A Romantic Vacation for One

This is a story I told at a recent gathering here in Seattle called Fresh Ground Stories. The theme this time was, “You can’t always get what you want.” Normally, when I tell a story at this event, I am able to attach a recording of it here. Sadly the recorder crapped out, so I have to content myself with sharing the text with you. I hope you like it.

I’ve been in Seattle for about two years now. I was hoping that by this point I wouldn’t have to vacation alone. In retrospect that was an optimistic goal. I didn’t know a soul here when I arrived, my work schedule is very strange, and most people my age aren’t looking for new friends.

So recently I found myself vacationing on the romantic Oregon coast with no one but my two dogs for company. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good dogs. They just have a hard time holding up their end of a conversation.

So I found myself sightseeing all alone. I gazed into the Devil’s Punchbowl and imagined my man standing behind me with his arms around me, whispering, “Beautiful.” (I have a healthy imagination.)

Returning to my car, I said to myself, “You’ve got to snap out of this or you’re going to plunge into a deep dark depression, and it’s not like you’ll get a vacation do-over.”

To add another layer of complexity, that was the launch day for my very first book, so I really did have a lot to celebrate. So I took myself out to dinner. I had salmon. I had a marionberry cobbler for dessert. Up to this point, I didn’t even know that marionberries existed, so it was quite an adventure. I told the waiter about my book. Then I went back to my room and hugged my dogs.

At some point during the trip, though, I reached a turning point. I realized that I was alone, but the views were still gorgeous. I was alone, but the salmon was still delicious, the salt air still smelled sweet, and the fog was so mysterious it gave me butterflies. Wonderful memories were still being made.

It was a romantic vacation for one, and I had fallen in love with the Oregon coast. I’ll be back someday. Maybe I won’t be alone next time. Maybe I will. But either way, I’m looking forward to it.

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The Devil’s Punchbowl

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Another Story–About Saying Yes

I told yet another story at my local storytelling group, Fresh Ground Stories here in Seattle, Washington. I’m becoming addicted to this group and all the wonderful people in it. I never would have imagined that I’d take to standing in front of a group of 150 people and exposing my soft underbelly, but there you have it.

The theme this particular month was “Say Yes”.

Here’s the recording of the story, but if you are unable or unwilling to hear a sound file, I’ll put the story below it. Let me know what you think!

Quite often I call myself an only child with siblings. There were three girls in my family, and I love my sisters very much, but one was 10 years older than me and the other was 9 years older, so by the time I stopped being a self-absorbed little brat, they had already left home.

We had different upbringings. Their childhood was spent with my abusive, alcoholic father and my still hopeful mother in Connecticut, mine was spent with my abusive stepfather and my by now despairing mother in Florida. Our politics and spiritual beliefs and accents were completely different.

I kind of looked at them as more mature pseudo-mothers who were rarely there. I spent half my life desperately trying to get their approval and never quite feeling as though I had. In fact, when my oldest sister had my nephew, even though I wasn’t present for the birth, I called her up and said, “It’s really strange. I’ve never even seen him face to face, but I already love him anyway, so I want you to know that if anything ever happens to you, I will be there for him.”

She responded, “I think we both know that’s a bad idea.” Among other things, I lived in sin with someone for 16 years. Scandalous.

As my nephew grew, I visited him as often as I possibly could. I took pride in being the cool aunt. The one he could ride roller coasters with, despite my white-knuckled terror. The one who would listen. Someone who would love him no matter what.  I also wanted to sort of sneak other points of view into his life. Which went well as long as I didn’t get caught.

Then one day in 2007 I got a phone call from my sister to tell me that she had pretty advanced cancer. My nephew was 18 at the time. Too young. Too young.

A year went by. Toward the end, she said to me, “I need you to do something for me. I need you to promise me that you’ll be here for the funeral. Ryan is going to need you.”

Of course I said yes. This was the first time that she had really trusted me with anything. Ever. This was huge.

Two months later, she was gone. I bought my plane ticket so I’d be there in plenty of time for the funeral. I was going to fulfil her dying wish.

