Laurie Markvart's Diary



My Top 5 Ways to Stop an Anxiety Attack!

Anxiety sucks. It’s been my constant companion for most of my life.

If you’re like me and deal with anxiety, it may present itself differently for you. Each person has unique triggers and experiences. Nonetheless, it is unpleasant, sometimes leads to an all-out panic attack, and can be debilitating and embarrassing in public. But if you have anti-anxiety tools, it is possible to regulate yourself to a calm state.

Please noteI am not a doctor, psychotherapist, or medical professional. These are tips that I’ve learned through therapy, research, and experience in the anxiety trenches. Please get in touch with your doctor or other mental health professionals if you need immediate help or think you may harm yourself.

My anxiety started in my early teens with overthinking situations. Living in an unpredictable, emotionally charged home with a bipolar mother coupled with typical teen pressures, I’d chew my nails or retreat into playing music to ease the discomfort of repetitive thoughts of how to prepare for situations or get myself out of them.

Anxiety escalated in my twenties, but I’d quell it with alcohol (not recommended), intermittent anti-anxiety medication, exercise, and talk therapy. But even those “helpers” never solved high-voltage anxiety attacks that came with intense, invasive negative thinking. If they happened in public, they left me exhausted, mentally tortured, and on the run from social situations. I knew I needed more tools, but it was also a time when society would not openly discuss mental illness. And there was no Google to get community answers. I felt alone and isolated, which is not great for someone already stuck in their head.

My anxiety went full-blown epic in my thirties when I became a parent. Terrifying, distorted visions of something tragic happening to my child overtook my mind. Hormone changes and post-partum depression would leave me in a state of fear. Negative invasive thoughts would be on repeat. If I were in public with my child, I’d get a tightness in my chest and shoulders and sometimes dizzy. My way to cope was to remove myself from situations I knew could be triggered. But there were times it seemed like life itself was a trigger. As I state in my memoir Somewhere in the Music, I’ll Find Me, which tackles mental illness head-on, “My anxiety was like walking on my own eggshells. My brain was a loaded gun, and I didn’t know my triggers.”

As the years progressed, and recently after a breast cancer diagnosis, I realized the time had come to find tools to pause or stop the anxiety. I couldn’t heal cancer in a constant state of fear. If I could discover tools for in-the-moment anxiety attacks, I could use these actions to quell the swirling thoughts, stomach unease, dizziness, and the urge to run. Especially if I were in cancer centers facing treatments, surgeries, and tests.

So here we go. Here are my TOP 5 way to stop an anxiety attack!

  1. GROUNDING – Touch a wall or a chair with your hands and focus on the sensation. Observe the room and internally describe the color of the walls, furniture, etc., in detail to yourself. Take your shoes and socks off, and feel the ground beneath you. This grounding tool of focus and presence will get you out of a panicked feeling. As well, get up and move your body. Body movement helps! Shake things out.
  2. DEEP BREATHING – Put one hand on your chest and one on your belly, and take at least ten deep breaths. In through your nose and out your mouth. The kind you feel down to your stomach. There are many anti-anxiety breathing techniques out there. Google for more!
  3. ACCEPTANCE – Accept where you are and what is happening (unless the situation is harmful to you – leave!), but for example, if you’re at a concert and crowds trigger your anxiety, look around and accept that it’s simply a concert. And you’re okay! It is what it is!
  4. GO WITH THE FLOW – Don’t fight it. For example, if you’re leaving that concert and the crowd is frustrating (typical feeling even for those without anxiety), go with the flow of the situation. Don’t amp yourself up by stressing about the number of people and the time it will take to get to your car. Chill!
  5. GOD and FAITH that EVERYTHING will be okay – I say mantras and prayers to still myself, which greatly helps. As well, be gentle and kind to yourself. Treat yourself like you’d treat someone else struggling. Don’t be saying to yourself: “What is wrong with you? Pull your sh*t together!” Instead, be like: “Uh-oh, we’re not feeling so good, and that’s okay. Time to use our tools.” 

So, there it is…ground, deep breathe, accept, go with the flow, and faith. When I apply all five, I can reduce my anxiety attack significantly.

Lastly, if you’re in public and an anxiety attack hits, go to the nearest restroom stall for privacy (maybe not take your shoes off). Or go to your car. Anywhere that is private and calm. Believe me; I’ve found restrooms in the middle of Time Square, the Hollywood Bowl, Heathrow Airport, and even a music festival Porta Potty (during this one, I only used numbers three to five). And most of all, if you can have a laugh at the situation, that’ll help the most.

