Bitter With The Sweet

I am ashamed to admit it, but I am outrageously jealous of my friends who are enjoying the companionship of vibrant and involved octogenarian parents.   This is such a selfish and unfair statement, I know.  I had great parents (Mom is still living) and they were there for me when I needed them.  So many people can’t even say the same.

So many of my friends did not have the joy of being given away by their Fathers.  I did.


So why am I feeling sorry for myself that my parents weren’t the “take the family on a trip to celebrate our 50th Anniversary” type?  For many years, whenever we were together, Mom and Dad took the family to their favorite Italian restaurant in South St. Louis, Missouri, Giuseppe’s.


My parents cooing with my nephew and one of the family’s closest friends over amazing Italian cuisine in South St. Louis.  GREAT memories.

I can’t help but feel a pang of jealousy, though, when I hear a friend tell me she spent the afternoon shopping with her Mom and then out to dinner with both parents – and they are in their eighties and enjoying active lives.  Like the famous Carole King song, I know I need to do a better job at taking the bitter with the sweet:

“A friend of mine once told me

and I know he  knows all about feelin’


He said, “Everything good in life you’ve

got to pay for

But feeling’ good is what you’re paving the way for”

But you can’t enjoy the sweet without “paying for it” with the bitter, right?  That’s the deal.  Sometimes it stinks!

The morning my Dad passed away and I called my husband to share the expected but dreadful news, a feeling washed over me I had really never felt before and I told him through my tears, “I wasn’t done with him yet.”  That must be why sometimes in my dreams I watch him ride away, alone in a limo with darkly tinted windows – no room for me.  The separation of death is bitter.  Memories are sweet.  I guess I will always taste both.


In my heart, this is where my parents remain – in their late 60’s, active, involved, enjoying life.  Laughing with me.  Together.

Nobody prepared me (or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention) for this constant ache you get from watching your parents age and then losing them.  Maybe it’s because loss from death is the first thing I have ever encountered in my human existence that simply cannot be prepared for.

And the really strange truth about losing a parent is this:  the permanent pain is because of the sweetness of their love.  Like C.S. Lewis writes in “A Grief Observed,” -“For in grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?”

At the end of the day, I don’t begrudge any of my fortunate friends who are still enjoying happy times with both parents.  It’s a gift and, after all, not something to be overly examined.  I had what I had and that’s it.  Boy, was I lucky.










49 Thanksgivings Later

After 49 Thanksgivings, I finally “get” why it did not matter to my Mom, in her later years, whether our family ate dinner together on paper plates (themed, of course) or not.  The mere fact that we were together was enough for her – and it should have been enough for me – but, alas, I needed more “road miles” in life to fully understand.

This Thanksgiving I am wildly and enthusiastically thankful for 4 Things:


PALS come to Tango Canyon
Mario’s preschool class visited our 34-acre wilderness every year for their Spring field trip – here he is greeting the bus!  It was a truly wondrous time.

To be curious is a state of willingness to allow life, ideas, people, nature and the world to enthrall and intoxicate you.  In spite of my struggle this 49th year of my life on earth to discover and maintain a healthy sobriety, I am thankful to discover that I still experience the wonder of a child every single day.  AMEN to that and keep the curiosity coming!

After all, it has been said, “interesting people are interested people.”


It has taken me 49 years to learn the slow and steady “tortoise” way – I used to prefer to hurry and get my reward or pain “over with.”

We all experience setbacks and many of them are stunning, paralyzing and utterly terrifying.  Looking back, I really am thankful for each and every setback I have experienced.  Not only am I learning humility, I am experiencing the ebb and flow of the journey and learning to take my EGO OUT OF IT.  I mean, a mortal can only do so much – the Universe is so much larger and powerful, and there is no escaping the lessons we’re each meant to learn.  To me, setbacks are just another way of experiencing mortality and human limitations.  And like Garth Brooks famously crooned, “I thank God for unanswered prayers” every single day.


First Recital
You’d never know it but this picture of my darling children was snapped during one of the darkest times of my life.  Complete shock and uncertainty colored my days, but they, being the curious and resilient little teachers our children are meant to be, marched onward!

