What I’m learning from losing a friend

loveI’ve been thinking of late, mostly of my beautiful friend who left us recently, and little lessons I learned on our friendship journey, and the ones I learned as her soul found its way to the next spot. I love my friends. Each of them differently and yet wholly. It’s just, I’ve always been an all or nothing kind of person, and it doesn’t stop with matters of the heart.

I met Yesenia so long ago, when I was a young girl. I can count at least 25 years of friendship, if not more, with her. One day, as we were sitting with her at hospice, another friend of her’s came in and asked if I was family and her mom replied, “Practically.” My heart was so sore hearing that. I felt like I was losing a sister. She came to work for my parents at their restaurant  when she was 16 so we were co-workers, first. I was drawn to her easy-to-love spirit and we talked all the time, told each other jokes, and laughed together. Our friendship was so many of our days spent laughing together.

As I sat holding her hand just a few short weeks ago, we chatted about life. I told her I would make her a post with all my favorite words for her and she turned, with her big eyes just looking at me, as a tear slowly rolled down her cheek. She gave me permission to say what my heart wanted to. I kept writing this blog post in my mind, angrily crossing out words with an imaginary red pen, scribbling madly all the feelings I wanted to capture from our last moments, and then internally pressing delete all two seconds later, because I thought maybe I wouldn’t want to share any of them. Maybe they would be just for me to reminisce as the big day came and then moved on. You see, the days keep going on and I am stuck thinking of the one when she left, or the one before, when I last kissed her warm cheek, or the one where I sat, late at night and we had our last conversation that we didn’t know but kind of did that another wouldn’t come.

How do we say goodbye?

Even as I swim in sorrow, I promise I don’t want this to be a sad post. What I want is to share things that I picked up along the way of our time together, however short those almost 30 years feel now.

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Being there at the end is hard

I’m just going to get this one out of the way because there’s a giant sack of feels sitting on my tonsils right now and it’s hard to breathe. I try to be the type of friend who is there through thick-and-thin and let me tell you, it can really f*cking suck to sit there and watch those who own pieces of your heart begin to leave. I mean, essentially we are all in stages of death, but the end, if you’re lucky enough to see it, is the ultimate gut-punch. I am not one to cry but my heart has been ugly sobbing since she said cancer, since she said two years (which was not f*cking two years ago, which is really unfair), since she said hospice and since her last I love you. Since she wrote her own eulogy and left me a message and unexpectedly showed me love again. If you can, be there. More than once. Yes, it’s hard. But it’s harder to not be.

You can always listen

In hospice, there wasn’t much I could do for her. I mean, I had the intentions to do whatever she needed, but she didn’t really need anything. I wanted to bring her any and all of her favorite foods, but eating was kind of out of the picture. All I could do was sit there and listen. Mostly, she didn’t say much but one day I went later than usual and got there as her Mom was driving off. I walked in to find Yesenia crying (she said I could share any story I wanted to) and I held her hand and asked her why she was crying. We had a good long talk about all the things on her mind, because she was a total worry-wort. I let her say it all. I just held her hand and stroked her arm and kept eye contact. She stopped at one point and said, “You are being a really good listener right now and I love that about you.” If I can do anything for any of my friends, it is listen. I will come listen to anything you have to say. Ever.

You can disagree with friends

We were polar opposites in so much, Yesenia and I. She was an all believing Christian and I am not religious. She never held any grudges, and shit, I will remember wrongs long before I remember rights (as Ku points out to me often). She loved everyone regardless and I will cut people out of my life who show me I don’t matter to them. She just didn’t have that in her. She was always nice and sometimes my face beats me to it. She always showed me love even as she delivered harsh truths to me, sometimes, and I could never hold that against her. If we hurt each other’s feelings, we gave the other some time and then apologized. We just had that ability and it is hard to find in others. What I’m saying is that we can have people around us who don’t believe the same as us and it helps us learn. She taught me a lot. One of the last things she said to me was, “We are both so different and I love you for it.”

When people see you hurting, they want to help

The day she passed I wrote some words about her on my Facebook and many reached out to me to offer love, kind words, and to offer help in any way. My problem has continued to be that I don’t know what kind of help I need. My heart hurts and I just want to shut everyone out and curl up in my bed and cry. And then get up and go through the motions until I want to lie in bed and curl up again to cry. I keep hearing this will pass and I know it must. I just don’t want to talk about it even though I know it’ll help make it hurt a little less. I want to share stories but then I get selfish. I want to talk about how much I loved her but then it reminds me I won’t see her again. What I’m saying is thank you for your love and kind words. They are not falling on deaf ears. I’m just trying to keep it together for life to continue, ya know?

Memorials are for the living

As we drove out to her service, I turned to Ku and said I didn’t really want to go. You see, I had time with her during her last two months in hospice and we said a lot to each other. I didn’t necessarily feel like I needed that closure from whatever would be said in a room full of people who I might have to talk to. I just don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want people to ask me how I’m doing or how I feel. I want to be a hermit and being at her service made me mourn in public and I just don’t think that is the type of thing for me. Either way, I’m glad I didn’t miss it. The hardest things still have to happen, no matter how hard, I guess.

Loyalty has many faces

One day we were sitting there, probably like two years ago, and Yesenia spoke of someone who I am not a fan of. I looked at her incredulously (Ku calls it my Latina face) and she stopped short and said, “What is that face for?” I angrily spat back, “I cannot believe you are still talking to that beezy who was so friggin rude to me!” I mean, I was pissed! How dare she?! And she kind of sat there for a moment and thought about it. She grabbed my hand and said, “I love you but I’m not going to be mean to people for what they do to you, okay?”

We need honesty

Well, on that same note, I was b*tching to Yesenia about some other person who had done me wrong and she kept countering with nice things about them so I turned and said, “It’s really hard to sit here and complain to you when you keep finding reasons to show that they are good. THEY ARE NOT GOOD. I am really upset at them right now.” And so she was quiet for a bit because she was never as loud as me and then she said, “Virginia (because she almost never called me Vee), yeah, they did some crappy stuff. But let’s just not focus on that because it makes you scowl and scowling gives you wrinkles and you really do have a beautiful face. Let’s not make it wrinkle prematurely. And everyone has some good in them.” Just like that. Matter-of-fact. She understood that about us all.

Spouses aren’t the end all of friendships

Ugh, this was the biggest thing I learned from her soul. I didn’t like a lot of the guys she dated and she hated my ex-husband and we butted heads on dating choices, yet somehow, we made it work. That is a big-ass friggin lesson.

