We Were Friends When…

There’s a photo on my parent’s refrigerator back home of my mom and me—it’s a selfie of the two of us way before selfies were a thing. My hair was bleach, bright blonde and we both wore a pair of dark brown, oversized sunglasses. We were on our way to Austin for a weekend away, just us. I think about this photo often—it was taken, gosh, 14 years ago? I think of it often because in that photo, my mom and I have the exact, same smile and behind our bug-eyed sunglasses, it’s difficult to even tell us apart (but for the hairstyle) and I love knowing that there is another person out there who’s just like me. Not only that, but that person who’s out there who’s just like me happens to be one of the most important people in the world.

I’m one of the lucky ones: a daughter whose best friend has always been and will always be her mom. It goes all the way back to when I started forming memories. My mom and I were friends when she’d share milk-shakes with me in the car as we drove home from kindergarten—the Gin Blossoms or Spin Doctors jamming through the radio of our 1985 GMC Woody. We were friends when I fell out of the tree in our front yard in the second grade and although my pain was excruciating, we still laughed together after we reached safety following our realization that she’d turned the wrong way down a one-way road in Houston’s confusing-as-hell medical district. We were friends when, in the fifth grade I think, I left a Ziploc baggie of Cheez-its crumbs in the center console of that same GMC woody and instead of just throwing it away, my mom left it on my pillow the next day with a note that I should learn to throw away my own garbage. In retaliation, I left the baggie on her dresser. I found it a few days later in my sock drawer. It was then placed under her pillow. Back and forth, back and forth the baggie has gone between our changing residencies and just weeks ago, I found that same Ziploc baggie in a box of koozies in my utility room. (I’ll have you know, that two decades later, Cheez-its crumbs still look exactly the same which is very telling for either Cheez-Its or Ziploc.)

My mom and I were friends when my heart broke in my early twenties…both figuratively and literally. Still numb over the loss of friends and terrified in a hospital bed on my way into heart surgery, my mom held my hand and told me she’d be waiting for me on the other side—and that she loved me more than I could know. When my eyes opened in the recovery room, there she was with tear-streams down her soft cheeks and a smile waiting to tell me that I was going to be okay.

My mom and I were friends when Blackberry Messenger was still a thing—she was my only contact for a long time and I was totally okay with that—it being her messages that got me through the long afternoons of corporate paper pushing. We were friends when we attended our first yoga class together and then continued to attend that same class week after week for years. It would be a decade later that I’d be leading my own yoga sessions and wouldn’t you know that it was my mom who attended one of my first classes.

My mom believes in magic—the kind that floats around and connects us all to one another. She believes, wholeheartedly, that we’re responsible for one another—that if someone is suffering, we should help. That if someone is acting like an idiot, that there’s probably more to that story and maybe we should look to understand before snap-judging. That if you’re giving it your best…your real best…then that’s all you can do and that’s okay. She believes in gentleness and open-mindedness and forgiveness (even when *I* personally think that forgiveness in certain situations is no longer an option.) But my mom is stronger than me in that way.

My mom is the strongest person I know—she’s overworked and underappreciated and gives and gives and gives without question. She’s sensitive and she’s thoughtful—still giving me gifts in an Easter basket because why wouldn’t she? She bakes homemade cakes for her friend’s birthdays. She loves roses and knows just how to help the grow. She reads books aloud at the library for elementary students. She answers my midnight calls and calls me on my numbskull actions when I have them. She makes lunches for the members of her church. She loves King Ranch as if he were her own son and is impressed with every single thing that Little Foot does. She always does what’s right. She always thinks of others before herself. She never ever quits.

I think of that photo of the two of us on their fridge and I think how lucky I am to have, by chance, been her daughter but more importantly by choice, be her friend. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t talk to my mom, even if one of us is angry at the other. I am the spouse and the mother and the person I am today because of my mom and not a day goes by that I am not grateful for all she’s endured to raise my brothers and me. She gives so, so much and I can barely keep it together when I think of how much she means to me.

And here’s the thing—my mom will read this and her cheeks will blush and she’ll probably gripe at me to take it down because she’s too humble to have nice things said about her in any sort of a public forum—she’d rather the spotlight be on someone else. She’s modest like that. She’s never the kind of person to boast about herself even though I think she’s one of the few who actually deserves to. So if she tells me in seriousness to take this down, I will respect her wishes.

In the meantime…

I love you, mom, more than you could ever imagine—and I’m only capable of that because of the love you’ve instilled in me. The friendship that we’ve formed that continues to evolve is one of the best things in my life. I think of you every day and am grateful, beyond comprehension, for the woman that you are and the positive impact you continue to make on the world. I’m grateful that I was born your daughter and that you are who you are. Thank you for all that you’ve done and still do—I truly believe the world’s still on its axis because you’re here. 

As my mother, my friend, and one of the people I most admire, I love you.

Happiest of birthdays to you.


