Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Black Squirrel

I love squirrels. Iknow. Iknow. Iknow - rats with furry tails. Desecrators of your feeders. I like them because they are smart and they make me laugh. When I was at U of L, I loved the population of albino squirrels on campus even when they ran up my leg in the morning to try and steal my granola bar. How dare I eat something so obviously squirrel food!

The place where I live now is bordered in the back by a small stretch of woods - what I think of as sighing space from the unrelenting concrete and houses here in Wonderbread town. Lots of things live in that little space. Deer. Raccoons. Groundhogs. And Squirrels. The squirrels nest in the hollowed out tree in the front by the drive and sometimes I will see the mama ferrying little ones from one nest to another looking like fuzzy grey tennis balls.

Last week I saw something unusual out in the back there. And I have seen it every day since. A really dark colored squirrel. Not quite as black as most black squirrels and definitely not as grey as the ones in my tree. Interesting. I wonder how he feels being the only black squirrel in Wonderbread town?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Appointment

Funny. I just called to make an appt with UC OBGYN for my annual pap and mammogram - yet another new OB. Perhaps # 15 including nurse midwives. Everyone of them retiring after 2-5 years. At this rate I will retire the whole Cinti population of OB's before I die. So if you know an OB who's lookin to retire but cant figure out how, I'm their patient (but that is another story and I digress). Laughing and joking with the receptionist doing the scheduling. Completely at ease. Only a couple hours later did that moment sink in for me. How very much has changed.

That appointment date in early January every year used to scare the shit outta me. Sometimes for months in advance. In late 2001 I was diagnosed with uterine cancer and had a total hysterectomy in January 2002. I was 40 when that mother part of my life came to an abrupt end and the crone part began. January for the next 5 years held the dreaded appt with the gyno-oncologist. And every year I would stare at that pink-boxed in date on my calendar with weak knees and queasy stomach. What would he find this year? What part of me would he want to rip out next? Would this be the year that he looked at me with his sad face and said those words again? You have cancer.

Those 5 years contained so much turmoil for me as every January I came face to face with my own mortality. Every year I went a little nuts (grateful to my fam and friends who held me up) and every year I steeled myself to hear him pass a death sentence on me. I thought every January would be like that for the rest of my life. But here we are 9 years out and I just made my January appt and laughed while I did it. I didn't remember to be frightened or that my knees should knock together in anticipation of bad news. Seems I really did survive having cancer. I am lucky that way.

But I did more than survive cancer. I learned from it. Cancer has been the best teacher I have ever had. Many of the good things in my life now came because of what I learned from Cancer.
I owe it for the 100 pounds I lost over those 5 years in order to get healthier.
I owe it for growing my interest in holistic healing.
I owe it for reconnecting me with God.
I owe it for the writing that saves me on a daily basis.
I owe it for helping me see what really matters in my life and what is just fluff and filler.
I owe it for scraping off the thin layer of grime that was my life before we met and making me explore deeper and deeper parts of myself.

I can take it from here.


2009 A Retrospective

Usually at this time of year people are all focused forward making lofty lists of the things that they will accomplish in the coming year. Listmaking has never worked for me. I see that whole long list and it overwhelms me to the point of stasis. Instead, I take a single task and work on that until it is done and then move on to the next thing. Generally I start with the one I want to do the least - the biggest toad. Once that toad is out of the way, things get easier and the toads smaller. And whatever I get done is exactly what needed to be done that day. I don't know why lists bother me like that, but they do. So I don't make a list. But I do set intentions for the upcoming year. I do that in July near my birthday as the wheel of MY year turns anew bc that makes sense to me. Once the intentions are set I don't obsess about them, but kind of let them ride, goosing the intention when it feels I have drifted away.

