Wednesday, February 8, 2017

One Month In...

Grrrr! I, like most people, am sick and tired of politics. Here we are less than a month into Trump's presidency and I am a mix of emotions. On one hand I want to scream "told you so!" I mean there is no denying that Betsy DeVos is an imperial idiot. Maybe even more unqualified for her post than Trump himself. I don't know anyone on either side of the aisle arguing for her to be at the helm of my sweet innocent girls education. But it's literally Every. Single. Post. And I want to stay engaged. I'm an advocate. I don't support any bans on anyone, I'm proud of my immigrant roots. Aren't we all? I mean we are ALL immigrants waving our flags on Cinqo De Mayo or St. Patrick's, or whatever holiday we recognize our ancestors! I happened into a blood line that recognizes Jesus Christ as the Lord, but it could have easily gone a dozen other ways based on how/when/to whom I was born. I'm part of so many marginalized communities that are aching right now. I want to be strong for all of them. But it's hard. I'm also a proud American and while I vehemently was opposed to our current administration, I also believe in the political process, the electoral college (Yes, even when the popular vote doesn't win out), and therefore feel obligated to respect the office of the president, even when I don't support the man (or hopefully woman sometime soon) myself. It's excruciating. I realize we live in a microcosm of those that usually think like we do. I'm thankful (most days) that my social media floats somewhere in between. I want to stay informed on how the news is reported to both sides of the aisle so I have perspective. But it's also kinda like living in the twilight zone. Everyone cares about something different and their passion around that issue and difference in opinions infuriates them. If your Pro Life, you see red at how some people want to see innocent babies murdered (literally that's how many see it). If you're pro choice you don't understand how those pro-lifers, including the women who identify that way, don't want their own right to choose what's right for their own body or support Planned Parenthood for all of the reproductive issues they help with. If you are pro Affordable Healthcare Act your a socialist and want everyone to be covered despite pre-existing conditions. If your anti-you can't fathom how all of these Obama minions think we will continue to fund poor people's lives while you go to work every day and pay your "fair share." We can't continue to pay every deadbeats way while we are barely surviving. Isn't it exhausting? One thing I've noticed is no one, and I mean no one that I know (and I have a lot of super conservative family members and friends who I've intentionally not blocked or deleted) actually like or are enamoured with Donald Trump. Honestly, if they were invited to a State Dinner, I can't think of a single person I'm connected to who is so stoked to meet the man, the myth, the legend. They voted for him in spite of his opponent, or because who they believed he would nominate for the Supreme Court, or because they felt marginalized and looked over for many years. Or they are dissatisfied with the accumulated national debt and just wanted something different. Like I said above, everyone votes differently because of how they feel about certain issues. But in a nation where the president is definitely a celebrity, the irony is that since he already WAS a celebrity, Trump gets a strange hall pass. The smoothness and energy that followed the likes of Reagan and Obama (please pick your poison and just move on) has seemed to fizzle with our current Commandar in Chief. There have been days in the past month where I've intentionally NOT looked at social media. How much can one person really take? One important lesson I've learned is that most of it is just a scare tactic. If we actually internalized every post or believed everything said we would just want to curl up in a ball and disappear. Or worse give up. And that's the absolute worst thing any of us could possibly do. If you've even read this far, thanks for sorting through some of this stuff with me. I think it's important to close with the fact that while I love everyone and embrace an open dialogue, my heart is a die-hard Obama and Hillary loving, Black Lives Matter supporting, flamboyantly gay, feminist, pro choice, anti-wall, anti-entry ban, liberal man married to a beautiful black man. I don't want anyone reading my blog to ever mistake my openness to share love and ideas with me turning my back on my own personal beliefs. But I do believe, above all else, that there is plenty of room for all of us to express our thoughts while still loving and respecting one another. And sometimes I need that reminder most of all. Xo, AJ

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Bring on the Rain 2017!

