Dear God

Iron Kids Triathlon, Alpharetta, Georgia

Iron Kids Triathlon, Alpharetta, Georgia

Dear God,

Hi. How are you? Thank you for keeping me sober yesterday and please keep me sober today, too–I keep following your instruction to do this sober thing one day at at time. I was surprised yesterday when I realized I will have six months sober on Easter. I’ve been counting the days and didn’t realize how many months had added up.  By your grace, I’ve been able to get back to my sober life.

After being sober for three years, I really didn’t think it would be a big deal to have wine on my anniversary. But since I hadn’t been to AA the last year and a half of those three years, I didn’t have the regular reminder that I can’t drink like normal people.  And it took me three years of trying really hard to get sobriety back before I have been finally able to. Please don’t let me lose this?

I look at those three years and see your lessons.  One of the things you taught me was that financial security isn’t something I can count on, nor should I.  And through all that, here we sit in a teeny house with our life downsized 2/3 the size it was before. I never want to go back to big.

The blessings in having this little simple life are enormous. The boys share a room. We all four share one bathroom!  What character you’ve built-in all of us from all this sharing and physical closeness.

In my downsized life I actually get the laundry done.  The laundry room is right there.  I walk past it every time I go to the bathroom or to my room, so it’s easy to just throw a load in or take a load out.

Remember in the old house, the 5 bedroom, 3 bathroom golf and country club house?  Remember how the laundry would pile up in the playroom so high that my Mom would have to come over and help me fold it all?  I felt like such an incapable mother that I couldn’t keep up with the laundry!

Waverunners in Perdid Key, Florida

Waverunners in Perdido Key, Florida

Working full-time then and trying to run and manage that big house and big life really was too much for me. Sure I could handle it. I won the sales awards and the sales contests. I made really good money and we had amazing benefits for our whole family.

But none of that worked for us. Husband, the boys and I were all always running around, low-level anxiety permeated all of us. It wasn’t until we left all that behind, on a whim almost, when we decided to purchase this 1300 square foot 1925 farm-house and renovate it, that life began to get simpler.

Not at first, though. All the work the house needed before we could even move in! We were still drinking, and I can still see some of the trim I painted drunk that needs to be touched up.

Settled now, for the most part, I started my own small marketing firm, took a few clients immediately and learned the ropes of my new endeavor. Then, I got pregnant–and the boys were out of school for the summer–I gave up the clients and focused more on our home and family.  I was really happy. Giving up drinking when I was pregnant was a no-brainer, piece of cake. It was fun imagining the baby would be a girl and finally having some pink around our house. I remember thinking how grateful I was to you, discovering we were pregnant at age 42–I thought this must be Your way of getting me back to sobriety. We had decided to name her after my mother, Elizabeth Claire.

But you knew there were other plans for me, the miscarriage and subsequent D&C–gosh all that was awful. All the blood and painfulness. I was so sad.  The boys were so sad.  But it wasn’t meant to be. And I was able to see that if that wasn’t your will for me then I am okay with that. There must have been a reason – beyond my understanding – for losing the baby.

I’m sorry I went right back to drinking. And it was worse, more. After two months of that Husband had had enough and he threw me out. And in those dark, dark days that followed, I quit you. During those days of unspeakable brokenness and tears, I finally, finally broke.  I even felt something break in my head, like a physical sensation. It was the moment I told you I hated you, didn’t want you in my life and that I had no use for you whatsoever and I meant it with my whole being. I completely 100% for the first time in my life ever hated you. I told you out loud that I consciously choose to kick you out of my life.

And then something broke.

family2But then you sent an angel. my sister Liz who took off work and took me into her home and showered me with love and all of her religiousness.  Everything in her house is touched by you–the crucifixes, the rosaries, the Mary statues, the prayer cards, all of it. She set me up in her son’s room for ten days and I remember staring at that picture of Jesus of the Divine Mercy that she had tacked up on the wall right next to my pillow at eyes height. I remember staring into Jesus’ eyes. And they penetrated me, warmed me, filled me. I remember telling you I was absolutely broken and scared.  And I started writing.

