Paychecks and Blueberries for Sal

 

“She will call less and less,” my husband casually remarked last night about our College Freshman whose nightly calls warm my heart.  I bit his head off.  “DON’T SAY THAT!,” I yelled back.  Silence.  What was that about, I began thinking.  Everything is off kilter these days because it’s all new:  our first child recently left the nest for college and at 51, I am in a new job, earning more than I have in eight difficult years.  I call them “difficult” because I have never fully embraced my value as a stay-at-home-mother, even though this is what I always wanted to do.

The sacrifices you make when you decide to earn less in exchange for being more present feel mostly unnoticed and under appreciated most of the time.

But that’s the kind of Momma I wanted to be!  ALWAYS available, no matter what.  So when my biggest paycheck of eight years hit the bank account last night, I found myself weighing the value of the money versus the value of being physically present for the household.  Here’s how it feels to me:  in the short term, putting a hefty-ish paycheck in the household account feels better than making sure there is a roast in the oven but in the long term, knowing we raised a young woman who wants to touch base with us often is the greatest payoff possible.  

We are all conditioned to thinking of our investments – financial, emotional, intellectual – in terms of returns.  That’s why I count the number of days I maintain long-term sobriety, because as the days add up, I figure the greater the “return.”  But not if I’m not emotionally sober.  To maintain emotional sobriety, you better be invested in pouring every type of energy and asset you have into living a life worth living.  After all, what’s the point of removing something as pleasurable as drinking red wine if I’m not going to enjoy the benefit of sobriety and that enjoyment isn’t going to spill over into other people’s lives and well-being?  Huh?  In other words, it’s just as important to replenish and nourish your emotional, spiritual and physical coffers as it is to earn money and spend it wisely.  Now I get to do both:  earn money to help support our family and reap the benefits of staying emotionally invested and close to my children as they were growing up.

These days, I think alot about special times with my children when they were young, especially bedtime story reading.  My daughter and I had many favorite books, among them, a 1950’s Caldecott Award winner, “Blueberries for Sal.”

1-Sample-Blueberries-for-Sal

Little Sal was so much like my Isa:  precocious, daring, full of life and love for new experiences.  Together we would read the story about the Momma Bear and her Cub on the same mountain – but the other side and out of view – as the Momma Human and little Sal – picking blueberries to sustain their bodies through the winter.

My paycheck from the new job felt like a pail of blueberries from the book.  Very gratifying and fun but also a worthwhile investment for lean, cold days in the future.  It felt good and associating it with something so precious from my daughter’s childhood gives me peace of mind that our sacrifices have been worth it.  Especially when she texted back, “Yes I do” this morning when I asked her if she remembered reading “Blueberries for Sal” with me.

“Why can’t a paycheck just be a paycheck and not turned into a dumb pail of blueberries, you weirdo?,” you may be asking yourself.  Because I am committed to living a life worth living.  This is what it means to understand a woman in midlife experiencing an emptying nest and working to maintain sobriety:  a cherished moment of understanding in a three-word text from your beautiful daughter away at college puts everything in perspective.  And all is well with my world.

Cicada

Cicadas remind me of the starry summer nights of my childhood!

The Impatient Gardener

While working in the yard, my girls found this Cicada nymph hatching. What a great find.

Cicada Songs

They say your songs
portend the end of summer
just as chirping robins
usher in the spring air.

Listen to the sound
whirring, buzzing through
leaves of trees that shelter
the thrumming brood.

Insect monks chant
hymns of nature
for us and for
their silent females: “mate her.”

More musical than electric currents
that hum along power lines,
your symphony hovers,
guarding the sultry night like armored palatines.

Constant and pervasive,
we humans sometimes hear
sometimes ban your frequencies,
lulled to sleep by drums so dear.

Air conditioners and headphones
drown out your beautiful noise
but others sing with you
till Fall’s frost steals these little joys.

~David Granville




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Getting Sober Is Like Starting A New Job …. Everyday

Next week I will celebrate my 2nd consecutive year living in long-term recovery from alcohol use disorder.  Notice my language.  It is very specific for a reason:  I believe that I will spend the rest of my life working to develop deeper understanding of my need to numb feelings and, hopefully, will be granted the Grace and inspiration to pursue ever-deeper practices for managing and maintaining a healthy, well-rounded life without relying on alcohol.

I am so proud of this achievement yet I know that I could “slip” at any time if I begin to neglect the positive practices that keep me humble and eager for continued sobriety.  Just like a person who has changed jobs, my openness about my struggles is just one of many facts about my life – in other words, sobriety will never define me as a person.  Yet, surprisingly, maybe because of tv shows like “celebrity rehab” or the heavy infiltration of 12-step type phrases in popular culture, it has been my experience that people automatically have their own sets of expectations of what your recovery should look and feel like.

