Do you ever meet people or read about ones who totally turned their lives around?  People who were wrongfully imprisoned, or were addicted alcoholics, or had been brutally molested, or had horrifically abusive parents, or were disfigured in an accident, or lost everything and everyone of their family in a fire…people who REALLY have suffered.  People who would be justified in their screams and cries of “Why Me?!”  I mean real agony…not modern day middle-class ‘agony’ as in, “I can’t believe Comcast still has not come!” or “I can’t believe she canceled my manicure!” or “I can’t believe my Lexus won’t be ready til tomorrow and I still have to drive around in this Escape!”  or “I can’t believe the hot water heater is broken and it’s only 5 years old!” or “I can’t believe her soccer game is the same time as his band concert, what am I going to do?!”  …you and I have met THESE kinds of people…the ‘oh-me-oh-my’ uppity drama types, and I know you have, much like I have, wondered to yourself, ‘what would they do if they had actual real f**king problems?!”

There are people who have been to hell and back, and up the creek, and had to have the patience of Job to endure trials and tribulations that most of us can’t even being to imagine, who manage, against all odds it seems, to turn things around for themselves.  I have read about women who grew up in villages in Africa where they had little if any nutritious food and even less potable water, yet were brave enough and strong enough to walk miles to school, after working in the morning, so that they could get an education and make a life for themselves, and they did it!  I have read about strong handsome men who were crippled and blinded and burned in the preposterous unwinnable war, yet had the determination to try to heal and adapt and overcome, and did it!  I have read about women who had to bury their children due to incurable diseases or unexplained illness, who might have wanted to just lie down and die in despair and heartbreak, but instead managed to pick up the pieces of their crumbled dreams for their children and start a research foundation, and did it!  There are people who you might think would just throw in the towel…give up…but the human condition is generally such that we want to thrive.  We humans don’t want to give up, even when the circumstances might seem too grim to bear…BUT what is so bloody remarkable to me, and what I applaud and rejoice in, is people who make a choice that “THIS is not going to be my life” whatever *this* it might be.  If you find yourself feeling blue, or hopeless, or lost, or angry, or any of those emotions that make you feel Eeyore-ish, rather than sunny, joyful, confident,  and elated, celebrating Tigger-ish-ness, I implore you to think about people who have had a far more difficult time of it than you have, but managed to say to the universe, “Re-Write!”

STEP 4 is a celebration of living.


shine on

You know how good it feels, like down deep in your soul,  like how you feel it in your belly or a tingle in your spine, when you see a really happy loving couple?  Or, a joyful adventurous toddler, or compassionate nurses tenderly caring for someone ill, or a teenager being kind and helping an old man with his shopping bags, or, or, or…when you see happiness and good, you also can feel happiness and good.  STEP 3 makes something my Nana used to say to me even more clear and to the point, “pretty is as pretty does.”  BUT she could have just as well been saying to me, all those years of my life, happy thoughts show on your face, good deeds and kindness show on your face, doing unto others and all of that Golden Rule jibber-jabber is good for your skin,  and that nobody wants to see a miserable frowning sour-puss!  step 3It’s quite likely that if you are in a “bad place,” nothing has changed since last night and this morning your thoughts are still racing, or you are still mad about ___blank, or you are still freaking out about the collection agency calling, or you are still sad about the argument you had with Tom, Dick, or Harry…BUT you don’t have to STAY there.  Bad Place thoughts are like a shitty motel…you might need to be there for a night, because you have to BE somewhere, but it’s no Four Seasons, it’s no place you want to stay for any length of time…pack up and get out!!!  AND my daughter just got back from the Four Seasons in Maui with her fabulous new boyfriend, so I have this detail from a reliable source!  It is possible to turn bad thoughts into good ones and give your perspective a tweak towards the happy…find a way to look to the bright side, even when the dark side is trying to pull you in…If you already always look lovely and seldom have bad thoughts, “Yay you!”  but this closing then is for the rest of us…So today, another cold day and another likely gray one, do your best to follow Step 3 if you think it might work for you…

and then there were two…

STEP 2 might not be at all interesting to many of you.  In fact, to a number of you, it might be down-right disgusting and the thought of it makes you cringe, in fact, you’ve never given it any thought at all…you don’t like the idea, the smell, the effort, the color, and have never, not even once, considered it worthy of thought…but to me it is glorious…hot, dark, comforting, rich, complex, aromatic, smooth, energizing, delicious, bright, earthy, strong, lively magnificence…I have bought green beans and experimented with home roasting, I have bought ridiculously over priced exotic beans that I only used with my burr grinder and a French Press, I have bought cheap pre-ground grocery store coffee, and I have bought ten ounces of coffee beans scooped into a tidy brown paper bag that cost me more than a pair of Calvin Klein jeans.  I’ve ordered coffee from Ethiopia and Kenya, Costa Rica and Chili.  I’ve bought fair trade and organic, and I’ve perhaps purchased from companies who treat the farmers horribly or don’t care to sustain the villagers who work for them…but…in my life, I’ve loved them all.

