The Magic of The Ranch

I took myself for a walk yesterday.  A real walk because I needed one. I try to go at least once a week because my walks, you see, are so much more than just a walk.  They are my church, my sanctuary, my port in the storm. Spending time among the trees is what makes me feel connected to the greater energy of this world.  Spending time in the woods allows me to speak to my faith with a stronger voice than I ever found while seated in a church.

A year ago this month something changed in my life.  I heard a calling to go back in time, back to a place where I received profound healing, a calling to go back to The Ranch.  I first set foot on The Ranch 17 years ago as a member of an Americorps NCCC team. We were stationed there for six weeks to help The Ranch as it built the foundation for what it has become today, a safe haven and a home for abandoned and abused children.   I’m not sure if I discovered it or if my friends did, but I became aware of the fact that The Ranch was hosting its first ever Marathon/Half Marathon/10k race. I knew, without a doubt, that it was time for me to return. So I signed up for the half marathon.  Now, if you knew me, you would find this to be laughable as all of my previous marathons involved Netflix. But a quite and nagging little voice inside of me told me that it was the right thing to do. So I spent the next three months training to hike 13.1 miles through the foothills of Texas.  

Each day I would hike three miles and on my days off from work I would challenge myself to hike farther and farther until I eventually made my way up to 12 miles.  Some of the hikes were hard, most of them were freezing cold, but all of them pushed me closer and closer to becoming a person I was proud to be. I would distract myself from the cold by thinking about my week and how I would improve next week.  I would mentally redesign my failures into opportunities. And some days, I would just get lost in the music or the beat of my feet hitting the ground below me.

I was elated by the time the calendar found its way to April and my trip was a matter of days away.  I became less elated as I boarded the plane and thought, “Holy shit! I HAVE to do this now. I HAVE to complete this half marathon. My only options are to finish it or die on The Ranch!” There was no inbetween for me.  I started to stress and to second guess myself and my ability. After all, I am not exactly the poster child for physical fitness. It’s funny how quickly doubt can creep in and how efficiently it can override all of your other thoughts.  

By the time I set foot on The Ranch I realized how foolish I had been to think that I was in this alone.  Firstly, two of my old teammates and friends were joining me on this adventure. Secondly, I had forgotten that God can be heard more easily in some places than in others, not because He speaks louder, but because we are able to listen more acutely. He can not be ignored on The Ranch.  If you’re not a believer trust me when I say that, even if you don’t call that feeling God, you will still be able to feel that there is still something larger than us at work there. Perhaps that feeling is simply Love; an abundance of Love for children who have received far less than they deserve.  That feeling, that Love, it weaves its way through everything, the trees, the ground, the river, the people. I knew, in a matter of moments, that I was right to listen to the calling that brought me back there.

The hike was far from easy, even though some crazy people actually felt the need to run it.  But, to each their own, I guess. The first few miles were the hardest and the voices started very early on; the ones of doubt and of all of the mean things I say to myself when no one else is listening.  But as soon as those voices started, I felt something strange happen. I heard each of them and realized that I was not going to ignore them this time in the hopes that they would go away. This was my chance to confront those voices head on.  The voices that repeat themselves saying that I’m not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, successful enough, anything enough… I realized, for the first time, that those voices were echos of different versions of myself; versions I thought I had left behind on the journey to find someone better.  I gave myself over to the magic of The Ranch and I let all of those versions of myself join me as I put one foot in front of the other.

As the miles passed I could feel something shifting inside of me.  I could do this! I wasn’t going to die out there. (Yes, I have a slight flare for the dramatic.)  With each step I realized that each voice came from a place of fear, anger, or longing. They were remnants of events which stole from me the childhood I could have had, perhaps should have had.  I realized that, while my experiences were nowhere near as extreme as the children who call The Ranch home, that did not diminish my very real feelings of abandonment and loss.

I completed the hike in record time (As in, record for me. As in, it was my first time so of course I was going to set my own personal record.  Just let me have this.)I knew the second I crossed the finish line that The Ranch had done it again; it had healed me. It found all of the broken pieces inside of me and just held them… loved them… gave them space to run. I left The Ranch knowing that I had stumbled across a new beginning.  I had discovered a new way to take care of myself. As soon as I got home I found another half marathon, and then another. I found myself wandering in the woods more often that I ever had in my entire life. But things had changed for me. I no longer go to the woods to try to destroy the voices, now I go to the woods to heal them. I have spent so much of my life running from place to place hoping that I would find the girl I wanted to be.  The Ranch reminded me that I will never find the girl I want to be, I have to create her, and I create her by learning to love all of the girls I’ve been before. If this is what The Ranch can do for me in two visits in almost 20 years, imagine what it can do for the children who call this Ranch home?

