Conversations with My Dead Mother (Pt. 2)

Dear Mama,

It has been a week of ups and downs – So much to celebrate but my damn anxiety really inhibits the celebration. I wonder if you had anxiety? I don’t recall you having anxiety or maybe that was one of the “evils of the world” that you tried very hard to keep from me, like dad’s drug addiction. I still marvel at how you were able to keep that one a secret for fifteen years. Normally, this would have angered me but I think I was old enough to understand that you did it out of pure and intense love for your children. I thank you for that.

I filed the final judgment paperwork for my divorce today at the courthouse, ma. Ya know, I thought I’d just go down there, turn in the paperwork and not feel much different. If I felt anything, maybe just a bit of relief because I accomplished an errand but no, I felt tremendous weight lifted. I think having no expectations was what made it feel so damned good. I wish you were here – you would have been the first person I called. You’re with me all the time, though, right?

I can’t wait to receive the mail informing me of my official divorce date. It is a date in the near future that I greatly look forward to and I have every intention on celebrating in a very big way. I’m fortunate to have some friends and my boyfriend that will be right there with me, toasting to my freedom as well.

Today, though, I came to the conclusion that there are some people who simply have no interest in my life yet I continue to exert my energy with interest in theirs. I shouldn’t say I came to the conclusion because this has been on my mind for quite some time but rather, I was able to arrange it in my thoughts in a way that is plain and simple to understand. I think, sometimes, I confuse things easily or I begin with the self-doubt but really it’s just a matter of no longer giving a part of myself to others who have no interest in giving me a part of him or herself.

And then, as if the Universe was speaking directly to me and I believe it was, one of my dearest friends (Meg, you know Meg!) posts this on her Facebook wall:

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Or trust the vibes you don’t get, I suppose!

I think that’s about all for now, mama. I love you more than words could ever convey.

Love,

Linds

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Snail Mail

This evening, I received a single piece of mail in my mailbox – a piece of mail I have been waiting to receive for a little over three months. After eight weeks, I gave up any anticipation of receiving this piece of mail but, finally, I have received this piece of mail from the Los Angeles superior court stating their approval of our request to enter what is known as default.

I’ll spare you the legal jargon and get right to the point – this means my divorce case is entering the final judgment period which after all of the fiery hoops I feel as if I’ve been jumping through, this will hopefully lean toward the smoother, uphill slope. This also means that my nightly consumption of wine is of the celebratory variety.

Last week, David text me a nasty response to a text message I had initially sent him asking for more information regarding his court visit. In a nutshell, he stated that he didn’t know what had motivated me to “begin cooperating” all of a sudden and doesn’t really care but that he doesn’t like hearing from me probably just as much as I don’t like hearing from him.

I chuckle a little every time I think of his message simply because of how undeserved and inaccurate his statements were. Cooperating isn’t even an appropriate term to use given the fact that the reason I wasn’t moving forward was simply due to financial hardship and financial hardship alone. He knew this – I informed him and I have the text messages to prove it. In fact, about a year ago, he even sent a text message claiming his understanding and patience with my situation.

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I guess his patience ran out. Well, he could have filed default a long time ago without my “cooperation” so what is it they say these days? Sorry, not sorry.

And as far as hearing from each other, I assure you, dear readers, no one dislikes hearing from the other more than I dislike hearing from David but I know that I won’t stop hearing from him until this divorce is final so until then, I’ll just have to suck it up.  All business mindset – that’s how I get through it. That, and reminding myself that his main purpose in my life was to serve as a grand distraction from the tragedy that began to unfold in 2010 after my mama was diagnosed with stage four metastatic lung cancer. Though it makes complete sense, it’s unfortunate that such a tragedy required sending someone into my life that I would grow to hate more than anyone I have ever hated.

Cheers to today’s snail mail! *as I raise my wine glass to my lips*

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Self Inflicted Misery

I have mistakenly discovered that writing is a sickness of the self-inflicted variety – not a virus but a disease. An earnest writer, one with candor and humility must drive a dagger through her heart, allowing the darkened, profuse blood to spill out, never cowering under a band-aide, never permitting sutures to make her whole again.

