Happy February

Barcelona, Spain

Here is the deal. It is February. Traditionally, February is my toughest month. I struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder. And the sad switch that turns off my happy has always been the month of February. I feel meh. I feel unmotivated. I kind of feel sad, but then I am simply distracted by the grey. I am fighting every urge not to write the dark, disgruntled or dissatisfied parts of my life. I would love to share the stories of recent fraud, gloom, late night tears, or how frustrating I find people who whitewash reality. Seriously. So, as I sit at my laptop staring out the window, and see little sunshine, the melting grey snow half-covering our brownish lawn, I will fight that urge to be dark. I know when February rolls around all of these things seem much grim, even our yard.

Me and Big Daddy, Collioure, France

Instead, and maybe because I know the days are only getting longer, I have decided to share a happy February memory, a memory that often saves me, and of course often makes me a little melancholy.

Giolitti, Rome, Italy

My February Memory:  Rome & The Amalfi Coast

Four years ago, Dave and I enrolled the boys in online school. He was working in San Francisco at the time, and we decided to finally make the move to the Bay Area. (Of course that move did not stick, but it was the plan at the time.) Nevertheless, because the boys were in online school, I had this genius thought.

“Why don’t we take them to Europe for a really long trip.”

Dave bit. While Dave worked, I would spend the first half of the trip with my friend Emily, and Dave would trade places with Emily and join us in Barcelona around Valentine’s Day (which is in February as you know).

Rome, Italy

We love Rome. The boys were very excited to be back. On the way to Rome we made an overnight stop in Dallas Texas at my friend Rachael’s, with Dave and the boys. Then we parted ways. Rachael stayed in Texas. Dave flew on to San Francisco and the boys and I started our overseas journey. I nearly lost my jacket in the Chicago airport. A man hit on me on the plane, about which Kyle said,

“Mom, that man is weird.”

“Yes. Kyle. Stay close.”

We both laughed. We ended up getting re-routed through London’s Heathrow airport, and finally landed in Rome. We made our way to our AirBnB, which was probably a VRBO at the time.

Giolitti, Rome, Italy

We settled in. Then, because the boys are really good navigators, they directed me to our beloved pizza place, and bookended our pizza (cut-by-the-slice with scissors) with two stops to Giolitti, our favorite gelato establishment. After visiting Giolitti twice that first day, with a fair amount of foreboding, Eli wanted to know if our gelato days were over.

“Mom, can we really get gelato EVERY SINGLE DAY?”

“Dude, we will get gelato every single day.” I responded.

“Are you serious? Really? Every day?” Eli incredulously asked.

“Maybe even two or three times.” I insisted.

“Won’t you make us eat healthy food too.” Eli tested.

“If said healthy food fits into our gelato schedule.” I proclaimed.

Giolitti, Rome, Italy

And to my word, and proven via our credit card statement, most of our food budget was spent buying gelato at Giolitti. (True to my word, we ate gelato once to three times a day.)

On the third day in Rome, and after no small feat, Emily arrived. We asked her if there was something she wanted to see.

“I have heard the Amalfi Coast is really beautiful.” She said.

“Well, let’s make that happen.” We assured.

The Forum, Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy

Emily had not been there more than twelve hours, which was like two gelato trips, before we were on our way. Dave had rented us a car. We walked from our apartment up past the Spanish Steps, then past the Villa Borghese, to the Sixt rental car place, which was approximately a two and a half mile walk. Because Sixt was hidden in a crazy,  underground parking lot, it also took like an extra half an hour to find.

Villa Borghese, Rome, Italy

I have vivid, happy memories of Emily, Kyle, Eli and me walking back and forth on this road called, “Viale del Muro Torto,” looking at the map on Emily’s phone.

“It says it is here.” Emily insisted.

As we walked and looked and walked some more, we all said, “But I cannot see it.”

For some reason we eventually decided to walk into a road we saw going underground. It was not clear that the road was leading us to a parking garage. And when we entered said parking garage, it was not clear that there was a Sixt Rental Car place. Alas, and by some early morning miracle, we found Sixt.

Our Sixt rental car in the underground garage, at the end of our long day, February, 2015, Rome, Italy

Between broken English and the .1% Italian I speak, which includes the words, “Buongiorno, sì, and grazie,” we completed the transaction. We all walked over to our PT Cruiser-looking rental (a Fiat 500) and threw our bags in. That is when I noticed the stick shift. When we are out of the country Dave always rents standard shift cars. Perhaps he was on auto-pilot when he rented the car. Perhaps he thought I would totally be down (I was not down). Perhaps that is all Sixt had. Considering the language barrier, I am really not sure. All I know is Emily was excited to see the Amalfi Coast. I heard the Amalfi Coast roads were treacherous, I had two eager teens ready to hit the road, and no Dave to lean on for backup so I said,

“I haven’t driven a stick in years, yet we are here. Let’s do this.”

