Monday, September 29, 2014

Summer song

In early September I started writing a happy post about August. I'd add some pictures and write a bit at a time. It was hard to find the time. Then in mid-September I received some devastating news. Although this is supposed to be my "baby blog" it has also been a kind of a diary of my own life experiences. I have to take a moment to speak about someone other than Michelle...  

The sweetest man I ever met, Rich Mulvey, the one who taught me to play guitar many years ago and pushed me to go after my dreams, just passed away. He was only 36 years old. It was a tragic loss and a complete shock to everyone who knew him.

Rich and I dated off and on for years between 2002-2006. Out of anyone that I dated (aside from Paul, who also passed away long before his time) Rich made me feel the most loved. He adored me, put me on a pedestal, behaved as though he was lucky to be with me but I was the lucky one. He was an angel to me. My strongest supporter, best friend, most ardent lover. Rich believed in me and helped me believe in myself -- encouraged me to write songs (co-wrote our first song together "Summer" and inspired many more.) We went on Speaker's Corner together and I even started playing on stage for the first time. Rich also admired my artwork, pushed me to show my paintings and helped me with my first art show. Rich was a true gentleman -- thoughtful, kind. He'd do anything for me. When we went shopping he never complained and carried all my bags. He treated me like a princess. Complimented me constantly, cooked me delicious meals, took care of the house (putting up ceiling fans, blinds and everything I needed in a new house), waited on me hand and foot. He gave the most amazing massages of my entire life. All the stresses of my day melted away at his touch. He wrote me love letters all the time for no occasion. He'd make me breakfast and shape the scrambled eggs to spell "I love you" or make my meals into a smiley face. If I was having a bad day he'd cheer me up by doing something silly.

After hearing about his passing I tore the house apart to find all my Rich photo albums etc. I was relieved to find my box of Rich "mementos" -- photos, love notes, letters and even the gum wrapper he wrote his phone number on the night we met. I remember his opening line when he approached me at Kingdom (an alternative night club where I used to dance.) He came up to me, took my hand and said "How is it possible an incredible woman like you is still single?" I would have rolled my eyes except it seemed completely sincere and Rich was as genuine as they come. Flattered, I launched into my tale of a 9 year on-again off-again relationship that was as close as I ever got to marriage. I warned him I was a bit difficult to deal with. He said I couldn't scare him away if I tried. Our age difference didn't bother him at all (I had a tendency to date younger men. Sometimes much younger.) He made me feel more beautiful, more loved, more appreciated than ever in my life.

Of course it wasn't perfect. Nothing is. Although he was a Prince to me, Rich had some major red flags. Rich in name only, he was broke and most of the time I knew him, unemployed. On top of that he had self-destructive habits and a lifestyle I didn't approve of. We were different in many ways. We had a lot of arguments and break-ups. I kept telling him we weren't meant to be, that it would never work but he'd always come back and convince me to try again. I couldn't say no to his sweet puppy eyes. I tried to change (aka "save") him to no avail. Rich wasn't a fan of authority and certainly didn't like being told what to do, even by someone he admired. And the stark reality is you can't make someone change. He has to WANT to change and do it for himself. Rich's issues weren't going to go away. Rich was kind to everyone but himself. He may have taken good care of me but never took very good care of himself. Rich wouldn't quit smoking even after his lung collapsed. I thought the hospital would have been a wake up call (of course I thought that with Paul too, when he ended up in the hospital after an overdose of alcohol. I spent years trying to save him and finally had to let go for my own sanity.)

I didn't want to end up supporting Rich for the rest of my life (though he did "earn his keep" by helping around the house it bothered me that he wasn't working. Ironically he did start working for my brother in law Shane for a while after we broke up) or having to visit him in the hospital again because he was destroying his lungs. I told him it was best if we parted ways. I probably would have gone back to him again and again except that someone else entered the picture. I met someone who seemed more stable, was employed and had more in common with me. After years off and on with Rich, someone his opposite seemed the best bet. Of course there were many things I missed about Rich and no one else could quite measure up. In the back of my mind I guess I always thought that if Rich ever got his life together -- held down a job, took better care of himself etc) that maybe there was a chance of us getting back together. Out of all the boyfriends I had, no one took care of me, cherished me the way Rich did. No one loved me like he did. It's very hard to let that go.