I filled two journal books in those ten days, and I smoked three packs of cigarettes a day LOL!  And my sister who hates smoking never said a word to me when I smoked full-time on her back deck! She even brought me an ashtray. And I wrote two full books full of talking to you, praying to you, begging you and reaching out to you.  Every day my journal started out with Dear God.  And you filled me like you had never filled me before.

Thank you.

Within two weeks, I was reunited with the family and within two months I’d gotten back into AA and started working the steps. And now here I am, dear God, writing to you filled with peace and gratitude for all the wonderful gifts of my life. If I had to plan my life, it wouldn’t have looked like this.  And thank you for that! Because if I had planned my life, I wouldn’t have the joy and peace that you give that surpasses my understanding.

Love, Reg

Beach Trip – Perdido Key

Finally got away to the beach.  We found a small condo near at the FL/AL border for just $450 for the week.  They let us bring the dog and the condo was located right on the Intracoastal Waterway.


We ate a lot of seafood, spent time walking on the beach and fishing.  Funny the whole entire week we didn’t even catch one fish.  I think it’s because our bait was wrong.  Plus the bait was smelly especially after the first day.  If I was a fish I wouldn’t eat that crap.


We went to the Naval Air Museum, of course. We saw the IMAX show “Hubble” which was about the stars and the galaxy. Very, very cool.  A big hit of the week was the 3-man raft I got halfway through the week. Brian and I took it for its initial voyage down the Intracoastal. Ben and Rob went next. Then the boys and Rob spent a few days on it out in the ocean. Everybody loved it!

Unfortunately, Brian got sick :(. We had to take him to the doctor while we were down there. Ear infection, deep wet cough, fever, achey. So, he missed out on some of the fun but enjoyed playing with his new DS.

Birth Grandmother Teresa "Louise" Switzer

About a year and a half ago we got a letter in the mail from Rob’s 93 year old birth-grandmother, Louise.

Her hand-writing is impeccable.  She sent us a quilt.  Embarrassing to say we hardly wrote her back and when I tried to call her she couldn’t hear me.  She doesn’t email or text.  So, unfortunately the communication has been very one-sided.  Until this Fall.

We had such a crappy year, we have re-evaluated what really matters in life.  Mark Jardina died.  Brennan Passons died.  So, we extended an invitation to Louise and her daughter (Rob’s birth-mother) Rose Mary to come visit.  They don’t get along with each other so they were going to visit separately.  Just before Louise’ visit, she fell and broke her hip.

So, we made plans to drive to Kentucky to meet her and spend some time with her.  She said she wanted to meet Rob before she died; and after the hip issue she was feeling depressed.

Louise is 94 years old and seems like she’s 70.  She was born April 6, 1917.  She is a big University of Kentucky basketball fan.  She watches all the games and even pre-purchased a UK casket!

What a wonderful trip we had!  Gypsy came with us.  We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express.  Louise was a delight.  Her niece Mary Ellen joined Louise during our visit—we met at her assisted living apartment, had lunch at the Cracker Barrel; and then on Sunday we met at Mass, then had breakfast at Denny’s.

Ben and Brian thought it was cool that they had a “great” grandmother.  Louise was so funny—she talked non-stop.  Her memory was SO GOOD.  She was completely alert and witty–funny, sarcastic even!  She cried when we left.  So sweet.  I will make it a regular practice to write her from now on.  Every Sunday.

Thursday Family Fire

We have been burning all of our trash, plus wood from around our new home.  I plant pansies when I want to avoid responsibility and Rob builds fires.  He’ll spend all night out there just adding things to the fire.  On Thursday night we got the boys and dog out there.  They jumped on the trampoline.  Boys helped build the fire.

Eventually we’ll put in a real fire pit.  Lots of priority projects before that, though.  We do finally have a working bathroom and shower!  I’ll take pictures and post.

For now, enjoying my boys and my dog.

angst


Angst. I just don’t have any.

Last night, a friend was explaining how she and every other woman she knows is filled with angst, bored with their lives and kids and husbands. This particular friend has everything—it’s so odd that she wouldn’t be completely happy. Three great boys. Great husband. Nice home. Tons of friends. From my perspective they drink too much but from my perspective every body drinks to much. LOL. But other than the overdoing it on the partying I can’t see any reason why she would be so angst-filled. She wants to start a blog about it. And she has so many girlfriends and claims they all feel the same way.