Wow, another year down. Sometimes life moves so quickly. Other times it just drags on. To say 2016 was interesting is an understatement. I've decided to highlight the year below with my New Years Resolution of constant and abundant gratitude. 2016 started for me in the Emergency Room on New Years Day. I had been sick since the day after Christmas, and finally after not being able to keep anything down and a high fever for 3 full days, Sabin and I headed to Urgent Care. The doctor quickly saw us and thought my appendix might have burst so he sent us to the ER. Being in the ER on New Years Day in a curtained room between a homeless person who was completely un-responsive and then suddenly screaming in pain in five minute intervals and a woman on the other side who was about six hours into Heroin withdrawal and fighting non-stop with her pimp boyfriend might not seem like the best chance for me to begin my gratitude journal, but it truly was. When the doctors finally confirmed that my appendix had not burst and that I had a really terrible flu, I was sitting alone while Sabin ran to the car to get something and was already thinking how much worse so many others have it. I felt like total and complete shit, but got to walk out of the hospital and return to my comfortable and loving home. January also ended quite tragically. As we were leaving our house, a giant tree fell and smashed Sabin's BMW, his second love right in front of our eyes. The car was totaled. Again, not the beginning of the year we were hoping for, but beyond grateful for GAP auto insurance and for the fact that about forty five seconds later we would have all been in the car as the tree fell onto it. February brought one of the most beautiful gifts from our dear friend, Ann. A homemade high top wood planked dining room table. Its one of my favorite pieces of furniture I've ever seen and been the centerpiece for countless laughs, card games, and family bonding time. In March, Sabin and I spent a long weekend celebrating his birthday in New York City. I got to meet his younger brother and we sat in the fourth row of Broadway's The Color Purple. Anyone who knows me well already knows that "I'm Here" is my soundtrack. But to watch Cynthia Erivo and Jennifer Hudson so close and personally sing their hearts out was by far my most favorite memory with Sabin in the history of us. April brought the first official wedding at Last Stop Props, my new business venture with Ann that has really grown from a great idea into reality. On May 10th, my beautiful baby girl turned 5! She also completed her first soccer season where she did quite well, and we celebrated her and her sister at a VIP experience at Disneyland, where both girls got to meet all of the characters and we celebrated with the whole family. In June, we did a photo shoot at Last Stop Props to help build our online presence. Sabin played the groom and Tiffany the bride. We had catering and a bar and most of our friends were able to come and be models. It was a super fun day. July-Cabo San Lucas BABY! Sabin and I, along with our great friends Serafina and Andy got to spend a long weekend at an all-inclusive, adult only resort on the beach. It was SO. MUCH. FUN! When we got back, I began my health kick, which ultimately led to me losing 24 pounds and falling in love again with yoga and cardio, which I am hoping to keep on with into 2017. August- There were too many great parts to my birthday month! We started the month with a trip to Idaho to visit with my nieces and family. It had been awhile since we were all together and Katie and Sienna also came. We saw one of our favorite childhood Country Stars on the plane ride into town, and had a great time watching all of the girls play together (even with puke-ageddon striking all of us during the trip). Harper also started Kindergarten and was accepted off the wait list right in time for the most perfect little school for her. We have loved watching her grow and develop at Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts. Finally, my birthday. All of the friends came down and had a little party-complete with a video from my favorite SnapChatter SprinkleFreak! A few days later, Pierre, Christina, Whitney, Frank, and I all went to the Summer 90's R&B concert in Long Beach and had one of the best days of the whole year singing all of our favorite teenage songs together and dancing by the water! In September we lost my Grandpa Jack. I am beyond grateful that I was blessed with a grandfather like him. I miss him all of the time. We also visited Las Vegas for a really fun weekend celebrating Pierre's birthday. I acted like a 21 year old and consumed more alcohol that weekend than I normally do in an entire year (minus wine of course). Sabin and I also celebrated our FIRST wedding anniversary. There is never a dull day with this incredible man and I am the most thankful to have someone like him in my life. By October I realized our life is going to be jam packed every fall. We had a Halloween party at the studio, another at Harper's school, birthday parties for her school friends, and of course actual Halloween. It seemed like there was something every night the entire month, but all of it was extremely fun. Harper went as an astronaut, decked out in the coolest costume ever supplied by Auntie Arlene. She did a change into Barbie for actual Trick or Treating, and I went as a Skeleton while Sabin went as Scar from the Lion King. In November we found the perfect kitchen island that we've been searching for since last Thanksgiving. Not only does it complete our kitchen, its really become the centerpiece of our entire home. We also had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. I did the turkey again and it turned out pretty darn good. December brought the most magical Christmas of all. We all were together for a beautiful Christmas Eve dinner. I am thankful to be able to showcase the power of choosing love and family to Harper. I am wishing all of my friends and family, and those I don't know the most amazing 2017 ever. Here's to remaining grateful and showing gratitude!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Follow the theme

