Friday, April 28, 2017

Why my handyman's departure was like a second divorce

"I found someone to come and fill in the missing gravel along the driveway."
Brian and I were sitting having breakfast.  Justin was on the floor underneath the table playing with his Lego's.  I reached down to ruffle his hair as I took a sip of my coffee.
"No, need," he said without looking up from the script he was reading.   "Edwin is going to do that next week."
"Edwin's coming back next week?!" I heard my voice scale up.  "But wasn't he just here yesterday?"
Brian picked up the honey that sat next to his bowl of yogurt and granola and squeezed some over the top, using both hands.
"I actually hired him to come three days a week from now on.  This property needs a manager. "
A property manager?
"But what if there's not enough work for him to do three days a week?" I felt my chest tightening.   "I don't want to have to look for something for him to do every time he shows up."
"They'll be work," he said turning his attention back to the script.  "It's a big place, and anyway it's done.  He'll come three days a week starting next week."

The following Tuesday the front gate rang at 8:00am as I was getting the kids into the car for school.
Who could this be?
When I answered the intercom and heard Edwin's cheerful "hello!" I froze.
Oh no!!!
"Ummm, sorry Edwin," I called through the intercom.  "I forgot you were coming and I don't think that I really have anything for you to do today."
"Oh that's okay, Mr. Brian gave me a list."
"Well, okay, but I'm leaving now to take the kids to school.  So you won't be able to come in the house until I get back."
"That's okay too," I could his annoying smile through the intercom.  "Most of the stuff on the list is outside."

I started to call Brian and tell him what a mistake I thought this was.  Tell him that I really value my solitary mornings before the housekeeper comes.  But instead I pushed ENTER on the intercom, opening the front gate for Edwin.  He parked his little red truck at the end of the driveway.  I saw that he was getting his tool box out of the back as the kids and I sped by him.
"I'll be back later," I called out my barely cracked window.

"You know, it's just not how I grew up," I said to my mom on the way home.  "I'm uncomfortable with all of it.  I'm not the type to have people waiting on me and waiting for me to tell them what to do.  I'm barely getting used to the housekeeper and the nanny, but I think this is too much.  Having this man come by three times a week, don't you?"
"You know I understand," said my mom.  She and I are alike in this way (and many others).  "I value my privacy."
"Exactly!" I said.  "And Brian's not home during the day.  I'm the one who has to deal with him."
"But remember it's not his fault that Brian hired him."
"I know," I grimaced as I looked at the phone in my hand.  "I just don't like it.  And I really don't like that I don't want to go back home now because he's there."

*  *  *
"Mommy, can Edwin help me make a garden?"
It took effort to keep the smile on my face. "A garden?"
"Yes, PLEASE, Mommy.  I want to grow lettuce and cucumbers."
The garden hoe that Miles held was taller than he was.  His navy blue crocs were covered with mud and he had smudges of dirt around his mouth.
"Have you been eating dirt?"
"Edwin was showing me which plants we could eat," he opened his mouth wide and the smell of freshly picked sage suddenly filled the air.
I ran the water in the sink and grabbed a towel.
"Let me clean you up and I'll go talk to Edwin about your garden."

I found Edwin in the garage hunched over Justin's Little Tyke's basketball hoop.
"Oh did that break?" I heard the iciness in my voice.
"No," he said.  He stood up and brushed off the knees of his blue work-pants.  He looked surprised that I had come to talk to him.
"Justin wants to be able to dunk on it, but it needs to be shorter."
"And Justin told you that?" I asked incredulously.
I was trying to picture my three-year-old having this conversation with Edwin.
Besides, if Justin wanted to dunk, wouldn't I have been the first to know?
"No, Tia told me."
I made a mental note to let Tia know that I didn't care if she was the nanny; when the kids needed anything that she was to tell me and not Edwin.
"Well, okay," I said finally.  "Um, thank you, Edwin."
"You're welcome," he grinned.
"Now about Miles's garden..." I said.

For the next 16 years, Edwin would show up at 8:00am three times a week and would spend hours fixing whatever needed fixing.  The first time Edwin and I sat together in my kitchen (me sitting on the edge of the cushioned high stool next to the center island and he standing politely in the doorway), I handed him a cup of coffee.  I had made a decision to break one of my golden rules, "Never mix business with pleasure."
"Tell me about your family, Edwin."
 I knew his sister, Judith because she'd been our housekeeper for while.  In fact, it was she that had referred us to Edwin.
"My family?" He looked totally thrown off by the question.  He had a hammer in the hand that wasn't holding the coffee cup.
"Well, me and my wife, Nancy have two boys, Edwin Jr. and Fred."
Wife and kids?
"How old?" I managed.
"Just about the ages of your boys," he smiled.  "Edwin Jr. is a little older than Miles."
For some reason, I had pictured Edwin as bachelor.  I thought maybe he had a girlfriend.

Edwin had little kids?  Little boys?  He was a husband and a dad! How could I not have known?

From then on, in between fixing leaks and cleaning out gutters, Edwin would tell me about his family.  When Nancy found out she was pregnant with their youngest son, Justin, Edwin and I celebrated in the kitchen over a breakfast smoothie.  That was the day I hugged him for the first time.
"Congratulations, my friend," I said pushing him out to arm's length and looking in to his eyes.
He seemed embarrassed by the (A-frame) hug, but also touched by my genuine enthusiasm.
"Thank you, Laura," he said.  "I am grateful to you and your family. Thank you for all of your support."

*  *  *

When Edwin junior was 12, Edwin's family suffered a terrible loss of innocence.  For his families sake, I won't recount what happened, but suffice it to say that there were lawyer's fees to pay, followed by extensive hospital bills and diagnoses.  Brian and I wrote letters and offered money.  We both agreed that we wanted to do whatever we could to help this man who had spent so much of his life taking care of us.  During this whole, horrible ordeal, save a few days, Edwin would show up at 8:00am on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays like normal.   On those days, I would throw on a jacket and shoes and go find him on the property.
"Is there anything else you need?" I asked him one day, handing him a mug of coffee.  I saw that in spite of the fact that it was a windy 46-degrees, his brow was perspiring and his face was with gray with pain.  He barely looked in my direction.
"Thank you, Laura," he said finally.  "I'm okay."

My heart broke into a thousand pieces.

*  *  *

Brian and I filed for divorce 4-days before Miles's tenth birthday.  My alcohol and pill consumption suddenly escalated after the filing and with-in weeks,  I was a practically a shut-in.
All at once, Edwin was no longer my morning coffee-confidant.  He, like everyone else, had become something to be avoided.  When I heard his "hello" downstairs in the morning after the kids had gone to school, I would groan in the darkness of my bedroom and force myself up to lock the door against him.  I didn't want to chat with him anymore.

I can't face anyone...

