Monday, April 15, 2013



1: The anniversary of the day our family was legally formed: April 3, 2006. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013


“Sometimes you have to kind of die inside in order to rise from your own ashes and believe in yourself and love yourself to become a new person.”
Gerard Way

So, I experienced a break-up recently and we had the typical conversation about remaining friends where we said we'd both like to but neither of us were sure it was possible. When I got the final e-mail telling me that no, he's not capable of being friends with me, I cried, of course. The death of a relationship always brings with it a level of mourning. The first thought that occurred to my brain when I woke up the next morning was a quote from Louis C.K.

"No happy marriage ever ended in divorce."

The same is true for any level of relationship. If the relationship were happy, truly happy, it wouldn't end. Except in death (of a person). Any other kind of death of a relationship only occurs when it is not a happy relationship. It could have been happy at one point in time, but it no longer is when it dies.

And what I realized next was my OMG moment:

Every time one of my relationships has ended, I've been propelled forward into the next stage of my life. So it's not even the death of a relationship, it's the death of a life cycle. Perhaps this is why we mourn so hard. We know we're moving from a place where we will never return in our lives and most of the time, we're not quite prepared.


Several months ago, I was explaining to one of my partners about how hurt I get when people leave me and he asked me a simple question, "Why?" I responded, "Why, what?" He asked, "Why do you get hurt?" My initial gut reaction was "WTF? Why would I not be hurt?

For me, almost every relationship I've ever had ended was ended by the other person. People are constantly leaving me. Each time I question, "Why? What did I do? What's wrong with me?" Fortunately, this time, I'm sure it had nothing to do with me. I was clear with this person start to finish and not a single person who knows me can say, "Well, Andrea....there's this one thing you did..."

This situation and having lots of honest folks around who'd call me on my b.s. if I was mucking the stuff has caused me to realize that ALL of the people who've walked out of my life have done so because of something going on with THEM. Whether their issues had something to do with me or not, none of them have been issues with ME. What I mean by that is, there's nothing wrong with me. And there's nothing I could have done differently to prevent any of those people from choosing what they chose.

And now I realize exactly why I wouldn't be hurt. Hurt comes from the thinking there's something wrong. Hurt comes from the mourning and the lack of acceptance of the death, that the death is good and right and natural.

Now instead, I find acceptance. I find acceptance and willingness for this death of a life cycle. I have grown into a new person. This new person is tired of having relationships with people who can't stand on their own two feet or see the world clearly. Tired of fighting people's perceptions of myself and the rest of the world. These relationships cause me emotional turmoil and cause me to question my sanity. Gone are the days where this girl cries when someone leaves her. I have realized that everyone who has ever left me has abused me in one way or another. Why would I mourn the loss of that? Having that leave my life is not sad.

I also find awareness. Awareness that I am transitioning into a new being. This relationship death came while I was on vacation with my family. I was driving, as I always do on vacations and I observed after this death that I had not sped egregiously the entire trip. I made liberal use of the cruise control set at exactly 10mph over the speed limit--at the most! Anyone who knows me, knows this is an extreme change for me, ordinarily I am a speed demon. But that is not ordinary for me anymore.

Who I was as a person was lit on fire and razed to the ground. Like a phoenix, I rise from the ashes, a new bird, ready to take on the next stage of my life.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


So, I visited the 9/11 Memorial today.

I didn't even make it to the memorial before I started tearing up.

We had to pick up our passes at the memorial preview site where there were lots of pictures and descriptions and a video playing.

After, we went and stood in the very long line to get into the Memorial.


Sometime, during my childhood, I learned about New York City. I must have been somewhere between six and eight years old. I know it was after I moved to Texas but before I really started thinking about what was happening in the world.

My brother told me of all the great things that existed in New York City and I became fixated on one thing only: The Twin Towers. I don't know why. I wasn't particularly interested in architecture, but perhaps the knowledge that two identical towers were the tallest buildings in what seemed the greatest city in the world, simply fascinated me.

As a child, I would frequently talk about the places I wanted to visit. On my short list was the Twin Towers. I wanted to see Manhattan in general, but specifically, I wanted to go up in one of those towers.

My childhood passed in a passing manner and I visited many places in the United States and even went to Niagara Falls, Canada, but I never went to New York City.

When I became an adult and got married, I would tell my husband of the places I wanted to go. Still on my short list was New York City and specifically, The Twin Towers.

Then came that day.

I was just past 22 years old. My husband and I were in downtown San Antonio with our seven-year-old daughter on our way to check out a house we wanted to rent. We had just missed our bus transfer and wandered into the Payless Shoe Source to get out of the sun. The girls inside were listening to the radio.

