#1: Travel More

Growing up, we didn’t really vacation. A couple of times we drove down to Florida to visit my cousin, once or twice we went to Washington DC to do the same for another cousin, and every summer we made a road trip to Cleveland to see the aunts and uncles, and that was about it. In the meantime, I discovered my childless aunt and uncle traveled most of the national parks in their camper during their vacations. It was fascinating to imagine doing that.

But that wasn’t us. No, I was the kid in the backseat of the family’s light blue Chevy Impala driving down I-95 at 60 miles per hour, in the thick of the summer with all the windows down, head sticking out of said window to stay cool, as if I were the family dog. My long, fine, light brown hair would be a wild mess from the wind….and I’m surprised I wasn’t sunburnt. My cheeks always felt numb after hours of riding just like this, but hey, we didn’t have air conditioning in the car, so what did you expect me to do? Nevertheless, we were going on vacation!

Now why I didn’t think to craft a career in the travel industry, I don’t know….

But after college I found work in public accounting and along with it came the need to travel to different client sites wherever they happened to be. It was awesome. I used to go go go… and man, I loved it! At some point I was traveling five days a week for weeks on end all over the US, and I liked it so much I traveled more for vacation, visiting the friends I made all over the country.

Still, traveling constantly got old after a while, and I wanted a ‘real life’ so after several years I quit that job, married at an age you could say was a little later in life, and then finally had kids. Waiting as long as I did to have all that, I would rather spend my time with my family.

Actually, I’d rather travel with my family and we do. Rarely do my husband and I go anywhere without them, although that’s almost a function of there being very few options to watch the kids so we can have some alone time.

Still, for several years while the kids were young, the wish list of places I wanted to visit was growing faster than I had a means to satisfy it. I kept saying “one of these days”….and it never came.  3D Realistic Travel and Tour Poster Design Around the World

Enter my high school friend Barb who set a girls weekend away one of as her 2017 resolutions and she invited me to go. Me. I hadn’t seen her in roughly 30 years. I was humbled and thrilled.

Boom! That was the avalanche that started it for me. Yes, I definitely had “More Travel” on the list of 2017 resolutions but before you knew it, 2017 became a year of “yes” and “Why not?” Between fun and work this year, long weekends and bigger trips, I’ve been to New York, Chicago, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Bedford Springs (PA), Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego, Scottsdale, Traverse City, Orlando, the Bahamas, Savannah, and Amelia Island (FL). These weren’t trips with the whole family each time…these were just the trips I happened to make. Before 2017 is over, I will sneak in Raleigh, and maybe Dayton and Hocking Hills (a beautiful, hilly region in southeast Ohio). What can I say? Wanderlust is in my blood.

I’m not even sure which was my favorite! Amelia Island was beautiful. Barb and I were supposed to go to Cumberland Island to see the wild horses, but we didn’t plan properly for that. Plus the weekend we went was blistering hot. I mean, Denise-is-dripping-wet-hot. I think she realized there was a good chance I would DIE on Cumberland Island had we tried to hoof it for a day. I’m grateful she was cool with hanging at the pool.

Bedford Springs was wonderful in that it was a celebration for a friend after her winning battle against ovarian cancer. The Omni Bedford Springs is a beautiful venue, and we enjoyed our long weekend in April at the hot springs and spa.

Traverse City was a joy to see again. It had been nearly 20 years since I had been there. We took the kids over Spring Break when it was a bit too chilly to enjoy hiking the sand dunes but overall we liked it enough to want to return.

California was the big family trip this year. We crammed a ton of activities into our 10 days in the Los Angeles metro area and San Diego. This was our first time using AirBNB and our apartments were perfect. The kids thought California was exceptional and I’m so glad we got the chance to take them there. We visited Zuma, Venice, and Huntington Beaches, the Dolby Theatre, Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Hollywood sign, Universal Studios, Warner Brothers Studios, USC, UCLA, Santa Monica Pier, Beverly Hills, La Jolla and the sea lions, the USS Midway, San Diego Zoo, and Coronado. Just incredible.

My husband and I even managed a cruise to the Bahamas in early September for my birthday getaway, but it was cut short given Hurricane Irma. I’m telling you those Floridians are fearless in the face of doom. There we were, disembarking at Port Canaveral, and they showed up to their jobs to help us, cheerfully, with the storm nipping at our heels. Humbling.

So you think with all that travel, I’d get rid of the travel bug. Nope.