I hadn't heard from Rich in years. I'd heard through the grapevine that he was engaged at one point, which broke my heart to hear. Then out of the blue he contacted me in January this year. He had been engaged for a time but it didn't work out. He was thinking about me and wanted to see how I was doing. There was a lot to catch up on. He couldn't believe I had a child. He came for a visit. Unfortunately he was a bit of a mess. He'd just gotten back from Amsterdam. He wasn't himself. He didn't seem like the same sweet Rich that I'd known. He seemed hardened, somewhat sarcastic. He also had stitches in his hand and a broken foot from getting into a bar fight. He still smoked like a chimney. Still didn't have a stable job. I couldn't have someone in my life like that now that I was a Mom. I wanted the best for Michelle.

Rich was good with Michelle (he always was good with kids. I cried when I found pictures of him holding my niece Shannon as a newborn. A haunting glimpse of what might have been. He would have been a loving father.) At first I thought we could be friends. Then at one point we were sitting in the office and Rich played guitar while I sang, like old times. Michelle looked at us and said "Mommy and Daddy?" and it made me cry. I couldn't have her getting attached to this guy and calling him Daddy when his life was a mess. It was a recipe for disaster. I'd gone through years of turmoil with Paul and with Rich. It was different when there was only me to think of. I wasn't very protective of myself but I am VERY protective of Michelle. I have to be very careful who I allow into my life and hers now. I only want men in her life who will be positive role models, who have their lives together. So I told him it was best if we didn't see each other, even as friends.

All these months later hearing the news from my sister (she heard through my brother in law who still had friends in common with Rich -- Rich worked with Shane for a while years ago.) and confirming it with Rich's sister was devastating. I didn't want to believe it. I was hoping it wasn't true, that it was a mistake, that this was a nightmare. (Denial is the first stage of grief.) Then I got angry. Then I got very depressed. I felt guilty that I wasn't there for him (the way I had felt after hearing the news about Paul's death -- also months after I'd cut off all contact with him.) Not that it would have made any difference. No one saw it coming. Even people who saw him every single day. It really hit me. Even though I couldn't have him in my life at the moment I guess it was in the back of my mind that some day in the future it was a possibility. Now there was no hope.

I can not explain the supreme loneliness of losing the man who loved you the most in your life. If I'm being honest, there haven't been a lot of people I've really felt close to. Though I may have had thousands of acquaintances there have really only been a handful of people who really "got me" -- who understood, accepted and appreciated me as I am (which is no easy feat let me tell you!) Now two of them were dead. I couldn't stop crying. I tried to wait until Michelle was asleep but sometimes I couldn't hold back even during the day. "Mama, are you happy?" she'd ask me. I said "I'm sad to lose Rich but I'm happy to have you sweetheart." I explained to her that Rich was a special friend who had died and gone to Heaven. I tried to explain death to her. "The body on the outside dies, but the soul, who you are inside, goes to Heaven and lives forever." I brought Michelle with me to the memorial service I was grateful she was so well-behaved.

As part of my grieving process I went through old photo albums and scanned pictures of Rich to put on a CD for his family and made a slideshow video of the first song we co-wrote together, the sad and strangely prophetic "Summer" -- here's the video on Youtube:
When he first played the song for me he had the music but no lyrics. I grabbed a pen and "Summer" just flowed out. A sad song about impermanence. Of love. Of the seasons. I couldn't have imagined how hauntingly true those words would ring so many years later. "You're the one that got away. I think about you every day. Don't know what else to say. I wish it didn't end this way."