There is something about the smell of the ocean or the sound of the waves crashing into the beach that settles my soul and requires me to dig deep and reflect. Every half a year or so I enter a dark place of insecurity and uncertainty. Why am I here? What am I passionate about? What is my purpose. Usually I can kick myself out of this place quickly but this time I've been stuck. I want to leave a mark, contribute to something BIG, or figure out how to leave the world at least a little better than how I found it. Before I continue, let me state that I am not complaining. I lead a charmed, spectacular life. For God's sake, I am typing this from poolside on vacation in Mexico! However, even those that appear to have it all together truly don't have it together at all. Back to reflection, I often wonder what it is that is going to finally fill that void that seems to always rear its ugly head. I have to go back to childhood and really dig in for understanding. I played one season of soccer when I was about eight. It was the only organized sport or season I ever played. I've all but lost any concrete memories of anything before my Dad died when I was a few days from turning 14, however that one season of soccer sticks out (probably because my mother permed my hair before the team photo and I cringe every time I see it). For many kids they discovered what they were good at or passionate about through sports and team work. I learned that it got me a lot of attention. I spent the practices and games looking at my grandparents and parents on the sidelines watching me instead of watching the ball or game. I didn't learn about my passion and I was a really lousy soccer player but I did learn that I craved attention and approval from adults in my life. In my teenage years, I pursued any activity that put me in the spotlight, taking the lead in every theater production and serving as Editor-in-Chief of my high school yearbook. I loved the attention and pressure to perform. My closest and few remaining friends from high school was my teacher! I love and adore her, but are you starting to see a theme? I've always been responsible, probably overly responsible. My mother always jokes that I'm the parent and she's the child. My younger sister starts most difficult conversations with "I don't want a lecture on this, but..." I'm working on being more spontaneous. i have no idea what any of this means and I'm not going to guess, however I am starting to weave together a theme and one thing I've learned is to follow the theme. For now I'm going to settle into this mimosa and keep reflecting.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

