Monday, September 11, 2017

Mean Girls Are Never Pretty

Mom's sojourn in Memory Care ended when she could no longer stand and became what they term a 2-assist.  She transitioned to Skilled Care much more easily than I thought she would.  I was the one who struggled.  Mostly because I had never bothered to visit that part of the facility.  It is really beautiful and there is a covered patio and some outdoor sighing space.  It's not quite the MC garden, but it will do.

Yesterday was beautiful warm with cool breezes that whispered of fall.  In the sun it was glorious and I finally coaxed mom out onto the patio and into the sun where she promptly fell asleep.  I sat with her eyes closed, holding her hand there in the sun.  It was an amazing day I will remember a long time.  Two residents sitting behind me were engaged in a very loud conversation.  They were criticizing the facility, the staff, and the other residents.  I tried to tune them out.  But they started talking smack about my mama's friend and fellow AD resident Mary C whose condition has deteriorated considerably.  I tried harder to tune them out, but they just kept talking louder.

Soon they had worked their way through all the people in the facility and started talking about my mom who is sitting just a few feet away.  They are saying really snarky things and I want to bitch slap them both into next month.  I curb that, but I take mom inside.  I don't know what she can take in or remember, but she (and I) shouldn't have to sit and listen to this kind of awful talk.  I really want to go back out and try to explain to these women how mean they are, how grateful they should be to still have their mental capacity, how as Christian women they are instructed not to judge.

When mom was in MC, there were people who would pop off with all sorts of comments.  But you forgave them because they were dementia patients and not really in good control of their filters.  I learned to laugh at Harry when he called me fat and just say "Yup."  It was like hearing someone's internal dialogue and it was most interesting.  It had been a long time since I had to deal with someone deliberately cruel - like these two old biddies.

Unlike the residents of MC, these two were in full control of their minds and their mouths.  And THIS was how they chose to pass their day?  Not comforting another resident or reading or just enjoying the weather, but criticizing the shit out of their entire world.  When I got home, I was stewing about it, knew there would be a blog post to vent it out.

In the whole process of my mama's decline my mantra has become PLEASENOTMEPLEASENOTMEPLEASENOTME.  I chant it near constantly whenever my thoughts turn to Alzheimer's and the genetic possibility of it in my own future.  Yesterday was the first day I looked at it a bit more kindly as I shifted the mantra to ANYTHINGBUTTHAT.  I do not want to be like these old women - even if it means I have to deal with Alzheimers.

THAT was an interesting place to find myself.  No longer resisting it, but understanding there are worse ways to be in the world than old and forgetful, there is deliberately cruel and hateful.  I choose the former.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Hidden Figure

Last night I watched Hidden Figures and today I stood for a moment looking at the moon in the morning sky, remember someone stood there.

We all know the story of John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.  How glad I am someone dug a little deeper to find and tell this gem of a story.  It resonated for me on every level.  As a woman in science there is still residual sexist overlay, still racial overlays as well.  Although I do not experience the latter.  The courage of the women in the movie inspired me, inspires me.  And it gives me hope.

I may be a hidden figure, but what I do matters.  The success of all those PhD's is not possible without technical staff.  We work ridiculous hours.  We receive mediocre compensation.  We receive no glory.  Why are we here?  I can only answer for myself.

Because this is where my passion lies.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Journey Dream 12.17.16

 I am walking on the beach.  The tide is out and the beach is a flat shelf.  The sun is shining, the sky cobalt.  Trailing along with me is a small apricot colored cocker spaniel puppy.  I am carrying an old fashioned lantern made of sea glass and rose gold in one hand and a piece of Himalayan salt in the other.  It’s midday and the ocean is full of salt, so I’m not sure why I need either.  But they feel good in my hands. 

The pup and I sit to take a rest.  I put the chunk of salt and the lantern on the beach at my feet.  A man walks by and say, “What a fabulous idea.”  He begins walking down the beach and driving in rose gold hooked poles and small rose gold pedestals.  They extend to the horizon in organic clumps.  He walks back toward me and encourages me to get a move on, “it has to be completed by sundown.”

