proud gusto

August 17, 2015

OH hiiii there… I’m okay and even good sometimes. But yes, I’m doing too many things. No, I have not been taking care of myself. Yes, it’s catching up with me. No, I’m not really doing anything about it. Yet. Sometimes I don’t until I do. When there are fight or flight stressors for months on end…well, I don’t know. It’s just a lot. Last week I did almost nothing other than to try to keep us all in survival mode. Doctor appointments, calls, hurry up and sign up for preschool, babysitters, work, appointments. You get the idea. I sure get the idea. I have the anxiety much. I’m working on it. Sort of. Okay not really. But I will. Soon. I hope. I really do. First, the appointments. On Friday Elsie and I chilled with her good doctor at U of M Riverside Children’s in the big city. He is the doctor of baby hearts, the one that already fixed […]

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Just Write {171}

January 20, 2015

On the Eve of five years of sobriety, I found myself considering making sugar cookies. They weren’t for me, which made me even more afraid to make them. I’ve never made sugar cookies from scratch. True story. I assumed it was way harder than it actually is, that’s what I did. For almost 40 years, I had not made sugar cookies for fear of a lengthy process with terrible results. Or something. I suppose it worked like that when I drank for all those years too. Stopping was foreign and daunting and fear took over so many times. I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t want to do it. But something took over, just like with the damn cookies. I simply threw my arms in the air and started getting out all the things I needed. Sometimes a little blindly, always with a recipe. Thank God. Stay in the day. Be […]

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Just Write {168}

December 30, 2014

It seems a rational thing to start at 4pm on a winter’s break Monday. Elsie Jane thought it was a great idea, and decided on purple for the replacement color after all the wallpaper border is slowly and meticulously removed, shred by shred. She is a helper, to an extent, so proud of her ability to peel big strips off with her tiny strong hands. But then, as these things go, I was left to fight the sticky paper while she played. She would “talk on the phone” to the “plumber,” telling him that she dropped an earring down the drain. She would scold him for not understanding, and then huff and hang up on him. Poor plumber. The wrath of EJ. Then she’d tell me she was going to work, and “Hey Annie, can you babysitter my babies?” Sure, I’d say. Then she’d sit in the hallway outside the door, instructing me. […]

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Just Write 154

September 23, 2014

I saw in his face what something in me already knew. He was tired from staying up too late and drinking more than he planned to drink. He was tired from thinking and thinking again and thinking about his drinking again. They were both tired, he and his wife, from years of building things and watching them crumble, building them back up again. That’s life, that’s parenting, that’s marriage, that’s work. But there was More, the mysterious illness of a child. And we who are prone to drink, genes broken up and begging for More, we will drink More. That’s what we do. Until we don’t. So there we stood, not going to church but meeting in a church, and we recognized our matching sickness because of a hesitant willingness to see it. He finally said it out loud. All the wonderings of self, the fears and the unknowns that are truly known […]

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we are all misfits here

April 24, 2014

se·ren·i·ty səˈrenitē/ noun 1. the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled. “We are all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass A lofty goal, to stay there, holding hands with serenity, not over here, in the anxious unknowns, the fear. So prone to wander, to want something Other, to never stop the ruminating and trying to step on the gas while the emergency brake is on. I was flipping through the racks in a thrift store, treasure hunting. I saw so many t-shirts with today’s popular inspirational quotes. Live, Laugh, Love. I Am Enough. I Love Myself. Peace, Love, Joy. I am simply not a word-wearing kind of girl. Unless the shirt says something like “This is my jam!” next to a boom box. I’m totally cool with that. But something in me steers clear of the more common sayings, like I’m adverse to looking too ordinary or something. Obviously, I […]

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Just Write {132}

April 22, 2014

Just Write, revisited. Just Write {1} We are driving along, just the two of us. I channel surf for tunes as Elsie Jane kicks and coos from her backwards position behind me. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun is where I land and I sing it at the top of my lungs, windows down. Somehow she loves it when I sing. The working day is never done, but girls, they wanna have fuhunn. I pass by a house with much recycling out front. Cans and cans and bottles and bottles and cardboard boxes. All from alcohol. I think about how that used to be my end of the driveway and how it didn’t take long to add up and so I’d try to hide parts of it under cola types of things. I think about how, with the boys, I had to pump and dump a lot and worry because it is very simple: I was […]