This time of year for me is about letting go. Winter is the best time for deep internal work the kind fomented by less outdoor distraction and an overwhelming desire to hibernate and skate thru winter in the Dreamtime. A mental/spiritual house cleaning if you will. What have I acquired this year that I don't need? What am I no longer using that should be passed on? What have I outgrown? Whose crap did I scoop up that wasn't mine? The past few weeks I've been digging around in the back of the closet making decisions about some of those things. Lots of help from my peeps and my friends. It seems things were discarded more gently this year. Even the most suck ass things were dealt with compassionately. When I reached the end of what I could do (not what's on the list), I felt lighter and happier. Of all the things I discovered on my interior archeological expedition I decided to keep only 3 things. I kept the laughter. I kept the joy. And I kept the love. Because one can NEVER have enough of those. Not ironically those are the three things that are part of my every day intention setting (think of it as the Physics of Prayer 101). Good to see how many times those intentions have brought exactly what I asked for this year. I have been especially blessed with an abundance of laughter this year.

My intentions are set and in place. My house is clean (at least my spiritual house). And I am ready to face 2010 head on.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I Wanna Be a Moor Pony

I was fortunate to travel to England this year - to see Clapton, touch Stonehenge, watch Shakes in the Globe, stand on the cliffs at Tintagel, walk in the steps of Tolkien and to visit Dartmoor. Until 6 or 7 years ago Dartmoor did not register on the list of places I wanted to someday visit. But, Dartmoor is the Mecca of my strange hobby. The very first letterbox was placed in a bottle in Cranmere Pool in 1854 and things have escalated from there. There are boxes at Cranmere Pool still 150 years later. I did entertain thoughts of nabbing the Cranmere Pool box, but it is quite a haul over the sometimes soggy moor. And since we had torrential rains the day before, I was pretty sure that hike was not one I wanted to make since I had no Wellies (boots). So I contented myself with pubhopping, sampling English brews and collecting pub boxes from the cluebook provided to me by my friend Sno' who had been in Dartmoor 6 months earlier. She and I will go back and get that Cranmere pool box. Just not sure which of us will brave the driving part of that trip.

So that's how I came to be in the forsaken wilderness of Dartmoor. What I never expected was to fall in love with the land there. Barren. Rocky. Empty rolling bordered hills that do a graceful and stark dance across Cornwall and Devon spun out like a bellydancer's veils. But love it I did. Immediate and absolute. I wanted to roll down the windows and just breathe in the rarified air. To launch myself out of the car and just run for the joy of running and no other reason. To stand with my face to the ever present moor wind and laugh as it spilled its secrets upon me. Mostly I wanted to frolic with the small Moor pony foals from that spring. To cavort about in my shaggy coat feeding and then flop over in the equally shaggy grass when I got tired and give over to sleep and moor dreams.

There is an inexplicable pull toward this piece of Earth. I will go back, using the Cranmere Pool hike as an excuse. But really, I wanna immerse myself out on the moor again and see what happens.

Scientific Observation #4

Scientific Observation #4 subcategory: Physiological Physics

Newtons 3rd law states that for each action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Hypothesis: When applying force to break up caked dishwashing soap in the box by striking it with another object - say the palm of one's hand - one might expect a equal and opposing amount of force to be applied to the palm of one's hand by the aforementioned soap (reaction). Since the box is inert it feels nothing. However, it is predicted that since the palm is attached to my hand, the reactive force might well result in the utterance of colorful epithets, extemporaneous dance, significant rupture of palmar vasculature, and a #3 on the Mosby faces pain scale.

One might also use this scenario to demonstrate Newton's first law - that an object in motion tends to stay in motion and those at rest tend to stay at rest, but I will leave that for subsequent experimentation as I go off in search of sub-zero water in which to soak my hand.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Status Cloud

Just wanted to save it. No real reason.

And those butterflies are welcome anytime!!

2010 - What's It Like

I know, I generally set my intentions in July near my birthday. Starting MY new trip around the sun with a course laid true. This is just a tiny course correction.

This year I have learned that the thing that frightens me the most is the thing that needs doing. When I can step into that fear I learn alot. Oh I may have to do a faceplant or two or ten, but it is always worth it.

