Saturday, September 17, 2016

Unusual Coworkers....

I spend my office hours working in a big home, equipped to house up to thirty survivors of domestic violence and/or sexual abuse - in seven bedrooms of various sizes with creative bedding arrangements on one side and administrative/finance offices on the other. The house has two large kitchens, two spacious living rooms, four bathrooms, a laundry room, and an expansive yard. The organization for which I work acquired the house from the county nearly twenty years ago. It had been a hotbed for the local drug trade and some bad things went down inside its walls.

Until recently, the house bustled with those who lived there, healing themselves and figuring out how to begin again. Those of us whose pleasure it was to support them on their journey worked in the background. Kids ran the hallways, climbed the furniture, laughed, and shouted, doing all of the things that healthy kids do. (Time and again, I was amazed by the resiliency of youth. In spite of witnessing horrific violence, our young friends had the ability to open their hearts and trust strangers.) The house was almost never completely quiet; someone was up, watching TV or doing laundry or making food.

All of that changed.

The shelter is temporarily closed. Bedrooms are emptied of inhabitants and their meager, but treasured belongings. Hallways are dark and silent and the TVs disconnected.The washing machines that seemed to run 24/7 no longer rattle the floorboards beneath them. Cupboards are bare and the backyard swings sit motionless.

Only one person rattles around the house now. Well, that's not entirely true. Only one, flesh and blood person.

I share a seemingly empty house with at least a few other "people". That's how I chose to see them. At one time, they were just like you and me. They had families and jobs, looked forward to holidays and made weekend plans. Perhaps they've had difficulty making the transition from our world to theirs, or maybe they simply enjoy walking around the home they once called their own. Whatever the reason, we are sharing the space. I continue to search for the balance between being respectful of them while standing firm that I have work to do and don't want to be bothered.

These spiritual beings remind me of my children as preschoolers. They do as they please.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Follow The Light

I'm pleased to report that lots of good things are happening in my life. It was only a matter of time, I suppose. Nothing remains the same. Everything is in a constant state of change. That's both comforting and unsettling, isn't it?

The new beginnings began with a job that I love - one that requires almost no interaction with other humans. I'm once again working for the Domestic Abuse Shelter, but this time around I'm the finance person. Yeah, their only one. I work in a shelter that's temporarily closed to survivors, so I'm the only person working in a big, ole house. I play music and sing as I post adjustments to the financial system, process payroll, and pay the bills. It is the perfect indoor job for me. (My only complaint is that I no longer have a maintenance man to rely on. He put the hurricane shutters on at the end of August in preparation for the potential approach of a storm, then the shelter closed, and he relocated to Key West. So....I'm working in a house all day with covered windows. There is no natural light and I can't look outside. Weird, but they tell me they'll take them down in early December. By then I might be rather mole-like.)

After the job was secured, we found a great place to live. We are officially out of the jungle and away from its frightening inhabitants and back on the water. It feels so good to look out and see the ocean smiling at me. I missed being so close to her. I missed her smell and the calming affect she has on my soul. I can't imagine better therapy for sadness, restlessness, and anything else that might ail.

We still have a few boxes to unpack, but for the most part, we are settled and it already feels like home. I am content to just putter around the house moving things around until they seem happy. I'm very content here. Our jungle house was not a comfortable place to be; the bugs and scary things that lurked around the yard kept us inside all of the time. There was no view, except thick jungle and spider webs. Shortly after dusk each evening, spiders crept out from the dense foliage and covered our cars. They even made their way inside, only to show themselves while we drove, helpless to do much about it. That's over. No more nightly takeovers by those many-legged demons. We're graced with beautiful, salty breezes and a perpetual view of Mother Ocean.

The recklessness I felt has mostly subsided. Commitment doesn't seem to be an issue, either. I'm calm and happy and feel whole again.

I continue to follow the light.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Search Continues...

It probably shouldn't have come as a surprise, but it did. I'm not always as bright as I'd like to believe that I am.

Ending a twenty-three-year relationship causes a domino effect that impacts nearly every aspect of one's being. There are parts of me that I wasn't consciously aware of until they were thrown out of whack and then they began to re-calibrate and search for a new rhythm. Those unfamiliar pieces are incredibly distracting because they suddenly require attention and care. It's like waking up to find you have another arm or leg or a box full of kittens to take care of. Your wardrobe no longer fits properly and you're chasing demons in every direction.

It took years to make the decision to end a relationship that had spanned more than twenty years. It provided great times and babies and love. There was clear purpose and a plan. There was no fear of insufficient funds or doubt about the future. There was only contented happiness and security.

Things change. That's the simple truth. People change. That's also true. As I mature, I'm willing less willing to sacrifice my happiness and sense of right/wrong in order to keep the peace. To hell with the peace. There is no peace if I'm accepting less than I need/deserve in order to make someone else happy. That's crazy.

There is no blame. There is only here, where my decisions have brought me. This place is chaotic.