My husband and I were “curious” about life in a tiny town more than 200 miles away from our home so we packed up and moved away from friends, family, professional connections, and all the lovely comforts of city life.  We stayed there 8 years.  I joke that 2 of them were happy, but I seriously mean it!  Looking back, that really is not true:  my mental state was not happy because I was fighting the flow of our new lives.  But something super cool I have discovered in mid-life:  you can actually reflect back and accept what was once unimaginable and unendurable and it has the same effect – now my memories of what I thought was a “really dark time” are mostly funny and happy!  I am so thankful for this gift.


Boo 16 mos
Becoming a Mother is just one way of earning the responsibility for tending to a tribe.  This is my first little tribe member, Isabella Bernadette.

A wise woman once told me, “Your kids aren’t always going to be this little.”  Obvious statement of fact but, at the time, I could hardly imagine a time when my life was not dictated by play dates, diaper changes, snack times, story times, intrusive “Mom friends” and never-ending messes, usually involving bodily fluids.  This is my beautiful daughter, now 16 years old, at 16 months old.  I hardly remember the passing of time.  Another wise woman, my own Mother, told me, “Honey, life will pass you by so quickly it will leave your head spinning.”  And it has.  She was right, as usual.  I am thankful for my tribe of family, starting with my husband and children and colored with many interesting friends and co-workers.  At the tender age of 49, I have learned how to assess quickly what “works” for my tribe and what needs to just go away!  THANKS be to GOD!!

Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are, and whether you enjoy it on the finest china or paper plates.  Life is a gift.


The Difference Between Laziness and Spiritual Peace

Lately I have been on an inner journey.  I won’t say I have “neglected” housework, but let’s just state for the record that I am blissfully tuned out of my immediate visual surroundings. Nobody in my family seems to mind.  Clothes get washed, dinners get served and eaten, pets are not neglected, Fall decorations are properly appointed.  Outwardly, everything seems “normal.”


What started out feeling like a mid-life boycott of mundane chores has now become – well, more of a daily meditation on the essential.  Gratitude for all that we have been given tops my list of essentials.  When my eyelids pop open in the morning and the awareness of feeling whole and not broken by alcohol, ugly words spewed to a loved one the night before – I breathe deeply and thank God for the blessing of one more day.  Whatever I choose to do with that day, my underlying goal is LOVE.

Is a clean house essential to love?  No.  Right now, at 49 and managing a life with 2 teenagers, a husband intent on planning the sunset of his career, and a boatload of aging siblings and Mother whom I love – I give myself permission to LOVE FIRST, clean second.  I used to think I was getting lazy because I did notice the slowing down.  This coincided with my sobriety, which began almost 5 months ago.

The whole point of sobriety is to NOTICE, EXPERIENCE and CHERISH the good.  This requires slowing down (at least for me) and focusing on NOW.  As much as I love and enjoy these new feelings, it is true my standards of tidiness which were low to begin with – have gotten a little lower.

Nobody is complaining.  So I must not be lazy.

When I am an old woman I will remember the sunsets I watched, not the floors I mopped.
When I am an old woman I will remember the sunsets I watched, not the floors I mopped.

5 Things I Want My Children To Know About Summer

Dear Isa and Mario,

Before parents and institutions made summer about either catching up or advancing skills, summer was once a glorious time of slowing down and enjoying life.  Children were not only free to follow their imaginations wherever they could take them while spending time with family – they were expected to.  There were no “summer nannies” that were temporarily in charge of a rigorous weekly schedule of commitments.  Only grandparents and siblings with the means to help keep younger children happily occupied.

Harvesting sweet honey from a flower on the honeysuckle bush took great skill and patience.
Harvesting sweet honey from a flower on the honeysuckle bush took great skill and patience.

I keep hearing and reading about “Tips for Having a 70s Summer” as if there were a magical, secret formula – when it is really the simplest thing in the world to do!

A tire swing in a yard is a beautiful thing, giving you a bird's eye view of the sky and, even better if it leads to a lake or river.
A tire swing in a yard is a beautiful thing, giving you a bird’s eye view of the sky and, even better if it leads to a lake or river.

