A Three Hour Cruise

My Dad loved deep sea fishing. He lived for that time of year when every Sunday night he kissed us goodbye, packed up his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that we had spent the last hour making and drove off into the sunset with all his fishing poles.

These fishing trips were overnight trips that last for days. A bunch of his friends would charter a boat and three days later my Dad would return stinky, sunburned and a truck bed full of giant dead fish. There were few things that put that smile on his face and pep into his step and this ladies and gentlemen, was one of them.

My Dad loved fishing so much that he wanted to pass this passion down to his daughters. So my Dad and his friends came up with the idea to do an overnight trip with them and all their kids. I was 7 years old and so very excited about the notion of spending time with my Dad and spending the night on a boat! My Sister was 12 and didn’t share the same excitement.

So Sunday rolls around and I can barely contain my excitement.

I remember getting to the docks and all my Dad’s friend and children were there. There was one girl in particular that my Sister and I did not like. Her name…..Norma Jean. Now Norma Jean was one of “those girls” who was always perfect and super prissy. She was like that mean girl on the Little House On The Prairie. I remember walking down to the dock towards the boat and Norma Jean (she really had to be called by both names) made the fatal decision of trying to talk to us.

Norma Jean “Oh look – Pelicans”. My Sister “Norma Jean did you know that they carry their babies in their mouths and accidentally swallow them all the time?” Well, we (not sure why I was a part of this) got in trouble because sure enough Norma Jean went running to her Dad crying. We were off to a great start.

So with the pelican incident behind us, we got on the boat, claimed a bunk and like any good fishermen getting ready for their journey out to sea, we went to a bar. Yep, you heard me right. In my mind this trip couldn’t get any better, I mean doesn’t every 7 year old go to a dive bar by the docs? I have to say, I learned a couple of things that night.

  1. Bars are really dark.
  2. If your Dad is good looking the lady behind the bar will let you eat all the cherries you want.
  3. Your stomach will hurt if you eat all the cherries you want.
  4. The Barmaid had really big boobs.
  5. I figured out why my Dad was in such a hurry to leave on Sunday nights.

After some time we finally made our way back to the boat and tucked ourselves into our bunks. I personally had the very best night sleep ever. Maybe it was my way of coping with pelicans, cherries and big breasted barmaids. Or the overwhelming smell of diesel fuel. But regardless I woke the next morning bright eyed and ready for whatever came our way. I had no idea it was going to turn into a fish massacre. It went something like this.

First stop – get bait. How amazing was that! We got to stop and scoop up thousands of little baby fishes.

Second stop – Start fishing.

Let me stop right here. Now you would think that my Dad in the course of planning this trip might where he was taking this daughters out to the middle of the ocean would sit down and explain to them just a little of what was going to happen. Maybe give me and my Sister a head’s up on what exactly the role of the bait was going to be. Here’s a thought, “Girls, one of the deckhands is going to take a cute baby fish and ram a hook through its head while you stand there in horror.” Just a thought.

Back to the second stop – fishing.

As everyone grabbed their fishing poles and without a blink of the eye, rammed the hook through all the baby fishes that we had just spent the last hour playing with. My Sister and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we had to spring into action. So we came up with a full-proof plan. We would rescue the bait and free them back to their natural habitat. At first we started small, we gabbed a fish and threw it overboard. Next we grabbed two and threw them over board. Then we progressed to handfuls at a time. Scoop toss, scoop toss, scoop toss. On and on it went. We only ran into one problem the whole time we were executing our plan….seagulls. Those crafty bastards quickly figured out that they could swoop down and catch about half of what we were tossing back to sea. We knew we were loosing some but it was a chance we had to take for their freedom.

So over a course of the day we kept ourselves busy and oddly enough no one noticed. I’ve asked myself many times, why one of the adults didn’t notice and stop us. Then I remind myself that these were the same adults that let us run wild in a bar and make ourselves sick on old stale bar cherries.

My Sister and I did such a great job of liberating the bait that believe if or not, they had to end the fishing trip early and turn back around for shore. They had run out of bait.

I have to tell you – my Dad was pissed.