I was up until 4 a.m. just about every night going through albums and scanning photos. As heart-wrenching as it was reliving old memories and going through the photos, I needed a project to get me through it and I wanted to do something to pay tribute to him. It kept me busy and gave me something to do besides just crying. If I remember him then he's not really gone. It's one of the reasons I am such a photoholic. Life is not permanent. Photos are. I ended up with almost 150 favourite Rich photos scanned to my computer (after wading through HUNDREDS of photo albums. At least now they're labeled and organized. Back in the days before digital I printed every photo. You had to back then. You got a roll of film developed. Or hundreds of rolls, in my case. I took more pictures in a month than some do in a lifetime.) While working in my home office/guest room (where I keep my photo albums) my guitar was sitting there staring at me and I wound up writing a few songs about Rich. It seemed only fitting. He was the one who taught me to play. And it was therapeutic to write. One of them, "Rich," I posted on Youtube. Here is a link to the video:

Rich was such a kind, sweet, funny, giving, loyal, passionate person. A beautiful man, inside and out. He had the biggest heart and he will always have a special place in my heart.

I still can't believe he's gone. So much like Paul. Both so intense, so romantic. Both so self-loathing. It leads me to wonder is it possible for a man to have emotional depth without drowning in it? It almost seems like there are only two types of men (at least that I've dated: strong but insensitive or sensitive but falling apart.) For years I swung like a pendulum between two opposite types of men trying to find the perfect balance. Paul and Rich were the two men in my life that I really felt like adored me and now they're both dead. That's not to say that the other men in my life didn't care for me, I'd like to think most of them did. But I didn't feel completely loved, wanted and needed with anyone else as I did with Paul and Rich. I suppose a realist would say that I was drawn to broken men (emotional issues, substance abuse etc) because of the drama and romance of it all. A pragmatist would say that dependency is not love and that if they "needed" me that's not the same as love. Let's face it Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights and Romeo from Romeo and Juliet were not stable dudes! But that was the version of romance I grew up reading and seeing in movies. That was what I longed for. The kind of love that feels larger than life, moments of exquisite bliss, moments of exquisite pain. Destined to end in tragedy. A stable person never lets himself fall so hard, feel so deeply. Does he? Tellingly the two longest relationships of my life -- 4 years and 9 years were with stronger, more stable, much less emotional, less romantic men but then it always felt like something was missing. Like they only scratched the surface. They weren't willing to go to the depths. They didn't want to be vulnerable. (It's a tough thing for men. Most men don't like to cry or can't.)

Hearing the news about Robin Williams in August was bad enough. I didn't even know the man but I cried when I heard that he'd taken his own life. I loved him as an actor and comedian. It was heartbreaking to think that the man who made us laugh so much was carrying so much pain. Such a waste. So many beautiful, talented people throughout history have been lost that way. Actors, poets, artists, musicians. The tortured genius who feels too much, who burns so brightly he burns out too soon. There must be a way to be passionate, emotional, to live life at full blast without destroying yourself. Or what's the alternative -- to live life quietly, safely, without feeling much at all? No, there has to be a balance somewhere in between. I just never seemed to find it. Myself, I feel deeply but I have always been able to find an outlet -- writing, painting, etc to get it out and I never succumbed to alcohol or drug use (I'm a control freak so I'd never take anything that would mess with my brain chemistry and as far as alcohol I just never enjoyed how it tasted or made me feel.) But I'm an odd duck. I can't expect to find anyone out there like me.

I'm done looking for princes for the time being anyway. Michelle is my true love. And she keeps me out of trouble now. I couldn't really date even if I wanted to. She takes all of my time, energy and love.

"Why can't the summer last forever?" goes the lament in the song I wrote with Rich. It was a metaphor for a relationship but the truth is summer always goes way too fast. This summer seemed to go fastest of all. I don't know if that's because I'm getting older or because I'm so busy chasing Michelle.