Just remember, you’re not alone.

You can find the video of my Top Five here:

Somewhere in the Music, I’ll Find Me: A Memoir can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and ordered through any bookstore:

© 2023 Laurie Markvart

Poetic Musings

Her eyes, her eyes,
I know the blue,
The depths and hue.
For they are mine too.

Her hands, delicate and frail,
Her spirit strong,
She fought to no avail.
The mirror she looked upon
To see herself was me.

She was a force, a shrew,
At times there was no clue,
Which way this woman would waif,
So burdened, bruised, and blue.

She’d shine so high,
She’d fall, we’d cry.
Her heart was ours,
Her way-our disguise,
She made many a surprise.

She is the power, the shame,
For there is no one to blame.
She casts a glow, a heartfelt blow,
Never to show.

Empowers many, disables few,
Takes hearts and destroys any clue.

She created me,
I am bewildered, amazed, and amused.
She’s everything I see, and,
Every memory I flee.

© Laurie Markvart

I started this blog and then stopped. And then started. And stopped. Primarily due to extreme heat in the Los Angeles area. Well, my laptop gets hot (bad battery). But the heat left weeks ago. So in between the heat going and me starting to write this again, I stopped. What’s my excuse? I have no idea. But I started writing again, so here we are. No longer in between.

The “in-between.” That time between saying you’ll do something and doing it. Like, when I said I’d write this blog and the time it was published.

In life, we are often in-between jobs, relationships, vacations, and places. The in-between can be exciting and fun. Or it can be frustrating and scary. It all depends on how we handle it. 

How about booking a vacation? Between the flight confirmation and the actual trip, I fantasize about vacation clothes, activities, and the restaurants I’ll visit. I also reserve the best deals at the best places in advance. There is nothing like the desired snorkel trip, and it’s sold out when you arrive because you didn’t book it. But vacation planning can get excessive. I know! I like to plan so there are no surprises, but it can be detrimental as I get anxious with “what ifs” during that in-between stage. That’s not how
to live! But I minimally want to know where I’m gonna lay my head. And let me tell you why.

Back in the late 70s, when my parents took us on long-haul road-trip vacations, like from Wisconsin to Florida, the only way my parents could get directions was through their travel memories and a foldable paper map. This was long before mobile phones, onboard navigation, and Google. My mom would sit passenger and navigator my father’s driving. This was fine until my dad would get hell-bent on seeing how far he could drive every day. It was like he’d be on a driving “bender.” Sure, we’d stop mid-drive for potty breaks or gas, but his personal driving goal would be forefront until he’d cave into my mom’s begging to pull over “for the kids.” At her urging, he’d surrender to the next motel at the next exit IF it had a vacancy. Or he’d keep driving for the next motel! And the hope that a restaurant was still open. Mom’s premade ham sandwiches and Chex snack mix could only get us so far. But a blinking motel vacancy light was a friendly beacon to my weary brother and me in the back seat. 

The glove box of our 1970s Plymouth station wagon was stuffed with many unsuccessfully unfolded maps. I was amused at my dad’s tenacity, apparent road vendetta, and my mom’s failed attempts to re-fold a paper map. I must say, it is an art to re-fold a paper map. Have you tried it? 

So, when I travel, I like to know my full itinerary ahead of time: Flights, hotel, is there a mini-bar or late-night room service? 

Oh, I have another “in-between” example. Say you bought a house but haven’t got the keys yet, but you’re already buying decorations at Target and fixtures at Home Depot? Whoops! I’ve done this one, home buying – twice, and purchased furnishings in advance! I think it’s normal to plan! There is a lot of fun in this. But I’ve learned with home buying that nothing is guaranteed until the contract is signed and the keys are in hand. Literally, the keys are in hand. Things can change, the result not being as expected, and you’re left with decorations and fixtures for a house you didn’t get. 

It’s normal to fantasize, plan, and prepare, yet it can take away from the present, especially when we can’t do a damn thing about the future. How about the in-between moment of taking a final exam at school and waiting for the results? Or waiting for pathology reports or blood test results? Filing your tax returns and waiting? So, it’s important how we handle the in-betweens. Because the in-between is all, we have. During these times, we must focus on being present and not worrying about what is to come. Easy for me to say, yes? No, it’s not easy. Cancer showed me the truth about scanxiety (anxiety over scans), so I’m learning to stay present between the scan and the result. Still sucks, though.