Growing up, summer at my house was about 5 things, not in any particular order – and it required no training or money.  Just the desire to float along carefree……

1.  Family  Since my 6 older brothers and sisters went to boarding school for High School, summer was the epitome of action at my house.  Suddenly, our house was flooded with teenagers each summer, and I relished spending time with each one as much as they may have resented it (and some did!!!).  After awhile, if I had been a very good girl, Mim, my Grandmother, would invite me to her house for an overnight stay!

Mim's refrigerator stocked with Orange Crush was by her back door, which played an enchanting little tune when she opened it to greet you warmly.
Mim’s refrigerator stocked with Orange Crush was by her back door, which played an enchanting little tune when she opened it to greet you warmly.

I got to drink Orange Crush (one only, so I would not wet the bed) at Mim’s house and then raid the “secret drawer” (which, of course, she knew was not a secret) in my Dad’s old bedroom for sticks of Doublemint gum.  Mim had a sweet laugh and everything about her seemed so ladylike to me – the smell of her skin, the touch of her perfectly manicured hands on mine – I was always on my best behavior on those special summer overnight

2.  Music

Your Uncle JD had a garage band.  They played cool Rolling Stones songs like “Jumping Jack Flash” and the band members, Louie and Bobby, let me stand on a chair and pretend to be playing tambourine.  No wonder I married your Dad,”Mike Tamburini”!!!

There were 2 teenaged albums I was especially curious about – the one with the 2 white guys and their wives – but one of them had an African American wife (Seals & Crofts).

An average of 2,400 hours per summer was spent playing albums in my sisters' room - "Teenage Albums"!
An average of 2,400 hours per summer was spent playing albums in my sisters’ room – “Teenage Albums”!
Aunt Kit's Senior Song was by these guys, "We May Never Pass This Way Again" - you should look it up on your "device"!
Aunt Kit’s Senior Song was by these guys, “We May Never Pass This Way Again” – you should look it up on your “device”!

The other album was in Uncle Jeff and Uncle JD’s room, and I was forbidden from ever playing it.  Oh, yeah?

"Look like dog shit?  Yah!  Smell like dog shit?  Sniff....Yah!"
“Look like dog shit? Yah! Smell like dog shit? Sniff….Yah!”

3.  The Outdoors

 It was not a punishment to play in the yard growing up – in fact, I actually had to be called inside for supper.

The smell of line-dried linens still makes me homesick.
The smell of line-dried linens still makes me homesick.

Always a huge fan of Grandma Rhetta, I tried to be right by her side when she was taking the freshly dried sheets off the laundry line.  Here’s some great advice, too, kids:  It is fun to put a clothespin on your nose and talk!

Homemade ice cream was always churning outside, especially on Sundays.  Pulling the ladle out and swiping fresh ice cream from the metal churner was divine!
Homemade ice cream was often churning outside, especially on Sundays. Pulling the ladle out and swiping fresh ice cream from the metal churner was divine!

4.  Food  Of course, Mom was a great cook and produced “3 squares” for all of us plus our friends every single day.  But on many occasions, our family would drive to the river and take the barge across to the great state of Tennessee for fried catfish and hushpuppies.

We'd park our station wagon on the barge and all get out of the car and watch the Mighty Mississippi move us toward  the other side.  It smelled earthy and dank and felt like home.
We’d park our station wagon on the barge and all get out of the car and watch the Mighty Mississippi move us toward the other side. It smelled earthy and dank and felt like home.

5.  Reading  I never had to be told to go to my room and read.  I rode my bicycle to town several times a week and checked out great books on my own.  My friend, Julie, and I would compete to see who could read the most.  These were my 2 favorites:

She was the most clever girl I had ever known.
She was the most clever girl I had ever known.
She was kind and hard-working and was rewarded with fresh berries from her very own patch.
She was kind and hard-working and was rewarded with fresh berries from her very own patch.

When summer was coming to an end, the farmers would drive by my house with trailers full of freshly picked cotton on their way to the Killion-Rone-Wilson Cotton Gin – you know, the stuff your clothes are made of?  Oh, and do you recognize your Grandpa’s last name somewhere in that lineup?