I stand up, dust the sand off my butt.  The dog looks up at me quizzically.  I shrug and say, “You know as much as I do, Shorty.”  But I go down the beach with the man where we begin hanging rose-colored lanterns on the poles and setting bodacious chunks of Himalayan salt onto the pedestals.  The ones I have been carrying are the last to be installed.  “Hurry.  Hurry.  It’s almost time,” he says as he places my items. 

We turn together, the man, the pup and me just in time to see the sun fall out of the sky and night come.  “Wait for it,” he tells me.  And just as the sky loses all of its day, the lanterns light up and the salt crystals begin to hum.  I am transported. 

We walk back in the glow of the lanterns.  “Such a great idea you had,” he tells me.  “Next time think bigger,” he says and walks off. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Lineage #1

"Here are the bits where I am broken," she says and shoves a shoe box into my stomach.

I see what she means.  Inside are bitty bits and pieces.   I poke through them with a finger - delft bone china handle to something, torn sari scraps red-gold and fraying, bits of beach glass, shooter marbles, a Barbie shoe, a strangely shaped acorn, a triangular pebble, puzzle pieces and a red Sorry game marker.

"Can you fix me?"

I shake my head and shove the box back into her hands.  Her box of broken scares me.


I pull out the Sorry man, "Tell me about this."

"Is that a Sorry game piece?"

"You tell me.  It's your box of broken."

"What the fuck is a Sorry man doing in there?"

I say nothing.  I uncross and recross my legs.  I can't put the words in her mouth.  I know eventually she will begin.

"I used to love that game, yunno?"

I nod.  "What did you love about it?"

"I loved being able to slam someone else's man back into start just as they were about to make it home."

"Hmmmmm," is all I say.  We sit in the long silence that follows before I goose her again.  "Why do you think there is a Sorry man in your broken box?"

She sighs and blows the hair up out of her eyes.  For the first time since we began, I can see into them.  They are a warm honey brown, but they are so distant, so closed off.

"My family was always fighting.  Even when they weren't, they were.  People were always fighting.  Fighting to be seen.  Fighting to be heard.  Fighting to be loved.  Until fighting became a thing, became the only thing."  She stops and tears into an already shredded cuticle before continuing.  "I don't like fighting and I could never get them to stop."

"How did you deal with that?"

She shrugs, "I learned early on that I could make it stops sometimes if I apologized, said I was sorry."  She grabs the Sorry man from the box and flings him across the room.  "I spent my whole life apologizing.  I apologized for everything.  I apologized to boyfriends when they broke up with me for not being a better girlfriend.  I apologized to my mother for not being perfect, for not being pretty, for not being born a boy, for fucking being born at all.  I apologized at work for not working around the clock to get funding.  I apologized for every hurt - real and imagined.  I even apologized for being silent.  Can you imagine?  My whole life has been a big fucking apology."

"Have your apologies changed any of those things?  Did a boyfriend decide to stay?  Did you mother love you more?  Did you keep your job?"

"No."  She thinks for a while.  "The words are just that.  Empty words said to make it stop."

"To make what stop?"

"The feeling of losing everything."

"You aren't going to save anything with empty apologies."

"Then why can't I stop apologizing for the world?"

"It's a habit.  Like biting your nails."

She jerks her fingers from her mouth where she has been worrying the nail and hides them under her leg.

"You have to exercise it, like a muscle."

She looks at me crookedly.  "One of my friends just told me the same thing."

"That is a wise friend," I say.  "And this," I hand her back the game piece, "is just a Sorry man."

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

It's Thanksgiving.  I'm at work.  My choice.  It will be a short day and I will go home to lounge in my penguin pants, watch movies and eat chicken risotto.  I will not eat turkey or watch football or fall asleep on the couch (OK maybe I will do that).  I most certainly will not be spending it with my family.

It isn't that I don't have anywhere to go.  I had at least five stellar offers from people I adore.

I turned them all down.

