Monday, August 26, 2013


I grew up in what I would classify as a rather strict, God-fearing and God-loving home. By the time I was in junior high, I attended "big church" (the regular church service on Sunday mornings), youth group for a second service Sunday morning, and the Wednesday night youth get-together, which was way more of social outing than a learning experience for me.

Church-y stuff. Three times a week.

In addition to all of this organized religion, I also attended a private Christian school through 9th grade. The entire junior high at this school in my 9th grade year was 81 kids... the largest number they had seen since the school began. One of our required classes was a Bible class, every year, every day, five days a week.

LOTS of Jesus in my formative years.

One of the interesting by-products in being raised in this environment was a lack of conversation about all things "worldly". As an almost-thirty-eight-year-old grown-ass female, I am not sure even now if I can describe what those things were, but I certainly have it ingrained in my head, even today. I think it's something like this...

Sex. Secular music. Disobedient and disrespectful children. Law-breaking. Drugs. Alcohol. Failing at school. Other religious viewpoints and beliefs. Not fitting in the mold. Not doing as you're told. 

My sister and I used to play a game when I was in high school (and we were both at public school for the first time) at the dinner table. It was loosely called, "Who Can Make Mom Leave the Table First". The rules were simple: the stories you told had to be true, and they had to be outrageous. We would relate a narrative of something that had happened at school that day or that week, attempting to use friends' names that Mom actually knew or knew of, and would fall over with laughter when we would make her so uncomfortable with Real Life Talk that she would excuse herself and go into the next room.

Sorry, Mom.

Karma was a non-Jesus-loving word in my adolescence: a New-Agey, World Religion concept that was sniffed at just like Yoga, The Dalai Lama, and Buddha. It alluded to higher planes of consciousness, spirit leaders, and reincarnation. The Golden Rule? Fine. Karma? You are entertaining other religious viewpoints... and I will pray for you.

Karma, according to the Google, is: "the sum of a person's actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences". The Urban Dictionary says it this way: "the belief that all of your actions will have equal repercussions, affecting you". Or, "the basic theory of cause and effect".


For the past two months I have been slowly drawing myself out of the worst depression I have ever experienced. It has caused me to question many of my beliefs, my values, and my character qualities. And while I've been on this journey, karma has become extremely interesting. Not in a past-life way, not in a "I don't deserve good things" way. But in a sense of there being a yin and a yang in life.

Is there something that I have done, or been, within my life that means in order for there to be balance, I must go through this difficult season? Is there a lesson that I am supposed to learn in order to be released from this pain? And is it because of some of my past actions? My thoughtlessness, my need for control, my selfishness? How can I take this heartache and become a better person?

As I look back on my years as a wife (which I no longer am), I can be grown-up enough to admit some a lot of mistakes.

A lot of mistakes.

And maaaaaybe, (go with me here for a minute), just maybe, I have an opportunity, when confronted with the same behavior I regret within my past relationships, to right a wrong within my little life. I can't change the past. I can't even apologize to the non-husband, since he wants no communication with me at.all.ever.again.please.go.away. I can't make those old mistakes better. But I can respond to this confusion and hurt the way I wish I experienced. I can say, "I love you and you suck and I get it and let's talk". And maybe, it's not about making the other person feel good or better or valued. Maybe it's about showing myself you can feel good and you are better and you are valued. I can understand what makes a person act this way, because I used to act this way. It is not right and it is not okay and it is not acceptable. But I get it.

Maybe by extending grace or understanding I am not the weaker party but the bigger person. And there is balance.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Fighter and the Runner. a fairy tale.

Once upon a time, in a village a long way from here, lived a Runner. The Runner was a well-liked, well-respected, strong man, and the villagers thought highly of him. He was such a runner in his spirit that he pursued running as a past-time, running for long ways, for long times, and even winning awards for his running. He displayed these awards in his home in the village, and could often be found showing pictures to the villagers of the many runs he had been on, the places he had seen, and the finish lines he had crossed.

The Runner was also a Warrior. He was skilled in combat and warfare, and was set apart in the village as belonging to an elite class. He honored faith, loyalty, and courage, and was held in the highest regard by the other Warriors with whom he identified. He was a champion, a gladiator. A hero. He was proud to be a part of this highly-esteemed group, and even when the village no longer required him to battle for their safety, he called himself a Warrior.