In April, I will return to The Ranch for their second Marathon/Half Marathon/10k.  I will go back to help secure a future for The Ranch so that generations of children can experience the love and the healing they so deserve.  If you, too, support this mission please consider following the link below to make a financial contribution. If you are unable to contribute financially but were moved by, or felt connected to, any part of this story please share this page so I can reach as many people as possible. Each click of the mouse is another step closer to the finish line; little by little I will reach my goal.  Thank you for reading, thank you for sharing, and thank you for being a part of the magic of The Ranch.


Sunday Timbits

It’s Sunday morning and I’m eating timbits, drinking a latte, and listening to my nephew give me the play by play of whatever zombie video he is currently watching.  This could go on for hours. I am feeling the urge to write for the first time in a long time and I know that I have to strike while the iron’s hot.


As of this month, I have decided to say “yes” to more propositions.  So when my BIL asked if I wanted to go for a hike this morning, I said yes.  Cody and I are able to spend a lot of time outside together as he is very active, I enjoy a moderate level of exercise activity, and my sister is generally opposed to exercise.  So we kayak, we hike, he runs.


We head up to Waldenwoods together where it is exactly three miles around the lake.  It has been almost a year since I have gone around the lake. The last time we were out here together it was freezing cold and we were trudging through three feet of snow.   I asked him to leave me behind multiple times, but he refused to. This time we agreed that he would run, I would walk, and when he got to the end, he would turn around and meet me where I was and we would walk the rest of the way together.  Before we parted ways he asked if I had GPS on my phone. He said that if I got turned around, I just had to follow the dirt path. He took off and, after about five minutes, he was out of my sight.



I was fine for about half a mile and then I took a sharp turn into the thick of the woods and all dirt disappeared under a thick blanket of leaves.  It took me a moment before I realized that if I actually paid attention I could see some of his footsteps in the leaves where he disturbed them enough to show the mud underneath.  It was a very slight difference, but enough to get me back on the right path. A mile in I came across a tree that had fallen across the path. It was about waist height so I either had to go under it or over it.  I pushed on it and it gave enough that I knew I could swing my leg over it and then swing the other leg over. Cut to me straddling the log, my hands slipping on the snow, and me branch punching myself in the crotch with the snow covered branch.  That will wake you up!


I did some wide legged walking while I waited for my crotch to stop throbbing and thaw out.  It was a few more yards in when I heard the forest around my come to life as a giant buck ran across my path about 200 yards up ahead.  And that is when my first realization happened. My heart was pounding because it took me a moment to realize that it was not a giant wolf about to devour me.  And then I was worried that where one deer was, more could follow. So I stayed completely still as I waited to be trampled to death by the hooves of 12 prancing deer.  Yet, I didn’t even think about grabbing my phone. I just wanted to enjoy it, and not miss a minute of it (the moment, not actually being trampled to death). And then I realized that I am the only person in the entire world who will see that.  No one will watch it on tv, no one will thumb past it like another hit on You Tube, that moment was for me and me alone. In that moment, it was just me, alone in the woods, enjoying all of the nature around me. It was a great. I then began to ponder the difference between a good and a great moment.  I realized that in every great moment, I have never felt the urge to capture it or interrupt it by taking a picture or video. It is like I have felt that to introduce a foreign object into the moment to record it, I would somehow fracture the magic, and it would feel so intrusive for someone to look upon that moment in the future without truly being able to appreciate all of the feeling as well.   I just want to immerse myself in it because I want to savor it and keep it as a gift for only me to rewatch over and over again. I have been fortunate to have so very many good moments over the last few years, but I find that, now, I am truly in search of so very many great moments.


As I came upon the second mile the trail got confusing and I had to make a choice between two directions.  I made a poorly educated guess and walked to the left. I started to get the sense that I was going the wrong way, so I took out my GPS and had a look.  As I stared at the map I understood the basic idea of where I should go, but then I had the embarrassing thought that that still didn’t really help me. Damn it!  Why didn’t my mother ever let me be a Girl Scout? Or even a Daisy, that’s probably all of the training that I would have needed. So I kept walking as I watched my little blue line on the map.  I walked just far enough to grow a little appendage on the map to see that I was walking away from the lake instead of around it. And there was realization number two.


When we are younger we are all given a spoken, or unspoken, map of expectations to live by.  We will go school, graduate, go to college, graduate, meet someone, get married, grow your carreer, and start a family, grow old, and die.  We “see” this map, or the one we create for ourselves, and we have a general idea or where we are going and the path we will take to get there.  But the problem with a map isn’t always that you don’t know how to read it, but more often that you don’t know where you are on the map to start moving along.  I knew where the lake was on the map, but I didn’t know where I was in relation to the lake on the map, so it didn’t help me until I started moving and could see in which direction I was going.