Unfortunately I had to change planes in Memphis. And there was going to be a delay. A 5 hour delay. A 5 hour, funeral-missing delay. They were gluing a new antenna on the plane, and it would take 5 hours for the glue to dry. And of course there was no other flight available. Oh, no. “Sorry, but here’s a 6 dollar lunch voucher…”

Have you ever had one of those soul-tearing, chest-heaving cries that leave you completely exhausted and Incapable of functioning? Well, I had one, all alone, right in the middle of the airport, with an audience of hundreds. For all the good it did me.

There was a tiny bit of good news, though. Her husband called me and said that his employer had missed the same flight, so when the two of us finally made it to Kansas City, we could share a rental car for the hour drive to his house. So that’s what we did.

When I met this total stranger, I must have looked horrible. Red, puffy, snotty, my hair all tangled. Depleted. Needless to say, he drove. As we got on the highway, he said to me, “So, have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?”

Are you kiddin/g me right now? Can we all agree that there’s a time and place for that type of conversation? I:?t took every fiber of my being not to jump out of the moving car. I took a deep breath and said, “Look, I know you mean well, but I can’t have this conversation right now.” The rest of the trip was in awkward silence.

And when I got to the house, it was filled up with in-laws whom I had never met. I walked in and everyone stopped talking and just stared at me. Finally, my brother-in-law’s father said, “Well. Glad you could finally make it.”

I felt like I had been struck by lightning. So I just turned, went upstairs, and closed myself into the guestroom. I sat in there feeling like an utter failure. The one thing my sister had asked me to do, the one thing, and I couldn’t do it.

Eventually, my nephew got back to the house. He hugged me while I cried. He comforted me. This 19 year old young man who had just lost his mother comforted me. He calmed me down. He told me to take a shower and try to get some rest.

Later that night, I lay in the dark in that house that already felt empty of my sister, a house I knew I’d never return to. I began to accept the fact that some things are just going to be out of my control, and any approval I need has got to come from within.

I looked at the ceiling and I said, “You know, you have nothing to worry about. He’s going to turn out just fine. Just like I did.”

Since then, I’ve watched my nephew grow into an amazing man with my politics! Yay! And he also has integrity, compassion, conviction and decency. He happens to be visiting me, and he’s here tonight, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.

Sentence Envy

As a writer, my ears always prick up when I hear a pithy word combination or an elegant turn of phrase. All these droll fragments get stored in my mental treasure chest, to be trotted out on this blog when the spirit moves me. My thoughts may be original to me, but the way I express them is often a mish-mash of things I’ve heard from so many places that I couldn’t possibly tell you their origins.

It’s a little harder to do that with entire sentences, though, without having to own up to downright plagiarism. Take this sentence that I read in a story written by my friend Paul Currington, the leader of the monthly storytelling group I attend called Fresh Ground Stories: “In the coal mine of life my canary is always dead.”

I just have to say, it’s a rare sentence that makes me roll back my chair and exclaim out loud. “Dang! That’s good!” Okay, so I might have punctuated it differently, but that’s just my pea-green jealousy talking.

That sentence is a thing of beauty. I’m in love with that sentence. I would have sex with that sentence if I could. Dammit, why didn’t I think of it?

Moments like this are rather bittersweet. I will always remember that sentence, and how it made me feel when my eyes touched it, but in good conscience I’ll never be able to use it.

That’s like being treated to the best gelato on earth, but being told you only get to have it once. Given that option, it would take me quite some time to decide if it was worth it, if it meant a lifetime of depravation. (But yeah, in the end I’d have it. I know me.)

I will admit that I’ve also written a few really good sentences in my life. My favorite one from this blog is: “Barack Obama eats boysenberry aspic on melba toast while doing the watusi in a frothy silk kimono.”

To understand why I wrote it, you’ll just have to check out the blog entry in question.

gelato

My Latest Story–Wrong Can Be Right

I went to my monthly storytelling event while still in a delighted daze about all the amazing things that have been going on in my life, in terms of the StoryCorps anthology and the anthologies that I’m planning to publish myself, so naturally that’s what I wanted to talk about, even though tooting my own horn does not come naturally to me.  