How to say goodbye

I continue to think, even right now, that death is not the worst thing we will endure. Yesenia was in a lot of pain, and I continue to remind myself, when I’m feeling my saddest, that she is no longer feeling that and so this is better. It’s harder for me but for her, this is better. We are going to make something at home, in her honor, because Moose asked if we could. There will be a sugar skull made for her for Dia de los Muertos and we will have a small shrine with some of my favorite photos. The thing is, I refuse to say goodbye. I’m going to keep on loving her and saying her name because she will be in the land of the remembered for as long as I breathe. I’m going to allow myself to be sad and laugh at memories we shared and look back lovingly. This is how we will deal. We will continue to make shenanigans on Halloween and take some silly Christmas pics.

For her.

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Yesenia Isabel Zavala Rios (11/04/1974-03/23/2018)

A bonus-ing we will go!

It’s Christmas time! And you know what that means…eggnog, presents under gloriously decorated trees, and perhaps a little extra in your direct deposit. Wait, is that still a thing?

I honestly can’t remember what it feels like to be a part of a company that does bonuses, being as I’ve been out of the banking game for about six years now <– and those were based on performance, mostly, so you had to do things to get em. And not to get all National Lampoon-y on you, even though ’tis the season and all, but Clark was on to something when he yelled at his boss. He really was!

We are entering an era where employee engagement and retention of top notch worker bees is becoming cruuuuuucial. And not to get all HR on you, because dat’s my liiiiiife, but in the time of Google and Facebook and Starbucks, upping your boss game is more than just with moola. But, let’s say you do get a fatty little bump at the end of the year, in the form of the ever-sought-after B-O-N-U-S. What then?

See, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I do with my monies. Maybe it’s because I sit on the board of DVSAS and it stays active and changes lives in our community because of the generosity of the upper crust and the medium crust and you know what, the whole damn pie. I think about how there was a time my boys were only unwrapping gifts from family because there wasn’t enough to feed them AND get them a toy. I know that now, where we are in our lives, we can reach out and  help in so many ways. Except, it can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t have three zeros after your first number in whatever check you may be writing and that makes you feel bad. Maybe you don’t even know where to start because you want to help ALL the peoples.

Is that you? Do you feel like you just don’t know when or how? Well, you’re in luck, because I haven’t had much luck in sleeping lately, so my mind did most of the work for my friends. Here’s what I came up with, with hopefully something for those who maybe just have $5 to give.

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Idea #1: A charity that speaks to your heart

Now, this will take a little work on your end, so I apologize in advance, but here’s what I recommend: Sit down, take some deep breaths, and think about the valleys of your life. The low times, the hard times, the I-would-rather-not-think-about-that-time-of-my-life times. It might make you emotional, it might even make you mad, but take that energy and GET OUT THE GOOGLE. Mad-type your problem into the search bar and hit freakin ENTER like you’re lighting something on fire. Because you are. It could be a time when you were homeless or close to it, battling an addiction or watching someone battle one, domestic violence (oh, there are my heartstrings, alive and well), it could be you wanting to play a youth sport but your parents couldn’t afford it, maybe it was a puppy you begged for every year but never received, or how about if you just didn’t have healthy meals on the daily because you could barely afford food. Now, if you’re in Whatcom County, that could look like this:

Lydia Place, DVSAS, The Lighthouse Mission, Boys and Girls Club of Whatcom County, Whatcom Humane Society, Bellingham Food Bank, Northwest Youth Services , etc.

You could literally donate $5 and begin making a difference.

Idea #2: Support Political Action

It’s no surprise that for so many 2017 has been a let-down of a year. If you aren’t in that boat and you don’t feel any sort of ill-feelings toward the political state of our country, go ahead and skip on down to idea #3, because this one won’t speak to you. It’s been a trying set of months of who is a pre-existing condition, what women can or can’t say about their bodies, #metoo, and so on. Use your dollars like you would your voice because even your George Washington can come in hot, yelling like a CRAAAAAZY, just like you. Some great places to start are: Planned Parenthood (and please do so in Mike Pence’s name), DACA (because I’m not up for squashing anybody’s dreams, most certainly not those of the innocent), American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Org, National Assoc for the Advancement of Colored People, GLAAD, and so on. We cannot let those who don’t look like us, think like us, pee like us, etc get the better of us.

Idea #3: Education is going to change a world <– yours or whoever else’s. Someone’s world. It’s going to be changed. Let it be because of you.

If you can read this, thank a damn teacher. I mean it. Send a huge effin round of applause to the ladies and men who are there with our kiddos on the daily, listening to them drone on about whatever is important to them at the time. Who were also there for you. Yes, they aren’t perfect but neither are we and so they still deserve it. You can do any of the following and I’m sure tears would be shed: Donate to a PTO, whichever is closest to you, or at the school you went to, or stop in to a school one day and ask to pay some money on a student’s lunch bill. Because everyone needs to eat to be able to focus in class and some kids are in NEED OF FUNDS. I hope you all clapped that out with me, because I typed it HARD as if I was clapping. This is essential. Just take a Jackson in and find the office, ask where you can pay money on lunch accounts and hand it over. It will feel INCREDIBLE. Or you could buy a gift card at a store like the Dollar Store so the teachers, who make so little and still use their OWN MONIES to supply whatever is needed in their classroom and hand it to your kiddos educator. Or your neighbor’s kiddos educator. They are in abundance but their account balances are not. Again, even $10 could change someone’s world.

Idea #4: Listen

One day I was in Safeway and I did what every normal person does when I was ready to checkout. I scanned all the lines and picked the shortest one because #duh. I put all my items on the belt and waited patiently. I think I may have even texted Kulia something, because phones distract me from boring moments. I noticed I wasn’t moving even though I was next in line and I looked up to see the gentleman in front of me digging in his pockets and then choose an item to return. He nervous laughed and said he wasn’t sure how much his debit card would allow and so he asked the cashier to key in $20 and see if it would take. It did but he had a balance of $4.50 and all he had was milk, eggs, bacon and some other staple items. He was about to pick another item to put back when I handed a $5 bill to the kind lady and said, “Here. Please use this.” When he realized what had happened, he turned beet red because he was embarrassed. I felt bad for him when he turned to thank me over and over. It was such a small amount of help and he was so grateful and what I’m trying to say is, if I would have been stuck on my phone and not paying attention, I couldn’t have said yes to helping someone. Often times we hear of people paying it forward in coffee lines or things of the sort, but you can do it almost anywhere and I encourage you to be open and ready for it. I especially would like to throw out there that helping an elderly person at a store is monumental. They almost all live on set incomes that aren’t increasing with inflation. Help them out, friends.

Well, peeps, there you have it. Four but really 100 ways (because what’s life without a little exaggeration) to do something with your bonus. Or your fiver that you may or may not just spend on a coffee for yourself. Every little bit helps and I do mean every little bit. Don’t do what I did for so many years and think that because I don’t have thousands to hand out that I couldn’t partake in giving. And if you truly don’t have even $1 to help, I believe you but I ask this: Give your smiles. Show kindness to your fellow Earth-mates. Connect eyes and show some care. Genuine care. Even to the people panhandling on the streets and most especially to them.

