Life in Lockdown

Re-entry after a long weekend can be a little tricky.  It’s amazing how quickly I can get used to not having to get up early and adhere to an invariably busy schedule.  But the interlude is over and now I must manage a breakneck week of appointments and activities that are enough for an army to execute.  Some weeks are busier than others, and this week’s schedule seems a little daunting.

It’s easy to get caught up in the energy-sucking whirlwind of calendar chaos, which for somebody who likes to be in control of her life instead of vice versa, can create what my friend R refers to as “lifelock.”  He defines lifelock as, “keeping all energy and laser focus on maintaining a firm and unrelenting grip so as not to let the precarious order of things that have been muscled into containment roll into a sea of pandemonium.”  That’s a pretty fancy definition for not going with the flow, even if the flow requires you to be in several places at the same time when you are only one person.

So how do I relinquish the tenseness and tightness that comes from the embodiment of lifelock?  Yoga is my antidote, but I can’t spend my entire day doing yoga.  Although the blissful effects do last for a little while, on weeks like this it takes a lot of conscious effort to get back to my zen spot.  Knowing I had a very over-scheduled week ahead of me, I took some extra yoga time this morning freeing up as much physical and mental constriction as I could before there was no turning back.  While I was connecting with my inner sanctum I realized that there is one simple way that lifelock can be released, by relaxing my face. 

When you relax your face, and I mean really relax it–let your cheeks loosen, unclench your jaw, soften your eyes, unfurrow your brow, erase the scowl from your forehead and lips (we often don’t even know it’s there,) and just softly breathe—you can dive into a moment of peacefulness.  A tight face, or facelock, is an unrelenting cause of mind and body tension. 

In this over-hurried, over-booked, over-stressed world of over-time, it is safe to assume that most people have lifelock and facelock and aren’t even aware of it.  I succumb to this on a regular basis, but don’t realize how much so until I break out my yoga mat and stretch into some ridiculously ambrosial poses that help my worries momentarily disappear.  But today, in the midst of the busyness I remembered to relax my face.  When I did that my whole body let go.  Then I stopped panicking about how I was going to get everything done, how behind schedule I already was, and how I would possibly be able to make it to the weekend. 

There are so many components of life that we don’t have control over.  Learning to just accept that heads us towards the lifelock cure.  But in the meantime when I find myself facelocked in the grip of the frenzy, I will simply relax my face.  And at the end of the day if I need just a little more, turn on some classic holiday jazz and smile.



Surrendering to Sorrow

My dear friend (whose initial I will leave anonymous,) is a very beautiful, special soul, who provides the world with her radiance even though it is tainted with sorrow.  Our paths crossed late in life, but we feel strongly connected, as if we have been together through many lifetimes.  Although our stories began differently, our lives are now synchronous in many ways.

Almost 18 years ago she embarked on a journey with her husband to grow their family.  She flew across the country to adopt a baby girl who was only hours old, a miraculous new life embraced in her arms, they were filled with hopes and dreams of a precious future.  But only a few short years into living their dream of a contented family, their daughter began showing signs of emotional distress.  Eventually her behavior became concerning and they were told their daughter’s vague but intense problems are biologically based and she could face mental challenges indefinitely. 

Their journey changed course and put them on a broken merry-go-round of difficulties that they ride every day.  They continually wonder about their daughter’s ability to successfully cope on her own in the world.  But they fight, they struggle, and they persevere to help their almost adult daughter learn to grow up and to maneuver her way through the challenges that plague her.

The following is an email I recently received from her late one night as she sat in her heartache: 

“This is the saga, the ritual for many years. ‘Will you please tuck me in?’  It doesn’t mean that literally. It means going up to bed with her, rubbing shoulders, back, head, neck then saying I have to go now, and having her say, ‘No just two more minutes please. I NEED YOU.’  I say, but you have the dog right here. Look out your window. There is a beautiful star in the sky. ‘But Mummy  I NEED you and I FEEL ALONE.’  The tears are rolling down my cheeks. I hope my jangling bracelets hide the sound. My bracelets are inscribed. One says Faith and one says Survivor.   I am definitely a survivor but I don’t know if I have faith. I know I love my daughter.  Okay, the truth is the stars don’t really do it for me either. So life goes on, but I hear her when she says I still feel alone….”   