She must lick her wounds willingly, knowing that each and every lockbox of stored, past memories will be forever opened with a single master key amidst the dagger’s path. The key – damaged, unable to lock anything away again. The writer must trudge forward with the open wound that inevitably carries with it an unavoidable illness – an illness so lethal, it will one day kill her. And she’ll die – glad that she let it.

Some of the greats have described this is in other, more concise words…

Hemingway – “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

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Steinbeck – “In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable.”

Bukowski – “He asked, “What makes a man a writer?” “Well,” I said, “it’s simple. You either get it down on paper, or jump off a bridge.”

Misery, I tell you. Complete and utter misery. The indescribable though palpable passion to write is the acceptance of one’s downright madness, embracing it like your closest kin. Vulnerability becomes a consistent way of being.

And when you’re not writing, that, too, is absolute misery. There is no escape. I chose to tell my truth and there is no going back.

Someone once ignorantly said to me when I informed her of my planned return to the west coast from New York, “I can’t help but think that you’re trying to run from your problems.”

At the time, I probably scoffed, shook my head and ensured this person that this wasn’t so. I didn’t feel the need to explain because the truth is, my problems, in fact, most people’s problems are not problems that can be ran away from. If the solution to my problems were as simple as a cross-country move, I probably would have made that move a lot sooner.

Alas, my biggest problem then and my biggest problem now are learning how to live in a world where my mother doesn’t exist –  A world where I cannot pick up the phone and hear her voice on the other end, a world where she is nowhere to be seen or heard. There are no solutions and there are no cross-country moves that will ever make this okay so I will just write. I won’t run and I won’t hide – I will simply just write – About that – About life, love, and my experiences. I will sit at my computer or my notepad and I will bleed.

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Conversations with My Dead Mother (pt. 1)

Dear Mama, if you were here there are so many things I’d ask you, so many things I’d wanna discuss. I wonder how many letters and internal one-sided conversations have begun like that in the past almost four years? I can’t believe it’s been almost four years since you died. Sometimes, it feels like yesterday and sometimes, it feels like a lifetime. Neither one feels very good or less depressing than the other.

As you aged mama, did you find yourself becoming more private, more recluse? Did this create a sensation of not feeling like you could really, genuinely speak to anyone? Or is the above just a product of my generation and the ever changing social life that’s dictated primarily by gadgets, by technology?

If you had a grave, I predict you’d be rolling around, howling with laughter at your refusal to ever own a cell phone or a computer, for that matter. To which I would confidently reply that they’re beneficial for some things but I admire your aversion toward the rapid evolution of technology and your valid reasons behind it.

I’d love to know what you would do if you were me right now? How would you handle David and his vindictive three-faced tendencies (and yes, I mean three) seeking to obtain a rise out of you, still trying to maintain control over one last thing in your life? It’s disappointing though hardly surprising.

I’d like to know your thoughts on current politics, economics, social injustice, etc. I’d like to plan a trip with you – a big one – a mother daughter getaway. Oh, the places we could go! Santorini? Italy? Spain?

I would ask you how it felt to be the black sheep and how this feeling of being an outcast shaped your morals and values. I would like to know what your regrets are and the things that you would do differently if you were given the opportunity to do them over.

All these questions and no answers…I can only speculate on how you may respond and that will never be good enough and that will never be okay.

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I Feel Trapped

I’m afraid I’m going to end up hurting you like my dad did my mom.” Those were dismal words said by David, my ex husband, to me in 2010, two months after we began dating, if dating could even be considered what we were doing given the thousands of miles of distance that lay between us. He had said those words to me over a late night phone conversation, the context in which escapes me. I recently stumbled across this memory via a 4 GB external hard drive I discovered with much writing from my “New York days” upon it. I had written him a lengthy letter after one of our more serious fights in which I referenced this particular conversation. I discovered these words, this memory, this past Friday after “discovering” that our request for “default” within our divorce was rejected because of various reasons.