We all laughed as the clutch ground and shrieked over and over again.

“At least this is a rental.” I said.

We all laughed. Then one of the boys said,

“Mom, are you sure you can drive this thing?”

“Of course.” I giggled.

The boys at the top of the Spanish Steps, Rome, Italy

The boys navigated us out of the complex underground parking lot/Sixt dealer and Emily navigated us to the Amalfi Coast, with a stop at a gas-station bakery and Pompeii on the way. With only forty-five minutes until the gates closed, we decided that looking over the fence was a much funner and more cost efficient way to see the result of Mount Vesuvius’s eruption and a spectacular archaeological dig. Not only was Pompeii epic, but trying to take pictures that made us look like we were inside the city was also a feat.

Within twenty minutes we were on our way (again).

As the boys watched videos on their iPods, Emily intently looked at her map and then calmly give me the next coordinate.

“Up here on your right, you want to follow the road until you see the sign for whatever…”

Pompeii, Italy (Mount Vesuvius in the background)
The Boys and Emily outside of Pompeii, Italy (Mount Vesuvius in the background)

In what seemed like a few short minutes, we and our stick-shift car, were on a very windy, narrow little road. To my left was the beautiful, wind-swept Amalfi Coast, painted with quaint Italian villages and rugged coastline. Except for the stop we made in the tiny Amalfi Coast town in the rain, I did not see much of the coast that day.  You will have to ask Emily, Kyle and Eli what is was like. What I did see (and maneuver), however, were several tetris-skill-inducing semi trucks in the opposite lane, life-ending narrow corners, death-drop embankments, third-world-styled washed out roads, cars coming straight at me (because that is how narrow the roads were). At some point, a sweet old Italian man, driving a fruit truck helped us find our way down the mountain as our vision was obscured with snow-rain.

The boys and I, Pompeii, Italy

What Emily, Kyle and Eli heard was swearing like they have never heard before. My typically prolific dialog was replaced with every sequence, some new, of all the bad words. In between, “Oh shits,” and the, “Holy-Batman’s-Ass,” were the apologies.

“Kids, I am so sorry, This car is hard to drive. That being said, I should not be swearing.”

To which the kids would said, “Mom, these roads are crazy. I get it,” and, “Mom, we hear all these words in school.” Of course Eli would follow up by saying something like, “But maybe not in this combination.”

We would gasp. I would avoid the next obstacle. We would laugh a sigh of relief. I would see the next oncoming semi truck. Then, in like .5 milliseconds, I would try to figure how we were not going to drive off a cliff while avoiding a head-on collision. I would push in the clutch, maneuver, and explicate some more. Around hour two of repeating this process several times, I specifically apologized to Emily.

Me driving the Amalfi Coast, Italy

“Hey, Emily.” I said, paused and continued,  “It is your first twenty-four hours with us and all you have heard is a string of swearing, a.k.a., my sailor talk.”

Emily laughed and then became quiet. For a second I worried. Then she said something like this:

“Beth, I learned to swear in high school. I may not say the words out loud, but I am definitely saying them in my head. These roads are crazy!”

We chuckled. She took some pictures and then I asked her to take some pictures of my driving.

“I need to remember this moment. I need to remember how it felt to be driving these insane roads, in a stick-shift car, no less.”  

The boys and I, Rome, Italy

As the snow-rain fell and I avoided the next oncoming vehicle, she snapped away and we laughed some more.

We made it back to the crazy Sixt underground dealership just before 2:00am. Of course Eli wondered if Giolitti was still open. Emily pulled out her phone and said,

“Let me check.”

“Mom, can we really go?” Eli asked, followed by Kyle.

“A deal is a deal, boys.” I responded.

“They close at 2:00am. If we run, I think we can make it.”

The boys and I, Giolitti @2am in February, 2015

And then we ran. We ran a fast and breathless run, a run like I have never run before. We ran back through the edge of the Villa Borghese, back into the city walls, down the Spanish Steps, through the wet, dark, sparkly streets of Rome. In the distance we could see the Trevi Fountain. As we approached Giolitti, we saw them rolling down the big metal door.

“Please. Please.” We pleaded.

The gelato guys looked out the door. It was one of the guys we always see. He recognized us as well.

“For you. Come.” He said as he motioned us inside.

We climbed under the half-closed door, laughing. They closed the door behind us and we ordered our gelato and sorbetto.

Honestly, that was one of my best days ever. And it is even better because it happened in February.

The boys, Emily and I, the Amalfi Coast, Italy

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The Problem with being a Glass-Half-Full person:

My Sexy Home Building Husband


I think I was born with a perspective that has often been referred to as my “gift.” As I get older, I have learned that this so-called gift has also been a gigantic curse — a curse that has taken me years of therapy to wrap my head around.