Her agonizing words describe the reality of those who struggle raising children with special needs.  Alone is a very potent irony in our lives.  Our children feel alone no matter how hard we work to hold and carry them.  We feel alone living a set of circumstances that are interwoven in our lives that we cannot change or escape.  But we rely on endurance, turn adversity into strength, and we try to teach that to our children.  My friend does that magnificently, even in her darkest moments.

I think about her words every night now when I tuck in my children, and pray they do not feel alone.   My friend is not, and I hope she rests on that when she does not have faith or stars to comfort her.

The Joys of Boys

I rolled out of bed this morning at the crack of dawn to drive my boys and a group of their friends to play paintball.  Normally this would be something their father would do, but due to the gambling fiasco he is working two jobs and I have had to pick up a lot of the more father-like responsibilities, which is now affording me the opportunity to really experience firsthand what it feels like to have sons.  I’ve had them for a while now, but didn’t really know what I was getting into when I had baby boys. I thought I did, but am now learning a lot what it really means. 

Coffee in hand, we loaded up the car and off we went.  The testosterone levels were rumbling.  They were strategizing, eagerly making plans of who would be on what team, there were periods of deep concentration followed by loud outbursts of enthusiasm, vocabulary that I’m not hip to and even a little vulgarity.  Definition of paintball:  when an entire group of males (and sometimes a brave female,) get together, gear up with masks and guns, proceed to a big wooded area to run, hide, yell, and shoot paint at each other.  What fun.  They were oozing excitement with the thought of messy colored destruction of whatever was in their path.  What did that mean for me?  Lots of laundry. 

When we got to the paintball “arena,” they just could not contain themselves and I barely had the car in park before they heap-piled out and ran, leaving all the doors of the car open, not looking back, “So, bye, have fun,” I said, but they were long gone.  I got out of the car, closed all the doors and went on my merry way, a smile on my face…yes smiling that they were gone having the time of their lives for a few hours but also because this was a chance to feel what it is like to be the parent of boys. 

When they were younger everyone always said boys were easier.   I would smile and nod when more seasoned parents would offer up their own experiences with boys, how they are a handful when they are younger and a piece of cake when they are older, whatever that means…how they don’t require the hands-on maintenance that girls do on everything from clothes and make up to dances and dating… how they will never leave their mothers like daughters will when they grow up and get married…and let’s not forget that they don’t get PMS when they blossom into young adulthood. 

Sometimes I am in the midst of helping them, directing them, advising them, and I don’t even know what is coming out of my mouth, and they listen, they believe me, they look to me to parent them when I have no idea what I’m doing and hope they don’t catch on.  Sure I’ve gotten into the swing of it, but am learning as I go.  The key is to pretend to know how to do this job even though most of the time it’s a big guessing game and then hope they turn out ok.  Today they told me I was the “second coolest mom in the world,” next to my pal J of course.   Even though it was second place, that was a pretty high honor. 

Paintball was smashing success, and they went straight from paintball to garage band practice, yes covered in paint and goop.  Now this is a real experience to be heard.  Literally.  It’s loud, it’s terrible, and they think they are on a stage with screaming crowds waving lighters and asking for more.  They try to write songs about I don’t know what, it’s hard to understand what they are saying, and playing.  They crank up their amps and let it rip.  Testosterone at its best. 

There are benefits to being the only female in a house of all males, like not actually participating in their activities other than transporting them to and from, then showing glee when they tell me all about it.  Sports, games, movies, I get to stand on the sidelines, cheer them on, but pass the responsibility of odors, language and dirty joke telling over to their father, which is a relief.  Oh I can keep up with the best of them, sort of, but it’s nice to be able to have an excuse to remove myself from manly situations and do something a little more ladylike…shopping or watching quality sappy movies comes to mind.  

They were so cute when they were younger, they would just build pretend guns out of Legos, play with tanks, and watch cartoons.  Now we’ve moved on to paintball, bands, sports where talent and skill start to matter, and a different phase of growth.  No idea what will happen as they get even older, their voices are deeper, and even though we have a few years to go, they are starting to resemble men.  Am I enjoying this phase because it brings us closer to them moving out?  Maybe…but not really, even though there are many days that time can’t come soon enough.  But deep down I know it will come all too fast, and I can only hope that I have given them enough schooling to be the best men they can be, while along the way they have taught me all I ever need to know about having sons.