So as 2009 winds itself to a close and 2010 has yet to be cast out, I have chosen to step into the fear over and over and over - as many times as it is presented to me this year. I will yank up my panties and step forward to meet it. I will make my fear my greatest ally.


Friday, December 25, 2009

The Hat

Sometimes the smallest most insignificant thing can bring me the most happiness. Today it was a hat. I would not have bought it for myself without a little encouragement. OK a little goading. But I do love a funny hat. Years from now it will remind me of a great day spent with a very dear friend watching movies that I wont remember. Most of the day will probably be lost in the overstuffed memory banks. But I will remember him. I will remember the love and I will remember the hat. Every time I put it on I will want to inexplicably howl with laughter and I will feel loved.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

4 Days, 1200 Miles, 7 States

In retrospect, traveling to Memphis was BAT SHIT CRAZY, but just what my soul needed. Apparently it needs that kind of not knowing where everything is and wondering how to navigate alone in a strange town. I met a lot of interesting people there, but the most interesting person that I met was me. Sound egotistical? Yeah kinda. But I love puttering about without a timetable or having to compromise and do things I would rather not. Following an appetizing aroma and feeding at its source. Spending a moment in conversation with the river instead of just rushing this magical backdrop.

To slow the pace of life requires Southern soil. It's just easier there to move slower and to just be slower. To take time to be where I am. I like that about the South. No rush. No worries. Of course my Northern mind is sometimes at odd with that pace which makes for interesting internal dialogue. My "goal" was to step foot in Mississippi and Arkansas and cross them off my life list (leaving me with 6 states left to visit) and to letterbox in those two as well as Tennessee and Missouri bringing my letterboxed states to 18. Given Memphis' location that seemed doable. I easily scored the MS and AR boxes.

As I was leaving I made the decision to try for a MO box located in Trail of Tears National Forest. Should known better. 2.5 hrs stuck on the freeway. Disappointing memorial to all those lives lost so brutally (REALLY disappointing in its tepid description). Then backroads thru MO and IL listening as the GPS recalculated and told me where to go. In the rural town of Anna, IL the GPS decided for her own reasons to have an out of body experience leaving me adrift in this backwater town with no idea where the fuck I am or where she was leading me. Nothing I did revived her. DAMMIT. Spying a Wal-Mart I strode in to replace her ass. Yeah - Wal-Mart the week of Christmas in farm country. Need I say more? Luckily they had GPS (just out of crank bait and camo gun stocks). So I plugged in the new one, henceforth dubbed SQUISHY, and she tells me that I am 5 miles from I-57. CRV filled with crazy laughter!!!!

My trip home took 10.5 hours and took me thru 6 states. All to get those 2 boxes. CRAZY!!! Yup. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Unexpected Gems

One of my meanderings took me into the South end of Memphis, a very cool and generally unimproved neighborhood full of authentic feeling Memphisians (Memphins? Memphisers?). I rounded a corner and saw a building and thought Wow. Where do I recognize that from? (Yes I think in improper grammer) So I walked over that way. The closer I got the more I felt I KNEW that building. The Lorraine Motel. Only when the whole motel front became visible did the memory banks successfully retrieve WHY I knew it. This is the spot where MLK was assassinated in April 1968. How could I have forgotten that took place in Memphis? It looks exactly the same as the photos I have seen of that day. Except those are b/w and this is in glaring turquoise and tangerine color. A simple wreath marks the spot where King fell. The building was converted in the 80's to a Civil Rights Museum. I spent a moment talking to Jacqueline Smith - the last resident of the motel who was evicted. She sits in protest as she has for 20+ years over her eviction from the motel claiming King would not have wanted anyone evicted nor would he have wanted this shrine to him. She told me that despite what I thought as I traversed the neighborhood, that it had undergone significant gentrification and that the poor mostly black residents had been forced out in the intervening years. Kinda sad that creating something that should bring us together only serves to drive a bigger wedge between the haves and havenots.