But especially Edwin.  He was too close, too familiar.  With Tia,  I could fool her with my "I think I'm coming down with something" and I'd get cup of hot Fijian tea and sympathy.  But not Edwin.  Edwin would look at me with narrow, knowing eyes.  The disappointment in his face was palpable when I refused to get out of bed.  "Okay," he'd yell, pressing his face to the door after I'd closed it on him.  "But I blew the leaves off of the tennis court for your lesson.  Aren't you going to play today?  Come on!  It's a beautiful day!"

But it would be months before I would get out of bed and reengage in my life.  In July of 2008,  I had to check myself into treatment to get the help that I needed. I returned home that August, and took refuge in my bedroom and recovery meetings.  I was so acutely aware of my failure that seeing the people who loved me was painful.

"How are you doing, Laura? Are you okay?"

One by one, I started to let people back in to my life, but when I heard Edwin's "Hello" in the morning, I would still retreat quickly to my bedroom.
Please go away, please go work outside.
I knew it was completely irrational and I had no explanation other than the fact that I was so acutely ashamed.

He must be so disappointed in me.  I can't even look at him.

*  *  *

My first official night without Brian or the kids was December 12, 2008.  The entire night, I kept jumping out of bed and patrolling our 8000-square foot house with an animal horn clutched in my hand like a club. The lights flickered when I got near the kitchen.

What if the power goes off?  I can't even call Edwin now after being so awful to him!

It wasn't the first time I had thought about him, but I felt so depleted whenever I thought about how to repair things him.  I had shut him out because he was too close.  And now, I felt the familiar pangs of remorse setting in.

Next week, I'll come downstairs for coffee when he gets here...

The following night, the house went pitch black in the middle of a Seinfeld rerun.  I froze and felt my way over to my cell phone.  I could hear the soft tick, tick of the watch on my wrist.

Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God!

I started to find Brian's number when I thought I heard a creak from the closet behind me.  My throat went dry and eyes filled with tears as I lamented my predicament.

You can't call Brian every time something goes wrong.  This is what being divorced means.  You've got no one to help you. You have to call Edwin.

I scrolled down to the bottom of my "favorites" to Edwin's name.  I stared at it for a moment and held my breath before I pressed "send." I was mortified at the very thought of waking him up but I didn't know what else to do.

What will Nancy think of his phone ringing this late? What if Edwin is angry?

I felt a tear make it's way down my cheek.  I sniffed loudly and cleared my throat.
"Edwin," I started.
"Laura?  Are you okay?"
A small sob erupted from my throat when I heard the genuine concern in his voice.  To my surprise I also found myself breaking into an involuntary smile.
"Kind of," I said.  "I'm sorry to wake you, but the power went off."
"Oh no!" he said.  "Okay," I could hear movement, like he was throwing off his covers.
"The generator didn't come on?"
The generator!  I forgot about the generator.
"No," I said. My voice was small.
Then it must be the breakers.  Can go to the second breaker panel by the back staircase?
There's a second breaker panel?
"Okay, give me a second?"
When I couldn't find the second breaker panel in the dark, I wanted to cry again.
"I can't find it Edwin," I said.  "I'm sorry."
I heard a car engine start.
"I'm on my way," he said confidently.  "I'll be there in 20 minutes."
"But Edwin!" I protested.  "It's after 12:00!"
"Then you better make us some breakfast."  I heard his familiar smile through the phone and felt my shoulders relax.
"Thank you, Edwin."

*  *  *

"I'll have this fixed in 20 minutes," he said holding up Justin's broken X-box controller.  He had I were going over his list for that day.  I handed him a coffee and held up my hand.
"Yes," he smiled.
"Can you show me how to fix it?"
After the breaker blew,  I had decided I didn't ever want to be "in the dark" again regarding the whereabouts of breaker panels or our tool box.
"Of course," he smiled.  "But I don't want you to put me out of my job!"
 Soon, I could fix the X-box and broken TV remotes.  I could reset our Direct TV boxes and change smoke detector batteries.  Things which were all previously mysteries to me, were suddenly now part of my normal week.

*  *  *

"I'm selling my house," said Edwin.  It was spring 2016.  I looked up at him as I was pouring some smoothie into a paper Starbucks cup.
I felt my stomach lurch.
"You're selling your house?"
His smile looked strained as he took the cup from my outstretched hand, "Thank you."
"You're welcome," I said eyeing him suspiciously.  "So your house -- you're selling it?"
He nodded as he took an extra long sip. "I'm selling it.  I'm thinking of moving to North Carolina."
My smoothie-sip stuck in my throat with a gurgle.  I gulped it down, as I looked away from him.
"North Carolina?!"
What am I going to do?!
"North Carolina!! That's so far away!  If you want out of the city, why not Valencia or somewhere like that?!"
Don't make this about you.  Be happy for him!  Ask him normal questions!
Edwin laughed.  "I don't have any family in Valencia."
"Ohhhh..." I said knowingly.  "North Carolina. To be with your brother," I said facing him again.
"And Nancy?  What does she think?"
"Yes," he nodded.  "She wants to go.  My family wants to move there."
I nodded and looked at the cup in my hand.
"But you guys are my family too," he said.  "I don't want to disappoint you."
"Then stay," I smiled.
What am I going to do without Edwin?
"I'm just kidding.  Of course you have to do what's best for your family."

*  *  *

Edwin left for North Carolina on February 20th of this year.  I came home to find a card from him on our kitchen counter.  I took it with me unopened into my office and propped it up by my key board.
You should read it.
I picked it up several times, but each time a feeling of bitterness swept over me and I set it back down.

If I read the note -- it means he's really gone. 

The next morning after my meditation, I got up and walked over to my computer.  Carefully, as though I was holding something flammable, I opened the envelope and inspected the card;

"Thank You So Much," it read in elaborate raised, script.

I opened the card and peeked inside, I was immediately struck by how careful and neat the handwriting was.


all these years you have helped my family and I and I am forever grateful...

I stopped reading and tilted my chin and closed my eyes.

I leave you with sadness in my heart and hope we will continue to stay in contact.

I re-read the card a couple of more times and looked around as if I expected him to be standing there.  Finally I closed the card and placed it back in its envelope.

Goodbye, Edwin.  Thank you, my friend.

Friday, April 21, 2017

#DailyNotesToSelf (Daily Notes to Self)

Reading a blog at Levy Lee's "A gathering of Friends" in June 2016

"She's holding her fork wrong."

I looked up with surprise.  I had been picturing a scene in my favorite movie, The Jungle Book.  The one where Baloo the Bear fights Shere Khan the Tiger to save Mowgli.

Wait, there's a wrong way to hold a fork?

I remember my mother intervening, "just let her eat -- please.  It's okay."
"It's NOT okay!" He shouted as he reached for my hand.
I flinched away from him.  Not because of his touch, but because of the violence in his voice.

I wanted out.