Merry Christmas, you jolly bunch of non-a-holes. I love you all. And if you decide to buy yourself a pool, I won’t hold it against you.

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Advocate means voice, right?

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The calm AND the storm

 

 

 

Once upon a time I was a really judge-y a-hole. I thought I knew everything about everything and this wasn’t even my teenage years. Gaaaaah, I was exhausting. One of the things I knew nothing about but thought I did?

ADHD

Until not only Samuel, but Abraham as well were diagnosed with it. No, scratch that. That’s a lie if I’ve ever told one. I still didn’t know. And quite frankly, it was the beginning of one of the hardest uphill battles I’ve ever fought. Alone but with people, together but on opposite sides of the river. Different but the same words to apply to two of my three boys who just rode the struggle-bus-wave at school something fierce. It was hard to swallow because it was personal and I felt like I had failed them in some way, even though it had nothing to do with me but was about to consume my life. Our lives. Each of us in different ways.

Samuel’s diagnosis, as a Type 1, meaning he has inattention but not hyperactivity, was an absolute dream  in terms of handling it. He was put on a small dose of Ritalin and it was an overnight change, where he went from testing below grade level in every subject to making the honor roll no less than three months later. “He’s not dumb, he just needs a little help,” his sweet fifth grade teacher had told us. Learning about what he needed and why completing homework and turning it in was so hard made a lot of difference in understanding him better. Isn’t that what we all want? To be understood better? He started to gain self-confidence, boosting his self-esteem. You could see a visible change in him, almost immediately but also over time. Not to say he hasn’t had some ups and downs that have needed revisiting and adjusting. Sam still continues to be so much easier to handle.

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So, enter Abraham, who has been marching to the beat of his own drum since the moment he was born. Yesterday he asked me for a picture of that day, and you know what? I don’t have one. He was my fastest delivery, being born less than an hour after I finally got to the hospital because nobody believed that I was in labor and then when the nurse checked me I was dilated to 8. When they told me I couldn’t have an epidural or any other sort of pain meds because I was too far advanced, I broke down crying. I had been trying to keep it together for so long, thinking it would be coming. It wasn’t. He got stuck and the doctor had to help him get his head unstuck and I just screamed in pain. I remember it like it was yesterday, all the pain and commotion, but I don’t remember his face. I hardly saw it. He came early, was whisked out of the room so fast. I had only gotten to hold him for about five minutes and then he was gone but I didn’t even notice because then I was surrounded by doctors and nurses. I was hemorrhaging and they were working fast.

I don’t even know how much time went by before I realized he never came back to the room. And then it was a twilight zone because they started lying to me in ways I would mimic later, when my kiddos asked for something I knew I wouldn’t deliver on. “Maybe in a bit, not right now, etc” kept being fed to me. I remember wanting my Mom there but she wasn’t. Hearing false information in a hospital should be a crime. And you shouldn’t feel alone when you hear it.

****** You’re probably wondering why I’m rambling on about all of this. It’s most likely because I’m defending why I’m so Mama Bear with him. Ku thinks this is why and I don’t think she’s wrong. ******

Not even two hours later, after being told maybe and soon and a whole bunch of other no-in-disguise words, he was off, on a helicopter, to Children’s hospital. See, he couldn’t breathe on his own, he was considered a preemie and they didn’t have what he needed to keep him alive at St. Josephs. And then I was mad, because my doctor wouldn’t release me to go to him. You guys, I was straight up mean to that doctor and he took it like a champ. I’m still not even a little sorry, though.

Skipping forward, he was in the NICU for three a half long weeks where I was by his side day and night, practically forgetting I had four year old Samuel at home, being cared for by my ex’s family. It’s the one thing I’ve ever sincerely thanked them for. I wouldn’t allow pictures in there, not that we had many visitors, which I think I still struggle with, inside. I was so alone during one of the hardest months of my life. He was on a morphine drip, intubated, and not improving for so long. I could hardly take it and yet that’s what moms do; the hardest work and almost always on their own.

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AB and his tia at our wedding, where he unapologetically tore it UP on the dance floor and just lived his life

I still see him, so little and helpless in the incubator, muted and fighting for his life. I was willing his lungs to do their job for so long, and yet I couldn’t make him better. When he was finally home, I would stare at him in the night, convinced that something would happen and he would stop breathing, because joy forebodes fear because that’s what we are taught in the movies.

I taught him baby sign and he was full on signing sentences before he was even eleven months old. He started walking on his tiptoes. He taught himself to read at four years old. He learned cursive on his own, at home, because it was interesting to him. He has a signature, friends. And he’s barely eleven.

He’s also type 2 ADHD. Which means hyperactivity.

It isn’t even what I would consider severe but holy moses, it’s so true for him. He will sit and watch a movie but his body will not stop moving. In fact, from so many talks with his doctor and counselor, he needs the movement to focus his mind. And this has not come without difficulty at school. Difficulty and distractions and distracting. To say it’s interfering with his learning is an understatement, even though he is still so smart.

We’ve been lucky in that a) I believe it. The other side of his family did not. Frick, some of my own family didn’t either. The fact of the matter is that while ADHD has almost certainly been not only one of the most misunderstood medical conditions, it’s also been misdiagnosed and over-diagnosed in many cases. Not in Abraham’s. I mean that sincerely. It wasn’t something we could change with just eliminating things like food dye from his diet. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true. I know that works for some kiddos.

It doesn’t mean that getting more activity in with your little isn’t the answer. It just wasn’t the sole answer for him. It isn’t a pass to just medicate and while Sam was such a big win with his, we have tried so many different kinds, stimulant and non stimulant alike without finding the best helper.

You want to know what one of the biggest helps has been? Having had some of the BEST teachers for him that understood or tried to understand him, that believed in his intelligence and that worked alongside us to help him thrive. It was such a weight off our shoulders to feel like we had an army behind us. Except, fairy tale elementary school is over and we have entered middle school and all its chaos and we are all drowning at our house.

We have entered a season of school struggle in a way we aren’t used to. Yes, middle school was tough for Sam, but it was Sam tough, so that still makes it sort of mild. I call him the meanager and that’s mostly from those rough years because he couldn’t figure out how to excel in school anymore. Getting him to do his homework, keeping him up on his assignments and learning how to actually study were so hard. Now, it all applies to Abraham and we are RIPPING OUR GAWWWWD DAMN HAIRS OUT.