But it was a tricky month for horn tooting, because the theme for this month’s event was “Mistakes–Stories of Getting it Wrong.” So I had to be a little creative. Let me know how you think I did. Here’s the recording of my story on Sound Cloud, and if you are unable to get audio or don’t want to hear the dulcet tones of my voice, below that I’ll post the text I practiced with for weeks prior to the event. I think I stayed pretty faithful to it this time.

I truly believe that if there’s a lesson you’re supposed to be learning but you aren’t, then the universe will throw it at you over and over and over again until it finally sinks in. One of those lessons, for me, seems to be that despite my best efforts, life just isn’t going to be predictable.

I’m a Capricorn through and through. I like everything to be foreseeable and expected. I like all my triangles to be equilateral and my t’s to be crossed and my I’s dotted. And my ducks better behave themselves and stay in a nice little row.

But if they don’t, what will I do? What can I do? Nothing. Because life just isn’t going to be predictable. I don’t know why that always takes me by surprise. I think my life has taken an unusually high number of 90 degree turns simply because I’m supposed to be learning that lesson.

“You think you can have it all under control? Well, buckle up baby. Here we come!”

I have to say, though, that recently I’ve been enjoying this lesson a heck of a lot. It started when I got a phone call from  StoryCorps asking if I remembered that interview I did for them back in 2009 about how much I loved being a bridgetender.

“Yes…”

“Well, we want to include it in our next book.”

So here I am, on page 17. They even spelled my name right!

But oh, that’s not all. Of course they want to promote this book, so they asked if it would be all right if they played part of my interview on National Public Radio’s Morning edition.

Heck yeah!

So now you can hear it on the NPR Website and the StoryCorps website. And because of that, overnight, visitors to my daily blog, the View from a Drawbridge, tripled in number.

Hooooo… so now things will die down and become nice and predictable again, right?

Noooooooo! Next, I was featured in Parade Magazine, which has a readership of 54 million.

And then a friend went to one of the book signings in Austin, Texas, and of the 53 people in this book, Dave Isay, the founder of StoryCorps, mentions my story specifically. What???

So now, when I google my name, I get almost 4,000 results.

Even so, I wasn’t expecting the next phone call, from a senior editor of O Magazine. Yup. I’m going to be in the September issue. Are you freakin’ KIDDING ME? Oprah Winfrey is going to know my name for about two seconds! How cool is that?

I cannot believe this is happening to me. I’m so excited! I’ll ride this wave as long as I can, even though sometimes it can be a little bit exhausting.

But I’m now working with the AMAZING Deborah Drake to start publishing a series of anthologies based on my blog.

Predictable life? Pfft. Little did I know.

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A Story About Reframing Misfortune

This month, the theme for the monthly storytelling group I attend was “Starting Over”. I’m the poster child for that, but I didn’t feel like being too intense this time, so I thought about a blog post I did a while back on the Evil Eye. That’s the story I told, with some modification. If you have the ability to listen to the audio below, let me know what you think. And if you have a chance to join a storytelling group in your area, like Fresh Ground Stories here in Seattle, I highly recommend it!

Another Story-The Hardest Thing to Say

Whenever possible, I attend a monthly storytelling group here in Seattle called Fresh Ground Stories. Each month it has a theme, and this month’s was “The Hardest Thing to Say”. I decided to tell a story about how hard it has been to remain dignified and polite in the world of internet dating.

You can hear that story below, but for those of you who don’t have that ability, I’m attaching the text I rehearsed. For once I stayed pretty faithful to it.

This is the fifth story I’ve told in front of an audience. It’s always such a rush! If you’d like to hear all my stories, go here.

I once stayed in a very unsatisfying relationship for 16 years because I didn’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings. I am nothing if not polite.

That, and I was terrified of being alone, and wanted a steady date for all major holidays.  I think he stayed with me because he had no idea what love looked like, and didn’t think he deserved better. That relationship  died a long, slow, death, and it taught me what I don’t want.

