As the page says, you only die once….

In my last blog post, I shared with you about finding my sister, who had been missing for years and presumed dead. My twin brother and I went out to see her in Las Vegas and we were all so very relieved that she was OK and had not died the way we had imagined. My sister has a long history of mental health and drug addiction issues so after a few years of not hearing anything from her nor being able to find her with a PI, we assumed the worse.

My mom passed away in 2016 and one of her last requests to me was to try and find my sister and look after her. It was heartbreaking for my mom to not know what had happened to her daughter. I made that promise, almost reluctantly because I did not believe she was still alive but my mom did.

When I was contacted in December by a woman named Johna via Facebook messenger asking me if I had a sister named Marcie, I was beyond shocked. She told me Marcie was sitting in her living room and asked if I wanted to talk to her. She was able to find me by using one of those people finder services and it said Marcie might be related to a Stacy Ziegler. Marcie knew I had moved to Washington back in 2011 from California so luckily I wasn’t that hard to find.

When I spoke to Marcie, I cried. I mean really cried. I am not a crier but I was so relieved that she was alive and did not meet the demise I was sure she had. I asked her why she never tried to contact me and she said she didn’t think I would want to talk to her. This was heartbreaking to hear. She had lived on the streets and was in and out of mental health facilities and group homes and had several delusions about her family. Johna had been her caregiver for awhile and decided she was going to help her find her family, for that I will always be so very grateful. She was not very well, physically, she had COPD at only 48 years of age but she had always had health problems and had heart surgery when she was 5 so it wasn’t that surprising. Originally my other sister and her daughters, who all live in California, planned a trip to Vegas to see her. I had decided to go on a separate trip as i thought that would be overwhelming for Marcie and to be honest, me. I don’t have a close relationship with several of my family members. During the planning stages, Marcie was hospitalized for congestive heart failure and her daughters and my other sister decided it was not the right time for them to go and see her so my brother and I decided to go.

Seeing Marcie for the first time in several years was so surreal! She was so happy. I don’t think I had ever seen her that happy in her entire life. We spent three days together catching up and hanging out. Unfortunately she had been moved to a SNF (Skilled Nursing Facility) after a brief hospital stay for her COPD in N Las Vegas that wasn’t taking very good care of her so we took her to get her hair cut and spruce her up. She had obviously suffered some cognitive deficits due to a variety of reasons over the years as she sometimes appeared to be very child like but she was so sweet and repeatedly said how much she loved Mike and me and you could tell she was really happy. We decided she could not stay in the SNF, they were not meeting her needs and it was a pretty desolate place. We began working on a plan to move her closer to her younger daughter in California. We were timing it so she would arrive just as I was getting back from my vacation so if anything happened or needed my attention, I could go to California. While I was in Las Vegas, I became her power of attorney so I could advocate for better conditions, treatment, and overall care.

On Thursday, March 12th, three days after Marcie’s 49th birthday, Johna packed Marcie’s things in the car and they began the trip to California from Las Vegas. They were singing songs and talking about California and how excited Marcie was to see her daughters after all these years. Unfortunately, Marcie never made it to California. She suffered a major heart attack and passed away. I will forever be grateful for the very short time I got to spend with her and I take solace in knowing that she died knowing that she had family who loved her and wanted to take care of her.

Life is fleeting, you never know if and when you will ever see your loved ones again so people, don’t take that for granted. Especially during this current time. I know it will never sit right with my sister or her daughters that they never got a chance to see her. Thank you Johna. And thank you to all the people out there like Johna who care deeply for people who aren’t their blood. Johna was the best sister Marcie could ever have had.

Where have I been? Where has she been?!?!


What a year! Wait, it’s only March?

Where have I been? Where has she been? And by she I mean my sister who has literally been missing for 6 years and presumed dead.

I need to update my blog much more often than I have been and for that, I apologize. The purpose of this blog(beside keeping my readers informed) is to help me keep a timeline so when I finally pull the trigger and dive in to the book, I have a lot of the material and the timeline solidified. Boy am I blowing it.

Tomorrow, Lisa and I leave for Jamaica to celebrate her 50th birthday. We plan to complete our advanced scuba dive certifications while we are there and if I can get myself to dive back into reality, I will post about what has transpired over the last few months and my very recent trip to Las Vegas to see my long lost sister, obtain power of attorney and scrabble to come up with a plan after and some of her immediate family decided it was too much. Oh and I got to meet Christina Wilson. Such a wild and crazy life I lead at times.

Anyway, that’s the brief(?), disconnected, discombobulated update for now. I will update more the next few weeks, I promise. The take away is my sister is alive and knows that she has family who love her. My wife, brother and his girlfriend made sure of it. Here’s a picture of Marcie, my twin brother Mike, and me. Probably the first one of us together in 30 years

Who are you?

More importantly, who aren’t you? I am not a Mathew McConaughey follower by any stretch. Sure, he’s entertaining and not hard on the eyes (all right, all right, all right…. ) but he isn’t someone I’ve ever viewed as a guru. Until today. I came across this video on Facebook and to say it struck a cord doesn’t begin to describe the way it spoke to my soul.

