I and his dad died. Things were clearly weighing on his mind.

When I think back to my decade of abuse in a violent, toxic relationship with their Dad, I find myself at a crossroads. On the one hand, I’m grateful that he never hit me in front of the kids because I can’t imagine what that would have done to my children internally, except on the other I feel like they still don’t fully understand why the divorce happened. Sam continued with the hard questions last night, asking me if I was sad the whole time I was married to his dad, why I didn’t leave sooner, how bad his dad hit me, and why.

“Why would he need a reason, Sam? Wouldn’t that be justifying doing something horrible to someone when really, there is no excuse good enough for hitting someone you said you would love and honor?” I asked him. And his response was unexpected but reasonable. “I’m not saying a reason makes it okay. I just want to know why he did it.” Except, there’s not always a reason. Often times I think he felt out of control so he would pick fights with me and goad me into answering back to which he would explode. Or I wouldn’t meet his expectations and he would lash out. It was many reasons and yet none at all and so how can you fully understand that?

Sam asked me about his dad’s family and how they treated me, he shared what he witnesses of how they treat his stepmom. He asked what brought me to finally leave and I was careful to be honest without unnecessary details. The whole time we talked he had silent tears slipping down his face and I felt like something deeper was trying to surface. Every now and again Sam does this. Just asks me a question out of the blue, with no notice and I never feel like I answer correctly. I always feel blindsided and yet realize it’s an important moment for him. And I always wish there was a manual I could reference because unless you’re prepared for these things, they just leave you feeling inadequate.

Throw in talking with your child about these deep issues you are still working through. He wasn’t done, though. He had looked over our list of attendees on the kitchen table and had seen that my Dad was a no. “Why isn’t Tan (what they’ve always called him) coming?” And when I explained that he wasn’t okay with our marriage, he asked, “But doesn’t he love you?”

It was hard not to tear up with him. Not only was he asking me some of the hardest questions of my life, ones I’ve asked myself a million times in private, he was hitting on some pretty raw situations. Yes, I know my father loves me and I don’t want to judge him on his not coming to our big day. I’ve accepted he won’t be there. I asked him so many times, hoping he changes his mind. He doesn’t comprehend it and for him to attend, he would have to in his opinion, so he can’t bring himself to be there. I get it, because I choose to. And I love him because regardless of our differences in opinion, my ability to love him isn’t hinged on this one moment. Yes, it’s major to me. It’s monumental to both Ku and I. I am simply choosing to try to see things through his lens and agree to disagree.

Last night was tough. Yes, I found being honest pretty difficult, but I also wanted to answer his questions without projecting my own feelings into our talk because I don’t want him to feel how I do out of solidarity or obligation. I want him to hear me yet draw his own conclusions and thoughts without just being upset with his father or my dad. And just finding the bravery alone to initiate the whole thing with me, the one who is less chill, was pretty awesome, regardless of how much I struggled through it. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be googling how to have difficult yet meaningful conversations with teenagers because shoot me before he surprises me again!

 

Three days of getting (re)fresh, as told by Vee

Guess who’s going to Hawaii in three sleeps (read: today)!!?!?!?! This beezy RIGHT HERE!!! My brother-in-love is getting hitched, saying I do, and bidding farewell to that bachelor life that he always made look so friggin fun. We are so excited! And you know what Hawaii means? It means you’ll be on a beach at least once, probably spending some hours at a pool, and wearing a lot less clothes than you have been for the last ten months because Washington gave you the longest winter in all of history. So you do a reality check, realizing that birthday month was a treasonous time in your life and you acknowledge that every article of clothing you wear now fits snug (read: tight) and you haven’t even worked out recently. As in at least a week. I figured it’s never too late to recommit to your health journey, so I ordered myself a 3-Day Refresh from my fave peeps down at Beachbody and read the rules yesterday to get ready.

Now, what is the refresh? First off, it’s a fancy schmancy title for a cleanse that restricts dairy, meats (read: proteins) and treats (read: wine) for a whole effin 72 hours. Doesn’t that sound like a nice cup of “stab me repeatedly with a fork for three days?” Needless to say, we ate pizza, drank wine and had fudge chocolate treats Sunday. We are the worst kind of cleansers. It is three daily shakes, a fiber drink, an ocean of filtered water, and rationed portions of fresh fruits and veggies. THAT.IS.IT. And here is an unbiased account of the ordeal:

Day 1: Today I woke up at 7 after hitting snooze an eff ton of times. I didn’t want to get out of bed. My eyes were so heavy. When you can finally manage to haul your bloated ass out of bed, you’re supposed to drink around 10 ounces of water to get your system (does this mean your digestive track? Like, get ready to poop?) going. I had a water bottle by the side of my bed but I had gotten thirsty at night so I estimate it only had around 6 in it. That may or may not be remotely right. I’m a horrible estimator of liquids. Suffice to say I drank the water and felt it hit the PITS of my stomach. Of COURSE I would wake up on day one of my refresh starving. Typical.