I was trying to slip under the table (so I could bolt for my room), when I felt hands swiftly grabbing my shoulders and settling me back in my chair with a soft (humiliating) thud.  I felt the familiar beginnings of a shut down, my eyes had a sedated, heavy feeling behind them and my thoughts started to float away like balloons.  Instantly, the movie screen in my mind went dark.

"She's going to learn how to hold a fork — now -- TODAY."
After what felt like many hours later,  (but was probably 20 minutes or so) I was finally "allowed" to leave the table and go to my room.

Mr. Scarry was there was waiting for me when I closed my door.  Mr. Richard Scarry, that is -- the Swiss children's book author. I climbed up on my bed and pulled the heavy, blue blanket over my head like a tent to drown out the sounds of my mom and Kenny loudly "discussing" what had just happened.  Dust particles danced in the last rays of the sun that poured through my street-facing window as I flipped through the well-worn pages.  Finally, I found it -- "Couscous The Algerian Detective."  I put my nose close to the inside spine of the book and breathed deeply.  The sweet, comforting smell of good paper and binding glue wafted up to my face and filled me up with a feeling that made my stomach flip.  I criss-crossed my legs and shifted the book so that a shaft of sunlight fell across the words.  Couscous was a large-nosed dog that lived in Algeria and solved mysteries for a living.  I was instantly transported from my thin-walled, odd-shaped, hand-painted bedroom to the noisy, vendor-lined streets of North Africa.

"Dear Betty," I wrote later that evening in my powder blue, "line a day" diary with the gold lock.
"Kenny was meen.  Mama sed no, but he was stil meen."

My mother read to me (from her own books) every night until I could read to myself (and actually for some time after that, because we both enjoyed it so much).  As I got older, I found that I loved writing just as much as reading.  They went together for me.  Reading was the inspiration for my writing.

Writing helped me navigate through my teenage angst and confusion.  It helped me unravel how I felt when my heart shattered after my first high school dance (I was left standing alone when the harsh cafeteria lights came on at twelve o'clock, while HE left with Mona Bauer).

Note to self: Don't stand next to the girl with the biggest boobs at the next dance. Make yourself stand out! (maybe tighter pants)?

I devoured books written by and about "mistresses" in an attempt to come to terms with (and maybe glamorize) the fact that I was in-love with someone else's boyfriend in the 10th grade.  It was from Anne Frank that I learned the power of writing my truth at the end of each day.  It was Zora Neale Hurston that made me feel better about not having heat at home in the winter or money to spend on new school clothes in the fall. And it was Toni Morrison who showed me that my brown skin could be regarded with something more like wonder than disdain.

"I'd sooner go without food than books," I was known to proclaim when the subject came up.  And often, during my early twenties (when things were really lean), I quite literally did.  For me, reading and writing were more than a hobby, more than something that I "liked to do sometimes."  Reading and writing were oxygen.  They were the Source (capital S) of my bright, inner light.

I was hired as a publicist at 26 because of my writing skills.  Suddenly, all of my "recreational reading" had to take a back seat to all of the reading that was required in order to be a good publicist in the late 1990s.  Prudence Baird and I had to read all well-known magazines and every major newspaper EVERY DAY, as this was "pre-social media-times" (can you even imagine that?).
It mattered little that I all I wrote were bios and press releases and that a lot of the reading was dull and tedious.   I was READING!  I was WRITING!  And I was getting PAID FOR IT!

I was happy.

After I was married, (and no longer working outside the home) I would take pride in bringing novels and biographies to Brian's attention if I thought they might make good movies or TV shows.  I did the same with all of the newspaper articles I still read (now just for fun).  Reading at this level made me relevant and able to participate in any conversation.  Just like all of those year's before in Cambridge, I still wrote daily notes to myself.  Internally, I referred to my insatiable need to write as my "spark." When I felt my spark "coming on," I rushed to my nightstand drawer and pulled out my journal and a pen.  My journal held all of my worries, all of my thoughts, all of my fears and all of my dreams (not just my ambitions -- literally, my dreams, I wrote them down in my journal every morning).  I kept my current journal in my nightstand drawer and my completed ones in a foot locker in the attic.  I was the only one who had ever read them.  Sometimes, when I needed to recall a certain feeling or taste or smell for a story that I was writing,  I would seek (and usually find!) the answer in those journals.  Those journals were my chronology.  They are my life story.

*  *  *

Years later, when my kids were little, I suffered from what I now know to be called, "Traumatic Postpartum Insomnia." In my frantic search for what was wrong with me,  I found a psychiatrist who prescribed for me, several "helpful" (and astoundingly addictive) pain and sleep medications.   The effects blindsided me and took me so far off course that I didn't know how to get back.  My astonishingly rapid descent into active addiction brought forth a variety of painful new realities.  One of them being, that Brian's piece of mind was slowly eroding away.  As things got darker and darker at home and I became increasingly hard to reach, my journals became my only place of refuge.  To them, I told all of the absolute truths about what I thought and what I did.  I kept track of my precious pills in my journals (in case I forgot how much or how many or where I'd hidden them).  My journals knew everything, so even if I couldn't remember, they did.

I still feel swirls of shame and guilt in my gut when I think of that fateful day when Brian found out.   I can't imagine what that must have been like for him. My memory (as usual) is sketchy here, but I know that whatever he encountered when he came home that afternoon (possibly me asleep during the day — again) prompted him to go searching for the real cause of what everyone was wondering about but no one was talking about.  I didn't see him go though my nightstand drawer for my current journal or head to the attic and open my footlocker to retrieve the others, but I'll never forget the look on his face when he showed up in the bedroom after having read them.

"I know what's going on..." he started, he held my nightstand journal in one hand and several of my footlocker journals in the other.

Oh my God.  Those are my journals.

"We're going to get you help."

He read my journals...

Everything after that is mostly a blur of tears, pleading and packing.  While my body probably looked like it was complying with the new reality (which was at that point, inescapable), my mind was filled with a shriek that circled around inside my head like hula hoop.

He read MY JOURNALS!!!

I knew that wasn't the point.  I knew there were so many things that were SO much more important at that moment, but I couldn't feel connected to those things. I felt the familiar heaviness behind my eyes.  Gathering my thoughts was suddenly an excruciating task.

He read my journals...

I remember looking in the mirror and seeing dead eyes looking back at me.  It felt as though my soul had sprung a leak and all of my bright Source light was pooling out around my feet, like blood from gunshot wound.

*  *  *

In 2012 (at the lovely Kacy's insistence) I picked up a copy of Gone Girl.  You see, Kacy had no idea that I hadn't picked up a book in over five years (the longest period of my whole life without reading for fun).  She didn't know that after I returned home from treatment,  I'd put all of my journals back into the footlocker and snapped the lock shut.  She didn't know that the very thought of reading ANYTHING EVER made me feel like I wanted to disappear.