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Just Write {122}

February 11, 2014

You create a space for people to be vulnerable, he said. The way you talk about recovery, especially. And it’s just kindness, you treat people with such kindness, they feel safe…” The funny thing is, I was leaning on a bar when he said this. I was ordering drinks, mine with no booze, his and hers with. And in telling me this, he let me know he saw me. He really saw me, took me in. And I wanted to cry because wow, thank you and because I want so badly to be kind, I want people to be able to feel safe with me, always. Anyone. This guy, the one that said these things, is the kind of guy that loves, just like me, to talk about Big Things for hours, and he has a great sense of humor and killer writing skills. He’s young and in love and getting married in […]

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I called Hazelden on my first sober day. I was sitting at my dad’s desk in his office, in the house I grew up in. I was playing with post-it notes for fidgeting purposes. I was trying not to cry. Ryan, my husband, was trying to keep the boys from coming to the door to say Mommy, Mommy, Mommy over and over, but they kept coming back. Shhhh, he’d say, and I felt that pressure, like I should hang up and go to them. The nice Hazelden lady on the phone asked me a series of questions. I answered honestly. She did not say she was asking to see if I’m an alcoholic or not. She just let me talk about why I was calling and then she empathized and then she asked questions, one after another. Then she said that it seemed like Hazelden would be a good fit for me. I […]

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(photo credit – via google images)   When you look back, after getting sober, it makes very little sense that you could have been so addicted, inflicted. You wonder who that was, while you were gone. You try to trace the steps to that darkest place, where you were, with that need that took over you and your life. You just can’t. You can’t see how it could have happened, any of it. I can’t, anyway. I have no idea how it came to be, but there I was. There will always be people who say that it’s a moral decision, a very simple and obvious choice. They will always scoff, roll eyes and stand firm in self-righteous indignation. After all, that kind of behavior is also addiction. Ironically, it seems to me it is an addiction involving choice more-so than the addiction to substances. I did not choose alcoholism. Philip Seymour Hoffman […]

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Elizabeth Vargas

January 24, 2014

My mom called to tell me that Elizabeth Vargas was on Good Morning America telling her story of alcoholism. She said that it sounded a lot like my story, and as I listened I was shocked at how true that is. Maybe it shouldn’t surprise me anymore, how we’re all the same, but I guess it does. The face of alcoholism is everyone’s face. I wanted to hug Elizabeth and high five her and talk for hours. Because of how we’re the same and how powerful the sisterhood of sobriety is, and because she’s never going to know how powerful her story’s ripple effect really is, simply in its truth-telling. None of us can know, but it is good. When you are still drinking, it feels like there’s no way it could ever stop. But I’m writing this little love note to Elizabeth Vargas and hoping that if you came across it because […]

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Tonight on ABC Nightly News with Diane Sawyer, I’ll be sharing some thoughts on women and their relationship with wine. (You know, since I did a lot of research by practicing alcoholism before I got sober.) (I should clarify: The name of the show is ABC Nightly News with Diane Sawyer, but I will not be seen sitting down with Diane Sawyer herself. There will simply be clips of an interview I did with a lovely producer who asked me questions about my journey with alcohol.) I’m so honored to have a voice in this discussion, and what I want from this is for more women to know they aren’t alone, if they’re struggling with addiction. If you’re here because you saw the show, welcome. I hope my words made sense and encouraged you. I hope you know you aren’t alone. I hope you know there’s hope. If you’d like to learn more, […]

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At four days old, my good friend’s baby boy pushed away from me though in my arms, the first time I held him. With an arched back, he turned his head to the sound of his mother’s voice. His little mouth opened, bird-like, seeking her out. I said, Look! Look at him turning to you. He knows that voice. He knows what he needs. Mama. She beamed and the sound of her laugh was the last straw for him. He wailed for her as if he hadn’t eaten ever before, wanting his mother. We go on needing like that, always. We come to this world and whether we’re nurtured well in our youngest years or not, we’re needy and full of empty spaces and we stretch and turn, trying to get filled up. Then suddenly, almost as in a flash, we become teenagers, and there’s no more insecure and scary time of self-discovery […]