One time I got to ride in the back of one of those cloud-filled trailers with my friends Annie, Jimmy and Michael – I paid for it the next day with my sneezing, but it was one of the most memorable rides to town I ever experienced.

This doesn't happen anymore - the new technology makes cotton into bales right there in the field as soon as it is picked.
This doesn’t happen anymore – the new technology makes cotton into bales right there in the field as soon as it is picked.

So, my darling children, I have tried to give you summers that are less about “achievement” and more about “experience,” but it is not so easy as it once was.  I have enjoyed every minute of our summers together, it will always be a magical time for me as your Mom.  Just thought you should know some of the reasons why our family isn’t as busy as other families – and happily so!!!!



If This Is What 49 Feels Like I Can’t Wait For What’s Next!

first xmas 1 I came into this world the youngest of 7 children and have been loved more than the average bear.  To say that I feel fortunate and blessed would not be adequate.  And as my “days increase,” I am evermore keenly aware of the Gift living is. joan yard My family gave me lots of freedom to play long hours out in the fresh air of Southern Missouri and to be myself.  The early years shaped me – I felt secure, happy, loved and cherished.  For those in this world born with less who have nonetheless managed to live full, happy lives, I feel empathy and awe.

I did nothing to deserve all the goodness in my life – it was just gently placed before me and continues to unfold like a beautiful tapestry.

At 49, here is a short list of the things I have learned and the wondrous joys that captivate me:

  • Don’t ever refuse help of any kind when it is offered – you will find an open heart can swell with love, joy and abundance that affects everyone around you in a positive way – say “Yes!” and “Thanks!” often and mean it;
  • Bring all of yourself wherever you go – holding back will only limit the joy you feel and overshadow the illumination of the experience;
  • Admit when you feel frightened – it won’t diminish anything, only brighten the path before you;
  • Listen to children because they know what’s best – God gives us about 9 years of complete innocence in this life for a reason – it is to show others how to live courageously;
  • Accept change and move forward as soon as you can – so many wonderful experiences and people await for you in your future, don’t put them off by feeling regrets, guilt or sadness over what is in the past.

I am grateful for friends and laughter; Homemade cinnamon rolls or anything freshly picked from one’s garden and friends that will bake them and drop them off at my doorstep; The infinite possibility of sunrises and sunsets, especially over the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas – though I never thought the day would come I would admit this; The tiny hands of children placed with complete trust in my own hands – proof that we are all worthy of love and affection. Today is my 49th birthday – I thank God for all the goodness in my life and look forward to continuing the journey. Flint-hills-Kansas-State-US-650x364

Why Do We Ignore Hurting Souls?

Like many people, I am deeply saddened by the death of Robin Williams.  In retrospect, his unimaginable act of courage that led to his death says more about our culture of blindness than it does anything else.  We prefer to remember “the funny man” who gave so much to others than the human being suffering from depression and addiction.  We will talk about it for awhile at parties but nothing will change in the end – people who are hiding in places of extreme darkness will continue to end their lives and we will say later what a shame it is.

You see, Robin Williams’ death has struck a personal chord with me.  I, too, suffer from major depressive disorder and addiction.  I will take antidepressants the rest of my life but there is no guarantee I won’t experience lapses into frightening voids where nobody can reach me.  Mental illness does trick our minds into believing ridiculous lies about ourselves and reality.  I watched my own Dad suffer and struggle with depression and addiction my whole life.  He was so brave to have weathered what must have felt like insurmountable pain and conflict to protect his wife and 7 children.  Of course, there were happy times.  Like Robin Williams, my Dad was extremely intelligent and most often the funniest person in the room when he chose to socialize, which was not often.

I dream of this image over and over.....
I dream of this image over and over…..

Like Robin Williams, people sought my reclusive Dad out – they were uplifted by his company when, all the while, he believed himself to be a weak and unworthy person.  It was the trap of depression and addiction.  He did not talk about it, we just knew, as kids, when Dad was not feeling well.  We hugged him and he hugged us back even harder.  But it was only a temporary fix for his pain.  Ultimately, he felt alone.

"I apologize for superfluous!"
“I apologize for superfluous!”