For the last few years, I had been targeting Iceland for my 50th birthday trip but that was before I turned the whole year into a travel adventure. I haven’t abandoned the idea: I WILL go to Iceland ideally within the next two years.  I took it as a sign from God that I’m meant to go now that Wow Airlines has cheap direct flights from Pittsburgh today and from Cleveland this May.

Iceland is not as easy to plan, though. I see pictures of places I think are breathtaking, but the names are, like, 20 letters long and well, ICELANDIC, so I have no idea how to say things like Eyjafjallajökull.  Do you? I mean, come on. Wikipedia says it’s pronounced [ˈeɪjaˌfjatlaˌjœːkʏtl̥].I still say, “huh?”

So I’m tabling Iceland for the moment, and letting the travel bug wind down for a brief moment so 2018 can be focused on some other goals.

But 2017? You were AWESOME in terms of travel. I spent a lot more than I had ever planned on all these trips but it was worth it. And I no longer feel like time is getting away from us and all the places I want to take the kids as a family. We will hit the road again in 2018 for sure, but 2017 will be a year for the memory books. 2017 New Year resolution #1 achieved, with gusto.

2017 Check-In

I really believe you need to drive the narrative of your own life, ya know?2017 plot twist

I came into 2017 with several wishes, serious resolutions, knowing that this was a big birthday year.

Man, knowing that you’ve lived half a century puts a lot of stuff into perspective. Time to stop wishing for “some day” because this is it. THIS IS IT. This ain’t no dress rehearsal, this is the show, sister!

Having taken an assessment of how things were going, I have to admit that some things in life are going better than ever, marriage and child raising among them. Don’t ask me how we pulled that off…all I can say is my husband Ryun and I have stuck together no matter what through some pretty trying times. We’re a team and we raise our kids that way. Good thing we see eye to eye on nearly everything when it comes to kids.

Don’t get me wrong, child raising – and marriage for that matter – kicks my butt. I can’t tell you how many times I feel like I am submerged in water, flailing on my tippy toes, grasping for air. I can’t imagine not working while I raise kids (ok, while we raise kids, but hey, this is my blog, so there…) but there are not enough hours in the day to devote to the kids the way I’d like. I wish I knew that going in…but I’m the breadwinner and I prefer the lifestyle I can provide for us by playing that role. And while I have always tried to succeed professionally (academically, intellectually…), I hold that Jackie Kennedy Onassis quote close to my heart:

“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”

In a departure for myself however, my goals for 2017 were not kid, marriage, or even spiritual ones. They were of the “put the oxygen mask on yourself first” nature, more personal, along these lines:

1) Travel more

2) Read more: real books, not just quick articles on LinkedIn or Facebook

3) Reboot my face, body, and overall health

4) Specifically take steps to boost my immunity

5) Move, for crying out loud: reclaim some flexibility with yoga, my favorite exercise

6) Begin writing for real

7) Finish redoing the laundry room once and for all

8) Resurrect the other home improvement I put on old until the laundry room remodel was finished

9) Start thinking about the next phase of my career

10) Get out of the house and socialize for crying out loud

I had all kinds of reasons for these goals in particular, and despite the large number of them, I made good on them the first 10 months of this year.

Why so many, you ask? What’s that definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result? I wanted different results in life. I knew it was pretty ambitious to name 10 big goals for myself but I once upon a time I was a life coach so I know a thing or two about setting goals and keeping them.

No matter how you look at it, my 2017 was much more ambitious than 2016.  Last year I specifically set one goal, and that was to eat more bacon. Everything is better with bacon. I mean, really. More bacon should be on everyone’s new year list.

I’m going to take the next several days to break down how I did with each of these goals so I can give some thought to what’s on my agenda for 2018. You may have figured out that I like quotes. This time I think of that line from Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day”:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Are you with me?

The Louie Scoop

Almost two years ago I started listening to podcasts (where have you been all my life?) in search of uplifting content to feed my brain and heart. The radio just wasn’t doing it for me anymore, and neither was the news. (Remind me one day to tell you the story of how I discovered I am allergic to CNN…)

The Ziglar Show was one of the consistently upbeat podcasts I encountered, and fairly early on in my podcast habit, I came across an interview on Ziglar with a guy named Mark Timm.  He talked about how he and his wife conduct formal family meetings at his house with their six or seven kids. Family meetings! Yes! This was an idea that I had considered for my own family once upon a time, but frankly they were a bit too young for it then.