Then I met Chuck, and for the 4 years before he passed away, I had met my match. We were emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, passionately, and hilariously compatible.

That relationship taught me what I deserve.

So here I am, ready to try again, but with my screwed up work schedule, it’s hard to meet people. So I joined a dating website. Yeah, it’s come to that.

And at first, what a rush! 60 guys viewed my profile in the first day! I started to think that maybe I’d actually get laid before Christmas! Yay! But then I realized that none of them contacted me, so that was more like 60 rejections in the first day. Ouch.

So I decided to stop looking at the guys who were looking at me and just look through profiles, find ones that intrigued me, and then reach out to them. I did see some that looked interesting, and I sent them messages. And most of them ignored me completely. How rude!

Which is when I decided that even if being polite did not serve me well in the past, I would still strive to take the high road. Anyone who took the time to actually read my profile and send me a message would always get a response from me of some kind, even if it was only to politely say, “Thanks for contacting me. I don’t think we’d be a good match, but I wish you the very best of luck in your search.”

The high road turned out to be harder than I thought.

One guy contacted me out of the blue with a graphic description of what he’d like to do to me.  I gave him my stock polite no thanks,  and he said that he had a Ph.D., was a counselor for many years, and it was obvious that I have a generalized anxiety disorder that prohibits me from socializing with anyone. Seriously, thank God for the block feature!

Another was sweet and attractive, and told me I was beautiful but he was also 20 years my senior. He understood when I passed on his, er, pass. But the last thing he said to me was, “That’s a pity, because I was hoping to fall in love one last time.” That still brings tears to my eyes.

I did have a few dates. One turned out to be on the sex offender’s database, due to a “complete misunderstanding” of course. (Isn’t it always a complete misunderstanding?) Another spent 5 minutes trying to get the legs of our dinner table back into the pre-established dents in the carpet.

One guy who contacted me asked me why I didn’t think we’d be a good match, so I told him that I found all the cleavage shots of scantily clad women on his profile to be a bit off-putting. To that he responded that I was obviously flat chested ( I know, right?) and not into real men.

Okay, this was all starting to feel a little bit like abuse. And it caused me to learn something about myself: I do have my limits. I responded, “REAL MEN don’t objectify women. REAL MEN don’t go from zero to hostile after a little bit of polite rejection from a total stranger. And… YOU PROBABLY  LIVE WITH YOUR MOTHER!”

Not my proudest moment, to be sure. But it felt soooo good.

So much for the high road. I told myself that I’d try to do better next time, because believe it or not, I haven’t given up hope. And I have made a few friends along the way. And I am a polite person and I don’t want to lose that quality in this process.

Then just the other day I was tested yet again. I got a message from a guy who called himself BootySmoocher. He said, “Yes, I know I’ve chosen a strange name, but it’s because I like to give r** jobs. Would you like to discuss it over coffee?”

As I stared at the screen, I said to myself, “Take the high road. Take the high road.” Plus, shooting him down would be too easy. So I took a deep cleansing breath and responded, “Thanks for contacting me, BootySmoocher, but as a general rule, I don’t rim on the first date. Good luck with…uh…that, though.”

My Latest Story–My Thoughts on Beauty

I attended the local storytelling group again this month. The theme was “Changes of Heart.” I really struggled with coming up with something for this one, and ironically, I’m the one who suggested the theme! It seems that I rarely change my mind about things once I’ve formed an opinion.

I wrote three different stories for it, and after rehearsing the first two, I was totally unsatisfied. I hated them. And if I didn’t like them, I figured the audience wouldn’t, either.

Finally I settled on the one below. If you can’t, or don’t want to, listen to it (but I promise you, it’s so much better live, with the audience feedback), then below is the transcript I rehearsed. I think I might have left a few things out in the spoken version due to nervousness, but other than that, it was pretty much the same. Let me know what you think! 

My mother always wanted to go to college. But when she was 17, a German u-boat torpedoed her father’s ship in the North Atlantic, and all chances of her furthering her education sank with him.

