Of Insomnia (Or Family Stuff)

It’s after 11 pm, and I’m still awake — a state yet unaltered even after listening to a sermon podcast, a few carefully selected songs on iTunes, and an hour of Harry Potter on Audible. After all of my *valiant* efforts at relaxing, I gave up and got out of bed.

I really thought I was tired… but I guess not.

So, here I am now… pouring out my heart to the internet at nearly midnight on a Monday. (Note to self: I really should pick up that prescription for insomnia meds from CVS….)

I’m in a weird place, which is probably why I can’t sleep.

I have a lot that’s going well in my life: I have two dogs I love more than my own life, many close friends, and a wonderful family. On the flip side, one of my dogs is living on borrowed time after a cancer diagnosis two years ago, I don’t see most of my friends as often as I used to (distance, kids. etc.), and my parents are facing health challenges that come with age.

I’m not really complaining: I’m glad I have people and pets I love enough to keep me up at night. That said, some nights the weight of life and loss weigh heavier than others.

I’m presently preparing for a trip to Michigan to see my family at the end of the month, and as much as I’d like to think I’ve prepared for it mentally, I know you just can’t prepare for what I’m facing emotionally… or otherwise.

Without betraying confidences, I will just say I’m preparing to parent a person who once parented me, and that’s scary.

It’s a kind of real no one can prepare you to face.

I’m going into the situation with the faith that God will lead me (as he always has), he will comfort me (as he always has), and I won’t be alone because I have him and all of the people he has placed on my path.

I’m not saying any of this is going to be easy, but it won’t be impossible.

But also?

If I’m being honest, human, and absolutely real… I have to admit this sucks a little.

I didn’t ask for this, but most of us didn’t ask for our lot in life. We all just play the hand we were dealt. We’re absolutely allowed to complain a little for a minute, but then we need to play the cards we’re holding the best we can. (It’s probably important to mention that I’m a lousy poker player so perhaps this entire analogy is crap.)

Analogy aside, I think we just have to do our best with our circumstances… whatever they are.

And in my case, I can say without a doubt as hard as this next chapter will be in my life, I know I’m the only person who can do what I have to do.

My entire life has prepared me to fulfill the role I must play — both because of my biology and also because the man who made me strong enough to face this needs me now.

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I’m strong because I’m yours.

And?

He made me stronger because he couldn’t let his only child off of the hook; she had to be as strong as he.

I love you, Papa, and whatever we’re facing, we’re facing it together.

You and my mummy made what I am, and I’m strong enough to slug it out until I’m tired enough to sleep.

Tonight maybe that means writing until I’m tired….

 

Birthday Party Playlist Part 2 (Or I Cry… Just a Little)

Guys, tomorrow is my birthday! And today I need to talk about the other people who inspired songs on my birthday party playlist.

There are so many people I love. Truly. And if I had my way they’d never go away. They’d all be here to toast the good times together. But since I’m not supreme dictator of the universe, it’s not the case. And that’s OK.

So, anyway here it goes:

Pharrell and Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines is for Gilbylocks. It’s for that Sunday morning dance party we had in the Bronson Canyon Parking lot. The one Benito filmed. It’s for our sunny convent breakfasts after CrossFit. It’s for laughing with me about a flaming pink teakettle. It’s for going on this gut wrenching, heart-opening journey with me – and for understanding why it’s the thing that just might change my life. It’s for those talks we had in the back of a SXSW cab. It’s for instigating the birthday backbend test to see if we’re old. It’s for carving my name into a tree in Calcutta. It’s for making me her kohona. I love you, Suzie. Come home from Sweden soon.

David Bowie’s China Girl is for Gillian. It’s for being with me at Cabo Cantina when we put it on the juke box that Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It’s for knowing — really knowing — what this business has been like for me. It’s for our inside joke about my illegitimate children. It’s for almost setting ourselves on fire the first time we tried to light a grill. It’s for being one of my very first dinner party partners back in the day. It’s for bonding with me over a love of Laura Palmer. It’s for letting me be Ziggy’s dog sitter. And it’s for always calling when she’s back from making big box office hits.

Bertie Higgins’ Key Largo is for Sarah. She and her husband may be the only other people on the planet who also have this song in their iTunes library. It’s for always listening to the boy drama. For working with me until midnight on stupid soap opera recaps. For making me get on the stage to sing a little Garth Brooks on her birthday. For her thoughtfulness. For her encouragement. And for her sunny spirit.

George Straight’s Easy Come, Easy Go is for Pewther. It’s for finding it in my iTunes library the last time he stayed with me. It’s for offering to come down when my dog died even though I didn’t let him. It’s for making me laugh — easily and often. For making cuddling easy. For making frozen pizza and reruns of The Office seem like a night at the symphony. For the times he’d stop me from being bossy by just saying, “Hold Me.” He wasn’t easy to let go.

2Pac’s Thugz Mansion is for Dana. It’s because it blew me away when I first learned the sweet, soft-spoken girl sitting in the cubicle next to me at ABC loved her some Pac. It’s for our Maha Yoga dates and our bagel Sundays. It’s for that wedding dress shopping adventure in Orange County. It’s for celebrating my 30th birthday and her wedding together at the Mandarin Oriental. It’s for telling me about the best Italian restaurant in the East Village. It’s for her loyalty. And her honesty. (BTW, Happy Anniversary, Dana and Alex!) #gangstarapforever

Nelly’s Country Grammar is for, well, Nelly P. It’s for batting 1,000 on birthday party attendance in our 20’s. It’s for pickle tacos at Malo. For making me laugh over IM at 4 am when we were pulling our hair out over the marketing plans for our theses. It’s for bringing a bag of candy to my first Easter Dinner. It’s for saying, “We almost wrote, ‘you ARE hot’ on the cake instead of ‘Happy Birthday’” that year I’d been Bill Callahaned myself. It’s for coining the term in the first place. It’s for all the cigarettes we smoked outside every club in Hollywood in our 20’s. For letting me cry on his patio when I called in sick to work over a broken heart. For being the cell phone number I still have memorized.