The Runner was all of the things that make up a Warrior. But in his heart, underneath it all, he was a Runner to his core.

In the next village, down a path and around three corners, there lived a Fighter. And Fighters are different than Warriors: Runners can be Warriors, and Fighters can be Warriors, but rarely is a Runner a Fighter. The Warriors could be counted on to do great things that influenced villages and villages; they would fling themselves into harm's way when there was battle without hesitation, because Warriors know it is easier to die for their village than it is to live for it. A Fighter fights on a much smaller scale, and rarely receives the accolades the Warriors are often given.

The Fighter had learned at a very young age that Dragons frequently came to the village, and threatened the peaceful lives of those who lived there. Sometimes, if the Warriors were home, they would scare off the Dragons; but oftentimes the Dragons knew when the Warriors were gone, and would wait in the forest for when the village was unprotected.

Because the Dragons had a way of showing up at the worst of times, the Fighter was not always prepared for the Dragons' arrival. If I am to tell the whole story, it is truthful to say that the Fighter was known to lock herself in her bedroom, in her house in the village, and weep when she saw another Dragon making it's way to the meeting-place in the village. Some of the Dragons were baby Dragons; they were easily vanquished by the Fighter. The babies didn't cause much damage, and they were the ones that would run when they saw the Fighter approach. Some of the Dragons, however, were fire-breathing monsters. They would level a house with a single sweep of a tail as they made their way into the village. They cared not for the wounds inflicted upon themselves as they tried to ruin and destroy the villagers' lives. In these times, (once the tears were dry), the Fighter would call on the other Fighters in the village. They would meet together, in the forest, and form a plan of how to destroy the monster. All of the Fighters had their own role to play.

One day, the Runner was visiting the Fighter's village, on his way to meet with the Warriors. He saw her, and spoke to her, and sensed something profound in her presence. Over the next weeks and months he found himself more and more at the neighboring village, visiting the Fighter, getting to know who she was.

The Fighter was concerned by this attention from the Runner. Because the Dragons could return at a moment's notice, she was used to the Dragons-- and her plans to vanquish them-- getting the majority of her energy. When the Runner would visit, she would forget about the Dragons right up until the moment she remembered, and she would leap from her seat at the table to peer out the window and make sure she was safe.

It didn't take long for the Runner to confess to the Fighter his new feelings for her. He told her all about how he was a Warrior, and that she didn't need to be a Fighter any longer. The Fighter didn't believe him; she had heard this song-and-dance before. There had been several times in the past when someone tried to convince her to lay down her Dragon-fighting weapons. She knew she was a Fighter. The only ones with whom she shared her responsibility to fight were the other Fighters. They had proven themselves, time and again. They were the only ones she had seen vanquish the Dragons by her side. The Runner was fascinated by the Fighter. To his reason, fighting is the last defense, and one should always try to run first. The Fighter would tell the Runner about the Dragons, elated after a success or wounded after a difficult battle, and the Runner often had no response. The Fighter knew the Runner only as a Warrior, and didn't yet realize he was, at heart-level, a Runner. She thought it was the years of him being a Warrior that made him reluctant to hear of her fights.

As summer turned to fall, and fall turned to winter, the Fighter began to trust the Runner. It is possible, she reasoned, for a non-Fighter to be trustworthy; just because she had not seen it before did not make it less feasible. The Runner took care of the Fighter; making sure she did not get so caught up in the Dragons as to neglect the important life-living there was to be done. The other Fighters whispered amongst themselves that they had never seen her so happy before. The Runner began making plans to move the Fighter to his village, the Fighter began preparing her village to succeed at the fighting in her absence.

It was a cold Monday night, after several difficult weeks, when the Runner began to show his runner's heart. He sat the Fighter down and explained that he was a Runner, and although this season of non-running had done his heart good, he needed to run. Running wasn't just what he did, it was who he was. Confused, the Fighter agreed, knowing that the worst thing to say to a Runner is "No, you cannot run". She, of course, had seen other Runners on the outskirts of the Village as they ran, she even knew a few by name. By now, she had given her heart to the Runner, and believed that he had given his heart to her. She told the Runner, "I've never meant to make you feel like you cannot or should not or must not run. If you need to run, run. But I will be here on your return."

