Still running (after all these years)

i do it for the sunsets

I’ve been a runner for about 5 years. I still feel funny calling myself one, but read an article a few years ago that said if you accumulate piles of sweaty clothes on the floor, you get to call yourself a runner. And so I am a runner.

I started running when I was about 6 months sober. I’d gained about 10 pounds when I quit drinking. How could this have happened when I’d cut out easily 1,000 calories a day? Witchcraft possibly, though more likely dessert even if I still can’t get the math to come out right.

Most of us feel the octopus effect when we give up drinking, that sly tentacle reach for another substance once we manage to get one in check. For many it’s food because food is delicious and comforting and we need it to survive so there’s always plenty around.

Running became a way for me to lose that extra weight but it turned into its own reward. Here is why it continues to work for me.

It costs nothing to run. 

This of course is not strictly true. We must invest in a pair of good running shoes. I buy my $100 pair for half-price when our local running store holds a sidewalk sale on last year’s models. I get running clothes on the cheap because I’ve found all brands trap the stink. Race fees add up if you’re into that sort of thing. Most of my running is done on roads where I live, which costs me absolutely nothing.

Then a funny thing happens a couple times a year and takes me by surprise every time: daylight fucking savings. I go from the freedom of being able to run safely outside before work or after dinner to not at all. So I join Planet Fitness because it’s $10 a month and I can run on treadmills and occasionally get hit on by old men. One guy said “I want you for Christmas” only I had earbuds in and took them out because I thought he was trying to tell me something less disturbing. Christmas had just passed like a month ago.  Then he talked about his wife for a few minutes and continued making the rounds to the other ladies on his super early Christmas list. His wife was not going to have a good Christmas.

There are also too many TVs at the gym. Bad news and infomercials splayed like gutted fish. I take my glasses off at the gym so everything is fuzzy and leave my earbuds in. I do this because it’s only temporary and in order to be a runner I have to keep generating sweaty piles of clothes.

I get to do it by myself. 

This is notwithstanding awkward social encounters at the gym, i.e. see above or that time an attendant had to ask me to switch machines because mine was making a funny noise, me red-faced thinking I broke it with cloddish heft though maybe it was furious effort or the fact that a hundred people use it per day.

For some, running is a social activity. I see lots of women chat side-by-side on treadmills. My sister belongs to a running group that meets on Sundays to run 10 miles over hills on purpose. Somehow it still sounds fun, but I’m a solo runner. The first time I slipped out the front door in sneakers and earbuds, I looked back for the spotlight and prison guards. I was really getting away with something, a working mother of two with this delicious hour to myself with no questions or demands.

Running also gives me time to think. I’ve pre-written almost as many blog posts on a run as I have in the car, and I spend way more time there. I love being in my own head, listening to favorite songs. I love spending time in nature. One morning I saw 2 doe, 2 fawns (still with polka dots), a heron, a fox, a half-dozen squirrels and at least a dozen bunnies, plus a guy walking a dog. This was all in the span of a half hour.

I don’t have to be the best, which is really fortunate. 

I used to feel embarrassed by my pace. Others made the point that at least I was getting out there or that it wasn’t a race, though sometimes it literally was. In five years of running, I haven’t gotten a whole lot faster. The longest distance I’ve run is about 8 miles, which is a far cry from a marathon. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to run a marathon. I also don’t want to put the work in to get a lot faster. I stopped tracking pace and distance in spring so I literally don’t know how fast or far I’m running.  I do feel stronger and leaner the more I run. I get to eat 5 cookies and still fit into my pants. Those are the numbers I care about.

Running makes me feel good. 

Let me be clear that I do not feel good while running. Around the 15 minute mark I usually feel better than I did at the 5 minute mark, but it isn’t like getting a massage or taking a nap. Running, like any strenuous activity, is really hard. What feels great is being done with the run. I literally get an endorphin boost so that I feel a little high for about an hour afterwards. (There is no subsequent crash either.) Mostly I suspect it feels good because I know I got out there and did it.

I get to share it with others. 

This goes against what I said about it being a solo activity, but both of my daughters run too. I wonder sometimes if I’m like a pageant mom who strong armed them into it, but I don’t think so. Or maybe I made running look good, though I’ve seen myself in the mirror afterwards and don’t think that’s it.

