For the past 5 years of my life, I have had somewhat of a secret… I don’t have many of those left these days, but for me my romantic relationships have always been something I have kept pretty much to those that know me personally. This was probably most evident when Courtney Halowell passed away. We had been living together for nearly a year before he passed, and when many of his friends arrived at his funeral, they were surprised to meet me, surprised to know that he had a girlfriend, surprised we lived together and shocked by the lack of romantic declarations and kissy faced photo’s we’d put on Facebook. Almost as though our relationship wasn’t legitimized because, “for a girl who markets herself as a “model” how do you not have a million photos of you and the person you love?” In fact we only had two partial photos. If you notice there are in fact very few photos of me with other people outside of large party pictures. It’s no accident.
It’s the one part of my life that I have kept just for me, for a number of reasons… my first marriage was VERY public, and very publicly messy towards the end. I always hated seeing couples argue on facebook, I felt it completely unnecessary and disrespectful. Conversely I find those private moments you have, the curled up on the couch comfort, the kisses between flipping burgers on the bbq in the yard…those are OUR moment’s, moments I’m really in, moments I’m not trying to loose to my cell phone, my social media etc.
I’m not going lie, this past year in review has had some major ups and downs, the sordid details of which I’m glad to have not posted on Facebook. A year from now I won’t have some awful argument pop up in my memory feed, “Facebook memory – that time you argued over couch color and ended up sleeping on it” If you know me in real life, you know this past year has been rough, in many, many, ways. (much worse than couch color)
So why come out now?
Well… I’ll start with some quick backstory:
5 Years ago, our marriage reception was supposed to begin at the site of literally one of the largest fires in Santa Barbara history Deemed “The White fire” it was accidentally set ablaze by a kid who threw camp coals into a trash can, a week before our wedding. The fire burned nearly 2,000 acres before being put out on Thursday, our wedding scheduled for Saturday.
We didn’t call it off, we relocated, at a huge price, and while the smell of smoke lingered it was still no match for the hoards of mosquitoes that came off Lake Cachuma at the start of our reception, or the searing heat that melted our wedding cake, or the fight that broke out, or our close friend splitting his head open tripping over a chair, or the camp host who almost sent a guest to jail for a DUI at 3am.
Fortunately, anyone who didn’t leave early because of the heat, drank enough to forget many of these details, mostly because we ran out of drinking water.
Our DJ played the wrong song for our first dance, some romantic 17 minute long equivalent of “Innagadadavida” which I had to stop after 4 minutes because I was absolutely roasting in my over-sized ball gown, and 90 degree weather (and did I mention… I got fat) after being a model since age 19 I finally decided to eat… everything…thought I could loose 40+lbs pre-wedding no problem… also kill the man that did my hair…
My husband hates this rendition of our story by the way. He still remembers it as a magical day, where the weather was warm, and perfect, and everyone had a great time, it ended with great stories, and us being married.
Fortunately our ceremony went beautifully, with one slight misspoken word during our vows. We wrote letters to each other, and placed them in a box with a bottle of wine to be opened “One Year” after our marriage. Our minister slipped up and said “Five years”
So this bottle was bought hastily at Total Wine, for probably as about as cheap as we could get away with. $35? (for us at that time was a lot)….may be vinegar by now…
Hey you have cancer!
My husband and I had always planned to renew our vows at the 5 year mark, but this last year had been tough on us, emotionally, relationship-wise, financially, in virtually every way you could think of. I have been off work for a year on disability for severe depression, and a month before our 5 year wedding anniversary I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, which caught early enough is no big deal for most women, but I hadn’t had a pap since I was 16 years old. I would be checked for everything else under the sun regularly, like a normal woman should, but when it came to that word, I shy’d away. I had been through some trauma at 16 so I always associated a pap with something much more painful, so I opted out every time, which doctors didn’t press on much because most cervical cancer is slow growing, so if you miss a Pap here and there, no big deal… 16 years of opting out, and tomorrow I am opting in to surgery to remove my entire cervix, (and we will see, possibly more), along with the possibility of loosing my ability to have children, hysterectomy, chemo the whole nine yards, this is step 1 and hopefully the only and last step.