And the Runner ran.

The Runner had been gone for more than a week when the Fighter first had a twinge that maybe this was no normal run. Maybe the Runner would not run home! Is that even possible? She began asking her Fighter friends what they knew of Runners. She asked other women in the village who had loved Runners. And a horrible truth was gleaned from the information she gathered: Runners do not always come back. Sometimes, they make a new home. Sometimes, they go back to a home from yesteryear. Sometimes, they are never heard of again.

The Fighter raced home and upstairs after her last meeting in the village. She dug out an old pair of shoes, bought with good intentions, rarely worn. She put them on, laced them up, and after just a moment's deliberation, started running. She ran to the places where the Runner had last been seen, sometimes just missing him. Several times she saw him; once or twice she was even within speaking distance. She asked, "Please! Will you stop running and talk for a moment? I just need to know if you're coming home, or if you will run for always." The Runner answered, "I will come home! Just not yet. And I don't know when. Please, no more questions." And then he would run.

The Fighter was not a Runner, and she would return after her runs dejected, discouraged. Because running was not in her heart it did not bring her satisfaction, even running after her Runner. She was not capable of running for long distances for long times. She took to writing letters to her Runner, and forwarded them to the places she thought he would be next. Half of the letters were returned, and half she never knew if they ever reached her Runner or not.

The weeks turned to months, and the Fighter slowly began to accept the Runner may not return. She would still go on her runs to find him, see him; but her tread was slower, her knees pained her, and now she began to be afraid of what she would find along the runs. When she first started running after the Runner, she remembered to bring all of her Dragon-fighting weapons; as time went on, she would run unarmed as to try to run faster for longer. One afternoon the Fighter realized she was putting her safety and the safety of the villagers at risk while she ran after a Runner who did not want someone to run with him. She took her shoes off and set them next to the chair. The next day she set them on the stairs. And three days later she put them away. As she wiped a tear from her cheek, she reasoned it is better to let the Runner run. And she laid plans to get back to fighting the Dragons. That, after all, was the life she knew. The other Fighters had been gracious about her uncommon runs, but she knew she was letting down her allies while she pursued a solitary, and unfruitful, quest.

Two weeks later the Fighter answered a knock at the door. She could hardly believe her eyes when she saw her beloved Runner standing in her doorway. He explained he had just needed to run, and that when he started running he hadn't known whether he was ever coming home, but now he had realized he missed his Fighter. At first he tried to tell the Fighter it was her fault that he ran, but the Fighter did not allow that. She had wrestled with that question in her own head when the Runner had been gone, and had realized it was not her fault. While the Runner spoke, the Fighter could barely look up from the floor. She had just begun training again with the Fighters, she had just started to accept the Runner was gone. How was she to handle this declaration? She told the Runner she had been honest when she said she would be waiting for him when he returned from running, but that she had had no idea he would run for so long, with no communication, away from her. She explained that he would need to help her believe in him again. And the Runner agreed.

It didn't take long before the Fighter knew in her heart something was wrong. She was dividing her time between training with the Fighters and taking care of her home in the village and being with the Runner, but things were not right. She had known, once the Runner came home, that it would not be the same as before he left; but although she saw glimpses of the Runner she knew, the time away had changed him. After a meeting in the village ended early on a sunny afternoon, the Fighter came home. And discovered the Runner was still running, almost daily. He was only coming back every night so he wouldn't have to tell the Fighter where he had been.

The Fighter had another urgent problem as well. There were more and more Dragons coming to the village, more than had ever been seen before. The Fighter was exhausted constantly. She would collapse into her bed every night, after fighting and fighting, and barely be able to keep her eyes open long enough to place her head on her pillow. The times she did spend with her Runner she wanted to talk about his running; what did he see while he was gone? What made him come home? And why was he still running, often without speaking of it? But the Runner would avoid her questions, and she would let him, figuring he would speak of his travels when he was ready, and wanting to enjoy the short times they had together.