The only two things I can think of that might be missing in her life are gratitude and complete faith and trust in God.

It was a little tough last night for me. But also very revealing! So funny how I continue to be amazed at the things I learn about myself and others the longer I am sober. I’ve said this before but I really feel like I am learning life and people lessons that I probably should have learned a LONG time ago.

Last night we went to a bar/restaurant..actually a “gastropub” as it were in midtown. The beer list was amazing. I was always a beer girl so the beer list itself got me a little forlorn. I suggest “dogfish” for Rob, a dark ale that sounded really yummy. I had a red bull.

After we went inside because of the rain we sat at a really long table—about 20 of us I suppose. I kept sliding down toward one end of the table, away from the heaviest drinkers and the smokers. Not so much that I don’t like them but because that is where I used to GRAVITATE. That is where I used to want to sit, to HAVE to sit. That side of the table the laughter is a little louder, the jokes are a little funnier, the people sit a little closer, the energy is a bit greater…

I LIVED on that side of the table for most of my adult life. Sad to admit that now because I wasted so many precious years on “that side of the table” oblivious to the whole rest of the world who were all quote unquote normal.

I remember back in the day occasionally looking up from my fun times out across the rooms at every one else, wondering why they all looked so BORED? All the “normal” people were having normal conversations, not too loud and not too crazy. I remember occasionally thinking they were all missing out! How naive I was!

And I also admit I remember wondering if they knew something I didn’t. If they had some secret to enjoying life without having to go all out. But I didn’t worry too much about them…only passing glances.

Now that I AM on that other side, that “normal” side, that “boring” side…it’s strange. For a while I was stuck in the middle—wanting to be with the fun ones and trying to change my life and be sober. But now, I can honestly say after last night that I am officially crossed over.

Sure it hurt my feelings when the one friend went to the bathroom and told the fun ones to rescue her from the sober and pregnant side of the table—it was so obvious, and after my initial hurt feeling I had to LAUGH because I had in my past done that exact same thing. I would have been MISERABLE on the “normal” side of the table and would have done everything in my power to make it over to the fun side, where the drinks were flowing and the cigarette breaks every 20 minutes.

And after my initial hurt feeling, and after I had to laugh, I was SO GRATEFUL that I was on the other side. I realized I was no longer in the middle, with one foot in the past and one in the future. Both my feet are now firmly in my new life. The “fun” side doesn’t look fun to me anymore. It looks old. I see wrinkles and hang overs and tiredness and one-upping and meaningless conversation. I see spouse bashing and not-so-innocent flirting. I see yuck. And I had to admit that I had spent the first part of the night moving away from that side, so I’m no different than they are..we all just want what we want.

Rob can take it or leave it..do the fun side or the “normal” side. I don’t know how he does it. If I were still a party girl, however, he would be permanently parked on the fun side with me. So, I think I am good for him this way, this sober way….he totally prefers to be with me, which I love love love. And so in a sense my sobriety protects him from that party lifestyle that is actually really unhealthy.

Fort Barrancas

Me and the boys went to Fort Barrancas yesterday here in Pensacola. It was really cool, especially for 7 and almost 9 year old boys. I was getting a little closterphobic—how funny–I have no idea how to spell clausterphobic and that rarely happens. I usually know how to spell everything. Anyways, the guide was a little long-winded…they could shorten the guided tour by 30 minutes and it would still be great. But the guy was having fun.

Barrancas means “bluff” in Spanish, apparently. I’m surprised I didn’t know that either! I’m just full of surprises this morning. I have prided myself in having a thick vocabulary in translating Spanish, but it seems to be fading :(. In fact, I have patted myself ont he back for both those two things: knowing how to spell everything and knowing what everything means in Spanish.
This Fort Barrancas is on the Naval Air Base which overlooks the mouth to Pensacola Bay. European colonization, American expansion and threats of invasion led to the building of coastal forts along the northern Gulf Coast. This one served as the gateway to the outside world and the lock on the gate from potential foreign invaders. The guide said the very first shots of the civil war were fired here..but then he digressed and said perhaps they weren’t any bullets (pellets or whatever they’re called) in the muskets, though.

