a hazy summer

BestoftheVineyard
via L.A. Brown Photography/Martha’s Vineyard Magazine

How precious of me.

I thought I’d just spend my summer writing, while mulling over my journal at the beach, painting outdoors and hiking every trail with meditation walks on this lovely little island.  Sure, I’d fit in my social media duties and work, as well. It was going to be summer on the island, just like it used to be.

I knew it would get busy. I knew our little bar would get busy. I knew that the population of this island was going to grow by 100,000 tourists. I knew all of this.

But, wow.

At night, I take off my eye make-up with a slather of coconut oil and there is a moment of hazy blindness before I rinse if all off. (LivingLola beauty tip: Coconut Oil is like magic. You’re welcome.) This summer is that hazy blindness, except there is no rinsing off the cloudiness of the past eight weeks of crazy busy. It is all a blur.

I never expected to work this hard for a bar, of all things. But, I have to say, I have enjoyed the challenge.  It has been a good kind of getting-to-test-yourself kind of crazy. I think I may have even found my limit. So, I’ve got that now.

I look at what Larkin and I have built; the friendships that we are establishing, the life we are creating, the strides we are making.  Turning this little iconic 70-year-old bar into what we have coined, “the best little live dive on the rock”. LivingLolaFunFact: Many islanders refer to Martha’s Vineyard as “the rock”.

We are honored and humbled. Blessed with accolades, news articles, interviews and we even made the New York Times. Not bad for our first year. Larkin and I have a knack, a way of making things happen when we are both on the same page, in the zone. Our flow is amazing, almost a yellow brick road to success, as long as we are both headed in the same direction.

If either of us gets distracted or are not fully on board for a project, that is when we wobble, or worse, fall. I don’t mind falling. We are one bad ass team when it comes to getting back up. We’ve had our share of practice time in our 28 years together.

Now, we are in the home stretch of tourist season. Labor Day is a week away and I can even feel a cool, pumpkin spiced breeze outside this morning, as I write. Before you know it, Summer 2015 will be in the books as our first full summer in business.

Remarkably, after all this time, we continue to learn more about each other. New strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. Talents that we had never expressed and abilities that we learned together and tested our character and values along the way. Hey, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

 When the going felt wobbly, we wobbled right over to the beach; even just to watch a sunset. Above all, we learned how to stop and look around. We get to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. This is why we live here. There is so much to take in and we want to make sure we remind each other to do just that.

We work from home. Together. Every day.

It’s good for us to get out of the cottage/office and go somewhere else to unwind and reconnect.

At the beach, we’ve discovered that everything immediately seems positive, feels less overwhelming and is calming and rejuvenating, at the same time. We are able to check ourselves that indeed, we are still in the zone, together. I believe that this is key to a happy marriage. (Ahem, are my two brides-to-be reading this?)

I have been coming to MV since the 90’s, and this Gulf Coast girl had NEVER been in the Atlantic until this summer. I’ve discovered I love swimming in the ocean. Yes, I know that this is where “Jaws” was filmed. Floating, looking up at the vast blue sky puts all the stress and hard work into perspective.

Just another item in the something new and different column that I have learned about myself. It has made me think, what else am I going to learn to love? Learn to do? I am 9 months away from turning 50. It’s invigorating to think that there is still so much to learn, more to do, more to BE.

A Whole New Me to Be!  Kind of sounds like an undiscovered Dr. Seuss book.

So, what did you learn over your summer vacation?

Isaktashmooquote

Oh, and I learned to do graphic art, too.

a new year high

Part One: The end of the beginning

Trout Creek, Montana
Trout Creek, Montana

We were told only to dress warmly. The guides provided Brawny Man snow boots and gloves. They gathered the eight anxious and emotionally worn families, assured us that we would have “fun” and we headed out.

In knee-deep snow, I quickly found a cadence that allowed myself to navigate the loose powder like a gazelle, prancing over a billowy blanket. The scenery can only be described as Mother Nature at her finest meets…..Fargo.

Ahead of us, the pristine, untouched snow represented the hope and dreams of every person on that trip. By simply looking behind us, our footsteps and the wrecked, demolition of nature in our wake represented why we were on this adventure, in the first place.

For fifteen minutes we trudged, Jordan and Larkin at my sides, we were already giggling. “Where are they taking us?”  Joshua walked ahead with his new friends. I thought to myself, “He’s only know these guys for 30 days and they know everything about each other.” Then, I realized, “Hell, I’ve just met these other parents 4 days ago and I will remember them forever.” Let’s just say, you really get to know folks pretty quickly in a “group” setting.

What a week. Starting the New Year, 2013,  in Montana. At a young men’s rehab facility. What was it, that Dr. Seuss said? Ah, yes…”Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

Larkin and I were not blind sighted by our son’s addiction to prescription pills. Addiction runs loyal  and deep on the male side of our family. Hello? Remember my brother-in-law’s book? (And yes, he is named after his uncle.)

Still, you’re really never prepared to watch your child pour out his heart, declare his failures and share his darkest secrets in a big circle of strangers under fluorescent lighting.

I had never been to any kind of group therapy/meeting. I had always said my last name when I met new people and I most certainly had never heard my name echoed right back to me, by a room full of people who looked exactly how I felt. Heartbroken, terrified and clueless.

We were all shell-shocked families gathering in a warm cabin, remarkably sharing the same story. We were all the same. Sure, different backgrounds, different settings. But, we all had the same questions burned into our eyes, written all over our faces…will THIS work? Is this nightmare over?