We are Orlando

This has been a very emotional week. In the wake of the worst hate crime and mass murder committed upon gay people in US History, I've been numb all week. I know we've all been talking about it so much and this is likely just "another Orlando posting" but I feel compelled to write it anyway. If anything ever happens to me, I want my daughter and nieces and loved ones to have something written from me about how this week has felt to me. I joined the gay party much later in life than most of my friends. I was 27 when I got my first "boyfriend." This wasn't intentional and I never was hiding, it just took me longer to really figure out who and what I was. Even before I came out, I've been immersed in gay culture. At seventeen I showed up to the dorms at Webster University to meet my new room mate Cade with Powder Puff Girls bedding spewn about his bunk. He pulled me into the bathroom and immediately said, "I am gay. If that's a problem go see our dorm leadership and request a move now." I remember I hugged him and over that year shared some of my biggest secrets and created a friendship with one of the most incredible and honorable men I've ever known. Not only did I accept him, I immersed myself in it. The very first dance club I've ever went to was with him in East St. Louis and danced harder and freer than I ever had in my life. In our first year at Webster I helped coordinate the "Drag Ball" which was one of my University's biggest events. Cade hosted the event in drag as "Mariah Scary" that year. We laughed and cheered, and I remember celebrating that event just a few months after 9/11 and laughing so hard that I lost my voice for a few days. Over that time I met my other brothers-Russ, Stephen, Dave, and many others- and of course I can't forget my favorite first boss Nick who joined us from Tennessee as we all figured out life together. When I say brothers, I mean BROTHERS- men who go with you to pick up your sister on the side of the freeway on vacations to Florida. Men who put you in a NYC cab and carry you to your hotel room when you've had too much. Men who drop everything and fly to be with you in the midst of heartbreak and divorce. I literally don't think I'd have made it here without these guys. And I can't tell you how many times in the past 15 years I've been dancing the night away with them in a gay club at 2 am, JUST like Pulse. There have been "whispers" about me and my sexuality my entire life. The truth is, at least from my perspective, I've always been my true and authentic self. Even despite whispers or someone coming out and directly asking, what you see today is what you've always gotten with me. I was fortunate to grow up with a Mom that loves without boundaries. We've always had gay people around, and truthfully if you are reading this and don't have gay people around, YOU are really missing out! As a gay married man, I can tell you that despite living in and amongst a community that fully accepts and supports us (which so many gay people still don't have), My husband and I are still never freer or more like a real couple than when we go to a gay bar or club. When we are around our straight friends and family, almost out of habit we hold back. We don't openly show tons of affection as to not make people feel uncomfortable (even though most of our people wouldn't anyway). But when we go to WeHo and are surrounded by our gay brothers or sisters, we hold each other tighter, dance and kiss, love and laugh and connect on a deeper level. We are safe and we are home in places like Pulse, free from watching eyes or critical stares that we avoid in our regular daily life. THAT is why this week has been so difficult to bear. I can't comprehend what the 49 victims must've felt as they danced and held each other, but in a strange way I can also totally picture it too. I think it's why gay broadcasters like Don Lemmon and Anderson Cooper can't get through a broadcast because they too have been there. Gay bars and clubs are our safe place, and I for one will not let one person change that for me. Today and this weekend as 49 families bury their children, brothers, sisters, Moms and Dads I would encourage anyone reading this to slowly close your eyes and for one moment picture that this was me, because it very well could've been. I don't want this tragedy to at all be about me, but I know there are still so many people in "my circle" who may wince a little when they hear that this was a gay club. Or people who may sit back and hear Donald Trump say things on the news about "ask the gays." Or hear their preachers and religious leaders avoid the fact that this was a hate crime against gay people. Or worse come right out and show support for it. You can not ride the fence on this one. I can not ride the fence with this one. We are all in this together. Love will always win and I am Orlando.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