In 1971, Fort Barrancas became part of the newly formed Gulf Islands National Seasore. Extensive restoration of the fort was completed in 1980.

By the time we toured the inside of the fort, the rain had started to really come down hard, but of course the boys didn’t mind. I wouldn’t have minded so much either if I didn’t have my camera and mobile phone…but once we reach the Parade (the center of the fort, the open area)I was so happy to see daylight that I didn’t worry at first that everything was getting soaked.

The Parade held a hot shot furnace where connonballs were heated for firing at wooden sailing ships. Scott the Guide told us that this was the origination of the term “hot shot” referring to either the soldier that carried the hot balls from furnace all the way up to the cannons or maybe to the cannon firer himself. He wasn’t specific which one hot shot referred to. In either case, a “hot shot” was a stud. They would fire these burning cannon balls onto incoming bad guys in the hopes they would make the ships catch fire. I wondered if there were any cannon balls still at the bottom of Pensacola Bay.

Afterwards, we drove around and looked at all the white identical tombstones throughout Barrancas National Cemetery. I have always felt “at home” in cemeteries. That sounds weird even to me to say/think but it’s true. I notice it in my son Brian too. It’s difficult to describe, but it’s a closeness to death—or LIFE, actually. I imagine the lives of the people in the graves and their children and grandchildren and happiness.

There’s an automatic respect and reverence every time I come upon a cemetery–I could hang out in a cemetary all day letting my mind wander about all the lives there. Oh the stories my brain can tell. And then I imagine that I am some mind-reader and that all my stories I’ve concocted about their lives are all true, like they are speaking to me from the dead.

Sometimes, it feels like they’re trying to reach me..not in a weird way, well, I guess this is all weird, but just in a way that says, “Hi!” In my mind, all the dead people are very happy when there are visitors to their cemetaries. Like they can’t wait to tell their stories.

It was nice to be there on Memorial Day. Each grave had a little flag, which must have taken someone hours to do because there are thousands of gravestones.

It was raining and we didn’t find my Granddad’s grave this time. But I took a picture of it last time so I’ll try to find it on my computer and upload it here.

Dog

I was sitting on the floor with Ariel, holding her head and petting her, supporting her from behind as they administered the euthanasia drug. Rob was in front of her, tears streaming down his face. It was SO SAD. I am now a grown up.

Ariel was 15 years old back in January. So, by May 18th when she died, we did the math and determined she felt like a 108 year old woman. She had a good, healthy, long, beautiful life and she was loved so much. But it is so sad and I completely understand the term “with a heavy heart.” I feel like there is a weight on my chest. I feel the loss, completely.

She had a bad weekend, tripped down the stairs and her left elbow was swollen. She was having trouble just sitting down or standing up. She couldn’t go down the few stairs from the front porch anymore to go potty. So, she had started peeing on the porch and pooping in the house. I had been sleeping in the guest room on the main floor for two months because she wasn’t able to climb the stairs to go up to our bedroom at night any more. But she didn’t want to be alone down there.

At night I would go up at 8pm to put the kids to bed and sing to them “When at Night” and she would sit at the bottom of the steps panting and getting anxiety thinking I wasn’t coming back down to her. We had to block the stairs so that she wouldn’t try to come up and hurt herself.

But she was still so happy for these late months! She would follow me around, sit at my feet, jump up for meals and when Rob came home from work. I think back though and wonder if we kept her a little longer than we should have. But then another part of me feels like we took her life before she was naturally ready to die. It’s such a tough thing. I can see why people want to put their pets or loved ones out of their misery with Euthanasia but we can’t do it for people.

For pets, they are fully devoted and dependent on us and they don’t understand why life is so painful and hard. They supposedly don’t have a “soul” like we do, although I question that now that I’ve known Ariel. The sad thing is I don’t think it was right to put her down, at least not right from a Catholic/ethical perspective. I could have cared for her until her natural death.

