Jan 7 2013

Confessions of a Pioneer

pioneer wagons

Recently a friend referred to me as a pioneer. I had to pause and ponder such an accusation.

Pioneer? Me? Really?

I forced myself to look beyond the stereotypical view of a pioneer. Remove the bonnet. Put in indoor plumbing. Replace a covered wagon with a Suburban. And sure enough, perhaps she’s right.

Maybe I am a pioneer.

We moved to a foreign and somewhat harsh environment. And we are learning new ways.

For example, I cooked a pork shoulder in the crock pot and couldn’t bring myself to throw away the stock left behind. Saving two cups of left over pork stock is new to me. But perhaps even more shocking than saving it, is having a pretty good idea  how to actually use it for consumption later this week. Trips to town are usually once a week and they are an event. Pa drives, we sing songs, and we buy what we need for the week.

But the biggest adjustment is the swing from achieving to surviving.

I have been struggling. Each morning I wake up and think of all that still needs to be accomplished before we can feel settled and immediately my body reacts. My heart starts beating faster. It becomes difficult to take a deep breath. I want to crawl back into bed and hide.

Instead, I swing my feet into my slippers. Did I mention how cold it is? And I recite my new mantra.

“One day at a time.” 

Wait a second. Um, isn’t that one of the slogans for AA? If such a saying is one of the pillars of recovery, and I repeat this saying to myself ad noseum throughout the day, does this mean I am in recovery?

This pioneer woman had to stop and think. 

If I am in recovery, what am I recovering from?

It was as if a little voice inside shouted back at me, “Well, Miss Rebecca. I’m so glad you finally asked.”

I sat down and braced myself for what was to come.

“Yes, you are in recovery.” Sassed the imperious voice. “You are recovering from an addiction.”

An addiction? An addiction to what?


My brain rattled a bit. The verdict hit me square between the eyes.

So here is my confession.

“Hi. My name is Rebecca. I’m a pioneer. And I’m addicted to accomplishment.”

And not just normal accomplishment. I’m talking the extreme over-achieving sort. Writing a novel in five months. Trying to remodel an entire house in four weeks. Is there such a thing as type A, extra bold and italicized?

I’ve known this about myself for quite awhile. I’ve never seen it as an addiction. But when one is faced with the task of survival, achievement takes a back seat. Or maybe even gets drug behind. The once mundane tasks of life have grown monstrously. If I ruin dinner, the closest In-n-Out is 45 minutes away. Painting trim turns nightmarish when it takes three coats to cover the pea green paint. I want to see more accomplishment. But there’s not time for that in the midst of survival.

I’ve thought about hiding under a rock, or more apt a tumbleweed, until we pass from pioneers to settlers. But there’s no telling how long that will take. And it won’t happen until all the green trim is painted.

I’ve heard that recognizing you have a problem is the first step toward recovery.

So, here’s to first steps!

What’s your name and what are you addicted too?








Dec 6 2012

Platform 9 and 3/4

“The Sorcerer’s Stone” Platform 9 and 3/4

Oscar Wilde once said, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” I think that might be one of those chicken versus egg kind of questions. You know, which came first? But in this instance, I believe Oscar is right.

The other night we were watching the first Harry Potter movie (The Sorcerer’s Stone.) I think it’s safe to say that we view art through current circumstances. And in this case, I couldn’t help but feel as though that movie was imitating our life. Or our life is currently imitating that movie? Was it the chicken or the egg?

Anyway, we had grown quite used to living under the stairs. We were accustomed to meeting the expectations put upon us by ourselves and others. We followed the rules. And then something changed. An invitation of sorts.

We accepted the invitation. It meant David retiring and us moving out to the country. We made our way to the train station and stood perplexed at our ticket. There is no Platform nine and three quarters. Now what?

Oh! We run full speed ahead straight at a brick wall! Of course! Why didn’t we think of that?

Leaving behind all that we know, full speed and unlimited internet, the camaraderie of the department, and the security of a schedule, to name a few, has left us running at a brick wall. But we are running. Full speed ahead. Uprooting or making a change of any kind feels like running straight at a brick wall somewhere between platform nine and platform ten and hoping not to splat.

And it isn’t the first time we’ve done this. I remember  when David was diagnosed with PTSD and it felt like we were running straight toward  a brick wall. No idea what was on the other side or even if we would make it to the other side. But we ran. We ran toward help.

We made it through the brick wall and found help. And that helps us believe. It helps us believe that this time, what lies on the other side, is a magical place beyond our wildest dreams.

Reality check. Perhaps we won’t see that this side of heaven but maybe we will find an adventure. At the very least.

Are you running at a brick wall too? What do you hope to find on the other side?

Oct 25 2012

The “R” Word

There are many words over the course of a lifetime that are monumental.




I’ve done all of those. Some more than once. And true to form, each time was monumental. My life changed forever.

I remember.

Right after I graduated from high school, I chose to live in Central America for nine months. (Long story.)

“You will never be the same.” Several adults said to me before I left. They would look beyond me. A far off expression in their eyes. Like they could see into my future. Or maybe they were looking into their past. Either way, it creeped me out a little and I grew tired of hearing it.

I remember.

I resigned myself to a smile and nod in response. What does one say to that? It sounded more like a sentencing of sorts than “Bon voyage and God-speed.” I dismissed it. (Eighteen year olds are extremely gifted in that regard.)

And I left. Nine months later, I came home. A different person. A gestational period of change. I grew up, slightly. I burnt rice, horribly. I gained weight, understandably. And I changed, unavoidably.

I could not be the same. Or at least, I could no longer view the world the way I had before. I lived with children who suffered from Malaria and gun-shot wounds. Men and women in their thirties who looked twice their age. The ravages of survival etched in the many lines on their faces.

I remember.

That was a long time ago. I’ve married, had children, moved. More people are added to my world. A spouse, a child, a neighbor.

And each time, I’m changed.

I remember.

And now? Now, we are on the verge of another monumental word.


My husband is ending a career in law enforcement. We are moving. Saying good-bye. Bon voyage. And I have to remember the past to gain the strength to look toward the future.

Today especially has been stressful. So many unknowns. Will everything work out with the house? Will it close escrow in time? Can I survive living forty minutes from Starbucks? What will our lives look like?

Unanswerable questions that swirl around in my mind like a storm, attempting to destroy whatever it touches.

So, I remember. Monumental has come and gone. I’m still standing. And not alone. A spouse, children, friends, neighbors, colleagues. Familiar faces cross my mind and touch my heart.

I’ll never be the same.

And I remember.