Now, I’ve had other in-betweens that were beautiful! My most anticipated and longest in-between was when I was pregnant with my son. During those nine months, the in-between, I was very excited about what he would look like, and I even fantasized as far ahead of who’d he become as an adult. It was a beautiful time, and I remember every moment while pregnant. The hopes and expectations. The burps, morning sickness, skin tags, the gorgeous belly, healthy silky hair, and the knowing I’d be blessed with a human who’d call me Mom. But as much as I thought about him during that nine-month in-between,  nothing prepared me for his full head of jet-black hair and dimples at his birth. Oh, those dimples. To this day, those dimples have won him many a mother-son battle. I never once thought about dimples during the in-between because that’s the point: the unexpected can and will happen with anything and everything. It can be unthinkable or beautiful.

While writing about this blog, I’ve thought about how I’ve been in-between. I finished this blog, yet during it, I floated between starting and ending many other moments of life – good and bad. And I remained as present as possible without worrying about what would come next except finishing this blog.

I wish you the best in-between for whatever or wherever you may be.

©Laurie Markvart

Poetic Musings

Gotta find that girl,
The one with less fear,
The one in first gear,
Much more fun.

She had a lot.
But no reflection,
To connect the dots.
She ran on empty,
In search of love,
Forgot original plot.

She’ll get back,
A destination, a thought.
Spirit prevails while heart fails,
Forgive the sin, the trials.
The mirror clears,
After all these many, many years.

Who is she? She will know again.
The girl who never gave in.

© Laurie Markvart

Memories in Boxes of Love in Storage Locker #39

I stumbled on a journal entry about my mom that I wrote in 2017, a year after she passed. I’m glad I kept it. And that I found it, stuffed between my other journals and books in a box labeled “stuff” at the back of my closet.

The journal entry now gives me insight into an agonizing time when memories were not formed but discarded.

When Mom passed, I was with her, an agreement we had previously made, and the experience hypnotized me. We were very close. Those memories of her departing are beautiful and crystal clear. But I have shreds of anxious, heartbreaking memories in the weeks, months, and year after her death, the year I refused to return to Wisconsin and sort out her belongings. No one was pressuring me to return. My brother and his family were dealing with their grief and were in no rush to sort through Mom’s stuff. Who wanted to go through a storage locker of someone else’s memories? Or was it our memories too?

A week after Mom’s death, I returned home to Los Angeles and back to an entertainment job I thought I could handle while processing grief. But was I processing? I sure put on a happy face and dove back into a job I was satisfied with, but it was not enough to distract me. Her memory infiltrated almost every hour of the day, and the idea of returning to her storage locker gave me an ache that meant I’d have to admit she was gone. So, I had no problem writing a monthly check for $119 to the storage unit in Wisconsin to hold her possessions, and apparently, my grief.

I was numb. I was a robot to my job, boyfriend, music, and my teenage son. That worried me the most. But her loss plagued me, and I thought, who was I, without the woman who made me?

Within two months of her passing, my son and I took a trip to Hawaii, in which I thought beaches, a Luau, and a rented Corvette convertible would uplift me; and provide my son and me time to regroup. But I discovered a Corvette or even Hawaii couldn’t fix a broken heart.

In the months after Hawaii, I fantasized what Mom would tell me about returning to Wisconsin to sort out her things. About getting my life back in order. How would she tell me to grieve her? I did feel an instinctive push to get back to music, writing and I’d find the answer on how to move on.

Six months after her passing, I quit my entertainment job and returned to writing a memoir I started in 2011. A memoir I thought was about me, but it became just as much about her, which in turn, is me. Unknowingly, writing the memoir became an outlet for me to process her death. As I continued writing through guttural tears, moments of laughter, and some anguishing and joyful memories, I knew I could handle the trip back to Wisconsin.

Finally, 15 months after her passing, in September of 2017, I returned home, and my brother and I opened her storage locker. The monthly payments kept her items safe from thieves but not from the ravaging season of Midwest summer humidity and frozen winter. Mold had grown up the legs of furniture and into boxes, papers, journals, and photos we didn’t think we cared about until we did. There was an odor to that storage locker that was part mold, mothballs, and dashes of her (which meant the smell of cigarettes and Fendi). It smelled like home. Which meant the woman I ached for over the past 15 months was now all around me. To sort through her belongings, notes, and writings, I knew I was getting the chance to know her again. And a chance to know the new me.