Because of that she was never confident about her intelligence, but make no mistake, she was extremely smart. She used to go to the library every week and bring home a stack of books this high. Anything she could get her hands on. Our little public library had to start requesting books from other parts of the state because she actually devoured the county’s collection. I wish she had lived to see the internet. She’d have loved it.

One of my earliest memories is the time she took me to get my first library card. I must have been about 4 years old. She squatted down in front of the entrance and said to me, “Whenever you go into a library, you can go anywhere in the universe.” I remember thinking, “Woooooow.” To this day, I always get butterflies in my stomach when I go to the library.

My mom may not have been able to go to college, but one thing she was able to do was reinforce in me that I was an intelligent person. While other mothers were telling their daughters that they were pretty and charming, she was telling me that I was clever and perceptive. And because of that, I never doubted my brains. I knew that if I wanted or needed to learn something, I was perfectly capable of doing so. That’s a pretty valuable tool that she gave me. I’ve used it throughout my life.

But she might have gone a bit overboard. Because while I have a rock hard confidence in my intellectual abilities, when thrust into a realm where appearance is important (and unfortunately there are a lot of those), my esteem has always crumbled like a sand castle in a high wind. I was never even taught the “girly” stuff, like how to wear make-up or what hair products to use. (Although I have to admit I never asked.) But still, that’s pretty amazing, because my mother was absolutely beautiful.

So, during the first part of my life, I spent a great deal of time comparing myself to others, and judging myself to be physically lacking in one way or another. I knew I’d graduate at the top of my class, but I also knew I wouldn’t be prom queen. It was, I believed at the time, a painful fact that I would just have to live with.

Then one day in my early 20’s I went to a job interview. During the meeting it was disclosed that if hired, the guy conducting the interview would become my immediate supervisor. This was a problem, because this guy was jaw-droppingly gorgeous. I remember going home that night and thinking that if I got the job, I probably shouldn’t take it, because I’d have a really hard time maintaining my professionalism with him.

Well, I did get the job, and I did take it, because I really needed the money. But I was so nervous about the situation that it makes me laugh in hindsight, because I hadn’t been there more than 5 minutes before he said to me, “You know, you were my third choice. You wouldn’t even be here except that the first two people decided not to take the job. So now I’m stuck with you.”

I mean, what do you say to that? Thank you?

As the weeks wore on, I saw him belittling people in staff meetings, squelching any and all forms of innovation, taking credit for things he hadn’t done, and blaming others for his mistakes. In other words, he was the boss from hell.

But you know what? I’m glad he came into my life because one day he caused me to have an epiphany. (Don’t you just love a good epiphany?) I remembered that at one point I thought this guy was good looking. But now when I looked at him, all I saw was ugliness. I couldn’t even imagine what I used to think was so attractive.

I know it sounds cliché, but it took that guy to teach me that beauty is NOT skin deep. In fact, your skin is the very least of your beauty. Your real beauty comes from who you are, and how you treat others.

Now I see beauty through a completely different lens. If you are a super model and you throw your cell phone at the maid, I’ll find it very hard to see the beauty in you. You can keep your catwalk, honey, because I’d much rather gaze upon the Nelson Mandelas and the Mother Teresas of this world.

And thanks to my mom, I know that I could have held up my end of a conversation with them, too.

 

Untapped Depths

Every day we walk or drive past countless numbers of people without communicating with them in any meaningful way. That’s perfectly natural. It would be impossible to get anything done if we stopped to have intense conversations with everyone we encountered.

But lately I have been viewing all these strangers with fresh eyes. That’s because I’ve participated in a few storytelling events by a meet up group here in Seattle called Fresh Ground Stories. The stories that are told at this event have to be true and personal, and boy, are they ever.

We all look at a people without speaking to them and tend to make certain assumptions, but this group demonstrates loudly and clearly that there is much more to people than meets the eye. Whether it’s the petite young girl who had been abused by her father all her life and then finally confronted him as an adult, or the guy who made a documentary about a quirky homeless man, or the transgender woman who had struggled to feel accepted all her life, or the man who lost 100 pounds and overcame social anxiety, every person has a story, and often it’s a fascinating one.