Timm’s reminder came at just the right time. My kids were then 12, 7, and 5, and while we thought maybe we were pushing it with the youngest one, Lance – honestly, would he understand what we were trying to do? – we gave it whirl anyway, the last Sunday of January 2016. I was determined to make it a new year’s resolution so we had to sneak it in before the month was up!

Timm mentioned that when they first started doing their meetings, they had to bribe their kids with ice cream which gave me the idea: we would call our meetings the “Louie andris-romanovskis-267865Scoop.” Get your ice cream and the info about what’s going on with our little family of five right here!

In our first meeting, I printed real agendas. We went through the formal “call to order” and adjournment protocol. I walked through our expectations for the meeting which I shamelessly borrowed from work, and then we went through the schedule for the week, a preview of the month of February, goal-setting, gratitudes, some housekeeping reminders (specifically related to the state of the kids’ bathroom), and then we closed out with celebrations.  After a couple of months, we introduced character traits and “mystery question”.

Actually before we even got started, we kicked off the meeting with prayer, the little “God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food. Amen.” one, except we do it Louie style: we hold hands and let our arms do a crazy wave so we feel the energy between us when we do it. It’s not even a wave like a stadium wave, where one big swell is going around. Oh no…we have waves all over the place.  My husband introduced this form of “prayer” (ahem) to the kids one dinner when I was out of town. If it were up to me, I’d have nipped it in the bud immediately but I wasn’t there and well, it stuck.

In terms of expectations, we had four. 1) Listen with your full attention. 2) Look for the best in others. 3) Say thank you for a job well done. 4) Show humor, not at the expense of others, but to inject a little joy into the discussion. Yes, these are totally borrowed from work but you know what? They work.

And Lance, our youngest? He dutifully raised his hand shortly after the first meeting started and explained that he understood our new family meetings to be a lot like the Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Happy Kids that he was learning in kindergarten. (Yes, kindergarten. Did I mention I love our school?) We were being proactive by meeting, with our goal setting we were “beginning with the end in mind”, and by listening with our full attention we were putting “first things first”. My husband and I looked at each other with startled and bemused faces: yes, the youngest totally gets what we were trying to do, maybe even better than the older two!

In terms of previewing the upcoming month, it’s surprising to realize how much we have going on: day trips, soccer tournaments, dance competitions, camps, concerts, birthdays and anniversaries not just for our immediate family but our aunts, uncles, cousins and even the grandparents who have passed. Even though we don’t get to see our extended family all that much anymore, we want the kids to know we think of them and to remember them on their special days. It also gives us a chance to talk about their grandparents in heaven so they know a little bit about them.

Goal setting: yes, we introduced the idea to the family and got everyone to state a personal goal and then one that we could work on together as a family. As the weeks progressed, we gave an update on how we were doing with our goals and celebrated if anyone achieved theirs. This has turned into goal setting for the calendar year, summer, and school year. It’s a pretty powerful segment of our meetings, let me tell you!

Now gratitudes: we go round-robin and ask the kids to name three things they are grateful for and why. It was hard for them to come up with something at first but now their arms shoot up in the air to be the first to share, and it isn’t hard for them to come up with things to say. Even more so than goal-setting, I hope this is the one habit they always cultivate.

So why a character trait? We know kids learn primarily from example, but I wondered how we could be sure that our kids would learn everything we wanted them to know before they left our house. Our oldest was already 12! Think about it: 2/3 of the time he would spend with us was already over….and I don’t know that we lived through enough life experience together to be certain that he understood what was important to us and what we hoped would be a solid foundation to his own character, let alone to the character of our other two kids.  It’s SCARY how fast the years go!

So we started out with a list of character traits that are taught by the Heartland Education Community (https://www.heartlandorrville.com/character-education-0) in Orrville, Ohio. We ran through these for about 18 months until I got the idea for my husband and me to compile a list of values that are important to us, so now we’re working through 48 of those. We have just enough time to spend a month on each one before the oldest graduates from high school and is on his own.

Celebrations are an uplifting way for us to end the meeting. We spend a little more time lingering on the best part of the week just finished: vacation highlights, birthdays, parties we attend, school awards…whatever could possibly give us a reason to smile and cheer.

joshua-newton-275881Mystery question was one of the best additions to the Scoop! I downloaded a bunch of questions to ask your kids from Pinterest and printed them on tiny strips of paper. On the day we introduced this feature, we decided to hold that particular meeting outside to christen our new fire pit. Our oldest asked if it was true that tossing something written into the fire was like making a wish or saying a prayer and the words would make their way to God as the fire consumed them. I told him yes, people often do that as symbolic gesture, so we all agreed we would read our question to the group, answer it and then toss our question into the fire.