I Do, Over…
Before finding out about the whole cancer thing, my husband and I had done a lot of soul searching, been having a rough time. I’ll leave it at that. We weren’t sure what our next step was, but when life goes from complicated, to life threatening, you begin to look at things differently. I looked at my life, the people in it, the people that stood next to me, talked to me, the people that were kind to me, that helped me and not hurt me, and although my husband and I had it rough, he was still there. Standing next to me, fighting for me, even when I didn’t want to fight for myself. The man that propped me up, my navigator when I got lost. I had gotten to a point in my life where he was the only person that could still find me, the only man who loved me enough to dive into the pit of hell and hold my hand. Walk through fire, stand strong, take an emotional beating, and get out of bed and go to work every day for what? For us, and once more he did it silently, gracefully, letting me make mistakes, never forcing me to be what I wasn’t, we would fight, and I would cry and like the fiery latin woman I am, I could be the destroyer of worlds and he would stand strong, let me finish and try and find the words to calm the storms.
We decided to start over. A lot had happened both good and bad after 5 years, and Matt was, is still here, he never ran away when things got hard, he only fought harder, and being married to me is a difficult, if not impossible task.
I’m messy, passionate, unpredictable, and stubborn. Not only that but its a hard task to be a guy who isn’t a typical “car guy” married to a woman who has spent her whole life drenched in it. Matt is a science guy, a thinker, an engineer, a planner, a man who is passionately curious for the truth.
Marrying a “car chick” without being the typical “car guy” is tricky. To tell men “you should be talking to her, she knows more about cars” that takes balls. It takes a level of commitment and trust that I could never find anywhere again ever. Talk to my wife he says, when it comes to “hotrods, motorcycles, off-road, pin-stripping, art”… and “talk to my husband” I say if you want to know about “physics, science, the universe, quantum theory, intergalactic travel” together, we got this shit covered. Passionate opposites.
We decided to go to Bali. I had always wanted to go but it was always just beyond our reach. With some help from family, we made it happen. This time I wanted to have a ceremony that represented who we were. I didn’t want to try and have the trendy “camp wedding” with mason jars on the table, and burlap. I didn’t want to do what I did before, which is what I felt like society was looking for, big cake, big dress, dance floor, dj, drinks, catering… I wanted to have a ceremony that was about two fiery people. A celebration of the fires we’d been through, and the people we were going to be, two individuals, together for life.
Say YES! to the Dress -linked – Quick Shout Out to Nordstrom (NOT SOLICITED) – This might make you cry…
Balinese Fire Ceremony
When Matt and I first re-met (we had known each other in high school but lost touch after a while) we met camping, and over the fire we talked and got re-acquainted quickly. He followed me as I drunkenly stumbled into the river for a brisk night “swim” while our friends laughed, and I watched him spin poi (flaming coals on chains) Yes that’s my husband:
So when we talked about a vow renewal a renewal by fire seemed fitting. Camp fire, fire spinning, we are both fire signs, and our relationship has been through hell and back, and of course our first wedding fire disaster. We are fire people.
We chose The Five Elements Resort in Bali for our vow renewal because of their beautiful location and the fact that they are one of the only places in the world that preforms an ancient fire ceremony, one that was so dangerous to do it was ceased for over 350 years. Sign us up. It was the most beautiful healing experience I have ever had in my life. It is the perfect summary of the balance of love and determination that marriage takes. It is far beyond the pristine, virginal, white wedding, where everything will always work out in the end. It is hot, and messy, and sensual, it is what marriage is really like, and it ends with two people that no matter how hot the flames may grow will still be there side by side. Come what may.
Tonight we are drinking that bottle of wine we put in a box on our wedding day, before I go in for surgery tomorrow, I don’t care what it tastes like, because I will be drinking it with the man I love.
June 1st 2018 we renewed our vows, and it was perfect.
Linked from “Bali Vows Blog” – read my journey here.
I told Matt to wear whatever he wanted to our ceremony. I wanted to marry the man, not the man I told to wear some matching cute outfits that fit the theme. I wanted to marry him, in what he wanted to be married in, and I wanted the same for me.
Family helped with the trip, but when it came time for me to find a dress I was on a shoe string… I had less than $100 budgeted and not knowing how much the next steps of surgery where going to cost, etc. I wanted to find something I loved, something that was me! I went to DTLA fashion district, where all the girls bragged about “discount dresses” even “Discount” wedding dresses are still $400-$500 at least.
The week before we left I still hadn’t found anything, I was walking through Nordstrom on the way to my car, and stopped just to dream at the clearance rack, and found exactly what I wanted! On sale for under $100. I tried it on and nice girl at the clearance rack help me with the dress and couple other less than awesome options. I heard two women in the next room ripping into one another about dresses, and this big wedding, then ripping into the nice lady who helped me, and the seamstress. I waited patiently to hop up on the fitting room stage to see my new wedding dress in its full glory, while listening to these women. $400 bridesmaid dress… a country club wedding… the limo…this dress should fit here, or there. We want a discount…we have bought thousands of dollars from Nordstroms… on and on, for seemingly no reason. Finally they left to make their purchase, I stood on the stage alone and wanted to cry, I was so happy to finally find something I could afford, it needed to be altered though… the alterations woman pinned me up quickly, and then gave me the bill for alterations, the rush fees, it was almost as much as the dress… I texted for possibly sewing help, and figured I would make it work.