I have always loved Thanksgiving. It is one of the holidays that is less about "showing" or "showering" others with gifts of appreciation and more about an internal reflection of what we as individuals are giving thanks for and recognizing those many blessings we have. I, for one, used to despise the times when I had to be alone with my thoughts and "reflect." For many years, I would much prefer to focus on others and not have to worry about sorting through all of the craziness going on inside. However, over the last few years I've come to love and appreciate my alone time. Perhaps my two-three hour daily commute has given me that time I never had before. Perhaps those hours of therapy have started to pay me back. I'm not really sure exactly, but I know that part of it is the ability to settle into myself. As I've gotten older I'm able to have a better framework for what I want out of life and I think more importantly, what I don't want. I've began to prioritize those things in ways that I never would have thought possible. It is still a struggle, but I'm confident that I'm moving in the right direction. Part of reflection is prioritizing what little free time I have. For some relationships that has meant more distance or in some cases letting them go all together. For others it has really strengthened my bond and developed others. I think so much of my personal twenties was more about pleasing others. Having lots of friends, being the life of the party. Making sure that everyone was comfortable- flying under the radar on many deep things like politics, religion, and beliefs to make sure everyone (myself mostly) was comfortable. That those around me CRAVED the time we had together. Of course that was mostly a defense mechanism, meant to cover up really getting to know or go to levels unknown with those people. Ive told this story a lot, but when I met Sabin and he had a seemingly bigger personality than me, and saw how people flocked to him, it was a bit frightening for me. When we went out together it was nice not to be "on" all the time because he generated a lot of the attention and charisma that I was used to giving/being. However, it was also one of the best gifts any person could ever give me. My ability to fade into the background (willingly of course) is/was so refreshing. It gave/gives me the ability to really connect with people. To have corner conversations about real life big deal things that I was really never able/willing to do when I was so busy being that life of the room! I, of course, miss those friends and family that I have drifted apart from, but I also must say I sit more firmly in my chair, walk more solidly in my shoes, see colors/lights/beauty more clearly because of this internal shift and I could never go back to the "way things were." I also need, and truthfully only have time for, those deeper relationships when the other person fully accepts me (as I am now, and not romanticizing how I used to be). Those in my first ripple of circle have dwindled down to less than a handful, whereas the number used to be upwards of a dozen. But those in that ripple really know me; know and accept the real me with my crazy liberal thoughts one day and deeply religious or conservative the next. They have begun to really understand the complexity that comes with me now and never wince at any aspect of my life no matter how personally uncomfortable they may be with certain things. I haven't really blogged about our wonderful amazing wedding and honeymoon, but one thing that really sticks out in my mind is that out of 125 invitations sent out, we received 4 "unable to attend" RSVPs from those guests who would've chopped off their limbs to make it but just couldn't because life got in the way. And then, we did not hear back anything beforehand from FIFTY EIGHT of those invitations. At the surface, it might seem like I'm heading into a tangent about how upsetting that was or how I'm frustrated about basically getting nothing back from half of our invitees (most of which were from my "side"). But the truth is, I actually found it to be the framework for what I wrote about above. Life moves fast, but when I looked out at the 90 people who celebrated with us on the most important day of my life thus far, I realized that while my circle has drastically dwindled, it has also strengthened tenfold. To those that celebrated with us on that day, we shared some of the most vulnerable and emotional moments ever together. It's almost like we have this secret among us that I'm almost hesitant to share with others because we are wrapped up together forever in an amazing beautiful web. When I close my eyes and think back on that day, the grin lines are unavoidable. So are the tears, but it is such an intimate memory that I will treasure forever and eternally thankful that we shared together. So this Thanksgiving I am most thankful for a husband who shows/tells/showers me his love and commitment to me and our family and an understanding of me that sometimes I don't even understand, a good job that allows me to provide for my family, health and happiness living in my dream home across the street from great friends as we take over Marguerite Street, a mom and sister that fully accepts me exactly as I am with no strings attached and no expectations for anything in return, a great relationship with the mother of my daughter and her entire family, and most importantly that beautiful blonde child who fills my heart so much that many days feels like it may explode. May you remind those that you are thankful for how much they mean to you today and everyday.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Funday.

I have had this insatiable desire to write. It's weird because I looked back and saw that exactly one year ago today, on the same Sunday I wrote a post titled, "my inner voice is telling me to write." It must be this weekend. Or season. Or something. Life has been exciting and chaotic and fun. We are knee deep in wedding preparations for our wedding in September. I can say with full disclosure that I can be a bridezilla, but I've really been trying to include Sabin and our family and friends in on the planning. I envision a very fun, very loud, very posh wedding and as long as I get to stand in front of my closest friends and family and profess my love and commitment to my amazing partner, the rest of the details seem so insignificant. We are having our modern wedding at a cool art studio on the West Side. I hope it feels like a very Los Angeles type of event as this is the city where we fell in love. Food truck catering, lots of WINE, no big frills or extravagant things, just simple and chic. Kind of like me ;) Work has been very rewarding yet very busy at the same time. My company is opening two new locations a week apart! It's exciting to be very involved with our growth, but a ton of work too! I'm trying to take advantage of a 4 day weekend before the storm starts on Wednesday! I love staying busy, but I'm already looking forward to summer being over so that we can get on with the wedding! On the Monday after our ceremony we are headed to Paris and London for a week! Neither of us has ever been to Europe and I'm beyond excited to share this trip with my new husband! Is it weird that I am looking more forward to the honeymoon than the actual wedding!?! Harper turned four earlier this month. She is still my baby, but as she gets older she also gets all the more cooler! She still sucks her thumb and carries around her tattered blankie (I know, I know---we will figure out a way to end this soon) but besides that she is pretty much a self sustainable human. This morning she actually mixed her own waffles up and then got the waffle maker out and prepped! I stopped her because I was nervous that it might burn her, when she snapped back, "daddy I've got this!" And it hit me suddenly that she will continue not needing me for so many things! While that might mean she can (and will) get hurt, scrape her knee, burn her hand or even break a bone, I'm learning that I've just got to sit back and let her learn, because she is right. She really DID have it. And it also means I might get to start sleeping in a little more on Sunday's too! We had her small birthday party at Chuck E Cheese Pizza followed by a fun low key BBQ at home with friends. Penny, our boxer puppy that Santa brought on Christmas morning continues to grow and grow. Santa must've really known what he was doing because Penny has Harper wrapped around her paw. They are two sisters and Harper's nervousness around bigger dogs, or dogs in general, has really subsided. I'm also getting there, just not as fast as Harper! I've been thinking a lot about tradition and normalcy. As I re-read my above post I'm realizing that not much has changed since I last wrote five months ago or even six months before that. And in a weird way I am kind of alright with that. I think so much of my twenties was working through climbing the work ladder, figuring out my true self, and getting all of the craziness out of my system. I was never really content with laying on the sofa for a full weekend. Sabin and I actually almost called one of those As Seen on TV numbers yesterday because there was a cool gardening product that we couldn't live without. As Sabin dialed the number, we both just looked at each other and then busting up laughing! Yep, this is what our Saturday afternoons have become. I loved falling in love with Sabin and all of the heart fluttering firsts we had, but my real true deep passionate love over the past 2 1/2 years has really come more recently when I watch our routines unfold or he helps clean up the house or get Harper from school on days when I have to work late. It's those things that can often be taken for granted where I have to slow down and realize how truly blessed I am to have a regular day, week, month or year with someone so patient, kind, and understanding.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