I mean it. It’s been friggin tough as hell. It is straight up square peg, round hole time and all of us are at our wit’s end. I mean, I scheduled a meeting with his teachers and it was fruitless. Unfruitful. Without fruit? I’m saying I walked out of there feeling like I could have gotten more done trying to teach a giraffe their ABCs. It’s no wonder he’s having a hard time. If I feel like they don’t care, I can only imagine he feels like they don’t care because he’s pretty intuitive and you’d basically have to be blind to not see it. I even called, ten minutes after leaving and on my way to work, and spoke to his vice-principal and expressed how wasteful my time there had felt, was promised a call back and action, a commitment to helping him, etc. It was like being in that hospital room all over again, hearing fake news told to my face without an ounce of meaningfulness.

Today, I took my voice back and I Mama Bear’d it because I am not playing around. I don’t want to be that person that loses their patience with their kiddo over something they haven’t figured out how to control yet, because that’s bananas and not right. It’s not cool to get mad at a child with diabetes for having their blood sugar in the wrong numbers because they aren’t directly in charge of metabolizing their glucose and making insulin. <— wait, did I say that correctly? Do you get my drift?

What I’m saying is, if you have a little with either type of ADHD, or if you have ADHD, hear me on the following:

You are smart.

It is real.

You are not defined by it.

Use your voice.

What about if you don’t? You probably know someone who does, so read up a little on it, so you don’t sound like Vee2013 who was just a judge-y a-hole. Don’t tell people it’s made up because it isn’t. And offer some love.

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Abraham in fifth grade, on his way to camp which was a huge stress to us but he did wonderfully

Meandering with Meanagers

I have gotten better at sharing my herstory of domestic violence but it wasn’t until recently that I really started to think about what it means to my boys. While it was never physical in front of them, they definitely witnessed verbal and emotional. The meanager and I had a deep discussion about it recently and with his permission, I’m sharing Sam’s perspective on domestic violence (these are his words, undoctored):

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Sometimes my Dad loses his temper. If you make him mad, he’ll probably spank you or tell you to stop talking to him or he’ll say hurtful things. It’s not always bad, though. The thing is, some kids might really disrespect his parents and someone seeing it might say things like, “That kid really needs a beating/spanking, etc” but I don’t think hitting is the answer because that kid will grow up thinking violence is okay and then probably hit his kids and the cycle keeps on going.

If he would have hit you in front of us when we were growing up, I think we would have grown up thinking hitting women is okay. About two months ago I talked privately with my Dad and asked him to not yell or say hurtful things to my stepmom. I asked him to try harder to not be so angry or disrespectful towards her. I think he’s working on it, not perfectly, but trying, I would say.

I’ve never physically hit anyone in my life. Well, except for my brothers. We do wrestle sometimes and it gets out of hand but at the end of the day, I would never want to punch someone or hurt someone. When I get mad I want to smash something or punch a punching bag or break something. I’ve been trying not to play certain games on Xbox because they make me the most frustrated but when I do get to that level of mad, listening to music helps me or watching dumb things on YouTube.

When it all came down to my Dad leaving Hawaii with Moose, I didn’t know what was happening. I thought we were moving back to continue living as a family. When you shared some stuff that had happened the night you left, I felt betrayed by him. When you marry someone, you promise to always have a good time, to not hurt each other in a physical way, and I felt like he broke that promise. The first year you guys were separated, I didn’t understand everything because it wasn’t until about two years ago that you shared A LOT MORE of the story. It was hard because I couldn’t see him as much. Because I didn’t know what had happened, I didn’t know if I should be upset with him or with you so I just felt neutral. I’m not upset with either one of you now, because that is the past, and I know that you won’t ever forget that whole thing, but even thinking about it makes me frustrated.

My Dad knows it’s not right to hit someone, especially a woman, and I don’t know where he learned that because one day my Grandma told me my Grandpa had never laid a finger on her, so it’s not like he saw that growing up. They [his dad and stepmom] were arguing one day and that’s when my Grandma said that. Sometimes I worry about [my stepmom]. I hope she doesn’t get put in a situation where she worries about her life, like you did.

I hope my Dad has learned from his past mistakes. I’ll probably ask him questions when I’m older and have a bigger perspective of things, but I try not to say too much now because he gets mad easy. I do plan on it, though. My big worry is Moose might become like him because he hits when he’s upset and I worry about Abraham because when he gets mad he calls people names and I don’t want him to get beat up. It’s stressful and I can see those things happening.

I’m 100% happy, right along with my brothers and I know that hitting is wrong. I think my Dad and I are completely different because I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings on purpose. I don’t like that. I’m not saying he tries to hurt people’s feelings on purposeI don’t like it when he says terrible things to me so I don’t want to be that way. In a way I know things happen for a reason because if you would have left him sooner, we wouldn’t have gone to Hawaii and you wouldn’t have met Ku. I just know that I still love my Dad and I think he’s happy and I KNOW you are. And I’m proud of you, Mom, for being strong enough to leave and figure out how to be happy.

**Insert crying mom face, because sometimes this young man-cub just blows me out of the water with his maturity and depth of understanding. It can’t be easy being my oldest boy, but maaaaaan, he makes us so effin proud. This reads as he speaks and while I could have changed the layout, I wanted to stay true to him and his heart.

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100 days in…

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Photo taken by: Shannon Sasaki Photography

July 2 is officially one of my favorite memories. Not only were we at our absolute prettiest, but we managed to pull off the party of the century. I mean, that sounds pretty damn biased, but this is my blog and I am calling it what I please because regardless, I am the boss. And so, here we are, one hundred freaking days later and I feel as if I should post what marriage has become to me, what it has meant for our relationship, and where we currently are in our life. And because my friends need absolute facts, I’ll tell the story, because I have them. The absolute facts.

100 days in has proven that marriage is keeping track. If you get up at 6 am and change a chirping fire alarm while the other one sleeps, mark it down. Keep track and use it as ammunition ALLLLL damn day (that was day 99).

It’s matching outfits better because you’re married and this is not a drill. If your wife wants to match you or buy coordinating outfits, you just say YES because clearly she is off her rocker and you will only make it worse if you decline.

If there is four squares of toilet paper left on the roll and you don’t change it, you might as well put yourself in time out because you done just left you’re WIFE hanging and how dare you? She changed that chirping fire alarm and you can’t even change a ROLL OF TOILET PAPER? Never mind that there was four squares left and it didn’t look out. Never mind that noise.

Being married is basically an admission that you can dutch-oven your spouse. That is now legal and allowed and they can’t get upset about it, especially when they passed the gas and you want them to gag over their own odors. That’s even more permissible and they can’t get make one peep about it. Because you’re married, even if it’s only been 100 days. That means more than just being together for five years, even though it shouldn’t because it was one day. Something inside you changed and now they are STUCK WITH YOU. And trapped under the covers with their own undoing.

100 days is smelling the belly button gunk of your other half. You have to. No ifs ands or buts. DO IT.