Raise and Praise

My good friend J is raising me as I raise my kids, and she is raising them too. They spend a lot of time at her house with her three boys of similar age and they think of her as another mother. I’m not sure how J came into my life, but I don’t really care, she and her family are a gift to me and mine. Through all of the turmoil I’ve lived with my husband and his gambling addiction, my oldest son and his challenges, and a host of other issues that she has been privy to, I am learning about things that I haven’t had the time or energy to learn about. Like living freely each day, not planning or orchestrating, worrying or controlling, but just being, and just doing by being. She is teaching me by example, she fearlessly flies by the seat of her pants.

My youngest wanted to sleep over at her house, and he’s my baby…certainly not a baby but the one that I wanted to contain in the nest for as long as I could, unexposed to the big, wide, world of growing up. I am a creature of habit and like my boys all safe, clean, and tucked in night after night, in their own beds, so that I don’t have to worry, don’t have to wonder if they are ok. I politely tried to insist to J that my youngest was not ready to sleep over, he would be scared of the dark, or of a different house and routine, he might wake up with a bad dream, or worse have to use the bathroom and not be able to find it in the wee hours of the night. But she was onto me and said it was *I* who was not ready for him to sleep over, and she was right. It took her a few minutes of gentle prodding and then a flat-out, “Stop being ridiculous, let the kid sleep over,” before I packed his bag and off he went, but under strict orders not to call her 15 times to see how he is, and if I did I would not be allowed to talk to him. She is really doing a good job with me, I only called twice.

It wasn’t so hard for my middle son to leave the nest, he didn’t wait until J nudged me along, he just looked me in the eye, said goodbye and off he went. He loves being at J’s house, it is the antithesis of ours. J is a free spirit, doesn’t really care who comes and goes, who eats what, when, or how, whether dishes are done, towels are hung up, and shoes are neatly lined up in a row by the door. She is loving and kind but somehow keeps everyone in line, even those that are there just to visit. She gives them enough space and freedom to do what they want but under her invisible watchful eye knows everything, I’m still not sure how she does it. She said, “We want them to feel that they can do things,” and then gives them just enough rope to do it without hanging themselves.

My oldest especially enjoys going there, she has welcomed him into her life and under her wing. She has given him a safe haven to be a teenager, offering him a loving ear and hand that is not his mother’s, which provides solace for him, and for me. She has pulled him aside and given him the space and opportunity to talk freely with her about whatever he wants. She has even taken him out in her car to practice driving…she’s clearly courageous to a fault, I don’t even let him practice with my car. As she teaches him things, and the others as well, she affords me the opportunity to learn how to mother from a different perspective.

I oftentimes worry and have guilt about what a gift she is in our lives, she gives and gives and gives without asking for anything in return. She takes my children (sometimes by force, sometimes by necessity, and mostly just because she wants to,) she has helped me with things that affect my daily existence, like from how to maneuver through the wicked web of my husband’s addiction to finagling free pizzas. She encouraged me to write and when I was ready she set up my blog. She has taught me about faith and about trust, and she even has extended her circle of friends and extended family to us. And she knows that when she needs me, I will be there.

Life has been all-consuming for me for so long that I didn’t even realize that my children are growing up. I have to learn to let that happen and J is teaching me how to do just that. Just as much as they need to be raised, I do too, and we’re all better off because of it. Thank you J.

Running Alone

It was a dreary, not raining but damp, Thanksgiving morning.  The temperature was cool, the air, heavy but fresh.  It was quiet, even peaceful, both outside and inside the house.  I wasn’t sure where the day would take us other than preparing and enjoying a traditional holiday meal, but the lack of pressure was soothing. 

After breakfast my family went to the high school football game where there are always big, standing room only crowds, and they would be gone awhile, so I thought about what I might do.  The annual television parade was well underway, I was on my third cup of coffee, the bird was in the oven,  I had already leafed through the newspaper and the thousands of store fliers.  I was alone in the quiet of the house which is always lovely, but I decided to get some fresh air and stir up my metabolism before the big feast where calories add up and nutrition isn’t the priority, it is a holiday after all.

