The End (part two)

…continued

I am frantic now. I want to get down the stairs and away from him. I don’t make it to them before he grabs me again. I don’t turn to him. Instead I gaze down the fourteen cement stairs, wondering where I would have gone even if I had a jump start on him.

Where are you going? To her? And you’re just going to leave your kids here? What kind of mother does that? Oh, I get it. You’re repeating history. Your mom walked out on you so you’re following in her footsteps.

He’s whisper-hissing it to me and I’m scared. He does this. He uses any memory I’ve ever shared with him against me when he wants to cut me down. He knows anything about my childhood or my children will suffice. He likes to boast that his childhood was better because his parents had money and they never divorced; he didn’t grow up in a trailer or at a restaurant booth. His mom always made him school lunch and went to his sports games. This is his go-to every time he wants to make me cry because it is easy and it is efficient.

And then the switch. The one that makes my resolve waiver. It happens suddenly and takes me by surprise.

Let’s go back inside. This got out of hand and you’re shaking. Are you cold? It’s not too cold out here but maybe you are shivering because you are always cold. Here, let me help you get inside so you can get warm. Give me your hand.

I look up, into his eyes. His pupils are relaxing, just like the lines around his eyes. None of tonight is going how I’m used to and this uncharted territory has adrenaline just pumping through my veins. I nod, because I don’t trust my voice. He guides me back inside, gingerly, like maybe I tripped and scraped my knees on accident, by not paying attention to where I was stepping. As we are nearing the front door, I hear the downstairs neighbors on their balcony, chatting quietly. Maybe they heard and they’re contemplating calling the police. I can’t decide if I like that idea or not because thoughts aren’t sticking in my mind right now. It’s unfocused and all over the place and I just want to take a nap. My eyes hurt, my head hurts, my body hurts. Something drips in my eye and I don’t know if it’s blood or sweat or tears. Lord knows I have literally put all three into this marriage. I try to be quiet because I know he is trying to be. He probably heard the neighbors, too.

This moment reminds me of this one time when we had to stay with his sister and her husband in Tijuana. They lived in this small three bedroom condo. The buildings were interesting; two condos per floor. The front doors were close to each other and one night, he and I heard the neighbor on our floor get home. He sounded loud and angry, drunk and wild. He wanted to get in to his home but his wife heard him coming, heard something that told her otherwise and she had dead-bolted her heavy metal screen door. He couldn’t get in. He pounded on it for so long, made enough racket that she finally relented and the moment he got in, he began beating her to a pulp. We could hear it. Could hear each blow landing, things falling around them, her screaming at him to stop. It was harrowing and traumatizing and I implored him to help her. When he did she ran out of there, straight into our open door. Together, her and I hid in the bathroom, where I helped clean up her face with a wet washcloth. Once the police arrived, other neighbors had come out and were standing on their balconies, unsure if they should help or not. I imagine this is my neighbors tonight. Unsure of what to do.

We get inside the apartment and he walks to the bathroom to wet a washcloth for me. A chuckle escapes my lips; now the washcloth is for me. I reach for a hoodie and sit on the couch. It isn’t very comfortable but it’s a lovely shade of eggplant. He comes out and hands me the washcloth and I just set it next to me because I don’t even know what it is for, other than to remind me that I messed up again.

I’m leaving, I croak out. I say it and instantly know this is it. This time I mean it. My voice is hoarse so I decide to repeat myself twice. I’m leaving. I’m leaving, and a large shudder goes through me; I’m uncontrollably sobbing because I’m so scared. He reaches slowly for my hand.

Can we talk about this? I didn’t do anything. Let’s not blow this out of proportion. I didn’t hit you.

You put your hands on me and pushed me with all your might down to the ground. I couldn’t breathe. That is not alright, I respond.  I’m leaving. This is it. I’ve been saying enough for ten FUCKING (my voice is elevating now) years and I have to fucking mean it! I am so loud now but I can’t help it.

We sit there, for at least another hour, as he pleads to work on things and I incessantly repeat I’m done and I’m leaving. I stand up numerous times and he keeps pulling me back down and then finally he doesn’t so I head for the door. If you’re going to lord the boys over me and won’t leave yourself, then clearly it has to be me. Please tell them in the morning that I will see them soon and I love them.

He follows me out. Please let me drive you somewhere. Please don’t just walk off into the dark night. Not at this hour. Let me drive you somewhere.

Fine. I agree and he locks up the house with my three babies inside it and we drive away. I’m worried but it should only be for ten minutes. He can drop me and get back to them. There’s almost zero conversation on the drive. I ask him to take me to the Safeway closest to her house and he parks in the garage. He turns the engine off and puts his hand on my thigh.

I’m begging you to rethink this. Don’t get out of this car…, and with that he locks all the doors. I’m still crying because I never really stopped, except they’re silent tears just spilling out like a lazy fountain. Don’t do this. Nobody will ever love you like I do. Think about what you’re doing to this family.

All I do while he’s talking is shake my head and repeat that I’m leaving. I have no other words left except those.

Give me my phone back, then, he angrily says. We’ve been sitting here for half an hour and I just want him to get back to the boys because I can’t anymore. I can get to her house on foot so I slam the phone down in the console. Fine! Take the phone. Take whatever you want. I’m getting out and I’m leaving.