August was hot and humid and gone in a blur. Michelle and I were outside a lot. I went through an entire bottle of SPF 60 Water Babies sunblock for her. Every time we went to the park or the beach or outside at all, she got slathered. Because of that she got through the summer without turning pink. My own sunscreen bottle is still 3/4 full because I didn't worry as much about myself. I did get a burn a couple of times. As I would put the lotion on her face I explained that she's a ginger and she always has to be covered. "When Mommy was little she got a really bad sunburn. I even turned purple and got blisters." Then Michelle started saying she got a sunburn and turned purple. "No! That was me. I'm covering you so you DON'T get burned." You have to be careful what you say around Michelle. In my Mom's defense maybe they didn't even make sunblock when I was a kid.

My favourite summer activity is heading to the beach. As I mentioned in my last blog, it's not quite the same with children, especially when you're a single Mom trying to manage on your own with a very high maintenance toddler, but it is still fun!

Despite a couple of really bad experiences, I decided to give my favourite local beach, Port Dover, another try in early August. It was a success. Michelle had a great time playing in the sand and chasing seagulls. I brought a ship water toy that my Mom had given Michelle for her birthday and she had fun with that. I still wasn't able to convince her to actually GO into the water. Not even her feet. She screamed when I tried to take her in. So to keep her happy I just let her do what she wanted to do which was mostly run around and get covered in sand. With her sunscreen on she was basically a walking glue stick. Rolling in the sand was like covering chicken in breadcrumbs. "I'm having a shower" she'd say throwing sand on her legs. "That's the opposite of a shower. You're getting dirty. No one bathes like that. Except maybe chickens. A dust bath." I stopped stressing about my gritty girl and finally just surrendered to the fact that there was going to be a LOT of sand on her, in our clothes and pretty much everything. We brought half the beach home with us.

Some days I'd wake up and ask Michelle what she wanted to do. If she said "Go to the beach!" I started loading things up. Even after past tantrums and nightmare beach days, I was always willing to give it another shot. I knew the Summer would be over so soon and I wanted to enjoy it as much as possible. Plus I'd been working my butt off (literally!) to lose 25 lbs so I figured I might as well enjoy swimsuit season as long as I could.

Michelle is my best friend, my buddy, my partner in crime. I love going on adventures with her. One day we may even make a road trip in the Miata (since I've STILL been unable to sell it. So far there have been only tire-kickers, insulting offers, impossible buyers and disappointments. I figured if the right buyer came along, I'd sell and if not, maybe I was meant to keep it. When Michelle is old enough she can ride shotgun and we can go to Cali. Two girls on the road having adventures like Thelma & Louise -- minus the crime, drinking, sex and violence!)

So August went by in the blink of an eye. On sunny days we'd go out and enjoy the weather. On rainy days we'd stay in and play together. Hide and seek remained her favourite game. She also loves playing with her little kitchen, became quite fond of being Dr. Michelle and taking my blood pressure, temperature etc. She also loves puzzles and has gotten quite good at them. She loves to draw and has gone from scribbling to making actual faces -- a circle for the head, eyes, nose and a smiley mouth. She even started putting hair and ears on them. I read that kids don't usually start to draw faces until 4 or 5 years old but Michelle is no ordinary 2 year old. And she is wearing size 4 clothes already.

Aside from the potty training debacle, Michelle seemed anxious to be a "big girl." She wanted to do more and more things herself. She didn't want her bananas cut up anymore. She started eating a whole banana herself. I just had to peel it for her as she went on. She wanted to drink from a "big girl cup." I let her experiment with water. She spilled a little on herself and the floor but started getting the hang of it. I got her some straw cups too and she seemed to like them until one day when she was tired and wanted a nap. She screamed for her milk and wouldn't drink it from the straw cup. Only the sippy cup would do. Unfortunately I didn't have it with me so there was a scene at Walmart. (Whenever I feel embarrassed in Walmart I have to remember the "People of Walmart" website and realize that it could always be worse. YES I have a screaming toddler but at least I'm not dressed like a martian. Or 400 lbs in a tutu and cowboy boots. Or dragging my child on a leash behind my scooter. Or wearing short shorts with a colostomy bag. So, yeah people stop staring. It's just a screaming kid.) It seems that milk in the sippy cup has replaced milk in the bottle which replaced breastmilk as her go-to comfort food/drink cure-all nap-enducer drug. She is still a milk addict but it seems it does a body good because she is extremely tall for her age (in the top 2%.)