My oldest is in her second year of high school cross country. Those girls are hard core. They got up at 6:30 am six days a week all summer long and ran 3-5 miles in some of the hottest, muggiest weather I can recall. My daughter did this despite the very real fear she would not make the team. In fact, she fell short in the timed trial, but the coach let her stay on and she’s well aware what it feels like to be the caboose. She’s the kid who crosses the finish line after some spectators move on because they assume the race is over. Each time she gets close to the finish line, I cheer loud and tear up because I know it’s fucking hard not only to run but to be the very last one. I’m beyond proud of her.

My youngest is about to start a running program at her elementary school. We got her new running shoes and gave a pep talk about how it takes time and practice to get better and stronger. She is not brand new to running so she knows this already. In December, her and I and maybe her sister too will run a 5K race to celebrate end of season. Three miles is almost a cake walk once you’ve done it a few dozen times, so I’m looking forward to being there for her.

Teenaged me, who couldn’t even run a mile in high school, would be in awe of both of them. Adult me knows running beats booze and boys. Every parent wants a better life for their kids and I hope mine will choose to channel stress into something positive and rewarding.

Running works right now for me, but it won’t forever and it isn’t the only way. There’s also walking or biking or maybe knitting, all of which are easier on joints. The key seems to be finding something that is equal parts torture, er, challenge and reward. Taking the healthier routes seems to naturally lead to the next right path.

Smorgasbord 

Yesterday was one of those rare September Saturdays when we had nothing to do, so of course we fixed that. The four of us loaded into the car and rolled past hills and horse drawn buggies into Amish country. When we stopped for gas, there was a young Amish man in a wide brimmed straw hat and suspenders pulling in on a bike with no pedals. He used a credit card at the pump to fill up one of those red plastic gas containers. The soft curve of his mouth and lack of forehead burrows suggested deep contentment, not unlike the usual expression of a dog or a non-Amish person napping at the beach.

Every time we head out this way, I remember the fantasy I have of running off to join an Amish farm. As with all fantasies, this one is not well thought out and I wonder where it came from. Are the peat farmers perched on gently swaying branches of my family tree to blame? Maybe it was just the smoldering Amish sponge bath scene (the first time the previous five words were strung together on purpose?) from Witness.

If you want to kill an Amish fantasy or any fantasy for that matter, take it to a PA Dutch smorgasbord. We line up like cattle to drink lukewarm pepsi from frosted plastic cups and leave half-eaten pieces of fried chicken for starving pigs. The best part of the buffet are these enormous diorama paintings in the lobby. Everything is over-sized at the smorgasbord, but these feel right.

On the drive home, we muscle through clouds of manure and a town where every resident had the same idea to haul their castoffs out to the lawn and see who will pay money to take it away. Soon the sun will set and they’ll have to pack it all back into boxes or bags and pretend they still love it.

Our kids beg us to have another yard sale, but really they just want to drink lemonade and eat brownies in the front yard while strangers appraise bad decisions with hands folded behind backs, heads cocked to feign interest before moving on to the next bad decision. I find it too embarrassing so instead we drag bigger household items to the curb the moment we’ve decided their joy-bringing days are over and later look out the window and they’re gone, vaporized or beamed to another planet for all I know. Clothing and shoes are tied up in garbage bags and delivered to donation bins within the week by a spouse who fights clutter like its crime.

Even though I’ve never read the book on the Japanese art of decluttering, I do the thing where I ask if each item brings joy and then get rid of it if it doesn’t. It may be unfair to expect that of a pair of boots in the first place, but I had three pair at the back of the closet that brought nothing but pain. Earlier this week I got rid of a pair of shoes because one made a sound not unlike a small squeak toy with each step. I threw them away on a whim at the carwash, placing them neatly at the top of a mound of life detritus and later hoped no one thought “oh look, a new pair of shoes!” It took the doc martens I bought in college over 20 years to start squeaking, and even though I can no longer wear them to work because the hallways are too quiet, I don’t throw them out because they still bring joy.