Within an hour of waking you drink your first shake. Yay there because I love my shakeo! Except I didn’t drink it on time because it’s frowned upon to show up to work ugly. And when I rushed to make it, I started out with too much water and not enough ice so it was a weird texture and consistency (super watery) so it felt like I was drinking super diluted iced coffee (I am drinking the vegan café latte for this). It didn’t feel like breakfast, when my shakeo normally does. Along with the shake you eat your first installment of fruit. Up first on the menu is a cup of cantaloupe that I actually measured! That’s already a win because I try to eyeball everything. My one downfall? I forgot to eat the fruit at the same time as I was drinking my shake. When I remembered I could have it, I SNARFED it down in two seconds. You guys. A cup of cantaloupe is just enough to make you CRAZY hungry but not enough to make you even feel like you ate. Throw on top of that a work lunch I’m planning so I was on the Fred Meyer’s catering website looking at pictures of baked chicken, fried chicken, sushi platters, sides. This is torture to the umpteenth degree. I am never as hungry as when I tell myself I’m doing something to feel better. Every time I think I need food I make myself guzzle some water. PS, I’ve gone to the bathroom six times and I’ve only been up for four hours. And because I can’t stop thinking about how empty my stomach feels, I set a timer on my phone for when I can have my next shake, which is the Vanilla Fiber Sweep. I foresee more bathroom breaks. Yikes.

Vanilla Fiber Sweep is done. I drank it fast because I’ve read other people’s accounts of the flavor of it so I was anticipating liquid death. I chugged it SO FAST because almost everyone says you can’t let it sit for more than a few minutes or it changes into a fire-breathing dragon that promptly makes you it’s meal. Shit, that dragon would be getting more of a mouthful than I currently am. Good news, there was no time to let anything evolve into anything dangerous and I basically shot-gunned a really tasty drink. I would equate it to an original orange Julius, which is doubly bizarre, being as it’s vanilla. The deed is done, either way and now I have to wait at least an hour before I can have my lunch. Yes, there’s another timer set and yes, I am going to drink more water.

1:00: Lunch time. FINALLY. I mixed my vanilla fresh shake, took my rhubarb salad out that I made yesterday, grabbed my baggie of strawberries and filled my water. I was making myself wait a little longer because somehow that felt much less dramatic. I mentally told myself I would eat slow and savor every bite because 2/3 cup of rhubarb salad IS NOT REALLY EVEN ONE BITE OF FOOD, that I would not down my shake like it was a margarita. YOU GUYS. I’m a liar liar pants on fire and lunch was inhaled in less than three minutes. It’s been less than an hour since and not ONCE did my stomach feel like it had anything in it.

2:23: I found a little Styrofoam box of pad-see-uw in the mini fridge from lunch last week Friday. I heated it up and told myself I would only have a few bites because I NEED FOOD. I picked out the broccoli and ate it because broccoli is allowed on the refresh even though I’m almost positive its not allowed when it has a delicious sauce on it (I’ll just double check what the list of guilt-free flavorings says about that) and told myself I wasn’t cheating. Then I told myself I could have two bites of rice noodle and that would be it. I then had four little bites because I can’t be trusted and then threw the box away because otherwise it was about to be shoved into my pie-hole (yum, pie sounds AMAZING) and because I started to get angry with myself. I am only seven hours into this shit-show and I’ve already messed up. This is why I have jelly-belly and this is why I have more than one chin. Send BOSS BABE vibes this way, because I need all.of.them. Now I’m drinking water and pissed.

4:00: I ate a teaspoon of almond butter and downed 700 ounces of water, at least. I’m not even exaggerating here. I feel empty but I don’t feel EMPTY. See, I’m so hungry ish isn’t even making sense anymore.

4:50: My iWatch just told me to stand up. That’s fine since I HAVE TO PEE ANYWAY.