It is unexpected meetings like that that make me love traveling alone. If I had been with someone else, I would not have been in that neighborhood, might not have been on foot, might not have spied the motel in the distance, probably wouldn't have felt free to just haul off and see what it was and would not have talked to Ms Smith. My life would have remained small.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Chucalissa Museum

Of all the museums in Memphis, Chucalissa Museum was among my first choices to visit. I became interested in anthropology and archaeology when I was an undergrad. C'mon yall must know the girl is a geek thru and thru by now. Right?? But I blame Nat'l Geo and their slick pages showing the excavation of Pompeii and Herculaneum as setting the hook for that to be so. I worked on a dig at Angel Mounds in Evansville in 1983 and as much as I loved that experience, part of me always felt like a graverobber. (Note: I was NOT excavating graves.....but midden heaps. Yunno the garbage pile. Mostly broken pots and discarded animal bones). There was just something about holding some tiny chert that someone else had held a thousand years ago that lit me up. Angel Mounds is part of the Native American Mississipian culture, middle Mississipian to be exact, and was occupied from 1100-1450 AD and then abandoned for no known reason. (No I didnt remember that factoid, but I did look it up). Chucalissa is from the same culture and about the same time period. Alternately abandoned and then re-inhabited for unknown reasons for centuries. Excavated in the 1940's and 50's - a fact that cleaves me in two - scientist and sensitive spiritual being.

The site was a bit disappointing in appearance. The elevated plaza, concreted to be held in place - ugh! But up there as I froze my fingers blue, I felt a familiar buzz and tingle - that feeling I get when I stand in places of ancient power. Slowly the modern time space slides away into that of a thousand years ago and I am standing above the village as it was then. Standing there with the Elders - generally the women Elders. Witness to what once was. I have had similar experiences when I have stood near the Adena mounds that dot the Ohio River valley. (Never ON the mound - that is forbidden). These are much older (1000 BC- 1300AD). So I have become kinda used to these events. In that altered state, I have danced. For anyone who knows me and my general lack of co-ordination and rhythm that is just too funny to imagine. But when the elders ask, I have learned to do what they want - at least most of the time. I have been honored with full journey visions - living snapshots of cultures whose footfalls no longer grace the Earth, but whose story is still whispered in the breeze of certain places for those who are attuned to hear it.

Special thanks to the knowledgeable young Native man from the Choctaw tribe who was the museum's docent and answered all my naive questions without ever making me feel less than or guilty for the whiteness of my skin. He was the gem of the afternoon as he spun out gracious story after story and I, starving being that I am, gobbled them down so they could live inside me and nourish me.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

50 states in 50 years

OK. It occurred to me that seeing all 50 states by the time I turned 50 was within my grasp. So why not make a go at it I asked myself? (traveling alone I talk to myself even more - a disturbing habit) This year I added 3 states to my list NH, MS and AR.
That leaves me with HA, AK, WA, OR, NV and OK. 6 states to visit in the next year and half. If not by 50 then sometime.

Anyone wanna go with me to Vegas, Denali, Maui, or the Pacific Northwest......

Friday, December 18, 2009


Usually I travel with the Dalai Lama. He is the perfect travel companion and without anything else to read I will dive into his words. This time I brought Pema Chodron instead and not a book, but a book on CD. I love the way she takes Buddhist teachings that are inaccessible to my western mind and make them not only approachable but doable. She kept me company those last couple hours that felt kinda squirmy when I just wanted to be there already.

So I am listening to her "Awakening Loving-Kindness". In it she is describing attachment and how we cling to objects and people in our lives. This part felt like a smack upside the head. I recognize myself in there. So to counter it, her Buddhist teachings speak to a practice of offering in which we take the thing we cannot imagine living without and then imagine giving it away....again and again....and again. Hundreds or thousands of times to break that need to own something. And so tonight in this strange town where I feel more me than I have in a long time I begin the practice of offering.