It’s arguing over enchiladas vs burritos and then bringing that damn argument up FOR THE REST OF YOUR DAYS and it can be interchangeable who is doing the bringing up, which is super confusing but hey, roll with it.

You can now start calling all conversations arguments. “What’s for dinner?” can ABSOLUTELY be followed up with, “Why are we fighting? Why are you always hounding me? Stop yelling!” because you don’t have to make sense anymore. I imagine this is what turning 70 can also look like. Your wife asks you questions and then you just mumble nonsense back. Boom. Also known as one hundred days since I do. Because now you do.

You can decide to go plant based for a few weeks and then decide to keep going because your wifey friggin lives for cheese and now you want to push all the boundaries to see just HOW long she will put up with your ish of no cheese or meat. Just to see. Just to know how long until she loses her ish with you. That’s okay.

In the meantime, she might be buying all kinds of trendy meatless ish for you, because she wants to support your plant based nonsense and then when you try it, you ARE 100 days in so don’t feel bad about making the most disgusted face you can muster up with your lethargy (because you know you aren’t getting enough protein in but you refuse to fall for her meat and cheese traps) and belting out, “THIS TASTES LIKE DOG FOOOOOOOOOOOD!” Go ahead and just yell that from the rooftop. If you have the energy for it.

And when you know you’re reaching the end of her ledge of sanity, agree to eat half a meat burger with her, just so she sees a touch of light at the end of your looney tunnel. Just so she doesn’t run for the hills just yet. You gotta keep hope SORT OF alive. Like that hedgehog you made her keep in the house for a bit. Just like that.

One hundred days is finding all the things wrong with your body so she can croon at your sweet face how much she loves it. Get gradually, increasingly more repulsive about it to see how far she will take this love song she’s penning you. “I hate the way my butt stinks!” Say it in a whiny, about-to-cry-but-not-really-because-you-don’t-cry voice. She’ll respond with, “You have the sweetest stank ass I’ve ever been around. Yay you, darling!” No matter where that was going, you’re winning. You are friggin winning at life.

One hundred days is a lot of gross for one of you and fun for the other. What sounds better than THAT? I mean, win-win in my book! So, Kulia, cheers to 100 days! Let’s pretend none of those stories are about us and drink some wine tonight while we watch This Is Us.

Sound good? Say yes because you have to.

2017.07.02

 

 

Vee 2.0

Have you ever looked at yourself, fresh out of bed, with sideways hair and sheet creases on your face and thought, “Where the eff did I take a wrong turn?”

This was me. Almost two years ago I sat down with myself and I said, “Self. Let’s do this. Let’s go all the eff out, balls to the walls, and buckle down and get it done.” I was talking about my choices in life, that albeit were fun and all, but they weren’t always healthy. I knew I needed to get moving. I can’t change my ass by sitting on it, right?

The thing is, a friend had asked me to join her and start making an effort to lose some ellllllbeeees and after I gasped (HOW DARE SHE?! Where’s the GIRL CODE?) and got over my damn self, I realized she was right. I was the queen of hiding behind the camera, smacking a kid right in front of most of me, of the perfect angles, or just taking it chest up. You were either getting close ups or inauthentic Vee. That’s just the damn truth.

Sometime in these past two years, I got busy. Like, way busy. Busier than usual. A lot of it was my own fault, and Ku often jokes that I get restless when my plate isn’t overflowing (well, duh, I AM LATINA). While I admit that is partially true, the reality is that last year I handled it pretty well, considering. I was really kicking ass (my own) at keeping with my commitment to change my lifestyle and share it with my friends. I was posting progress photos and just feeling so damn empowered and strong. Strong as all get out. Ubes strong.

And then something changed inside of me. I started to let my overflowing plate create a shadow in my mind. Slowly and then all of a sudden, working out wasn’t my priority. Clean eating went out the window. A cheat every now and then became every damn day. EVERY.DAMN.DAY. I recognized it happening and kept telling myself it was ok. I deserved it. I could take a break and it would be fine because who is anyone to judge me?

Except, I was judging myself. All of my shame gremlins that I had worked so hard at shutting up started to grow and get louder. I mean, visually that is how I see it. These little nasty creatures that chase me and bog me down with self-loathing. I mean, Grinch, get out da way! I am giving him a run for his money! I constantly tell Ku how upset I was with myself, how ugly I felt, how I was just ballooning (I mean, quite literally) back to the old Vee. I stopped posting about my self-care because it would have been a lie. I wasn’t working out, I was eating whatever I damn well wanted to and I was sure as hell not trying to post progression photos. Who would even want to see that? Wouldn’t I just be proving everyone right? I mean, especially myself. I was already in a funk. Can you imagine what posting a reverse transformation would have felt like to me?

The thing is, motivation is a sword. It’s either a tool or taking your life.

So, where am I today? I’m in student mode. Learning. I learned, so far, that it takes waaaaaaay more work to lose inches and pounds than it does to pack it back on. No matter how you do it, no matter how you did it, it’s coming back if you stop. I think I told myself I just had to put the time in now, because I’ve given enough of my life to being unhealthy and overweight, and I could rest. I told myself if I spent 14 months eating healthier and being conscious of what I ate that I could just have a good ole time with food for three. Now I’m learning that fun is a sometimes thing, not every minute of your day. I’m learning that self-love is always a work in progress, just like the rest of me. I’m learning that I have to start over because I clearly stopped at some point. And I’m learning that nobody will ever judge me as harshly as I judge myself. I think, anyways.

So, why put this out there again? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because I don’t fit in my clothes anymore and you might start noticing me wearing the same things in all my pics, or maybe because you’ve wondered and I feel like I owe you all some super, SUPER awkward authenticity…

Or maybe it’s because you might feel a lot of what I’ve been thinking and you’re thinking mean things about yourself and trust me, you are not alone. Over the past two-ish years I’ve had the honor of having some pretty damn phenomenal ladies in my workout groups and you know what?

I’m joining hands, linking arms and taking the plunge with my fellow boss babe, Erin, to get you back on track. Because we are getting back on track and we freaking need you. We need fellow friends on our side who also want to be uplifted and cheered on. Do you need a little nudge, some love pats and a program that will help you get that ball moving again? Or moving for the first time?

Reach out to us. Send a message. You can even start it with some BS like “Hi!” We will get there. We will get you on board and more importantly, we will show you some love. Being unhappy with yourself is hard. We get it. Mostly because we are there, too.

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Oct 2014                                         Aug 2017                       Sept 2017                                                                

Raising Men

 

 

 

littleloves

Back when they were super cute and easy to handle. No, wait, that’s wrong. Easier? Agh, forget it. They were little.

This has been a tough week to be a growing man in our household. And it is only Wednesday, friends! What the hell?! Is Mercury in retrograde or WHAAAAT… Often times the boys will take turns on who is going to give us the most grey hairs but every now and again we are reminded that life isn’t fair because they all wake up on the wrong side of their bed and collectively come down and play Who-can-be-the-biggest-A-hole all at once. It’s fantastic.