You see, like many people, I have always had the ability to see the positive in any situation. Beyond seeing the positive, I would always manage to see that there was someone out there who was struggling more than me. On those rainy days and stormy moments, I was quite good at steamrolling myself through the chaos until I forced myself into the sunny side of life. If I felt sad, I could always see that someone was more sad, and, consequently, I could see how lucky I was not to be so sad. If I felt freaky because I had to wear a rust-colored, hand-made sweat suit, which was fashioned out of fabric my mom purchased at the clearance table, I could always see that there was the kid who wore the same pair of red Toughskins every single day of the week. If I felt mad at my dad for not wanting me, I would always say, “well, at least I know who my father is.” When I felt fat and ugly, I would say, “at least I have plenty of yummy food to eat.” When unexpected things happened, like our power being shut off (yet again), I would take a deep breath and think to myself about the millions of people in the world who do not have power to shut off! How lucky I was!

When my parents fought or my sister went all crazy on drugs or when I was made fun of for not only being a Mormon, but being the Mormon whose parents were divorced (this was the 1970’s: blended families were less common then), I was grateful that I had two new sisters, a new dad and a brand new church. (I started out Catholic.)

Slowly as I dismissed my own sorrow, I detached from the inadequate feelings I was burying inside my soul. When life became uncomfortable, I became a master of my positive attitude. When my positive attitude failed me, I learned how to make people laugh. When laughing wasn’t cutting it, I let just enough truth bubble up through my wickedly real sarcasm. My quick and biting tongue would allow me to blow off just enough steam to make it through another day.

Let’s be honest, I wasn’t a sincerely positive person as much as I was a master stuffer. My stuffing method of choice: Seeing the glass half full.

The only problem was when I was a young teen, I think I had stuffed as many feelings as my young body could hold. Not only had I experienced a ton of first-hand pain, I had watched my entire family suffer from some pretty horrific stuff. At times, when I was about to burst, I would try to articulate the painful truth, and then I would fear embarrassing or drawing unneeded attention to my family. Often I could not find the right words and often my truth was put on hold by one of my sisters, who most definitely had more pain to bare than myself (or that is what I told myseld).

Recently I was talking on the phone to one of my step-sisters. When she was a girl, among other very traumatic things, she suffered from terrible asthma. Asthma which was so bad that it would often make her bedridden and eventually she would have to be hospitalized. We were on the phone talking about my milk and dairy allergies when she said, “Well, it is too bad you developed allergies as an adult.” I told her that actually, I also had allergies as a kid, but mine weren’t that bad, because they didn’t hospitalize me. I wanted to be empathetic and let her know that I understood how much she suffered. (PS My allergies were horrific. I just didn’t have asthma back then).

When we hung up and I did some thinking, I remembered that my sister and I went for two years together and then I went for another year after she moved out, for weekly allergy shots. She got one shot and I got two. Of course, I was disappointed that she didn’t remember that. But you know what, I had forgotten too. Because her struggles seemed so grand to me, her younger sister, I think it didn’t occur to me to share with her back then that every single day from March through October my eyes  swelled shut, and both my eyes and nose ran like a faucet. The worst and most embarrassing part for me was sitting in class. I would take a few kleenexes into class with me. Once they were completely saturated, I would try with all my might to keep the snot in my head. I would hold my breath in hopes of stopping those awful drips. When I couldn’t see a thing and my face was soaked, I finally asked the teacher if I could get more tissue and because I wasn’t better prepared, she would make me wait until the end of class. As an adult, I wonder why I had to suffer so long before getting treatment. Was it because we were poorish? Perhaps. Was it because there were so many bigger fires to put out? Probably. Was it because I didn’t speak up? Kind of. I tried. My step-sister didn’t have any idea that I had allergies, because her own life was so uncomfortable and it was not her responsibility to know. She, like me, was just a kid. That I understand. As an adult, however, I finally realize that even if her pain and suffering was worse, I should have been helped too.

Lately, I have been in a state of no-feeling. Life is not bad. It is not great either. I have been definitely checking out. Sometimes its just easier that way. Yet today, I feel a little guilty about all of my fertility issues. So many people have struggled way more than I have. A few weeks ago, on our last attempt to try naturally, Dave and I had sex like eight billion times. We even had a big talk before I ovulated and like the trooper he is, he was totally on-board for our baby-making-sex-a-thon. There were days when he would leave work early, just to make sure we could fit sex in just in case. My favorite day was when my mom was over and I asked her if she could watch the kids so Dave and I could have sex before we took the boys to soccer practice. “Mom, I am ovulating.” She understood, but wished I could have left the sex part out.

We have  given it our all. Next month, we try I.U.I. and then I think we are done. It has been very hard for me not to slip back into a glass-half-full-stuffing-my-feelings-way-down-deep mode, especially today when I am getting cramps. I am guessing that once again, I am not pregnant. I see that I have these two awesome kids, but today I am also trying to allow myself to feel how sad I am.

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