We took turns selecting a mystery question from the bunch I created and Lance went first. He read his question aloud: “What’s your favorite word?” and with absolute glee and no hesitation whatsoever he blurted out “FART!”

A look of horror washed over his face right then. “Omigosh, God heard me say that!” as he drew his hands to cover his mouth. “No, nooo! Not fart! LOVE. Love is my favorite word!” and little tears welled up in his eyes and his chest heaved to keep it together.

We howled in the firelight. I mean, come on. We know our kid! I rubbed Lance’s back and reassured him that while, yes, God heard what he said, he laughed in delight just like we did. God already knows Lance’s favorite word is fart and he knows that Lance has enormous love in his heart, too. God loves him exactly the way he is, just like we all do.

Honestly it was the most magical moment, that unseasonably warm November evening, with the fire casting a glow on our five faces. We were all kinda in a grumpy mood going into that meeting, but the mystery question changed everything.

I won’t pretend our kids love Louie Scoop every time we hold it. Sometimes it goes on forever, and sometimes we start it way too late in the evenings when everyone’s tired and not in the mood at all, but we find have a lot of stuff to discuss as a family. We all know we can bring a question or idea to the Scoop. And we feel out of sorts when we don’t have it every Sunday.

Just one of the ways we live, laugh, and love Louie.

 

Ice cream photo by Andris Romanovskis on Unsplash
Fire photo by Joshua Newton on Unsplash

 

Wake me up from this American nightmare

I am no fan of Trump. This is well known among my friends. Every. Single. Day: he proves he is unfit for office. It is truly jaw-dropping what stems from the man and his “administration” (“regime” seems more fitting): the level of dysfunction, stupidity, and miscommunication; total disregard for ethics, truth, law, history, decorum, civility, and allies; complete lack of compassion; the racial and ethnic division he promotes; the lack of impulse control and focus on what’s important; the chicken game he is playing with North Korea; the revolving door of bad actors who were once part of his months-long (!) administration and are already gone; and the ridiculousness of the Twitter wars he wages. I’m not talking about a random or unpopular policy position he may make – because I have had policy differences with presidents in the past. I am talking about the day-in, day-out complete disregard for the dignity of the office, the history of this country, our allies, and the laws of the land. He doesn’t know and he doesn’t care.

That’s right: he doesn’t know and he doesn’t care. America elected THAT GUY to be president.

But help me out here, folks: am I correct in thinking the craziness level has been turned up a notch in recent weeks, as if that were even possible? Turned up to 11 craziness?

The “rocket man” taunts, the “calm before the storm” tease, today’s Iran announcement, the NFL war he is compelled to wage, the feud with Senator Corker and the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, among a few thousand other enemies the man has, the threat to revoke NBC’s license, the insult to cut off aid to Puerto Rico, the defunding and piecemeal dismantling of Obamacare…. It’s endless. Orange King Chaos reigns.

I listened to a Vanity Fair interview of Preet Bharara and Sally Yates last night, on the topic of what it’s like to be fired by the president: first of all, don’t discount that it was Vanity Fair as it was an excellent dialogue, and frankly they’ve upped their journalism game. Second the interviewees were as rational, coherent, calm, technically skilled in matters of law, and patriotic as you could hope for, and they are alarmed by Trump’s behavior then and now. And third among many other observations, these two people are part of just one teeny tiny sliver of the insanity that has transpired since he was elected. Unprecedented madness.

I want the fool out of office ASAP before he triggers the next global war. Surely I am not the only one. He’s already set us back 50 years if not more socially, and God knows if we can recover globally from the damage he’s already caused.

What are all of you feeling about this? How are you coping? If you liked him before, have you changed your mind? Do you see what’s going on?

It’s exhausting to be outraged every freaking day, but I am. Almost a year later and I STILL cannot believe people deliberately voted for this guy because he is everything I imagined him to be. And yet there are people who think he’s amazing, making America great again. I don’t want to live in this America if you think this is what makes it great. I am ashamed.

These are not proud days for America. Tell me how can we staunch the bleeding of this head and heart wound?