Yesterday, which was only TUESDAY, was a real effin treat and I thought to myself, people think we have it easy. I don’t know why, I don’t understand what is giving them this impression, but it’s not true. Since forever, when I would be out with all three at once, old ladies would stop me at the grocery store or wherever and make sure to tell me how blessed I was. Never mind that this mostly happened in Hawaii and almost all the grandmas were Asian. Having three boys made me a LUCKY GAL to all of them. A hero walking amongst the commoners, with the golden uterus that only pushed out males. I didn’t take that crown so easily. Mostly because I didn’t feel lucky. I will say, though, that I never imagined myself with girls. I just don’t think I could have done this world any favors trying to raise a boss babe. I’ll leave that work to my darling gal pals who are crushing it in terms of raising empowered, strong, brave ladies.

allfive

The fam bam

In the meantime, I’m over here, surrounded by crotch scratchers who love to fart and talk about things that are downright gross. Doing things that girls would never do because they’re all natural princesses who’s hair falls in perfect ringlets. No? I’m dreaming, you say? Huh. I was sure that was the law of the land. I get asked a lot how we do it. Ku and I both. “How do you do it? How do you raise three boys into gentlemen?”

Oh maaaaaaaan, am I glad you asked, because here come a whole heck of a lot of truth bombs. Buckle up.

#1: All boys are different

Whoooooaaaaa, did I just blow your mind there? What are you TALKING about, Vee?!? Yes, friends. I don’t lie to my fraaaaaans. While there are absolute similarities between my three boys, holy mooooosssseeeeessss, was I surprised at how each is their own person. One is quiet and awkward, one is articulate and political, with the remaining one athletic, stubborn and sweet. Yes, all those words can go together because I’m the one writing this. I’m the expert on making all the mistakes with them and so I get to choose how to string my words together. What I’m really trying to say, though, is that each one of them has to be handled uniquely. We use different tones and tactics with each one sprinkled with a healthy dose of losing our ish almost all the time. I’m not perfect, friends.

threecrazies

When they upset me more than usual, I look back at old pics that make me smile. It’s the easiest way to get over the moment.

#2: It’s okay to lose your ish

That leads me right to this point. We are not without our own faults and one of mine is I can have goads of patience for almost any other little but if my own spawn come at me with ‘tude or sass or utter ridiculousness, I.WILL.LOSE.IT. I will start to huff and puff, roll my eyes, break out some serious sarcasm, and then say something like, “Are you friggin KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?” And then they shape up. Seeing the whites of my eyes really freaks them out. And when friends ask me how to not lose my cool, I have some suggestions but I always throw in that sometimes you will just lose it. And as long as you don’t rage on your children, it’s okay. We’ve all been there and we get it. It happens.

 

#3: I make up punishments that I hope I don’t get my bluff called on

Abraham used to be a total little ish to get to go the eff to sleep. He was so naughty. We yelled all the damn time at him to just close his eyes and stop talking. All.the.time. So, one day, I told him that if he kept it up I was going to make him sleep all by himself in the car. We didn’t have a garage then, we had this tiny little duplex in Lynden (so I wasn’t worried about his safety) and this carport four steps away where we parked Ku’s car. I didn’t really mean it and he figured that out and I remember like it was yesterday that Kulia turned to me and said, “Now you have to follow through,” which made me even more mad, because of course she was right and I never really meant it. All I’ll say about that is that luckily the cops weren’t called on us because he LEGIT screamed bloody murder in her backseat. But he went to sleep when we let him back in, so who’s winning?

#4: Bodily functions are funny. And safe in our home.

We try our damn hardest not to be pretentious. Not in our house. We allow burping, farting, itching, adjusting at your heart’s content. They have to be able to do it somewhere, guys. We let it be with us. I’m not sorry.

#5: ADHD is a real thing

When Sam was in fifth grade, his lovely teacher called us in for a conference. “He’s not dumb but he’s testing in at below average. I think he has ADD and should be tested.” I’ll make this short. He was tested, put on a small dose of medication and subsequently on the Honor Roll. Abraham was tested and we have tried almost EVERYTHING under the sun. He is a work in progress but I bristle when people make assumptions that ADHD is this or that. Over-diagnosed? Maybe. Not real? False. Just boys being boys? I have no words. Boys are a lot of things and they are most certainly a lot of energy, usually in the form of wiggling and playing and roughhousing. Yes. Sometimes, though, something is going on in their premature frontal lobe and it all starts to make sense. Trust your instinct. It’s not always taken care of with a certain diet or eliminating food dyes or making them do one thing or the other. Just stop with that judging. Mom-ing is hard effin work and the less you judge your fellow peeps, the better this world will be. And if your son loses his $350 trumpet for the SECOND time and you yell at him in the car because you cannot contain your words, just stop and take a deep breath and be grateful he’s not living with someone else who doesn’t advocate on his behalf and doesn’t try to understand him and doesn’t just friggin hug him when he needs it. I’m not trying to be uber specific there….I’m just sayin.

#6: Boys love their Mamas

And in this case, they get two for the price of one. My three are especially lucky. Each of them (false, I have to beg the meanager) is pretty loose in handing out hugs (what can I say, I love hugging!) and I make sure to try get one in on the roughest days. Except yesterday. Yesterday was ridiculous.

halloween

We are ridiculous when it comes to Halloween. Or are we just ridiculous. That’s probably more right.

#7: Wine and coffee

I’ve already touched on how much of an anomaly I am when I’m out with my three guys. Aside from the elder adorers I gain I also have the younger ones who might blurt out, “Three boys?!?! (Insert incredulous face) How do you DO it?” I almost always blurt out, “Coffee and wine, friend. Coffee and WINE.” Emphasis on the wine. Did I mention we order it by the case? Yeah, we have quite the hookup through Barclay’s and I’ll send you a coupon code for a HELLUVA deal if you’re interested. Delivered to your doorstep and ready for the parenting magic because a) everything is funnier with a glass of wine in your hand and b) it’s okay to deal with a little help from the grapes. They are fruit, everyone. No shaming here. No shame.

#8: Not everyone is going to adore your kiddos. That’s okay

This one. It’s a conundrum. What do you MEAN not everyone is going to love the crap out of my offspring? How is that even a thing? Yeah, I know. I thought everybody would adore my littles and the reality is, they get on people’s nerves sometimes. They rub them the wrong way, maybe piss them off, say something unacceptable or just have that face that you can’t handle. They might feel like they can say that to you and it’ll be nutso because why would they think that? It always blindsides me and hurts my feelings because they are little projections of my persona. Of course it’ll hurt my feelings. But don’t fret, I’ll get over it and love on them harder. They aren’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea and I’m sorry that life is so harsh sometimes. Just keep loving them.