I went to school, graduated, went to Americorps, went to college, graduated, and grew my career.  I have been occasionally frustrated by when I will hit the next step and I realized now that so much anxiety comes from not knowing when that next step is going to happen.  I would do myself a good service by taking a step back from trying to decide where to go on the map, and more time really figuring out where I actually am on the map.


Cody finished his three miles and turned around to meet back up with me.  We started walking to the end of the trail together and I started thinking about how he would complete six miles in the time it took me to do three.  And so began realization three. I have struggled in the past to be active because I have not felt compelled to be active in the same ways as other people.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the half marathons I’ve done and the anticipation of more to come, but I have felt slightly judged by people in the “running community” that my 13.1 miles are not as significant as their 13.1 miles because they did it faster than me.  But that’s the thing I needed to accept. I get enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment out of pushing myself harder, not out of pushing myself faster. I like climbing more hills with more obstacles, as opposed to getting to the end sooner than I did before. And that’s okay.  The real success is in pushing myself, not in HOW I push myself.


Damn, I really needed those woods today!  Thanks, Coco.


Update: 50 Adventures and Things to Do

I figured that it was time for an update, as I am halfway through my vacation.

Incomplete Tasks

  1. Pay Bills (I’ve thought about doing this, but I haven’t quite done it, yet.  Still looking for a sponsor for this one.)
  2. Do Laundry (I’ve done some, but there is still plenty more to do.)
  3. Read an entire book just for pleasure. (Not yet.  I’m running out of time to read an entire book.)
  4. Finish D’s mermaid blanket. (I bought the fabric for the tail, but I have not done anything else.)
  5. Visit the Christmas Story House.  (I have plans to complete this on Friday morning.  I’ve had two tickets for four years, today I realized that I have lost one of them.)
  6. Edit half of B’s book. (I started this, but I only got through two chapters.  This is a MUCH longer process than I thought. It’s strange to read each word individually to check for errors, as opposed to reading a whole sentence at a time.)
  7. Oktoberfest with my bros. (SOOOOOOOOOOON!)
  8. Ride the Cuyahoga Valley Railroad.  (This was supposed to happen this morning, but I had to call a rain delay.)
  9. Make dandelion wine. (I haven’t given up on this yet, partly because it just seems so ridiculous.)
  10. Write out goal cards for work.  (Ew, work!)
  11. Bake bread.  (Haven’t given up on this, but I’m also not holding my breath.)
  12. Look up the symphony schedule.  (I know that this should be a really easy task to complete. But I actually need to know when a specific person is performing.)
  13. Write a letter to my old best friend. (I don’t know if I can do this.  I honestly don’t know why our friendship ended so I don’t even know where I would begin.)
  14. Work on vision board. (This is kind of in progress.)
  15. Clean out car. (Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.)
  16. Finance task.  (This is right up there with “pay bills”.  I could, I just don’t wanna.)
  17. Set up spending card. (Nope.)
  18. Make road trip goodie bags.  (This will probably get done on Friday, or not at all.)
  19. Lunch with S.  (Tomorrow!!!!)
  20. Plan a party.  (Perhaps.)
  21. Halloween plans. (Sort of, but most of my friends don’t plan as far in advance as I do.)
  22. Make a debt tracker goal chart. (Ugh, I don’t want to ruin a good time.)
  23. Prime Ikea drawers.  (Meh.)
  24. Bake chocolate chip cookies. (Maybe tomorrow.)
  25. Per D’s suggestion, make some fancy kitty cat collars. (Lol.  I think my cats have been spared this fate… for now.)
  26. House task. (If I don’t finish this, there will always be other days.)
  27. Clean out work binder. (More work!)
  28. Work two shifts with the Red Cross.  (One down, one to go.)
  29. Personal task.  (I honestly can’t remember what this was, so we’ll see if I manage to complete it.)