Eventually the Dragons became such an overwhelming problem for the village a meeting was called. The terrified villagers tried to come up with solutions to help the Fighters in the crusade to keep the Dragons at bay. The Fighter kept looking around for the Runner, but he was nowhere to be seen in the crowd of people, and she was disappointed he was not there for something so important. Finally a villager loudly proclaimed, "Someone must be showing the Dragons the way to our village! There is no other logical reason for the numbers we've seen. Someone must be traveling on the Easy Path, and leading the Dragons back to our homes and our lives."

The Fighter's heart sank. She was afraid she knew whom the culprit was. And why her Runner was not at the meeting.

The Easy Path, dear Readers, is one that the villagers were warned of from the time they were young. It began on the far end of the village, and led to a destination unknown, as the ones who sojourned down this Path usually stayed away. The Easy Path was known to be treacherous, with poisonous vines growing alongside which would wrap around a traveler's ankle and, in a blink of an eye, pull the unsuspecting soul off the Path never to be seen again. Also, the Dragons made their homes here, hidden in the vines and the trees, and the folklore stories told of many who began a journey along the Easy Path and were overcome by the Dragons.

When the Fighter left the meeting, she found the Runner along the way to her home. He smiled when he saw her, but faltered when he recognized the look on her face. He tried to tell her he had things he needed to do, but the Fighter was not going to let him avoid her this time. The Fighter calmly, with tears in her voice, asked her Runner if he had been running on the Easy Path. She told him she knew of his running, and that it was okay; she wanted him to be able to run if he needed. But she also explained, in the quietest of voices, that she feared it was he who was leading the Dragons to her doorstep.

The Runner grew angry, and demanded an explanation. The Fighter told him of the meeting in the village, and how the explanation of an Easy Path-traveler resonated in her heart. The Runner denied playing a part in the Dragons attempting to take over the village; hadn't there always been Dragons since the beginning of time? How dare she, a Fighter, accuse him! The Fighter grew silent and waited. Then, the Runner agreed. Yes, he was running along the Easy Path; but he was a Warrior! No harm could befall him. He hadn't told the Fighter because he was smarter than the traps laid by the path, he knew how to avoid them. It was none of the Fighter's business where he ran, or how long he ran. No one would be hurt.

With a heart overflowing with sorrow, the Fighter told the Runner she would not tell him he could not run, or where to run; but if he continued to choose the Easy Path as his preferred road, he could no longer run home to her. The Dragons were too strong, and there were too many. She and her team of Fighters could not fight them all.

The Runner yelled, face flush with rage, "You hate that I run! You don't accept who I am! I've been explaining this since I first started running, it is your fault that you don't understand!" The Fighter let him finish, and replied, "It was never about the running. Not even the first, long time. Not even when I did not know if you would ever come home. Even when I really knew who you were, I chose you. But now, there is something of high value at risk. Your choice of running Path affects my home, my safety, and my loved ones. It is up to you: which is more important? The Fighter, or the Path?"

And the Runner chose the Path.

The Fighter hears of him on occasion; he has found a new village in which to rest his head after his runs, and is still held in high regard as a Warrior and a Runner. The Dragons continued to be overwhelming for a time once the Runner left the village for good, but the team of Fighters were strong and unwavering, and peace has, for the most part, been restored.

The Fighter still misses the Runner. But she has a new tranquil life, in the village of her youth, surrounded by the Fighters that know her and understand her best.

The End.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Not for the Faint of Heart.

"Oh, Gigi. You deserve so much better than all of this."

My best friend of twelve years sits across from me on top of the built-in bar in the backyard. Cross-legged, she tilts her head and tries to make eye contact. We are doing what we do best; drinking a vodka drink and smoking a cigarette and talking about the difficult hurdles in our lives. We've learned over the past twelve years that problems shared with each other mean half the load... we have built a solid relationship while we shoulder each other's burdens. We loan money. We show up even when the other says not to, because we know they're lying. We bring coffees and babysitters and a scrub brush. Spreadsheets and computer software. We scrape each other off the floor. Help move furniture and clean out Grandma's house. Say I love you and I'm here for you and you don't owe me a thing.

At the moment, we're discussing my life.