It is impossible to convey to a person who does not have addiction controlling their life the excitement and liberation you feel once you decide to change, accept your limitations, and work everyday to seek newer and better ways to live “a normal life” without obsessing over wanting to numb.  That’s why I write about it.  But it makes people feel “awkward,” it seems.  So I am supposed to confine and limit my experience to groups of other “users.”  This does not make sense to me.  You wouldn’t avoid talking to a person about their new “job,” so why would the topic of pursuing a life without addiction be any different?  This is why maintaining sobriety can be difficult – it is more “polite” to ignore the addiction monster in casual conversation.  This kind of sweeping under the rug behavior is bad for our children.  They need to hear us talking about and showing them what a life built on zero reliance on alcohol looks and feels like.  Just like we introduce our children to the concept of work by taking them to work  with us, we should not be afraid to declare our commitment to sobriety to our friends, family and community.

The reality is that the younger a person is when they first experience alcohol, the more likely it will cause an addiction problem later in life.  We don’t perpetuate self-sabotaging cycles in other health-related concerns (for instance, heart disease), so why are we reluctant to openly discuss and support addiction and sobriety?

I have a suspicion it is because many of us believe one of two things:  that we are already slipping into bad habits of relying on alcohol to “numb” difficult emotional situations or we mistakenly believe we are immune to addiction.  Those are highly dangerous beliefs.  I think another reason people don’t want to talk about their feelings related to numbing and alcohol is because there is a widespread misunderstanding of what a sober life looks and feels like.  I will definitely admit (if you have not already ascertained this fact!) that I am a much more sensitive person sober than drinking.  I have to work hard to process my thoughts, feelings and responses to everyone and everything around me to avoid falling into old patterns of numbing.  But that doesn’t mean my life is no longer fun or that I will not tolerate others’ drinking around me (everybody has their own barometer of tolerance about this, so it is always thoughtful to ask).

Over the weekend, I felt so many “feels” as we celebrated our first-born child’s Graduation from High School.  At once sentimental and fearful, the onslaught of well-wishing from people in  your life you may still be reconciling with, the entire weekend was challenging and tiring for me to navigate.  And the past two nights, my poorly trained brain with only 2 years of sober thinking under its belt, even began telling me “You should go ahead and enjoy a drink or 2 or 10.  You don’t really have a problem.”  This is proof to me that I will spend every waking moment for the rest of my life “managing” this enormous force that lives inside of me that wants to numb everything.

Finally, some thoughts about people in Recovery that might help others better understand this journey:

Sober people are fun people;

Getting sober means the party is just beginning, not ending.

Sober People do  not intend to make you feel uncomfortable ;

Sober People would rather you throw out all your old ideas about Recovery and learn by engaging with them rather than avoiding the topic altogether;

Just like becoming confident about one’s performance in a new job, living comfortably in your own skin as a sober person takes time, and you should not have any unrealistic expectations about what this should look like – every sober person is unique.

It has been an honor and a pleasure sharing the past 24 months with Readers. I have received so much love, grace and appreciation from the many people who want to understand addiction.  This propels me forward, especially after my 99th cup of coffee during absolutely perfect cold Heineken or margarita weather!

the Contentment Delusion – BayArt

Cheeky Friends,

I share with you some wisdom from another author today! Love, Joan

 

 

Many of the clients I work with have a desire to be content with life, yet struggle to experience it at any significant level. To live a content life would be amazing wouldn’t it? To not feel anxious about tomorrow, to feel satisfied and at peace with today and to be free from any guilt…

Source: the Contentment Delusion – BayArt

This Is What Gratitude Feels Like

Modern Mommy Madness

I am 25 days sober, and I feel amazing.

For a full 3 weeks, I felt almost debilitated. I was depressed, lethargic, and miserable. I had nausea, night sweats, and diarrhea. Some days I literally had to talk myself through putting pants on, and I wasn’t sure if I could keep going.

Are you asking yourself what I mean by “talking myself through putting pants on?” Here’s an example of how I shuffled through my days:

What’s the next right thing?

Putting on pants. I have to get some pants and put them on.

My pants are on. What’s the next right thing?

I need to get my purse. Okay, I have my purse.

What’s the next right thing? I need to find my kids.

Where are my kids?

Shit.

***

That’s what happens when a person suddenly stops drinking after her body becomes accustomed to metabolizing a bottle of…

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Girlfriends are like Quilts

Oh, Girlfriends!  How would a woman survive life without them?  They come to our aid before we even know we need to be rescued.  They understand our innermost feelings and needs in the deepest way.  They refrain from judgment.  Like Momma Bear protecting her cub, a great girlfriend will work wonders in your life and expect nothing in return.

I reach for my Mom’s handmade quilts every single day of my life for comfort.  Tattered and ragged, sometimes I drag my favorite one like Linus, as if the quilt could make me invincible.  Magical powers sewn into every square, crafted and pieced together by my Mother’s hands with abundant love and the greatest of hopes for a life well lived.  I literally can cover myself in her protection any time I want.  The girlfriends who have sustained me through life’s toughest challenges are exactly like my favorite quilts.