No, okay, you’re right. Keep the phone. Here. Please, take it back. Take it back, he exclaims because I’m saying no as my body continues to shake. You’re such a bitch, he yells at me. Take the fucking phone! I grab it and reach for the door but he starts the car in one fell move and begins reversing. He shifts into drive and begins accelerating and then I have it! I get the lock undone somehow and open the door and before I know what I’m doing, and miraculously before he can reach over and grab me, I friggin jump out of the vehicle. I  take off running to the opposite side of the garage, away from him. I cut through some parked cars and across the street in front of me, fast and crouching with my footsteps matching my heartbeat. I keep running up a short hill of an apartment parking complex and duck between two cars. I have no idea if he’s behind me because I didn’t turn around once. I watched too many horror movies to know that wastes your time. I wait a few seconds and peek over the parking wall in front of me towards the store. My heart is pounding so loud; I shake my head because I can’t hear anything except that. Luckily there are no outside lights near me so I’m covered in darkness. I see him exit the parking garage as if he’s leaving and then circle the store and reenter on the opposite side. He does this two more times, driving slowly through it. When he leaves the last time, he drives down the road I had crossed. I can hear the car with its unique rattle, slowly going by and I hold my breath. I’m so scared he will find me. Why didn’t I run further?

I frantically turn my phone off so he can’t track me and just sit between two Lexus sedans, on the ground, in the dark, counting seconds in my head. Every so often I hear a vehicle driving by and I exhale with relief when I realize it isn’t the Jetta. After what feels like at least seven minutes, I peek up over the wall again.

Nothing.

The street is deserted and quiet. I wait some more time, try to relax my breathing, and then walk out from between the cars and back down the little incline toward the store. I barely feel the steps because my body is buzzing with adrenaline. I am vigilant and hyper aware of any vehicle I see but so far, so good. I decide to turn my phone on. Luckily he hasn’t texted yet but he might soon because our apartment is only 10 minutes away by car. I might have already burned that up so I dial Kulia fast. It goes to voicemail so I try again, immediately. Finally, she answers groggily; it’s already 2 am.

Can you pick me up? I ask her. Her next question is crystal clear as she asks if I’m alright. Please come pick me up, I respond, trying not to sob into the phone. My voice is desperation and she hears that. She asks where I’m at and I tell her I’ll be at the intersection by Safeway, right in front of the stop sign. Less than ten minutes later I see her pulling up and I jump in, still shaky but feeling safer. She holds my hand the whole way to her place and we collapse on her bed. I don’t say much and she doesn’t ask. She takes my phone and turns it off because the texts are starting, and we collapse on her bed. As she pulls me in she moves some hair out of my face and then maybe feels something. A knot or a bump on my head. Maybe a couple. Her hand is soft but I still wince because it hurts so bad. I fall asleep in her arms, finally calming my body down.

In the morning, when I finally turn my phone back on, I have 24 missed calls and 57 texts.

Time to Forgive Myself

uwvee

UW from the get-go

The only college I ever knew I wanted to go to was the University of Washington. From the beginning of time and without real reason it was on my list; the list of one. The idea of university made no sense to me, for whatever reason, except for UW. I made posters and cheered for them at the Rose Bowl growing up. I wore t-shirts and recited to everyone how I wanted to go there.

