conversation with my life-long friend

“Your marriage was so abusive.”

“It was?”

That was me asking…about my marriage.

“Wait, do you not know how abusive it was?”

“Well, I mean, I do, I guess, sort of, but go on. Why do you say that?”

She then described what it felt like to be at my house, with our kids, when he came home from work.

“It was like a hurricane.”

“He walked in the door and stirred shit up.”

“The screaming and the yelling and the tears – it was you and the kids trying to meet him at his level. He demanded that.”

“He always brought drama with him everywhere he went.”

“No my friend, it wasn’t you that created the chaos.”

“The piece that you are responsible for is that you stayed. Not the rest.”

I know this and yet I don’t know this.

I carry the weight of being the crazy one; the one that created the drama, the insanity, the unhappiness.

I carry the burden of hurting my children because of being that person.

I have such deep fear of being out of balance these days because it will prove that I am that person.

If anyone actually has to share a room with my feelings, then it will confirm what everyone already believes:

I am a problem.

The problem.

So here is someone letting me off the hook. Someone who witnessed, first hand the reality of my life, not the twisted, skewed perspective that I had been manipulated into believing. And I still shake my head and say, “Oh it wasn’t that bad, was it?”

I ask her to repeat herself. Tell me more. I am soaking this up like water in the desert and yet I still can’t quite wrap my head around it without thinking that I am either being a drama queen or playing victim.

And instead of it being a relief, it feels like a weight.


my underwear drawer was full of dog food

my linen bin had kibble layered between the sheets and towels

my silverware drawer contained piles of raisins

in my shirt drawer…mounds of soft, creamy colored fluff – something unidentifiable had been chewed

and stored

I am missing an earring

this was no ordinary mouse

this was a creature preparing for armageddon

I saw him out of the corner of my eye once or twice, scurrying into the kitchen

he was tiny and gray and seemingly harmless

I thought it was sweet for a while; I texted my friend with photos

“how cool” she replied


after googling pack rats and seeing how big they become I decided that there is not enough room in this house for the two of us

three if you include Elvis the Wonder Corgi who apparently is not a mouse hunter

last year’s 7 foot snake was, but she didn’t return this summer

I put out traps with peanut butter

packrats can’t carry that away for storage so it didn’t work

then I went away for a few days, making sure there was no dog food available

I came home and immediately sensed that my roommate had left

with relief I went on with my days, grateful that I didn’t have to commit murder

then, last night, as I was closing up the house, I saw a creature hanging onto the screen of the front door

splayed, flat, arms and legs spread in a fearful grip on the mesh

startled, it took a minute for my mind to grasp what I was seeing

he looked like a lizard hanging out

why wasn’t he on the floor where a rat should be instead of scaling the screen door like a reptile

I let out a yelp and he ran under the washing machine

it’s time

he’s getting bigger by the day

I hate being startled

elvis won’t eat out of the same bowl that the rat has

determined, I set out two traps; one with the standard peanut butter, just in case

the other had kibble

I closed the laundry room door, blocked any potential exits with blankets and towels and went to bed hoping to hear the SNAP of a trap, the snap of a neck

this morning, there he was, splayed again like a lizard, arms and legs straight out, little fingers spread wide, neck flattened under the guillotine of the trap

the kibble trap

do I feel badly having killed


but I can’t afford to keep feeding him

and we wonder why she left

a high school friend posted the following list on FB. I took out a few things that make the list long and uninteresting; only someone from Wildwood would give a shit.

For those who live in New Jersey and those who visit:

New Jersey is a peninsula.

whoopity shit

Highlands, New Jersey has the highest elevation along the entire eastern seaboard, from Maine to Florida.

that’s a total lie

New Jersey is the only state where all of its counties are classified as metropolitan areas.

isn’t that just dandy

New Jersey has more race horses than Kentucky.

New Jersey has more Cubans in Union City (1 sq. mi.) than Havana, Cuba.

horses and cubans are okay

New Jersey has the densest system of highways and railroads in the US.

highways are not

New Jersey has the highest cost of living.


New Jersey has the highest cost of auto insurance.


New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the nation.


New Jersey has the most diners in the world and is sometimes referred to as the “Diner Capital of the World.”

one can only eat so many 2 am biscuits and gravy

New Jersey is home to the original Mystery Pork Parts Club (not Spam): Taylor Ham or Pork Roll.

is this a bragging point?