Completed Tasks and Adventures

  1.  Update my blog.  (Once this is posted, I will have updated it twice.)
  2.  Make a plan.  (Oh boy did I ever make a plan!  I’m excited for some changes and newness.)
  3. Go to a cosmetology school for a haircut. (This was a fairly delightful experience.  I received a good haircut and I only paid $15 for it.  I asked the girl is she actually gets the money and she said that they are not allowed to received compensation in any way since they are in school.  I realized that SHE is paying to go to that school.  Which actually means that SHE paid to cut MY hair.  How weird, but fantastic.) 
  4. Make a trip to Costco. (I managed to leave there without the two things I went there to buy.)
  5. Doctor’s Appointment. (I was all pleased with myself for getting there five minutes early. I am NEVER early.  When I went to check in, it turns out that I was 25 minutes late.  Dang nabit!)
  6. Write work schedules for the rest of the year.  (Holy shit!  I legit wrote all of my schedules until New Year’s Day!  That means that I will only have to do some updates. Here’s to super productivity!)
  7. Talk with T. (Done and done.)
  8. Mow the lawn, finally. (So… my lawn is cut, but it was not done by me. I don’t know if the execution matters more or the completion of the task.  One of my friendly neighbors came over and did it for me, for a nominal fee.)
  9. Call J. (We were finally able to connect today and actually had a 40 minute conversation.  Our lives tend to be very hectic so we mostly update each other once a month or so via voicemail.  It was such a delight to get to talk voice to voice.)
  10. Dinner with L. (I was able to do this tonight, and I even had my first sponsor.  Thanks for dinner!)
  11. Spend time at the park. (I am really glad I fulfilled this adventure. It was so nice to just sit by the lake for a few hours and watch nature go by.  I even saw a cat out for a stroll with his owner.  Whenever I’m down by the lake, I always wonder why I don’t spend more time down there.)
  12. House task. (Like a boss!)
  13. House task. (I got sooooo much done in my house today. Very proud of myself.)
  14. House task. (I got so much done in my house, that I switched this to dinner with P. We had a delightful night and it was much needed.)


Postponed Tasks and Adventures

  1.  Get my conceal carry permit. (Finances are forcing me to put this off.  I may, however, contact the NRA to see if they would sponsor this endeavor.)
  2.  Go geocaching. (I feel like this is kind of the the old school Pokemon Go.)
  3. Experience a sensory deprivation pod.  (So, I looked into this more and I discovered that it is $80/hour. So…. much like my CCP, this is going on the back burner.)
  4. Go to the art museum. (I’ve been before, so I’m okay with not going this week.)
  5. Get a pedicure. (Let’s be honest, my feet go in my shoes.  I think I can save myself some money and paint my tootsies myself.)
  6. Go kayaking on the river. (There’s just not enough time.)

50 Adventures and Things to Do

Two weeks ago I walked into the bookstore looking for inspiration.  I needed motivation.  I needed direction.  I was feeling stagnant and I needed something to jump start me to get me going again and back on the right track.  I went to the “Self Help” section and was pleasantly surprised to see that they have renamed it the “Personal Growth” section.  I think that is much more fitting, after all, there is such a stigma with self-help, or any help for that matter.

As I looked over the spines and read the titles, I couldn’t seem to find what I was looking for.  I was about to walk out when a small colorful book caught my eye.  It wasn’t a book on how to handle stress, how to plan better, live better, organize better.  It was a book of sparks on how to live.  And that’s when I realized that that is exactly what I was looking for.  I needed something to remind me to get back to living.  I have gotten so caught up in working all day long.  Work, sleep, work, sleep, work, sleep.  It’s entirely exhausting and unfulfilling.  So I bought the book and the journal and I’m ready to get back to living.

I’m on vacation for the next week and I thought that this would be a good way to start.  I am a planner and a list maker, so I decided to make a list of “50 Things to do and Adventures to Have”.  Some of them are just everyday things that need to get done, but some of them are story makers just waiting to happen.    So… let the adventures begin.

  1. Pay Bills
  2. Do Laundry
  3. Read an entire book just for pleasure.
  4. Finish D’s mermaid blanket.
  5. Update my blog.
  6. Visit the Christmas Story House.
  7. Edit half of B’s book.
  8. Oktoberfest with my bros.
  9. Ride the Cuyahoga Valley Railroad.
  10. Get my Conceal Carry Permit.
  11. Make dandelion wine.
  12. Make a plan.
  13. Write out goal cards for work.
  14. Go geocaching.
  15. Bake bread.
  16. Experience a sensory deprivation pod.
  17. Look up the symphony schedule.
  18. Go to the art museum.
  19. Go to a cosmetology school for a haircut.
  20. Write a letter to my old best friend.
  21. Work on vision board.
  22. Get a pedicure.
  23. Clean out car.
  24. Make a trip to Costco.
  25. Doctor’s appointment.
  26. Write work schedules for the rest of the year.
  27. Finance task.
  28. Set up spending card.
  29. Make road trip goodie bags.
  30. Dinner with S.
  31. Plan a party.
  32. Talk with T.
  33. Halloween plans.
  34. Make a debt tracker goal chart.
  35. Mow the lawn, finally.
  36. Prime Ikea drawers.
  37. Call J.
  38. Brunch with L.
  39. Spend time at the park.
  40. Bake chocolate chip cookies.
  41. Per D’s suggestion, make some fancy kitty cat collars.
  42. Go kayaking on the river.
  43. House task.
  44. House task.
  45. House task.
  46. Clean out work binder.
  47. Work two shifts with the Red Cross.
  48. House task.
  49. Personal task.

I Hate Your Addiction….


I hate your addiction.

I hate that I know the lingo of your damned existence; the way the words so easily fall from my mouth as we discuss things like “steps”, “triggers”, “and paths to recovery”.