Adults would pat my head, in a belittling manner but without that intention. “Yes, dear,” as if to pacify a bratty child. I knew what I wanted and they didn’t care either way. My parents opened their Mexican restaurant when I was almost six years old. I grew up in it and with their regular patrons. The thing is, unexpectedly, you become the child of the town. Those who dine with you take an interest in your goals and your life. They tell you their thoughts and expect you to heed their advice because they’ve earned it. They’ve had dinner with you for the last ten years, for gawd’s sake.
For one important reason that I don’t have to share, I decided I wanted to be a neonatologist. A smaller part of this decision was that I loved helping people, including bandaging their wounds and holding their hands as they were brave. Medicine came to mind. Somewhere along the way a friend shared her college story about sociology and what that means. Okay, I thought. I’ll major in pre-med and minor in sociology. That made sense to me. Easy peasy.
I was an avid student but I didn’t force myself. In AP history in high school, I was excited to hear I had passed it and would have college credit. My teacher announced his astonishment, “You passed!” he exclaimed incredulously. I don’t think he could believe it but I could. I wasn’t surprised. I had worked for it. Kind of.
I remember the time coming to apply for colleges. I already knew my plan. I was only going to apply for the University of Washington, even though a certain classmate told me that if I got accepted, it was due to affirmative action. With a lot of hope and a little hard work, I applied. I didn’t care why, if they did say yes. I just wanted a yes.
And I was accepted. I’ve skipped over a lot of ups and downs in life because that isn’t what this is about, but don’t mistake that this was a feat. I didn’t come from privilege. This was exceptionally wonderful and I knew it. My father didn’t want me to go so far away; a spectacular scholarship from Western was part of the reason. If I stayed and attended WWU, I would have essentially zero debt at graduation. That was not the case for UW.
So, in true Vee fashion, I left. The day after graduation (my mom still reminds me of this) I packed up and moved south. I began classes in September and was ready to thrive.
Except, that was not the case. UW was hard. There were more students in some of my classes than my entire town growing up. UW slapped me back to reality fast and I was not prepared. It grabbed my confidence out of my hand and hurled it to the floor like a glass snow globe. It shattered when it hit the tile.
Fast forward to my last semester. I had moved out of my dorm to rent an apartment with a friend who then bailed because she lost a job, I had met a guy, and I was struggling to make it through my first year. Every decision I could wrongly make, I did. It was defeating me. I had practically zero visits from family, almost no friends in Seattle, my first failed class under my belt, and a full-time job. I was overwhelmed.
This isn’t a hate message to my loved ones. I made my decisions and I fostered or didn’t relationships then. I love my family, and it’s complicated. Relationships aren’t always pretty and I love my mother and father. Our relationship isn’t perfect. We managed how we could or how we knew when we needed to and so no judgement or finger-pointing. Life is what it is. I was alone. What I’m saying is I’ve consistently disappointed myself. Them, too. I learned not to expect for them to be there.
In my last class of the day, the teacher had a lackadaisical approach to school. He gave us three assignments on the first day and told us we could attend or not attend, but before a certain day the three assignments must be turned in. I thought it was wonderful. I had so much I was juggling that the idea of being in charge of my workload was exhilarating. Except, I knew shit about managing my workload. What my ears heard was that I could work an additional hour at my bank job and I could glean by imaginary osmosis whatever information I needed to complete my three assignments.
Days and then weeks went by. Little by little I chipped away at the first two assignments. Maybe that actually took months because before I knew it, two weeks were left before the end of the term and one assignment was outstanding. And I hadn’t attended class so I had absolutely zero idea on what my approach to the assignment would be. I frustratingly shared my concerns with my boyfriend at the time, who was a hop, skip, and a jump from becoming my husband.
He was living with me at this point. I had been drowning trying to pay this Seattle apartment on my own and he arrived, like a knight in shining rent assistance. I was terrified of bad credit, which is pretty fucking ironic since he singlehandedly ruined mine shortly after. I digress. I had been offered extra hours at work because I was excelling there unlike at school and he saw an opportunity. He offered to write my paper, stated he had taken a similar class and would be well equipped to get me a decent grade.
Not once had I cheated in school or in college. I argued with him for a long while, convinced I could do this paper and work the extra hours and give him the attention he demanded. He wasn’t so sure and he let me know it. Through gaslighting and manipulation, he convinced me. With pure words because he had never hit me up to now. He would write this paper and I would go to work and all would be well.
I came home and he had it. Beaming with pride he held it up, excited to show me his masterpiece. I read it in awe and with disdain. It didn’t sound like me at all, was an opinion I never would have taken. I was one day away from the due date so he proposed driving it over in that instant. I was hesitant. It didn’t feel right; it had never felt right. I knew this was wrong and yet I didn’t know what to say. I rode in silence to the university with him, walked begrudgingly to the required building. He accompanied me most of the way. I was alone in front of the mailbox and I really thought for a moment about what kind of person I wanted to be; what kind of person I already was. Somehow, cheater won and I slipped it into the professor’s mailbox.
It should come as no surprise that I was called in for an investigation into plagiarism. Absolutely the most embarrassing moment of my life, up until then. I entered the room downtrodden and listened as the student investigator told me that the paper had been copied, word by word, off the internet. I never fought or lied. I confessed right away. Other classes I had worked so hard to pass were brought into question. I was humiliated sitting in that room, trying to advocate that this had been the first time, as ridiculous as it might sound. I was placed on academic probation.
I dropped out of UW after that. Embarrassed and feeling defeated, I succumbed to working entry-level bank jobs. Even when I would be promoted I would berate myself. The damage had been done. Months later I found out I was pregnant with Samuel. It was literally the day before I married his father. I didn’t want to go through with any of this but that cemented it for me. I was stuck with this person who at this point was already physically abusive. This was my life for a decade. When I shared my pregnancy with restaurant friends, they expressed their disappointment. “But you’re so smart,” they said to me. “I can be smart and still have a family,” I had replied. I meant that. They were disappointed in me, too.
It wasn’t until a few years after Kulia and I were together that she decided to return to school to get her bachelors though an online university, WGU. During the first two years, I watched her and felt inspiration growing. Since four days after I turned 30, I had been rewriting my shitty first draft, living afraid but doing the things, regardless. It had been almost twenty years since my time at UW. I took a deep breath and applied amidst my terror. I made the decision to tackle my fear head on, panic attacks, doubt, fear and all.
Studying for WGU was a lot of work but manageable for me and I firmly believe that it was because of my audacity to prove to myself I was smart enough, and capable enough, and willing enough. All things I could have done two decades prior but wasn’t strong enough to follow through.
I kept it to myself, minus my wife and best friend knowing. Why? Because I was doing this for myself and I wanted zero outside noise. Someone once told me that they viewed themselves like an open book, just like me. Except, I’m not an open book. Not at all. Many people talk to me but few know me. I didn’t want to share this. I wanted to get through it on my almost sole belief that I could. Without complaining or excusing myself or quitting. Did I doubt myself? Hell yes. Did I question myself? Hell yes. Did I reprimand myself? Absolutely. But not once did I quit.
WGU gives each student a mentor. Aside from Kulia, my mentor, Chris, helped cheer me through this program that I successfully completed in two years. We had weekly calls where he figured out how to motivate and push me, I figured out how to sidetrack our convos into chatting about anything besides school, he would bring it back to school and I would ramble and doubt myself. He asked me during our first convo if I could handle this when things got tough.
What if someone dies that you’re close to? How will you handle school?
I think I can manage, I told him.
Yesenia. My grandmother. My uncle Bill.  I did what I could while being there for them how I could. It made me want to push school aside but I didn’t.
Two years of working a full-time job, raising children, trying to workout and balance life. It was hard. It was exhausting. I had to put things on the back burner, like Island Time with Vee. And running. It made me question my sanity. Not once did I think about cheating. Not once did I think I wasn’t smart enough. The more I passed, the more I gained back the confidence I had once had. The teenager, moving to a new city on her own, didn’t give an eff who came to see her or not, doing her thang, confidence. I felt myself blooming.
And then, my last class was here before my capstone. It was information systems and was all about computers and I hated EVERY.DAMN.SECOND of it. It dragged. I half-assed it and thought that was enough and cockily asked for approval for the final exam. Then I failed it. My last damn test, slapped me right back to nineteen year old Virginia sitting in front of a student investigator admitting she wasn’t good enough for this. I beat myself up about it, I berated myself. I almost allowed it to defeat me.
Except between Kulia and my mentor, Chris, they wouldn’t let me. They said what I needed to hear, lifted my spirits when I wanted to break myself down.
This is your mile 12, Kulia reminded me. The hardest mile of my half-marathon five years ago. She was right.
You didn’t come this far to just come this far, Chris told me. Gawd, he was freakin right.
I put my head down and in the midst of a global pandemic, I passed that final class and began the last mile of the longest run I had taken. And within a couple weeks, I conquered my capstone.
And without further adieu, I present my bachelors in Human Resources Management.