Now when I see strangers on the street, I kind of have regrets. I may be passing over someone who has an amazing history that would enrich my life in its very telling. That guy might have been in the crowd when President Kennedy was assassinated. That lady might be the daughter of a suffragette. I’ll never know.

As I go about my daily business these days, people seem to have more density, more substance to them. I often think, “What’s your story?” I wish I had time to hear them all.

[Image credit: thrivedynamics.ca]
[Image credit: thrivedynamics.ca]

A Totally Different View — www.nathanvass.com

It’s a rare thing indeed to come across a writer whose voice is so unique that it comes through loud and clear in his work. Recently I met such a writer at the Fresh Ground Stories meetup group in Seattle. Nathan drives a city bus for a living, so his views from the bus are completely different than my views from a drawbridge. He has a lot more human interaction, and he deals with it with aplomb. And then he writes about it in his blog.

If you read just a few entries, you’ll see what I mean. He doesn’t write about who he is, but you can see it through his conversations with people.  He knows how to diffuse tense situations. He doesn’t judge people, not even for a second. He has a way of making people open up and reveal things that they never would to most of us. You can tell that he genuinely cares about people and is fascinated by their unique perspectives. He makes himself a blank slate and allows people to write their stories upon him.

I’m not sure he realizes how unusual and outstanding his qualities are. This is a young man who will have an impact on people wherever he may find himself in life. Some people are just exceptional. Nathan Vass is one of those. Read his blog. You’ll be transported.

Nathan on his bus. {Image credit: pinterest.com]
Nathan on his bus. {Image credit: pinterest.com]

Telling My Story

There’s a group here in Seattle called Fresh Ground Stories that meets once a month. I’ve been dying to attend one of their events ever since I heard about it, but unfortunately they always seem to meet on a night when I work. That seems to be the case with all the cool groups in town.

This is a storytelling group, and each month they have a theme. This month’s theme was, “Who do you think you are? Stories that define you.” Well, honestly, after the year I’ve had and all the changes I’ve been through, how could I possibly resist?

So I wrote out a speech and I refined it and rehearsed it for weeks. I was a nervous wreck. 150 people were expected to attend. This would definitely be out of my comfort zone, but I arranged to take the night off anyway.

The more I rehearsed, the more I thought of this experience as closure. It felt as though telling my story would put a period at the end of the sentence, and I could say to myself, okay, now I’m here, in Seattle. This is home. What’s next?

As introverted as I am, even walking into a crowded venue all by myself is a scary proposition, but it turns out that Roy Street Coffee and Tea is a very comfortable place to be. The host of this event, Paul Currington, was a reassuring presence as well, and did a quick outline of the rules so that no one was left floundering. And then he told of a delightful tradition that he has. He says it takes guts for newbies to step on stage and tell their stories, so he always gives the first newbie of the night one of Roy Street’s delicious pastries, which he calls “The Scone of Courage”. But tonight they were out of scones, so he was giving out “The Banana Bread of Bravado”. I was charmed.

The first speaker stood and told a wonderful story, and it was quite clear that she had done this before, because she was quite good. Then to my utter shock, my name was called next. Hooo. I was shaking from head to toe. I had to plant my feet solidly in order to even remain upright. And then I began to tell my story.

Something that hadn’t happened in the million times I rehearsed it was my getting really emotional halfway through. I actually choked up a bit. I thought, “If you start crying right now, you’re going to completely lose it.” It took a lot for me to keep it together. Later, Paul told me that there was a collective gasp in the audience when I got to that part of the story. I didn’t hear it. I was so scared I couldn’t hear anything.

Well, actually, that’s not true. I did hear people laugh in all the right places. What a freakin’ rush! Now I know why people become performers! I want that feeling again. Soon. And often.

Before I knew it, I had made it through my story. I think I skipped a paragraph, but hey, that’s not too bad, considering. And nobody knew but me. The next thing I knew, I was being handed The Banana Bread of Bravado, and banana bread has never tasted so good.