I hate that even 200 miles away I can tell the difference between a call that is missed and a call that is ignored.

I hate that I have learned the rhythm of your tides and I can feel when you are being pulled from the sober river waters and pushed out into the drunken sea.

I hate that your love for me has been drowned by the liquid you crave as I patiently wait for your love to surface for air.

I hate that I can hear your voice as you say my name and know if the next word you are going to say to me is a lie.

I hate that you have made me the keeper of your secret, when sharing your secret would free us both.

I hate that, day by day, you steal away the dreams and adventures that I had planned for us, along with the worlds we were going to create and explore.

I hate that you were once my Salvador Dali, but you have become too encumbered by holding your vice that you have no room left in your hand to hold a brush.

I hate that I can’t yell, I can’t get mad, and I can’t lash out because I fear that every conversation will be our last and, if it is, I want you to leave this world with my love by your side.

I hate your addiction.

I love you.

I love that you are still the boy I became friends with when I was twelve years old and was afraid that I wasn’t going to make any friends.

I love that we used to laugh through class as we would cheat on science tests because you knew I would always get an “A”.

I love that you sat beside me through my depression and never judged me when the tears would fall.

I love that you agreed to any and every idea I had because you knew that, if we were together, it would always be an adventure.

I love that you were always the last one to watch me go and the first one to welcome me home.

I love that you call me every single day in January to wish me a happy birthday because you can never quite remember which day is actually my birthday.

I love that you believe that I am amazing even when my self-doubt threatens to take over.

I love that I can’t picture a life without you because you have become a constant fixture in my heart.

I love that, after all these years, you are still the first person I run to with every failure and every triumph, that you are the man that has loved me more honestly than any other man ever has, and that you are still my very best friend.

I love you.

I hate your addiction because I can’t hate you!

What I Learned from Spending the Weekend with My Nine and Twelve Year Old Nephews

  1. They fart more often than they don’t fart.
  2. Kids are hungry ALL! THE! TIME! How is that even possible?  I mean, how is that even possible if you don’t have a tapeworm taking up residence in your abdomen?  We would have a full meal and as early as 30 minutes after we were finished one, or both, would say that they were hungry.  But… I JUST fed you.  I’m having a hard enough time giving you three meals a day (I have a hard enough time feeding MYSELF three meals a day), I can’t be expect to feed you six times.  Also, if you require six feedings in a day, that information should be included on your “Proper Care and Handling” papers.
  3. It’s relatively easy to keep the kids from eating lots of junk food when you only have them for a weekend.

“Can I have fudge for dinner?”


“Can I have fudge for dinner?”

“I said, no!”

“Can I have fudge for dinner?”

‘For the last time, NO!”

I imagine that there has to come a point when a parent has reached their wits end and the conversation goes more like this.

(For the 27th time) “Can I have fudge for dinner?”

“Oh for fuck’s sake!  I don’t care!  I really don’t care!  Eat the fudge!  Eat all of the damn fudge!”

  1. They lift the toilet seat up yet somehow still manage to pee on the TOP of the seat. Like….   Does the pee hit the lid and ricochet back onto the top of the seat?  And if that’s the case, I would rather they just pee with the seat down and wipe it off.
  2. They don’t wear watches but constantly want to know what time it is, how long it will take to get somewhere, and how much time they will spend once they do get there.
  3. Boys, much like elements, have a natural state in which they exist. For example, hydrogen is a gas at room temperature, gold is a solid at room temperature.  For boys, their natural state is to be wrestling.  I don’t mean just aggressive wrestling (of course that happens too). I mean a constant state of motion to establish dominance over one another.  If their feet are in close proximity, they are wrestling with their feet.  If their thumbs are in close proximity, they will have a thumb war.  With the exception of when they are in a resting state, they are in constant wrestling motion.
  4. Even though they may fight all day, in the quite moments they are still really affectionate with each other. They may be playing games on their phone, but they are snuggled up as they do so, because it is still okay for them to enjoy the closeness and security that their brotherhood offers.
  5. While they are nine and twelve I can still make them laugh. I can be a storyteller and spin them a tale of make believe and they will still offer me any details that I may have left out, instead of questing the authenticity of my stories.
  6. While they are nine and twelve I can still snuggle with them on the couch while we watch a movie and fall asleep.
  7. While they are nine and twelve they still believe that I know the answer to every question. They trust me when I say that the world is beautiful and their dreams are theirs for the taking. While they are nine and twelve, they are perfect!

Sometimes It Takes Five Years to Pass Through All Five Stages of Grief

Six years ago today I received the worst phone call of my life.  I listened in disbelief as I was told that my home was burning down.  I very quickly entered the stage of denial and stayed there even as I stood in front of the burned remains of my life.  This isn’t happening.  This can’t be real.  I don’t deserve this.  I slept with denial each night as I thought if I just prayed hard enough it would all be just a bad dream.  I was suffocated by denial each morning when I woke up and was confused by the cold and impersonal surroundings of a rented hotel room.  I clung tightly to my denial even as I begged the veterinarian to do everything she could to save my precious cat, Peter Pan.