 

Degree earned the week of my birthday.
The end.

If I Were A Critic

It is no secret that I love Christmas. It should come as no surprise then, that when I began to see the recurring trailer for Last Christmas, featuring Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, that I would do everything I could to watch it in theaters.

You know the one. It begins with Wham’s hit (do you even know how many times I googled who the other half of Wham was and still do not remember?! Ridic), sung slowly by Emilia who is forever the Mother of Dragons in my heart. You see her ice skating with Henry who is my second fave because Crazy Rich Asians (#duh). In four seconds it was the trifecta to convince me to throw money its way. It centering around some Christmas theme was extra. Literally neither here nor there. I was always going to want to see it.

I dressed up for the movie, by which I mean I donned my Christmas dress that sparked a movement (if you’re wondering what movement I mean, here it is: Christmas Dress Shenans), complete with accessories and my gingerbread house purse. It was the most justice I could do for this feature film. I was giddy excited and hardly noticed that our fellow attendees had an average age of 65 at the cinema. That is just what you get when you choose a Sunday morning matinee time. I have to add that it made for some interesting chuckles during some exciting trailers, but that’s for another day.

As the movie began, it occurred to me that I really had no idea what it was about. My best guess at the time is that it was a typical holiday RomCom that just happened to go straight to the big screen because of its clear A list of actors. Well, buckle up and let me add that no, there will be no major spoilers here. Just me listing out all the reasons why you need to go see it, even if you hate Christmas.

Here you go, without further adieu:

Last Christmas

Ready to watch some magic!

Within five minutes of the movie starting, you realize that Catarina (played by Emilia) is a hot mess. She works at a Christmas Wonderland, which is actually now a dream for me, perpetually wearing a green elf dress. Her accessories are now legitimate wants of mine. The boot cover-ups to make them elf shoes are the best thing ever. I need a pair like I need oxygen! She is an adorable wreck. You love her instantly, even when you are cringing as she makes continuous bad choices.

She sings. This is no spoiler, as we heard that in the trailer and when she meets Tom Webster (played by Henry), he begins to help her overcome some challenges she has in nailing auditions. And, ya know, being a better human. Suffice to say that she doesn’t want to work for Santa (she is played by Michelle Yeoh, better known as the mean, unrelenting mom on Crazy Rich Asians) (and also YAY FOR WORK REUNIONS BECAUSE I LOVE THEM even though she’s a total beezy in that film) forever, either. I mean, I personally would, but to each their own.

You see, Catarina (or Cate, as she desperately wants to be called) cannot figure out how to turn her life around or who she even really is. She is a continual screw-up. Her sister is the shining star. They can’t stand each other because they both think the other gets more attention (sounds about right, right?). She has a fledgling relationship with her mother. They are a family of immigrants. I can relate with so much of it. Well, minus the singing. I mean, I do it anyway but I don’t sound angelic like she does. Maybe I should move my eyebrows more. I digress.

Tom slowly helps her regain some confidence, reminds her how to see people (but like, really see them), and to stop taking your village for granted. He refuses to be a slave to his cell phone. He asks her to eat better. He volunteers at a homeless shelter and takes her there to see it on their “second” date. There are mental health struggles, poverty, racism, lack of accountability, struggling relationships. Even when it is being cute, the film stays pretty true to a real world out there.

As Catarina begins to find her gumption and her drive, she starts to make some selfless acts. She stops being selfish and in that process, begins to find healing, both in her, and around her. She doesn’t need someone to save her or love her. She needs to do both of those things for herself, because you are the only person you can rely on one hundred percent for those things. Tom teaches her that, too.

Is there romance in this movie? Yes.

Is there comedy? Yes.

Is there almost every single George Michaels song in it? ABSOLUTELY. Get ready to sing along.

You also walk away from it with a renewed hope. Not just on Christmas, when we are most likely to reach out and help people but, in people, in general. This movie reiterates that with kindness we can break down walls, because we never really know what people are going through. We all have battles we are fighting. And the best love story is when you begin to love yourself.

And if you have a beating heart, you will love this film.

I just know it.

lastchristmas2

I don’t own the rights to this photo.

Before it was Cool

In high school, I was lucky enough to be the vice-president (or was it secretary…I legitimately cannot remember) (or Treasurer, was that a thing?) of the Honor Society at my school. A close friend of mine was the President and somehow we were tasked with the very important job of putting on a school dance towards the end of the school year. This dance was called Tolo.

Our school, and maybe only schools up in our county call it that, but really it is a dance where historically, the girl asks the guy to the dance. I have recently learned that many other schools call this concept Sadie Hawkins. Or something like that. Honestly, none of that matters. It is a school dance, more commonly known as the dance where girls would look glam-awkward and the guys would look dapper-odd. I’m clearly talking about the good ole days, where young adults hadn’t learned how to contour and do amazing makeup on YouTube and Pinterest. I mean, my grandkids are going to look so great! And they will look back at all my school dance photos and cringe like I do. ACK!

Anyway, all the other dances were put on by very reputable groups. I know you’re probably thinking that the FRIGGIN HONOR SOCIETY must be the most trustworthy group, but you would be wrong. Children that are all-knowing should be supervised. I’ll say that forever and ever, because I was that child. Anyway, I digress. The all-esteemed president and I convened, which is what I call the planning party where I convinced her we make the theme Hawaiian Luau (I KNOW) and she listened to all my crazy ideas that were very pineapple-centric. I should add that I recently took the Strenghthfinders test, where they determine your top five strengths. I think my number two was Woo. I thought that referred to my very common WOO I will yell at random occasions. No. It is my power of persuasion. Awesome. It was in full force on this senior year night.

So I got what I wanted here. A Hawaiian party where we could make a ton of decorations and not have to wear a dress and still have fun. Definitely win-win.