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I was in my early twenties, it was winter and the friends I had grown up with were in town for the holidays. We were younger and had fewer responsibilities, most of us. Some of us by choice and some of us just…because. There were a few of us with families and/or real jobs and all those other “grown-up” things. I was not one of those. I was partying a lot and wanting to stay unattached to real responsibilities, but I didn’t even realize that’s what I wanted. I thought it just was what it was, but I was wrong. The truth was that I had a really unhealthy relationship with alcohol, starting back then, right then. Not only that, I had a really unhealthy relationship with myself. I would drink so much that my insides would hurt, while my liver fought to process. I blamed it on other things, like maybe an […]

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That lady that gave you the dirty look when your toddler ran in front of her cart at the store, she wants center. So does that man that pulled out in front of you on the way home. And so does that person leaving nasty comments online and that other one who is supposed to be a friend but keeps talking about her and her and you behind backs. It’s a me first society, my husband always says. We’re ants on a hill, running in lines and cutting across and turning our heads from side to side, Can you see me? Or rats in a race, or whatever analogy feels closest to life in year that hold twenty centuries that each hold one hundred and then still thirteen more. One thing will never change and that’s change and the speed of it. Sometimes I don’t even know what we’re racing for? For more, […]

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My mom had taken the kids to her house in our minivan, so I had her car. It’s fun to drive. It has a fancy radio that brings in all kinds of stations. You know, it’s serious. Or Sirius. I love to scan through the stations and usually I land on public radio. I love NPR. This time though, as I was scanning I landed on a talk radio show and heard a woman talking about how she’d gotten married and then four years later, her husband started drinking too much. She said he totally changed and she honestly hadn’t seen signs of alcoholism before she married him. Then I realized I was listening to Dr. Laura, which I don’t normally do. Like most people, I’m not a fan of listening to the self-righteous belittle and shame others under the guise of helping. Because I’m an alcoholic in recovery, I didn’t turn the […]

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Just Write {79}

April 1, 2013

It was a long day with so much sugar in it. Jelly beans, pastel ones, everywhere and chocolate eggs and Peeps. The boys landed flat on their backs on the couches when the company started to leave, head and stomach aches totally taking over. Elsie zipped around, bouncing off the walls, with her cheeks full of stolen jelly beans like a little chipmunk. At bedtime it was a crash and burn situation. There were several requests for more water, more hugs, more stories, more time. The sugar needed to finish doing them in. The two youngest fell silent first, which is almost always the case. Miles has these big blue eyes that stare into the dark longer, with all kinds of activity behind them, his mind zinging and zapping. His synapses are more active than all three of my sugar-over-dosed kids combined. He went to the bathroom, again. He came to get me […]

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three years sober

January 21, 2013

{just write will be up tomorrow morning, Tuesday} {this post was written yesterday} Our dog is the color of copper, maybe a bit lighter, almost orange. Tia Maria. She has a stripe of white like a cowl around her neck, and more white like sweat socks on her legs. About half of her tail is white, too. It changes from copper to white at the point in which her tail was once broken by an over-zealous preschooler who yanked a wild hello. After that, her tail has always had a bump and a strange bend to it, but it wags just fine. Quite violently, actually. Her happiness is vicious. Thwap slap thwap slap. She is sleeping on the floor beside me, Tia Maria, with that tail laying over one of her back legs. She is softly snoring. I love her more lately. Many mothers admit that their love for their pets dwindles with […]

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Just Write {65}

December 10, 2012

I pressed the coin into his glove-covered hand. I want you to have this. It’s the first one I got. It’s the 24 hour one, they give it to you even if it’s been more than 24 hours.  It had been a month when I showed up for the first time. I was white knuckling it. I was terrified. Not drinking for the rest of my life seemed like a bad idea. Turns out it really is all about taking 24 hours at a time. One sober person told me at the beginning, don’t think. what are you doing thinking? You can’t think about it!  That’s like telling me to stop breathing, that’s what I thought. I suppose he meant something about not thinking about this being for the rest of my life. Just for today. I can do anything for one day, right? Today was no joke, almost three years later. I […]