Kacy had no idea that there were no more "daily notes to self".  No more writing stories, no more laying in bed on Sundays reading the papers.  She didn't know that there were unread magazines stacked on tables all around my house.  She didn't know that the very idea of opening a notebook or sitting in front of a computer keyboard made my arms unbearably heavy.

This must be what depression feels like.

When I thought about reading or writing there was a deep, gaping void in my core.  My mind would click off like a TV and go dark.  Where unflappable enthusiasm, excitement and energy used to pour out of me so effortlessly, now there was only silence, apathy and a complete absence of ability to "muster."  And try as I might, I couldn't summon even an iota of curiosity for the book in my hand.  I set it down with a heaviness that felt insurmountable.

Stop trying to rekindle it!  You'll never get the spark back again.  Just face it -- it's gone.  

I set it down and ran the palm of my hand over the smooth book jacket.


Gone Girl.  That's me.

I found myself chuckling out loud at my little joke.  Another swipe of my hand over the cover and I stopped chuckling abruptly.

Gone Girl, eh?  I wonder what it's really about? Why was Kacy so sure that I'd like this book?

 I observed my fingers picking the book up and bringing it closer to my face.  My left hand came over my right and my index finger and thumb delicately opened the front cover.

Chapter One Nick Dunne

"When I think of my wife, I always think of her head."

I sat down on the bed and leaned cautiously against my pillows, holding the book as far in front of me as possible — as though it might bite me if I brought it closer.

"The shape of it, to begin with.  The very first time I saw her it was the back of her head."

Two hours later I found myself turning on my nightstand lamp.  Three hours later, I (painfully) uncurled my legs from under me and threw off my blanket.  I set the book down on my nightstand and closed my eyes, trying to shield myself against the feelings of hope that bubbled away somewhere deep down inside me.

I'm reading...!

*  *  * 

I walked into the empty Hollywood theater where the writing class was gathering in musty, velvet theater seats.  I looked around cautiously and took a seat near Stefanie, my friend and the instructor.  She started off with introductions:

"Tell us who you are, how long you've been writing and why you're taking this class."

After introductions, she gave us a writing prompt.  We had 10 minutes to write about a time when we felt embarrassed.

Well, that's easy!

But I found that my hand remained motionless as I placed the nib of my pen on the empty journal page.  I looked around in horror as I saw that the other 6 or 7 women in the class were furiously scribbling or typing away.  But the more I tried to think of one, the further away any "share-worthy" embarrassing memory drifted.

"Time," she said finally.

I felt hot tears welling up in my eyes.  My page was blank.

I had failed.

Stefanie must have seen the despair and shame in my face.  She looked over at my notebook and then back up at me with a generous smile.

"Don't worry about it," she said in a comforting, confidential tone.  "All of these women have been taking classes with me for a while.  You'll get the hang of it.  It's okay."

*  *  *

A few weeks into class and true enough, I could write when she gave us prompts.  I could even do writing assignments at home -- as long as I had a deadline. But there was one other caveat -- she had to give it to me.  When I tried to write at home by myself without a Stefanie-issued deadline, I ended up in a stand-off with a blank page.

Before the 8-week class ended, Stefanie called me and told me she was referring me to Larry Smith, an author/editor who was publishing a book of short stories called "The Moment."

"I think your stories are just what he's looking for," she said. I could hear her smile through the phone.

A few weeks later, Mr. Smith emailed to tell me that yes indeed, he would like to include my story, True Calm, in his book.  I danced around my office and called my mother.

"He chose my story, Mom!  I'm going to be PUBLISHED!"

I had never worked with an editor before.  It was much harder than I thought it would be, but I loved receiving the book with my name in print as an AUTHOR:

True Calm, by Laura Cathcart Robbins.

Maybe there's still some spark here after all.

After Stefanie's class ended,  I signed up for another class through The Writing Pad.  And then I signed up for another one as soon as that one ended.  From 2013 through June 2016, I was in classes all year-round writing, writing and writing.  But I still wasn't really reading.

Maybe I can't write without being in a class, because I'm not reading.   Maybe if I can become inspired to read again, the writing will pour out of me like it used to.

I tried to read 50 Shades of Grey.  I knew it was fluff, but I figured maybe light reading would be easier to commit to than something heavy.  I got through it, but barely.

But I read Gone Girl so quickly!  

Once again, I mourned the loss of my ability to motivate myself to read and write.  I replayed that moment when I saw those journals in his hands over and over in my head.

"The spark is gone," I told myself sternly.  "Stop thinking about it."

But then a little thought would pop its head over the ridge of my sub conscious.

But is it really gone forever?

"Maybe not" I decided.  "And I'm not ready to give up.  If I can only write while I'm taking a class, then maybe I'll just have to stay in classes forever.  And perhaps the reading will come in its own time, but even if it doesn't, I'm going to keep writing."

*   *   *

One day as I was printing out a story for a Sunday afternoon Writing Pad class, I realized that all of the writing I had been doing (in all of these the classes) seemed to have a kind of an order, a connection.  "Maybe," I thought. "Maybe, these short, individual stories could be put together in a more linear fashion.  Maybe these stories could be..."


"Yes, for sure, Laura," said Lisa Jakub, my writing teacher at the time (author of "You Look Like That Girl...").  "There could really be a book here.  And also, you should start a blog."

A blog?

A blog would be impossible, because I would have self-imposed deadlines.  I could never write a blog without my spark!  I don't have the ability to make myself write.

Also, what would I ever write about?  My life was full of mothering, adjusting to divorce (and my new family "status,") being Scottie's girlfriend and my recovery meetings.  There's nothing interesting there. 

I felt that same heaviness returning behind my eyes.  My brain was shutting down.

"Memoir authors can't even solicit an agent without having an 'author's platform',"she continued.

An author's platform?

"They want to see a social media presence," she explained patiently.  "You'll need to get a writer's page on Facebook, and then start a blog and post it to your page every week, or at least regularly.  It's important."

It's impossible

"I'll try," I said out loud, fighting my shut down.  "But I honestly don't know how I could possibly write anything every week. That really just seems like too much."

*  *  *

It was my friend Lilah who gave me the idea later on that week in a conversation.  I sat across from her at lunch, trying out different blog ideas on her.

"I could blog about my volunteer work?" I ventured.  "Or I could blog about being a basketball mom."

She laughed little.  "Yeah," she said.  "You could...."

"Well, I'm 51 and I'm still waiting for menopause.  Maybe I could blog about that."

"Maybe," she said thoughtfully.  "But I think you tell such great stories.  I think you should just do that. Talk about where you are.  You really helped me through my divorce.  You might be able to help someone else."

Just tell stories...?

At Lisa's suggestion I ordered "writer's business cards" from Vistaprint and purchased a web-domain name (  On a whim, I had signed up for a three-day writer's conference in April.  I had decided that I wanted get my first blog "up" before I went.   When I wrote that first (now cringe-worthy) blog and hit "publish" for the first time, I closed my eyes and held my breath.