Although I’m a yoga purist, I am always open to alternatives, so I decided to shake it up today and go for a run.  I threw on my yoga clothes (don’t have running attire,) put my hair up, and hit the road by myself, cell phone in hand (just in case,) and a determination to let my life slip behind me for just a few miles (2.5 to be exact—not far for “real” runners, but enough for me.) 

With each step I thought of things I was grateful for…let’s start with breathing, and then legs that could run, a body that is capable, a house, a family, friends, computers, technology, the usual things that we may forget to be grateful for every day. 

At some point I got contentedly lost in the rhythm.  Very different from yoga, I could never understand running as a sport, it seems a little redundant.  But each time my feet steadily hit the pavement it somehow it didn’t seem so innocuous.  My heart was beating at a nice pace and it felt good to be alone, outside, just me and my thoughts…and the rustling woodland creatures, a few chirping birds, and the occasional barking dog. 

The aroma of smoky fireplaces, roasting turkeys, and musty leaves was invigorating, even a little bit curious.  What were people doing in each of the houses I ran past today?  Is this what Thanksgiving Day smells like outside?  While concentrating on breathing, I took a good look at what was around me, the things that you don’t see when you’re driving.  I skillfully avoided a few passing cars as I ran around curves and up and down hills.  My ears were numb from the chilly breeze, but my body was warm and I was in the groove. 

It wasn’t over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go, it was just me surrounded by nothingness as it exists every day without my awareness.  As I approached my house I looked at it through different eyes.  It’s just a house, one that I’m trying to move away from, but inside was my life waiting for me. 

It was in those rare moments of alone time that I realized most of the time I’m not running alone.  The overflowing calendar that runs my life is daunting, it’s easy to get caught up in the lack of unity I feel with myself.  Always surrounded by people who are doing the same thing, I rarely have moments of stillness to find time for the gratitude that seemed to flow naturally when I had that opportunity today.  And for that, I give thanks.

A Thanksgiving Poem

Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving
When all through the kitchen,
Plenty of creatures were stirring
Pots, bowls, and fingers licken.’

The pot holders hung by the oven with care
In hopes that a turkey would soon be in there.

The children were all busy playing the wii
While the mom and the dad were drinking some tea.
(So one had beer and one had wine but that didn’t rhyme.)

One of them was preparing the feast
Another one was handling the beast–
That cat that is–off of the table–
Where she tried to lick what she was able.

As the night went on and the ingredients were few,
The pile of dirty dishes just grew and grew.
Tomorrow would be a nice special day,
Filled with football, parades, food and play.

This would be the first year when no visitors came,
To be part of a celebration or even a game.
It would be ok that it was just us,
We were ready for quiet with maybe no fuss.
Sometimes that happens when in-laws come by
But this year it seemed we would only have pie.

At the end of the day when the feast is complete,
And everyone is full from their head to their feet,
We will look around and be very grateful
For all of the blessings not just a plateful,
But for all that we have despite any issues,
And maybe a tear will require a few tissues
(this is a little too sappy now.)

Just kidding, you know what will happen alright,
The kids will be yelling and probably fight.
The dad will end up asleep in the chair,
The mom will be doing the dishes, her hair
Will be tussled, her cheeks will be red,
From cooking, the fireplace, and yelling
Off you go, enough for one day.”
I’m tired and just want a minute to play
By myself, a little cool jazz and some wine
Will make her Thanksgiving perfectly fine.

May this Thanksgiving bring you joy and peace,
And may your blessings be great and your worries cease.
Tis the start of a holiday season so dear,
May your wishes be made ever so clear
To those that can grant them from the stars above,
Happy Thanksgiving to all and to all I wish love.

Hope Springs Eternal

I woke up this morning to sirens, a house across the street from us was on fire.  It was for sale and very recently went under contract but has not closed yet.  Not too long ago a different house across the street from us burned to the ground.  These are unmitigated examples of people’s hope abashed by life right in my front yard and it made me stop and think about how life throws you things that you don’t expect, and sometimes all too often.  

It is safe to assume that life has battered me around for long enough to have pushed the hope right out of my system.  I have watched my children struggle and suffer, I have watched my family (myself included) have life-threatening medical issues, I have watched my marriage crumble more than once right in my hands, I have watched my finances go from good to great to really awful in a few short years, I have seen myself move in and out of homes I loved, and in and out of homes I hated.  I have had friends who I thought would be there for life come in and then leave when the going got rough, had neighbors turn their backs on me in my darkest moments, and I struggled enough as a child that I have literally blocked out chunks of time from my memory. 