My Dad was the first person to admit he had made a mistake.  Among other traits, this was one of his most endearing.  He was humble and honest and kind even though, most of the time, he just plain wanted out – out of pain, out of suffering, out of this life.  He visited me once when I was single and dating a hot-shot young lawyer and I was embarrassed during a conversation in which my “super lawyer” boyfriend corrected my use of language at the breakfast table in front of my Dad, the DICTIONARY NAZI!!!!  I was shocked when my Dad took “super lawyer’s” side but, as expected, the minute he got back home Dad pulled out his dictionary to see if he had been correct – and discovered he was wrong.  I received a beautiful note of apology from the MAN WITH THE DICTIONARY himself.  And he even took a moment away from his own pain to comment on the pain of a colleague whose daughter was dying from cancer – wishing her well.

Instead of burying his greatness, somehow the struggle with depression and addiction made my Dad even more brilliant and beautiful to me.  He felt broken, for sure, but that is what we all saw and loved and admired about him.  On the morning he passed away, our Mother had a look of absolute serenity and relief on her face.  She said, “I’m glad – your Dad is free and happy for the first time in his life.”  And so is Robin Williams.

I don’t know why some of us are dealt the shitty hand of depression and addiction in this life.  But I do know we are all capable of comforting one another and touching each other’s wounded souls even from the unreachable depths of darkness.  I am proud of my Dad and Robin Williams and everyone else who admits, in this culture of shame, silence and blindness, that things are NOT okay with us most of the time.  Maybe, little by little, the world will come to recognize that people who have been marginalized by the pain of depression and addiction aren’t weak or pitiful at all – but really “special angels” sent to us so we can practice compassion and empathy.  That’s how I choose to view it, anyway.

Why a 60-year-old Big Brother is even Cooler than a Teenaged One

I am 12 years younger than my oldest sibling, my big brother, Jim. He was born in 1954 and I was born in 1966, so we are literally a generation apart. He is one of the last hippies and I am one of the first Gen Xers. When I was 4, he went away to the Seminary for boarding school, so I don’t remember living with him all too well. My childhood was marked by the larger-than-life, highly anticipated homecoming visits of my big brother. He drove a brown 1974 Ford LTD and wore blue jean cutoff shorts. He played guitar and sang songs like “A Horse With No Name” by America. He was cool and everybody liked him. He could blow smoke rings and even wrote a song of the same name. When he was home, my Mom baked custard pie and cherry pie and seemed more content because her “Jimmy Dick” was nearby. He made my sister laugh so hard at the supper table milk would run through her nose and she’d get whacked on the top of the head by my Dad’s wedding ring.

Even though I had 4 beautiful and extremely popular older sisters, I most wanted to be like my big brother because he just emanated “cool,” kind of like Snoopy.

One Easter, Mom had us all lined up in front of the house dressed in our matching outfits so she could make a “home movie” to mark the day. 15-year-old Jim decided to walk like a hunchback so 3-year-old me followed suit dragging my bunny and basket in tow and wearing a bonnet, too. He elevated all the everyday, mundane things to the level of super cosmic. Every evening when he was home, Dad would watch “Batman” and “Get Smart” with him on tv while Mom made supper and the girls set the table. His laughter and quick wit filled the house with energy that lightened the pervasive “girl drama.” My Dad was happy and at his best when Jim was home, too. We all were.

The summer of 1972 my brother had a “far out” garage band. They played “Jumping Jack Flash” and “In A Godda Da Vida.” The kids from town would flock to our house to listen while my parents, glued to the Watergate hearings on tv, sat just inside in their recliners. I pretended to be Tracy Partridge and played tambourine in the background. Even though there was something awfully serious going on in the world that all the grownups seemed to be worried about, I felt safe, happy and most importantly, extra special, because my cool older brother’s band was the hottest thing going in our little town that summer.

So it is no surprise that it was exciting for me to take my 13- and 15-year olds across the country this summer to visit their Cool Uncle Jim, now 60 years old.