i wanna see you be brave!

As the holiday season and entire year come to a close, I am yet again feeling that exciting shift inside as life moves onward and upward. Over the past 18 months, I have to say I am super proud of myself as my awareness about so many things happening to me and around me occur, and for me to allow them to happen without trying to change the trajectory.  My former self was so controlling that I could never be OK without having a say in every single detail of my own life.  I was such a control freak that I would literally alter the outcome of everything in my life by steering the ship of my life in the exact way I wanted it to go. Now, I am much happier being a passenger. I've become less antsy about just sitting at home all day in my pajamas or cuddling in bed a few extra minutes.  Less and less regimen has really helped my overall happiness and also started to shift many other details of my life too. The old me wanted the most perfectly wrapped presents under the tree, every detail for every Christmas meal planned out, and up to the minute itineraries for New Years Eve and New Years Day on everyone's calendar so we could all coordinate. So much of that has changed.  Becoming Harper's Daddy and Sabin's spouse has helped, but even with that, I just had to have a come-to-Jesus with myself that life is way more fun when you let there be surprises! I feel lighter (in spirit, not weight) and so much more free!

This Christmas was magical. As Harper started to understand more and more about Santa and tradition, I am learning that the best thing about Christmas is watching the wonderment in her eyes. We had a packed house and lots of laughing, amazing food, and of course lots and lots of wine! That with the pairing of late night "Heads Up" and "Cards Against Humanity" and an amazing steak and crab dinner that might go down as the best meal I've ever had really made for one of those "movie worthy" Christmas' as our house. Harpers grandparents and Aunt and Uncle came from Sacramento and with our best friends who live across the street, we were able to shock Sabin and Harper with the newest member of our family, a 9 week old Boxer who they promptly named Penny who arrived in a big Santa tote on Christmas morning.  I've never ever ever been an animal person. Like not even kinda. But I see the joy that animals add to a home and I've never had a brand new puppy to care for and watch grow up, so Penny was also a gift for me.  Already she and I are working out the kinks, and overall I am in love with her in ways I never thought were possible with anything that is four-legged!

I spent the first two weeks of December in Edmonton, Alberta Canada as my company opened our first International location.  Yes it was cold. Yes it was a lot of work. But overall I am really proud of being part of such a milestone for my company, and over the whole summer I worked with the entire Edmonton management team and helped train them on all things buybuyBABY. They were awesome and even though I was supposed to be the trainer, they actually taught me a lot of things as well. Some exciting changes at work are also happening, although it's way too early to discuss the details. But I am really looking forward to these changes in the next few weeks.

