Learning to “Hold Place” for Myself in My Recovery Journey

I can reach for the support and encouragement I need at any time.
I can reach for the support and encouragement I need at any time.

I have 38 days of sobriety.  This is very encouraging and exciting!  I am not frightened or fidgety, in need of a drink.  But I am tired – bone tired.  I have discovered a wonderful author, Heather Plett, and her writing about self-care gives me encouragement as my steps toward whomever I am meant to be at the end of this journey feel more like impossible efforts against a rushing tide of water.

Captivating and Dangerous
Captivating and Dangerous

But Heather’s work reminds me of something very important:  it is my job to take care of myself first.  She recounts a recent lesson she learned from a jewelry maker about this:


She chose a beautiful wooden image of a tree that has taken root in an unstable place as her reminder that she is capable of caring for herself, as long as she does that first.

Youngest of 7, my sister closest in age to me, Susanna, helps me out in a muddy situation.
Youngest of 7, my sister closest in age to me, Susanna, helps me out in a muddy situation.

But what if, like me, you have lived 49 years of “making messes” and surrounding yourself with people who clean them up?  My only choice is to forgive and love myself or I won’t be able to maintain my sobriety or fully love the children my husband and I brought into this world.

Isa, my older child, is extremely strong - inside and out!
Isa, my older child, is extremely strong – inside and out!
Mario, the younger child, shares his conquest with pride then sets it free (like a good boy!).
Mario, the younger child, shares his conquest with pride then sets it free (like a good boy!).

You’ll notice a lot of water in my post today.  Throughout my life, during times of intense change and uncertainty, I have always dreamed of rushing water.  It carries me to the place I am meant to be – my destination.  Although I am terrified daily of losing myself, losing my family, losing my way – I know these fears are irrational.  Learning to quickly access my “quiet place” deep inside – my source of strength – helps reassure me (sometimes hundreds of times a day) that all is as it should be.

I am not alone on my journey, thank God!  My partner and husband, Michael, is with me every step.
I am not alone on my journey, thank God! My partner and husband, Michael, is with me every step.

So, for one more day, I believe I can continue this journey – as exhausting as it can be.  My family and friends that know me and love me understand I may not be the “Queen of Perky” for awhile…..but she will be back and when I find her LOOK OUT!!!!!

5 Years Ago Today, We Gave Up a Dream

The beginning of the journey, the day we bought the land and picked the location of what would become our beloved Tango Canyon.

I have mentioned in previous posts, our family has experience “transplanting” from the City to the Country.  We lasted 8 years.  Sometimes dark and lonely, sometimes like a cable television show where city folks learn how to manage their lives surrounded by unfamiliar creatures like scorpions, wild turkey, tortoises, vultures, newborn deer and copperhead snakes.  But one thing remained constant:  My husband’s dream to be close to his children and provide a simple lifestyle our family would always remember.  We fought with the neighbors, our friends/employers and sometimes each other throughout the highs and lows of our time in the country.  But we never stopped loving each other or our dream.

The children and I made daily sojourns out to the place in the country that was to be our home and they christened it with their laughter and love.
The children and I made daily sojourns out to the place in the country that was to be our home and they christened it with their laughter and love.

Along the way, my husband and I learned that giving up on a dream is not failure or surrender.  It is just an unexpected twist in life’s path that may leave scars but also offers great gifts.  When we returned to the City and the comforts of old friends and family, we had stories and experiences to share that others had only dreamed of.  As one of Mike’s lawyer friends put it, “You have been away from the reservation.  Not many of us have the courage to do that.”  There’s something about going away that is terribly frightening and inspiring at the same time.  On my horrible days, I would frown and tell people, “If you want to get to know yourself really well, move to the f—–ng PRAIRIE!”.

The children's handprints in front of their country home.
The children’s handprints in front of their country home.

The part we are proud of is that our family made its mark on the people and community we grew to love – and they on us.  We did not fit in there nor do we really completely fit in back here in the City because of the lessons we learned in our small town.  But that’s okay.  We had a dream, we lived it for awhile and then gracefully left it behind…..and survived to tell about it!

Our safe haven in the country.....the place we asked our children to leave in search of a new life in Kansas City.
Our safe haven in the country…..the place we asked our children to leave in search of a new life in Kansas City.