I had the seamstress unpin me, and then went to check out. The women were STILL arguing on price, yelling at the extremely patient clerk, who did everything she possibly could for them. She got her manager to help and took me over to a new register quickly so she could help get me out of there. She said “what happened to the alterations?” I must have looked how I felt inside. “I can’t afford them today” I said. She looked at me and said “are you okay?” I smiled through trying not to cry and she says “rough day”. I had been dreading surgery all day, holding my mind away from this word cancer and surgery, and at that moment I was overwhelmed. “Rough few weeks, I just found out I have cancer and need surgery, and this is all I can afford”. I couldn’t help but cry and felt extremely embarrassed to be crying in the mall. She asked if I could wait a minute, and I sat in a high backed chair trying to compose myself. She came back with a seamstress and a manger. “We will make this work for you…” and she and her manager did. She pulled some Nordstrom magic and made my wedding dress into MY wedding dress to fit me in time for Bali. Not only did she make it work but she gave me a big hug on the way out.
The day I went to pick up my dress after alterations I received this note attached. That I hope EVERYONE will read, and that #Nordstrom will see and promote this woman for her amazing customer service. She is one in a million.
In 2002, I spent 14 days locked in a concrete cell. I was put in nothing more than a thin cotton shirt, and a pair of shorts with holes in the seams. The cell they called “observation” for those deemed to ill-behaved to be out and about with the other girls. I was 16 years old. It was winter in Provo Canyon Utah. The room had 7 concrete walls and a steel door with a small window, in which one could be “observed” through. There was no toilet, no shower, trips to the bathroom were supervised, and showers I gained only when I was conscious enough to respond “yes” when the attendant came by. I was given high doses of sedatives, not because I was acting out, but because I didn’t understand the rules I had just been placed under. The first days in solitary before the drugs, I ran in place, did push ups, sit ups, spent parts of the day doing math in my head, reciting poetry, singing songs, which did not go over well with staff…
The room I was in had only one other window besides the one on the steel door. It was a drafty skylight on the ceiling, 20 feet above from where I sat on the cold hard concrete floor. When the drugs they gave me kicked in, I lost the will to run in place, do push ups, sit ups… all I could do was sit, and during that time, the temperature dropped drastically.
In my haze it was all I could do to sit and stare up at the ceiling, and watch the snow begin to fall on the skylight, fall and drift, fall and drift. My body violently shivered, my lips became chapped, then I noticed my toes, my fingers, begin to turn white, then blue, then purple. I took turns shoving my hands in my mouth in an attempt to keep the feeling in them, warm them any way I could.
It was then I realized, there was nothing I could do about this feeling of cold. My body ached from days of shivering.
And so I retreated to my mind. “What is cold?” I thought. “What is feeling?” I wondered. I took deep breathes, in an attempt to calm the shivering. I focused my mind on what it was that made me shiver, and set it aside. Then I focused on toes, my hands my body, and decided, that being cold was a decision, I had made in my mind. I embraced this notion, “yes, I understand body, this is a feeling, a warning system, and right now there is nothing I can do” I refocused my attention, to my breathing, to holding my body still, to ignoring the stinging pain that shot through me. I moved each toe, I gave each digit gentle massage, while controlling what I though about pain, what I knew about cold. Until suddenly I was just there. I was in a room with my body. Cold was a thought, this is not cold enough to kill me, so I need to push out this feeling, and attend to the needs of my extremities.
I did this until I fell asleep, deep in meditation sitting up against the wall. I learned that my mind is more powerful than my body, and that after a while if you can sit with yourself, find the power within, there is no such thing as cold, there is only you, there is only ever you.
Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening –
Poem by Robert Frost
“Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
I watch the cards fall from the sky, giving me tiny paper cuts as they fall.
They lay my future down.
The fortune teller smiles at me, the type of infinite knowing smirk the Buddha had and say’s “don’t worry child.”
You’ll survive, your tiny cuts will heal into beauty marks
Marks that others who have been cut will recognize, and you will become the people they call wise.
I wish my title mouth could give you a brief description of what my life story has to say.
I wish my bruised ego showed on the purples of my face and I could show you what’s behind my sleeping eyes…those dreams I’ve been plagued with like disease.
I wish you could take that away, I wish I could take them from you…
I wish my fate was written like it is in the palm of my hand, all faded and unreadable, so I remember not to rely on that kind of thing.