Hey uh, when do you get to the ‘Laugh Love’ part?

Welcome to those of you already following my blog! It hasn’t even been a week that Live Laugh Love Louie has gone live but you guys are out there and made the effort. I also see I’ve drawn clicks from the US, UK, and Ireland so far. Very cool. I hope what I write moves you in some positive way.

I even know most of you followers but there are a few new folks out there and I can only imagine you may be wondering, “Hey uh……when exactly are you gonna get to the ‘Laugh Love’ part of the blog name?”leong-lok-262965

Yeah, you kinda have a point! Trust me, it will come. I actually have a pretty decent sense of humor and it comes out a lot. Probably too much at work, for that matter. Let’s just say that I have learned the value of looking at the bright side of everything and cracking jokes as often as I can get away with it, because well….I’ve had a few dips on the old Rollercoaster of Life, ya know?

Some of what you’re going to see here early on are repostings that were originally on Facebook privately to my friend audience over the years, plus a couple of other essays I’ve written that never saw the light of day until now. For example, “To Share or Not To Share” is something that I first wrote in 2011. I dusted it off, updated it, and voila!

But believe me, I have stories about my kids and family life, and funny stuff that happens to me, and funny things we MAKE happen. It’s everywhere. And it’s a way of life my husband and I work hard to cultivate. Truly, it’s us living the best we can, laughing as often as possible, loving no matter what happens, and finally, we are the Louies.

Every once in a while on this roller coaster, I’m gonna take you on a sharp turn to the left, into the dark, upside down, and allow the bottom to fall out unexpectedly. I’m passionate, feisty, corny, nerdy, and emotional. You’re gonna hear it all.

Yes, there may be some heavy stuff in there now and then. In my 50 years, I’m granting myself all kinds of liberties I didn’t before. I have the right to lighten the load and share my honest self. Frankly, I’m taking a cue from Glennon Doyle (check her out over at Momastery.com) whose honesty is so damn refreshing: she makes you feel normal for all of your own personal frailties and quirks. Life is “brutiful” as Glennon says: beautiful and brutal. Perfectly imperfect, I say. Beautifully broken as my friend Barbara said to me this summer. Allow me to do the same for all of you.

Signing off, with Louie love!!

Photo by Leong Lok on Unsplash

To Share or Not To Share

My mother died nearly 30 years ago. The anniversary of her death and the brief series of events frozen in time leading up to that moment haunts me every year. Her passing was a sudden and total surprise that confronted me one warm spring evening when I was 20 and away at college.

10 years ago I wrote an essay about that day and what I felt. I never shared it.

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The huge age gap between my mother and me was always evident. She had me at 45. I always knew she was much older than the other moms – I’m sure that would bother her if she knew I felt that – but not so old that she would die before I was fully grown and on my own. Don’t ask me for a definition of grown. I had assumed she would be around for my wedding and the birth of my kids and pass on at a ripe old age when I myself was much older. My being grown up and her dying was so far off in the distance, it never once crossed my mind. So her sudden death was shocking, yet it really shouldn’t have been. Many of her siblings had already died young. I should have thought about the odds, the risk of it happening, but I suppose that’s the ignorance of youth…

Over time I subsequently came to learn it’s a major shock to the system for pretty much everyone when their mother dies, no matter the circumstances, no matter the age of the parent or child. There are few relationships as monumental as that, of parent and child. So my story isn’t all that special, really. It’s just part of my life story.

I don’t know, I guess I thought my circumstances were different. Mom was so much older than me, and my older siblings were of another generation altogether. I was the baby of the family by far, my parents’ 20th anniversary surprise: along for the ride for many years, but not a highly contributing or significant member of the family. My family of origin didn’t converse much, certainly not parent to child and I suppose due to our age differences, not really sibling to sibling either, at least that was my experience growing up. We never talked about feelings.

No, the communication dynamic in my family growing up was pragmatic and direct. You were scolded if you said or did something wrong, and that was mostly it. You quickly learned that keeping quiet was better than saying anything. Because of this I had some difficulty communicating and connecting with my feelings as a child, as a teen, and as an adult. I kept to myself and became a deep thinker.

To make matters worse, Mom and I had a difficult relationship when I was a teenager. Our generational differences felt extreme. My parents were very conservative, and actually so was I but they didn’t see me that way. I didn’t really fight with anyone in life but I fought with Mom daily for the better part of seven years. Only in the last six months of our lives together did the ice begin to melt. I say “together” figuratively because being away at college seemed to help mend our relationship.