The cats, in their usual helpful way, take turns climbing into storage bins and on top of clothing piles I’m trying to work with. It gives me an idea for a series of books called Organizing With Cats. Organizing Your Kitchen With Cats, for example, would feature tips about the best way to clean and store cast iron pans alongside photographs of cats resting in stockpots or surveying progress from the top of the refrigerator (protip: assess cleanliness by checking the bottoms of paws) and would make the perfect addition to any yard sale.

Whistler’s Wingman – Guest Post

Please join me in congratulating Whistler on his four years sober. When he hit his first anniversary in September 2013, he wrote a guest post and has done a follow-up every year since. You can read them all HERE.

In this post, Whistler mentions the importance of having a wingman or two (or ten) and I am proud to call him one. I guess we can do just about anything on our own, but sober life gets infinitely better once we share it with others.


 

Well. What do you want to hear about?

I’m pretty sure you don’t want to know about the time before, the drinking years debacle, all that… you’ve probably got your own story. What about right after stopping? You probably know that one too, but let’s say the biggest surprise was the huge amount of time to fill with something other than boozing. I mean really, do the actual math, it’s crazy.

Remember the first six months sober, the first year? Day by day is right. Triggers around every corner…like walking through an airport and seeing a familiar bar full of people, drinking and talking, and feeling that pull. But it gets easier once we learn how to take care of the time and triggers enough to begin to cope and tolerate. Then it becomes less about us and a little more about, well, others.

That was another surprise, learning I wasn’t the only person on the planet that life was happening to. I mean, I knew that and always said I quit drinking because of my son. I thought he needed to see me quit so he would quit drugs. And that was as far as I could imagine what stopping was about. After a while I had to look at drinking right in the eyes and say I quit because I want to live a real life. The funny thing is the more I admitted I wanted to live a real life, the more of me faded away. Just like the romance of alcohol (oh and remember the insane rush to drink every day, like clockwork), those mirage memories, this fades away too. I’m learning to wait a little more patiently at the end of line.

And hey, you know this, but just because one doesn’t drink anymore doesn’t mean our new enlightened life is a bed of roses, right? Fact is there’s lots of leftover junk to deal with and then more junk knocking on the door every time the sun comes up. Difference is we are now in a position to do something with it that makes better sense for us and everyone in our wake.

Oh, last thing learned. If you can get a wingman or two, someone in the fight like you, I highly recommend that. I’m telling you, they make a huge difference. When you’re pulling the sober plow shoulder to shoulder with someone who knows the score, it spreads out the load, such an incredible help. And the sober blogs. Thank ya’ll, you have no idea how you helped keep me in the game. So, sobriety. It’s a trip. It works. And life is a gift. I am very grateful.

 

 

Boo (and my baby)

In early summer, my youngest daughter, Audrey, and I sat down one afternoon and jotted down ideas for our first comic book story together. The subject was Boo, the World’s Cutest Dog, though if you have a dog you probably don’t say the second part in front of him/her. We don’t have a dog even though Audrey has long wanted one almost as bad as her older sister used to want a baby brother or sister. And that became the seed to our storyline, which was then beautifully drawn to life by artist Tony Fleecs.

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A few months later, we have the finished comic book in hand. Audrey is even on the cover! There are three stories – by three different writer/artist teams – featured in Boo Issue #1 and it’s a great read for kids and Boo fans of all ages. You can find it in fine comic shops or buy it digitally HERE.

I grew up reading Richie Rich and Archie and later moved on to MAD. I have some sweet summertime memories involving stacks of comics and sun-warmed chocolate chip cookies. Sigh. Both of my girls have also grown up reading comic books since their dad works in comics, which is how this opportunity came about for Audrey and me. I’ve long harbored desires to write children’s stories, so I can safely say I had a dream come true this summer.

And Audrey, well, she has her face on the cover of a comic book. How cool is that? She shared a couple copies with close friends but has otherwise been playing it cool. We already have another story idea in the works, so fingers crossed.

While we’re talking books, Kary May Hickey of God Walks Into This Bar has her first book available on Amazon (I believe it’s even free today only). It’s a guidebook to recovery through the help of a bustling online community. She is a fantastically smart and funny writer, so I can’t wait to check it out.

 

 

 

Anonymity and Recovery duke it out

I’ve been thinking about anonymity and how my own rubs me the wrong way. I am not ashamed of being sober any more than I’m ashamed of being a mother or wife or employee, but being a sober person doesn’t always fit neatly into those worlds. The fact is many people don’t understand addiction and make assumptions about recovery that are uncomfortable and untrue.