I'm proud that she is such a polite girl. She always says please, thank you and you're welcome. Especially with strangers. People are always impressed at how proper and polite she is (when she's not screaming because she's overtired or didn't get her way.) She has come out of her shell a great deal too. She will go up to strangers and say hi and makes friends with other kids at the park when we go.

Michelle is a control freak (like her father was and her mother is if I'm being honest.) You can not MAKE her do something she doesn't want to do. So the best you can hope for is to introduce an idea to her and hope that she thinks it's a good idea. I had given up on potty training after the epic fail in July. If Michelle asked to go potty, then of course I'd put her on it but I was not going to bring it up. I was certainly not going to pressure her. When she was ready, I was hoping she'd come to me. Then one morning in August, out of the blue Michelle woke up and said "Mama I need to do poo in the potty." It's like a light came shining down from Heaven and choirs of angels were singing. "Ok! Good girl!" I didn't really believe her but I was going to give it a go. So I sat her on her princess toilet seat. I read her all the potty books including the huge Elmo search and find which is a massive book and hurts my arms holding it up, not to mention how uncomfortable it is sitting on a tile floor. I sang songs and recited silly rhymes and made her laugh. When Michelle tried to say "I want to get up" but hadn't done anything I argued "No. You haven't done anything yet. You told Mama you need to poo on the potty. Sometimes it takes a while so we'll just wait." As I continued entertaining her with songs and stories she suddenly said "Something's happening." I heard a little toot. Oh please let that be more than a toot! "Is that a toot or a poot?" I asked and she laughed. She was doing an actual POO on the potty! This was historic. I wanted to call the newspaper. I wanted to write it across the sky. I was so happy and proud. "Yay! Good girl! You get a sticker on your chart and a poo present and some chocolate!" Yes I am not above bribery and rewards. We called Grandma and Auntie May and left messages about her first #2 on the potty. I thought this was it. She had turned a corner. Now that she had seen how nice it was to go poo in the potty and not have it in her diaper, she'd never go back. I had little chocolate drops to reward her (like a dog with treats I know it's kind of lame but you do what works.) every time she went potty. No chocolate unless you do a poo (there's something really inappropriate and disturbing about that but I try not to dwell on it.) Michelle soon poo-pooed that pipe dream. Her next numero dos was in her diaper like always. Her single successful potty poop was just a one-off fluke and NOT the start of a new trend. It NEVER HAPPENED AGAIN. Sigh. Oh well. At least it happened once. That was a happy day.

I am grateful to have an unusual job that allows me a lot of time with Michelle. Though the days I work are very long (14 hours with the commute) at least I only have a couple of them here and there and the rest of the time I get to be with her. I used to try to sneak out inconspicuously when I was going to work but then I'd talk to my Mom and hear how Michelle would cry. Since she seemed to understand so much now I decided to just be honest with her. "Mommy has to go to work now sweetheart. I'll miss you very much. I'll see you in the morning when you get up." (if I was on nightshift.) She was Ok with it. She would stand on the veranda with my Mom and watch me drive away and wave to me. It was sweet. It certainly felt better than trying to sneak away and dart out the door when she wasn't looking. My niece said that she used to get upset when my sister went off to work mostly because she didn't get to say goodbye. It does feel better to kiss her goodbye now before I go. Michelle loves being at Grandma and Grandpa's house and running around in their big backyard. She gets a kick out of hanging out on the enclosed porch too. Sometimes bunnies even come to visit.