He knew, he knew that we had something to do with this but he couldn’t pin it on us and we were not talking. I have to tell you the drive home was not as pleasant as the ride to the boat. I remember sitting in the middle between my Dad and my Sister, the air was thick with tension and all he said was “Girls, I will ask you one more time, what did you do with the bait?” God – I wanted to be anywhere expect right there. I knew I didn’t have the skills to sneak this by him so I just looked straight ahead and didn’t blink. My Sister on the other hand was one cool cucumber. Calmly she replied “Nothing Dad, we have no idea.”

We never came clean to my Dad. I think he would have laughed about it later in life, but neither one of us was ever that brave to test that thought.

Until tomorrow……

Weird is the new cool.

Why do we fight being weird? Why is fitting in and not standing out one of our life goals? To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure why. What I do know is this. I don’t fight being weird and I am certainly okay with not fitting in. So what makes me different from other people? What makes me okay with being different….well here’s my thoughts on this.

Let’s start from the beginning. The beginning always starts from when we were kids, because believe it or not…everything starts here.

I was a weird kid. Part of it was me and most of it was the environment that I grew up in. I grew up in a very, very disfunctual family and my coping skill that I developed was to be quiet, and invisible with a crazy good imagination. So good in fact I went through a stage where I believed I was a dog. I believed this to the point that my mom had to hide the dog biscuits. She wasn’t thrilled about the biscuits and was rather mortified when my next stage included not eating with my hands. I mean really, dogs don’t have hands and how could she expect me to use mine? Dinner time was an adventure during this stage.

I went from the dog phase where I walked around panting with my paws up to believing that I was left behind by a circus that had just gone through town. I was not shy about this thought and I told everyone that would listen. Again, my Mom was none too thrilled with me. I guess I could have timed it better and waited until she wasn’t standing next me when I told people my sad tale of how they left town in a hurry and my Mom found me in the gutter.

My weirdness never went away, but I did try and hide it when I got older.

Going into middle school was tough for me. Kids are incredibly mean at that age and I learned quickly to try and hide the weirdness. Looking back now, I can see that hiding my weirdness didn’t make it go away and I wasn’t fooling anyone. What trying to hide it did, was to turn it into awkwardness and that is 10 times worse. Boy was I awkward.

So as my progression in life continued, so did my weirdness. I still coped with life’s hardships the same way I did as a kid. I was quiet, invisible and had a great imagination. The good thing was I didn’t try to pretend to be a dog and I was too old to be abandoned by a circus. So I went from trying to hide my weirdness to trying to cope with it. And the way I did this was to start drinking.

When I drank, I no longer cared that I was weird and I gave myself permission to let the weird out. I let my wall down and I did all the things that I was too scared to do when I was sober. I enjoyed the feeling of that freedom and I see now why they call it “liquid courage”. This was an uneasy partnership between me and the bottle – or in my the beer can. I need it and it dug its claws deep into my soul. Unfortunately this song and dance lasted for years and if I’m going to be truthful, decades.

All of this, all of the pain and the lies were all because I was too scared to let the real me out…the weird me out.

The happy ending to this story is the fact that I have figured out how to let the weird me out and I got rid of the bottle pretty much at the same time. It amazes me how we put ourselves into our own prisons where there is no key, and there is no lock. We are there by our own will and can get out anytime we want, we just have to want to.

So with no booze in me, I am able to be as weird as I want to be and baby I want to be weird. I see nothing wrong with dancing down the aisle of the grocery store like I’m the best dancer on Soul Train. I see nothing wrong wearing what I want. There is no age limit on feeling good about yourself and no one is going to tell me how to dress. I see nothing wrong with getting as many tattoos as you want. I see nothing wrong with going to the park and making my way across the monkey bars. I see nothing wrong with being the person you want to be without feeling judged or looked down on.

I don’t look at someone who is weird and see someone who is unsure of themselves. I see a warrior. I see someone who is so confident with themselves and have such a bright inner light that you have to wear sunglasses when you look at them. I see someone who has shrugged off of what society tells them to be and flicks it back them. I see someone who I want to walk up to and start talking to. I see someone who is going to make a difference in the world. I see a leader. I see me.