step 2

I first tried coffee when I was in college.  I suppose like many addictions, that’s when they start. I worked at a fabulous gallery and my boss loved to have afternoon coffee, every day, and one day when I was 18, after I’d been working for her for many months, she asked me why I didn’t drink it…this was back before there were coffee shops of any sort on our little island, and back before Starbucks was even known here on the east coast, when coffee wasn’t “in.”  She lived with her husband in an apartment over the shop, and every afternoon he would bring her a mug of coffee and it smelled so good…my grandparents, both sets, drank coffee, so I had been around coffee, but never knew coffee…and truth be told, I don’t recall particularly liking my first cup of coffee, but I did like the afternoon break, the chatting with my boss, the connection that it seemed to induce and shortly thereafter I met a woman at school, a single mother much like myself, who asked me if I wanted to join her for coffee after our class, and THAT sealed the deal…the tables outside of the cafeteria were full of happy looking college students, laughing and talking and writing and smiling, and drinking coffee…the association was made very quickly for me…coffee = happiness.

Ages ago, when my daughter was in pre-school, I dated a guy who liked coffee as much as I did, as did his mom, and his mother and I would often, if not always, drink it after dinner when I ate with their family.  All through college it was not unusual for me to drink it in the morning, the afternoon, and at night.   It never has made me jittery or edgy, and I feel comfortable reporting that it does not affect my sleep in any way.  I have made lifelong friends over coffee and I have had first dates, and last dates, over coffee.  I am well aware that it is not an enjoyable beverage for many people.  In fact, neither of my parents drink it AND they never did, neither my sister nor my daughter drink it,  and neither have my last two boyfriends.  When my granddaughters were little, one of the first things that they associated with me was that I loved coffee, in fact my daughter once was scolded for using “Nana’s mug” which was not, at all…but a mug in my daughter’s house that had never been used until my visit!  In fact, when the little ones are here and they say grace at the dinner table, the youngest one concludes with, “and peace to all, and I love trees, and Nana’s breath smells like coffee”  then they crack up laughing, every single time they eat dinner at my house, and why I wonder is the laughter is at my expense, and do I really have perpetual coffee breath?  and I wonder what it has to do with gratitude for dinner and thanks for food,  this is still a mystery to me, but they’ve done it for years, and it doesn’t seem like they are going to stop any time soon!

I could probably count on my fingers and toes the total number of days I have gone without coffee since that first time.  I do get a headache most days if I don’t have afternoon coffee…and I suppose much like being dope sick, and like a junkie who just needs an eye dropper full to get through a day, I can feel 100 times better with just 10 ounces!  It’s like a miracle.  It is my “drug of choice.”  So, you might be wondering how THIS works into my idea of a 21 step detox/reboot…well, like I wrote, take what you need…and maybe some of you don’t know that you need coffee.  “He likes it, hey Mikey!”  …you never know until you try, and for all you know, it is the one thing you have not tried that will reignite you, it might just be the best idea you have all year…you just never know…

R*’s 21 Step Detox…take as many as you need

Let’s start at the beginning…Why are there ’12 steps’ and not five, or 16 or 21?  Is 12 the magic number for change, for behavior modification, or for turning things around in one’s life?  I know people who have turned their lives around by following “the” 12 specific steps, and I’ve been told that it’s not a step-a-day, that there is no specific time frame that one completes them, that sometimes one single step can take weeks….I think it is clear to all of us, that change, any change, is seldom rapid.  From what I have read about the formal twelve steps, it seems that the very first step is to recognize there is a problem, the word that is used in step 1 is ‘unmanageable,’  the recognition that one’s life is out of control.  This is a good word, because to me it means that the problem can be fixed, unmanageable is not the same as irreparably broken, it is not the same as hopelessly damaged, it is not the same as impossible to remedy, it is simply, at this time, unmanageable.  I think when we assess our lives or our current situations and we discover, or perhaps a better word would be ‘accept,’ that something has become out of balance or unmanageable,  it’s important to reevaluate and regroup if we want things to change.  So while I intend no disrespect whatsoever to the ‘real’ 12 steps, I have created something of an alternative, 21 steps, to take as needed if one feels one is in need of a reboot.  I start today in the order that they’ve come to me, and not in any particular order of importance, but simply to ponder and take or leave as you may need.