Home to the less mysterious but the best Italian hot dogs and Italian sausage w/peppers and onions.

food of my childhood

North Jersey has the most shopping malls in one area in the world, with seven major shopping malls in a 25 square mile radius.

no comment

The Passaic River was the site of the first submarine ride
by inventor John P. Holland .

kind of cool but who wants to ride a giant ship under a river?

New Jersey has 50+ resort cities & towns; some of the nation’s most famous: Asbury Park, Wildwood, Atlantic City, Seaside Heights, Cape May.

hives. this gives me hives

New Jersey has the most stringent testing along its coastline for water quality control than any other seaboard state in the entire country.

yes, since needles started appearing on the shores of all of those resort towns

New Jersey is a leading technology & industrial state and is the largest chemical producing state in the nation when you include pharmaceuticals.

why all of my parents’ friends died of cancer

Jersey tomatoes are known the world over as being the best you can buy.

I’ll give them that

Here’s to New Jersey – the toast of the country! In 1642, the first brewery in America, opened in Hoboken.

if you lived in Jersey in 1642, you’d drink too

New Jersey is a major seaport state with the largest seaport in the US, located in Elizabeth. Nearly 80 percent of what our nation imports comes through Elizabeth Seaport first.

making bank off unnecessary plastic shit made by small asian children

New Jersey is home to one of the nation’s busiest airports (in Newark), Liberty International.

who wants to visit one of the nation’s busiest anything, just to wait in line?

George Washington slept there.

the guy was in the middle of a war, on the move, he slept EVERYWHERE

Several important Revolutionary War battles were fought on New Jersey soil, led by General George Washington.

see above

The light bulb, phonograph (record player), and motion picture projector, were invented by Thomas Edison in his Menlo Park, NJ, laboratory

just read that Edison may have pilfered his assistant’s ideas

New Jersey was home to the Miss America Pageant held in Atlantic City.

doing their part to empower women every day

The game Monopoly named the streets on its playing board after the actual streets in Atlantic City. And, Atlantic City has the longest boardwalk in the world, not to mention salt water taffy. ( Now made in Pennsylvania)..

and where’s the salt water in Pennsylvania?

New Jersey has the largest petroleum containment area outside of the Middle East countries.

let’s hope it doesn’t spill all over that beautiful shoreline in Asbury Park, Wildwood, Atlantic City, Seaside Heights, Cape May

The first Indian reservation was in New Jersey, in the Watchung Mountains

first in ethnic cleansing

New Jersey built the first tunnel under a river, the Hudson (Holland Tunnel)

admittedly quite cool

New Jersey is home to both of “NEW YORK’S” pro football teams!

yes because who is going to root for a team from the state famous for oil storage and needles on the beach

All New Jersey natives: Sal Martorano, Jack Nicholson, Bruce
Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Jason Alexander, Queen Latifah, Susan Sarandon, Connie Francis, Shaq, Judy Blume, Aaron Burr, Joan Robertson, Ken Kross, Dionne Warwick, Sarah Vaughn, Budd Abbott, Lou Costello, Alan Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, Marilynn McCoo, Flip Wilson, Alexander Hamilton, Zack Braff Whitney Houston, Eddie Money, Linda McElroy, Eileen Donnelly,
Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, Walt Whitman, Jerry Lewis, Tom Cruise, Joyce Kilmer, Bruce Willis, Caesar Romero, Lauryn Hill, Ice-T, Nick Adams, Nathan Lane, Sandra Dee, Danny DeVito, Richard Conti, Joe Pesci, Joe Piscopo, Joe DePasquale, Robert Blake, John Forsythe, Meryl Streep, Loretta Swit, Norman Lloyd, Paul Simon, Jerry Herman, Gorden McCrae, Kevin Spacey, John Travolta, Phyllis Newman, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Eva Marie Saint, Elisabeth Shue, Zebulon Pike, James Fennimore Cooper, Admiral Wm.Halsey,Jr.,Norman Schwarzkopf, Dave Thomas (Wendy’s), William Carlos Williams, Ray Liotta, Robert Wuhl, Bob Reyers, Paul Robeson, Ernie Kovacs, Joseph Macchia, Kelly Ripa, and Francis Albert Sinatra and “Uncle Floyd” Vivino.

