Early in the summer when I was focused on the bunnies and birds and new little creatures around me, I caught my rabbit Roger digging a hole in the flower beds below me. I also caught video, of course (which I’ll post later), and it got me thinking about this crazy summer. All I could think of was Alice in Wonderland and her strange little adventures following the rabbit. I did not PUBLISH the analogies that were scampering through my brain at the time partly because I wasn’t fully confident yet that people weren’t going to make all the same drug references that many see in the book and think I was on drugs myself after leaving my husband, house and seemingly normal happy life behind. I also thought I’d let this summer play itself out and see if my adventures or life calmed down for me. Um… not really, but I took notes so here it goes!

I’ve thought of myself as similar to Alice these last few months. I was well raised and taught to be polite. Sometimes my naivety can be seen as childlike and often times my adventures and sense of humor are immature. The bunnies I discovered early in the summer seem to be taking shelter from the heat or simply moved on when some jackhole cleared the land behind my fence. I mean, didn’t someone KNOW that Snow White herself was sitting up in this little castle writing about her adventures with the critters? I have my pictures and I have my notes however so my mind is open to the other things around me now. New characters are being introduced every day and some of them are as wacky and entertaining as the ones in Lewis Carroll’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or the movies that have since followed. I’ve referred to this summer as starting a new chapter, and with school back in session I feel like we are on to the next.

I’ve tried my best to really find myself this summer, and at times I’ve simply quit looking to find what WAS there and simply see what’s BECOMING. You know how they say when you quit looking for something is when you are most likely to find it? Well, it’s something I remind myself often. When I need courage or strength, I look deep down to find it but discovering new things about myself sometimes takes quiet self observation and that’s usually found on the balcony over coffee or my vanity table/writing desk. Simply sitting down and answering questions from some of those self-help workbooks that aim to get your life, career and finances in order don’t always come easy for me because they stress me out a little. Actually, they stress me out a LOT. When quiet doesn’t exactly come easily around here, that’s when I learn about others especially the kids. I’ve learned more by listening to them than I have talking AT them. I can almost guarandamntee you that I don’t really learn a lot in the midst of the chaos WHILE it’s happening, but I do my best to jot something down here or there throughout the day thinking that an interesting thought or idea may sprout from what we did or did NOT do well. I hope my little baby boos have learned from me too, but only they will be able to tell you that and perhaps not until they are adults. Maybe some of the things they get angry about now that are too difficult or inappropriate to discuss with them will make sense to them later. Maybe they won’t. Maybe all that they will learn from this summer is that not everything can be explained when the same experiences between two different people produce two vastly different perceptions. That’s a lesson itself, isn’t it?

Chapter 1. Down the Rabbit Hole

Alice fell into her hole. I jumped! I went headfirst not merely out of curiosity because that would be irresponsible as a parent to make life changing moves and pull the kids down with me through the twists and turns of some knucker hole. The only thing I knew for sure was that one day a switch in me flipped and the reality I thought I’d been living was realized to be a fantasy. One day while driving down the road, I finally saw my life clearly and knew I was not going to be able to lie to myself anymore. There’s a strong difference I guess between the fictional character Alice and the new real-life me in that I left the fantasy behind. My hole led to a new reality. There was no certainty about the future and there certainly was no money. What I did have was a little apartment leased on borrowed money and a PLAN to spend my summer enjoying the kids because the big changes would affect them, and I wanted to take care of them as I did my best to take care of myself. I also knew that I may never get the chance to stay home with them part-time or full-time again, and I wanted to cherish that time. Of COURSE I knew they’d be fine going to after-school care if a new work schedule left me unable to spend all of our time outside of school together, but you know how you never TRULY appreciate something until it’s gone or you no longer have the daily luxuries you perhaps take for granted? Well, I went into this summer with the kids knowing that it may be my last. (I mean HOME with them – not last as in DEAD – though there were times we could have killed each other I guess.)

Chapter 2. The Pool of Tears

We have a pool here, and we’ve had a lot of tears however I can definitively say that I have not gotten swept away by the current. My current is strong but will not be defined by my past and crying while treading water won’t get me any farther on to future adventures. Why swim upstream?Dry the tears and it’s easier to keep your head above water and swim. Besides, pools are for fun and the kids have definitely had their fill here with tan lines to prove it.

Chapter 3. The Caucus Race and a Long Tale

In Alice’s Adventures, this is the chapter where Alice meets many other animals and birds that have been swept away in the pool of tears and when they reach the riverbank, they decide to race around in a circle with no clear finish line as suggested by the mouse, in order to get dry. Um… no thanks! I’m out of that rat race. I TOTALLY dig all the little real life animal friends I have found here, but I’ve also met and talked with women this summer that want to commiserate. They’ve found themselves alone for one reason or another and want to drown our sorrows over drinks or grow decidedly bitter together because misery loves company. Isn’t that the same as just running in circles? I’ve TOTALLY bitched, don’t get me wrong, but it’s usually to my family because I’ve found that bitches feed off each other and just walk away fatter and madder. Good for Tweedledee & Tweedledum if they choose to do that. I’m happy to not feel so alone when we find something in common, but it’s just not my desire to sit around and bitch or convince people to stand on my side of the river bank and throw stones at the other side. Sitting on the other side is the man who was once my teammate in every way, and we still have to carry these kids together to the finish line.

