Hello November 17th, I’ve been expecting you.
It is actually the eve of November 17th, 2017 and that means only one thing to me. 50 arrives with the next sunrise. I write this on a rainy night here in East Haddam. Snuggled under faux fur, candles lit, a glass of wine to the right. This alone tells me I’ve done something right, or perhaps many things right, in the countless decisions I have made for the past fify years.
The weather will be calm tomorrow I hear, while I surround myself with friends and family to ring in the rest of my life. But, my mother loves to remind me that I chose one of the worst blizzards to make my grand entrance.
It was Carmel, New York on Friday, November 17th, 1967 right around 11:17 pm when I decided to come into this world. Snow flying, roads of ice, my father panicking as he tried to get my mom and I to the hospital in one piece. Weather, oddly, would become something of an anomaly and an obsession in my life. My sister-n-law in fact believes I might truly be a weather witch. My husband won’t let me play with my rainstick anymore. Last time I did, his work flooded and we lost power for 4 days.
My weather stories aren’t for here though. I may leave them for the book. Just know, I have been almost struck by lightning 9 times, including once when I entered a church. Just as I touched the large metal door handle to enter, lightning hit the bell tower above me. Everything in me zapped and my hair stood on end. I felt my eyes go all Karen Black. It wasn’t life threatening. I managed to go inside and still sing at choir practice. The other 8 times were similar. I lived to tell the tale, but scaaaaary.
I digress. Avoiding the inevitable here. I won’t lie. Turning fifty is major. It’s the most major one I have experienced thus far. In my eyes, no matter what, I am likely on the other side of midway. There will be more years behind me now then in front of me. That would seem a depressing realization, but no. I cannot complain about my life one shred. I have been blessed and blessed again. Even when things went to hell, and they certainly did, I managed to have guardian angels on this planet, and maybe off planet as well, to guide me through. So I wanted to come here, on this little blog that maybe someone might read, and share my gratitude for the moments gone by. The hard ones, the beautiful ones. Their memory is far sweeter now, than even when they were in the making. Growing older does that. I know that now. I take far less for granted in these years, than I did thirty ago.
The things we imprint on, the people we cross paths with, the million decisions we make and the million consequences that follow reveal one’s real existence in the rearview mirror. Looking back on my life, if it were a road map, it might look like the Trollstigen Highway in Rauma, Norway. Scary curves too close for comfort to a death drop over the edge, but travelling it is so worth the view.
So, shall we? Take the higway?
Years 1 – 5
Chasing Seagulls. I actually remember this day on the beach. I remember that outfit. I think I lived in it all summer. I recall New England’s change of color and light and temperature. Spring flowers and beestings, fall leaves beneath my feet. Christmas mornings and pretty packages. A bitter November morning in a small dinghy and learning to fish with my dad. A haunted house. A ghost named Abigail. Hans Holzer investigations and seances. My mother’s love. My older sister, her hippie friends, and my first taste of Led Zeppelin, which my sister tells me was my favorite band to dance to in the crib. Chasing my mother around while she vacuums and pulling the cord to use it as a microphone. Two Canadian runaways that my mother took in named Michael and Rosemary who I adored, still do.
Move to Florida. New England left behind. My 17 year old sister left behind to start her own life. Michael and Rosemary left behind. Heartbreak. Abandoned. Mom trying to make it better with a birthday at Cinderella’s Castle. Kennedy Space Center and rocket launches. I got hooked on the space program. Cocoa Beach lightning storms that enthralled and terrified all at once. My beloved childhood dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Pan Am. A first trip to the ocean and a sunrise I’ll never forget. Making new friends. Light as a Feather and Ouija Boards. The song Feeling Stronger Everyday by Chicago on repeat in the house. Falling in love with trees and animals. Crafting my first altars filled with shells and rocks, feathers, and bones. A movie called Jaws on opening night. Not swimming in the ocean for years after. Really, what were my parents thinking? Star Wars. Close Encounters. Star Trek. Boggy Creek Monster. Lizzie Borden. Creature Feature and Saturday morning Scooby Doo. In Search Of. Singing Barbara Streisand tunes with my dad. Mom and Thanksgivings. Working summers for my dad on his golfcourses. Changing schools. Alot. Always being the new girl. Mean girls. Being afraid. First kiss. First boyfriend. Boating in the Keys. Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Judy Blume. Building sheet fortresses and hiding out for days. My first record player, a stack of my sister’s 45s and discovering The Beatles. Hours of dance practice. My pet bunny, lovingly named Bunny Bunny, died one night, frozen in a flash ice storm. Really, in Florida? Wishing I didn’t have to go to school because of the mean girls and Hurricane David taking care of it. Realizing I knew things that other’s didn’t. I felt things differently than people around me. Falling in love with storms.