Afterward a lot of people approached me and thanked me for telling my story, which made me feel great, and I think, I hope, we’ll see, I made a friend or two. I know I gave out my e-mail address to a bunch of wonderful people, and I really hope they will be in touch.

So what follows is the speech I gave, more or less. Don’t cringe when you see all the sentence fragments. It was meant to be spoken, not read. Paul also records these stories, and he sent me the mp3 of my speech, so I put it on line. If you’d like to hear it, go here. I think it’s much better with the audience feedback and the sound of the espresso machine in the background!

Who do I think I am? That’s a really good question. In the past year I’ve been so many things…

But let me start back in 2010 when I met Chuck, the absolute love of my life. He was a gorgeous force of nature. When I found out that he had spent weeks in a heavy black gorilla suit in a Florida July to promote his family’s start up business, I thought, “This is a man who will do anything, including making a fool of himself, for the people he loves. This is the man for me.” My life with him was full of passion and laughter and fun. The best years of my life. So far.

We did have our share of challenges, but we had each other’s backs. That’s all that mattered.

Then, about a year ago I went to Connecticut to visit my favorite Aunt. Chuck stayed home in Florida and worked and took care the dogs.

While I was up there, I got a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. It turned out to be the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, calling to tell me that they had found Chuck, dead in his pick up truck, clutching his asthma inhaler in the pharmacy parking lot two blocks from our home.

Yeah. So that was that.

The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life was picking myself up off that hotel room floor.

Boy, did I feel sorry for the total stranger who was sitting next to me on that plane trip home. I was blubbering the whole way, and he was looking at me like I might be a suicide bomber or something. And I was in no mood to explain.

Since Chuck and I weren’t married, all I have left of that four year relationship is two of his t-shirts, a stuffed animal, some pictures and a lot of memories.

And then I got kicked out of our home when I couldn’t keep up with the rent alone. Good times.

So I was talking to a coworker one day, saying, “Man, I have got to get out of this town!” I never liked Jacksonville. It’s an ignorant,  cultural backwater, but now that I had to drive past that pharmacy parking lot every day on the way to work, I hated it.

Well, he told me about a job opening in Seattle, and I thought, “Hmm. Never been to Seattle, but what have I got to lose that I haven’t already lost?” So I applied for it.

To my utter shock, they interviewed me over the phone, and hired me sight unseen. You see, I had been opening drawbridges in Florida for 13 years, and now I open them in Seattle. Yep. I’m that girl who makes you late to work, but at least I’m doing it for twice as much money and actual benefits for a change!

I borrowed a fortune from my sister and got a lot of help from friends and total strangers through an indiegogo fundraising campaign, and I drove myself and my dogs and all my stuff out here 9 months ago, But that’s a story all its own.

And I love it here. I love where I live. I love my job. I love this city! My God, do I love this city. It’s so nice to no longer feel like the only liberal turd in a conservative punchbowl! It’s so refreshing!

The downside is that with my weird work schedule I’ve yet to make any friends. (I actually had to take the night off to come here, and I work every weekend) There are times when I’m so lonely it’s physically painful.

So I’ve been a lover, a griever, an adapter, a mover, a risk taker, an adventurer, and an explorer. Who do I think I am now? I’m a survivor, but I’m also a work in progress. I’m learning to accept my own vulnerability and my own flaws. I have torn myself down to the very foundations, and at the age of 50 I’m slowly but surely building myself back up. Starting over at 50 isn’t for sissies, let me tell you.

I had a dream the other night. I was talking to Chuck and I said, “If you were alive, I wouldn’t be here. But I love it here. I hate that you’re gone, but I like where I’m going. How does that work?” He didn’t say anything. But I feel like he’s with me and he’s proud of me. And that means everything to me.

So one last thing: I have enjoyed exploring this city and this state alone, but it sure would be nice to have a friend or two to do stuff with. So if you have room in your heart for a Floridian who has been through the swamps and battled some gators, here I am, y’all.

Here I am.

Fresh Ground Stories

Nope, that’s not me up there. This is a picture from a past story event that I pulled off Flickr.  This is exactly the set up, though.