Chapter 4. The Rabbit Sends a Little Bill

Alice grows, gets stones thrown at her which turn into cakes, eats them and shrinks. Hmmm… I ate cake this summer, and I PROMISE you I DID NOT SHRINK. I mean, I wish that when people hurled stones at you via insults or unwarranted criticisms they turned into little cakes because that would certainly be turning a negative into a positive, but for God’s sake don’t eat the damn cakes! Real life does not always coincide with fantasy here. Again this is an instance though where the Alice character and my own diverge. You know the bottles in the beginning that Alice drinks that say “drink me” and she shrinks? Yeah well I’ve done that too and the Skinny Girl Margaritas & Skinny Girl Sangria do NOT make you skinny. And the more you drink, the more likely you are to eat that box of goldfish that you bought for the kids and the “that’s one snack they like that I don’t so I’ll be SMART and buy those knowing I won’t eat them!” strategy fails. Eating AND drinking makes you grow bigger in REAL LIFE so don’t even try to be Alice.

Chapter 5. Advice From a Caterpillar

OK. This was always my favorite part in the movie because the caterpillar looks so cool and groovy smoking the big hookah, but just DAYS after spotting the rabbit digging its hole in the garden, I KID YOU NOT, I spied some women at the pool smoking a HOOKAH!! They frequently grilled their dinner at the pool and spent hours out there letting the kids play while they cooked, visited, and smoked. I kept thinking how exotic and very cool they seemed and how this just wasn’t something that we would have seen everyday back at the neighborhood pool. I REALLY wanted to go up and see if they had any advice to offer me, you know, because I was sort of having an identity crisis similar to Alice’s and I pictured them asking me very wisely, “Who are YOU?” like the caterpillar. I didn’t do that though because I thought I’d feel a little like one of the nerds from Dazed and Confused asking about their cool bong. As the summer progressed, I decided whatever advice they may give me may not be sound because the kids pointed out one of the moms one day driving the kids through the parking lot to the pool on TOP of the car. My kids pointed out how unsafe that was (SMART KIDS!) and so next time they ask me what those ladies are smoking in that thing I may just say, “DRUGS!! Drugs cause people to make poor decisions like riding on TOP of a car instead of IN it!” Don’t judge me for this either. It was totally cool, but when I have to think of an explanation for reckless behavior then NOTHING is off-limits. My kids are young and impressionable, and I think it’ll work like that egg in the frying pan commercial did for my generation.

Chapter 6. Pig and Pepper

Chapter 6 in Alice’s story is where they introduce The Cheshire Cat – intelligent, mischievous, funny and perplexing with a large smug grin. That’s my son! He’s the living breathing version of the character. So far this summer, he has accidentally spray painted a wall, clogged up a couple of sinks and toilets, attempted to ram passersby with his remote control cars and jet, and frequently hides from us though is easily found by the glow of his Cars 2 light up tennis shoes and night vision goggles. He’s even got the grin!

Chapter 7. A Mad Tea Party

Yep! Been there done THAT this summer! I met some old high school friends in New Orleans this summer for a “Fancy Dinner Party.” I did not know some of them well in high school, but have most certainly determined them to be MAD in a lovely, hilarious, endearing way. Ladies and gents donned fabulous threads and feathered boas while sporting fancy Ivy League sounding names. I was Donatella – as in VERSACE – and cursed every poor lad that thought my name was derived from The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We sipped cocktails and even mingled with the commoners strolling down Esplanade Avenue. I proved myself to be young again by parading through the French Quarter until FOUR in the MORNING with a tiara on my head. WOOHOO!! I can still party with the best of them, and I consider that a jewel in my crown for Miss um… Erica?!?!

Chapter 8. The Queen’s Croquet Ground

We’ve tried all SORTS of games this summer! The kids have loved playing cards and bocce ball back at the house with their dad and from what I hear, chaos has erupted that would rival the scene in the Disney movie. Remember my sweet girl’s Summer Art Camp where she made The Queen Bee, Tetris pieces, board games, and playing cards? Well I can tell you that many times my little Queen Bee has called for the head of her brother, the Cheshire Cat, but he usually managed to escape with a handful of Monopoly money and a mischievous grin.

There were some characters from the story Alice in Wonderland that were eliminated from the movie versions so I won’t carry on with the chapter references anymore. I’m really more familiar with the movie versions now anyway thanks to the kids (even the creepy Tim Burton version with Johhny Depp) Here’s where I think I’ve ended up though now that the chapter, Summertime 2011, has come to a close: I’ve grown in some ways, shrunk in others (YAY!), experienced the highs and lows that come with any new journey and adventure, and I’ve managed to keep my head above water and be excited about what the future holds. I’ve been put through some trials and judged too, but as Alice says in the story everyone grows and that just can’t be helped. I guess I’m not really very quiet about it either so people can come after me like the guards that set off after Alice, but you know what? I can follow suit and call them out as mere cards that can easily be played or change hands with whatever way the wind blows. I’ll bet you that I can take the cards that I’ve been dealt and produce a winning hand at some point too. I just won’t hold up a house made out of them.

The End.

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