step 1

I would like to think that step 1 here is pretty clear, BUT it is sometimes very hard to be positive or upbeat or to give off good vibes when you yourself are feeling negative or depressed, but I think it’s important to try to follow step 1, every day if possible.  Find something to be happy for, or happy with or happy about every day…even if your life has reached total shite levels, and the ONLY thing that you can think of is, “at least it’s not raining,” that is at least a step in the right direction.  For me it is crucial to be positive, as positive as possible, every day…I have had my share of awful in life and I have had my share of wonderful…and no matter what, there is ALWAYS something good to take and run with it…it can be as seemingly meaningless as “today I did not forget to take the shirts out of the dryer and so they are not a wrinkled mess,” or it can be as profoundly significant as “today I missed being sideswiped by a tractor-trailer on the bridge by a few seconds and holy cow I could have been dead if I were going just a little bit faster.”  You see, it does not matter WHAT it is, only that you find something positive and then spread that around as best as you can in whatever way that you can.  BE the Ebola or the Measles of “good ass-vibes.”

…If you smile at the snarky old lady behind you in the grocery store line (who recently had to bury her daughter who was killed in a mugging and was only 40), or if you smile at the frazzled mother with a cart full of frozen food and a poorly behaved toddler and a crying infant in a carrier seat (who thought for sure she would never get pregnant and now at 45 has two babies and is tired all the time), or if you smile at the old man who is mopping up the V-8 spill in aisle 11 (who worked his whole life as a bank manager but lost all his savings in a bad investment and now has to work full-time at 79 just to pay his property taxes), you might very well BE the ONLY positive thing that happens to them that day, you might be the only kindness or comfort they feel that week…you don’t know!  We can’t know other people’s pain or pleasure, we don’t know other people’s trials or triumphs, we only know how we want to be in the universe, and if we want to be positive I assure you, it’s infectious, and the more you spread it the more it will grow, like a science project in a petri dish, it will spread from you to them and they will eventually spread it too.  I promise, with practice, you will find it becomes easier, every time you do it and I promise that the more you do it the better you yourself will feel, and I also promise, much like the Wiccan’s spell,  “Ever mind the rule of three, What ye send out comes back to thee.”


She is the reason that I have not loved my body for 29 years, and yet she is also the reason that I know how to love anything at all.

She is the reason I had to get married two months after I graduated high school, and yet she is also the reason I knew I had to get unmarried less than two years later.

She is the reason I decided to go to college, and why I worked so hard to do well, and yet she is also the reason I gave up a good job where I actually needed my degree, to instead do a job where I earned so much less money, but was so much more satisfied.

She has been the reason for some of my dreadfully painful headaches, and yet she has also been the reason for many of my spectacularly splendid joys.

She used to be the smartest and most charmingly adorable little girl I ever knew, until she became the mother of two who are far smarter, and infinitely more charming, and breathtakingly more adorable, than maybe she ever was.

She was the heaviest baby in the nursery the morning she was born, a cold January Thursday, and I had her bundled from head to toe in a pink and gray snow-suit with a fur hood and attached mittens on the bitter Saturday I brought her home, and today, a cold January Friday, she is thinner than I have ever remembered her being, and on vacation in Hawaii with her handsome successful boyfriend, and surely not bundled up at all and quite likely wearing a bikini.

She has piercingly stunning green eyes, much like my mother’s, and yet so many people tell both of us how much they think we look alike.

I have watched as her broken wrist was set, after she fell backwards off a bench under her favorite tree of childhood, and laughed so hard at the hospital when she said she was going to tell the kids at school she broke it playing hockey, because she did not want anybody to think she was a klutz, and I have watched as she comforted her youngest child, whose elbow needed to be set after falling down my stairs, and although surely she wanted to cry, seeing her baby in so much pain, she kept her mood light and made that little blonde toddler laugh.

I watched her suck her thumb for years, begging her to stop, and using every deterrent known to womankind to get her to break the habit, and now watch her plead with her youngest to stop sucking HER thumb, but with patient understanding, because she remembers very well how hard it was to kick.

At 5:04 this morning she became a 29-year-old woman…’how can I possibly be a mother of a woman just that much shy of 30?‘ I asked myself today while waiting for my coffee to finish brewing, while I stared out at the crescent moon, thinking about my life and her life, and life in general…There are characteristics and traits about her that drive me positively bat-shit crazy, and there are qualities about her that I wish every person on the planet could possess.  She is my daughter, and she is the reason that I know how to love anything at all.