All I wanted was to paint the sky, the way it looks in your eyes, all the brilliance of blue and the sadness of grey, those hues I wish to only paint away.
I want to replace the devil with a sweeter embrace.
I want to hold the world against my heart again, with its stabbing sadness and bleeding sores and I don’t care if its love infects me to have a friend…
I’ll say goodbye, if it means I get to say hello to you again.
It’s not a somber thing to loose a thing you never stood to gain.
I see the light in your darkness, and the darkness is my friend so I reach for him too, only to be lost in that cold embrace.
They call me winter, they say I make the summer sun shone brighter but my pale skin hasn’t seen the world in days.
You say you like the way my capillaries play. They gleam because I have you under my skin.
I wish you could see the space behind my eyes, the synopsis that light my way, I wish I could use their embers to carry a torch into the symphony of passage ways I see when I look at you.
Days like this pass quickly, and I unfortunately am familiar with their somber song.
It goes like this:
Everyday is the same, driving down the steady lane
Until a stranger stops you in your tracks and uses their hands to use your heart
They usher you to far off places, regions unexplored by the bravest soul
So they don’t have to die alone.
What a selfish thing to do.
They dive in the shallow end, and we dive with them, as helpless fools,
we loose our hands to destroy our fall,
And there we end, two fools in shallow water, trying to breath the blood bath we’ve created
Life’s messy, and when I swallow the taste of iron and water it fills my soul, and allows me to sleep.
It’s just a melancholy dream. A macabre and distant play that haunts my dreams shadows my face.
A drowning and a dying I don’t care to erase.
She sits in silence amongst the leaves Her eyes are steady her breath at ease Her patient palms set on her bow Feet firmly planted, and head set low The huntress waits and stalks her prey Night after night, and into day Her vision grows weak, her hopes turns to sorrow Each day she prays for a better tomorrow Until all at once she sees The glint of something among the trees She steadies herself, she takes to her aim Within her heart there is a flame The deer and huntress lock in gaze A noble opponent in the morning haze The huntress sees this crown-ed buck, the velvet hair which hay has stuck Her hands are weak, her eyes they close and this is how the huntress goes Laying in a field of honeydew Her stomach thin and overdue A meal her lips shall never taste Her prize is lost, as is the chase
I was speaking with a friend last night about the idea of justice. My friend is a former police officer, with a seemingly strong sense of right and wrong. Personally I am not a fan of the idea of right and wrong. In a chaotic universe, where so many of life’s incidents happen at random, impacting individuals psychologically and physically deeply into the future with unknown effects how can we ever say anything is “right” or “wrong”.
Retrospectively perhaps, but the idea of right or wrong must purely be relative, so one man’s justice could in fact just be another man’s destruction.
Maybe it’s more of a societal question, a set of standards and rules put forth by tribal vote. A group of people decide that in their community it is wrong to eat a banana. They declare that banana’s are ethically bad for the tribe, and based on their shape may drive women completely insane, thus banana’s are forbidden. It seems arbitrary to outsiders, but maybe a hundred years ago one of the first banana’s ever consumed by that tribe happened to be poisoned, bad, etc. causing the death of the head tribesman. Therefore one bad banana was declared to have ruined the whole bunch for all of time.
So it is then, lore, ethics, and superstition, that governs that tribe. Mythology develops about this poisonous deadly banana, forests of banana tree’s are burned… which happens to really piss off the tribe next door, who has developed their culture based off the consumption of these bananas, which in turn causes war. The banana has become sacred to Tribe number 2. They, for years have existed in a world where banana’s are plentiful, and now this group of banana haters has come to destroy their sacred plant.
Who then is right? Tribe 1 has built their culture and society off the belief of the “bad banana” based on hundreds of years of legend, and at one point empirical evidence that banana’s cause death. They feel they are doing Tribe 2 a favor, destroying this poison, a poison that must have caused them all to go completely insane (obviously by consuming too many banana’s).
In the end Tribe 1 is victorious, they have wiped out the main food staple of an entire tribe causing them all either to convert to non-banana eaters, or starved the banana eaters to death. Tribe 1 is then able to continue to propagate and thrive, which they attribute ultimately to their good health and saving of all those that did not starve to non-banana eaters.
Justice has prevailed. In Tribe 1, “right” has superseded “wrong” proven by their ability to continue a rich culture, and although it may have been based on a fallacy or false premise, in a way I must agree, they are perhaps “right”. Because no matter what you believe to be right or wrong, justice is not really about the repercussions of an action, it’s about survival. Which perhaps is why the idea is so ingrained in most people’s minds. It’s primal – survive.