My journal entry from the day after opening Mom’s storage locker:

September 5, 2017, Wisconsin

I’m not sure how to connect my thoughts. I’ve come home. This is where she lived; I once lived. We all lived, and some still live. I’m here to clean out her belongings. To create space. To recoup costs. To close her physical life. To open mine. I look at her storage unit, and it just looks like stuff, shit. Before she died, all this stuff, this shit was vital to her. And I get it! We humans consume, create and collect stuff. Either physically or emotionally. I’m overwhelmed by her shit because I care about it. Much of her shit was about me, my brother, and our family. I care. Now, how do I separate her shit from mine? From protecting it to throwing or selling?

Today was travel from CA to WI. But it’s the first time I’ve come back home, and she’s not here. Tonight I rest. Tomorrow, I know there’s a lot of work. But also a lot of love. All documented in boxes. Boxes in storage unit #39, to be exact, of her.

© 2022 Laurie Markvart


12:19am January 1, 2020.

Champagne flowing, celebration happening. New Years 2020!!!

My eyes were closed to the past and my heart open to the future but I knew deep in my gut that something was wrong. And I’m not talking impending pandemic.

The perfect night could not quiet my anxiety over the pending biopsy test results that came the next day. Breast cancer.

I’ve been fighting this since January 2020 but why so long? I had a successful surgery in Feb 2020. And then the pandemic hit. I chose not to do the recommended treatment (chemo) because of Covid. Thousands did the same thing. They put off testing, procedures, surgeries. And look where we still are: Covid. 🙄

BUT honestly – I was in denial. I felt surgery was enough coupled with a naturopathic approach to healing. And it worked for a while but the cancer dragon showed she wasn’t ready to give up. So I won’t either.

October is breast cancer awareness month. This topic has become what some insiders in the community call “pink fatigue” or more serious: “pinkwashing.” Which means: the act of supporting the breast cancer cause or promoting a pink ribbon product while producing manufacturing or selling products linked to the disease.

Okay, not all companies and organizations exploit breast cancer and not everyone is pink fatigued. But behind every ribbon IS a woman. 1 in 8 women will get diagnosed!

So, wearing a pink ribbon or pink clothes in support of a loved one is honorable but what is more important: if you have put off your screening because of Covid or denial-GO.

Pink can only go so far. Breast cancer has a color and a ribbon and a lot of other cancers don’t. Early intervention is the best way to beat cancer.

Lastly, how apropos that my birthday would fall in October. 😂 October 19 and even though I will be one week post round three chemo on the 19th, I will celebrate because I am alive because I took action.

So, go get your screenings. Breast, butt, blood, lungs, whatever.

Yes, it can provoke anxiety and be scary but DM me if you want! I’ll talk you through! I’d consider it the best birthday gift I ever got!

#breastcancer #breastcancerawareness #cancer #cancersucks #fuckcancer #getscanned #pinkwashing #pinkfatigue

When a Rogue Weed Invades a Garden: Cancer, Humor and Garden Tools

Editorial note: There is rightful cussing in this piece. Enjoy at your own risk.

I didn’t want to write about this. Writing about it makes it real. Until now, I’ve been in a dream state. One of denial, curiosity, fear, anxiety, perplexity, anger, doubt, joy, euphoria. Yes, joy and euphoria. It’s something else the brain does when it’s trying to reason with bad shit.

So, back to writing about it. My close friends and family told me to document this journey. Every detail, if possible. I was like, “Why? I’m fucking living it, why would I want to document it, too?” Besides half the time, I have no idea what is going on! But, even the doctors told me to write about it. “You’re a musician, a writer, that’s how you can deal with this. Plus, your submission for treatment was humorous,” one said. Humorous? Well, when I wrote it, I was laughing out of astonishment more than anything. Lastly, one doctor said, “Writing will make you feel better.” I replied, “Will writing make it go away? Will it return me to the person I was before you told me this shit?”

Yes, I have many doctors, and I know how many kids they have, the last time they had a vacation and what they had for lunch. I find getting to know the people who touch my body is essential. I’ve had four doctors touch me in one afternoon in what felt like doctor speed dating. I didn’t find it invasive but exploratory. I knew they needed information. No pride or prude here. And yes, I joked through most of it.