I heard the word, "Bomb."
I turned toward the cash registers and said to the girls, "Bomb?! Where? What's going on?"
One girl replied, "There's been a bomb threat at Ingram Park Mall and another at City Hall."
"What?! What's going on?"
The second girl said, "Oh, didn't you hear? The World Trade Towers were bombed this morning. They've fallen. There's bomb threats all over the city...."

She continued speaking, but I was no longer listening. My head swam and I fell backwards. Fortunately there was a bench behind me and I only ended up plopping onto it really hard.

My husband continued talking to the girls and my daughter said, "Mommy? Mommy, what's wrong?"

"They're gone, baby. The Towers, they're gone. They're gone. I didn't see the Towers and they're gone."

"What Towers, Mommy?"

At that point, I regained my faculties enough to explain to her which towers I meant (I had wanted to see them so much, I had told her all about them) as I walked her and my husband out of the store. I turned to my husband and said, "Okay, worse case scenario, they say terrorists, I say the whole world could possibly be going to shit. Let's go home, grab some stuff and head to my mom's, just to see what this looks like. If the world goes to shit, we'll be 60 miles from the nearest city, if it doesn't, we'll go home after a day or two."

And so we did. Watching news footage everywhere we stopped that showed the planes, the towers, the people, the screaming, the...

Well, you get the idea, you probably experienced it, too. If you didn't, I'm sure you can look it up somewhere.


Needless to say, I've spent a lot of time crying today. I've got other reasons to cry and perhaps, this just caused me to overflow.

Walking through the Memorial and feeling the enormity of it all...

At lunch after, the kids strike up a conversation, but none of them had experienced it as adults. None of them saw the footage of people digging through rubble, heard the sounds from the footage of the time from when the towers were hit until they fell...I wasn't even there in person. I didn't know anyone who was in either of the towers or on any of the flights. I did have a friend who lived in Battery City and had a few accounts from her before she was evacuated. But that's as close as I got.

And still I'm struck. Touched. Long after the event, what happened that day still affects me, the loss of all those lives and the courage exhibited during and after by individuals who had the choice to be courageous or not.

And I find myself needing to do something to honor all of those people.

And I realize that my answer is in my story of the Towers.

I was 22 when the Towers fell. I was four years outside of childhood, wherein I could have begun living the dreams I dreamt as a child and had not. I could have seen them before they fell.

And this is my resolve: In honor of all those who had that choice taken away from them, I will live my dreams. I will not be held back by any notions of "I can't" or "It's too hard."

I am alive. Therefore I can.

Collecting Children

In my last post, I indicated I would later discuss at length how and why it is I end up with so many of other people's children as members of my family. This is a topic I've been planning to write on for a while and one that comes up often as I tend to be a magnet for children. In fact, as anyone who knows me already knows, my children ARE other people's children. I didn't give birth to them, I met them when they were 4, 3, and 1.

As one of my partners puts it, I tend to collect children. It's not that I view children as objects, quite the contrary in fact. Children are just as naturally drawn to me as I to them. For me, I love to be around children. Children of any age, even my own teenagers making their slip-start ascents into adulthood which send most people running and screaming are pleasing for me and I like to be surrounded by their energy.

Children have this way of viewing the world that adults simply don't have.

When I was a teenager, somewhere around fifteen to sixteen years of age, I began to realize that adults--on the whole--simply couldn't see the world the way a child could. The way that--at that point, I still could--though, I was also aware that I was losing it.

That thought horrified me.

I decided right there and then that I would NEVER forget what it was like to be a kid. That divide I felt between my parents and I. How I felt like the adult world simply didn't understand who I was or what I was going through. Will Smith even had a song about it, "Parents Just Don't Understand." And I resolved that when I was an adult, when I became a parent, I would remember what it was like to be a kid. And then I started right that instant. I started by objectively observing what I and my peers were experiencing. I started observing children. And I continued doing the one thing I had always done...regarding every person I came across as an equal, regardless of their age.

One thing I had to learn about was child development. I recall the number of times throughout my adolescence I was startled to learn that a younger person wasn't capable of x or y task. I hadn't previously been aware of my own development and since I treated everyone as equal, I just assumed everyone could do what I could do. So, I learned that's not how the world works. I learned that people develop at varying rates and then there are some general markers--things to generally be acceptably learned at this age or that--but there are exceptions even to those.

With this new information in mind as I grew into an adult, I started relating to young people. Even when I couldn't really relate. And around nineteen or twenty, I started noticing my way of being had an impact on children I interacted with:

I was in the mall one day, descending an escalator when I heard a shriek of, "Andrea! Andrea!" and found two little blond girls tearing toward me.