So as I sit here and write these words, I have to look back at the little girl who thought she was a dog that got left behind by a traveling circus. I don’t feel bad for her, I am very proud of her. She is a survivor and has learned to embrace all the weirdness that makes her, her.

I don’t eat dog biscuits anymore but I still get a lump in my stomach every time a circus coming to town.

Until tomorrow…..

Toot Toot Honk Honk

If you don’t toot your own horn who will????

You might not be perfect but you are the perfect you. You might not look like a model but that doesn’t stop you from being beautiful. You might not have always been sober but you are sober now. You might not have a partner now but that doesn’t make you unloved.

You get where I’m going from here….right?

For the majority of my life I told myself everything I just said backwards. I told myself I wasn’t perfect, that I wasn’t beautiful, I would never be sober and I was unlovable. What a miserable way to exist. I say exist because that was not living.

So what changed? What made me turn that way of thinking around?

Well, it wasn’t just one thing, it was more of a slow and steady journey that I set myself on to finally enjoy and live my life. Let me see if I can draw the picture for that I had in my mind…this is how I explained it to my therapist.

I pictured myself standing on a large rock. This rock represented who I was and where I was in life, at that very moment. Un-happy, un-inspired, un-hopeful and just downright sad person. This rock was surrounded by dark (black) shallow water. On the other side of the pond was another large rock. This rock represented who I wanted to be and where I wanted to be in life. I wanted to be full of happiness, full of inspiration and downright happy. Now in between these rocks were a bunch of smaller rocks. The rocks were in no particular pattern, shape or size. I told him that my goal, my journey was to get across the water to the rock that represented happiness. I knew to the very bottom of my soul that I could get across the water. I just had to find the way. So I came up with a plan. I was going to keep my eye on the other rock and would slowly but surely jump from one small rock to the next. to the next. I knew I would have missteps and might even have to turn back around and take a different path, but I was getting across that dark pond one way or another. Now that I look back on it I believe the black water represented all the hurt, guilt, unhappiness or just everything that was shitty in my life at that moment. I envisioned myself one rock closer every time I changed a bad habit. Every time I had a positive moment I would jump to the next rock. I set goals for myself and when I achieved them I hopped. I told myself that I was good enough for happiness (hop, hop). I felt better about myself, jump to the next rock. Some jumps were huge, some were tiny little hops. I had to turnaround and try different paths a couple of times, but I kept going. Then one day before I even knew it, was standing on the other rock. Toot Toot Honk Honk.

So how do you start hopping?

Well, you need to want to get to the other rock for one thing. You need to tell you self you deserve to get to the other rock. Whoa lets talk about this last one.

Deserve..yes this I little bit of a detour but I feel it is an important one.

Deserve can either be your best friend or your worse enemy. You can tell yourself all day long that you deserved what happen to you. You can say you deserve not to win. You can say you deserve not to be unhappy. But you flip that around and tell yourself you deserve to win, you deserve to be happy and no you do not deserve to have bad things happen you – it gets all weird. Why is that? Why is it so much easier for us to be hard on ourselves, to be scared to be happy? Well, I think part of that is the people we are around or maybe just society in a whole. You have to admit, society can be a little toxic sometimes.

Examples:

You: “I deserve to be happy.” Them: “What makes you so special?”

You: “I deserve to win.” Them: “Well aren’t you being self centered.”

You: “Bad things are not going to happen to me and I’ll fight back if it comes near me” Them: “Well aren’t you a Bitch.”

Me: “Yes I’m a Bitch and damn proud of it. How do you think I made it across all those damn rocks to my happy place?”

That is how I started tooting my own horn. It is just one version, one story and one example of what worked for me. Everyone has their own journey and their own list of things that will work or will not work for them. You just have to start trying and see what works. Try to figure out how you can get there and if you take a path that doesn’t work, hop back a couple of rocks and plot another path.

I always tell my sons that if you try something and you don’t like it or it doesn’t work out, it’s not a failure. It’s called life and you have to try so many things to see what works for you. If you are too scared to try out of fear of failure, you will never leave the first rock. You will be frozen where you are.

So start with a small goal, a small hop, never take your eye off the prize. I will be here if you need any words of encouragement.