I find myself unable to commit to anything. Not a single thing - except the unending love for my children. Beyond that, I'm a loose cannon. I've had three crappy jobs in the past four months, each of them unsatisfying in different ways; poor pay, lack of challenge, crappy hours, ignoramus business owners, etc. You get the idea. Some of that is symptomatic of living on this island, but I take responsibility for a portion of it, too. I'm all over the place.

Let me share just one example. On my way to work Friday - which currently involves sitting at a desk in an air-conditioned office with a micromanaging, narcissist female boss who doesn't remember the direction she so specifically dished out four hours prior - I stopped at a newly-opened Starbucks because I saw an ad for managers (I'm not kidding). The place was packed with loud tourists, so I left. Then I swung into the delicious French cafe where my daughter works to shamelessly beg for a job while picking up an iced coffee. I was hoping to find a new job on the spot at almost any location and never return to the black hole that is currently my job.

Stop right there.

The Starbucks job and the cafe job would 1) pay less than my current situation; 2) involve dealing with the public, which probably isn't wise at this point in my evolution because I feel reckless; and 3) require working holidays, which we all know is unacceptable. So why did I do it? Good question.

I am unable to commit to a damn thing right now. I'd seriously cherish a job driving a garbage truck, a mail truck, or the mosquito truck. I'd jump at the opportunity to work in a bakery or prep food in a restaurant kitchen. I'd restock books at a library (if we had one that was bigger than a trailer) or perform data entry from my laptop. I'd walk dogs, house-sit, paint interiors, or care for plants in an outdoor nursery.

I just noticed a commonality among those positions. Did you see it? NOT dealing with others. (This is why I blog. It's really not for you, dear reader. It helps me to think and clear the mental cobwebs. Don't take it personally.) I don't want to be forced to interact and engage. Bam!

Why am I feeling so anti-social? I think it gets back to the first paragraph. I'm suddenly aware of pieces of me that are currently out-of-whack and until I figure out where they fit, I'm unwilling (or incapable) of dealing with other people's drama or lack of manners. I need to focus on me. That's all. I don't have space for anyone else right now. I just want to spend time rebuilding me.

So,.....I begin the search for a job in which I don't have to talk to anyone or be nice/cheerful/smiling when I'd rather be silent and think.

Suggestions and leads most welcome.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


Great news came my way yesterday and I'm still grinning. Are you ready to hear it? Brace yourself for unprecedented happiness and joy.

My son's aircraft carrier - the USS Harry S Truman - is on its way back to home port from the Mediterranean, where it's been bombing the hell out of ISIS targets for the past nine months. Zak's on his way back to Norfolk!!!!!!

I've not seen his handsome face since late October 2015 when he and his beautiful girlfriend came home for a short visit. I've not heard my son's voice since early November when he called from the pier before the ship left port. I tried to be tough as I told him that it wouldn't be that bad, that time would go quickly, and that his six-year commitment to Uncle Sam was almost over. I realize now that I spoke those words for my benefit as much as his. I tried not to cry because he needed me to be strong, but I failed. We said goodbye through tears and hearing the call drop made my heart break. I've not heard his voice since then.

We go nearly a year - sometimes more than that - without being able to talk to/see him, so on those rare occasions when we do, it's pretty damn emotional for me. Peanut might be 24 years old, but he's still my baby boy and it hurts to go all the way around the sun without having him in my daily life. It's so great when I do get the opportunity to see him, but those visits are always very short. When they come to the inevitable screeching halt, I'm a sorry, hot mess. His last visit was no exception.

The day Zak and Kaley were scheduled to fly back to Norfolk so that he could report to the ship, I was physically ill and unable to hold back the tears...before they were even to the table for breakfast. Rather than hanging out while they packed and then waving from the front yard as they drove away - like a normal mom would have done - I said my tearful goodbye and hit the road. I drove and sobbed and ached on my own until they were gone, then I went home and held Lauren tightly before going to bed to cry myself to sleep.

Pathetic? Perhaps to some of you, but I happen to adore my children. I love being around them, listening to them, and laughing with them. Enduring a year or more without either of them is truly painful. The infrequent reunions are sweet, but the unavoidable goodbyes hurt worse each time.

Hopefully, that's about to change! I think this should be Peanut's last lengthy deployment. His enlistment ends in February 2017, so with the exception of a few short deployments between now and then, he should be able to keep both feet on solid ground, which means that I should be able to hear his voice on the phone and one day soon (not soon enough), I'll be able to wrap my arms around him again.

I'm proud of you, Peanut. I love you and can't wait to see your cute little face.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


The past two weeks have been a roller coaster of ups and downs, unpredictably alternating between exhilaration and stomach-churning. It's not surprising, really, when you consider that twenty-three years of something that was once quite wonderful came to an official end. Endings can be difficult and this one certainly fell into that category. I mourned that ending, but that, too, is over.