I feel trapped,” I have repeated these three words many times this weekend given my less than subpar encounter with the downtown courthouse’s city personnel. My last name, my free will to marry again one day, my outrageous tax accountability – all of these things and more are dependent upon David’s ambition and drive to finalize the flood of paperwork it requires for a no contest divorce. I have repeatedly thrashed myself for what I know now that I didn’t know then – marrying him was the worst decision I’ve ever made in my life and yes, it may have come with a lesson or two or three but it was still a horrid decision and consequential mistake on my part.

Hindsight is 20/20,” my therapist uttered as if reading from a cliché teleprompter. Duh, I internally think. This discernable observation does not make me feel better about the fact that I should have known better before hindsight even had a chance to fucking kick in. Thereby continues the self-thrashing.

I’m sincerely contemplating changing my surname all together these days once this “lengthy divorce,” as David so accurately and narcissistically described it, is finalized – Why not? Screenshot_2015-07-12-19-58-44

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Seeking the Resounding Truth

It’s said that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, that our past is called the past for a reason and that what lies ahead is far more worthy of a stare down than what lies behind. And that’s all good and well but I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t look back, what may be considered, too often, and simultaneously, mentally beat the shit out of myself, not only for the act of looking back, but for actions in my past that cannot be undone. And sure, maybe it doesn’t kill me, maybe I’m still alive and breathing but does it really, truly make me stronger? Or is that just something that we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel and appear better, stronger?

When I first decided that I wanted to get a divorce, I was initially reticent. In fact, I was downright reluctant about telling anyone but a select handful, let alone beginning a blog. That didn’t last long. Something innate in me demands sharing the truth, no matter how painful, in a sometimes, dramatic and grand manner, perhaps to drive the point home or perhaps because I don’t know how to be anything else but theatrical in my deliverance.

As I mull over the sometimes cruel events of my past, the relationships, the mistakes, the regrets, the poor decisions and the rather life shaping, joyful moments that have the ability to make me smile to this day, I cannot help but ponder the what-ifs, the whys and the whens. What if I was more patient when I was twenty-four? Why did I get so bent out of shape about that? And when did I lose my faith in so many vital components of my youthful spirit? There is, currently, a seemingly endless list of questions I’ve been asking myself in effort to create a more hopeful future but then there’s the loss of faith in a future at all.

I do hope you’re not thinking, “Jesus, what a drag this woman is. How dismal her outlook, how jaded her approach!” Although I would understand if you were thinking those things, I must respond with that I am complicatedly consumed in the midst of intense, internal development that requires much retrospect, vigorous self-analysis and above all, the sometimes evil, downright dirty, no-holds-barred truth.

I know I’ve said it before and I’ll say it here and now, if I cannot be honest with myself, I cannot be honest at all. There would be no point to my committed endeavor for self-growth. There would, essentially, be no growth, for growth or enlightenment or whatever you wish to label it, is proudly and unequivocally rooted in pure and utter truth.

This particular blog, my dear readers, is said endeavor – I write because somewhere in between each line, each word, and punctuation, I seek, or rather hope, to discover a resounding truth – a truth that will demand to be shared, to be told in all of its vivid glory.

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Hour and a Half Shy

I went to work the following day. I got up at six-thirty in the morning like I always did, I solemnly dressed myself and I hopped on the Manhattan bound subway en route to 5th avenue and 36th street. I’m fairly certain, if my memory doesn’t fail me, I ate breakfast and I had my coffee just like every other normal work morning.

The thing about this particular morning four years ago, however, was that I was in mourning. My dad had died, taken his last breath, a mere ten hours prior to the eerie conduction of my daily routines. I couldn’t think of a better plan than to do exactly what I normally would have done if my dad was still alive, had there not just been a death in my family. Or perhaps, the fact was that I wasn’t thinking about much else at all – I was just simply going through the motions per se.

The interesting and for lack of better words, inconvenient, thing about death is that even if it’s fairly expected, there is no guidebook that explains the aftermath, the whole stimulus-response outcome. It’s not like cancer, for example. I vividly recall sitting in the waiting room of the Kansas City Cancer Center reading extensive, informational “what to expect” and “how to cope” literature for those diagnosed and their loved ones while my dad received radiation on his brain where a tumor was vigorously attacking his cerebellum. There’s a stimulus – chemotherapy can cause nausea and there’s a response – eat these types of foods to minimize the side effects of this toxicity being pumped into your veins.