I asked a friend to go with me, but not as my date. I had zero interest in him and told him I would take him to McDonalds for dinner. I was that serious.

We arrived at the party and the prezzy and I went off to handle a lot of logistical, background tasks. At least, that is what I told my friend. Really, I could see he had some hopes up and I wasn’t about to encourage that. Besides, we did have some actual duties, like reminding attendees to vote for the dance royalty. I was dreading this part.

Now, yes, I recognize that our spring Sadie Hawkins dance, or whatever you want to call it, pales in comparison to football homecoming. There isn’t a float parade or special assembly for it. There is, however, still a high school hierarchy that decides the winners. You know the one I’m referring to, if you’ve ever been in high school. The pretty and cool (those are not independent of each other) kids in the fun clique all vote for whoever is next on their list. I was never in this clique so I especially saw it and the effects it had on the very large population of students who continually feel left out or unseen.

We did our announcement, reminding everyone one last time to come over and get their votes in. As we waited anxiously for the time to run out, we chatted about who our money was on to win King & Queen. I won’t lie and say it wasn’t the preppy group. I mean, they are always good looking kids! We just knew the possibilities were a small group of people. When it was finally time we grabbed the box from the rando that had been manning that table and headed back into a private room to “count them.”

Now, you’re probably wondering why that was in quotations. It is because this wasn’t the most popular dance, and even with a pretty decent number of students there, not everyone voted. The whole process could have taken us less than five minutes and we could deliver our hula girl prizes (I might not be remembering that correctly, but this was in a recent dream so let’s go with it) to the winning couples. It felt sort of exhilarating, to know the outcome before announcing the winner to a group. I can only imagine how the committee who knows Oscar, Grammy, and Tony winners first feel. We decide (it was her, the president, because she’s a math wizard) to make piles first and then count, in the event a count was needed. You know, in case that group couldn’t pick one clear winning couple.

As we started creating the piles, I got this sudden urge to rip them all up. I didn’t, but I recognized it was there. I was seeing popular after popular and realized this was probably my only chance ever to be a part of something revolutionary at this school. I mean, if you didn’t count the recent stint of suspended days I had recently served because I had “caused too much of a scene when a fellow classmate had made racist comments to a friend.” After I continued to cause said scene I also yelled for justice. How could I be suspended for defending her and he not be defended for making the racist remarks? Right? Right. End story? We both got suspended and I was 100% fine with that.

“You know,” I said to my friend, “do we really have to count these? Who would it hurt if we picked our own winners?”

She turned to me and smiled. “Did you have anyone in mind?”

I sure did. This dance was the first time, in my high school years, that I had seen a same-sex couple attend. Two ladies, looking super cute and semi-uncomfortable, had bought their tickets and shown up. There had been whisperings for the two weeks leading up to it because it was scandalous and amazing and unheard of. I was a big fan. I wanted to tip the scales and announce them Queen and Queen.

There is something to be said about growing up in farm country. You see, over and over, the normalcy of hetero relationships was prevalent. You are raised with this confusing rhetoric that you will grow up and marry a man, but not before you get some sort of post-secondary education’ you will have children but not before you buy a house, etc. Not everyone follows the rules and they suffer harsh judgement from it, however short-lived that may be. Seeing these two ladies take each other to this dance was so brave and encouraging. It also showed that our little corner of the county had more diversity than just ethnic differences.

My co-conspirator was in my corner and it made me so happy. Not that we had to help these ladies too much. If I’m being completely honest, we only “helped” them with less than ten votes. That was what helped me push my integrity aside so fast! I wasn’t the only one who wanted so desperately to see this change! My president just had one request, that I gladly accepted.

As we took the stage to announce all the winning couples, including prince and princess, my heart began to race. I was sure everyone could hear it through the microphone, that familiar boom-boom of not following a rule. The agreement had been that I would announce the two lesser royalty and she would announce the queens. And queens they were! Amidst the looks of shock were many of happiness. They came up so gracefully and danced so beautifully right after, It was amazing and we very non-discreetly high fived as we walked off the stage.

I will forever call this my greatest achievement of high school, very equivalent to fighting against racism. The thing is, nothing ever changes unless you break some rules, I suppose.

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These clearly aren’t the Queens. I don’t have a pic and even if I did, I would have to find them and get permission. This works. You get the gist of it.

 

 

 

Before the End

The lunchroom of the bank I’m working at is small and cold. It feels clinical but smells like a dirty sponge. You know that smell. It’s fetid and rank. My cup-o-noodles is sitting in front of me growing cold but I hardly notice. I’m in full-on triage mode, as I call it, frantically texting whatever I can think of to keep him from entering rage mode. Except, he is already in rage mode. Lately, it is his only mode.

Things have been more volatile lately. We have only been in Hawaii for three months and it has been a constant struggle. I work out of necessity even though my take-home is only $200 after I pay daycare. It seems ridiculous but we need every single one of those dollars to almost make ends meet. As I send another scared response, a colleague walks in to the lunchroom with a meal from some restaurant nearby and a Starbucks in hand. It looks so lucrative in her hands and I’m full of jealousy but not food. My stomach grumbles, reminding me to finish my noodles. I smile at her and make small talk, all while thinking about this stupid fight we are having, where I’ve once again messed up. It’s like I’m Matilda and Danny DeVito is yelling at me how he’s big and I’m small, he’s smart and I’m dumb, he’s right and I’m wrong. That’s what he means. He’s everything and I’m nothing. I’ve always been nothing.

I don’t remember the rest of the workday. It’s the same as every other day there, I’m sure. What I do recall is seeing a text as I packed up my stuff to head home. “I picked up the boys.” It is odd to me. They are always at the sitter’s house, which is really close to the branch I’m a teller at. I usually walk to get them and ride the bus home. This is out of the ordinary. Anything out of the ordinary in regards to him is worrisome, so naturally, now I’m worried. I reply back that I’m on my way home and head out the door, fingers crossed I’m not walking in to a warzone in front of my babies again.