Okay, so I’ve mentioned doctors. I’m talking about the MD ones. And this MD group came into my life like a bunch of line dancers, yanking me into their frenzied world. It was January 2, 2020, when one of those doctors called and said, “Laurie, they found cancer cells in your breast biopsy. I’m sorry.” Now you know where they were touching me during doctor speed dating!

The funny thing is before the doctor delivered the news, she didn’t ask me if it was a good time to talk or if I was sitting down. Do doctors do that anymore? Ask if you’re sitting down? Well, shit, when you do hear that, you can pretty much determine the outcome of that conversation. So maybe they’ve ditched it with 1990s flannel. Actually, I was sitting down. I was in my car about to hop onto the 210 Fwy on my way to get my son.

I was expecting the call, just not the news. I already had a mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsy. All at my own doing because even though I have no family history of this and do not meet breast cancer criteria, I felt something alien in my breast, a small irregular mass. Enough to make me think well, that’s not right. But, I thought the doctor would tell me the mass was just hormone-related and benign. (DM me to ask me what I felt in my breast. I think it’s vital to give insight into this because most women or their partners DON’T know how it feels! Early detection is KEY!) So, when I got the call, on instinct, I pulled over to a street parking spot with a view of the gorgeous Pasadena City Hall. I was amazed to find an open spot! Near city hall!

Once the doctor delivered the news, and she told me potential next steps, I hung up. My view of city hall became blurred as I sobbed and shook like having a mild seizure. It was one of the loneliest out of body experiences in my life. Then all I could think of was my son and how I’d tell my teenager about something I knew nothing about.

I was also crying not because of the word cancer, but I was merely stunned. And frankly, cancer is just a word. Instead, let’s say…some of my cells started a different party in my body that isn’t cool. It’s like the loud party people living next door, and they don’t know when to chill. Dang…even for me THAT is not pressing. I love music and parties, and I’d want an invite. How about this: I plant a beautiful garden, and a strange weed grows. Yea, that’s more like it. And that weed grows out of control. So, let’s not get hung up on the word cancer. Instead, I got a rogue weed in my garden.

Okay, back to writing about this. Yes, I have stage two breast cancer. Or stage two garden invasion? I do know the specifics, as in the type, expectations, possible treatments, outcomes, and all that jazz. But I won’t write about those right now because I’m still in the trenches. And, it’s all-new words, terminology, and practices of an alien world in which I’m still a foreigner. But as for those doctors of mine. Damn, they’re excellent tour guides. And yes, maybe writing about it is a good thing.

Also, I was sobbing cause I was like shit…this is a joy kill to my “it’s gonna be a great 2020” mantra! Plus, it was January 2. I was still recovering from New Year’s Eve! I was like, give me a couple of days to recoup before you bomb me with this news! Then I heard a horn from an anxious driver behind me wanting my parking spot. Really?! Oh, that’s right parking is a premium whether you have cancer or not. Obviously, he assumed I was leaving. No, my fellow motorist, I’m not leaving. I just arrived somewhere; I didn’t know I was going.

I’ll share more when it’s right for me, and when I feel it will benefit others also dealing with a garden invasion. Also, when I don’t have the pain. I’ve already had two surgeries (the first step in this madness), and while my garden is intact (they’ve come a long way in how they eradicate garden weeds! Okay, I’ll stop with the analogy! For now.), but I am exhausted. Lastly, I’ll write more when I not only know what my doctors had for lunch but also dinner. And when I can fathom how to pay my medical and personal bills while being a freelancer and having the most basic of insurance. Yes, this is all part of the cancer scene. Top healthcare should be available to ALL! That is for another blog.

I can say this unequivocally…the woman I was before January 2, does not exist anymore. The musician, writer, mother, and friend is still there, but she’s even more passionate about who and what she loves. The woman who was worried about aging and body image has taken a back seat. Actually, she’s in the trunk. This isn’t the time to worry about that bullshit. So ladies of all ages and sizes…let that shit go. Just be healthy and embrace your beautiful garden.