Chances are most people won’t think about my sobriety much at all. But some might think I’m weak for not being able to drink. Some might imagine the terrible things I must have done in order to need to quit in the first place.

I don’t hide the fact that I don’t drink, but I also don’t really bring it up. If someone asks about it, which only occasionally happens, I willingly and openly share my experience. Up to this point, that’s worked fine. By nature, I’m a quiet reserved person.

But here’s the thing about anonymity: at five years sober, it doesn’t sit the same anymore. When it comes to things I am grateful for, sobriety is right up there with my kids, my husband, and the little things like our health…a roof over our heads…cake. To make sobriety drop me off a block away so I can walk up and be like hey, I’m just naturally this way, well, I can do better than that.

Although, come to think of, naturally is exactly what it is. Take the booze away, see what you can be.

The timing on this is kind of perfect since September is National Recovery Month. Even guacamole gets two days out of the year, so you figure recovery deserves at least a month since it not only tastes good but also saves lives. I also just saw via wordpress notification that today is the 5-year anniversary of this here blog, which seems worth mentioning.

 

 

One small way I’ll celebrate is by posting photos of things that help me stay sober via Instagram as part of AfterParty’s Share What Helps You Stay Sober Project. Since I don’t have a separate social media account and follow real life, non-internet acquaintances, some might be surprised. Some might think differently of me. Most already think I post too many cat pictures so I’m not too worried.

Also, here’s a quick plug for AfterParty’s The Top 20 Best Sober Blogs for 2016 and also check out this one from 2015, which includes some of my perennial favorites.

Are you doing anything special to celebrate national recovery month? Please feel free to share in the comments.

Happy Recovery Month and Guacamole Days!

 

 

Indian summertime blues

Every year I get fall fever and feel guilty wishing summer would just go because other people make excellent points like The Beach and Ice Cream. They never mention how the bees already moved in on picnic season or how it’s getting light so late a run before work is almost out of the question and after work is no better now that back to school busyness is the new order.

Fall will not be rushed with her unapologetic flare for things that only make sense when it is cool and damp, like sweaters and cider. We can and will watch monster movies in September, but may need to draw the curtains and crank the A/C to set the mood.

We can do this, play with and bend the rules a little instead of pretending indian summer is as fun as early summer.

I thought maybe it has not been enough to buy new shoes and backpacks for the children. Maybe school is the thing sorely missing from my own life, so I signed up for a local writing class I’ve been eyeing for years but which never quite fit our schedules. It will focus on character development, which is right up there with dialogue and plot when it comes to things I need help with.  So I’m pretty excited and already have the bones of a short story to take to class. I wrote it the same week I did the flash fiction piece below, which was accepted by a couple of beginnerfriendly places (both accepted simultaneous submissions and previously published work).

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To continue reading the story and check out the rest of the issue, click HERE.

Happy back to school/late summer/pre-fall.

 

 

 

 

How I spent vacation saving but also drowning (more) spiders

Welcome to anyone reading after a post I wrote about accidentally drowning a spider got picked for Wordpress Discover. What a surprise that was, but no more surprising than when I accidentally on purpose drowned another spider this week though saved another just minutes before and am now wondering if it was somehow the same spider. There was also that spider I saved in the shower last week, but he was paler and clearly not related. I should probably craft a tiny life preserver with eight arm holes and keep it on me at all times, even in the shower.

The latest spider rescue and subsequent drowning started 12 years ago at a small inn in the Adirondacks which alluded to a view of the lake in its name though you had to crane your neck just so to imagine it. Cars rumbled by on a busy road separating the cottage from the lake and on the interstate just behind a thin layer of woods. It was not as peaceful as we’d imagined but the charming couple that had only recently bought and fixed up the place left baked goods in the room and lured us out each night with a campfire and s’mores. It was just me and my husband and our one daughter then. I took this picture of them at the far away lake.

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This year we went back and the first thing we noticed was the For Sale sign out front. A different woman checked us into the same cottage, which felt smaller than we’d remembered and the bathroom smelled like body odor or ass depending on which one of us you asked, so we just kept the door closed. After settling in and wondering why the hell we’d come back, we headed down to the lake and attempted to recreate the beloved photo.