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Thanks to Aunt Nancy, I was given a diary as a young girl, so I kept a journal from about age 9 through my late twenties or so. It is so painful to read the early volumes now. Painful to read the stilted thoughts running through my head and the situations I was dealing with. Painful to know I didn’t have anyone to turn to to process any of it or that I should go find people or places to talk. My parents didn’t know they were fostering that kind of home or that it had real consequences on me. Don’t get me wrong: I know they did the best they could. It seems their beliefs were not unusual for their generation, education and soci-economic class. Nevertheless, this the family I was born into and it was a very tough time growing up.

Through the years and perhaps because my mother died, I slowly learned to connect with my emotions, process them, move beyond them. I did this all on my own, by reading my journals years later. Over years I learned words to describe my emotions. I learned to share them, say them out loud. And with this expression comes healing, a dialogue and perspective, something I crave to this day.

So I wrote this essay about my mother’s death 20 years after the fact, and for the longest time, I had a need to share it yet I never did.

At first I thought about posting it to this new online community called Facebook, since I had some friends on there at the time who were very good at connecting and commenting on my writing but two things held me back.

One, I feared that my sisters would freak out over me sharing intimate details about our family story. I don’t characterize anyone poorly in the essay, at least I don’t think I do, but what I wrote is most certainly intimate. My sisters are far more private individuals. Maybe they prefer to keep this memory to themselves or feel no need to share their feelings because they had a spouse to help them through it. Maybe they simply never felt the need as I do to sort through their feelings then or now. Maybe they strongly prefer to forget the events of the time. In the nearly 30 years since it happened, the subject of Mom’s death doesn’t come up, ever.

But me, at that time? I didn’t have a spouse or a boyfriend to talk to. I didn’t marry for another 14 years to come, even though I had a smattering of serious boyfriends up until then. Even my long-term roommate at the time was emotionally unavailable. And unless you want to scare people off, you just don’t randomly open up about this stuff with strangers. Therapy didn’t occur to me as an option because it wasn’t like I couldn’t function. I graduated school without missing a beat, held and thrived in a professional job.  I functioned just fine, I just wanted to be known. I needed to grieve. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to keep something like that bottled up for 20 years? This event, this monumentally life-changing event for me? Well…I wanted someone to know what it was like.

And mind you this is just one small example of the events that have shaped me.

So I put words to paper in an attempt to explain what it was like. Being unmarried, I didn’t understand the point of my life without sharing what it was like to lose my mom. You’ve heard the saying: if a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? If a life-altering event happens to someone but there is no one to witness it, did it happen at all?

That makes me sad. It makes me feel just as alone today as it did then.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve told the story to my husband, but for whatever reason that didn’t give me closure. It’s not his fault. It’s not his problem, it’s mine. He actually cares a great deal about me and can relate to this story quite well as he himself lost his father when he was young. But in the verbal retelling of my story to him, I may have glossed over details that are nevertheless important to me. It’s not like he knows those details well enough that he’ll retell it to our kids one day. No, me telling him that story was temporal. It was shared for the moment and nothing more.

That isn’t enough. It’s still as if I desperately want somebody to go back in time to April 1988 and stand with me while it was happening and to be there for the grieving that followed. I never had that.

I can’t help but think of other people who never had that either. It’s an endless, gaping, invisible wound that some of us walk around with.

The second thing holding me back from sharing was my husband’s opinion that my story was far too intimate and valuable for Facebook; sharing it there would be TMI and cheapen the event. I had to agree with him: nothing about my mother’s passing is cheap or sensational.

Yet I’m struggling with this idea that what I wrote could be too personal. Yes, people can and do share yucky, too-much-information detail that can be ugly and vicious….but that isn’t my story at all.  And it isn’t like I’m going to send my story to a magazine and get it published as that feels exploitive. Neither am I blogging for the sole purpose of sharing this one story. Facebook seemed like a logical forum several years ago because I knew that my close friends would comment and help me through it, and the possibility was that even an acquaintance might have just the right thing to say, some insight to share, and I would feel less alone.

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That essay I penned nearly 10 years ago is lost somewhere in my house, and life has gotten in the way since then. The need to share feels slightly less acute than it once did.