 If you are one of the kind people who invited me to join you.  Big thanks.

I used to do the BIG family Thanksgiving.  For 50+ years I did that because it was what was expected.  I endured conversations (term used loosely as no one really listened) at decibel levels equivalent to a Boeing 747 taxiing down the runway.  I endured political diatribes against everything I believe in and hold most dear.  I endured judgment oozing from every dish on the table that felt like poison in my mouth.  I endured pity for my eternally single life.  Mostly I endured sitting at the same table as my abuser and pretending we were one happy family.

I endured - until I couldn't.

Those were a mockery of Thanksgiving.  I was not grateful for a single one.  And every time I had to say what I WAS grateful for - I lied.  There was NOTHING to be thankful for in any part of this day from hell.  (I will make an exception for the invention of the broccoli-pault which was sheer genius).

In truth, I am so scarred up by those past 50 or so Thanksgivings, it's better for me to look at it as just another day.  Less crap gets stirred up.

Some year I may go back to celebrating with friends, but for now I choose to celebrate alone.  I celebrate me.  I celebrate all the things I have to be grateful for.  Including the bad grammar of the previous sentence.  I will be as happy as a hog in slops padding around in my slippers all by myself.  It will be the perfect Thanksgiving.  And it will work its magic to make me hate this day a little less.

Everyone's Thanksgiving should be what they need it to be.  I am finally making mine what suits me best.  I hope yours does likewise.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Trippin' with Shel

This is a journey from back in August.  Shel is one of my writing peeps.
It takes some time.  More than usual.  I am out of practice, out of breath, too much about breath. 

Shel meets me.  We are climbing up a granite face using ancient hand and foot holds carved into the vertical face.  I lean into the mountain.  Cool stone beneath my cheek.  Breathing.  Shel urges me on.  I am not afraid.  As we approach the summit, a curving set of narrow stairs winds around the peak.  At the summit, we stand hand-in-hand.

“So.  What’s up?” I ask.

Shel says nothing.

“What am I supposed to see?”


“Why did you drag me up here?”

“Is it not enough that it’s beautiful?”

He’s right.  It is beautiful.  Rolling emerald hills unfurl below us alternately lit and shadowed as the sun ducks behind scudding clouds.  Still I am restless, fidgety.

Shel sighs.  “We are here to call back the pieces you have lost.”

Now it’s my turn to sigh.  Finally, I think. 

“Where do you think they might be?” he asks.

“At work,” I answer. 

He nods, reaches out as a barn owl swoops in and lands on his hand.  He turns and presses the owl into my chest.  There is discomfort as though wings flapped about in the cage of my ribs, but this feeling settles as things shift inside me to make room. 

“Where else?”

“My mom.”

He gestures again and a pelican glides in to his hand and then into my chest.  I name other people, other events other places where I have lost myself, let my energy go.  One by one the pieces wing back to me in bird form.  At some point Shel stops receiving them.  Instead they fly directly into my chest, into my heart.  Each one lands and rocks me back on my heels, threatens to tumble me off the mountain. 

I am not frightened.  Shel is always there to catch me if I fall. 

After the last arrives, I turn toward Shel and ask, “Where are they?  I know there are more.”

“That is enough for today,” he states. 

We stand hand-in-hand once more.  He’s right.  It is beautiful.  And it is enough. 

Monday, October 31, 2016


I have been taking an online class.  One of the exercises has been to cruise Pinterest or some other visual heavy website and lift out images that deeply resonate for us.  So, I have been doing that as prescribed.

As usual with Pinterest, I fell down a rabbit hole this morning looking for images of strong women - especially strong large sized ones.  I never did stumble across that.  What I did get lost in was the sea of portraits of old women.  I find them spell-binding and incredibly beautiful.  Every line, every wrinkle a story of where she has been and what she has done.  I fell in love over and over and over.  I'm not talking about the former models or super pampered Westerners with their long silver-white hair and unlined faces.  I'm talking about women who have lived and scrounged and had a life - a life that shows in their faces.