I didn’t move past the denial stage until the vet told me that Peter Pan’s burns were too sever and that I had to put him to sleep.  That is when the anger began.  It didn’t creep in quietly like a robber in the night trying to steal whatever happiness I had left.  The anger came rushing in like a Tsunami drowning my soul.  I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t breathe, and I pushed away all of the people who were trying to help me.  I felt like my insides had become a vacuum where no light could possibly enter.  I had never before, or since, felt a darkness such as that.  Anger is not a place to live, and I knew that I could never survive if I stayed there.

Bargaining, for me, came with the denial.  Even though I couldn’t believe that it was all really happening, I still kept bargaining to change it.  In those moments, I felt like I would agree to whatever dogma could reverse my fate.

The depression lasted the longest and, in many ways, was the stage that only I saw.  A month after the fire I moved to Cleveland where I was completely isolated.  I wanted to be anonymous, I wanted to start over, I wanted to decide who and how someone would learn of my past.  I wanted to wallow in my sadness, and I did, for two months.  For two long months I cried myself to sleep every single night.  Each day I would come home from work with the intention of working on my insurance paperwork to receive the additional replacement funds allowed to me.  Yet, each night, I would pull out the itemized list of everything that I had lost and I would break down and vow to work on it the next day.  Day after day passed, until I finally just gave up all together.  The money would sit there until I was ready to claim it.

Days turned into weeks.  I made new friends. Weeks turned into months.  I shared my story with those whom I trusted.  Months turned into years.  Six months ago I was cleaning out my closet when I got sidetracked looking at pictures.  While I was sitting there a feeling of peace washed over me.  I looked around at my “new” life and I knew… I had finally reached acceptance.  As I took in my surroundings I was overcome with the thought, “I want for nothing”.  This had nothing to do with the physical things I had replaced and everything to do with the life I had created.  My life is full.

The next day I pulled out my insurance paperwork, gathered a few receipts, and contacted my agent.  He cut me a check for what I had turned in and I asked him to close my claim.  I walked away from $10,000 in replacement costs.  That money means nothing to mean.  Anything that could be replaced has been replaced.  Those things that could never be replaced, well…. $10,000 is not nearly enough.  After I entered this place of acceptance, I randomly decided to read a book that had been on my shelf for quite some time.  Once I finished the book, I knew that I didn’t simply randomly pick it, it picked me.  In the last chapter the author writes,

“That’s the thing about losing it all. You realize you’re fine without it. When you give it all away – the stuff – you learn that it is impossible to lose whatever it is that you cannot live without.  Love was right.  The thing you need is unshakable, untakable.  What you need is not in things, it’s in you.  It’s Love.”

Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On , Warrior

So today I write to you, not as a victim, but as a warrior.  I have overcome!  Not just once in my life, but time and time again.  I am a warrior because I never once gave up.  I am a warrior because my family loves me, supports me, and let me take out my anger on them when it was destroying me to keep it in.  I am a warrior because I was strong enough and smart enough to let new people into my life who helped change my life for the better.  I am a warrior because you believed that I was and because I believed you.  I will never be glad for my experience, but I know that losing “everything” is what allowed me to have this amazing and beautiful life here in Cleveland, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.  So thank you to everyone who waited patiently by my side for me to get here.  I am finally, truly, home!

Book Five of 94: Bossypants by Tina Fey

Book 5 of 94:  Bossypants by Tina Fey

I have read a handful of books recently and “forgot” to review them, so I am tragically behind.  The problem with this is that I forgot some of the really great things that I liked about the additional books I’ve read, I’ve even forgotten some of the books themselves.  The problem with this book in particular is that it was on loan to me, so I was under strict instruction to NOT highlight any of it.  Have you ever?!  So please do not take this half-hearted review as an in depth review of this book.

Summary:  This is a collection of stories that are exactly as delightful and witty as you would hope them to be coming from Tina Fey.  If you enjoy anything that Fey has ever done, just do yourself a favor and read this book.

My Three Takeaways from Bossypants

Number 1:  What I really loved about this book and Amy Poehler’s book, Yes Please!, is that both Poehler and Fey are honest about what it took for them to get where they are today.  Fey does not pretend for a second that she was “discovered” or that she simply woke up one day and was famous.  She was in the trenches doing the work that it took to get her to where she is.  I respect people who are honest about their success and don’t pretend that it was easier or harder than it actually was.  I think, as women, there is sometimes an expectation that we are supposed to make everything look effortless.  We’re supposed to keep all of the magic behind the current and act like everything just naturally falls in to place.  I enjoyed the fact that Fey was willing to say that she has worked damn hard to get where she is and that she is deserving of her success.  We need more women in this world who aren’t going to apologize for creating the life that they wanted for themselves.