I did it.

I opened my eyes and looked at the screen, expecting to see comments pouring in.
While I waited, I spent some time thinking about how I would answer my "fans" and how diligently I would respond to every single person who left a remark on my page.  I checked and re-checked the blog several times that day, (and the next and the next and the next) but no one ever clicked onto the post. It seemed that no one even knew that it was there.

I was devastated.

But the very next week, I published again.  Slowly, I started to get comments and compliments.  Every once in while, someone would message me and say how my blog affected them/touched them/impacted them.

So now I keep at it.  Every week I sit myself down on Wednesday afternoon to write.  Every Thursday night, I edit until about 11pm and then early Friday morning (after one more "once over" at 6:30am) --  I hit the "publish" button.

So far I have almost 50 blog posts published. I am excited to keep going in the hopes that I can again live that inspired life that I once took for granted.  Now, I know for sure that "it" still shines somewhere inside of me.  I don't think it will ever be like it was before.  But the truth is, neither will I.  All I know now is that I'm not willing to abandon the possibility of igniting my spark again.

Readers or not, comments or not.  I will continue to write because I am a writer.  And that's not just what I do.  It's who I am.

*  *  *

Have you ever lost your creative "spark"?  I'd really love to hear about your experience.  Please leave your responses in the comments for others to see as well.  Thank you.

Friday, April 14, 2017


"How was the disco?"
"Amazing!" I said.  "You really should come to Tiffany's sometime.  I know you don't like it because it's only 18 and under, but it's hella fun."
I put my hand on his shoulder, my face was within kissing distance of his.
"You should have seen us dancing," I said as I did the Pac-man with my feet.  "And guess what?!? They let us get on the risers!"
He was just staring at me, so I continued.
"Mia was trying to stay and hang out with some guy, but I told her we had to get out of there by 11:30..."
He lifted his right hand so swiftly I thought he had a sudden left-side face-itch that needed scratching.   Suddenly everything turned slow motion.  The air around me turned to jello.  Surrounding conversations and laughter faded away as I realized I was looking into bloodshot eyes.
I heard the smack-sound before I felt the numbing sting against my cheek.  The back of his hand had hit me with such force that I could feel the imprint of my teeth against the inside of my jaw.   My ears rang like I was underwater.
I remember being surprised that my feet remained planted where they were.   My hand automatically shot up to hold my injured cheek and to protect it from a second blow.
A scream pierced the air around me.
Is that me?
No, it was a higher-pitched voice than mine.  I observed that while my teeth remained clenched from the blow, this was an open-mouth scream.
"Michael what did you do?!!"
Suddenly Mia was in-between us, her neatly cuffed, dark-washed, Levis 501s pushing me backward as she pummeled Michael's chest with her tiny fists.
"Michael, don't you hit her.  Don't you DARE hit her. What's wrong with you?  What's wrong with you!!?"
Michael stepped back from me.  His face was suddenly flooded with remorse as if he were just coming back into his body.
"No!" Mia yelled pushing me out of "harm's way".  Mia and Kris flanked me and navigated us girls down toward the corner -- away from the Northside Giant Burger that was our midnight gathering spot on the weekends.
"Are you okay?" said Kris after we were safely out of sight.
I rubbed my face and nodded.  I had never been struck before.  I was marveling at how it felt like thousands of little needles poking me as the feeling returned to that side of my face.
"I'm okay," I finally managed.
"He's got a lot of nerve," said Mia.  Her eyes were blood shot too.
"He shh-ot a girlfriend!"
Shot who?  
"Heesh GOT a girlfriend!"
Oh! She's slurring!
"Can we please not bring HER up?" I said folding my arms across my chest.
I didn't want to launch into a whole thing about how this might be my fault,  as I was basically Michael's 10th-grade side chick.
"And he's mad at you," she continued, "becaush you danced with that NICE guy...what's his name?"
I looked around to make sure that Michael hadn't followed us down the hill.
"Mark," I whispered.  I could feel my lip starting to swell. "His name is Mark.  And Michael's not mad because I danced with Mark.  He's mad because I kissed him."
"You kisshhed him?!"  Mia looked surprised.  "When?"
"On the dance floor.  I knew I saw Jonny there.  Figured he would run back and tell him!  I just wonder how he got all the way back here from Walnut Creek before we did."
"Yeah...Jonny," Mia drifted off for a moment as though she was trying to figure out which Jonny I was talking about.  Suddenly she shook her head fiercely.
"Whatever," she said. "Michael can't say sh#& about what you do! You're not his woman, so you're a free agent, you know!?"
Mia was close enough for me to smell the beer on her breath.  Lovingly, I put my arm around her tiny waist.
"Thank you, Mia." I said, squeezing her.  "You always have my back."
"You'd better believe it!" She said squaring off like she was about to punch someone.
But all at once, she looked up at me and put her head on my shoulder.  She was about that same height.
"What about that nice guy?" She sounded sleepy.  "What's his name again?"
"Mark," I said.
"Mark," she repeated.  "You should allll-ways be with a nice guy like that."
I laughed a little.
Of course I should!  So why is it that I still want the other guy too?
"Probably," I admitted.
"And he shhh-uure is a good dancer!" she put her finger in the air.
"Yes he is," I said smiling, as we walked back up the hill.  "Yes, he is."

*  *  *

I looked at the strange looking email for a few moments.  The subject line rang a bell far away in the back of my head.
Tiffany's Walnut Creek
It was Sunday.  Scottie and I were laying in bed.  I was reading the Sunday New York Times, but I had my phone next to my pillow.  The buzz had alerted me that an email came in.  
I marveled for a moment at how my iPhone has trained me to know the sounds of the different alerts.  One short buzz was an email, 2 short buzzes was a text, one long buzz happened when someone played a word on me in Words With Friends.
Scottie looked over and reached for my free hand, "What should we do for breakfast?"
"Ummmm," I responded without looking up.  
Who is this from....?
"I don't know," I said still staring at the subject line.   "Maybe Le Pain?"
I clicked on the email and held my breath.
Tiffany's! Walnut Creek.  Oh my God. 
"Hello Laura..."
I quickly scanned down to the signature.
Is it Mark?
"Take care," it said.  "Mark Chambers."
Oh my God, it's him!

Suddenly memories of Mark showing me how to dance that night at Tiffany's burst into my head.  I could see myself trying on Dari's cream-colored prom dress.

"He asked me!! I'm going to prom with Mark!"

 All at once, I could almost hear the low-to-high wail of cars whizzing by us on the freeway when my mom's Rambler broke down on our way to see Mark in Vallejo (35 miles from our house in Berkeley).

"Mom, we have to get there!  Mark will be so worried!"