I didn't recognize them. AT ALL.

As one leapt into my arms and I instinctively caught her, I looked up to see her mother rushing in to say hello. Oh! These were the daughters of the owner of the Dairy Queen I worked at at my very first job. I couldn't even remember their names. It had been four or five years since I had seen them and I had barely interacted with them then.

Their mother says to me, "The girls have been asking me about you periodically since you left the store."
"Melinda, that was like five years ago!"
"I know! You must have really made an impression on them."

As I racked my brain for how I could have made an impression, all I could recall was sitting and listening to them. When I was on my lunch breaks, if they were there (maybe four or five times?), I would sit and talk to them. They would tell me whatever was on their minds, what they were doing at school, etc. All I did was listen and respond like they were equals, as I always did with everyone I met.

It was many years later before it dawned on me why this made such an impression on a four-year-old and a six-year-old.

And now we come back to why I love children so much. They see the world with a level of purity that adults simply can't any longer see. Children are unafraid and unabashed at being joyful, loving, and kind. They prance along with reckless abandon when something makes them happy and throw their arms around those they love with grand gestures of caring.

Part of my resolution back then in my teen years was to never lose my sense of child-like wonder when viewing the world. This is so much easier said than done. Everything I come across in my day-to-day life as an adult threatens to steal away that perspective on the world. Even my boyfriends are sure that some day I will grow cynical. For the time being, I remain immune.

Children are, for the most part, my vaccinations against cynicism. Like booster shots, they keep my mental/emotional immune system strong and healthy. I'm frequently told I wear rose-colored glasses. Perhaps I'm not the one wearing something that obscures my vision, though. Perhaps cynicism is the real obstruction. Gray tinted glasses that make the world look bleak.

And children love to spend time with an adult who treats them as an equal, laughs at utter silliness, gazes open-mouthed at wondrous things, and does happy dances and throws her arms wide to catch them in greetings.

Monday, April 1, 2013


Many times, I've been questioned on my family. The questions tend to be similar: How do you define family? and Why is your family comprised of (x person or type of person)?

In my life, I'm working to redefine the term family. The family I was born with, while I will always have love for them, are not necessarily my FAMILY. Various members have caused me great pains through abuses both physical and mental/emotional. I have been uninvited to family gatherings (including funerals) and then had entire weddings (held on my birthday) hidden from me until I found out about them on Facebook. These actions are not actions of love or respect.

Let me repeat those two words: LOVE and RESPECT.

These two concepts to me are the most essential concepts that really, are basic to treatment of all human beings. All human beings are granted an automatic amount of love and respect out of me, not because they deserve it or because they have earned it, but simply because they exist. In fact, all living creatures are granted these from me. More love and respect than that which I automatically grant CAN be earned from me and CAN be lost as well. However, this base amount granted all living creatures can not be lost. If I were to suddenly stop granting this love and respect for any reason, I would lose my humanity.

Back to the concept of Family, then. Family, to me, are the people that come into my life and we synchronize so well that we feel we add value by having each other in our lives. By this definition, anyone in my life can become my family.

Presently, my family is myself, the four young people that live in my house, my two partners, my best friend, and a small host of other people's children. (The fact that there are multiple of other people's children involved in this will be addressed in a separate post.) There were some other adults that recently decided they didn't want to be family with us anymore and there are others sitting on the periphery who may at some point decide to join in.

Let's talk about my family for a bit...We are not a blood family, we are a LOVE family. We welcome all to our fold who are capable of the complete and whole love which we experience for each other.  Again, it shall be addressed at length in a separate post, but this is how so many children end up a part of my family....more than any adult, they are capable of complete and whole loves. In fact, they crave it. Mine is a complete and whole love. At all times.

The most beautiful thing that has ever been said to me was, "I'm here because I want to be with you. Your kids, your family, your friends...everything you do is part of who you are and part of you. And I want to be with you."

I was struck past the point of tears at these words. I was struck to absolute dumb silence, the kind where all I could do was utter a guttural noise and close my mouth and swallow, but continue to stare at the speaker. 

Those words, those are a summation of how I love. When I LOVE you, I'm all in, no matter what--and I love every part of you, even the parts that make me say, "huh?" No one had ever said them to ME before. Never before had I ever experienced the absoluteness of that kind of acceptance out of another human being.

This kind of acceptance though, THIS IS FAMILY. You can take a look at the modern world and come up with any blame you want for why life sucks wall-to-wall, but I see as one of the biggest reasons this fact that we rarely simply accept individuals as they are anymore. Regardless of when or how or why, at some point we humans collectively gave up acceptance of each other at our base levels. We quit looking at another human being and simply seeing the beauty of what was. We now look at ourselves and others as broken and needing to be fixed.