Martorano, Costello, Romero, DeVito, Pesci, Piscopo, DePasquale, Travolta, Liotta, Vivino, the Genovese and DeCavalcante “families”, Strazza…a regular little italy…bring on the sausage and peppers…and the ammo

Meryl Streep and J Giles are from my town

Kevin Spacey is a sexual predator

yay Walt Whitman

You know you’re from Jersey when . . . .

You don’t think of fruit when people mention “The Oranges.”
You know that it’s called Great Adventure, not Six Flags.

that did feel very significant…when I was 12

You know that the state isn’t one big oil refinery

it’s easy to get confused with all that petroleum stored there

You know that the state isn’t all farmland.

right, because it’s highways, oil tanks, malls, and diners

You know that there are no “beaches” in New Jersey–there’s the shore–and you don’t go “to the shore,” you go “down the shore.” And when you are there, you’re not “at the shore”; you are “down the shore.”


You know how to properly negotiate a circle.
You knew that the last sentence had to do with driving.

yeah, but you don’t know how to speak proper english

You don’t think “What exit?” is very funny.

so. very. true

You know that no respectable New Jerseyan goes to Princeton–that’s for out-of-staters.

you just turned down an ivy league education because you’re too cool…no wonder you can’t put a sentence together

You live within 20 minutes of at least three different malls.

via highways, circles, exits, and petroleum storage

You refer to all highways and interstates by their numbers

because there are too many to track

Every year you have least one kid in your class named Tony

and his last name is Genovese, DeCavalcante, or Strazza

You’ve gotten on the wrong highway trying to get out of the mall

pretty much sums it up

And last…

You’ve never, ever, pumped your own gas

I do miss this

but certainly not enough to move back


I came home at 3:30 on friday afternoon and it is now 8:46 on monday evening and I haven’t left the canyon.

I am a pig in mud.

I could not be happier.

Fuck yeah.

And I don’t have to go to town until Wednesday. Five days of just me and the dogs.


I have hiked and done some gardening. I have put serious quality time into work.

I have written so many words.

I have had more energy.

Enough to clean my entire house; all 800 square feet of it.

It took an entire day and the better part of a second. That’s how long it’s been.

I won’t tell you how many times I had to clean out the vacuum filter.

But now, my house sparkles.

I’ve spent so much time coming and going for the last few months that I feel like I live out of a suitcase and a tote bag.

I’m a Taurus…I need my home.

TAM and his 9 year old son are out of town for 10 days, so there goes my social life. I work from home. I am no longer going to physical therapy in town 2 days a week.

So I have no need to get in my truck.

Except to take the trash up the hill to the dumpster; but I don’t have to leave the property.

My truck sat in the sun for so long (with the windows closed so the snakes don’t get in) that it was 119 today when I got in to do the trash run.

So here I am getting my shit back together without realizing I had lost it. I was so scattered: mentally, physically. It would take so long for me to do anything that sometimes nothing got done.

I feel 10 pounds lighter having just gotten organized and clean.

And enjoying some activites like scrambling through the canyon or drinking coffee watching the sun come up.

I’ve been indulging.

Chocolate. Eating tomatoes out of my garden like apples. Preparing satisfying dinners instead of chip crumbs mixed with salsa.

It’s been lovely.

So now I will share with you my ultimate indulgence.

I have a super comfy camping cot that is my summer bed. It’s outside on the deck off my kitchen. Under my shade sail. Under the stars.

It is magnificant. I fall asleep to the crickets and coyotes and the occassional pissed off racoon. And sometimes the ice plant is rumbling next door. But that’s just white noise.

So the cot is on the deck. I use my birdseed box as a night table. I hang my camping lantern from a chair behind my head so I can read.

The kitchen door is open so the dogs can find me.

On the bed are TWO paco pads, cotton sheets, and a couple of quilts. Whatever isn’t already on my inside bed.

And one of those random items just happens to be an electric blanket. That I put UNDER the fitted sheet.

Oh yes, I do. I plug that fucker in and right around 4 am when the night is at its coldest, I reach over the side of the cot and turn it on. High.

I snuggle back in under the quilts, look for the first hint of light above the hillside, and listen to the songbirds call in the day.

Snug as a fucking bug in a rug.

