Used To Know or The Used to Know Valuation

This morning I’m in San Francisco again while R is in class. As we walked together down a familiar road, I had the sudden realization that I had been here before and not just in the previous weeks but back in the time that I didn’t have a wedding band. Back before I had stretch marks from losing weight quickly because of dancing all weekend, not because of housing babies in this now tired albeit chunky body. Back before when the outfit du jour allowed special privileges of cutting lines into the clubs and free flowing drinks once in the VIP lounge.

That was exactly what I was doing about two decades before on that very street.

This was a street I used to know.

I’m wandering the city I used to know. It was– and still is– full of energy and promise.

I spent a lot of time here, at the Fulton 5 stop on Market. Is it even still called that? Almost every weekend I’d take the bus downtown to window shop, to enjoy the sun, and people watch. To go from a sheltered upbringing to being set loose in a big city was almost too much to bear at once and trust me, I have a couple of academic probation semesters to show for it, but it was a necessary step to realize that I’m in college for an education, not just a pit stop to aimless adulthood.

I watched so many Broadway shows here

and I enjoyed every moment. The youngest and I will come back in the fall to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. A lot has changed since getting balcony seats for a day’s pay as an undergrad. It feels busier even though the box office is closed. The energy from past shows still linger on a quiet Saturday morning.

I walked down these streets I used to know as a young student, anxious to buy the latest styles to party at the hottest nightclubs.

Instead I see brand names, tourists, and the homeless they ignore.

I spent so much time taking in the city that I never let the city take me in.

This morning I wander without my children yet with a curfew since my mother will be annoyed if we are gone too long. I wander to listen to the traffic and frustrated drivers sitting on their horns. I wander to catch up to tourists speaking another language so I can listen to the melody of their conversation. I wander to peer through the windows of museums I never knew existed.

I wandered down streets I barely remember to be delivered to galleries that house works by Dalí, Picasso, and other painters who’s art carries a five or six digit price.

I wander the streets like a tourist, taking in scenery with a lifespan and not knowing if I’ll ever see this moment, this store, this statue ever again.

With middle age looming, our visits to this city become less frequent. Time and cost are fleeting but for whatever reason, I’ll be back to retrace my footsteps that will soon be erased by time that I used to know.

The Contemplative Corollary

As I sit here alone in Yerba Buena Gardens, I realize that these moments are rare. My children have opted not to accompany me as we drove to San Francisco for R’s class. I warned them, the middle in particular, that we wouldn’t have a repeat of last weekend. We wouldn’t wander around our favorite stores, we wouldn’t dine at our favorite ramen place, and we certainly wouldn’t be wandering around the touristy parts of the city.

We would simply sit. Read. Write. People watch.

To which the middle said, NO THANK YOU.

Not that I blame her. Last night’s Target rum turned into a quick side trip to PetCo, the middle’s new favorite store. As the new and proud owner of a pair of guinea pigs, A’s frequent visits to the store allows her to be an informed “mom”. There was also a side trip to L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, a much needed comfort food for me after an emotional week.

Buddy, our fierce protector and loyal companion especially while R was stationed in Virginia, was diagnosed with end stage cancer and died all within two hours. I was his human and he was my dog.

I failed my kids and did not bring back our dog after that trip to the vet that turned into a side trip to the ER of a vet in Sacramento.

We are all still broken. It looks like we’re better but really, we’re just getting used to being broken.

Since having children, there haven’t been a plethora of moments where I have sat in silence and alone.

And as a mother, I knew that. I knew that I wouldn’t have a lot of time to myself.

I had a lot of time to myself as a newlywed. Too much time. R was deployed longer than he was home. Still, I am not afraid of being alone.

Now that the kids are 17, 14, and 11, I still don’t have a lot of time alone and that’s okay. Moments with them I am now realizing are finite and will begin to taper off as the boy begins college next year and now high school and middle school for the girls. I savor them even if they sometimes drive me nuts. In all honesty, if my biggest complaint about them is how they flaunt improper grammar knowing it hurts my teacher ears, then we’re alright.