Sure, the seemingly unending stream of events that have rained on my life through the years did take a toll and have made a deep imprint on my soul.  I have had to fight my way through a perilous journey of struggles enough to make anyone feel defeated, lost, and beaten down.  There are times when I wanted to give up, times I have collapsed under the pressure, and times when I felt there was nowhere to go but up.  But it was in those moments that I looked up and clung to whatever little bit of hope that I could find, and I ran with it, even when it felt like it was gone for good.  I have never really been able to give up, even when I’ve tried. 

My friend J said to me today, “You know life is not a fairy tale where roses and sunshine fly out of your a**.”  That was a lovely sentiment to the fact that reality is what it is, but as she said it, knowing she is right, I still choose to believe in hope.  Hope of whatever it is that I believe in.  She believes in hope too, but not so much in fairy tales, which might be where we differ.  No matter how hard I try, I still believe in happy endings.  And why not even a happy life before the ending, even when it’s complicated?  We both believe we can make our own destiny if we find the right path, and sometimes things aren’t easy but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth hoping for. 

Of course the fear creeps in when you have come face to face with despair or disaster enough times and it does leave a little bit of residue in the back of your mind.  But now I don’t give it what it needs to survive.  I flush it out with hope instead, and land on my feet every time.  Why does the outcome have to be bad?  We may not know what is around the corner, but we certainly can hope for the best, and then some. 

There have been forces in my life that have helped me stay hopeful, people who I’ve met and even who I haven’t met who have carried me through duress.  I have drawn strength out of sorrow, watched my family’s resilience, ebbed and flowed through marital woes, seen dark turn to light and good memories sneak back in.  I have had neighbors resurface and friends come back who I thought were gone for good. 

I carried hope for our neighbors today as their house was on fire, and hope for the people who helped them.  I tend to do that, have hope for those around me, even if I don’t know them…that’s not really a big load to carry as I’ve learned that when we have hope there is always enough to go around.   And when you have hope you have belief, and when you have belief, that is when you have roses and sunshine, wherever they come from.

Letting My Hair Down

I let my hair down today.  Haven’t done that in a long time.  I’m a gal who lives in yoga clothes, hair almost always pulled back in a pony tail, keeps my reading glasses nearby to see whatever it is that has to be seen clearly from reading to eating, finds a lot of things to do that keep me busy all day every day, there’s always so much on the to-do list, so many directions to run in, never enough hours in the day, and certainly not a lot of time to stop and smell the roses (although I try.)  

But today was different. My youngest didn’t have school so I had an extra hour to hit the snooze button even though the phone starting ringing at 7 am from people who had so much important business to take care of right at that exact moment–and I ignored them.  Half-asleep I refused to start my day before 8:30 when I eventually put my feet on the floor, threw some coffee in the brewer and set my intentions to take the day as it came.  And it came nicely. 

It’s a holiday week and I look forward to the holidays, as much as there is to do there is a subtle backdrop of peace for me, it’s not a regular week, the routine is different and the energy has a happier vibe to it.  But there was a little more than that, I spent the morning doing something for me, and I rarely do that, and it was fun, which almost caught me off guard.  The calls were coming in and I ignored them.  The emails were rolling in and I let them go.  I didn’t make the beds, do the dishes or laundry, I didn’t even get my morning news or NBC Meredith and Matt fix. 

Eventually time and life caught up with me and I had to get on with the rest of the day, it wasn’t a vacation day but for a bit it felt like one.  For a little while I could escape, take a break, and pay attention to what I wanted to do and not let myself be pulled in so many directions, even though I knew later I would have to play catch up.  But it didn’t matter.   And when I did move on with my day, I didn’t even pull my hair back into a pony tail.   

I let my hair down for the first time in quite a while.  What a treat.

Life As We Know It

My youngest son was watching cartoons this morning and he asked, “How do you know they’re not alive and we’re not on a tv show?”

I thought about that for a minute and told him that was a really good question.  We don’t really know the answer do we.  Do we?  We could take thousands of years of theological and philosophical writings, teachings and texts to conclude whether we are the tv show and the cartoons are alive.  We could utilize all of the quantum physics methodologies to make that determination.  We could consult the most genius of all humans, the highest spiritual masters, we could meditate and pray to seek our own personal answer, but we may never know the answer, and never is a very long time.

