14 July 2018
Just before July 4, I received a text from a dear friend. She told me to stop slacking, having men chase me around and get back to my blog. After looking at my blog history, I understood what she was saying. June was a blur, which explains why I missed the remainder of the month blogging. Although I did spend some time working on novel, so not all was lost.
My birthday was weird this year. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have something planned for the annual (week-long) celebration. This year I woke up early to go to the gym, met friends early afternoon for lunch, had dinner with another friend, drinks out with a bunch of single friends, and had an absolute ball hanging out with a group of First Responders from the Bay area (CA). Since Friday mornings are quiet in my office, my assistant and I walked to the student building to get coffee there. I ran into the CA crew again. “It’s the birthday girl!” “Karen!” “We missed you at the bar last night.” Sorry guys, I was busy-it was a night I had planned to stay in and not drink. And so on went the conversations. Between hand shakes and casual side hugs, I wished them a safe trip home once their training was done for the morning.
I am going to stop here to say my birthday week was interesting and there will be a few chapters in my creative nonfiction work…on schedule to begin writing this fall.
That was a Friday. I had to make a run across campus to drop off some paperwork. As I was leaving the office I was in, I opened the door and BAM! walking in my direction was my ex-husband. Even more so, had I stepped out of the office, I would have run right into him; the steps he was taking up were in my line of traffic. I knew he saw me. He looks like hell; he hasn’t taken care of himself at all. I immediately closed the door, stepping back into the office. I prefer not to put myself in situations where a conversation might spark with this man. I waited a few more seconds, that felt like 20 minutes, before I walked back to my office, dropping f-bombs in a text to a friend and my cousin. After that unexpected encounter I was reminded I did not need any validation; my assistant had witnessed the friendly exchanges with the CA crew. A point was made.
It must be a record to avoid an ex when you both live in a very small town. I avoided any close contact with him for seven months! I do a very good job at hiding in a small town. Very good. It also took me six months to open my new home up to mutual and new friends.
I am not the same person I was two years ago. I’m not even the same person I was a year ago. 250 pounds of weight had fallen off my shoulders; 68 off my frame and a ton of muscle added. To say I can bench press my dog is an understatement. My golf game also needs a revamp.
I have two homes: here in New Mexico where my life is, and in New York where my family still lives.
I spent that weekend packing for a trip back to New York for my niece’s high school graduation. I come from a large family. I am the oldest of my siblings. They all have children; my sister now included in that category. My stepchildren used to be part of that chaos, but those days are long gone (and they’re in their early to mid-20’s now. No, I have not heard from them. The oldest wears his heart on his sleeve and struggled with details that won’t be discussed here). In my immediate family alone, there are 17 of us. 17!!! 18, if I count my aunt (mother’s youngest sister) whom we are all very close to.
I love every minute spent with 18 of us…and a reason I enjoyed a few glasses of wine in first class on my way back to NM after my trip ended.
Toss in my cousins we’re close to, and we are the ones you will find sitting around the bonfire telling stories all night long because we all grew up together. Kristin, my near twin, is my partner in crime. We have never let distance keep us away. I’ve been to NH consistently the past three years, and it’s not stopping. She’s now begging me to move there, but I dealt with the snow and storms for more than half of my life. It’s refreshing to not have to worry about white knuckle driving in the winter, and I am truly spoiled by the sun and nice weather in the Southwest. I’ve seen more sun here than I have while living in NY.
In addition to my niece’s graduation, there was a family reunion, surprise 90th birthday party for my great aunt, and a post-party bonfire…although the bonfire was merely an extension of the day’s partying.
Seven days when I generally survive four, but I had a voucher and had to work within my budget and times with the airline to maximize the voucher. With family. A chance to see some friends; I would need another four days to see other friends whom I haven’t seen in ages. Six days with my adorable 9 month old nephew, brother-in-law, and sister.
And six days of bullshit. People bitching about other people. People bitching in general. People bitching about me and at me. Three days in I had reached a saturation point once again. My sister took a moment to talk to me at one point. She got it. She was in target range, too. I told her I understood why my ex-husband would leave the room when things became more intense and the complaining increased. I also told her, “I did not come home to deal with this. I’ve been dealing with bullshit for 15 months, and this does not entice me to come home again. Not for a while.” She talked me down from the emotional rung of the ladder. It’s also the last time I will be in NY without a car. We both agreed that we might plan to stay at a hotel the next time. It’s an added cost, but some things are worth it.
I didn’t like my sister growing up. There’s five years between us, but we, like all my siblings, have grown to be the best of friends as adults. It’s a shame our father never got to see us like this, and our mother got to spend ten years watching us grow closer. We certainly aren’t the perfect family, but after nearly losing my second brother from a 20 foot fall out of a tree early December, our bonds have tightened. Not even the best diamond cutter can break this bond. We count our blessings every single day. Being home to see my brother, still recovering, made some other things in my life so much less important while placing a few other items on a high priority list. Family photos being one priority.
My aunt went through our grandmother’s photo album when we all gathered at her house for dinner the night before my sister and I were scheduled to leave. She began to dissect the album, creating four piles of pictures for us to take home.
I am the keeper of the family albums from the very first one through 1987. My sister has the albums from 1988 to whatever our mother kept current. With the age of digital technology, the point to keep photos in albums is almost moot. I learned my brother didn’t have any photos from his childhood. The time for change is now. Plus, I don’t want to move 8-10 boxes of photo albums again, so one of my priorities is to begin to distribute childhood photos to my siblings and digitize all of them while I’m at it. The glue on those old magnetic albums can eat away at the photo, especially the writing on the back if not carefully peeled away. I also have new photo albums to put the pictures into and send them off to my siblings. It helps me with my downsizing project and gives them memories.
The Syracuse International airport is a mess while under major renovations. My aunt dropped me off late Monday afternoon (my 7th day in NY had come to an end), and after a long hug, she told me, “Don’t talk to strangers.”
Hah! “You do know who I am, right?” I said to her, laughing as I moved towards the doors inside.
I didn’t speak to many other passengers on the flight home. I was tired. I had suffered a minor sports injury before leaving for NY, so between that and sleeping on a pull-out couch all week, my body ached; I slept the longer leg of my trip. It took nearly two weeks to work the ache out of the muscles and be comfortable in my own bed again.
I also returned home knowing Duke’s time has shortened.
June went by in a blur: more writing was done with The Downfall, my birthday, travel to NY, then July appeared.
I love my family. Being home puts me back in the heart of my roots. The foundation from which my life began to build and grow. I am blessed to be part of such a large, close-knit family. Being home also gave me a chance to slow down (as much as a NYer can), unplug (since my cell signal doesn’t work very well), and appreciate the time given to surround myself, and be surrounded, by loved ones. I was the one who chose to move away from the daily drama 17 years ago, and thankful I can return to this home, complete with a different kind of a chaos that is quieter. The older we grow, we learn the order of our priorities change.
And in the middle of all of this, long before I went home for a short bit, Kiki (protagonist in The Downfall) and her siblings realized something similar. How they continue to grow as a (smaller than mine) family is written into the story. A story that is very close to being finished; my July priority, which means time out with friends, and meeting new people, has dwindled significantly. I can’t let the distractions pull me away. A writer can’t afford to see two hours turn into six if writing isn’t involved. It’s all about time management, and I have scheduled writing time back into my calendar again to help me with this novel goal.