In this picture, I am in the most miserable physical pain you could imagine.  I had been laboring for over 2 days with my first child and was waiting the last few hours before heading to the hospital to begin the terrifying birthing process.  I am sitting on a heating pad because I have lovely back labor.  And draped across my knees is the “Cotton Boll” quilt my Mom made for me more than twenty years ago.  “Don’t machine wash this,” she cautioned.  “It will fall apart.”  Nope.  This thing might as well be made of kryptonite.  Virtually indestructible.  Just like my ties to my girlfriends, one in particular, my Pammy.

Pam took this picture of me when she delivered a beautiful Wendy’s lunch of french fries and a Frosty.  She had had her daughter the year before, I had been her “birth coach.”  I did not even know I needed her to check on me that day, my mind was swirling with nesting details and anxiety about the future.  I am sure we laughed about the indignity of the last day pregnant – I was hobbling around, grunting and moaning in my hugeness.  Pam’s presence was comforting, though, and nothing really needed to be said.  There was history between us (at the time we had been friends over 10 years, thinking we knew everything about life, love, family and careers!).

We both moved away from Kansas City for many years and hardly stayed in touch, but fate reunited us a few years ago, and we have both returned HOME:  to Kansas City and our friendship.  I can look at her and imagine what she is thinking and we both erupt in raucous laughter!  We have the comfort of each other’s company and support and a very long history of experience together to sustain us.  Friendship is, indeed, a joyous thing.  As a woman grows older, the comfort of a close girlfriend is one of the greatest treasures she can have.  Nobody knows us better or would go farther to show us who we are when we are lost.  And midlife, I am discovering, is a bit of a “curious wonderland” where one can get very lost, indeed.  I am finishing the intensive Mom phase and looking ahead to the second act (actually, it has begun, I am just in denial).  Pam helps me laugh away the embarrassment of my arthritic hips and knees when I try to get up gracefully from a restaurant chair.  She will be there with me, locked arm in arm, for the second act, and there will be laughter, joy and comfort.  And I am one grateful woman of a certain age!

 

Mention Cake First

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It’s as vital as the air I breathe:  CAKE.  Very early in life, I internalized the message that cake was equivalent to joy, happiness, satisfaction, togetherness.  Maybe it was the time my cousin’s Rancher Wife friend rescued me from the terrifying scene of watching Mr. Bird saw down the bull’s horn before it blinded him.  My other cousin, Patricia, was there to help Mr. Bird take care of the bull.  They left Pete and me (ages 6 and 8) in the farm truck (the “anchor”) and tied the bull to it and began sawing.  I began screaming hysterically immediately, so Mrs. Bird came and got me and took me inside to the warm kitchen.  She wiped my tears and opened her deep freezer (what a fascinating box of frozen surprises it was!) and pulled out a slice of carefully wrapped homemade coconut cake.  We sat in her small but cozy kitchen in the warmth and slowly the cake soothed the trauma of thrashing around in a truck tied to an angry and uncooperative bull with my cousin, Pete!  Mrs. Bird taught me that day that I was better suited for the kitchen than the ranch!

So, today, I am sharing with ya’ll one of my favorite Southern Cake recipes, Apple Dapple Cake.  The photo does not do it justice – it should be covered in brown sugar-iced fresh pecans, but where was I going to get fresh pecans during an ice storm this weekend? Give yourself and your family a big treat today and grab some delicious apples, peel and dice them and create the world’s most delicious cake.  And if it is work you must today, sweeten the evening with my favorite solution to any and all things intolerable:  CAKE.

Recipe courtesy of My Momma, Miss Rhetta

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped
  • 3 cups tart apples, chopped
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

FROSTING

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup milk

DIRECTIONS

  1. Beat eggs and mix with sugar, oil and vanilla.
  2. Combine flour, salt and baking soda and add to egg mixture.
  3. Fold in apples and pecans.  Pour into greased and floured tube cake pan.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
  5. For frosting:  Bring brown sugar, butter and milk to a boil.  Boil only 2 1/2 minutes.  Cool and spread on cake.

Eat it, You’ll Love It, and it will DRIVE AWAY any thoughts of ANGRY BULLS GETTING THEIR HORNS TRIMMED!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crockpot Italian Beef Sandwiches

This recipe is an adaptation from The Pioneer Woman.  The sandwiches are SO delicious and so easy to make, my family has asked for them twice this week!  Here ya go:

Ingredients

Serves 6

  • 3 lb chuck roast
  • 1 envelope of Good Season’s Zesty Italian Salad dressing mix
  • 8-oz Giardiniera (Chicago-Style Italian Sandwich Mix)
  • 14.5-oz can of beef consumme
  • provolone cheese slices
  • hoagie buns

Directions

  1.  Place chuck roast into the bottom of a 6-quart crock pot then sprinkle with salad dressing mix.  Add the Giardiniera and beef broth.  Place the lid on the crock pot then cook on low for 8 hours, or until meat shreds easily with a fork.
  2. Split buns in half then scoop the meat mixture on top and add provolone cheese slices.  Serve warm.

DELISH!!!!!