It’s been done before, the movie that depicted the life of a man who thought it was his life but it truly was a tv show that he did not know until the end of the movie when the set came down around him…it was odd, even a little scary.  Dark humor thought up by someone challenging that exact question.  There actually have been many movies, books, and theories presented that were both fictitious and potentially realistic, but how do we really know for sure.

My friend M lives a life similar to mine, where basically the motto is, if it’s going to happen, it will happen to us.  She has thought about finding a video crew to follow her around and film her life every day, knowing that in today’s world of reality tv it would be a hit…she calls it, “And You Thought Your Life Sucked.”  I love my friend M, she finds humor in all of the darkness and despair of her life.  She gives no thought to wondering if our situations are real, where we came from, how we got here, and whether this is it, because for her, this life is real enough. 

What is the reality though?  Apparently it’s what we make of it.  M says she just tries to stay positive and be proactive about whatever happens day by day, so it doesn’t really matter if it’s all orchestrated by a force greater than us and we are just characters in a giant drama created by an unknown alternate parallel universe. 

American Theologian Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr said, “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime, therefore we must be saved by hope.  Nothing that is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history, therefore we must be saved by faith.  Nothing we do however virtuous can be accomplished alone, therefore we must be saved by love.” 

That may sum it up right there. 

My cat curled up on my lap as I was writing this.  She didn’t care that I was busy and she was using my lap as a place to deposit her fur.  She thinks she rules the world.  And who’s to say she doesn’t?

Live, Laugh, Love

Are You There God?  It’s Me Margaret. 

My best friend from elementary school reminded me the other day that we read the groundbreaking, best-selling Judy Blume book over and over and over when we were little.  It is a beautiful story about a 12-year-old girl who is struggling with pre-teen issues from religion to bras to boys, and finding her own identity as she feels her way through puberty.  We cherished this book, it taught us about growing up and coming into our own as girls, and then women. 

My friend actually still has this book on her bookshelf and wants her teenage boys to read it, thinking it will help them understand more than what they learn in health class about the opposite sex.  I get where she is coming from having teenage boys of my own, we desperately want them to understand how the female works as a whole for many reasons.  But I’m not sure they can fully appreciate what that means, or really even want to.  This book is about understanding what it is like to be a girl who desperately seeks to learn how to become a woman, which is hard enough to do when you are one.    

So what happens when you get there?  Here I am decades later, all grown up but still growing.  Still coming into my own.  Will it ever stop?  Will I ever be done?  Just when I think I’m good and I’ve got a grip on it, I’m knocked overboard and have another reason to wonder if Anybody Up There is listening when I ask for answers to things that I thought I would already know by now.  Like how to raise my children.  How to be a good wife, mother, even friend.  I thought I would have a handle on my body.  I thought for sure I would get through life without any surprises other than what is inside a wrapped birthday box and yes, I even thought I would live happily ever after.  That’s the real zinger.  Because that part not happening wasn’t mentioned in the book that we read as little girls. 

But there’s another book on my bookshelf that has more recently become a grounding force in my life called Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert.  It’s a must-read for those of us who loved Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, maybe almost like a follow-up, grown-up version of the struggle to be a whole woman, understanding yourself in the deepest sense of being all grown up while continuing to evolve.  It’s one woman’s story of becoming whole and it sends a powerful message to women of all ages.

Sure I love to eat, am very spiritual, and fully love, but I also love to live and love to laugh. I only recently remembered how to do that again after being lost for a long time in the anguish of addiction and autism.  But then I realized who I am despite my life.  It’s hard, but it doesn’t change who I am at the core, who I forgot I really was and more importantly, who I could be.  When I remembered, I stopped letting the difficulties of my life rule me, but instead propel me into empowerment and smack me right into joy.  Ironic how that can happen.  Sure, I’m still a mom of three boys, the wife of a recovering addict, a yoga fanatic, wine and jazz lover and a lot of other things, but I’m so much more than that, and have learned to live, to laugh, and to love again in spite of everything, in spite of myself.  Guess I’m coming into my own, again. 

Yes, I think Somebody is Up There and is definitely listening.