Death in the Sticks

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I found out yesterday that one of my neighbors from the sticks finally lost his battle to cancer. He had a brain tumor. He was only seventeen. Just a kid. I can’t believe I knew him and now he’s gone.

He wore his pants baggy, almost falling off. His boxers hanging out the top by at least four inches. He often wore a trucker cap crooked on his bald head. One of his hats had fake dreads handing out the back. He was one of those gangster types that you usually try not to stare at too hard because they might ask you what you’re looking at and start a fight. I hate to admit it but I was afraid of him because of what he looked like. I think the feeling was mutual.

As we lived next door to him and we saw each other day after day we began to trust each other. He’d saunter off down the street to score some weed to get high and take away the pain and he’d nod his head at me as he walked by. Sometimes he’d even smile. A really small smile but it was there.

Over time I made friends with everyone in the neighborhood. Even the riff raff. Everyone had a story. Everyone had a reason for why they turned out the way they did, why they became criminals or drug addicts or alcoholics. Everyone had family problems. Everyone had pain. It wasn’t so black and white. I couldn’t just turn my back on them because they were down and out. I knew them. I knew their stories. And so I became friends with them.

Sometimes they would come hang out on my patio and smoke and drink. I tried not to let it be a bad influence on Bug but at the same time I wanted her to learn compassion. When she was gone with her dad I would let them come hang out and take a little break from their crazy lives on my patio. It was a fine line to walk, letting them in but not getting sucked into their worlds.

Some day I would love to write a book about all the crazy neighbors I’ve met in my life, especially on the journey I’ve been on lately. I could tell so many tales. But what’s amazing about it all is how they’ve touched me even more than I’ve touched them. Their stories are full of twists and turns, unfairness and pain but deep inside everyone I’ve met, even the craziest ones, there is a gold nugget of love and humanity.

I don’t want to say that all people are inherently good. I know there are messed up psychopaths who deserve no compassion but I have learned that if you listen to someone’s story, you will be amazed by the challenges they’ve been faced with, the breadth of adversity they’ve been up against, why they made this or that bad decision. It’s a lot harder to judge someone once you’ve heard their story. And everyone has a story.

Allen had a story. He didn’t really tell me too much about it. Little bits and pieces here and there. It’s not the kind of thing you tell the “crazy white lady next door.” I knew his dad was in jail for beating up his girlfriend with pipe on the freeway. His siblings were in and out of foster care and there were like twenty of them. I knew his mom, she was such a kind, sweet woman who always said hi to me but she kept to herself. I can’t really share her story, but know that it was not easy. So, so, so, not easy.

Allen wasn’t really going anywhere in life. If you asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up he’d just laugh at you like it was a joke. He knew he wasn’t going to grow up. It was just one day at a time for him. Just figuring out where his next high was going to come from was all that mattered. He had tattoo of a cross on his arm and he liked to tell me that he read his bible every day and he prayed. I believed him. Bug and I prayed for him too. For a time there we thought we prayed his brain tumor away. But then it came back.

And now he’s gone. I can’t believe I knew him. But I’m glad I did.

Garage Sales, Apartment Hunting and Mid-Life Crisis Retreats

What work? #springfever Untitled
Untitled breaking out the bikini!

Lots of things have been happening here lately and it’s a shame I haven’t been blogging them because now I have about a million years’ worth of things to talk about. I’ll have to gloss over a lot.

It’s spring which means two things to me:

1. The weather is awesome and we need to be outdoors all the time.
2. Summer is around the corner.

Summer being around the corner is a bit stressful for me because that is when I’m planning on moving back to the beach. This is a good thing but I have so many mixed feelings about it.

On one hand it feels like the right thing to do—the only thing to do. We have to get out of this town. It makes me sad because a lot of my family is in this town and I want to stay with them. I want to take them with me out of this town.

fresh picked! hold them carefully!

Every day Bug has anxiety about school and I hope that moving back to a neighborhood that we know and love will fix a lot of that. I went apartment-hunting a few weekends ago and fell in love with the new bright happy big apartment complexes that happen to be in the number-eight-in-the-country school districts. Some of the complexes have schools across the street that we could walk to and playgrounds and swimming pools and farmers markets and…it just goes on and on with wonderfulness.

Of course then there’s the fact that they are about five hundred to a thousand dollars out of my price range.

Work is picking up. My books are selling. Things are looking really positive but the risk is great. I don’t want to sign a lease and then have a slow month and not be able to make it. I know I can always move back to this town. My parents would let me move in with them. It’s just that I want to make it on my own so bad. I guess this is what everyone wants. And maybe I will make it. I’m spending $300 a month on gas just taking Bug back and forth to see her dad so there’s that. If we moved closer there would be savings and less wear and tear on my car and me. The weekends are hard, as you know.

I’m not sharing this to get advice. I think I’m adviced out. I run every scenario over in my head and all the many many many variables every night from 3am to 4am and sometimes more. There are so many wild cards. I could get a new job. I love what I’m doing and I’m doing well but maybe a steady paycheck could give me the security I need. I’ve been thinking about being an assistant to an event planner. That’s a dream that I’ve never really seen to its fruition. Does anybody know anybody in Orange County who needs a kick-ass assistant?

ready to move My Parisian Apartment

Since I’ve got moving on the brain I’ve started packing. It is a bit early to be boxing things up but I can’t sit around and not do something. It’s hard to feel settled in a place when you know you are going to be leaving it in a few months. Now I know what all you military families go through. I’m not planting tomatoes. I’m not watering my backyard grass. It just isn’t my home anymore. It makes me sad because I love this place but I don’t see a future here. I see the neighborhood getting and worse and worse. I see crime every day. Kids with ankle bracelets and I’m not talking about jewelry. It’s not getting better here. I can’t stay here and be part of it. If I don’t leave, someday I won’t be able to and Bug will be engaged to someone who just got out of prison.

I know. I’m being overly dramatic. But this is what single moms do. Because we have to.

tomorrow

I had a garage sale and got rid of a lot of stuff. You know, because less stuff means less stuff to pack and move and if I can’t move into one of those fancy nice bright white apartments then I’m probably going to be moving into a studio with a hot plate and no windows and a carpet that smells like cat pee. Less stuff is good. Plus, I made a couple hundred bucks getting rid of stuff I don’t need. That felt good too.

her "cute" pose Fresh Squeezed Lemonade!

Bug and her neighborhood buddies sold lemonade and made about twenty bucks off being cute. It was fun.

garage sale

for sale

A couple of other neighbors had a garage sale too. It was like a block party. We all talked and hung out. It was great. I’m going to miss them. I talk about being afraid in this neighborhood all the time and it’s funny because I’ve made friends with all my neighbors, even the bad guys. The best way to deal with the bad guys is to look them in the face and get to know them. They are good people who have just made bad choices or been caught up in bad circumstances. I love them. I wish I could move them all to the beach with me. I wish I were a zillionaire and I could give them all jobs. I wish I could rescue everyone.

It’s been a really interesting year. I know it happened for a reason. It’s been a mile marker. I will never forget this part of my journey.

And speaking of journeys…I’ve finally settled on a theme for my big 40th Birthday Bash:

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I’m calling it a Mid-Life Crisis Retreat. Whaddayathink?