I get it – everyone handles death differently. No loss is the same – yada yada yada. But wouldn’t it be fucking nice to have a pamphlet handed to you when shit like this occurs? Your father has passed away. Here is how you deal: insert short list of socially acceptable and permanently relieving responses to the death of a parent.

I know I sound like a sarcastic jackass but I suppose this could be deemed my socially unacceptable, temporarily relieving response to this fucking day that I have experienced every fucking April now for the past four, fucking years. And my over usage of the f-word is my momentary release of anger that motivates me to write this and to get up and go to work in the morning after my dad dies and every day after that and every year after that.

I miss him. I really do. We may have not had the best relationship by any definition of the word but I think that’s part of the reason why I miss him so goddamned much. I believe we could have had a better relationship if he’d had more time on this Earth. But time is a fucking motherfucker – it’s a mind fuck of an illusion and one of the many reasons why a day doesn’t pass where thoughts of mortality do not cross my mind, where I don’t mull over the philosophy of life and death.

I can deduce all of the above to everything happening for a reason and in doing so, I can tell you that one of the most valuable lessons I learned from all of it is to never use, “There’s always tomorrow” or “This can wait” or any other variation of time-related expressions because quite frankly, there may not be a tomorrow and what are we waiting for exactly?

I wonder if my dad thought or said aloud that Sunday, April 10th in 2011, “I can take care of this tomorrow.” He, unfortunately, didn’t have a tomorrow. In fact, he was about an hour and a half shy of another tomorrow. If we’re inevitably going to utilize time as a deciding factor in our lives and in our actions, then we should use it as if we’re all going to be an hour and a half shy of another tomorrow.

Rest in Peace, Dad. I love you.

Rest in Peace, Dad. I love you.

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It’s Suicide

I fear I’m killing myself with stress and anxiety,” I anxiously confessed to my therapist this past Saturday.

And I’ve been avoiding this – the writing, the grief – all of it. I’ve been dodging the question, “Are you going to do anything for your mom’s birthday” which is tomorrow, April 8th – her would-be 60th. This time of the year just happens to be one of those times, like the holidays, that I would much rather curl up in the fetal position, underneath the covers of my comfy bed and pass the fuck out. Don’t wake me until the end of May. Nah, better yet, make it June just to be safe.

Dates and times have this uncanny significance and strong connection in our minds. I’ll ask myself why I’m feeling so down, why I’m depressed for seemingly “no reason” and then I’ll recall that my mama’s birthday is Wednesday, the same day my nonna passed away three years ago and this Friday, the 10th, will mark four years since I lost my dad to his two year battle with lung cancer.

Alas, I cannot just sleep through these types of things but what I can do is practice the art of avoidance, of distraction. Unfortunately and fortunately, depending on which perspective you are looking from, I’ve become very good at it. So good, in fact, I’ve been lying to myself and to you, my readers, for quite some time. By no means was this lie intentional but it has come to my attention that I have not been grieving after all and this is unfortunate.

My heightened ability to distract myself has resulted in sudden anxiety attacks at the most inopportune times – not that there’s ever an opportune moment to suffer an anxiety attack. They’re highly unpleasant to put it mildly. I’m not going to delve into the nitty-gritty details of these attacks but suffice it to say that the inner self-work I am conducting on a daily basis is about to be taken to the next level with the hopes and the goal that I can find some relief.

One of the ways in which I avoid and justify my lack of grieving is by asking myself and others, “What’s the point?” If I really took the time and endeavored to answer that question, I reckon I’d discover a very large point, perhaps several large points, but as of right now, it is all too painful. Baby steps, I suppose? I place a question mark there because I’m clueless right now – I don’t know what it’s going to take.

Almost four years ago, I lost the most important person in my life. I can’t even do much more describing of her than that – the most important person in my life. Yes, it is true but there’s so much more to her and yes, I’m speaking in present tense because just because her body is gone doesn’t mean her impression and her extraordinary contributions to this world and those around her are gone. And as I’m typing this, I’m getting angry and as I’m describing to you in the present moment my very emotions, I feel like a scared little girl who wants to run and hide in her fucking closet from the boogie man, the monsters under the bed – from grief.