It feels like the universe has delivered my life to me right here and right now. Listening to older Asian women walking by with their metal canes and speaking their native language that I don’t understand yet sounds like a melody with their hushed voices. The church bells have been playing Vivaldi and other songs for the past ten minutes. The sun is awakening the park slowly, taking its time for the Saint Patrick’s Day parade that begins in an hour. Sometimes I’ll hear the piercing sounds of bagpipes rehearsing in the background but they are no match for the persistent bells. As the shadows retreat, more people appear in the park. Dogs are walking their humans. Rolling luggage are being walked by their tourists. The bells play Auld Lang Syne plays and all is well.

The Conscious Unfriending Hypothesis

For the past few months, I’ve been grappling with the notion of “not being enough”. I suppose everyone goes through this at one point, or even several, but this one was different. I overcompensate by overdoing everything.


Do I want to plan an event for the PTA? Sure, but let me make sure we go overboard with decorations by getting hundreds of them and a full set of cardboard movie cut-outs for our theme!

No problem!

Let me put on a superhero outfit to promote the next movie fundraiser!

No problem!

See? Overcompensating.

However, I have come to accept over time that friendships change. Sometimes people drift apart, sometimes someone does another wrong… whatever the case may be it is totally and one hundred percent normal.

But in the past year, it hasn’t felt normal. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got my friends who are family, with whom I completely trust my kids. I’ve got my ride-or-die peeps and a few trustworthy coworkers. A couple of those coworkers are ride-or-die peeps too.

As the circle of friends expands, it also retracts. Although I do love making plans and going to dinner or concerts, there are some people I know who I’ll never be able to have a deeper connection with whether it’s because our plans never go beyond just having the occasional dinner or I don’t feel that I could confide in them past the normal, day-to-day level.

And that’s okay.

But now I realize that I will never be the kind of friend to some people that I thought I was.

Believe me, I beat myself up over it for a while. Things that they would text or even say to my face were quickly dismissed by me because friends are supposed to joke around with each other, right?

Until they aren’t.

Until those jokes become mean-spirited, condescending, and downright selfish.

Until you realize you’re only contacted when they need something.

Still, I believed in this group of friends.

Until I didn’t.

Until I realized that I was spending more time justifying random things they would do and say like, “Oh, I’ve known her a long time and that’s just how she is!” or “That’s just what she does when she’s drunk!”

Until all I was doing was justifying.

Justifying their actions. Justifying their words. Letting their actions and words slowly crush me.

My husband had been saying for several years that I didn’t seem as close to this particular bunch as say, my neighbor who I rarely see yet when we find the time to talk, we will talk on her porch for an hour.

To my husband, I would always reply, “No, but they’re nice and we just hang out.”

It’s taken me years to finally figure this one out.

Over the weekend, I carpooled with a friend to bring our daughters to an overnight church retreat. We listened to 80s music and drank Starbucks. We joked with our daughters about wanting to show them the horror flick, “The Nun”, before their weekend away. During a quiet moment when our girls were preoccupied, I asked my friend (who is a ride-or-die friend btw) for advice. Without naming names, I told her some of the things being said and texted to me. She asked me why I would put up with such a cunt.

You know the music of the opening sequence of “The Simpsons” where the clouds begin to fade away? That’s what my moment of clarity sounded like.

All at once, every time I had to explain or smooth over their behavior to someone rushed into my head. Every time one would insult me in one breath, yet ask for a huge favor in the next. Every time someone would say something negative about them. Every time someone had an extremely horrifying anecdote about them.

Every time.

Every time came into my head like a montage.

And while it stings a little to know that these friendships have ended, especially now that I see a lot clearer, I’m actually quite glad and quite relieved. No more obsessing about what I did wrong or what I should’ve said. No more feeling disappointed because I thought I should’ve done more.

No more.

This in no way makes me the expert in friendships by any means. This doesn’t even mean I’m right and they’re wrong.

This just means that I’m in charge of my own happiness and consciously retracting those friendships is enough.

And also that they’re cunts.

The Shake It Off Realignment

I spent the last nineteen years thinking about what I would do if my husband died that I never had a second thought about my own.