6:00: I’m at my son’s baseball game and I have to urinate so bad that I have lower back pains. Ku texted me beforehand and asked if I wanted her to bring me strawberries and my response was something like, “Yes, I can have 12. And if you think you might want some also, please bring more than 12 because I need ALLMYSTRAWBERRIES. I texted that to my wifey, friends. And she didn’t throw fruit at my face when I got to the game and she didn’t threaten to leave me. I want to add that the fact she even stuck around the rest of the night without yelling PEACE and throwing her hands in the air is AMAZEBALLS. I would have run for the hills.

10:00: Went to bed listening to the relaxing sounds of my STOMACH GROWLING and some pretty horrendous releases of gas. Today sucked. I realized I am completely emotionally addicted to food. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have been such an effin sourpuss all damn day. I may need more than 3 days to break this.

DAY 2

7:00: Woke up and said, “I’m starving,” right out the gate and then realized that wasn’t actually true. My stomach hadn’t even said good morning. It was when I downed my 10 ounces of water that I remembered my stomach had a bottom. All that water found it, quick. I also didn’t drink my shake within that first hour. I’m a natural rule breaker. I just can’t help it. PS, I ALSO forgot to eat the fruit at the same time again. Frick!

1:00: I’ve not stopped thinking about food and how hungry I am. I had to pick up lunch for the office, which is straight out of chapter one in the book of “Ultimate Corporal Punishment for your Subordinates.”

1:30: Got to the office with the FRIED CHICKEN, BAKED CHICKEN, BBQ CHICKEN, MACARONI SALAD (I love macaroni salad. I friggin LOVE IT) and POTATO SALAD. I don’t know why I just yelled that. I ran to my office and grabbed my effin rhubarb salad and my water and joined my co-workers in the conference room with every intention of not straying. And then five minutes later I had a sliver of bbq chicken and one teaspoon of macaroni salad in my container and I ate it super slow. I savored EVERY BITE and then got upset because I have done some pretty hard shit in my life. Why can I not control what goes in my mouth?

9:00: I told myself I was going to have a hard boiled egg because I’m certain not consuming protein is a death wish. There is no way this program knows what it’s talking about. But then I didn’t, so win there! Oh, let’s also throw in that I weighed myself this morning and I didn’t lose ONE OUNCE of weight yet. And somehow that’s determining my success with this. Goodnight, world. I cannot with today, anymore.

Day 3

I woke up this morning, drank my water and felt a little better. I almost just typed refreshed but I refuse to give this program any kudos. Yet.

Some point in the middle of the day: I am not starving. My thoughts are not consumed with food on the constant. I have felt more awake, more able. More in CONTROL and that is pretty phenomenal. The whole day goes by and I’m drinking my water, eating my food, following the plan and not once do I feel deprived today. I’m doing the thing. I’m friggin crushing it!

9:00: Ku and I pack for Hawaii and my whole time home I didn’t think about how I was so hungry and needed dinner now. I had a half a cucumber and felt good. WHAT THE WHAT? We went downstairs after getting a lot of packing done and Ku made some quesadillas and convinced me to have half of one. It was a whole wheat tortilla and some crock pot pork, so I decided to have it. I only ate the half, ate it slow, really enjoyed it and had ONE GLASS of wine. Over the course of two hours. If I won at anything, it was in THAT.

When I woke up Thursday, off the refresh, I didn’t immediately want food. I feel like I look the same, perhaps a touch less bloated. I took my after photos and see it, that the bloat is gone. I want to keep that ish going! Where the real transformation happened is in my mentality about food. I have not forgotten the feeling of absolute emptiness I had on Day 1 and Day 2. I always knew I was an emotional eater; I mean, I’ve been living this life for 35 damn years! Really seeing the grip my nutrition has on me made me realize why I haven’t had more success in my journey. It makes TOTAL.SENSE. Overall, I’m down four pounds. I don’t want them back. I’m cutting those toxic pounds out of my life FOR GOOD because they have been like herpes with my health journey. BE GONE!

I’m not going to say I’m going to be perfect from here on out, because I cannot lie to my friends. I will say that I’m going to try maintain smaller portions, remind myself I do not really need more food or carbs or an eff ton of meat (that was the hardest, giving up my meats. I don’t know how vegetarians do it!) or six glasses of wine. Because all of that has happened.

You want to try the refresh out? Hit me up. I would totally be up for torturing myself alongside you, because who doesn’t want to push the boundaries of just how much your loved ones will put up with. AMIRIGHT?!?!

QBSJ7356