The last four months have kicked my ass. More than once I didn't know how I was going to make it. I've eaten Xanax. I've gone through boxes of Kleenex. I've sat at my desk at work with tears streaming down my cheeks, thankful that only two people can see me while I sit here and die. I've lost 15 pounds because I stopped caring about food. I've called people I haven't talked to in months or years, trying to get some perspective. I've asked people who love me to write a list of my flaws, so I can try to see myself from another set of eyes. I've cried every day for months. There have been several reprieves, times when it looks like the devastating circumstances I couldn't seem to handle were lessening... and then it turns out they weren't lessening and it's actually worse than I thought and it's even harder to handle because I thought it was getting better and I can't stand to be in my own skin anymore.

The beautiful souls who are closest to me had the agony of watching this, living this. I would show up at their houses, red swollen eyes, shaking as I tried not to sob. I would ask to stay for dinner, or to help clean the kitchen, just so I could be busy and surrounded by love. They wanted to help, they wanted to hurt the one who hurt me, they wanted to support me even when they didn't agree, and so I would take advantage of their kindness and stay as long as I could, in the safety of a house that wasn't mine.

I've always identified with being strong. My name means strength. I have the Hebrew word "chavil" tattooed on the inside of my right wrist (the word for strength used in Proverbs 31:25, which is the chapter that describes a woman of virtue). I tell my kids every day before they leave for work or school, "Be strong and courageous!". I have survived two divorces. Two restraining orders on a husband. Three bouts of single mama-ness. Yet, these last four months, I have been anything but strong. I did manage to go to the office every day, and for the most part keep my personal turmoil to myself; I did get out of bed every morning and get dressed, just to prove I still could... but I rarely did it with grace or dignity.

"Oh, Gigi. You deserve so much better than all of this."

I've been thinking about the ensuing conversation since it happened a week ago. My best friend meant those words to me with the most sincere of intentions. She was extending me love and kindness and grace and acceptance. She was telling me that this isn't right and it's horrible to watch.


Do I deserve better than this?

I hurt my ex-husband. Cut him to the core. For the last several years we were together, he had a constant look of pain in his eyes, right up until the beer finally numbed enough of it. He loved me without abandon; and while there are many reasons why that relationship didn't last and he must own his fair share of responsibility, I hurt him. Devastated him.

I am sometimes too quick with my words, and my eyerolls. I am judgemental towards people I have no right to pass judgement upon. I dig my heels in and fight back for no reason, other than to prove that I can. (I'm independant! I'm self-reliant! I'm an adult! Don't tell me to get some rest or be more consistent or think of your feelings; I do what I want!) I sometimes care little for the consequences as long as I get what I want today. I make excuses. I hurt people too.

I am not justifying any actions, of my own or the other party in these last four months of agony. If there was wrongdoing, it was wrong. But there was a pause today, wondering if I have ever caused anyone to hurt like I am hurting.

The situation has finally come to a point where resolution is in sight; there will be a definite answer to all of this heartache soon. But at this crossroads, there is no clear intuition about which way I will travel. I have already thrown my chips on the table, laid down my cards, and am now sitting back biting my nails hoping for the best. And then, in the next moment, I wonder if I can survive the best. Can I forgive and move on from this brokenness? Can I be understanding and patient? Can I have conversations about horrible subjects without attacking and using my words as weapons? And what if I do, and then I'm vulnerable to pain all over? I cannot live this out again. Can I trust anyone anymore? Maybe it's best to remove myself, to shut the door, to close myself off.

But everything in me screams that's not the right thing to do.

This is obviously gonna be an AWESOME life lesson, whichever way it ends. Only the things that cut like knives really ever teach me anything. I have a feeling I will never be the same.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dad- My Hero. A Tribute.

I had a conversation with the man whose DNA my daughter shares five years ago. It was when he lived in Colorado, and he had just driven to Washington to see me and our daughter. It was the third time he had seen her since she was two years old. She was 14 at the time.

Sperm donor: "The reason I don't come and see Cami more than I do is something you probably would never be able to understand."
Mama: "Okay, try me. I'm interested."
Sperm donor: "I travel across several states to see my daughter, and spend time with her for a weekend, and then I have to say goodbye and go home... You have no idea how heartbreaking that is. It is easier to stay away and not know her than it is to see her sporadically and have to say goodbye, not knowing when I'll see her next."
Mama: "You know what? I do understand that. It must be horrible. I can't imagine the heartbreak. Our daughter is a beautiful and amazing person, and to not be a part of her life must be overwhelming. Here's the part that I will never understand: why do you think it is an option to not be there for her? Or in her life, to whatever capacity you can be?"