 

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We can’t help it that the pier and ‘no trespassing’ sign were long gone. My husband could have stooped down but it would have seemed forced. We let our other kid stand in and no one is in a diaper or cowboy hat because we suck at re-creating old photographs from memory.

The spiders, though, well I’m getting to that. The cottage stay came with unlimited use of a kayak and canoe, which by the looks of both hadn’t been used in some time. We did our best to clean them both out of wolf spiders, but we missed one. I think it hid behind my youngest daughter’s seat cushion because I first noticed it climbing up the back of her rain jacket. It paused a bit on the top of her head like one would on the top of a mountain to take in the view and then kept going until it disappeared from view and onto what I assumed was her face.

You can’t just stand up in a tandem kayak. You can, as calmly as possible, urge your daughter, who is sometimes afraid of gnats, to “just bat it off with your hand”. You will still only be able to see the back of her head, which is further obscured by a hood, so you may feel like you’re instructing someone you can’t see where to wipe away a pesky glob of ketchup if ketchup were hairy and horrifying. You will be able to see that her hands are maddeningly still by her side and you will hear her terrified whimpers, so naturally you will shout the same instructions only louder. JUST BAT IT OFF. YOU HAVE TO BAT IT OFF.

The good news is this spider came round to her shoulder to see what all the yelling was about and I used the paddle to fling him into the water. I didn’t feel great about it, but I had no choice. The kayak mood was killed after that. We paddled back to shore and my older daughter said she noticed right away that something was wrong by her sister’s posture and face and how her hair covered her face. She hadn’t heard the yelling, oddly. After I explained about the spider, my younger daughter asked “There was a spider on me?” She had no idea what I was freaking out about, though assumed a bug or horrible monster.Those were her words, by the way. Freaking out. I need to work on my calm voice.

Can wolf spiders swim? I think they might be able to because I rescued one with the same paddle moments before we launched the kayak and it kind of seemed like it was already heading to shore. My husband claims he accidentally flung that one into the lake and I got pissy with him, though now wonder if I didn’t somehow rescue it right back into the kayak. Anyway, I drowned the other (or possibly same) spider. Nature can be surprisingly quick with the whole balance thing.

We stayed a few nights at the cottage and settled into the sound of trucks rumbling by and even the body odor/ass smell in the bathroom. No one coaxed us out for campfires and s’mores so my husband built a roaring one and we bought supplies at a store down the road. We only ever saw one of the owners. The other, it seemed, was no longer in the picture. I thought for longer than seemed sane about buying the inn and running it ourselves, but those days of infinite possibility and hope are over. I’m fine watching Fawlty Towers once a year (usually around Thanksgiving) and being reminded why running an inn is a terrible idea.

You can’t always go back. You can’t save a spider without drowning another one. You can’t fix things that are broken because sometimes they’re meant to be that way. It’s sad if you look at something broken in the usual way, but over time the picture might change into something different, surprising even.

 

 

The case of the missing peach

I first notice the peach on the railing before we leave for the movies. I don’t ask my grandmother about it because she’s not in the room and I think about taking a picture, but even I realize this is only funny to me. Obviously she put it out there to ripen in the sun, even if this still strikes me as funny and a little reckless. Like putting a pie on the sill to cool and leaving for vacation.

The next morning the peach isn’t there but I don’t notice right away. I go outside to drink coffee and soak in the peace and cool of early morning. Right away, I realize it is not quiet and it is hot and I’m not sure where to sit. I remember her mentioning one (or more) chairs being broken and wish I’d asked which one (or ones). None of the chairs look particularly broken. They all have overstuffed and obviously not original cushions and I flashback to the one garage sale we had growing up where my parents sold an easy chair that was missing the elastic straps underneath the cushion. I guess the straps broke at some point and my dad, being relatively handy, cut a square board to fit against the frame, thus supporting the cushion and anyone’s backside who plopped down, devil may care.

Well for reasons not known to me now, though my parents were always thrifty and practical and may have thought up some need for that exact sized square of plywood, they removed the board and hauled the chair out to the yard to sell. Now if you were going to pay $10 (I’m just guessing, I don’t actually remember how much we asked) for a chair, wouldn’t you want to sit on it first? Test it out? Of course you would.