My mom's face now looks like these and I wondered if this affinity is because they remind me of her or has it been around a long time.  I can distinctly remember loving my grandmother and her sister's faces.  I can remember fingers tracing photos of really amazing older women in Nat Geo.  Seems, I have always found them beautiful.

So, I toddle off to look at photos of younger women, of moms, of young girls.  They are beautiful, too but in a different way that doesn't sing to me.  The are beautiful the way an empty page is beautiful, or unbroken snow.  Everyone finds beauty there.  Anyone can be beautiful, is beautiful, at that stage of their life.  But, once the story is writ upon the page, how many still find beauty?  How many will write a sonnet about slush?  about wrinkles?

I am not interested in the part of a woman's life between childhood and retirement.  I am specifically drawn to women in their cronehood.  I am and always have been a crone.  The same way some people will never grow up and mature beyond childhood.  Maybe I was a child once, but I have been a crone so long, I can't remember.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

FW 10.27.16


Yesterday, I took the ferry from DI to Fort Morgan/Gulf Shores.  It takes about 30 minutes to cross the mouth of Mobile Bay here at it's narrowest.  Somehow my Midwestern head struggles to reconcile the size of the Bay on a map versus the oceanic-like reality I experienced.

During my trip, I finished the last of Stephen King's Mr Mercedes on audio book.  I passed by Lulu's and the Florabama and my Buffet loving heart was happy.  (Hey, don't judge).  I scored a new state in my letterboxing quest - FL.  I drove through Orange Beach, Perdido Key, and Gulf Shores - a swirly carnival feeling series of towns that reminded me of spring break in Daytona, and not in a good way.  The energy of these places was awful and I wanted to scurry back to my tiny island where none of this exists.  But I stuck it out and scored my box.  WHEW!

What I really wanted to write about today was the ferry ride over.  I had a lot of misgivings about putting my car on a boat.  They are all irrational.  I wonder where they came from.  I loved this trip.  The steady wind whipped my hair into rollercoaster knots, my shirt flapped up revealing my fish-white belly or tattooed back.  It made me laugh.  One of the reasons I come to DI is I love wind.  It's been really calm (weirdly calm) the last few days, so having the wind spin around me like a flamenco dancer lit me up.  I don't know why I like wind.  I just do.

There are dolphins leaping and spinning OUT OF THE WATER.  I have seen them feed and ride the wake of a boat.  But I have never seen them do this.  Leap all the way out of the water and spin like a battle top.  I am a goner.  They seem so excited, so joyful.  And so am I.  I am having one of those transcendent moments where I feel one with my surroundings.  I BELONG out here on the water.  Not in it.  ON IT.  I am whole here.  How once I was the water.  How that was stolen from me.  And the joy is extinguished.  I am crying (Yes, on the public ferry).  How dare someone do that?  Now I am sad and furious.  Eventually the joy returns, but it is not the same for having been tainted by the anger-sorrow.  It is less pure.  It is more guarded, more afraid.  And I can see that the theft of joy has happened in my life over and over until I no longer recognize it.  I certainly don't expect it any more.  And in the rare case where the stars align and I am in it, I am terrified the joy will be taken away again.  Sometimes in that terror, I am the saboteur of my own loss.

This is the piece of my life that needs healing most, this separation from source, from who I was supposed to be.  There is still time to be her.  I want that more than anything.  I want to let go of old worn out fears, fears that have no meaning anymore.  I want to embrace the wind.  I want to be the dolphin.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

FW 10.22.16


There's something magical about the island.

The whole drive down I was stewing about something that happened as I left work on Wednesday.  I tried to do my tonglen around the issue and the person, but it just kept getting bigger and bigger with every breath.  The stew getting thicker and thicker until I could hardly breathe.

And then I arrived.  I felt the wind swirl my hair and run up my arms like the hands of a familiar lover.  And the notion of trouble or place or work dissolved.  I smiled for the first time in weeks.  Hell I may have even laughed.

There is a place we all live, where we are all alive.  This place, this tiny island in the gulf is that place for me.  This is home.