Best yet, some other woman has joined my excursion. She has far more stamina, humor, brute strength and simultaneous fragility, humility, clarity, peace, self-love, and undeniable trust in God, her family, and friends. If that phone call on January 2 had been benign, I’d be that prior woman, and I wouldn’t be falling so madly in love with this new one and writing about her and her garden tools. Mantra stands: It’s a great 2020! ~ Laurie Markvart

WHITE-KNUCKLING SPRING BREAK: Life Lessons While Four-Wheeling with My Teenager

I’ve always been an adrenaline junkie, and I’ve been chasing the jolt for so long there is probably a new term for it. My fearless fifteen-year-old son possibly knows it, but he skimps sharing hip terms with his mom. As he should. But wait, who’s the mom who skydived, drove a Ferrari at high speed on a race track, zip lined, sang the National Anthem before a pro hockey game? Oh, and she also plays ice hockey? Yup, my kid’s mom. But, my teenager still prefers not to be seen with me (typical), but he likes to hang out occasionally. But only if our activity involves fast cars, a hint of danger, and no one sees us together. So, I figured our “bonding” time over spring break should suit us both: adrenaline filled, memorable, and helmets (you know so we won’t be identified). 

We’re heading sixty miles north out of Los Angeles to a four-wheel rental destination in the high desert. I’m excited. It’s a bright, sunny Saturday morning. It’s a long drive, so, I’m thinking: I have my son alone, and I can’t wait to catch up! But, after he slams the passenger door shut, he says, “Mom, I’m kicking back. I need sleep.” He fully reclines the seat, and he’s OUT. Like, BAM…out! So, I let him sleep. But naturally, I glance at him every chance I can. Moms always watch our kids sleep. I don’t know if its because they’re finally quiet, NOT arguing with us, or we’re so in love with them, we stare when we know they’re not looking. Right now, I’m all that as well as amazed this almost full-grown human with facial hair and size thirteen shoes, is no longer my little boy.

After navigating freeways in silence and perfecting mom glances to the passenger seat, I wake my son with a pat on his leg and the announcement, “Time to wake up.” Blurry eyed he inclines his seat and asks, “Where are we?” I want to answer, “We’re here,” but instead I’m forced to say, “Crap, I’m lost.” We end up at a park ranger station at the entrance of Apple Canyon Park and Hard Luck Road. I’m sure there’s a good story for the naming of this road, but I don’t ask. The park ranger reassures me I’m not the first to get lost and advises me to turn around and go back to Hungry Valley Road and take a left. My son rolls his eyes and declares, “Come on Mom, I even saw that road.” I raise an eyebrow. I may leave him here and let him figure out why Hard Luck Road has its name.

After we navigate two miles down the gritty and bumpy Hungry Valley Road, we know we’ve reached our destination by the significant number of dirt bikes, four-wheels, and dune-buggies zooming about. The aroma of gasoline and the sandy haze also confirm we’ve arrived. I park my dusty car and find our guide. The twenty-something gal in braids double checks my ID and asks if I want insurance on the ATV. “You know, one of you may run into a tree, get stuck in a dry creek, or flip over,” she says nonchalantly while pointing at insurance options on her iPhone. My shoulders tense and my eyes squint. I usually don’t fall for these insurance ploys. Then I look at my yawning teen. I buy the insurance.

She offers top of the line helmets, but my son declares he brought his own from his extreme down-hill mountain biking days at Mammoth a few years back with his dad. This was an adventure I did not attend, but I heard a lot about it, and I helped nurse my son’s scrapes and bruises upon his return. The guide agrees his helmet meets safety standards, but it’s too small. It’s an adult medium. She puts him in an adult extra-large. My eyes widen when it fits him perfectly.

She begins the debriefing as we sit on our ATV. The vehicles are the same size except his has only one handbrake, and mine has brakes on both handles. Shouldn’t he have the ATV with two brakes? A more pressing reality draws me back in that my son is not listening to her (he’s not making eye contact) as he’s checking out his machine, touching this, touching that. I’m diligently heeding all the darn details. She yells, “There will be other riders out there. There will be animals that could cross your path like coyotes, snakes. There is a lot of brush, deep sand, so pay attention!” Now my son is softly pressing his right thumb on the throttle and smiling with each little pop of exhaust. Until I knock my fist on his helmet and shout, “You listening?” He gives thumbs up. I snicker. My stomach sinks. Maybe we should’ve gone to a movie.