But every body says that’s what you’re supposed to do. I don’t know why exactly, but I ended up trusting everybody else and not my own judgment. My own judgment says to take care of her in her old age as I would a person. So, part of me feels like I killed my dog. 😦

Logically, I suppose—oh I don’t know. I don’t feel her presence AT ALL. It is just a total and complete loss so far. I “hear” her scratch at the door and I start to go let her in, then remember she’s gone. I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and in the dark on the way back to the bed I walk around the spot where she used to lay—so not to step on her head or tail, like it used to be. Then I realize she’s gone.

After the swim meet Thursday night, we were on our way home from Deer Run and I called Rob to tell him and for a split second I thought to tell him that I hadn’t fed the dog—I always fed her, so if the timing wasn’t right and I was out during her normal eating times then I would tell him so he could feed her. But this time it didn’t matter because she was already gone.

The first night, after we buried her I sort of had a little freaked out period where I ached that she was out side. I needed to bring her in from the cold. I needed to comfort her. I needed to pet her, to love her. I cried that she was dead and buried and pictured her lying there underneath all that dirt. She looked so pretty and peaceful after she passed and I just kept picturing her cold and scared outside.

I have two sets of emotions. The first is more selfish—for 15 years I have cared for her and she has been on the forefront of my mind every single day. I fed her, cared for her or made sure she was cared for. I played with her, made her comfortable and was uniquely tuned into her. So, after 15 + years of that, there is a void. All that emotional energy spent “caring” for her is now just gone. That is the heavy heart part.

The second set of emotions is for her. Is she happy? Is she comfortable? Is she cold? Where is her spirit? I don’t feel her. So, where is she? She can’t just be “gone” because she was such a loving and special spirit of a dog. She was so “human.” So, now that her body is gone, where IS she and who is taking care of her? I want to feel her presence. But I don’t. I want to “know” that she is happy now, but I don’t.

She’s just gone.

The night before she died, we gave her filet mignon for dinner. She hadn’t eaten her real dinner but she ate this! The next morning we gave her the peanut butter jar to lick and we sat with her all morning. The vet came to our house at 10:50am (they were late). Rob and I held her. They gave her the initial sedative and she layed down and seemed very relaxed but alert. We talked to her and told her we loved her. The vet and vet tech went out side and we spent several more minutes alone with her. Then we called them in and they administered the drug that killed her. I know I shouldn’t use that word “killed” but it is the word that fits for me. I feel like we killed her.

After the vet left, I lied with her while Rob went to the store to get plastic to wrap her up in. When he came back, we laid her on the plastic and she looked SO BEAUTIFUL, just like she was sleeping. After a while, it took all we had but we wrapped her up in the plastic and carried her up the back yard hil to the spot we had dug for her.

We said a prayer. Rob read it:

To everything there is a season,a time for every purpose under the sun.A time to be born and a time to die;a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;a time to kill and a time to heal …a time to weep and a time to laugh;a time to mourn and a time to dance …a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;a time to lose and a time to seek;a time to rend and a time to sew;a time to keep silent and a time to speak;a time to love and a time to hate;a time for war and a time for peace.
ecclesiastes 3:1-8

He cried and I didn’t. The whole day I didn’t cry. Part of me thought how STRANGE it was that I wasn’t crying while tears were streaming down Rob’s face. I wondered if there was something wrong with me? I wondered if I have a mental problem with attachment or something. But then the wiser me said this is what it is. If I’m not crying now, then it’s just my way of dealing with and processing this very huge thing. I was methodical and silent. Loving and firm. I was the one that pressed on.

What I mean by this is for example, when Rob suggested the vet might not be able to come that day I insisted that it was time, that today is the day. When the vet was there and they stepped outside to give us more time, I was the one to tell them it was time to come in and get on with it. When we laid her on the plastic I was the one to finally pull the end up and over her. When we laid her in the grave, eventually I was the one to shovel the first dirt onto her (although I was careful not to put it ON her, just next to her). It was ALL SO AWFUL. But I kept going through the motions, feeling the void but doing what had to be done. Meanwhile, Rob’s tears flowed openly.

He read the prayer. Then we buried her. We put stones in a circle around her grave and big stones at the top. We put a statue of St. Francis on her grave.