Number 2:  I know that it is not fair to compare Poehler and Fey as they are two entirely different people.  However, I would be willing to bet that if you like one, you probably like the other as well.  That being said, after reading both authors’ books I can see why they would be friends with each other.  Their personalities seem like they would complement each other well.  While they are both incredibly funny and talented, Fey seems to have more of an edge to her sense of humor.  Fey has a layer of darkness to the cut of her jib that is both uncomfortable and enjoyable.

Number 3:  Even rich people have to deal with well water from time to time.  Fey talks about visiting her husband’s family in Ohio where the family home uses well water.  My parent’s home uses well water as well, so I am familiar with the trials and tribulations.  I laughed out loud when Fey described the smell as, “if you boiled ten thousand eggs in a prostitute’s bathwater”.  While my parents are pretty religious about adding salt pellets and water softener to the pump, there are still times when I can’t even brush my teeth with the water because the smell is overpowering.  Fey did go on to say that the water leaves her hair in excellent condition.  That, too, is something I have always noticed.  I put up with the occasional smell because my hair is always soft, shiny, and full after I wash with well water.

Who should read this book?

  • Anyone who enjoyed the comedy of 30 Rock.
  • Anyone who is interested in how famous people become famous.
  • Anyone who enjoys laughter.

Who should not read this book?

  • Anyone who finds laughter annoying.
  • Anyone who thought that 30 Rock was stupid (mainly because they probably weren’t intelligent enough to understand most of the jokes).
  • Anyone who can’t stand a strong woman.

Fey, T. (2011). Bossypants. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Father’s Day 2015: I Remember the Shoes

Dad wedding

One of the worst things about loss is that it is completely unpredictable. You never know how it is going to feel from one moment to the next, or one year to the next, so you can’t protect yourself from it.  A friend of mine who had never experienced the loss of a loved one before asked me how it felt.  The best way that I could describe it was to say that it is like walking through your house in the dark.  Without really thinking about it, you know how many steps it takes to get from the bottom of the stairs to the kitchen floor.  You know how closely you need to walk to the wall to avoid hitting the kitchen table.  But every now and then, someone will bump into the couch and move it over just one tiny little inch.  One tiny little inch is all it takes.  You run right into it, jamming your toe, and before you can stop yourself you are withering in pain while a string of expletives escapes from your mouth.  You learn how to navigate the darkness, but you cannot predict how subtle changes in life will sneak up on you and trigger a pain that is always there, just below the surface.

Today, this picture was the couch.  I stared at this picture and what I realized was that I remember those shoes.  I remember how much those shoes hurt me and how desperate I was to take them off.  I stood holding the hand of greatness, bathed in immeasurable love, yet I can’t remember how that felt.  Instead, I remember the shoes.

I am a firm believer that love, much like energy, “can neither be created nor destroyed, but it transforms from one form to another”.  I know that my father’s love did not leave this world when he did.  It simply transformed from one form to another and I found it in a million little ways over the years.

I found my father’s love in my Uncle Greg and my Uncle Dan who both stepped up in their own ways to be a father figure to my siblings and me.  Through working on the house, occasionally helping with the bills, supporting our endeavors, providing love and guidance, and sharing their stories of our father with us.

I found my father’s love in my Grandpa Tony, a man who had no blood ties to us, but still loved us as he did his own grandchildren.  His love for my father has brought me so much comfort over the years.  Even now, 29 years later, the mere mention of my father’s name stirs up visible emotion within him.  He is a reminder that I haven’t glorified my father; he really was as great as we all knew him to be.

I found my father’s love in Frank, the man who married my mother.   He became a father to me when I was 19 years old and already knew all the ways of the world.  He loved me through my arrogance and helped me to grow into a person who now knows that she doesn’t know everything. He challenged me to learn more, do more, and be more and he supported me every step of the way.

I found my father’s love in my Pappy, a man who knew me for only a moment but still offered me the world.  We met in the midst of a disaster ten years ago, and I still think about him all of the time. Somehow he saw both the little girl inside me and the woman I had become and he believed that I was capable of anything.

I found my father’s love in my “chosen father”, my Jack; another man who left this world long before I was ready for him to go.  Jack loved me with a quiet acceptance that I never once questioned.  He nurtured the learner, the explorer, and the wanderer in me.  He showed me that life is light, music, art, and taking care of things that grow.  He reminded me that there is power in silence, there is peace in silence, and silence could bring me the stillness I desired.

So while I look at this picture and I only remember the shoes, I know that my father’s love was there as I clung to his finger, and it has been there every day of my life in all of the men who have loved me with my father’s love.