I miss the bus by four minutes. Two hundred and forty lousy seconds that now equate to waiting twenty for the next one. Great. I can feel my anxiety growing, making my legs and my heart tremble. Something in my gut just doesn’t feel right. I feel my cellphone vibrate in my pocket. It is a photo of the boys in the car. Are you home? I ask him.

The phone rings and I jump because I’m fully on-edge now. I shake my head to get some of the jitters out and answer cheerily, just trying so hard to not show how scared I am.

Tell your Mom goodbye, boys! His voice is eerie because he matched my fake cheer.

Bye, Mom! They all shout at me in unison. I’m so confused. Why are they telling me goodbye? I say something like that, barely get it out, actually. I don’t know what is going on but it’s unsettling and now I’m really scared. He is unstable. But how unstable, really?

I can tell he takes me off speaker phone and I hear the nervousness in my voice as I ask him what is going on. I just bought the three of us plane tickets and we are headed to the airport. You are never going to see us again. Just remember you did this to yourself. Good luck in your life. He says all of this with a calm, terrifying tone and then hangs up. I am staring at my phone, trying so hard to process. I try calling back three times but they just go straight to voicemail. I’m pretty sure he shut his phone off. I can’t breathe. I can’t think. I have no idea what is happening. All I can do is start running home. I’m about a mile and a half away, which feels like five because I’m not a runner. I don’t workout. I have no endurance or stamina, so I run with adrenaline and fear, straight to the apartment we live in. It takes me a long thirty minutes because I keep stopping to catch my breath and dial his number again. None of the calls go through. I’ve never hated my body so much as I do in this moment. I just want to be there to stop whatever he is doing.

When I arrive at the apartment I see that sure as shit the car we share is missing. I shakily climb the fourteen stairs. They take all the rest of my energy and the last bit of hope I had. If he isn’t here, neither are they. Whatever is happening right now is a new level of terror and I cannot fathom what triggered it. Yes, I made him angry but this is out of the norm. I don’t have a key to the apartment so I lean up against the door, my forehead pressed against it, and emotionally breakdown. I have no one to call, no one to turn to so I just sob. I have been trying so hard to think Hawaii was a fresh new start but every day it is feeling more and more like I’m in solitary confinement. I keep trying his phone. My call continues to go straight to voicemail. I am utterly defeated.

An eternity goes by and then I hear it. The familiar rattle of the engine of our car and I wearily look over the balcony. There they are. The four of them getting out of the vehicle and my two oldest are so excited, holding ice cream cones in their hands. Dad took us for a treat! they yell up the stairs. They are smiling and unaware of anything going on between us. I am speechless. I watch them walk up the stairs and I cannot think of one damn thing to say.

And that was the beginning of the end.

Grow with me

beginningsAka – How to be a little better every day, with practice

Oh gosh. You did it. You clicked on this post to read my ideas on how to change something in your life, for whatever reason, because either you wanted to read this saying, “YOU DAMN HYPOCRITE,” and madly hit the X in whatever upper hand corner it appears in. Or because you think I deserve to give advice to anyone. Or maybe you’re just bored and it’s midnight on a Tuesday and you’re desperately crossing your fingers that this will be boring enough to put you to sleep.

Eek. No pressure.

All I’m doing is making a list of actual shit I’ve at least acknowledged as negatively affecting me and maybe that is the second step to fixing a problem. Or going to rehab. You never know!

First, put your damn phone down

Yeah, yeah. I don’t even need to explain it. You’re not continuing reading this thinking I’m going to give you some outrageous statistic that bitch-slaps you into realizing that by holding your phone, you’re holding hands with the devil. No wonder it’s called Apple.

I’m just saying, consciously recognize where your time goes. And if you’re one of those friends who thinks you don’t have a phone addiction, go ahead and pause your reading, go to screen time in your settings, and then think about whatever number of literal hours you see listed there. We can do better.

But don’t put it down yet. I’ve got more gems to share. And this is not permission to never respond to people’s texts or phone calls. FIND THE BALANCE!

Side note: my wife tells me to put my phone down a lot. Like, a lot a lot. I like to share our daily funsies but I think I’m getting better at choosing what and when and deciding when to put it away. With that said, nobody else tells me when to put my phone away and gets away with it. Not even my mother. So don’t even.

Second, listen to listen. Not to respond.

Yeah, it’s tough. I see it everyday. You ever feel like you’re talking to someone who just is not.hearing.you and you are getting frustrated? Well, brace yourself. Chances are, you have done it, too. I participated in an activity at a seminar once that I’d like to share. It’s pretty easy. Fairly eye-opening. You just need a counterpart. This helps you practice being engaged and active as a listener, which is essential for having real conversations. <– you know you’ve been a part of conversations that were really just someone else soliloquizing to you. Don’t front. Anyway, here is how it goes:

  1. Set a timer for one minute. Yes, you can use your phone that you just promised to put away more often. Don’t be an ass. So, one minute. Literally just 60 seconds, which turns out is not really an eternity unless you’re planking or otherwise punishing your body. Sit facing whoever you dragged into this exercise, not to be confused with the plank.
  2. Elect who will go first. I’m a big fan of the ole adage of saying, “Whoever raises their hand goes first,” as you shoot your whole arm into the air. It works like a charm and this activity has nothing to do with humility. You can go first. Someone has to.
  3. Hit go on the timer. The elected speaker (aka you) will speak for the whole damn minute about a recent, major accomplishment. You know, that in and of itself is hard because we are told not to boast. Eff that noise right now. You get all these sixty seconds to brag on about yo’self. Finding it hard to figure out what to say about it? Explain that. Just keep your lips moving until your duck quacks or your robot does the waa-waa-waa-WAAA-waa-waa-waa-waa. Mmmkay?
  4. While speaker #1 is talking, Silento needs to just listen. No interrupting allowed. They cannot open their hole until the duck or robot goes off. And during this time, they need to be actively NOT thinking about themselves, what to make for dinner, if there’s enough clean underwear for tomorrow, etc. JUST.LISTEN.
  5. At the conclusion of that minute, the silent listener will write down three questions to ask later about what speaker one spoke about. THREE. It isn’t that hard because you were listening, right?! Not waiting to get a word in?
  6. Next, set the time for one minute. Wash, rinse, and repeat. That means speaker two is up. Thundercats are go and it is their time to share.
  7. Upon that timer meowing or whatever, speaker one will write their three questions.
  8. Now, ask your questions. It can be alternating or all at once. Whatever feels right.
  9. Practice. Even if you think you are already a phenomenal listener, try this every now and then. Hone those skills.
  10. Revel in the fact you are working on listening better. You cannot control other people and how well they will listen. You can only set the example.

And if you don’t have anyone to practice with or are scared to ask because this is your first time and you get nervous, reach out to me. I’ll practice with you.

Sweep your socials

I know plenty of people who did or want to rid themselves of the social medias. Now, if you really want to, by all means. If you prefer one over the other, nobody says they’re beanie babies that you need to have a whole set of to matter. But if you’re just wanting to delete them because everything you’re seeing is negative, depressing, mean, etc, then it is time to evaluate who and what pages you are following. You are in control. I want to add that I also think it’s worthy to leave one or two sources of contention on your page so you aren’t oblivious to the stupid shit people say and do, but that’s just me. You do you.

Listen to the memes

Here is what I mean by this. I recently saw a quote (I know, they probably aren’t actually called memes. I’m just referring to the photo you can save that has inspirational ish on it, funny photos and odd captions that make you LOL, etc. I can call it what I want. You call it what you want), that said something to the effect of, I want to sit at tables that I’m not the topic of conversation of when I get up.

Dang. Can I get a HELLLLLLL YEAAAAAAH. Shitballs. That hit me like my fourth shot of tequila! I legitimately fist-pumped the air and felt instantly fired up! Who doesn’t want that? I mean, I was about to throw on my power hoops and my fave lipstick like it was a damn lava flower! You know, the one Super Mario eats? Watch out, lava balls coming your way!

Except, I also took a moment to think about the flip side, because being 37 can do that to you. Here you are aging, and also maturing! It’s the tits. When I reflected, I realized I’ve talked about people who have gotten up and left the table. Now, maybe my table is shorter and not full of directors. Yet. That doesn’t matter. I’ve still been guilty of this.

You hate excessive meetings? Don’t hold one after the initial one is over. You don’t like gossip? Don’t engage. Or better yet, say that. Literally say, “This conversation feels gossipy and I’m working on not doing that. I’m going to step away.” And I know that is awkward. I know it calls some people out. But damn it, I’m done tiptoeing around the boundaries I need to establish to make myself feel healthy. I empower you to do the same. And if you’re sitting there about to pop out of your damn chair because I’ve done this exact thing with you, just know this.I KNOW. I AM A HYPOCRITE WHO HAS DECIDED TO BE BETTER. Alright? Good. 

Don’t be that person who makes everything about yourself

There’s one thing about connecting with someone, which is empathetic. There’s another thing about making everything about you. And maybe you’re feeling called out right now. Well, lace that sneaker up and get close because I mean what I am about to say. This is important. And I don’t say this maliciously. I’m bringing awareness to it because you are still reading and maybe this might help. Chew this over. Think about it. And ask yourself the following:

  • do I read posts and then comment about myself?
  • do I listen to my friend’s problem and then comment about myself?
  • do I interact with someone and turn what they say into something about myself?

It might sound something like this…

Person A: I feel crappy today. I haven’t pooped in a couple days. **Oh shit, no pun intended! Twice!**

Person B: I am so regular. I poop every morning.

Side note: Yes, I am always person B here. I KNOW!

Or it might sound like this…

Person A: I can’t believe Carol got that promotion over me.

Person B: I get skipped all the time because I refuse to play the politics, too.

Or like this…

Person A: I cooked some amazing fish and chips last night! I am so proud of them!

Person B: Oh, we make fish and chips all the time. They’re so easy.

See? What I’m saying is, sometimes, let up on you and be about them. Don’t be a B. I’ve practiced this a lot and let me tell you, it now stands out to me like a sore thumb (who came up with that? I’ve never really noticed anyone’s sore thumbs before), and I almost want to apologize (in fact, I think I have) on behalf of person B to person A before. It isn’t pretty.

Take note of what isn’t working

This is one piece of advice that sounds easy to me but isn’t, in fact, easy to me. I love to say yes to the fun stuff. The wifey likes to plan ahead. Turns out me wildly agreeing to shenans all the time is probably giving her high blood pressure. When you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else. That’s is what Shonda Rhimes taught me and while I still haven’t forgiven her for killing off Derrick, I see what she is saying. I AM WORKING ON IT, so you go work on it, too.

I’ll forever say this. If you know something makes you an ugly person or someone impossible to deal with, be it alcohol, video games, the political shit-show that is our country, instagramming your life, having your phone out all damn day, etc then MAKE.A.CHANGE.

Never let anything hold more power over you than you yourself hold. You’re too beautiful for that.

And last but not least…

When you can, be there. For the rallies. For those who need backup. For the hard fucking conversations. For when people are fighting for their life or saying goodbye to it. For when moms need their damn village. For when we need someone to show up and just sit uncomfortably with us without judgement. Show up for who is important to you.

And when you need someone, tell someone. <–That’s the hardest thing for me so if that sentence alone makes your throat squeeze shut tightly, I feel you. Let’s figure out how to ask for help also be willing to accept it. And let’s also figure out what isn’t working. Not for just those around us. For us, too.