Mark, who was so sweet.  Mark who grew silent and whose lips pursed with anger when I confessed that I'd been backhanded because of our kiss on the dance floor that night.  Mark who had never pushed me further than that kiss.  Mark...

"Whatchu got there?"  Scottie was peering over at my phone.
"Umm, it looks like a guy I used to date in high school found me on Facebook and emailed me."
"On Facebook?" Scottie sounded incredulous.  "How'd he get your email?"
"I don't know," I shrugged.  I took off my reading glasses and turned to face him. "I guess there must be a way to grab your email address from Facebook?"
"Let me see," Scott moved closer to me and read over my shoulder.

"See," I said, trying to distract him from the first paragraph.  "Right here, he says he found me on Facebook."
Scottie turned away and began typing purposefully on his lap top.  His expression was unreadable.
"I haven't seen him since high school," I said dreamily.  "Oh my God!  Did I tell you that I was his prom date?"
Scottie glanced my way, before returning his gaze to his laptop.
Are you angry?
"I don't think we ever did anything but kiss, Hon."
Scottie stopped typing and turned to look at me. "You don't think you ever did anything else? You don't remember?"
Did we?
"I mean, no we didn't — for sure.  Mark was always a gentleman.  When I spent the night at his house, all I ever remember us doing was talking."
"Talking, huh?  How old were you? 16?" He started typing again.
"Yeah, 16 or 17."
"And at 17 you spent the night at his house — just talking?"
"I only stayed there because it was such a long drive.  My mom picked me up the next day.  Look if this..."
Suddenly Scottie burst into a wide grin as he turned to face me.
"Hon" he said apologetically.  "I think you should see him if he wants to meet.  He sounds like a really nice guy."
"He is a nice guy..." I said, puzzled by the sudden change of heart.  I spied a Facebook profile on Scott's laptop.
"Wait!  Is that him?"
He turned it away from me with a mischievous look.
Now I could see that it was Mark's Facebook profile.  I craned my head to get a better look.
Oh wow!  It's really Mark!
"What's that say under his name?"
Scottie's smile widened as he put his index finger under the words I was trying to make out.
"You'd better put your glasses on and look him up."
I pulled up Mark's Facebook Profile on my phone while I felt around for my glasses with my free hand.  A Facebook message had popped up from Mark! I clicked it open, put my glasses, on and read the words below his name.
"Founder, President at NGBA...?"

National Gay Basketball Association?

Scottie gave me a sheepish look.  "It doesn't matter that he's gay, Hon.  I still wouldn't have had a problem with you seeing him." He winked at me, "but it doesn't hurt!"

*  *  *

He saw me before I saw him.  He was seated at a table near the cash register. He jumped up and scurried around the table to greet me.  We hugged for a moment then I straight-armed him away so I could look at him.
It was so surreal to be standing in front of him 33-years later.  He looked great!  Handsome (even more handsome than I remembered him), healthy and happy.
“Do you want something?” he said, gesturing toward the counter.
I didn’t know if I wanted anything, but I figured I’d get my old standby.
He steered me toward the counter, his hand casually on my shoulder as though we’d been getting coffee like this for years.
“What’ll you have?” asked the barista.
“Matcha green tea latte,” I said.
Mark's eyes got wide.
“No way!” he smiled.  “That’s my order too!”
Beverages in hand, we sat down and looked at each other with huge smiles.
“You look great,” we both said at once.
“I wish we had more time,” I said looking at my phone.  “I only have about 45 minutes.”
“I know!” he grinned.  “I’ll take it.”
He knew a lot about me from Facebook and my blogs, so I had more catching up to do on his life.
“So….” I began.  “I remember you as this sweet, romantic, tender, young man.  I remember our kiss on the dance floor that night."
"Me too," he said.
"And the prom! " I squealed.  "Do you remember the prom?!"
"Do I remember the prom?!  I still have those pictures," he said confidently.
"I need to see those pictures!" I laughed.
"You look the same Laura," he said looking me up and down.  "Actually, you might even look better."
His manner was disarming.  I felt myself blushing.
"Why, thank you Mark," I smiled.

Just then, a friend of mine startled me out of the moment by tapping me on the shoulder.
"I just wanted to say hi," she smiled.
"Oh hi!"
I quickly introduced them, hoping she'd be on her way so I could learn more about Mark -- the clock was ticking.   I could tell she was curious about me having such an intimate-looking coffee-date with a handsome man.  When she finally said goodbye, I turned back to face Mark.

"And now..."  I paused.  I fumbled around in my head for the right wording. "Tell me what’s been going on since then.”
His eyes danced.  He knew exactly what I meant.

“Well, I wasn’t ever expecting to ‘grow up’ and have the life that I have now,” he started.  "I stayed in the Bay for a few years after high school, spent a lot of time in 'the city'" (that’s what we Bay Area folk call San Francisco -- the city).  "In '86, I ended up meeting this man with whom I had this really easy, crazy connection.  When he decided to move to LA in 1988, he asked me if I would go with him.  Even though I was kind of like 'WHAT!?!', I  found myself saying yes.  I had no idea what would happen.  I had no idea that this would be the rest of my life.”

“You mean the two of you are still together?! ” I could feel how wide my eyes had gotten.  I blinked  to bring them back to their normal size.
“We’ve been married since 2015.  But we’ve been together for over 30 years.”
“Wow!” I said out loud.  “30 years! That is a lifetime!”
He nodded his head. “We still can’t believe it.”
"I actually moved to LA in 1988 too!”
He shook his head.  “It’s crazy that we’ve both been here all of this time.”
“This is unbelievable,” I said. "Tell me more."

He told me about his husband, Stephan.  He told me about his home in Lakewood.  He talked about all of the different jobs/careers that led him to building homes for a living.  I listened, spellbound, all the while my head going:
This is Mark Chambers!  You’re sitting here with Mark Chambers!  
“So tell me about your sons,” he said.
I prattled on about how Miles was graduating soon and moving to New York and how we were starting to do college tours with Justin.  He listened with laser-beam focus while I talked, his eyes rarely leaving mine.  When I talked about how Miles was going to culinary school, his eyes began to fill with tears.  I finished my last sentence slowly, trying to gauge what was happening, then I grew silent.

After taking a couple of breaths, he began to talk about his children.  I had to recompose myself because given what he’d just revealed to me, it hadn’t occurred to me that he had any children, let alone three.
There was such tenderness in his voice when he spoke of them.  I found myself welling up as he recounted how they came into his life and how lovingly he and Stephan parented them.
I reached across the table and grabbed his hand when he finished.
"You haven't changed at all," I said.  "And that's a really good thing.  I'm so glad you are the way you are.  You were my first really nice guy."
We sat like that for a minute.  My hand on top of his.  His gaze became dreamy and his brows knit together as though he were trying to recall something unpleasant.
'Yeah, there was that other guy..."
"Yeah," I said. "There was -- but I'm with a really nice man now."
"I know," he nodded, brightening.  "How long have you guys been together?"
"Almost 9-years," I beamed.
"I want to meet your Scottie," he said.  "Actually, thanks to Facebook, I kind of feel like I already have!"
We both laughed as I rose from the table.
"This won't be the last time," he said.
"No, it won't," I said as he held the door for me.  "Thank you for finding me, Mark."