Since I was raised without any sound guidance or a positive parent role model, I used what my mother would do as an example of what NOT to do myself as a parent. Mr. McConaughey’s video emphasises just that. To find yourself and define who you are, you must first define who you aren’t and who you don’t want to be. The emphasis is on controlling your environment. Don’t be around anyone or anything who antagonizes your goal and life’s purpose. My mother has served me well and when I’ve deviated from my, if my mom would do xyz then do the opposite, mentality, we have all paid the price. Since I am in the home stretch of having minor children (1 year 8 months but who’s counting?) and I am focusing on the future, this could not be more timely. I feel, and I mean really feel, very mindful of the message in the video. From time to time I question the decision I’ve made about my future plans so this is an excellent affirmation. I do not want to live in the US anymore. I am done with the rat race.I don’t want my children to be afraid of the unknown, or of taking calculated risks. I do not want my life now to be the end of my story. I want more than anything to help children in a developing country and to be able to work on my book and truly live my life. I know who I am and who I am not and I know what is important to me.

I have another life ahead of me. I know it lies in another country and I know being idle won’t get me there. I am looking forward to getting to know the future me as I continue to grow and embrace what I desire from the one life I’ve been given. Sometimes I need the reminder to be brave, I will only die once!

Self Actualization

Maslow’s hierarchy of need is a stripped down analogy of what we, as human beings, need in life. There are 5 progressive levels of this pyramid and it starts with the most basic needs; food, air, water, sleep. Second up is safety and security, this is followed by social; love and belonging. The fourth tier is esteem; you are respected and you have respect for others. The last tier is self actualization; the need for development.

Maslow called the bottom four levels of the pyramid ‘deficiency needs’ because a person does not feel anything if they are met, but becomes anxious if they are not. It is not until all 4 deficiency levels are met that a human can focus on the last level and even then, self-actualization (per Maslow) requires uncommon qualities such as honesty, independence, awareness,objectivity, creativity, and originality. I, like many others, learned of Maslow’s hierarchy in an intro psych class decades ago. I believe it makes great sense though I don’t know that I buy into the idea that only a few privileged people will achieve this enlightened state.

My entire life has been chaotic from as long as I can remember. My twin brother and I rounded out the last six children in my family and we’re primarily raised by a sister that was 10 years older than we were. (can you imagine raising two year old twins when you were 12?) It has been my experience that having such a rough upbringing has resulted in several long term issues as an adult. Through my work, I have become very familiar with the ACE’s studies and I believe I don’t need to say much more than, my ACE score is an 8.

One area that has daunted me the most is purpose. I have struggled almost all of my adult life to fill a a vast void with distraction, service to others, material things, etc. Though this void wasn’t present when I didn’t know where I was going to sleep or how I was going to get formula for my oldest son 25 years ago. This makes sense when you look at the pyramid. As things settled for me over the years, I have been most fulfilled when in my role as a mother, working with abused and neglected children, being a foster parent, a gestational surrogate, etc. My level of contentment revolved around service to others. My ex husband (Wusband) was an excellent support person and would remind me that I could not distract my way to happiness or fill it with material things. I wasn’t sure what was missing in my life but a large something was and the more things settled, the bigger the void became.

If you look back at the pyramid, you can see that one of the most core needs is belonging. Love/loving/loved and inclusion are paramount. I certainly have been loved by many others in my life but I struggled for decades with self love and acceptance. It wasn’t until I came out three years ago (at 40) that I began to feel comfortable in my own skin but then the focus was on family, minimizing harm to my children, half who were still under 18, and adapting to a new role. My soon to be ex husband and I concocted a plan on how and when to tell the kids and what life was going to look like as co parents after 18 years of marriage. It was not an easy road to go down and while my Ex knew I had some “tendencies” my children had no idea and were practically blindsided. I spent the first 18 months out of that relationship distracting myself with another and as you can imagine, that blew up with fantastic success! I did feel more comfortable as a lesbian, in public, at home, work,you name it, than I ever have as a straight woman but there was still something missing.

After the complete annihilation of what my life used to look like along with some extremely stressful life events, things began to settle down during the last 18 months. While I was busy working on a new non-profit (distract,distract,distract!), being a mother, an employer, an advocate, a friend, and a partner, my life shifted gears yet again. It feels as if it almost happened without my participation or knowing. All the desires to fill the void had been gone and for who knows how long? I wasn’t paying attention. What finally clued me off was a bout of insomnia a few days ago when I realized I no longer had that feeling that something was missing. I can be pretty oblivious.

So this is what it looked like… Laying in bed, trying to fall asleep and thinking about how I would like to add alternative titles to this book I am working on and give a little explanation as to why, “My sisters/cousins” would have been appropriate or “Leave my liver out of this!” and finally settled on the one I chose (no telling) and why. When reflecting on the alternative titles,I felt nothing. And I mean, nothing except contentment. This is a brand new experience for me. When I realized this void I had been dragging around forever had somehow disappeared and I didn’t even recognize when or how it happened, I felt blindsided myself. How did this happen? What have I done so differently? I had embraced myself. I was able to do so because I am in a healthy and happy relationship. Not just with myself but just about everyone else in my life. My wife is incredibly supportive and loving and creates a safe space for me to be me. There is no drama, there is no toxicity, there is no pretending to be someone I’m not. There is no judgement. There is no need to search for something as I completely unknowingly had satisfied all 4 need levels of Maslow’s pyramid. Don’t get me wrong, this was not an easy task and it came from identifying and pursuing my needs as well as recognizing and adjusting toxic relationships (family and friends) and loads of therapy. I am sure there is a lot more to it but that’s my limited insight.

The last three years have been quite an experience and I do believe I had to go through all of the bad to get to the good. I am extremely optimistic about the future and pushing the limits of what I am capable of now that I have this new found freedom. I feel more certain now than ever that early retirement=finish book. I am not saying I have achieved “Self Actualization” but I do know I have never been closer.