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I wish I would have thought to write down every good thing that hit me in the gut that I’ve heard at recovery meetings. I haven’t. I would love to leaf through that notebook, to be reminded of all the simple truths spoken there. Many of them I’ve heard so many times, but on certain days, I finally really hear them. It would be so nice to look in my notebook, at a date in a corner, to see when I first “got” something and to ask myself if I still have it. In reality, I have no way to do that, except to keep going back. That’s how I’ll be refreshed, I think. When complacency or pride slips in, I can hustle in the door and it will slam behind me and everyone will turn to see and then I’ll sit down and hold my coffee and be changed. All the truths […]

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not flat, but round…

July 21, 2012

This morning the chickens jumped out the coop and I peeked in their first ever eggs peeked back. I nearly squeeled. I took them in the house and left Ryan a note “from the chickens” For: Ryan… We made you something. From: Haymitch, The Road Runner and Boss Hog. Sorry about the chicken scratch. On Instagram, with this picture, I said “Thanks for the eggs, Haymitch.” Someone asked if the name comes from The Hunger Games and I tried, not so eloquently, to explain. (If you don’t know much about The Hunger Games, Haymitch is a soft-hearted, hardened and drunk human being.) “Yes, actually. I understand Haymitch a little too well. So there’s some meaning for me. Chickens make me feel peaceful and that name reminds me of how much I need that dose of grace. Which sounds weird if chickens aren’t your thing.“ Yesterday a friend told me that Brennan Manning died. (Edited […]

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Just Write {44}

July 17, 2012

{snapshots from last week’s solo trip} driving alone is a simple pleasure for a mother. There’s no mommy mommy mommy! or fighting from the backseat. No angry babies with screams. just you and the road and the radio. I was nervous, leaving Elsie and the knots in my stomach tried to take over what I could see around me but I took those deep breaths and then I saw it, the way the trees and their shades of green made matte and glossy and it felt like I could touch them through the glass. Deer were out during the day, a mama and her fawn standing in the farmer’s field looking on. No deer in headlights, just that look they get like they must be curious but you can’t tell because it’s as if they’ve had botox for animals or something. They were far enough away to not scare me and so it […]

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I’ve been a mother (if you count pregnancy, which you do, of course) for about eight years. I’ve been a blogger for over half that time, and I’ve been active on Twitter and Facebook since about a year after I started blogging. That said, this question was posed: How has the technological age changed parenting for you? I love this question. It fascinates me. I mean, pretty much every parent I know is involved online in one way or another. We’re tweeting or updating facebook or writing and/or reading blogs. We’re talking about this bumpy road of bringing up humans and we’re gaining avenues to different perspectives every day. We have answers at our fingertips every second of every day. We have smart phones and smart notebooks and smart computers and smart laptops…(For real, they’re all smarter than I am.) We are taking in a lot of information about parenting, especially if we’re […]

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I avoided discomfort for most of my life. Now I’m learning to sit in it–to walk through it, not around it–but I still had the idea that discomfort would only come in waves. Ebb and flow. Easy then hard, then easy then hard. Like life was like a carousel moving slowly with the scenery changing from good to bad. It seemed like people take their turns, you know? That their seasons are marked with Joy or Pain, one or the other. It looks like that, when you’re a child because you hear about the Big Things but adults don’t really talk to you about all the constants. And it looks like that as an adult because we compare a lot and comparing makes everything seem big and black and white and one way or the other. I’m finally learning, since I can’t escape it anymore, that discomfort is there all the time. Of […]

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guinea pain

March 1, 2012

It hit me right then, Oh. I said to me. One of the reasons I was drinking so much was to be nice to me. Of course now, in recovery, I see I wasn’t being nice to me at all, but then? I wanted to claim my time, give myself the treat of glass after glass that felt like kindness. It hit me when I got an email from a reader who also struggles with her drinking. In it, she told the story of her day, one in which her child had repeatedly physically hurt her. You know, in the ways that a toddler can–a sippy cup to the head, a tantrum slap to the cheek–things we chalk up to irrational little emotions because a kid is a kid and they’re learning and it’s not personal. But as this lovely mother described this difficult day, I could feel exactly what she was saying. […]