Friday, April 7, 2017

Invisible Woman

My friend Sharon and I met in Ft. Lauderdale in 1985.  It was one of those easy friendships.  We spent hours together watching TV and fantasizing about the future.  Fascinated with all things about Los Angeles, she and I both dreamed of moving there.   But when I finally moved to LA in 1988, she was already moving back to Harlem, where she had lived all of her life.

"Come see me in LA this summer," I said to her before we hugged goodbye.  

 "I'll be out there as soon as Sean pays me the money he owes me," she said (she sounds a little like a slightly huskier-voiced Sista Soldier).  Sharon has a generous smile and deep, chocolate-brown skin. She favored sweatshirts over dresses and in 1988, she was way ahead of her time (she wore her natural hair pressed [no relaxer], never wore make-up and was all about embracing her curves).  I, on the other hand, was about a buck-twenty, all boobs and long-limbs with chemically straightened hair (which I wore for a short time like the lead-singer from Klymaxx).  I wore big earrings and dressed in tank tops and Lycra skirts that I had to yank down with both hands before I could sit down (or else risk exposure).

Sharon arrived in LA in July that same year.  I picked her up from LAX in my new Hyundai Excel.  She whooped and hollered when she saw the Pacific ocean for the first time.

"Oh my God!  This is so SICK!!!"

“You haven't seen anything!" I bragged.  "You’re never going to want to go home! LA is like a party that never stops.  And you'll never have to pay for anything!  Men will just be lining up to buy us drinks, dinner, whatever..."

"I can't wait!" she said, clutching her autograph book.  "Do you think we'll see any celebrities?"

"Girl, we're going to Easy-E's Pool party on Saturday!  You won't be able to count how many celebrities we see!"
I snatched the autograph book from her hand and tossed it into the back seat.
"And you're NOT bringing THIS with you", I smiled.  "We don't do that 'tourist thing' here".

*  *  *

Sharon 1988-ish
“I want to go home."

I had just gotten back from my job as a page at CBS studios.  Sharon was sitting in the bedroom with her suitcase next to her.

 It was Friday --  two days into her trip.  

She wants to go home?! What happened? Something must be wrong.

"What's wrong?  Are you sick?"

“No," she said and then she looked like she had an idea.  "Well, maybe yeah, I am sick.  HOME sick.  No one’s checking for me in LA, Laura. I don't like it here."

Not like it here?! But we live right on Venice Beach!  Janet Jackson was dancing next to us at The Palladium last night.  Too Short invited us to meet him at an after-hours spot in Baldwin Hills AND gave us the secret password ("Oaktown").  It was an INCREDIBLE night!  How can she not like it here?!?

We were sitting on the queen-sized bed that I shared with my roommate, Kelly.  I wanted to give Sharon all of my attention, but I could smell Top Ramen being heated up in the kitchen.  My stomach rumbled.  I knew that Kelly would loading it up with margarine and Kraft parmesan cheese.  Suddenly I was seized with the fear that she wasn't making enough for all of us.  I tried to position myself so that I could signal Kelly without Sharon noticing.

"What do you mean?" I said absentmindedly, as I peeked around Sharon's shoulder into the kitchen.

Damn!  Kelly has her back to me!

"These LA guys are all looking for the 'skinny-minis' with their booties hanging out, weave all down their backs and beat faces," she continued.  "You know that's not me.  In New York, I can't take the subway home without someone trying to push up on me — looking just like this (she tugged on the collar of her gray sweatshirt).  Men cross the street to talk to me there.  No one even SEES me here.”

Kelly came in and wordlessly handed us each a bowl of ramen and sat down next to Sharon on the bed.  I took a bite and allowed the steaming noodles, ramen spices, buttery flavor and cheese to coat the inside of my mouth before I swallowed it.

"Yum.  Thank you Kell," I said.  "I was starving!!"

Sharon got up and set her bowl down on the nightstand untouched.

What?!? She's not going to eat that? What is she talking about anyway?  Brothers were ALL OVER us last night!

I was instantly irritated with her for being such a baby and for possibly wasting good ramen.

"I notice you didn't bring a lot of club clothes," I said.  "Do you want to borrow some dresses or a skirt or something?"   I spoke as though I were addressing an 8-year old.  Sharon looked me up and down and wrinkled her nose as if she smelled something besides the ramen.


"You liked that girl's braids at the club -- the one with the dookie braids.  Do you want to get your hair braided?"

Sharon sat there looking straight ahead.

"You can't just go home, Sharon, that's crazy."

Sharon let out a loud sigh.  "It's not about new clothes or getting my hair done," she said looking slightly insulted.  "Besides, it wouldn't matter what I did.  I'm east coast.  I'm New York.  I'm Harlem. You all don't see it because you both look like all of them out here."

I looked over at Kelly who was shaking her head "no".  I opened my mouth to protest.

All of who?

"But I'll never look like that," she said putting her hand on my shoulder to silence me.  "And honestly, I don't want to look like that.  But I guess looking all 'New York' like I do, makes me invisible here in LA."

Was she serious?!  And why was she being SO dramatic?!!

Kelly and I looked at each other.  I saw Kelly suppressing a laugh.  I looked away quickly.

"I already called and changed my ticket home," she said looking defeated.   "I'm on a plane tomorrow morning."

*  *  * 

I was around 50 when I first really noticed it (almost 30-years after Sharon's visit).  I was having lunch with my friend Desiree (who is nine-years my junior).  The waiter came over to take our order and became instantly silly and flirty. She and I both laughed and joked back with him, but soon, it became obvious that he was only being silly and flirty with her.  For the next hour and a half, each time he came to the table he made some coquettish comment to her and each time I felt the sting of being ignored.  

I am superfluous.  

I am undesirable 

I am -- invisible!

And it wasn't just with Desiree and it wasn't just that day.  Driving home I realized that it had been over a year since a stranger had flirted with me.  In fact, it had been a couple of years since anyone had looked up when I walked into the room and smiled at me with appreciation in their eyes.  And I actually couldn't remember the last time that someone had rushed to open a door for me or engaged me in flirtatious banter.

No one is checking for me anymore.... 

I started to dial Scottie's number then my finger stopped midair.

No one is checking for me...

Now where have I heard that before?

I saw her face in my head before I could summon her name.  I saw her clearly sitting on my bed in our Venice Beach apartment trying to explain to me how she felt.


So it had happened to me too.  Now I was invisible in LA.  What's changed between now and then? Why am I invisible now?