Happy Father’s Day!

If You’re a Cat and You’ve Used up Eight of Your Lives, Please Don’t Hang Around My Yard

There are some people in my life who are of the mindset that I ask far too many crying people what is wrong. They have said that this habit of interacting with strangers involving strange circumstances will be my eventual downfall and that I will never learn my lesson. (However, I think the “sex trafficking incident” in Toledo may have scared me straight.) Tonight, I successfully proved all of those people wrong. The problem with the story I’m about to tell you is that it is sad, disturbing, and I’m not really sure which details to share first. I guess I will just start with what most of you already know, which is that I have a lot of random cats who like to hang out in my yard. These cats always seem to come from the house behind me. I have never seen the owners of this house, but I constantly hear an electric saw and hammering coming from their side of the fence, even though I have NEVER seen anything being built or repaired in the three years that I have lived here.

Back to the point. Today I took some trash to the curb and literally gasped when I saw a very dead cat lying just on the other side of the curb.  He had the same markings as my Ducky and it took my brain a few seconds to realize that I had just walked past my Ducky on the way out of my house to take out the trash, so this poor soul obviously wasn’t my Ducky.  Once I accepted that it was not my Ducky I was still left with a few problems to resolve.  One, I had a feeling (though no actual knowledge) that this cat may belong to the people behind me. Two, if it was their cat shouldn’t “someone” tell them that their cat had died? Three, if people let their cats out during the day, do they expect to know if something happens to said cats? Four, it was 85 degrees here today and a dead cat in the street is bad news for everybody. Five, how do you tell a complete stranger that a cat, which may or may not belong to them, is dead?

I used my “phone a friend” option to call my sister, L., and ask her opinion.  She thought it was best to just dispose of the cat and move on with my life.  I was about to, and then I got in my car and drove around the block.  I pulled up in front of the house behind me and immediately thought, “Yeah, I’m probably not getting out of my car.” There were four totally beat up vehicles parked in the driveway.  There was an enclosed front porch which is awkward because, would I knock on the door to the front porch, or walk in and knock on the actual front door?  That question became irrelevant when I realized that every square inch of the porch, from floor to ceiling, was completely covered with random crap.  So! Much! Stuff!  I am not exaggerating when I say that you will likely see this house one day…. on an episode of Hoarders. I decided that, if I did knock on either door, I would probably never be heard from again and the dead cat would have just been a ploy to kidnap me.

I returned home and waited for the sun to set before I went about the business of disposing of the poor departed feline.  When I finally went outside I took an empty pizza box, a garbage bag, and some rubber yard gloves with me.  I was pleased to see that the street was empty of onlookers and the passers-by in cars wouldn’t pay me much attention. ****The following details may be disturbing to some readers, so feel free to stop reading now.**** My idea was to shimmy the cat on to the pizza box and just put it all in the trash bag. That was my idea.  That is not what actually happened.  I started to shimmy the box under the cat and promptly went into a gagging fit.  I had not accounted for the fact that rigor mortis had set in and that this was, apparently, the best fed street cat and weighed in close to 15 pounds.  My one pizza box coupled with my gagging was not going to get the job done.  So I went back inside and found another piece of heavier cardboard to use.   I returned to the task at hand with the previous gastrointestinal threat of vomiting still looming close on the horizon and slung a string of expletives in to the night air. “I’m sorry.  I’m really sorry that this happened to you, but please just get in the fucking bag!” *Huet, huet!!* “Holy hell!  Why are you so heavy??!! Please just work with me here!”  *More gagging sounds*  At this point I stood upright and realized that a neighbor a few doors down was taking out his trash and had become interested in whatever it was that I was doing. Instead of going back inside, he actually sat down on his stoop to watch the rest of the show.

I re positioned myself so that I could wiggle the cardboard from both sides, like they do with the spatula things at a hibachi grill when they are moving your food from the grill to your plate. As I was completely engrossed in what I was doing, I did not hear the shirtless gentleman who was running down the sidewalk until he was directly behind me.  As soon as I noticed him, I let out an unintentional yelp, suspiciously dropped the bag I was holding that now had a dead cat halfway inside it, and spun around. He appeared to be just as startled as I was and apologized for frightening me.  I laughed it off and told him that it was no problem and secretly hoped that he didn’t know what I was attempting to do. I quickly finished with this ridiculous endeavor, tied the bag as quickly as I could, ignored the fact that part of his tail was coming out of the top of the bag, and ran inside to forget that any of this ever happened.

If I had any doubts before about being the “Crazy Neighborhood Cat Lady”, all of those doubts dissolved after this experience. Anyone who was watching had to have though that I was a total nut job. Tonight I will say a prayer for the kitty and hope that I don’t get ticketed or arrested for disposing of a dead animal in my trash.

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