I remember a nice woman came along. I’m picturing her now with dark, possibly permed and close cropped hair and a barrel purse of light tan resting midpoint between her armpit and waist. She eyed up the chair shyly and then backed up carefully like one would into a parking spot but then lowered herself a bit too eagerly, certainly for anyone over 40 pounds onto an unsupported cushion base. The chair cushion swallowed her up and her arms were suddenly waving helplessly like an overturned bug, her legs rendered useless by the unfortunate angle and gravity. The barrel purse only wedged her in tighter. 

I of course ran off to find my brother and tell him the good news but was laughing too hard to explain and lost precious time. By the time we got back, the woman was gone and the chair still there, silently waiting, cushion back in place for the next potential customer.

This morning I pick the chair closest to the door and sit tentatively, gingerly, and I’m sorry to report nothing bad happens. It is not the broken chair. I drink coffee and listen to a family of crows argue and wish I’d brought my journal or something to read, but if I had my eyes might not have fixed on the peach pit sitting on the railing in front of me. Wait, was that where the peach was last night? Wasn’t it down about two feet, to the right? Yes, I’m pretty sure of that because it was centered through the picture window in her kitchen. If I was going to put a peach out to sun ripen, that would be the best spot to keep an eye on it.

Upon closer inspection, there are faint peach slime trails traversing about two feet from the center origination point and the pit itself is picked clean. I like to think I know how to eat stone fruit with little waste – corn on the cob too – but I can tell you I’ve never come anywhere near as clean as this job. Whoever ate this peach had a lot of practice or keen hunger and patience. 

This begged the next question of who ate the peach? My immediate thought is raccoon, but why wouldn’t it take the peach away to its raccoon lair? My second guess is that maybe my grandmother ate the peach, though hastily, and put the pit out to be picked over by birds. I’m embarrassed to write this now, as this makes my grandmother seem a little nutty, perhaps, but it does seem like something she would do. She fills plastic bowls with water for birds. She scatters seeds across the railing in winter. I just thought perhaps she did the same with peach pits not picked perfectly clean.

Later that morning I ask her if she’d left a peach out on the railing.

Oh yes, she says, obviously just remembering. (Would she do the same with pies if she baked?)

Well, I say, it’s not there anymore.

Oh? she says, looking anyway.

Yes, just the pit is left, I say. I try to deliver this news somberly but my tone is more delighted. My grandmother clicks her tongue.

Oh well, she says. I put it out yesterday to get soft. I was going to give it to your girls.

I picture them fighting over a lone peach, lunging at one another, hair and arms flailing. Only one of them likes stone fruit so this would probably never happen.  

What do you think got it? I ask.

A squirrel, she says.

A squirrel? Do you think one could eat a whole peach? What about a raccoon?

No, no raccoon. It was a squirrel, she says.

I realize now a two-foot peach slime trail better fits the profile of a smaller animal unable to carry or even necessarily drag a sizeable piece of fruit to its lair. Squirrels  are also known to (over)stuff things into their cheeks. My grandmother is probably right. She should also probably get that broken chair (or chairs) fixed or maybe not.

On Deal Island

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Pop-Pop

Deal Island is a three mile finger of land and tide about 15 miles off the beaten path in eastern shore Maryland. It’s where my great-grandfather, who we called Pop-Pop, lived until the (and his) mid 80s, which is also the last time I’d visited. Even though he’s long gone and the first word that always comes to mind when I think of Deal Island is mosquitoes, I had to get back. It should have been a tough sell to my girls, but they’re always up for adventure or maybe the challenge of seeing ordinary stuff that way.

We picked a sunny day with low humidity for our trip. If we’d gone the day before, I’m convinced westerly winds would have carried in biting flies like those from a particularly vivid childhood memory. Sure, I remember that time my great-grandfather’s cat scratched a perfect circle of blood around my wrist or the way the massive vinyl swing on his front porch creaked and groaned though never in a way that made me feel uneasy. But I’ll never ever forget the 2 mile walk that felt like 200. My brother and I were nearly eaten alive by greenheads and mosquitoes as we took a fun family hike along the bay. Our parents tossed back helpful tips like “walk faster so they won’t bite you” and other things I’ve surely never said to my own children, who are now more delicious than I. Deal Island was originally called Devil’s Island, though I’m not sure there’s truth to the rumors it was once a hotbed of pirate activity. If so, those were some tough pirates.