Moving again. And Again. Mom and Christmas Eve, spray painting snow on the windows. Playing the piano, but hating lessons. Still won’t take them, still songwrite though. Boys. Boys. Boys. I went and asked Alice. She gave me alot of answers. Exploration. Exposure. Extreme. Choir and Dance. Dance and Choir. Spell Crafting and Crafting Spells. Singing for the Disney Christmas Pageant on Main Street. MTV and U2, my first video. Visiting New York City every summer and Christmas to hang with my sister. Collecting vinyl like it was a life-or-death decision. Backstage passes to everyone that mattered. Hanging with my sister’s father n law -Scott Muni and WNEW. Watching him and my dad share a bottle of Johnny Walker Red in Vermont. Wearing white in a sea of black at the MTV New Year’s Eve Rock and Roll Ball. Limos and Dom Perignon. John Taylor and Duran Duran. Sweet 16 and 400 people in my house. Acceptance to the Miami Performing Arts School. My first love and my first real heartbreak. Crazy drunk parents. Meeting friends I would have for a lifetime. Waterbeds, Black Sabbath, blacklight posters and an amazing stereo system. Atari. Roller Skating Rinks every Friday night. High School Prom, I never actually made it, but had a helluva party in some hotel room. Freaking out friends with talk of the occult and horoscopes. Recognizing I couldn’t discuss it with most people. Ouija Boards nightly and The Satanic Bible, just for light reading, ya know?
17-18 Lost Years
I saw the Challenger blow up, right before my eyes. I felt them. It was my most memorable empathic moment. I also realized life was short. Friends headed to college. I headed out on the road, a maverick with no destination in site. Chaos. Upset family. Drugs. Roaming. Seeking. Laughter and tears. No idea where I lived. My mom sick in the hospital, noone knowing what was wrong with her. People ruining my dad’s business. Bad things, bad time. I wondered if I had gone too far with the occult.
Dad. Death. Sudden. Not sick. No warning. Just. Gone. December 18th, 1986. My mom and I were home decorating for Christmas. He was 58. Life changed. I changed. I learned in one moment that there is no such thing as security or safety in this world. I learned that people we love can and will die.
Fugue state of shock. Panic attacks. Lost. I turned away from anything to do with the occult. I went in search of spiritual answers.
My mom, sister, brother n law moved to California. Earthquakes. Lots of them. Including the big one during the World Series. Pure terror. Not helpful to the panic attack problem. Florida friends visiting. Trips out to Joshua Tree National Park. A desert sky at night and the first time I witnessed a billion stars. Coyotes howling in canyons. Bonfires on the beach. San Diego. Tequila shots in Tijuana. Laurel Canyon Drive. Valley girls really do exist. The sea on the wrong side of the road. Sunsets.
Move # I have no idea. Hello Connecticut. My brother n laws work in the record industry now moves us back to the east coast. Rekinding memories of my childhood in the northeast. Because it had ghost stories. Because it didn’t have hurricanes or earthquakes (at the time). Because it promised the seasons. Finally going to college. Discovering my love for education. Summer archaeology job with crazy people. Graduating 4.0. Meeting my greatest teacher ever, Bonnie Brown. A trip to NYC with her to hear the Dalai Lama talk. The man glows. For real. Finding yoga and meditation. Trips to Kripalu. Blue Pearl experiences at the Ashram. Chanting, drumming, and out of body experiences. Compositions of new age music on my keyboard. Joining choir again. Dating cool guys with private planes, big houses, and yachts. Learning I could have cared less about such things.
Alot of years singing with an gospel choir run by a dear friend. Gospel, you heard me. Strange but fact. Loved it. Loved the GNGC gang. The Weekapaug Girls. A best friend from Oz arrives. My own place in Black Rock. Various jobs I enjoyed, but a consistent internal voice calling me to explore. Road Trip. By Myself. Pre cellphones and GPS. Back in the day of payphones. A Triple A road map marked out with my route. The Carolinas, Savannah, New Orleans, Gulf Coast, Texas, New Mexico. The magic of Santa Fe. Arizona. Was sure I would move there. So much so I applied to the UNM Geography Program and was accepted. Being circled by 3 condors at sunrise while meditating on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Discovering cowboy hats and country line dancing. Bliss – 1. Career – 0. I never made it to UNM.
Late Twenties – Early Thirties
Went back to finish my degree finally after many years. Landed in Social Geography and Cartography. I love maps. Southern Connecticut State University. Evenings I would go dancing. Met someone. Someone I thought I shoud marry. He said he loved maps too. I was seeking some stability after a few decades of roaming. We shared a love of travel and dancing. He was kind and persistent. The other someone’s either broke my heart or I broke theirs. This one seemed different. I said yes. Our wedding took place, October 13, 2001, a month after 9/11. I was working at a publishing company doing their cartography organization for travel books when I heard the news. 9/11 messed me up. It messed up this country. I remember the silence of the skies. Panic attacks started again. I felt the same shock and horror I had felt when I was told my dad was dead. I don’t think any of us have ever really been the same since. It was my generation’s D-Day. After that, travelling and first year wedding joys. It was a great time, married, figuring out life seemingly behind me, settling into one routine.