I’m not ending on a normal number. I’m leaving it at eight because I write this for a little bit of a laugh and a release. I fully realize that my heart is walking outside my body in three separate forms and I don’t take it lightly that one day they may be husbands and fathers. I want them to have solid foundations of love and respect with a whole lotta silly. And I want them to know I am not perfect and neither are they. Cheers to all you mamas, putting in the work and the care. We are raising the future, friends. That’s tough work.

hawaii

15 Ways I knew I was in an Abusive Relationship

15 Ways to Recognize Abuse

October is fast approaching, which just so happens to be Domestic Violence Awareness month, but in all honesty, I feel like every month is it for me. I never lose that awareness. I never lose sight of what I’ve fought so hard to survive. When I think about my previous marriage and the things I went through with my ex-husband, all the red flags stick out. I recognize them now and wish my blinders handn’t kept me from acting on them during that long ten year period, but I want to speak them now, share them, give them a voice. It’s easy to call physical altercations abuse, because it’s so obvious, but it can be more than that. It’s also harder to acknowledge…

1 – He always wanted to know where I was

While we were dating, I thought it was understandable. We weren’t together 24/7 and so he just missed me so much that he had to message me constantly and would get upset when I didn’t immediately text right back. When I was pregnant, I made excuses for it. Of course, he had to know where I was because you never know when an emergency might happen, right? It took years for me to recognize this was his way of keeping control of me.

2 – He wasn’t nice to the waiter

I see this quote making its way around the web every now and then and I can instantly think of four handfuls of occassions when I witnessed my ex being extraordinarily rude to the waiter. You can’t be nice to some people and not others. Life doesn’t work that way. This in and of itself doesn’t spell abuser, but throw it in with a few more and it’s clear why I put it in here.

3 – He constantly judged my friends

Sure, we all have a crazy friend or two that might make your significant other wonder if they’re the best person to have around. We know why they’re our friends, but it’s not always easy to explain to someone you’re trying to keep around. My ex didn’t just like one person. He disliked all of my friends and he would nitpick each of them. It didn’t take me long to figure out it was easier to stop hanging out. When I wasn’t with them I wasn’t constantly answering texts on my phone regarding where I was or what we were doing, I wasn’t leaving early because he wanted me home for one reason or another, I wasn’t defending what I was up to, or explaining who all was there. The jealousy was overwhelming.

4 – He started making me skip school/work

I was a freshman at the University of Washington when we started dating. Yeah, it was cute to be convinced to skip one or two classes here or there, but it became a constant. One time he waited outside my Socioeconomics class until it was over, to make sure I came straight home after. I called out of work a bunch because “me being gone made him sick.” It was the worst kind of manipulation and I just kept giving in because his anger scared me.

5 – His anger scared me

This is the biggest red flag. I remember sitting with a friend recently, who was adamant she wasn’t in an abusive relationship and I asked her why she was certain she couldn’t go back home. She responded that it wasn’t safe, she wouldn’t be safe because she didn’t trust his anger. It was a sort of ah-ha moment that took me right back to the first time my ex got upset with me. He yelled so terrifyingly at me that I was legitimately scared. After that incident, anytime I could see his temper rising, I went into survival mode.

6 – He put me down in front of others

Whenever I did something commendable, he found something to be negative about. Sometimes it was obvious but more often than not, he found a way to say it in a way that made it sound constructive, helpful, or even right. Not everything we do will always be amazing, but constantly criticizing your significant other in front of people is deplorable. It’s no show of love, in my opinion.

7 – He kept trying to “teach me”

For some reason he had it in his head that I was a country bumpkin that hadn’t somehow gotten herself accepted to UW, which is not an easy task. Aside from putting me down, he would mansplain what I was doing wrong, no matter what it was. He would say things like, “I guess nobody taught you this, or nobody showed you how to be respectful.” Constant mansplaining. I am not stupid.

8 – He hit me

One day, after a major argument, his sister called as we were arriving at Target in North Seattle. He pretended as if everything was okay, as if he didn’t just yell at me until I was crying and felt two inches tall. He then had the audacity to hand his sister the phone so I could say hi and be “respectful” to her. When she asked me how everything was going, I said it could be better, if only he could be nicer to me. I said, “Tell him to be nice to me.” We never made it inside Target. We left right after the phone call, drove home in complete silence and as soon as we walked in the house, he exploded. It was the first time he actually hit me.

9 – He convinced me it was my fault

“If you hadn’t disrespected me to my sister, if you would have just done as you were told, if you hadn’t kept making me upset….” Two seconds after he struck me, I was apologizing. To him. The list of what I could do to deserve him losing his cool was neverending. NEVER.ENDING. For ten years. I could have written a 20,000 word book over all of the things that I DID to justify his rage. He always successfully made me think it was my fault. It was not my fault.

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10 – He monitored my phone

It wasn’t blatant, but rather sneaky. He was always reading through my text messages. He had the passwords to my emails. Not giving him the codes to stuff caused a fight. Made him accuse me of hiding stuff. While I almost never saw him reading my conversations, he would bring them casually up in arguments.

11- He took me away from everyone I knew

Right after we were married, he moved us to Southern California on the pretense we would be by family that wanted  us in their life. That was something he always threw in my face. My family isn’t like most. There isn’t this close Sunday-night-dinners and we-are-always-there-for-you feel like some people are so lucky to have. He did have that, to a fault if you ask me, and I could not have forgotten it if I wanted to. Eight years later he moved us to Hawaii because it was his last ditch effort to try to keep control over me. Moving away isn’t what makes it wrong, it’s making contact with those you need in your life impossible that is not okay.

12 – He corrected me in front of our children

I’m a firm believer in united fronts, as difficult as they may be with the undestanding that sometimes that won’t happen. In our case, whenever one of the boys asked me a question or if they could do something, he would override my answer or decision in front of them. It took away my credibility, which I feel like we still deal with sometimes, even now.

13 – He took away my method of communications

Things got especially heinous the year we moved to Hawaii. His answer to some mistakes on my end was to disconnect my phone, take away my car, deactivate my social media and monitor me even moreso. It was like living with the FBI. Both my Mother and my BFF at the time called the police to have them come check on me, which made matters worse.

13 – He allowed his parents to disrespect me

Whatever problems couples have in marriages, there should be some semblance of respect from either family. The thing is, even though we stayed together a whole decade, he always shared my downfalls to his mother, from the word go, so she constantly put me down. He allowed it.

14 – I always defended him

When my friends, family or anyone mentioned his behavior was questionable, I immediately defended him. I was about to type that I never understood why, but that’s not true. It’s because I took it personal, as proof that I had made the wrong decision in marrying him and desperately wanted to prove everyone wrong.