I took our daughters to a Taylor Swift concert the other night despite being in the ER just a week before. Ear pain in my right ear was complicated by ear pain in the left and numbness on the left side of my face sent me to the ER. While tests showed no signs of stroke or heart attack, I remember thinking: “I don’t want to die. I’m not done yet.”

As a parent, I always drilled the kids about what to do in an emergency, who to call, which neighbors to trust. Not to the point where I freaked them out, of course, but I wanted them to be able to think on their feet. Would they know what to do in case of an emergency?

Case in point: I was still at work when the middle accidentally cut herself with a butter knife. Her older brother walked her directly to a trusted neighbor who put a band aid on her and sent them on their way. Our neighbor promptly called me as soon as they left and I was grateful to have this network, this village, these neighbors to help me with the children.

Before every deployment, we quietly talked about the what ifs. This would happen a few days before he had to leave and always when the kids were asleep.

He’d tell me, “My friend J– would probably come to the door if… you know…”

I’d say, “Well, I’d look out the window and not answer the door!”

A little humor in a tense situation is not appropriate but needed. I didn’t want to fucking think about a world that he wasn’t in. I didn’t want to fucking think about being a widow. I didn’t want to fucking think about telling the kids that their father wasn’t coming home.

And I almost did. I almost had to do those goddamned things in 2010.

Now we find ourselves in the situation again but I’m experiencing it from the other side. What if it was me? What if I had a stroke? What if I died?

Yep, this side fucking sucks too.

After my doctor said she’d put it the referral for further tests for ENT and prescribed an anti inflammatory medication, R and I breathed a sigh of relief and enjoyed a morning at the bookstore followed by a definitely inflammatory lunch. (I did follow up with a cart full of fruits and veggies and a new blender!)

It’s time.

We’re in our mid-forties and are making small changes to improve our diet. Luckily the kids are not picky and eat pretty clean. However, I am digging my heels because (1) I’m a butthead and a brat and (2) change is fucking hard. Necessary but hard.

Since the ER visit, I went back to having a green smoothie for breakfast and lentils and greens for lunch. I feel good but I also like to complain, even though I lost seven pounds and my blood pressure decreased by ten points above and below. This evening I made green tea but added moscato to improve the taste. Rookie move, I know, but maybe I could decrease the amount of alcohol everyday until I like the damn green tea. I could happen. There’s leftover chocolate mousse leftover from Mother’s Day yesterday and I haven’t touched it. Small steps.

Welcome to Day Zero. I’M HAVING A FUCKING BLAST.

The Angel Anomaly

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a coworker whom I’ve known for almost a decade but yet did not know very well. Teaching is already an isolating job where you could literally go hours without seeing another adult, let alone an adult that worked in another building on campus.

I listened to my coworker’s friends and family speak and realized that his man I worked with never lost his temper, never raised his voice. Trust me, that is an angelic feat if you work with children. Not once had I heard my own children speak ill of him. Not once had I heard a student say that he yelled at them. Even in the past three years that I’ve worked with him despite my countless errors with lunch count, he took it in stride, always assured me, and never blamed me.

And that’s when I realized how much my life was richer for knowing him. How much more joy would I have had in my life if I had known him better? I began to feel disappointed in myself for not recognizing this earlier, for listening to and participating in gossip, for allowing the stress of this wonderful yet all-consuming job eat away at my core when someone tapped me on the shoulder at the end of the funeral.

It was a family friend offering me a Vietnamese sandwich and I almost cried. Here it was, my coworker fed my own children and my students for years and now he was feeding me. Even during a brief moment when I beating myself up in my head, he still managed to get me out of mine and feed me when I needed it the most.

Rest In Peace, my friend. Peace be with you. And with your sprit!

The Thanksgiving Solution

Every year around this time the world feels a little off. I️ don’t know if it’s the time change, weather, or season but it seems like everyone around me is more on edge.

And I️ feel on edge along with everyone else.

Work and school obligations and kids’ extracurricular activities are tantamount to all but when you add the emotional and financial stress of another passing year, even the most mundane chores and expectations of daily life can be exhausting and overwhelming.