Let’s do it together.

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Be in a constant pursuit of what sets your soul on FIYA

 

 

Surviving

missingbeauty

I am almost 37 years old.

I am still at a point where the majority of my adult years were spent in fight, flight or freeze.

I have a lot of nightmares. Even when I am doing well and not getting bombarded with ugly memories, I will wake up drenched in sweat from trying to run away from him.

Ku and I watch movies or shows sometimes where there is a character in an abusive relationship. I’m usually shaking my head as it happens, both as a reminder that I am not that character and that I am okay, and also because I don’t get it. I lived that life for over a decade and I still can’t comprehend WHY. I’m not just saying why it happens. I’ve read plenty of articles and attended events where phrases like toxic masculinity and gender norms and rape culture are explained. They make sense and I can see where the change needs to happen. I always leave thinking YES, we can FIX THIS, TEACH THE BOYS! Except, it is deeper than that, right?

Why me, though?

Not to say it should have happened to someone else, anyone else, as long as I was spared. No. Not at all. I’m saying why did I allow it happen? Why didn’t I know better? Why didn’t I walk away? I can’t think of any situation where domestic violence makes sense. I also cannot think of one where it made sense that I would fall victim. You see, I graduated with a 3.8 GPA, honor roll, Honor Society, accepted to my first university of choice. I guess when I think about circumstances that people find themselves in, I think that education and book smarts should help play a role in how they handle themselves.

My book smarts didn’t save me.

My Dad taught me when I was young that I had to walk on the inside of the sidewalk and him on the outside because if it was reversed than guys would think I was for sale. This seems to be a pretty universal understanding, judging from popular culture. We have been taught to buy in to this belief that boys will be boys and consent isn’t always clear, and boys who are mean to you on the playground like you. That locker room talk is just that, and should be excused. Yet somehow, guys have a basic, universal understanding that if I’m closest to the curb than I am open for business.

Early on I learned that if a man behaves inappropriately to me than it is my fault. If I’m standing on a beach in Puerto Vallarta when I’m thirteen in a one-piece swimsuit and some male walks by and ogles me, I share the blame between myself and puberty. If I’m standing in a bar, chatting with the people I walked in with, and a guy walks up to me and inappropriately puts his hand on my shoulder to say things that I don’t want him telling me, I can’t make a scene because it would be rude. What I learned when I was growing up was that if a grown man did anything disgusting to me, such as rub his erect penis against my leg even when I was fifteen, it was my fault and that if I said something, I would be blamed. That easily translated to me being responsible if I was hit by my other half. We have been taught, as young girls, to be meek, quiet, accepting and to not embarrass our parents.

Before I got pregnant with Abraham, my ex and I were living in my hometown. It was a calm, beautiful summer day and my friend Yesenia had stopped by to make flour tortillas with me. My meanager, Sammy, was only two or three years old and playing in the living room. Everything was great that day, because it wasn’t always terrible. Except, my ex-husband didn’t like Yesenia and I hadn’t told him she stopped by. Of course his mom did, though and he came home from work so angry. I don’t remember the argument but I remember I got in my car and left. I drove to Yesenia’s house because I needed space. I couldn’t stay there one more second and I didn’t feel safe. I could always tell when he was going to get physical.

When I drove up to her house, I thought briefly about how he would probably guess where I was but I knocked anyway. I remember the wind blowing gently through my hair as she answered the door with a worried look and I distinctly recall sitting on her couch feeling calmer. What I can’t conjure no matter how hard I try is what he said when he called her house and made her reluctantly hand me the phone, my drive back because he threatened banging on her door until I left if I didn’t, or walking in to my house. And somewhere between the door shutting and me turning towards both him and his mom, he hit me. Hard.

She came in to the bedroom a short while later, and as I cried in to my pillow, she told me I should never have driven away, that I should never have gone to Yesenia’s, and that I should have stopped arguing before he got to that point.

I was blamed. And I spent many years thinking it was all my fault.

I’m still so hesitant to share my story. I would be lying if I said it was because I don’t want to be blamed. I didn’t deserve it then, when someone who witnessed it firsthand was quick to place it on me or by anyone who would continue to do it today.

We become a mean type of human when we use stories of survivors’ trauma to apply irrational justification. I hear a lot (usually as a joke lobbed at trying to ease the discomfort of a terrible truth that was just shared) of comments about how embarrassed my ex must be to have lost me to a woman. What I wouldn’t give for this to not be someone’s first response when we talk about something very painful for me, still.

In reality, his manhood was gone the second he hit me. The moment he dismissed my love and loyalty to manipulate me into staying. When he decided to use my feelings to make himself feel bigger. <–That is what is really embarrassing.

Bravery is an action that is hard to muster up.

I was a great student. I graduated in the top 10% of my class with a set determination to make something of myself. What took me a long time to realize was that even though I stepped back and chose to start a family over my education, I was still smart. Even though I fell into an abusive relationship, I was still strong. And when I got away, in those first few steps of freedom, I found the road lonely. I lost friendships. I fought with family. I was scared yet I was without quit in me. I was judged, sometimes to my face, even. I sat in my car and cried because I couldn’t immediately fix everything.

bravery

I rebuilt, brick by brick, my insides. Somewhere in all the mess I had made, I began to see the beauty again. One of the best discoveries was that I could use my scared, shaking voice to recount my stories, share them publicly, and discover that I was encouraging women to stand up and leave. I don’t blog as often as I initially meant to about surviving domestic violence, but every single post brings at least ONE woman forward, who chooses to disclose to me a trauma she is currently or has gone through.

That fuels my fire. Telling someone your deepest secret is a big kind of scary. To each of you who has found the strength to break your silence to me, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And know I don’t judge you.

 

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.

littlebylittle

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.

giving

 

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

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.

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