 I feel so fortunate to have my wonderful family -- my Mom and Dad who I depend on to watch Michelle for me (as I've said before I can't imagine leaving her with strangers.) My sister who is the best sister and best friend anyone could have. My niece and nephew who Michelle looks forward to visiting and playing with. My brother Chris, Michelle's godfather, whom she is quite fond of and who visits my Mom's place often while I'm at work. Sometimes he even brings a little dog with him, Maggie, and Michelle gets a kick out of that. It's also nice to see my brother Mike and his family once in a while for family get-togethers. In August we all met up at Wasaga Beach for a day of fun and to celebrate Evie's birthday. It has become an annual tradition to meet at the beach and then go back to Mike and Barb's for a BBQ and birthday party. I always love the beach and having the whole family there makes it even more special.

It was an amazing day. The weather was perfect. Michelle was happy. My whole family was there and all was well in the world (for a little while at least). I got to swim in the water for a bit while Michelle played on the sand. My Mom kept an eye on her. I kept looking to the shore to make sure everything was OK. Michelle didn't seem to miss me at all. I never get a break so it's a real treat just having a few moments to enjoy myself. For a while I floated on my back and looked up at the blue sky. The cool water in my ears, seagulls flying overhead. It was bliss. I even got to sit on the sand and enjoy the sun for a while too. Sometimes Michelle cuts me some slack.

I even had a Zen moment doing a headstand on the beach. It didn't last too long before Michelle was curious what the heck Mama was doing. I love that my sister got a picture of Uncle Chris holding her back.

Michelle still wouldn't go for a swim or even dip her feet in the bay. My sister thought Shannon might have better luck. Kids seem to like to emulate other kids. Shannon tried leading her to the water but Michelle stopped short and said "No!" and pulled Shannon back away from the bay. Watching tiny Michelle yank Shannon's arm and forcefully pull her back to the tents was hilarious and scary. Michelle is very bossy. She insists on getting her way and she's surprisingly strong.

Kayla wasn't feeling well so Barb left early with her. Mike went back in my sister's car and I took James and Evie with Michelle and I. I was worried what a car ride with 3 rowdy rug rats would be like but it was a blast. Michelle was smiling and laughing at them and Evie and Michelle wound up singing "Let it go!" from Frozen at the top of their lungs. We went back to Mike's for a BBQ and birthday celebration. I always love spending time with my family. It means the world to me.

Apparently I took a gazillion photos in August (as I've said before I am a photoholic. It's an obsession. My way of holding on since life is so fleeting.) Parks, gardens, even just hanging out in the yard. I've always got my camera with me, ready to catch that perfect moment.

I love going on excursions with Michelle and it's nice to go while she can still get in free at most places. We had been to the Butterfly Conservatory in Cambridge but I wanted to check out the one in Niagara. A bit further of a trek but twice the size of the Cambridge one. We stopped at the floral clock on the way and a kind stranger offered to take our picture.



I wasn't able to capture the picture I really wanted -- a beautiful Blue Morpho butterfly softly lighting on Michelle's shoulder as she flashed me the biggest, sweetest smile. With Michelle running amok no butterfly in his right mind would dare land on her. I did have a few land on me. I had a hard time even getting Michelle to smile that day. She didn't want to stay still for a second. She wanted to explore. She kept trying to go up and down the stairs. It was exhausting. Michelle and I were both wearing butterfly dresses (again, not by accident!) for the occasion. I'd love to find matching Mother-Daughter dresses, as cheesy as that sounds. I am a dork! Before I had my own children I was sure that I'd seen it somewhere -- identical outfits in adult and child size. Now that I would actually be interested it doesn't seem to exist. I guess it would be a bit over the top. Anything for a photo op!

Aside from the annual Family Wasaga Beach trip in August, another family tradition is going to see the Princess Margaret Dream Home Lottery house with my Mom and sister. We all love looking at model homes and looking at a fully decorated million dollar home is even more fun. We always buy a ticket. It's for a good cause (cancer research) and who knows? Maybe one day we'll get lucky. I keep figuring my luck has to change one day. It was beautiful as they always are. My favourite room was the sunroom/office/library which I would use as an art studio, hypothetically, if I won it. One day I would like to paint again. These days the closest I've come to creating art is sculpting Play Doh with Michelle.