15 – He threatened me

Whether it was in regards to our children and leaving to Mexico with them, to “never be seen again,” or how if I left he would make sure everyone would know what a piece of shit I was, or that he would prove that I was an unfit mother, he would find the threat necessary to keep me from dialing 911, to keep me from seeking help, to stop me from leaving and to make me stay.

 

I haven’t even mentioned money. It’s a trigger for me. Yes, all of the above can be at any time, but finances and feeling like I have none will send me into a tail spin panic attack faster than you can say moola. Money stresses me out. Still. To this day. The thing is, domestic violence, which one in four women experience severe physical violence from their significant other, is a systematic pattern of power and control. It is not always physical. In all my reminiscing above, only one bullet point is about him putting his hands on me. The one constant component in each of my examples, is the constant effort to maintain both of those over me. Power and control.

My wish is that none of my friends have this in their relationships, but if you do, there is help. There is always help. Leaving isn’t easy. God, I know that is absolute truth. It doesn’t even end what was going on, because then, being “out of control” they become even more unpredictable, begin to harass and stalk and text ugly ish to you. Leaving is not easy, but it’s doable. And whether you’ve dealt with this for one day, month, year or decade, you can save yourself.

For anonymous, confidential help available 24/7, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) now.

If you’re in immediate danger, call 911.

You don’t understand

comparison

Not too long ago, someone randomly came in to my office at work and began telling me their life story. This in and of itself isn’t rare. I’ve shared how people tell me things. Unbeknownst to me as to why, I hear a lot of people’s secrets, feelings, unplanned thoughts, odd life stories, etc. It’s been known to drive those around me crazy. My ex used to get so upset, not only because strangers talk to me, but because I always respond. I attribute that to my father, who taught me to reciprocate courtesies. “If someone takes the time to say thank you, pay them that same respect by saying you’re welcome. Don’t just nod or say mmhmm.” It’s always stuck with me. Incidentally, when someone throws some salutations my way, I reply back. I smile at them. I make eye contact.

One night I was in Safeway grabbing some last minute groceries and I was working my way up to the registers. I cut up the personal care aisle and was about to pass an elderly lady looking at some products, confused. She turned and gave me this “Help me,” look. I couldn’t exactly explain why, but something propelled me to say hi. She reached out, grabbed my arm gently, much like my grandma or a family member would. Soft but purposeful, loving yet attention seeking. She had a box of Monistat 7 in her other hand and a look of concern in her soft, tired eyes.

“Does this work?” she asked me. Not in a creepy, weird or inappropriate way. There was a sincerity to her tone, mixed with a slight hinge of embarrassment. I remember standing there, grouping my thoughts together. Whatever made her decide to turn and ask me shouldn’t be discounted, right? She deserved some help in my book, without judgement. I could have easily kept walking and pretended I didn’t hear her but that’s never been my style. We talked and I remember walking away feeling lighter, like I had helped someone when they really needed it.

So flash forward to me, sitting in my office one day with my door open when someone stumbles in and shuts the door. While I don’t like being caged in by people I’m not super comfortable with, someone I hardly know, I recognize that she’s needing a pair of ears and some heartfelt time. Before I can ask how she’s doing, because sometimes people need coaxing to tell you why they want to chat, her mouth opens and the word vomit spills forth. Stories are being spewed in a rushed, emotional way. There’s a smidge of anger fueled by a whole lot of hurt in her words. She hasn’t had the best life. I hear instances of being forced to choose between two shitty options. I pull up a chair, allow her to sit and just listen. I see it coming before she does, there’s no doubt in that. This also happens to me, so I greet that old friend of comparison and stay still.

“You don’t understand. You have someone who loves you. You’ve never had the shit beat out of you. Your kids don’t hate you. You don’t get hateful comments thrown at you for being ugly. I don’t even know why I came in here. You have an easy life and I’m just a loser. You don’t get it.”

I let her say that to me. She was comparing her chapter 15 to my chapter 35 and while it doesn’t make sense, why she came in to my office and told me things that made me want to cry, I let it continue. You see, she didn’t know my stories and I wasn’t about to interrupt her. People need to be loved and listened to and it has to start somewhere and somehow that gets lost sometimes. What she also needed in that moment was a lack of judgement because I could see how that one word has caused her so much strife in her own inner value. Somehow, in my upbringing, I became really adept at compartmentalizing and being “stage ready” as I call it. Growing up in a restaurant and working in it from a very young age made me build a chest where I stored reality so that when I was out and about, mingling with our patrons, I wore a mask of happy.

It’s one of the first things Ku shared with me when I started to open up to her. She thought I was happy. It’s not admirable, friends. It’s more of a coping mechanism I’ve developed which really only makes it harder for me to deal with my own demons. I could venture to say she never expected to hear what I shared with her. That’s how good I was at being “on.” So while I’m sitting here listening to a tortured soul assume that I have the greatest life on Earth, what I say is, “We all have battles we are fighting.”

It can be the Mom battle, because we have this vision of motherhood and how we will excel at it in our head. We tell our friends and family things like, “I will never do this or allow that and NOT MY KID….” before we have babies. We see others raising theirs and we shake our heads at their inability to do whatever we deemed is right in our book. Or we see Moms who look like they got it down pat so we find whatever we can to criticize that because how dare she look so perfect? It can be the health battle and how we cannot believe so and so tried that shake or this diet and “maybe try eat less shit.” We can’t lose one effin pound so when they have success we tear them down. “She needs a burger. Vegans are dumb. Oh, another gluten free idiot, because how could they? It most certainly can be the relationship battle because they can’t be that happy because that’s all they post or how can she let him talk to her like that? We mock their highlight reel and we mock their low moments because judgement is a given in this world.

Before we know it the “I would never” becomes our truth and we are so caught up in our own little wars that we don’t notice those around us waged in their own battles, too. That old friend comparison sneaks in and we can’t shut her up because she’s loud and she’s everywhere and we are failing. We begin to break down those around us because maybe that’s what helps us for a fleeting moment but in reality, we all need to feel loved, heard and understood. We need each other to make it. Something I’ve really grasped lately is that it takes a village. Yes. Not just for the raising of the little humans, but for us, too. It takes a village to get so much done. So if you find yourself speaking with someone else, maybe take a moment and don’t assume they don’t understand. Ask them if they do. You might be surprised by their answer.

And if you see someone reaching out to ask you a hard, embarrassing question, do them the honor of at least hearing them out. Ok? Because life is hard. It takes strength to ask someone for help. Especially if they don’t know you. And if you feel like you know someone with a “perfect” life, befriend them and listen to them tell you about their struggles. Really, really listen.

Now go forth and do some good in the world. Say something nice to someone if you find yourself making a judge-y inner thought about them. It just might be what they need to hear today.

poehler

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.