To me, having my kids connect with my oldest sibling was like watching 502996_16840263_1972_Ford_LTD200px-tracysingthem unlock a sacred vault into my past and experience the same exhilaration I did as a kid when Jim brought “funny” back to town. They loved him and who wouldn’t??Big Bro Oogling

3 Ways Downsizing Made Our Family Stronger




4 years ago this week, our family experienced a massive downsizing and relocation from 34 acres in the middle of the country to a quaint corner lot in an established urban neighborhood 200 miles away.  For my husband and me, the move was a relief and felt like returning “home.”  But for our children, then 11 and 9 years old, it was the most horrible, frightening thing that could ever happen in their lives!

Other happily downsized families told me de-cluttering the “stuff” from their households and paring down to the bare essentials was a psychologically and spiritually liberating experience.  For me, “purging” just felt like flushing a dream down the toilet.

While life in South Central Kansas was not easy for me, a huge consolation had been the amazing life my husband and I had been able to give our children.  An enchanted, carefree childhood with land to roam on and critters to enjoy – not to mention countless bonfires, campouts and many loving friends we would have never met in a typical suburban neighborhood.  But our dream had to end because my husband’s job ended.  And rather quickly, we were going to have to come up with some pretty convincing reasons for the kids to want to move with us!

The transition took much longer than I expected but it is complete, thank goodness.  Looking back I can pinpoint 3 distinct parenting approaches we took to help our children move through each phase of their journey from country kids to city kids:  Reassurance, Respect and Reinforcement.

Of course, any parent with any nurturing instincts at all will understand that the first thing you have to do is reassure your children that, even though many things will be changing, the fundamental things about your family will always remain the same and they will feel happy and strong.  It was reassuring to our children to know that we were all going through changes together and we would all find comfort in one another.  Our family, like many that face job and location changes in the middle of a school year, decided that my husband should move to Kansas City and start his new job at the beginning of the year and the children and I would follow after school was out.  This gave us all time to prepare for the change and when we saw each other on weekends, the reassurance that our family was intact and in sync lifted our spirits enough to face the coming weeks and months until the move.

As the time of the move drew closer, I became more anxious and focused on the details of the move rather than providing reassurance to my children – so don’t think I am a saint!  In fact, there were a couple of times I did not have the energy to reassure my kids at all.  I just wanted the whole ordeal to be over!

After we got into the new house and started growing used to living in such close quarters (downsizing from 5,550 square feet to 2,400 square feet is noticeable!), it was time to start thinking about the new school and making new friends.  I expected the kids to make friends and be happy again overnight.

 But like adults, my children’s transition would take giant leaps forward – and then there would be setbacks.  I was feeling impatient.  This was a problem that an ice cream cone would not fix.  I needed to find a way to respect each child’s loss while helping them find their future.

When we would hear the kids talking about people or things they missed from their old hometown, my husband and I started talking with them about steps they could take to get invested in their new school and neighborhood.  This gave them the sense of control they needed to establish the path of their own choosing.  In particular, it helped each child find new things to look forward to.  Once we realized how valuable it was to the kids to put things in terms of having things to look forward to, it made respecting their journey seem like less of a monumental task and more like a day-to-day coping strategy.  “What will you do tomorrow to have a better day than today?” gave each kid a tool to empower themselves. They began to thrive.

The best part was getting to reinforce each child’s success by pointing out all the new challenges they had each tackled and overcome independently.  We talked a lot, as a family, about how important it is in life to have to learn how to function outside of your comfort zone.  Some people never get that chance but we reinforced with our children how invaluable to a successful life it is to learn how to adapt to new and different people and situations.  Fun, even!  I will never forget how proud I felt when both of my children reached out to “the new kids” their second year in Kansas City – because they remembered what it felt like to be the outsider.  It proved to me that they had learned something only life and a nurturing environment can teach a person:  you have the power inside of yourself to make a difference to someone else who may be feeling the way you once felt.  Compassion!

4 years later, I think our family is much stronger as a result of the changes downsizing and relocating thrust upon us.  We appreciate what we have and require very little to be content.  There are far fewer disappointments because, in the end, we have all learned that any day you have the strength to meet and overcome life’s challenges can be a good day!  We have choices and we have power.