Toward the end of August I was determined. I thought I can't let the whole summer go by without Michelle getting in the water. As much as she enjoyed herself playing in the sand I felt like she was missing out. I figured if we went to the beach often enough, if it became our second home, maybe she'd warm up to it. After so many failed attempts throughout the summer, in late August, Michelle finally went in the water! It was at my favourite beach, Port Dover. It took some coaxing but I carried her into the lake with me and once she was comfortable with that I swung her around in my arms with just her feet barely dangling in the water. It was a bit warmer this time. She didn't seem to mind it. She started to laugh and soon she wanted to be put down and walk in the water herself. She still only went in up to her knees but it was a momentous day for me! She had conquered her fear of the water.

Of course now my day at the beach was even more stressful because before when she chased seagulls she would stop at the lake as though there were an invisible barrier there. Now there was so stopping her. She'd follow them right into the lake so I had to really chase her to make sure she didn't fall in the water.

Seeing Michelle's excitement, her bliss at experiencing something new is amazing. It was worth the wait to see her finally enjoying the water. She jumped and splashed around and threw her arms in the air. "I'm so happy!" she said. "See! I told you baby! I knew you'd have fun if you just gave it a chance!" It's sort of a metaphor for many things in life. A lot of time we let fear stand in our way. We don't fully enjoy, don't fully live our lives because we spend so much time avoiding what we fear (failure, getting hurt, whatever it may be.) Sometimes you just have to dive in, go for it. You only live once.

After that Michelle was asking to go "swimming" again (not that she ever did get in any deeper than her legs. Baby steps!) I figured we'd go for one more trip to Port Dover. I thought it would be our last chance this year.
We had another hot sunny perfect beach day and went for it. It was also a success. Michelle and I had a great day walking around the little shops and playing on the beach -- on the sand and in the water.  Building and stomping on sand castles, chasing bubbles and seagulls, splashing in the lake, Michelle was ecstatic. I managed to catch a few smiles on camera that day.


And then, Michelle rewarded me with the biggest smile -- pure joy. Her face covered in sand, her swimsuit falling off her shoulders, her hair stuck to the sunscreen and an ear to ear grin. The sun was just peaking from behind the clouds and I thought, "This is Heaven. Spending the day with my little girl."

A hopeless romantic I was always looking for that great love. My one true love to laugh and snuggle with and share each day with. I got her. Michelle is the one who loves me more than anyone in my life. She says "I love you Mama," hugs me and kisses me several times a day. She is sweet, funny, passionate, intense. She can be moody and she drives me crazy sometimes but she makes me happier than I've ever been. Just like my sister told me so many years ago (and I didn't believe her or understand.) There is no love like the love between mother and child. It is love mixed with need. She needs me and I need her. We are bound together for life by a bond so natural and a love so deep that nothing else can compare. And it's not a relationship I could ever walk away from (or want to.) Even on her worst day I tell her "I'll always love you. No matter what." True unconditional love is something I don't think I ever had with anyone else. Love always had conditions. There was always a breaking point where I'd just give up. There is nothing Michelle could ever do to make me turn my back on her. "Just wait until she's a teenager!" my Mom warns me. It doesn't matter. She isn't just in my heart. She IS my heart.

I was always looking for the perfect man, my soul mate. I met many unique and fascinating men each with their own tragic flaws but each with something beautiful to show me, to teach me. My life is richer for knowing each of them. I am grateful to each one for leading me further on my journey and toward my destiny.

Michelle is my destiny. She is my forever. The summer may not last forever but the memories will. And the beauty of sharing life with Michelle is that there is always another season and set of experiences to enjoy. Fall leaves. Building a snowman. The journey never ends. I am so grateful for her love. I am so grateful that none of my relationships worked out because if they had I wouldn't have ended up where I did, with whom I did and created this miraculous little human.

"Are you happy Mama?" she asks me.
"Yes baby. I'm so happy, so lucky to have you."