On that last morning of Family Week, a year ago today, we trudged into the woods for our “Family Course Challenge”. The counselors asked our sons, ages 14-22, to blindfold their families and asked us to be silent. (Ha!)  Joshua tightened the bandana around my head and I quickly realized I didn’t have my bearings as to where Jordan and Larkin had ended up. Our sons gently maneuvered us into a line and we were told to grab the rope to our right.

Where? What rope? Where? Oh, whew, okay I got it, I got it. No talking! Ssshhh. Silence, please!

The guide announced that we would be taking a hike. Blindfolded. In silence. In three feet of snow. Led by a bunch of addicts.

Awesome.

Our chain gang began the hike gingerly, each of us trying to step accurately without falling. It was made difficult by each of the 16 people blindly tugging and pulling on the same rope. We must all look drunk right now. It took us all a few minutes to steady ourselves, but we developed a rhythm quite quick.

After awhile, I found myself in the groove; even daydreaming about the sound of the quiet. I was really taking in the sounds; my boots crunching in the snow, the group’s collective breathing, a lonely bird cawing overhead. Probably a vulture biding his time, I thought, surely one of us is going down.

The crisp, fresh air felt like an astringent on my face. Funny, I wasn’t even cold. I was just in the moment.

Then, up ahead, the path became rocky and one of the moms bobbled. The rope started to lurch forward and I immediately felt a panic mixed with vulnerability and competitiveness. “There is no way I’m falling!” 

Oh, no…I can’t yell and I’m starting…to… to fall…wait, no…oh!

In one superhero-like flash, two powerful hands grabbed my shoulders from behind me, caught me before I could fall, straightened me right up and whispered in my ear:

I got you, mama.

My breath stopped. It was so quiet that I felt my beautiful baby boy’s whisper echo right through me, into the trees and out into the morning air. “I got you, mama.” I hadn’t even realized that Joshua was near me, watching me struggle blindly. Literally.

That gesture, him catching me; taking care of me, overwhelmed me in an instant. I recognized the cold that very moment, as those first hot tears spilled down my face in silence. My son saved me from falling.

Just like we were trying to save him.

Every time I recall this story, my throat catches. It is hands down, one of the top five most precious moments of my life. That hike, that day, that whole week, actually. The love, strength and honesty we shared with each other, with total strangers, was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.

If you would’ve told me that one of my best New Year’s ever would be “Family Week” at a substance rehabilitation facility, in the mountains of Montana, I would’ve simply replied:  “You must be high.”

 

one year and countingone year and counting

 

I gave myself a full year, before I shared our story. I am more than proud that Joshua chose help and committed to this path, made even more challenging as he is a college student. As hard as it was, I can honestly say, that 2013 was a great year for our son. 

If you have a loved one in your life that has a substance addiction, please do not feel alone. Get to an Al-Anon meeting, find a trusted friend or get in touch with me. Keeping it to yourself only adds to the fear. I promise you, it is more common than you think. You are not alone. 

inspiration for 2014

I know we have that kind of relationship. We don’t talk everyday. Yet, when we finally get together, it’s like time hasn’t passed. We don’t skip a beat. Just that kind of relationship.

I don’t want to be a buzz kill on NYE, but I am so ready for 2013 to be over. To end the longest year ever, I wanted to give you some straight up Living Lola inspiration.  Spunky anecdotes that really helped me through this tumultuous year.

These past few days have been filled with sending our kids back to their cities, cleaning out the fridge (so much damn food; Resolution #1: less waste) and willing the evergreen garland to last until the New Year or at least, heavy trash day.

The end of the holiday season always brings a little melancholy with that certain spark of hope. A clean start.  A new year.  Right after you throw out the gross food and dead evergreen remains.

Gratitude. Inspiration. Motivation. ‘Tis inevitable.

There is much to be thankful for, but there is also much work to be done. Larkin and I have big changes coming in 2014. I was just about to start making my lists, my resolutions, my game plan. Then, on the corner of Overwhelming and It Will Never Happen, I came across this:

This.

Elana Miller, MD
Elana Miller, MD

*Beep. Beep. Beep.*….Back it up.

Twitter is a funny thing. You read 140 words from people who are like-minded. People who share your interests. People who make you laugh with the scroll of a thumb. People you’d like to drink with at a cozy, neighborhood bar.

@ElanaMD has inspired me, made me laugh, offered advice.  And, “Holy Shit…” she has cancer. She could probably use a drink, too. Her blog post announcing her diagnosis will make you reevaluate your NY resolutions. Her humanity and candor will inspire you. I welled up reading her blog post, filled with emotion. She’s on my Twitter feed, for Godsakes!

Do we cry over Twitter/blogger relationships? (Do we really capitalize “blogger” or is WordPress spellcheck just fucking with me? (Resolution #2: less colorful language)

Well, I say “yes.” (To the first question, of course. Screw the capital ‘B’. Unless you’re Beyoncé, which obviously starts with a “Queen”, anyway.)

My Twitter feed is a personal, custom-made window to the world, as I choose to see it. Roger Ebert’s amazing tweets left a huge, gaping hole that I still miss. There are just some social media relationships that cannot be replaced.

I submit Dr. Elana Miller’s story for your 2014 Inspiration consideration.

LIVE your life and PRAY for hers. Pretty simple.

My story can wait. After all, we do have that kind of relationship.

 

Find amazing articles regarding mental wellness at www.zenpsychiatry.com. She really is brilliant.