Driving in that clear day with its delightfully low dew point, the first thing we noticed was a perfect stranger waving to us. In fact, he didn’t even look up so wouldn’t have known we were strangers, though I don’t guess it would have mattered. I’d remembered it as a kind of Mayberry on the water, and not much had changed.

The old bank building was still there. My great-grandfather worked there until the stock market collapse of 1929. When there was a run on the bank, a customer who was also a neighbor waved a gun at him. It was panic, nothing personal then or when the bank closed like many small town banks had to. It sat empty for years and then someone converted the inside to a machine shop. It sits empty again and for $24,900, anyone can buy it.

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Probably the most anticlimactic stop was in front of my great-grandfather’s old house. It’s been so lovingly renovated that I couldn’t recognize enough to tap into nostalgia. Instead we kept walking down the street, past an old gothic revival farmhouse that could only be suitable to vampires. Only on the walk back did we notice an identical gothic revival farmhouse right next door. I did not take pictures of either and deeply regret this, but you probably wouldn’t have either.

Our next stop was the final resting place of both great-grandparents and also Joshua Thomas, Parson of the Islands. He predicted the British fleet’s defeat in Baltimore that inspired Francis Scott Key and our national anthem. Also, he was born in a place called Potato Neck and his dad died from a dog bite and his stepfather was a drunken lout who forever turned young Joshua off alcohol. I now remember why book reports were such a challenge. It’s tough telling which facts are weeds because they all seem important.

I can tell you that cemetery was the biggest challenge of the day. My dad had provided a quaint hand drawn map to find the family plot but failed to warn us half the people buried on that island share the same last name.

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The eldest at least a half hour in

Three passes after I’d first given up, I found the plot and yelled so loud I probably woke Joshua Thomas of Potato Neck. We piled back in the car and drove until the road dead ended by crab shedding facilities at Wenona harbor. On the way back, I snapped this picture of a crumbling beauty an 1877 atlas designated the “Colored Church and School”.

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I almost drove past another (mystery) beauty, but if you only get to a place once in 30 years, you find yourself doing asinine road maneuvers so you can go back and take pictures while your kid swats at bugs only kids can feel because adults are old and taste terrible

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The next to last stop was at the public beach, where someone else had already written Pop-Pop in the sand and we collected a generous handful of tumbled sea glass. The funny thing about that is I’d had in mind to treat myself to something at the 5 year sober mark, but nothing seemed right and then I found it.

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The final stop of the day was a bait and sundry shop where I purchased candy bars for the drive back. I picked a Whatchamacallit, which I also hadn’t experienced in about 30 years and my kids thought I’d forgotten the name and was just calling it that. Some days you look back and find yourself feeling lost and disappointed. This wasn’t one of those days.

 

 

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The sweetest 5 years

Summer tumbled in a little bit like how I literally tumbled out of bed this morning. Our bed had an extra guest (no more ghost hunting shows before bedtime) along with her patented sideways-sleeping method, and in my effort to not disturb anyone, I woke everyone with a clamor and made the cat flee in a panic of terror, which was easily the best part. On my way down to the floor, I had enough time to wonder how I might explain this in an ER room. No, I wasn’t drinking, I’d say. I haven’t had a drink in over five years, though I’m still hitting the cupcakes pretty hard. 

Write about what you know, they say. Recently I had two pieces featured elsewhere. The first is about my love-hate relationship with sugar in sobriety on Ruby Pipes. Ruby is a very talented writer and I hope to see more from her in the year ahead.

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Side note: I wrote it back in January, and the “very bad day” I referred to was this one.

I also celebrated 5 years sober this week and wrote about it for AfterPartyMagazine. I’m not saying the last 1,825 days has been a cake walk – unless that means there was cake every day because clearly there was – but time flew by. I am reporting from the other side to anyone new to sobriety and saying life just keeps getting better or feeling better (who am I to question it?) the longer I’m sober. I know this won’t keep happening to the same degree, but life is good and I’m grateful. I’m going to disable comments here and hope you’ll go read. Thank you so very much for being here.

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