Our guide says she’ll lead us, my son will follow her, and I’ll bring up the back. “And stay five seconds behind each other. And watch my hand signals,” she shouts. And she’s off dust and gravel whooshing out from her tires. And then he’s off without a look back for me, kicking up even more gravel and dust. I literally have been left in the dust. Untypical for me, I gingerly ease into the thumb throttle and then pick up enough speed to join them. 

The three of us are moving along suitably no more than 20 mph over gravel bumps, through dips, around high grass and sand covered corners. We go faster on straight stretches of flat dirt. My son doesn’t take long into our scheduled one hour adventure to take curves tighter or go higher on embankments. While I’m driving conservatively, he’s standing up on moguls, gunning it trying to catch air. When we come to deep, loose sand, he doesn’t see it as a time to slow down but as the best time to spin the wheels, skid sideways and spray sand. Of course, this is all out of our guide’s sight but I see everything, and I’m white-knuckling my handlebars. I’m not sure if I’m pissed at him for his stunts or impressed he’s at that beautiful age when adrenaline flies through your veins with no worry of consequence. He’s seizing the moment, but he looks back often. One time he does the universal arm wave of “come on!” He’s right. I need to step this up and go faster. And I want to! But all my adrenaline is in my tensed shoulders and eagle eye focus on him. But, this is the same kid who ruthlessly battled me on a paintball course, leaving me welted. You know what, this kid can handle himself out here. But can I handle myself? I’m terrified following him. I think it’s better not to watch your teen’s every move.

Rain begins to lightly come down, enough to speckle my goggles and ruin visibility. Our guide stops and tells us to remove our goggles if needed. My son genuinely asks, “You alright, Mom?” Shouldn’t I be asking him that question? “Yes, I’m fine. Let’s keep going,” I say, swallowing my anxiety.

As we continue, I relax a bit with each stretch. On a straight away, my son takes one hand off the handle and rests it on his thigh as he looks around calmly, apparently taking in the scenery. I realize then that watching my son navigate the ups and downs of the hills, the abrupt changes in path and traversing around small boulders, that today’s exploration is just like everyday life. I daily observe him dealing with unexpected complications, frustrations, and joys of being a teen.

I ease my ATV back to ten seconds behind and give him more space. He again waves me to him, but I shake my head and wave him on. Just like in life, I need to let him move forward a bit, without me.

When we finish, and helmets come off, he quizzes me. “Why’d you fall back so far? Were you scared?” I chuckle, shake my head, “No, I was giving you space.” “But, did you see what I was doing? Did you see how I took that last curve?” he says as he mimics the action with his hands and body as if he’s still on the ATV. “Yup, I never took my eyes off you.” He smiles. I wasn’t sincere though. A few times I looked away to take in the beauty of the desert trees, flowers, and the jagged mountains, and to try my mini adrenaline tricks, knowing no one was watching. But most the time I was all eyes on the young man in front of me.

We fill the ride home with energized conversation recalling the adventure, small talk, and his begging of when I’ll let him get a motorcycle. I nervously giggle and reply, “You know I’m not comfortable with that but how about I sleep on it. By the way, I need a nap.” “Dang, you’re getting old, Mom. Four-wheeling made you tired?” he says. I scoff thinking of him comatose on our departure. I gently pat his leg and reply, “No, I’m not tired. I’m just a mom.”

My Parent, My Friend: A Daughter’s Wish for Adult Children

Twelve years ago, my dad, Leonard left this world. The sky today is similar to then – a bright, gorgeous blue – his favorite color. Today, I celebrate him.
But my world changed drastically on March 29, 2006. Most of all because I not only lost my dad (and a damn good one) but he was also a terrific friend in my adult years. What I wouldn’t do for a long walk with him now. Also, it’s not quite two years since my mom has passed and OH the things I’d like to talk to her about and get her sage advice. You see, I had the same with her, she was my best friend in my adult years. And the only one who could make my cheeks hurt with laughter.
This is not a pity party. This is PSA. If you’re lucky enough to have your parent(s) still around, and they’ve been good to you, and if you’re fortunate enough you can call them a friend now that you’re an adult, you’ve struck gold. Enjoy them, foster the relationship, never underestimate their love for you and laugh, laugh, laugh.
And if your parent(s) have been mediocre, or shit to you. Just remember, they’re only human. And so are you. Sometimes it’s never too late, and sometimes things just are what they are. But believe me, I know I had something extraordinary, and I wish it upon everyone else who still has a chance.
Photo – Canyon Lake, Texas. 1997. On one of our many, many walks.

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