Panorama of San Bernardino

Friday, October 26, 2018

Family Matters

The job of a writer is to illuminate the human condition, but it can lead to maudlin thoughts at times. Then, something really bad happens and you think, what was I so upset about before because this is a true catastrophe.

And, something really bad happened. Two weeks ago, my brother-in-law was hospitalized with a life threatening condition.  I raced to the emergency (my husband had to drive me because I could not drive) to support my sister Annie and her daughters. I kept praying to myself on the way, "Please God, keep him safe. Let him be OK."

Thankfully, he got himself to the emergency and they transported him to a better hospital and he is awake. But, two weeks later, he is still in the ICU. It will be a long road ahead, but I know he can do it.

It was horrible to think that we could have lost him. Horrible times like these give you perspective. Because, you only know how important family is when you almost lose someone important to you. We all get caught up in the day to day. Jobs, family, bills, and entertainment. It is easy to just forget what is really important.

It is not as if I didn't know. I had been reminded recently of how short and fleeting life can be. We lost my husband's brother six months ago and the only word I can use to describe the experience is traumatizing.

This time, we will have a happy ending. My brother-in-law Vince is strong. My sister Annie is also resilent and supportive and most of all, kind. She will be his rock. I’m so proud of how she has weathered this storm. Annie has positivity and faith. Belief is hard when bad things happen, I know, but it matters too.

Yet, still, it reminds me of how fragile life is. How we must make the most of every moment, lest it be our last. And go for your dreams. Dreams are everything.

Speaking of dreams, on Monday, I saw my twin sister’s dissertation defense. I sat in the conference room and it was like we were kids again and I was cheering her in the stands. My heart swelled for her. My swollen heart felt so big in my chest that I had to hiccup to avoid weeping. Me and my twin don’t always get along, the family chaos we were raised in permeates our relationship at times, but I love her. We are twin souls and wonder twins. And, I felt Monday was a new beginning for me and Doctor Jacqueline Marie Mantz. I thought about what my dad would say. Dad would be amazed that he, being a poor boy from Montana, has a daughter with a doctorate.

Ultimately, what I am starting to see is that family matters. It is everything. And I’m glad I have one.

Friday, October 5, 2018

it's my birthday and I'll cry (or not) if I want to

I am a big baby about my birthday I admit. I want messages, cards, presents, events and more. I was feeling a bit melancholy about this year and this particular forty something birthday. Yet, this morning when I woke up at 5 am, I felt, well, happy.

I snuggled my dogs, sang a song I made up (I always sing when I'm happy) and practically whistled as I trotted down the stairs, dogs in tow.

I even smiled as I fed the dogs which can be a taxing process. Chewie eats from the bowl, but Frodo makes me feed him his wet food by hand. This has been going on for months. I do not know when it started. One day, Frodo wouldn't eat his food so I fed it to him with my fingers and now that is the only way he will eat. This drives my mom crazy. "Why do you baby them" she mutters to me.

But, it's because I love them. My dogs' little shih tzu faces are the best thing in the world. And, they love me back, unconditionally. And while they may not know it is my birthday, Frodo and Chewie know something special is going on because for the last few days I have been decorating for Halloween.

The house looks incredible. I put a ton of witches, skulls and skeletons. We have a glowing pumpkin and I put up my Halloween dolls on the mantle. The dolls are named Pumpkin Head and Witchy Poo (basically caricatures of me and my husband) I found them at the grocery store last year in a post Halloween sale for 90 percent off.

In fact, Chewie just tried to pee on Witchypoo. She had fallen from the mantle. Instead of yelling, I shooed him away and said, "She will curse you if you do." And yes, I think Chewie understood me.

Even when the dogs started fighting over their blankets, and who was sitting on whose blanket, it didn't faze me. Nothing can. Then, when hubby came downstairs at 6 am and complained about all the lights that were on and all the noise, I laughed and made a joke about how it was going in my blog. Still smiling.

The best part about today is that I am seeing Billy Idol at a concert down the street from my house. And if that can't make me happy, nothing can.

I guess the moral of this story, if there even is one, is that today is a good day and Sunday is my birthday. Don't you forget.

Monday, October 1, 2018

this is forty (something)

I turn forty something on Sunday. I am getting all the closer to a touchstone birthday and with that closeness comes some melancholy. To combat the sadness that eased into my mind as I woke up this morning, like a fine mist breezing into my brain at 5 am,  I will try to remind myself to be grateful.

And I am grateful, truly grateful. This year has been filled with loss and sadness, but also with great moments of joy.

We lost my brother-in-law Gabe at the young age of 54. But we became closer to his son and son's mother as a result. That was the silver lining on the deep dark cloud that about destroyed my husband and mother-in-law.

Mere weeks after Gabe's death, I presented my story "Witchypoo" at the AWP writing conference. I had struggled with whether to go. Despite everything my family was dealing with, I went and met a friend I will have for life. And came back able to weather the storm of grief that had enveloped my family. It's been eight months and the fog is just beginning to lift.

And then there was Macondo. A life long dream of a writing workshop. Traveling to San Antonio and meeting my literary idols was inspiring and created a sense of purpose in my writing. I also reconnected with old friends and made new ones.  It is really something that cannot be described in words. Macondo is beyond that. It is kinship.

And I saved some lives along the way. Trials are stressful, but for me, it is about the clients. My clients are the most voiceless, and to get paid to tell their stories of mental illness is a gift from God.

See dear reader, I already feel better. Tears are brimming in my eyes as I write these last lines. But I can breathe again.

And will.