Until tomorrow……..

I Am

I am a whole lot of things….

I am weird, I am happy, I am optimistic, I am sassy, I am determined, I am older, I am energized, I am a Mom, I am a boss, I am an Auntie and a Lala, I am still sober and I am over 2020. These are just a few of many things that make me, me.

This list changes daily, even minute by minute. I keep myself in check on a constant basis and the trick of doing that for me is knowing what is on the list, figuring out if I like what’s on there and addressing the ones that I don’t like on there.

For example if that list contained “I am sad” I would need to figure out why I am sad, address those feels and get rid of what’s making me sad. If the list contained “I am angry” I would have to figure out what was making me mad, address it and get rid of it The thing is, I don’t shy away from the bad ones, in fact I keep a sharp eye out for those because believe it or not, the bad ones are the most important.

I know it’s easy to say and I know that sometimes I can’t get rid of the bad ones as quickly as I would like. Let’s go back to the “I am angry” one. This one gives me a run for my money because anger use to be my go to emotion. Not only do I have to remove it when it makes the list, I have to block it from getting on there in the first place. I know that the anger will make itself at home. So much so it will build a fire and snuggle in for the long run if I let it. Anger is never allowed on my list of what makes me, me.

I have my list locked down so let’s talk about your list. Your list, no matter what you want on there or don’t want on there is exactly that – Your List. Sit down, clear your mind and figure what items are acceptable or unacceptable. Look at the list and then look inward to yourself. How many of those items that you want on there are on there and how many are missing. How many of those items that you never want on your list have made themselves a long term tenant.

If making this list sounds impossible, you are not alone. This is a skill that you will have to learn over time. But like any skill this will strengthen over time and become easier the more you do it. Here are some tricks to help you get started.

  1. Carry a notebook with you so you can write down your items throughout the day.
  2. Have your phone handy (not for texting) but you can use the note section and Siri to jot down your ideas while driving. Driving is a great time to listen to your inner self
  3. Take a solo walk and have a conversation with yourself. Again you can use your phone for notes.
  4. Try some meditation. This also will take some practice but will become a valuable tool over time.

If you didn’t notice the theme of that list has two major components. Alone time and something to take notes with. Both are very important.

When you are ready, make that list. If it’s not easy for you just keep trying, keep looking inwards and keep taking notes. You will come up with your final list and keep a sharp eye on it.

My being, my best “I am” is my responsibility and I take my job very seriously.

Until next time……….

Where do I start???

Here I sit, 56 and feeling like I am finally being the best version on me. I spent too many years hiding from things. I hid from the truth, I hid from the past and I hid from myself. There are times in my life that I came close to letting the real me out but I was always too scared to do it. Good news is – I am no longer scared.

My stories are going to have a combination of funny life moments and some not so funny life moments. But either way they will always end up with an upbeat message. I absolutely refuse to do negative. Life is hard but I won’t it make it harder. So let’s start with a story so you can get a feeling of what’s to come.

How I got kicked out of the Blue Birds.

Back in the 60’s, the Blue Birds were for girls that were too young for the Girl Scouts. Now for some reason my Mom decided to put me into the Blue Birds when I was 7 (I think I was drawn to the fancy uniforms and asked to join). The meetings were fun and full of young girls eager to be older and graduate to the Girl Scouts. Everything was going according to plan until the one Sunday afternoon when my Dad decided to tell us a new joke he had heard. I personally thought is was very funny and my Mom, Sister and I all had a good laugh. It was such a good joke that I decided to share with my troop. Now go figure…my Mom received a call from the troop leader and according to the one side of the conversation that I heard, I was asked not to come back. I’m not sure if it was the joke, the fact that I had to explain the joke or the reaction and tongue lashing that my Mom gave the troop leader. But either way, I never went back.

Yes, I remember the joke and yes I will share it with you.

“What is the only thing the Jolly Green Giant is afraid of?”

Answer: Avocado pickers

If I have to explain this to you, send me an email and I’ll tell you why.

This is one of my favorite life stories. I love that fact that I’m different, that my childhood was different and because of that…I have many more stories to share.

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