So, on the 5th anniversary of our departure from the home we loved so well we named it after Mike’s father’s homeland’s national dance, “Tango Canyon,” I am proud to report that all is well.  Transition complete.  Our journey unfolds before us everyday and it is good.  And we are better for having known the rugged world of Southern Kansas and its inhabitants.

An Apple Crisp for Suri

Kitchen-Parade-2009-Apple-Crisp-400-776195 Last year, I decided to do several things to “educate” myself in hopes it might lead me to my next “thing” in life.  I enrolled in Community College – but it didn’t take long for me to realize what a dumb idea that was.  I’d been away from the rigors of school too long.  THAT’S the “big lesson” I learned from that.  But earlier in the year I committed to volunteering a few days each month at a local Food Pantry.  Starting to get the sense that this is where my “big learning” took place? For months, I was too shy to work directly with the visitors to the pantry – I would smile and greet them while packing away food items in the back.  It took a lot of courage for me to be ready to face them one-on-one and feel that I could answer questions with confidence and sufficient cheer.  You see, I am a bit of a crybaby!  When I see suffering, sometimes I cry.  And I certainly did not want to repeat that horrific scene from 25 years ago when I broke down in tears in front of a Cancer Survivors group as their guest speaker!  I was not expecting their faces to be so young – I panicked and suddenly the room closed in on me and I got hot and then the tears started rolling down my cheeks in spite of my wish to appear “professional.”  It happens.  Vulnerability.  Compassion.  It catches us by surprise throughout life.  Well, it was never going to catch me by surprise again.  So I remained in the back of the Food Pantry dutifully stuffing bags for people to take home. Until the day Margaret told me she needed me at the front counter.  She was too busy to do her ordinary job at the Pantry that day and I had been there more than long enough to be able to check id’s and cross off names.  I heaved a big sigh and headed over towards the counter.  I tried not to let Margaret see the enormous panic I was feeling as the line outside the door began to grow.  One by one, our visitors politely stepped inside our Food Pantry and graciously accepted whatever we had to offer that morning.

Things were going really well.  Until the thing that caught me off guard happened.  Until the opposite of my “image” of what a Food Pantry patron ought to look like stepped up to my counter.

He was in is early 40’s, very physically capable looking and quite handsome.  And his smile and cheerful attitude would have made you think he was shopping somewhere really special.  I realized I had a few misguided preconceptions about pride before this moment, too.  As naturally as if we were longtime friends, he initiated the conversation, “Oh, my goodness!   You have fresh apples today!  I have already picked up my oats and my flour.  Is that butter I see behind the apples, also,” he pointed toward the back of the table I was managing but that thing was starting to happen to me when I am caught off guard by big emotions – I could not see anything around me and I was getting hot!!!!  Margaret noticed right away I was not myself and, fearing I might be afraid of this man, she answered very nonchalantly, “Yes, we have lots of free butter for you today!”.  That helped, I had a moment to take a breath.  The man smiled an even bigger grin and let out a robust laugh then said, “Suri is going to be so happy when she gets home from school today!”. Before I could ask, he started to tell me, “Suri’s my girl – it’s just the two of us.  She’s five and she loves school.  And more than that, she LOVES a fresh apple crisp!.”  I began placing fresh apples and butter in a bag for the gentleman and my thoughts immediately went to my own children when I heard his words.  I love baking for my kids, too – and I especially love surprising them with their favorite treats after a long day at school.  We’re not so awfully different, then, from our Food Pantry patrons, are we?

After Suri’s Dad was long gone and we were preparing to close the Pantry for the weekend, I noticed a slip of paper that someone had dropped in the hallway.  When I looked at it, I recognized Suri’s Dad’s name and the date was the same day.  Before coming to the Food Pantry, Suri’s Dad did something I’ll bet he hated – so he’d have weekend cash for his little girl.  He had been to a Pawn Shop and left some dvd’s – and in exchange, he was paid $10.00 plus 423% interest due when he retrieved his belongings!  But precious Suri would have her apple crisp and her Dad will have provided for his child – and experienced the joy we all do as parents when we are able to give our children special treats.  He just had to pay a much bigger price than most of us to do it. This lesson is sticking with me.  It makes me profoundly humble for all the abundance in my life.  It makes me appreciate that unique feeling that not all parents can enjoy all the time – of being able to provide for my children. For to give really is much better than to receive!!!