Seeing someone as broken and/or needing to be fixed is neither loving nor respecting that person. I'm not saying we don't all have areas in which we can improve, but there is a fundamental difference between room for improvement and being broken. My iPhone is a perfectly functioning piece of technology. If it were broken in some way, I would take it to Apple and ask them to fix it. There is plenty of room for improvement in it however, starting with Apple Maps. ;-)

And this is the difference. Every member of my family is a perfectly functioning human being. Yes, they all struggle in one way or another. They may have anxiety or depression or some other condition which makes day-to-day life difficult for them, but these are not things that need to be fixed. These are conditions which can be improved upon, whether through diet, exercise, or heaven forbid some sort of medication, but they can be improved and made more workable and less interfering of their lives.

FAMILY. This is how I define it.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dharma Family is on Vacation!

If you've followed this blog for any length of time...or just happen to know know we LOVE to travel. More specifically, we love to travel by auto. Sure, we'll travel by train, plane, or bus, but we just really prefer the feeling of the open road. Also, we can't leave our cats at home while we go on great adventures.

So, we're at it again. What was originally going to be a 3 week trip that was going to have a few days in NYC, a few days at a conference in NH, and a few days in Niagara Falls has turned into a few weeks exploring as much of the eastern half of the country as possible. Since our conference in NH was canceled (it became too expensive for us) we decided to revel in the freedom of having no schedule for our trip. We've never had one before, so that was going to be new for us anyway. We have friends who moved from Austin to FL last year, so we've decided our first destination is to visit them.

From there, we'll be headed up the East Coast and stopping in on some of our old favorites like Washington, D.C. and Salem, MA. We do still plan to visit NYC as we've never been down into Manhattan before. After the east coast travels, we'll be headed to Niagara Falls. This one is a huge one for me because I loved Niagara Falls as a kid to the point where after we got our passports, Ro said, "Hey, Mom, you're finally taking us to Niagara Falls, which you've been saying you want to do since we came to live with you!"

5 people, 4 cats, 1 EPIC adventure!

2013 is a year to live our dreams.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Who I AM...only the strong need apply

Recent major changes to my relationships have forced me into very serious considerations of myself and my life. I was beginning to contemplate myself, where I'm going, what I'm doing, but this shock forced me to take a cold hard look at me.

Probably the biggest realization I had was over dinner the other night and this one was a slap in the face. I had--for the third time in as many years--gotten myself into a situation where I was working so hard to help someone else grow that I was not growing myself. Now, that's not AT ALL, but my growth was slowed and it was only coming in spurts, because I had so much of my energy and attention focused elsewhere. This is an easy trap for me to fall into, because who I AM is someone who helps others. Helps others to grow, to love, to see the world from a perspective that just feels good.

Let's break this down: Who I AM, who I BE, the path that I'm on, the one that feels yucky to stray from, is to change the world. To-through my love and light-show people there's a different way of living. Life doesn't have to proceed the way you were taught. It doesn't have to go the way society tells you it ought to.

It is perfectly okay to love yourself, your spouse, your children, your friends, your family, and everyone you know in a whole, complete, and unabashed manner.

It is perfectly okay to pursue whatever lights you on fire, no matter how much money you make at it and no matter what society at large thinks of you for pursuing it.

It is perfectly okay to be happy, live your life out loud, do a happy dance when something lights you up, to take joy in the little things just as much as--if not more than--the big things.

And there's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing there that needs to change, because that's just WHO I AM.

But. There is something that needs to change.

Because of my perspective, because I live against the societal grain, because I've always thought and seen the world this way, I've become a very strong person. One of the strongest people I know. In fact, for the longest time, I WAS the strongest person I knew, there was no one that came close by a wide margin.

Now? I know two people who are just as strong as I am. One who I'm certain is stronger. Both of these are my partners.

And this is what I've discovered needs to change. The trap I've fallen into multiple times is attempting to have as a partner someone whose strength is much less than my own. When attempting to partner with someone who is not on par with you in any aspect, tensions can arise. We're all adults here so tensions don't have to mean that a relationship is unsustainable.

But for me, the person who is strong and loves to help others; well, I tend to get myself into situations that require a lot of strength. For me, in partnerships, only the strong need apply. It's like the adage, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."

This girl generates a lot of heat--so folks with fainting spells just don't belong in my kitchen.

That being said, because I am who I am: I will continue to love and assist in the growth of those who can't stand to be in my kitchen. I have many wonderful friends who for one reason or another will never be in my kitchen, but that doesn't mean that I don't love, honor, and respect who they are.