After getting furloughed in early May, I spent the next six weeks in a professional funk. Unable to find a full-time position with benefits, I took whatever jobs I could find to keep money coming in. There are these pesky things called bills that don't stop coming in just because you lose your job. The landlord and the car insurance folks don't care about your employment status. They want their damn money, honey. So, I kept telling myself, "Chin up, girl, it's only temporary", while I worked two part-time jobs that I didn't love. In fact, I'll admit that I really disliked one of them, but it was money and a momma does what a momma has to do. Even my sweet baby girl found a full-time job. (When we figured out that she was earning more at 17 yrs old than I could make at 48, I really felt good about myself.) After a particularly bad day at the restaurant, when I came home with empty pockets because not a single beer drinker came in, I was just plain worried that we might end up living in our car. I didn't sleep much that night.

Monday morning, before I left for work, I applied online to an ad on Craig's List. The owner of the company called later that afternoon, but I wasn't able to answer because I was looking at an empty restaurant, wondering how Lauren, Bear, and I would all live in my car. Thankfully, the night was busy and I made great money and went home feeling more positive about our future. I returned the call on Tuesday morning and was asked to interview.

I'm proud to say that I accepted a new job with a nice little business about ten miles from home. I'm excited to go back to a professional setting and work with professional people. The pay can't compare to federal government pay in DC, of course, but it's good for the Keys. The best part is that it's consistent and reliable and there's potential for growth. (I'm not talking about my dress size, either. That's a given.) We will not have to live in a car!

In celebration of my new gig, I dumped the crappiest of my part-time jobs toute suite. Sayonara. Adios. Au Revoir. Good riddance. That felt really good. I wanted to quit twice, just to experience the joy more fully, but they wouldn't take my call. Huh. Odd.

So I go into the 4th of July weekend full of positivity and hope for the future. On this Independence Day, my freedom has new meaning. My life has new meaning. I am free. I am independent. Every choice I make will be my own. I will do only what I want to do. If it makes me unhappy, I just won't do it. What a fucking concept!!!

Embrace your personal freedom, readers!!! Celebrate Independence Day with a bang. (You may interpret that however your little ole heart desires.)

Friday, June 17, 2016

Tears from above

Yesterday, I did one of the hardest things I've ever done. I divorced the man to whom I'd been married for most of my adult life. A man in whom I'd placed all my trust, love, and devotion. When we got married, I knew it would be forever because we both understood the importance of working hard to keep a relationship strong and healthy.

Unlike all of the other couples waiting in the courtroom for their time before the magistrate, we sat next to each other. We waited together while others exchanged sneering, snarling looks across the room. We took turns crying while the other held it together.

When called to the front of the court room, we stood next to each other at the podium, rather than on opposite sides of the aisle. We provided the court with a dissolution agreement. Nothing was being disputed; there wasn't anything for the judge to sort out or settle.

"Ms. Lavell, since you were the petitioner, will you please tell the court why this marriage can't be saved?"

I began to cry. "Not without crying."

The judge looked like she, too, might cry. Doug was way ahead of her. "Irreconcilable differences?" she asked with a sad smile.

I nodded.

Less than two minutes later, it was over. The judge told us that sometimes people turn out to be better friends after divorce than they were while married. We walked out together, just as we'd walked in.

Outside the courthouse, we were greeted with a torrential downpour. I'd left my car windows open. My cloth seat was a soggy, wet sponge upon which I sat while I cried all the way home with the windows still open.

Saturday, June 11, 2016


I've done a wee bit of attitude adjusting since my last post, although rest assured I still have one, but today it's more positive than it was a week or so ago. That's due in part to Lauren who always brightens my day with her unconditional, adoring love and cuteness. Some is due to friends near and far who tickle my funny bone, which we all know is my favorite cure for whatever ails. Then there's Ireland. She's there, waiting for my inevitable return.

Lauren and I have been tossing around the idea of when to go. I'm working two part-time jobs (while faithfully searching for a full-time one with benefits), and now that school is out, she too is working two jobs. While we'd really like to touch down in the Motherland this summer, it's just not a realistic goal. We talked about going at Christmastime, but that presents a host of other challenges that make it less than ideal. So....we've settled on a spring break visit!!

March 2017 = Ireland

Buy the t-shirt while they last. It promises to be one hell of an adventure!! It will be our last trip of her high school years. Whoa. That in and of itself is a milestone, but add to that recipe for greatness that we're doing it in the Emerald Isle and shazam!

But that's not all!

We're going to first fly to Italy or Spain or France or (insert name of EU country here), buy euro-rail passes, and explore some new places for a few days...just to broaden our horizons and build the anticipation. Then we'll fly to Eire (Ireland) to be cradled in her green embrace.

With that beautiful daydream in mind, I'm off to sling fish sandwiches and beers all weekend in a dive by the sea. We can't go without the dough.

Have a helluva great weekend, readers. May you dream big and bold!