FW - 10.19.16

So part of my job is to organize and keep a lab running smoothly.  It's a fair size lab and it hasn't had someone in this position - so there's the expected pushback.  Surprisingly it's mostly from the graduate students who somehow feel it's my job to pick up after them and do all the shit jobs they don't want to because they are beneath them.  Or maybe they resent me telling them what to do.  Which always reminds me of a toddler shouting "You're not the boss of me!"

Today as I was walking out the door, I reminded one of them that the undergrad she was dragging around the lab needed to be added to our protocol.  Yes, I have reminded her previously.  But no progress was being made.  I am leaving for two and an half weeks on vacation, so perhaps I was abrupt with her - I was after all leaving on vacation.  (An action I apologized for).  Still she felt the need to shame me on social media.  She didn't mention me by name, but I'm sure all our mutual (now former mutual) friends knew who she was talking about when she said I was harassing her.  The victim card?  Really?  And social media shaming?

I don't have a place in my life for people who cannot deal with their problems like adults, cannot or will not have a discussion and settle it without this kind of behavior.  This student goes directly to my boss without ever talking to me.  They have never broached the subject with me - despite what they claim on social media.

For two years, I have cleaned up, I have ordered, I have amended protocol after protocol.  I have kept us in compliance.  I have done my job.  Yes, even telling you what to do and reminding you are part of it.  None of that is anything I think is fun.

And today I feel completely and utterly disrespected.  And I am looking at other jobs.  Not a good sign.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

New Ink

Like most women, I have some body issues.  How and when they show up are different.

For most of my life, until my late 40's I had ginormous breasts - the kind that have a letter size that make people go WHOA!  I had them made smaller (and blogged about it here).  I am grateful for that every single day.  My back feels so much better and I have learned to stand up straight - well straighter.  My shoulders are permanently rounded forward after all those years such that I am unable to press them back into a wall when I stand against it.  But I am still grateful.

Having grown up with such big breasts ingrained many behaviors.  And I have been trying to unlearn these.  I am still working on a full upright, chest-forward gait.  I no longer feel the need to carry books or papers to protect them from view.  I stopped looking at the floor when talking to men, so I wouldn't have to see them have an entire conversation with my chest.  They felt no shame in doing this.  On the contrary, I felt shame.  And that's fucked up!

The one that still plagues me is going without a bra publicly.

So, when I wanted to get a tattoo on my back in a place my bra would cover, I knew I would have to just bite the bullet and wear a cami/tank without one.  I knew I would have to sit in full view of people, including men with lots of skin exposed.  I have put this particular tattoo off for years for just this reason.  I was lucky enough to find a shop where the tattooing doesn't happen in a fishbowl where anyone walking by can stop and watch.  I was lucky enough to find a tattooer who is amazing, kind, and a big bad teddy bear kind of guy who puts me at ease and makes me laugh.

There's a little part of me that will, when threatened, jut out its chin and throw the middle finger to the world and forge ahead.  That part shows up when I need it most.  Like yesterday.  I sat in my tiny cami with one strap off and the back pulled way down.  I sat in a room full of men.  I laughed with my tattooer.  And that middle-finger flippin part of me didn't even care when he stood up to get a better angle on the tattoo even though it meant he could see straight down onto my cleaveage.

Let him look.  You don't care.  It said.

And I didn't, not really.  I don't know if he looked.  He probably did.

I laughed as we swapped stories.  He's a good conversationalist.  Even though I sat with a lot of skin exposed, even though he is a big guy and he had his hands on me for hours, I never felt threatened.  I never felt ogled or treated differently.  My skin was his canvas and his focus was always there.  I felt respected and for that I am grateful.  I needed that more than I can say.  To know that I can be exposed and still be safe - that's a hell of a thing to learn in a tattoo shop in the northern burbs of Cincinnati

Mean Girls Are Never Pretty

Mom's sojourn in Memory Care ended when she could no longer stand and became what they term a 2-assist.  She transitioned to Skilled C...