I got home and dashed to my bathroom and looked at my face in the mirror.

Eyebrows: Good, a little thinner, but basically the same as they’d always been.

Eyes:  Hmmmm.  Whites of the eyes are definitely less white.  Genetic blue, “Old-age” ring has begun to form around the iris.  Also, crows feet have made their imprint.  And eyelashes are decidedly thinner. Also eyes are less than symmetrical.  Left  is obviously smaller than the right.  When did that happen?!

Lips:  My lips are good.  I don’t see any loss in volume.

Mouth: Looks good straight on  -- but uh-oh!  Loose skin appears around the corners of my mouth when I look down...

I was wearing a thin, v-necked, white t-shirt, black leggings and a cardigan.  I went down my whole body that way, my clavicle,  my muscular arms, my hands, the outline of my breasts (still pretty firm!),  my stomach (not bad), my thighs, my legs (could use a tan, but...) — I stopped at my feet.  I felt a familiar acceptance settling in.  This assessment hadn’t brought forth any new or startling information. I exhaled when I realized that I'd been holding my breath.

Okay, okay, Nothing new here.  I'm not in my twenties anymore. I know I’m getting older.  

I had kicked off my shoes when I'd run into the bathroom.  The tile was cold and rough against my bare feet.   I looked around for my worn, gray Uggs slippers.

Suddenly, an inescapable realization fought its way up my throat like a scream.

But I’m not just GETTING older!  Oh my God.  That's it!! I’m LOOKING older!

I pressed my fingernails into the palms of my hands as my fists tightened.  My heart began to pound in my chest.  Suddenly my cardigan was too hot. I threw it off and ran back to the bathroom mirror.


I moved closer to the mirror.  All at once I looked like a Picasso painting — all asymmetry and discoloration.  The full-length mirror in the hallway had suddenly become a fun house mirror.  Where I'd seen a strong, healthy body before, now revealed a poochy stomach and 

What is that rippling underneath the thigh-portion of my leggings?!? Is that cellulite?!!! OH MY GOD!

I dashed barefoot from the bathroom to my office and fumbled for my phone with trembling hands as I texted 2 of my friends who’d had "procedures".

This might be an emergency.  Can you send over the name of the guy who did your liposuction?  


Hey, girl.  What was the name of that doctor who did your neck-lift? Does he do face lifts?  Can you text me back asap?

Suddenly I couldn’t think of my face or body without imagining all of the flaws.  It was crystal clear to me in the heat of that moment that I would never be happy again unless I could change my outsides to match my insides.  Inside I was still as fierce and young as ever.  I NEEDED people to see me how I felt.  My body was trembling with a shame-fueled adrenaline rush.  My fingers shook as I turned on my desk-top computer. 


I MUST get a face lift for the mouth slack. There’s nothing else that will fix it.   I can get liposuction for my waistline and have them smooth the cellulite in my thighs too. Maybe, to cut down on recovery time,  I could get it all done at once. 

Dr. Paul Nassif and Dr. Erin Goldberg came up under best face lifts and body sculpting respectively. 

Hey, Dr. Paul Nassif!  I know who he is!  He was married to Adrianne Maloof from "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills"!

I called his office first, did the intake questions and made a consultation for the following week.  Dr. Goldberg wasn’t available for another three months.

Fu%# that!

I made an appointment with the third person on the list.  I would decide on a surgeon as soon as possible and then just get it over with.  If youth equaled visibility, then I was in.  I wanted to be visible again.  I was willing to pay whatever price there was.

I was impatient, restless, irritable and discontented during the days leading up to my appointments.

 How can Scottie love me like this?   Maybe I'll check back and see if Dr. Nassif can see me sooner than Tuesday.

I avoided the mirror and turned away in disgust when I caught my reflection over those next few days.

I’ll ask the surgeons to make it as natural as possible so that no one guesses that I’ve had anything done.  They all just say; “Laura, you look great!  Have you been working out?  Or “What face cream are you using?” or “Wow, Laura, you look so young!  What's your secret?

The Monday before my consultation with Dr. Nassif, I ran into "Lana," a mom from my kid’s school.  She was smartly dressed (as usual) but something was different.  When she took off her sunglasses, I could see that the skin on her face was red, shiny and taut.

Maybe a chemical peel?

 No, but there was something more.  Lana's eyes.  Her eyes were open unnaturally wide — like she was either shocked or very afraid.  

Eyebrow lift?

I tried not stare at her and it took everything in me not to ask her for her surgeon’s name. I felt sorry for her.

Does she know that it doesn't look good?  Does she know that she doesn't look younger?  Does she know that it just looks like she's been "worked on?"

I felt my blood cooling as I arrived home that afternoon.  The "you-must-fix-it-now" fever that had seized me the previous week seemed to be evaporating into the air around me.  I approached my bathroom mirror with a tinge of guilt and curiosity.  I saw my eyes staring back at me.  This time I had to look harder to see the lines and the irregularities.

Hello face.  Do we really need surgery right now? Is it really an emergency?

I rose at 6:00am to meditate the morning of the consultation.  I set my timer for twenty minutes and closed my eyes.  I tried to “see” myself through the eyes of my “higher self”. 

Would plastic surgery really get me what I wanted?  And what was it exactly that I wanted?  To look younger?  And would looking younger make me visible?  And what if plastic surgery didn’t make me look younger — what if it just made me look like someone who WANTED to look younger?

I emerged from that meditation with no real answers, but one loud, dominating thought ringing in my head:


It was an urgent thought, yet it also felt settled and patient.  I rolled it around in my head until it dropped into my mouth.

“Wait,” I whispered, finally, letting it out.  “Okay then," I sighed/exhaled.  "I’ll wait.”

*  *  *

This past weekend, I took my mom and my kids to Washington DC for spring break to see the new Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture.  We had an amazing time.  But while we were there I noticed something.  In fact, I noticed it as soon as we stepped off of the plane.  

 Hey! I'm... visible again! 

Not that it was like brothers mobbed me when I exited the Jetway for my number.  In fact, no one approached me directly the entire four days that we were there.  But every where we went, I was met with appreciative smiles and eye contact -- things which I had accepted were a part of my permanent past.   The men in DC were gentleman for sure (they went out of their way to hold doors for me and politely allowed me to walk ahead of them) but it was more than that.  It was flirtatious banter, it was that fact that people looked up and smiled when my family and I walked into a restaurant. Everywhere we went, I felt SEEN.  At age 52, here in DC, I was visible again.

And then there's this,  I am loved by a man who met me pre-“invisibility” and has been with me ever since. And I don’t need to tell anyone who knows us, how Scottie sees me and how much he loves me.  I do my best to believe him when he tells me that I'm beautiful.  I'm glad I heeded the voice in my head and pressed the pause button that day.  We'll see what tomorrow brings.  

March 2017 - on my way to work out