Today is Father's Day. The day society celebrates and salutes the men who participated in the creation of the next generation. I have two children, who have different fathers. Cami's father is not a dad. Never has been. Cannot justify the sacrifice that would be required to be a part of her life. And it's not just that; he blames me for her struggles. Her fears. Her demons.

It is possible that he has a point. But since he has not been a part of her life, EVER, I don't really care about his opinion.

My son's father does participate in his life. Coaches baseball. Helps with homework. Teaches him how to train his dog, how to change brake pads, how to throw a curve ball. I don't like him (and I'm no longer married to him) but that is beside the point. He is an active part of my son's world. And because of that, even though I don't always agree with his methods, I sent him a "happy father's day" text today.

These are the men that gave me my beautiful and precious children.

And THEN...
There's my dad.

I am 37 years old, and my dad is still my hero. Not my hero now as an adult, not my hero now that I have kids of my own, but still. He always has been.

My dad was the financial provider for our family. It was important to my parents that my mom be able to stay at home with the kids, and so my dad's paycheck was the sole income. He's owned his own business, worked for both good companies and tyrannical bosses, and somehow managed to pay for my sister and I to go to private school for most of our education. He's loaned me money; sometimes requiring me to pay it back and sometimes calling it a gift. He gave me my first job, working at his office. He paid for my long-distance phone bill when my boyfriend was in the Army. He bought a new engine for my 1984 Honda Accord when I forgot to check the oil and it blew up on 405. He loaned me money when my business was struggling.

My dad used to take me on daddy-daughter dates. He took me to Lady and The Tramp when it came out in theaters when I was 5. We stood in a long line, and finally got tickets, and then when I was tired halfway through the movie, he left the theater and took me home. When my homecoming date senior year got cancelled, he made a reservation and was my date that night. He took me out to dinner, and felt horrible when we ran into my classmates that were at the same restaurant before the dance. He used to take me and my sis to the Science Center, and would always drive us home by the Fremont Troll when we would plead to go out of our way. He used to randomly ask me if I wanted to go watch baseball in Kirkland; we would drive downtown on a Friday night when I was in high school. He would buy me a hot dog and some Smarties and we would talk while we watched the high school boys play select ball. Some of my favorite talks with my dad were on those metal bleachers.

My dad was baffled when I got pregnant at 17. I'm sure he was scared, and mad, and confused. And then his Cami was born~ and he instantly had another princess for whom he was a hero. One of my favorite pictures of my dad is him sitting on the couch, reading to Cami while she's snuggled up against him in her jammies. I think she was three. I was 21 and still living at home. He is a grandpa who looooooooves his grandkids.

My dad yells at me when I'm wrong. I write this in present tense, because it still happens. Living 25 minutes away from my childhood home means he no longer has to know every single stupid decision I make or word that I say... but there are plenty of times that I tell him something and he rolls his eyes and shoots a sarcastic response my way. I know as a mama whose daughter is on the threshold of adulthood it is often hard to bite my tongue and let her make her own mistakes. I can only imagine how my dad feels seeing me wander and stumble and fall. He is much, much smarter than me.

Today we salute men who sacrifice for their children. Who play ball when they're tired from an endless day of meetings. Who go to football games to watch their daughter cheerlead for a losing team. Who get frustrated when kids don't pick up after themselves, are disrespectful to Mom, or who take too long to get ready to go run an errand.

I am unfathomably grateful that my children have a Grandpa like my dad. I may not have chosen the best of men to be their fathers, but I could not have hand-picked a better man as their grandparent.

I love you, Roger Alan Baer. You have given me an example of unconditional love that I can't imagine experiencing anywhere else this side of heaven. You are, and always have been my hero. Thank you for being my dad.

A postscript: for the last year I have dated a man who has shown me that men of my generation still have the capacity to be heroes for their children. To That Guy: Happy Father's Day, sweetheart. You're the best.