October 13, 2002
On my one year wedding anniversary, my first daughter came into the world. Annalise Rose DeRusso. Emergency C-Section after 26 hours of labor. She screamed like a velociraptor. And for the third time in my life, I was never the same. Love. Unconditional.
April 9, 2004
My second daughter came into the world. Jessica Anne DeRusso. Scheduled C-Section. How strange to pick someone’s birthdate. I’ve never really gotten over the weirdness of that. But she is magical and beautiful. Love, pure and true. I would die for these girls.
Motherhood. A maze of insecurities and uncertainity lined with magical moments and monumental feats for them, and myself. Strollers, minivans, and elaborate holidays with family. Birthday parties and our first family pup, a Eurasier from Canada we named Lela. She would live fifteen years. Years of joy, but I have restless in my soul. My husband does not. I fell into motherhood full time, he fell into work. I am a large personality to live with. I don’t think he was ready for it all. Something changed.
Divorce. Crazy Time. Amicable but horrible. I didn’t blame him. Only myself for not really knowing who I was. I find comfort in the fact that I know our daughters were meant to exist, and they chose us to be their parents, for better or worse. He became a great dad to them, even on his own, which wasn’t easy. I found work as a Spa Director (Gemini moon showing her true nature here) and figured out how to be a single parent. Moved near the beach into a haunted house and rekindled my love of the paranormal. Something I hadn’t really touched since my dad died. I recognized finally that I equated his death to my involvement in occult studies and deeper, that I may have conjured something that brought harm to our family during those years. That story is for the book, though.
Job changes, I was restless. I needed to find purpose other than fulfilling my maverick lust for life or motherhood. Bought a sailboat and sailed it from Maine to Westbrook. We ran into 10 foot seas on the way home, around Buzzard’s Bay. When we got to land, I jump off and kissed the ground. But I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Started a few companies of my own. Ryder Music Management. Karmalized, LLC. Ryder Administrative Services. Others I can’t remember the name of. I am so my father’s daughter. Sang at a lot of gigs with a great guitar guy who grew up on the same diet of rock and roll I did. I finally began working in the counseling field. I toyed with becoming licensed but decided to stay on the administrative side of it. Still in it a decade later. I have always had a compulsion to help people who feel lost. Helping them, helps me feel found.
Well, now, 40. It didn’t phase me to turn 40, not like this birthday. But unbeknownst to me, I was on the verge of a life change equal to my dad’s death. Just two months before that birthday, I heard a ghost voice. What that voice said, changed the direction and course of my life forever. The repercussions lead to this very moment, where I am sitting, who I am married to, and who my in-laws are. In one moment, it gave new meaning and purpose to my life. It brought me best friends I will have as long as I live. It also brought danger and destruction that wreaked havoc on multiple people and the ripple effects are still felt. The rest I can’t tell you. It’s all in the book. That is what its about. The past decade and my ghost voice. Some weird and wild tales, as well as some weird and wild weather ensued in this past decade. There were back to back hurricanes that destroyed my beloved coast. Snow storms before the leaves fell. Ice storms that broke windshields. But we can’t say global warming – or climate change, can we? The book is called Death of a Ghost Hunter. I think. Who knows. Moons in Gemini can’t commit to anything!
And now….. 50. In 26 hours and 17 minutes. Someone asked me recently what I felt I had accomplished so far. It took a while to sort out, but I came up with this: I don’t know if I have accomplished anything spectacular in the world’s eyes but it’s been beautiful to me. I have made great and terrible decisions that led to new destinations each time. I have laughed til I cried and cried until I slept. I’ve been thanked for doing nice things. I have heard an audience applaud my singing, my dancing, my piano playing. I have heard two daughters tell me they love me, and hug me better than anyone on earth. I’ve been told I am beautiful when I feel most ugly. I have loved fiercely and lost love completely. I’ve made people laugh, mostly myself at myself. I have been told I am a favorite manager. But that’s because I know what it feels like to have terrible ones. I have seen the wonder of light reflecting on watery surfaces. I have loved the moon as my sister. I have truly made magic happen in ritual. I have filled my ears with songs that fill my soul. I have been touched by pure evil. I may have conjured it once as well. I have experienced ecstatic bliss.
I can’t say my walls are lined with degrees and awards. I don’t have millions of fans. I haven’t invented anything of worth. I won’t have hundreds of people at my 50th birthday this weekend telling me how amazing I am. But I know clearly now at 50, these are not the things that ever really mattered to me. Had they been, I would have achieved them. I can and always have created whatever it is I want. Why? Because I never believed I couldn’t. The Secret isn’t a secret at all.
Knowing this is what is bound to make the 2nd half of my life even more interesting than the first half.
Time to call my mama and tell her thank you. That’s the first tradition at all my birthdays. The second tradition is key lime pie and champagne. For breakfast.
Happy Birthday To My 50 Year Old Self…..Happy Birthday Ole’ Girl. I love you so. XOXO