Be the one man in the banana hating tribe to prove that banana’s are safe to eat and you are killed as a freak of nature. Start a secret cult of banana eater’s, write essays and documents explaining the health benefits of potassium in a man’s diet, and perhaps you are all burned at the stake for heresy.
Change takes time, especially to those with deeply rooted attachments to these ideas of right and wrong.
Many men are murdered in this banana war. Generations of people feel betrayed by those that killed their loved ones over these bananas. They pass these beliefs to their children, and their children’s children, and for generations the war continues, the hate grows deeper, the land is scorched by those that seek to destroy these bananas. Each with their own idea of justice. I don’t believe in justice anymore (not in that sense at least). I believe in cause and effect. I believe that we have become so attached to our past, our history, our emotional connections, lore, mythology, and emotional pain, that truth and reason has faded. Our logic has become blinded, we can’t stop the cycle, there must be justice for someone… and all of this for what… one bad banana?
It’s simple to think about this in terms of banana’s it get’s more complex when you think of it in terms of rape, murder, pedophilia, abuse, etc. That’s when people exclaim “of course those things are wrong!” sure, retrospectively, but in a world where all you know is banana’s = death to us all, you may be able to attribute it to generations of hurt, and abuse.
Rapists, murders, abusers, at some point each of these people had become so inherently hurt by those meant to protect or help them they did either the thing they were taught to do or were neglected so badly that society failed to notice the severe decline of their mental health.
So where is justice there? Kill the murder, or lock him in jail for the rest of time. The murderer has children, who then grow up without a father, who hate the system who put their father in jail, the family is lopsided with only one parent raising many children, the children are neglected, the neglect leads to acting out, the acting out leads to jail, the jail leads to more hatred towards the system that has put them there, the lack of family attention leads to a want for kinship in fellow suffer’s who hate the system, call it a “gang”. The gang is filled with hate, hurt, loneliness, the family is poor with no access to mental help for these children. The hate builds, the desperation of poverty leads to robbery, which turns to further violence, all the “gang” knows is violence. The children grow to adults who have children of their own, who they teach this violence to, until one day, while robbing a liquor store a “gang” member is killed, he is put in jail, his children are left to begin the cycle again. Where is the justice?
During that same time period mental and behavioral health programs for the state of California only added up to $77.5 million
A difference of nearly 200% more on keeping people incarcerated versus helping those in need and stopping the cycle.
Expands Public Safety Diversion Programs. The spending plan provides $67.5 million from the General Fund on a one–time basis to establish a community infrastructure grant program administered by the California Health Facilities Financing Authority. The competitive grant program will distribute funds to cities and counties to increase capacity within local mental health, substance use disorder, and trauma–centered service facilities, with the intent that these expanded facilities will serve as an alternative to incarceration for individuals with behavioral health disorders. The grants will finance the acquisition or renovation of new or expanded facilities and equipment, as well as support diversion program startup or expansion costs. In addition to funding diversion services, the grant funding is intended to expand services to sex trafficking victims, domestic violence victims, and victims of other violent crimes.
Funding to Build a Continuum of Children’s Mental Health Crisis Services. The spending plan includes $30 million on a one–time basis to build a continuum of children’s mental health crisis services. The funding consists of $16 million from the General Fund—including a $6 million reappropriation—and $14 million in Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) state administration funding. The funds will establish a grant program administered by the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission and the California Health Facilities Financing Authority, to which counties will apply. The grant program will support county efforts to build a full range of children’s crisis services, including residential crisis beds that serve as an alternative to hospitalization, community–based intervention services, expanded respite care, and crisis training for families.
State Resources to Maintain Suicide Hotline Funding at Current Level. The spending plan includes $4 million in one–time MHSA state administrative funds to allow the state’s 11 crisis call centers that answer calls through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to maintain recently introduced services that were previously funded with discretionary county MHSA funds. The one–time funding is intended to temporarily address an ongoing suicide hotline funding shortfall until a permanent funding plan can be identified and selected.”
But here’s the point, if the idea of justice is about survival about what’s best for the tribe, even if it were based on something as arbitrary as banana eaters vs non banana eaters, no one in either current tribe is experiencing any kind of justice. No one is winning here. The logic and truth is still being burned at the stake in the name of archaic emotional response rather than logic.
Which brings me back to the realization of why my friend is now a former police officer, there are many reasons… but being a reasonable man I would have to assume that one of them is because he has already gathered the idea that the easiest way to stop this cycle and find true justice is to help those in need. Which might be why he is now a behavioral health psychiatrist specializing in PTSD, and trauma survivors like me.