Never mind what was written: the actual story is really what is at stake. Will my kids ever know what it was like for me, will it resonate with them? They’re way too young to understand it now. Maybe when they’re in their 30s they’ll be old enough to recognize me at that time as just another human on this planet dealing with life the same as they do…when they recognize me to know no more or less than they do…when they realize we truly are peers in the big scheme of things. Maybe they will want to know my story then.

What if that day never comes? What if I don’t live long enough to tell it to them then? What if they never ask?

My husband recognizes that I have a need to share on a deep level that he simply doesn’t have, that most people don’t have. But when you dig deep into someone’s life, you discover their humanity, what makes them tick. That’s the stuff that intrigues me. I can’t handle small talk. I’d rather talk about deep, mystical, life-changing events.

But my husband the musician also told me years ago that you don’t choose your art – it chooses you. Your art is the stuff you are compelled to create….and it may not be all sunshine and flowers and butterflies. It may not be the things people love, but you just might find a small intersection of people with whom your art reverberates.

So here I am, sharing without really sharing. That’s about as satisfying as you might imagine for someone like me. I have a right to share my story. It’s mine, after all, and no one else’s.

And I still really want to tell the story of what it was like when my Mom died.  Whether I do, who knows?

Vegas

I woke up this morning a little earlier than usual, trying to get a jump on my day. I’m not much of morning person. But I’ve learned that how you start your morning is how you set your intention for the day, and today I was ready to rock my world.

Sitting down at the home office desk, I checked email, returned a couple of messages and shot out a few more, then my husband turned on the TV in the kitchen and asked, “Did you see this?” Popped over to CNN and boom. And just like that, our world has changed again.

“Worst Mass Shooting in US History”. At least 50 dead and I think it was 200 injured as of eastern time this morning.  As of this writing, the number has grown to at least 58 dead and over 500 injured. All by one man. One man inflicting evil from the 32nd floor of a hotel on concert goers below. One man with a stockpile of weapons and ammunition that, of course, we allow to happen in country because the 2nd amendment and the NRA protect his rights.

That familiar, sickening feeling deep in my core returns once again. But this time I’ll be honest, my first thought was: “Worst mass shooting in US history? Only until the next time.” As appalling as this horror is  – and the scale of it is surreal – at this rate, a “next time” is inevitable. It’s like the Evil Loser Club of America has a bunch of members who are playing a vicious game, trying to outdo one another by scoring a greater number of kills on the leaderboard, the leaderboard being any news headline in the US.

I’ve been to Las Vegas. It’s not my favorite place to go, but I appreciate the draw. Even if you’re not a gambler, there is something you can find to enjoy there, unless you are among the most religiously conservative of types. Anyway, I know a whole group of people heading there for a conference and I immediately shot one my friends a text hoping to GOD she was not already there, and possibly among the crowd. She’s ok….she hasn’t left yet. Whew. I suspect I will end up knowing someone who was touched in some way.

And then this is where I am at a loss what to say and do next. Pray? Yes. That’s a given. Rail against the 2nd amendment? I’m not sure what good that would do. As I heard others say regarding Sandy Hook, when we as a country decided that mass violence against children was OK, it was “game over.”

Except those evil losers? They’re still in the game, trying to outdo each other.

Look, I don’t own a gun. I didn’t grow up with a gun culture, and I will tell you that I’m uneasy around them, period. I get that people have one, maybe more, for protection. To each his own. Some of my HS classmates would miss school during hunting season. Ok. Not my thing, but ok.

And I understand the spirit and environment under which the 2nd amendment was written, but I don’t get how we let people acquire an arsenal with the ammunition to match. These angry people are waging a war in their head until one day they snap for reasons often unknown. Are you telling me we are powerless to stop it? There is NOTHING we will do? What does it take, America?

I suppose we don’t need Hollywood types to dream up the next God-awful scenario…they will play out before our eyes. What’s next? Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? New Year’s Eve in Times Square? The next high school or college graduation gathering thousands in an open air arena? Brace yourselves folks, it’s coming. You know the next one is coming. What you don’t know is if you or someone you love will be in that crowd.

You gotta love Albert Einstein who said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

America: I beg of you, on behalf of those killed and injured and the loved ones they leave behind in Vegas, the Pulse in Orlando, Virginia Tech, San Bernadino, Aurora, and our beloved children at Sandy Hook: DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT ABOUT GUNS IF YOU WANT DIFFERENT RESULTS.

God grant peace to your servants who have fallen asleep and comfort to those they leave behind.