Perhaps one of the best parts of December is watching my amazing Mommy going through her own big life changes! Everyone knows that I am a HUGE Mama's boy.  Part of the way I even survive my three to four hour work commute per day is because my Mom is usually on the other end of the phone (on Bluetooth of course) to talk to me about everything. In addition to being my Mom, she is also my therapist, cheerleader, realist, news source, and even personal comedian.  Just like every other parent/child relationship, we go through struggles too, but overall I look around at other grown kids and their parental relationships and am forever indebted to her unwavering support and love for me. That being said, I've also had a birds eye view into her personal life and watched parts of her start to shift into someone that I always knew was not her true and authentic fun loving, funny self.  She was caught up in a relationship where she continuously filled up the gas tank, meanwhile her reservoir never seemed to ever get filled up in return. I would listen to her tell me, "I just want you to find someone who loves and adores you" yet I knew she didn't have it in her own life.  She gave the best advice but didn't always see how that looked through my eyes as I watched her basically cater to someone who was an irresponsible, immature, grumpy, and overall gloomy presence and who shrunk the magical light inside of her. Everything she wanted for me was basically the opposite of how her own life looked to me. Of course, I couldn't tell her that it made me so sad to see her light fade when I knew how much she had to offer. How do you tell the person who is your closest woman on earth that the person whom she chose as her partner sucks? You don't. I never ever wanted to risk our relationship because of this person either, so I remained close lipped. I avoided visiting or even talking about visiting. It caused tension. When I would visit I would have to witness with my own eyes how bad it actually was, which caused even more animosity.

And then Crystal died. And Mom wasn't there- not because she didn't want to be but because once again she was the sole supporter of an entire household, while her partner struggled to find/keep work and she simply couldn't afford to come for her own step-daughters funeral. It caused one of the worst fights we've ever had. It was ugly. It was a time when all I needed was her and instead we were fighting because we both were hurting and wanted the same thing, but couldn't have each other to lean on.

There were times when I would get calls from the area code where she lived where I was scared to answer. This person she had chosen to be with seemed unpredictable and capable of switching
personalities at the drop of a dime and those calls could be that maybe he had gone off the deep end or one of their fights went too far.  They moved several times, once close enough to drive to see my sister and her Dad, yet again her partner couldn't hold down a job and in the year that they lived there, she was too strapped for cash to go more than twice to visit because she had to keep herself and him afloat. When my Grandpa (her Dad) died this fall, I think she finally permanently removed the rose colored glasses. She attended the funeral alone and came back to absolutely zero support.  She once again found herself in a new city, a new job, and no one to help fill up her gas tank or return the support.

While I was in Canada I got the message that she got in her car and left without looking back. At first, I thought it was just a temporary thing and she would be back by the time we spoke. Then I got to skype with her a few days later and saw on video with my own eyes my Mom in a light (literally and figuratively) that I had been missing for the last 14 years. Even though she was sad (and maybe because she had been crying) but her eyes looked greener than I could remember and the tone of her voice and the way she spoke seemed to have reverted. She spoke with clarity, and for the first time in forever I was seeing the woman who raised me stand up and be strong for herself. It was magnificent! Not only did I get my true, fun, funny Mom back, but she returned back to Michigan to be close to her siblings and Mom. It's been only a few weeks, but even in that short time I know that she knows that something had been missing from her life for a long time and I also think she can see the same miraculous changes that I do.  Her voice, her entire demeanor has changed and morphed right back into that familiarity of me being a child. She already landed a great job that she will start in a few weeks. I am not sharing her story just to air her dirty laundry, but instead to remind myself (and perhaps others too) that one act of bravity can change the entire outcome of your life.  I am super proud of her-not because I get my super Mom back in a whole new way-but because she was willing to listen to that inner voice urging her to just take the plunge and don't look back. Of course no one knows how the story ends, but she gets to wrap up the entire previous book and start with her sequel which is a must read for me!

Cheers to an amazing 2015. For now, being content, planning the fall wedding to the true love of my life, and watching my amazing family grow is what I am most excited about for the new year!