I️ believe in gratitude. I️ am thankful for this life I️ lead, for this second chance at being a military family of five and a partner with whom I️ can finally live under the same roof.

Sometimes gratitude isn’t enough.

I️ walked around Target this evening looking for a cheap box of hair dye in an attempt to cover my gray roots and was overwhelmed but not for the reasons you may think.

The commercialization of Christmas used to really bother me until I️ learned to look and listen past it.

I️ heard a preschooler asking his father a million questions about the different animals in the Christmas displays. I️ wanted to tell him my oldest was ten years old and I️ missed that curiosity stage of all three of my children dearly.

But I️ didn’t.

I️ met a grandmother asking me for help because, despite holding her reading glasses in her hand, she could not see the price of the giant doll in a striped pink box. I wanted to tell her that when my middle child was one and a half, Santa brought her a baby doll and a crib for the doll but in that Christmas morning, she picked up the doll and put it on the floor so she could into the crib herself. Even then as a toddler she did whatever she wanted to do.

But I️ didn’t tell her that either.

I️ heard traditional Christmas songs playing faintly from one of the aisles and remembered how my mom and dad played their favorite AM stations on a dusty old portable radio all the time. I️ always assumed they were too cheap or too poor to buy whatever everyone else had like microwaves or cable only to find out quite recently that they put everything they had at the end of the month toward next month’s mortgage payment, paying it off in eight years rather than the full thirty.

When I️ heard that, I️ was speechless. All those nights of making ramen noodles fancy with fresh shrimp, eating Vienna sausages from a can with leftover rice, and freshly caught fish from my dad’s fishing trips to Moss Landing weren’t because we couldn’t afford it? Even now thinking about it, I️ chuckle because they did not waste a single penny and for that I’m grateful.

While I️ can still take a page (or a hundred) from their example, I️ wonder if back then was a simpler and better time. I️ don’t know if materialism wasn’t as rampant but I️ feel like I️ wanted less than my kids. But I️ wanted less because my parents said NO and I️ knew better than to ask. I️ have honest conversations with my kids and tell them that these extras that we provide are extras– if they want those things when they’re older, they aren’t free. I️ hope we are telling them NO often enough because I️ don’t want my kids to have what I️ couldn’t have. My thinking is, “If I️ didn’t have it, they don’t need it.” I️ am grateful to be in this situation where we can provide them with their needs because Lord knows that isn’t always the case.

Maybe that’s why this time of year brings anxiety. All of this change seems sudden as if the weight of the entire year hangs in this delicate balance. This season of rejoice has become a season of stress and financial burden.

We can change this. Every year like the bad moms in “Bad Moms”, I️ begin to take things back. I️ reject what was once expected of myself (because we all know that there is no pressure quite like the pressure we put on ourselves) and I️ decide to do things my way. Or not.

One year I️ decided not to do a Christmas letter to include in cards because I️ didn’t think anyone read ours. Another year, I️ completely forgot to do them. Inevitably I️ always have at least a Christmas dozen cards still sitting on my piano come Valentine’s Day.

There was one year where we did not throw any parties. Nothing. Not a birthday party, not a Halloween party, not a Christmas party.

It felt amazing.

That isn’t to say I️ didn’t miss spending time with friends and family but to be rid of the stress that comes with planning was well worth it. You all can just text me, bitches!

I️ don’t know how or what I’ll take back this year but I️ know it will feel amazing.

The Transportation Triangulation

I never think about how great I have it until something goes wrong. You see, my husband has a habit of collecting lemons… and not the citrus kind.

Even writing this now, that phrase sounds so familiar that I’m pretty sure I’ve written about my husband’s love for buying used cars. Oh, he’s no auto aficionado. 

He’s cheap.

On his fourth car (which carried a rollover balance with four digits from the third), the check engine light came on. Come to find out that he hadn’t changed the oil in a year!

Why? Why?! WHY???

My dear husband didn’t want to spend the forty dollars or so three times a year for regular oil changes; opting instead of a two grand bill that we grudgingly faced this week.

Today he brought the car for its smog check and it passed.

Today my check engine light came on and I sit in fear at the local garage awaiting a bill.