And the self-coaching continues – that was good, Linds. Let it out. But is it really good? Is it really as simple as stating how goddamned angry I am because I can’t pick up the phone tomorrow and wish my mother a happy 60th birthday or send her a birthday card via snail mail? She used to write me all the time when I first moved away to college. I did the same. I can recall being in sketching class, writing my mama a four-page letter rather than sketching the latest Vogue magazine cover girl. Perhaps that’s why I suck at it so bad and resorted to a career using the computer instead of the pencil.

There ya go, Linds – you’re reminiscing. You’re conjuring up a lovely memory, one that you haven’t thought of in quite some time, the inner voice continues.

I’m still completely ignorant as to how to healthily mourn the loss of my mother without feeling like I’m going to stop breathing, like my heart has literally been ripped from my chest by the boogie man since I didn’t really believe in the whole monsters under the bed BS. As I typed the word, “healthily” in reference to mourning, I wondered if there really is a healthy manner in which to mourn? Some, including myself, might even argue that self-medicating isn’t necessarily healthy but it sure as shit helps at times. *See WINE

So, there ya have it – I lied. I’ve just been putting one foot in front of the other asking the world and myself along the way, “What’s the point?” Living my life as an orphan who is too prideful and too untrusting to ask for help when she needs it, I’ve adapted to a life with so much to look forward to, so much too painful to look back at and an unsettling present that constantly feels like it’s missing something. I’ve adapted to always expecting the worst and to not being fazed if and when the worst commences because, “What’s the point?” After all, life’s too short – There’s no time to be debilitated by grief.

I think the crucial part that I’ve been missing in this whole avoidance of grief’s burden, however, is that it will eventually catch up to me and unless I allow it to take its natural course and learn how to manage it, I will continue to commit a very slow suicide.

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Unconscious Choices and Lessons in Loss

His rigid, expression stared down at the paper in front of him as his signature fluidly made its way into each blank space where it was needed. The unfamiliar scent of his heavy cologne wafted into my nostrils as niceties were traded and small talk was thankfully avoided. Any amount of pleasantries probably would have triggered my inevitable anger. David and I hadn’t seen each other in almost a year and I’m pretty certain I can speak for both of us when I state that this wasn’t exactly a meet up either of us were looking forward to.

The fifteen-minute exchange was all business this past Saturday morning at a valley Coffee Bean as I informed David on the status of our divorce while obtaining his signature in all of the necessary places. Eye contact was easily kept to the bare minimum what with the numerous pages of legal paperwork on the table in front of us. As he filled in all of his information, I found myself willfully introspecting.

Here was this person in front of me, whom I had once been in love with, whom I had married and planned on spending the rest of my life with and now who was, essentially, a complete stranger. I pondered the possibility that maybe there was still a part of that David in there just as maybe there was still a part of the Lindsay he once loved in me. Perhaps the most interesting part of it all is the complete lack of love I feel for him now, that even though I was assessing these things, it wasn’t because I was hoping to somehow feel that again, but simply because human behavior, the psyche, the heart and the mind all intrigue me on such a profound level. I am constantly wondering what, why, when, where and how.

And just to keep things completely honest, I may not be in love with David nor do I even love him anymore but I am compassionate. I feel my own and others’ emotions so deeply that I couldn’t possibly pretend I didn’t spend three plus years of my life with this human being. It was absolutely fascinating to me that after years of good and bad experiences, joys, struggles, tragedies – life – that once significant relationship can straightforwardly be deduced to fifteen swift minutes of a Spring morning at a chain coffee shop. Fascinating – and rather, sad.

Furthermore, what was of particular interest to me was that the life-changing and recent realization I came to did not cross my mind while sitting mere inches away from David until after we had departed ways. Just a few short weeks ago, I had what I deem, for lack of better terms, a breakthrough during the course of my weekly therapy. It was brought to my unexpected attention that I unconsciously chose David because I was going to need someone, a grand distraction, from the tragic loss that would soon beget my existence. Dealing with the manic ups and downs of my relationship and “taking care” of someone else allowed me no time to face the overwhelming grief of losing my mother.