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it’s electric

February 1, 2012

  {photo credit} Everything was too hard yesterday. Like how the dish rag was in the bottom of the sink under all the dishes that were filled with water. Uncovering it and rinsing it out and ringing it out would just be too hard so I walked away and left it all there. By three o’clock I was so tired of my own tired with pressure behind the eyes, so I decided to be good and cheerful by making cookies. Except by making cookies I mean the pull apart kind but even then, they kept pulling apart not along the lines so there were big and small ones after baking even though they were supposed to be all one square-gone-round size. Miles thought they were taking too long. Ten minutes from start to finish. Cookies. Done. Not too long. But I understand, I want start to finish now now now, too. We can’t […]

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730 times

January 20, 2012

It’s been 2 years. 2 years 365 days plus 365 days or 24 hours strung together 730 times. I suppose I could go on with all kinds of numbers, but I’m terrible at math and the day must go on. That’s what they do, you know. The days go on, sometimes walking and sometimes running and sometimes marching. Oh the ones that march, they are the stompy and defiant ones, annoying and hard but entirely necessary. This morning I woke up to Elsie Talk, crackling at me over the monitor.  I went to get her and nursed her in bed and when she was done she looked up at me and made the silliest face you’ve ever seen. Then Miles came in and sniffed her head and sniffed her head some more. It’s his favorite thing to do. We got up, we three early risers and I made coffee and thought my thinks […]

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house guests

December 22, 2011

Did you know anxiety can be like an unwanted house guest? The kind that completely randomly shows up and doesn’t even really have a reason and then does things to hurt you? And you can stand there and wonder, Why did I feel so good yesterday or one hour ago and now this? It seems to hit me during down times, when it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Maybe it’s a build up from all the stressful moments and then POW! This uninvited guest seems to only get the hint to leave in two ways (No, one of them is not Xanax. I wish.) (Read: I am an addict and would probably eat Xanax like I do marshmallow Peeps so I can’t have any.) (Because I eat A LOT of marshmallow Peeps.) (Hello! Sugar addiction!) Anyway. #1 – HUMOR #2 – GRATITUDE I know. I know. If you struggle with anxiety/depression too, […]

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November 3, 2011

Maybe happiness is a choice just about as much as it is not. I guess having half a choice is better than nothing. I would prefer it handed over on a silver platter me with all my excuses and no work just ruminating. It doesn’t happen like that and I know it. But I forget. Sometimes it’s hard to even make the choice to try or to work at anything at all. Sometimes the sad and tired makes you think things that keep you so very stuck. That’s me anyway. Then I do this forgetting. Forgetting that I’m putting most of my energy, my choice, into imploding. I’m focusing so hard on the bad bad bad that I’m searing it’s shape right into the very core of my brain and then it wants to travel to my heart and soul. I’m so thankful that I have people in my life who cut it […]

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The way home, revisited

September 11, 2011

Today I read an article in the October issue of Redbook magazine and was brought back to the beginning of my sobriety journey. Well, wait. Actually, I was brought back to my drinking days, too.  The article is about drinking mothers and features myself and my friends Ellie and Corinne. I dont’ know if people who read that article will google The Extraordinary Ordinary and land here, but if so, I wanted to share something for them. So today I’m re-posting something from not long after I stopped drinking. I hope it speaks grace to anyone who comes along. :::: I am on a flight where you choose your own seat and this is new to me. At the same time that this empowers me, it also makes me feel like the unpopular kid in the lunch room, searching frantically for one of the last spaces and a welcoming face. Much like the […]

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little stone

August 17, 2011

It was a red scooter sort of thing. A motorized two-wheeled zippy little thing. They were called Sprees and they were all the rage. Especially if they were red. We were standing in front of the high school and for some reason he told me I could drive it. I think I’d driven one before, but by myself. This time, my friend Angie hopped on the back and all I remember is that it was harder to steer. But the high school had a circular drive and the first thing I had to do was round a sharp corner. It didn’t take but seconds and we were down, turned sideways and under the scooter in the drive’s edge, little pebbles bouncing away. She said, Why didn’t you stop? She was in so much pain and she was angry and shocked. I had no idea how to answer her. For some reason, when I […]

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