You may laugh, but secretly, you’re googling “solar powered electric blanket for camping.”

last night I dreamt of lions

first, I found out I am going to spend 21 days in Grand Canyon

then, she came to me in my dream

eyes fixed on me, sphynx-like, from her alcove in the shade

calm, steady, not un-friendly

I felt as if I was being sized-up

there was no sign of her cub

I wasn’t afraid

my reaction was more of a “Holy shit, finally

but I didn’t linger

this wasn’t one of those, “then she spoke to me and shared the secrets of the Divine…” kind of dreams

it was more of a, “I’m letting your intrusion slide, this time” kind of dream

it was intense

I’ve never dreamt of a mountain lion that vividly before

this morning the dogs and I walked the rim above the canyon

it felt like there was a connection between Grand Canyon and the cat; I wanted space to ruminate on it

it feels like things are afoot in my energetic world

I came to the conclusion that I am going to finally see my first cat in the “Big Ditch”

how cool is that

walking the last leg of the trail drops into a narrow canyon that leads to my creek

it’s the main thoroughfare for all the desert creatures between water and the shade beneath the cliff walls

at one point the narrow trail brushes the entrance to a shady alcove with a soft sandy floor

I have seen my lion’s and her cub’s paw marks in the sand; they nap there in the heat of the day

I stood at the lip of the canyon and thought, I know, in my gut, they are lazing right now

this is the dream; I’m going to see her today


deep breath

do I want to knowingly walk into the lions’ den

that’s just dumb


but, I know she’s there

they’re there

or the cub is there and she is above me somewhere

but I’ve been wanting to see her for so long

here’s my chance

that’s just dumb

but so tempting

but maybe I am not supposed to see her today and I should wait until I am on the river

hmmmm there was that gal who was eaten by the bear but maybe killed first by a cougar

yeah, I’m good

and I took the long way home

The Felony Club

I have a friend whose child has gotten themself in a bit of a tangle; a tangle that involves felony charges

When that child who is an adult but still someone’s baby stands up in the courtroom, I will be there. I will be there to support my friend because I want to. I will also be there to show the judge that this child has a community that will stand up for, look out for, and love unconditionally.

That means a LOT when a judge is in the decision-making process.

There is a special club for parents of kids who are facing prison time for a felony. My son was looking at 16 years in prison for drunkenly smashing his car and three friends into a giant cottonwood. He was just a kid, albeit a dumb one. He fucked up, but he’s not a Fuck-Up.

People judged, we were shunned by friends. We were the talk of the town for quite some time. We were abandoned by many in our community.

A woman whose son was serving time for peddling child porn became my friend because she knows the stigma of being the parent of a kid that made REALLY bad choices. She never found fault with me. She never criticized my son.

She understood that no matter what, the felon before us is still someone’s child and that that child and his/her parent(s) are suffering mightily, hearts broken, feeling completely isolated and alone.

Living in terror of what might happen to their baby that they can no longer protect.

My son researched prisons in the state, preparing himself for Buena Vista (the worst) versus Canon City (one of the better state prisons.)

No parent should ever have to think about those options. No parent wants their child in one of those hellholes. Any reasonably sane parent would be terrified to think about their child behind bars for countless years.

When people judge the child, they judge the parent. When people judge the child and the parent, they tend to abandon the family when the family needs them the most.

It is horribly isolating.

We can judge our own children’s stupidity but no one else may because there is still a mom, or a dad, suffering to see their baby in danger that they can’t fix.

When we went to court, again and again, there was a posse of friends that showed up, sat next to us, held our hands, hugged my son, spoke to the judge, pled to not have his life ruined, held space for our fear and our pain.

These friends taught me about the defining lines between true friends and fair weather ones. These friends were there. Just having them sitting behind us in the courtroom made me feel like someone had our backs when the ground beneath our feet became quicksand.

Having people who could show up and love us, love my child, even when he had done something terrible, helped us survive the storm. It helped him stand up in front of the judge prepared for whatever sentence was handed down. He knew he wasn’t alone.

I knew that somehow, some way, I would survive if my boy was taken away in handcuffs.

If you haven’t had to stare that down, there is no way to understand the pain that I felt, that a mom, or a parent, feels when in the same impossible position.

I was blessed beyond imaginaton by the support and love that showed up when we needed it most. I will never ever take that for granted. I hope to never have my friendships tested like that again.

I really hope that we never, as a family, face anything that frightening and excruciating again.

But, I learned some lessons through it all.

*don’t judge

*that “bad guy” is someone’s child

*that parent loves their child as much as you love yours

*you show up for your friends. period.