Welcome To My Mid-Life Crisis

9 lives2002_mini_cooper_s-pic-8750964173784534205556964_3969215241468_697743296_nWho ARE these people that become so selfish and self-absorbed in their late 40’s and 50’s?  Pathetic.  Cliche.  So. Not. Me.


I have decided that I need a lobotomy or a conversion experience or both to expel the demons of MID-LIFE CRISIS lurking within!

We have all witnessed the predictable path of men’s mid-life:  the younger woman, the sports car, the sudden interest in physical appearance.  Cliche, right?  I lived through a mid-life crisis, of sorts, with my husband who is 11 years older than me.  His was definitely fraught with personal and financial torment, but it brought us closer instead of farther apart.  It made our family stronger.  Now it’s my turn.  And thank goodness I woke up and recognized it for what it was (is) before it was (is) too late.  True to my character, I’ll refer to my mid-life crisis in one simple phrase:  OVER-INDULGENT.

My life is becoming the metaphor of drinking from a fire hydrant to satisfy one’s thirst.  It’s too big, too much, too fast.  I suspected that navigating my children’s adolescence while walking through my own mid-life might be tricky.  They need guidance, wisdom and support from a SANE adult who is willing and able to step outside of the self and enter the world of the young adult’s psyche without the need for affirmation or adulation.  Let me repeat:  without affirmation or adulation.  That’s the part that stings!  Four years ago, when my daughter began her journey into adolescence and our family was undergoing a massive uprooting from our rural dream life back to the city, I used to joke innocently, I thought, about “Momma’s not getting a lot of love back these days.”

 The unsolicited hugs and flattering emulation had come to a screeching halt.  I was becoming “invisible” and it hurt.


Fast forward four years later with a husband who is turning 59 and a son in the throes of adolescence, too.  I realize my entire identity has been wrapped up in 3 separate individuals for more than a decade – my children and my husband.  And I am angry with myself.  I feel robbed of my youth.  I am going to REBEL!!!!!

Enter “Party Girl” Joanie, living large in the city.  Meeting peeps for drinks.  Sipping on amazing wine while making dinner.  Just being glamorous, right?  WRONG.  Oh, so wrong.  One drink every other day became two drinks every night.  And recently, it became A BOTTLE.  There was never ENOUGH of ANYTHING to affirm that I was ALIVE and SEPARATE FROM MY FAMILY.  My own cool mid-life self – living as though I had 9 lives.  But I only have 1.  Time to re-evaluate.

I thank GOD for the wisdom of my 15-year-old daughter and the unwavering love of my gentle husband who have enlightened me of late about my reckless behavior.  But in a way a rebel can accept and digest – non-threatening.  My daughter simply asked me recently whether I would be willing to remain sober long enough to pick her up at 10:00 PM from a party.  Simple and direct question, right?  It felt like a thunderbolt jarring my brain into a million pieces!  What is WRONG with this picture when your daughter has to ask such a question?

My “aha” moment was brief and we all escaped relatively unscathed.  I am 36 days sober today and plan to stay that way – after all, I am just as “interesting” over-indulging in sugar-free popsicles as I was champagne!  Now to the paradigm shift in my parenting and relating to young adults versus small children.  As tough as it is, I am beginning to accept that I can shift from a total domination decision-making model to a shared one with my kids.

When my daughter was about 3 and struggling with sharing her toys at play group, her adorably honest retort to the nonstop encouragement from adults to “share with others” was:  “I want to share with ME!”.  This is the battle I find waging within my middle-aged heart and soul as it confronts the challenges and responsibilities I have taken on in my life.   But I am not going to express my frustration in ways that drive my family apart and tear at the fabric of my most important relationships any longer.  I am putting my “BIG GIRL” panties on and moving forward towards 50, muffin top and all.

Yes, you heard me right:  I am at that delightful age where I weigh more than my IQ!


So, together with my bruised ego and expanding waistline, I choose to embrace Mid-Life and all the AWKWARDNESS it brings.  Ironically, I am going through a more awkward phase than my adolescents.  But it is THEIR time of discovery, not mine.  I can choose, every day, to “rebel” a little in ways that are harmless and not self-destructive.  I think I will get a Mini-Cooper!