Springtime Shifts & Snips

It was a misty afternoon as I drove along obscure county roads through small-town Texas’s prairies and lakes region on a solo-trip to Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue’s headquarters in San Angelo. My trip’s purpose was to volunteer and assist in what would be 150+ male donkeys being castrated. I’d be another set of hands to help in any way I could for the large team of vets and employees of the PVDR ranch.

I don’t get the opportunity to make road trips on my own very often and on the occasion that it happens, I remember how much I enjoy that solitary time. To boot, I love Texas in early spring when the leaves are a bright, playful green and infinite bluebonnets blanket the grassy slopes along every road. This lone trip came at a perfect time because much like this seasonal springtime shift, my life has gone through some blooming of its own and I’ve not had the time or space to really process it all.

The drive was a strange one—the mist making it too wet to not run the windshield wipers but not wet enough to keep them on their lowest setting, so I had to be diligent about manually clicking them every minute or so. I also wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from my time at PVDR seeing as I’d never witnessed one donkey castration, let alone over 150. From what I knew going into it, the procedure can be pretty gruesome to the weak-stomached and although I consider my gut to be pretty strong, I was still finding it difficult to imagine what I was driving into. But I wanted, so badly, to help. I’m not really sure why…I just really, really wanted to be there.

I drove on along a route that Google Maps decided was best and really, it picked well. The roads climbed and tumbled over rolling hills and through patches of low-hanging trees and wildflower clusters. The roads rose and fell with such rhythm that soon, it felt like the Earth itself was breathing and I simply slipped along the ebb and flow of its beautiful breath. I found myself mimicking her breathing—inhaling as the car climbed up and exhaling as we slithered down.

I breathed in my recent doubts—doubts like, was it really the right decision to take leave from the studio where I’ve been regularly teaching yoga for nearly two years? Only two days before this trip, I’d held my final, regularly scheduled yoga class in an effort to have more time at home with my family, my donkeys, and my ranch. But that decision was no easy one to make—I loved that space where I could lead yoga classes. It was friendly and fun and oddly enough, a place where people didn’t feel the need to compete with one another. I liked that. Competition makes me uncomfortable. Maybe that’s why I was a really crappy softball player once upon a time.

I breathed in doubts about myself—the cassettes on repeat in my mind that question if the things I do are the right ones. If I’m a good enough mother. A good enough partner. A good enough guardian for donkeys. The insecurities I have over not making much money and being so anxious about absolutely everything all the time. I breathed it in and in and in and with every downhill exhale, I imagined those doubts fluttering away like a frightened murder of crows. Gather it up and let it go. Up and down, gather and let go.

I arrived at my destination around dinner time and was welcomed with warm hospitality by two of the PVDR ranch residents who put me up for the night. It felt like home, sleeping where the donkeys bray, and the next morning, we woke before sunrise and got to work.

There was hardly a moment to be lost in my head that day and perhaps that’s why I enjoy manual labor so much. If monkey mind has a task, then it doesn’t have time to waste on bottomless pits of “what ifs.” It makes hard work an escape for me. I love it. Every minute of it…sweat and blood, included. Hard work is therapy.

After while, as the castrations were beginning, I found myself in the line where I assisted in haltering and identifying the jacks who were in the queue for vaccines, sedation, and castration. I’ve not had much experience with wild donkeys who’ve not been handled much by humans (or handled in negative ways) and it was a little bit intimidating and a lot bit eye-opening. I’m so used to my sweet Bunny and Tee and Tink who lean their weight and their trust into me that I forget how much work and effort goes into these donkeys to help them feel safe.

So many of the PVDR donkeys have come from a neglected, abusive, and abandoned backgrounds and to come out on the other side hungry for human interaction is a real testament to the effort that PVDR folks put into these donkeys. It’s humbling. And it’s a ray of freaking sunshine in an often selfish and apathetic world. I wished I could’ve stayed to help with castration day two, but life was still happening at home and I didn’t want to miss any more of it. Plus I really wanted to spend time with my donkeys and the 5 left in my care that were available for adoption. I wanted to pet their noses and show them that they were loved especially after seeing where a lot of their journeys may have started—wild and scared and having no reason to trust humans.

Perhaps it was the seemingly 35 gallons of sweat I lost along that line of dozens of donkeys and perhaps it was the snipping away of bit after bit after bit, but as I drove home late that night, beneath the star-studded sky, my spirit felt cleansed or….castrated, if you will. It takes escapes like this, sometimes, to get out of the woods of your mind—to retreat from your comfort zone and spend some time with people who’ve dedicated their lives to making the world a better place. “What ifs” struggle to exist in places demanding of your strength and my, how I need my “what ifs” to be put out of their misery sometimes.

I guess the point of all of this is that we could all stand to snip away our unnecessary bits sometimes—especially if all they’re doing is causing us and those around us, trouble. Find some alone time. Scare the crows away. Admire the stars and most important, breathe as deeply and with as much purpose as you can. Use that deep breath to create space for peace within you—to make way for the blooming wildflowers of your soul.

Gather it up and let it go.