Baby Bash and T-Pain’s Cyclone is for Danielle. It’s for making it my song – and making me laugh for the reason she chose it. It’s for our laundry nights during slumber parties. It’s for her big, big heart – the one that no matter how broken it is never seems to be too full for someone else. It’s for the encouragement she has given me to follow my dreams and follow my heart. It’s for the hours we spent on the phone the night Melissa’s dad died. It’s for somehow knowing Melissa needed that rose on September 11th… the one she saved when she was sad. It’s for getting why I have to put bows and sparkles on everything too. It’s for sharing the pleasure and the pain of being alive. And it’s for loving pink as much as I do.

Lil Jon’s Get Low is also for Melissa. It’s because one song isn’t enough. It’s because we danced to it so many times on a couch in Santa Monica that afternoon in August. It’s not just about the people we’ve lost since we met. It’s about the family I have because of her. It’s about making Suzie and me go to SXSW in the first place. It’s about making me take the tags off the Ted Baker suit when I was agonizing over it. It’s about the strength she had to just cry in the middle of a bar on Abbot Kinney — and about what I’ve learned from her loss. It’s about the day we cried on the phone when I walked her through her dog’s final hours. It’s about loaning him to me in the first place when I’d lost mine. It’s about the way somehow we’ve made each other do the tough stuff even when we didn’t want to. It’s about our honesty over tacos on Lincoln Avenue and hauling trash into the Albertson’s dumpster. It’s about the battle not to be broken laptops but shiny MacBook pros instead. Chris Rock says, “We should all be ashamed of ourselves for liking this song….” but we’re not ashamed. At all.

And finally…

Flo Rida’s I Cry is for my Bumpa. I know it sounds weird to say Flo Rida reminds you of your Grandpa, but it’s because the song makes me happy. And every time I hear it, I start skipping — or dancing in my car. The first time I caught myself doing it, I started smiling through the tears that came streaming down my face. It’s because my spontaneous skipping in the Hollywood Hills brought me back to a night with my Bumpa in Detroit so many years ago. He was carrying a picnic basket as we walked through the streets near the Renaissance Center. All of a sudden, for no apparent reason, he started skipping and singing, “We’re off to see the wizard,” and it was just infectious. His joy was contagious. And the world needs so much more of that. I’ve only started to scratch the surface when it comes to telling his story – of saying what he meant to me – but THAT might take a lifetime.

OK, I’m going to get into this mocha and bagel now because it’s my birthday week and I wanna.

Carbs on Dogs Dishes and Decor

My kitchen table is a mess. And Today? I don’t care.

Then I’m gonna dance in my kitchen, Bumpa style.

I might even make that face I make when I dance – the one that startles my aunt ‘cuz I do that thing with my mouth that he did when he danced.

#love

Someone Else’s Eyes (Or I Go All Introspective Again)

Sometimes we need to see life through someone else’s eyes. It’s important to remember your situation or perspective isn’t paramount. Our modern culture tells us we’re these amazing, autonomous, infallible beings with some sort of right to happiness and success. As if our masters degrees grant us a life without failure, rejection, or struggle. As if our size 6 jeans mean we won’t be left brokenhearted and sobbing on the bathroom floor.

Guess what?

Nothing protects you from the bumps and bruises of life. Not even a trust fund, a tiny waist, or a perky rack. Nothing. Protects. You.

We’re all going to falter.

We’re all going to fail.

If you haven’t yet, bully for you. Just hang on. You might be betrayed by your boss. You might lose the most important person in your life too soon. You might fall short of your dreams.

And guess what? It’s all going to be OK anyway.

The thing is, life can be painful. It can sting, but it isn’t an excuse to check out. It doesn’t grant you permission to shut down and shut everyone out. Trust me. I’ve done it. And it’s OK if you have too. Life is about forgiving yourself. Forgiving others. And moving on.

It’s about finding joy in the little things when everything is falling apart around you. Maybe it’s even fiddling while Rome burns*.

Whatever it is, life is a long, strange trip. And it’s filled with people who can help you… if you let them. Lately I’ve discovered that life isn’t a random accident. It’s really not. I’ve been having a crazy month where people are coming into my life (and also back into it) with questions for which I have the answers; they’re fighting battles I’ve fought before. Or they have been through some rough times that have helped me immensely on my path. I think that maybe we can be missing pieces in someone else’s puzzle. It doesn’t have to be a forever thing. It can just be a moment in time. Or it can be a great friendship. Either way, I think it’s our mission to help where we can… how we can.

I started this blog to express myself… and to talk about my favorite things: food, dogs, and design. And in the process I’ve found myself again — the me that gets buried when I’m getting paid to write someone else’s story — the me that gets paid to live a life that isn’t really mine.

So thank you for reading. And thank you for joining me on a journey that doesn’t have a destination.

Yet.

Tonight, I leave you with this: a photo me with my Bumpa, Harold Lawrence Russell. A kindred spirit. An inspiration. And one of the most amazing men I will ever know.

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I have my grandpa’s eyes. I only hope I have his strength, his kindness, and his capacity for forgiveness.

When I’m ready, I’ll tell his story. For real.

*Side note: Nero, who is said to have set fire to Rome and then fiddled while it burned, was a crazy bastard who persecuted Christians and was tight with (and also related to) Caligula who was so whacked that he planned to elect his horse Consul. #truestory #youcantmakethisshitup