3 Things I Learned Over Breakfast With My Son

Mario Saddle Bag 0124151041 0124151034 0124151026 Pre Bowl Game RallyLately, my husband and I have become concerned that our 14-year-old son could be “lost.”  The things he used to care about haven’t seemed to matter anymore.  When we try to talk to him, we HOPE for a monosyllabic answer but only get caveman grunts.  Other parents have told us this is not unusual.  But for our vibrant Mario, it is.  We’ve tried patience and kindness – no changes.  So now we are trying tough love – there is a tiny glimmer of hope.  But today, I tried something brilliant:  Breakfast OUT, just the 2 of us!


As long as it does not conflict with Mario’s sleeping or Jayhawks Basketball schedule, he can usually be talked into sharing a good meal – especially breakfast.  I seized my opportunity this morning while hubby is away performing “Dance Dad” duties with our daughter.

“Mario how about a quick, greasy, grubby breakfast this morning at one of Mom’s favorite divey restaurants, ” I beckon.  He rubs his eyes and hangs his enormous apelike arm around my shoulder and grunts.  This is more or less acquiescence. Before the mood changes, I quickly throw the first sweatshirt on from my closet and off we go to Dagwood’s.

0124151026He is pretty quiet at first, but when breakfast is served, suddenly we are BOTH 14-year-old LINEBACKERS.  “Jesus, Mom!” Mario laughs as I greedily hover over my food and pick my French Toast smothered in powdered sugar up with my hands, fold it and inhale in one gulp.  “Calm down!”.  I become Chris Farley from the SNL scene with David Spade and Adam Sandler, “BACK OFF!  I’M STARVED!”.  We begin laughing hysterically and fortunately, because it is Dagwood’s and we don’t see any snoots from Johnson County, nobody cares.

Mario starts talking.  Immediately, he goes to football and his most recent season with his beloved Coach Pat.  “We killed every team in the league,” he reminisces – but not in a braggy way.  “The Johnson County Moms would be clapping politely for their sons,” he recalls with a smile, “and the Missouri players’ Moms were like, ‘Come on, D’Anthony!  Get your head in the game!”.  He was always afraid his loud Mom would go to a game and get into a “Mom Fight”!  I draw a deep, happily reassured breath and tell him, “Mario, do you have any idea how cocky I am going to be when you play D1 football?”.  He doesn’t even flinch.  “It’s not that hard, Mom – no big deal.”  But there is a flicker in my son’s eye – I see that he wants something and he cares.

I thought to myself, “My teenager who has been on a hormone-induced journey away from us is on his way back.”

I change the subject back to food, since my understanding of football is extremely limited.  Like the Food Critic from the movie Ratatouille, just the sight of French Toast transforms me into a happy child again.  I tell my son, “Mario, in the summertime growing up, Grandma Rhetta made stacks of French Toast a mile high, “(he has heard this story many times and does not comment that I grossly exaggerate the height of the French Toast stack every time).  “We would grab pieces of it, shake a bunch of powdered sugar on it, fold it, and stuff it in our mouths!  Then we would go play in the pool all day while Grandma Rhetta made homemade ice cream.” I am sharing with my son and he is listening.  He is definitely not lost.

So 2 miraculous things have occurred between myself and my son over this simple greasy-spoon breakfast:  he has shared what he cares about, I have shared what I care about – and for a few cherished moments, we are One.

Mario Saddle BagThen in the car on the way home, Mario shares the most shocking evidence that he is far from lost – he is HOME and he is FINE.  He tells me, “I remember the day Dad stuffed me into that bag on his Harley.  How old was I?”.  Uh- barely 1, Mario!  He is telling me he feels connected to our family and he has shown me, in one simple Saturday morning outing, that everything is going to be okay.  This has been my 3rd sign today.

Even though he is back in his dark, musty “teenaged boy cave” just upstairs – and we are worlds apart again – I know I have my son back.  And yes, I WILL be the LOUDEST, most OBNOXIOUS college football Mom on the planet – he can count on that!  I am looking forward to more breakfasts.