As this understanding came to fruition, I began to laugh, and not just a mere chuckle, I was cracking up. The unfathomable sense of it all moved me to extreme humor. It reminded me of a conversation between David and I after the decision was made to end our marriage. He attempted to degrade our matrimony by unconvincingly stating, “I married you because I thought it was the right thing to do, the next step.” I knew this wasn’t true but had I known then what I know now, I probably would have responded with, “Well, I only chose you because your fucked-up-ness was a colossal, necessary distraction from the death of my mother.” Sounds revengeful and cruel when I put it like that but it truly has been one of the most liberating realizations to date and it has truly allowed me to place David in his proper place of my past.

All of that aside, I infer that the above doesn’t negate the fact that I did love him and I sincerely cared. I think that’s where my head was while I anxiously sat across from him this past Saturday, contemplating all the loss and all that has changed for the better, feeling an impenetrable sense of compassion, primarily for myself. As my therapist noted after my ‘breakthrough,’ “Grief isn’t easy, Lindsay, and sometimes, I don’t think we give you enough credit.”

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A Little Bit of My Dark

My dad’s 61st birthday was a little over a week ago and in the event that you’re just joining the Righteous Revival community (welcome!), he wasn’t here to sing happy birthday to or to blow out any candles. My dad is in that ever so speculated upon, heavily debated place knows as the after life or Heaven or bluntly put, dead.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed the simultaneous shock upon peoples’ faces after I’ve been interrogated about the whereabouts of my parents and my usage of the word, “dead,” escapes my mouth. I don’t use it for the shock value by any means – it’s just what resonates with me more often than “passed away” or “gone home” or any other variation that describes the end of someone’s life.

There are times when I make morbid jokes like the time I shipped my mama’s ashes via FedEx to California from New York and I called my friend, Claudia, to let her know that my mother would be arriving at her doorstep in T minus 4 hours. I sincerely hope you laughed just now or at least chuckled – Claudia thankfully did and even threw in her own addition to the morose quip. It’s how I cope with the otherwise debilitating anger and sadness that can become suffocating if I don’t incorporate at least an ounce of humor into my everyday life which is parentless and has been for the last three and a half years.

I am reminded on a daily basis that I will never celebrate another birthday with either of my parents or mail another Christmas card to either of their addresses. If I have children one day, I will not share in the foretold immense joy of parenthood with either of them– there will never be that shining moment of prideful grandparents that many have the pleasure of basking in. I am constantly reminded of this every waking and, sometimes, sleeping moment of my life and making light of this uncontrollable situation is a necessary means of my emotional survival.

Death has become a familiar part of my thirty years of existence. I often speak openly and freely about my own future departure, utilizing dark humor to decorate the otherwise uncomfortable subject.

“I want “Another one Bites the Dust” to be a part of the soundtrack at my memorial,” I laughingly joke and this is often followed up by an uneven amount of mutual chuckles, I-can’t-believe-you-just-said-that gasps, and worried expressions upon the faces of unwarned ears.

Being on the receiving end of these looks is often a cue of how unfair and unusual it is to find oneself cozying up to end of life ideas as if it is somehow natural, as if the fear is nonexistent and I somehow find comfort in death’s certainty.

If my dad and I could have some more time together, I would ask him what he found comfort in, if anything, during his last few days. I would ask him what he feared, not only at the end of his life but during the majority of his life. Fear, security, vulnerability, means of survival – those four things would be the basis for some epic getting-to-know-you conversations. Who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll be granted that opportunity.

Until then, I’ll be gentler with myself, knowing that fear is inevitable but it can be managed, it can be lived with. And by live, I sincerely mean living, consciously, absolutely. A lesson I am aggressively learning currently is that being vulnerable does not mean being weak. When vulnerability is active, the fears have a way of thriving but that fear can be managed. One of the quickest ways to managing that fear is allowing oneself to be vulnerable, to be human and opening yourself to acknowledging those fears – where they come from, what they mean, for when one is vulnerable, one can be deeply and wholly honest with him or herself.

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