I also loved the Bodhicitta she teaches. May you enjoy happiness and the root of happiness. Starting with myself and repeating it in an ever widening circle. Going thru that cycle just once made me feel more compassionate than I have in a while. I did not even recognize how closed I had become. Especially in the first round - that of happiness for myself.

A Piece of Me in Memphis

I used to be able to travel with only a pair of flip flops, a toothbrush and a change of undies. I didnt need company or even a destination. I loved solo adventures. I have criss-crossed the country by myself numerous times. I dont know when that changed, but these days it feels like an entire electronic arsenal is required to go anywhere for more than a day. ipod, laptop, cell phone, camera, GPS. grrrrrrrr....... I miss those days of traveling light and seemingly carefree. Maybe it was because I had less stuff and significantly less money in those nostalgic days and there was simply put no other way to travel. Even so, that wasnt the reason I traveled less. Those things just made it more complicated.

This week I got the wild hair to take off again. Destination - Memphis. The meat. The music. But mostly being able to take to the open road again. Strangely I got more and more nervous about leaving as Friday approached. WTF!?! What is that about? What has changed in me that brought that on? I have traveled. This year I have been to England and Maine. So it isnt about going. Maybe it was about going alone. I tried to remember the last trip I took by myself. Was kinda sad to realize I could NOT. Was it the trip to and from Costa Rica? The last trip to Montana? Both of those were only solo bookends with company in the middle. I used to go to Hocking Hills every year, but honestly couldnt remember doing that in the last 6 or 7 years either. When did I give up doing that and why?

Rhetorical question. But the nerves come from not having done this in a while. The drive was long (7 hrs or so). Seems I am not the traveler I once was as far as duration anyway. Memphis is a magical town full of Southern hospitality that warms my magnolia heart and music that is just crack for my ears. I found myself sitting in BB King's snacking down some Q and taking in the delta blues of the band and just smiling. Smiling that I find myself in this new place. Smiling because I dared to go it alone. Smiling because here in this river town I got a chance to meet myself again.

I needed this piece of me back. This piece that allows for solo-ness. Seems I have been caught up in so many other people's lives for the last 3-4 years, that I have forgotten to have one for myself. Maybe have been too pre-occupied with becoming part of a couple, that I nearly lost my ability to handle aloneness. Even at home I have been struggling with my time when there aren't people in it. Frustrated that I was alone instead of embracing it the way I once had. Good to know I still can. Hoping that what I learn over the weekend will translate into a more calm and productive state once I get home.

For now there are sights to see. Ribs to eat. Music to play. Letterboxes that have my name on them. In short, there is a whole wonderful town just waiting for me to discover it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I got up this morning and put on the "No-really-I'm-OK" mask. No one ever looks below the surface. So I am safe under its crystal perfect smile. But I am afraid someone will look too closely at it and in doing so their breath will shatter that fragile veneer. Or that one of those intuitive as hell friends will sense the falseness immediately and demand it off.

That thin mask is the bung holding in the rage. Holding in the tears. Holding in the hurt so that I can go through the motion of a day without imploding. Just leave it be.
Last night I dreamed I was letterboxing. Picking my way thru an ancient cemetery looking at all the gnarled trees for a place to hide my treasure. What I was really looking for tho' was a place to hide myself. A place to lay my own body down and let it decompose until only the dried bones remain.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I got up this morning determined to change my life. Not the small changes. Some monster big changes. To embrace all of it even tho' it scares me spitless. I threw it out to my FB friends, who are as varied as they can be, to present me with a list of options from which I would choose at least one thing to do/learn this winter. Altho' I may choose more. Then told them to be outrageous in their suggestions. Propose something you could never imagine me doing in a million years. Their responses definitely did NOT disappoint.

I can't say how much I am enjoying the process of envisioning myself in each of these activities. Trying on different un-Mary-like hats. Discarding some because they did not make my eyes sparkle under their brim. And I realize it has been a long time since something has delighted me this much. Why is that? And just when did I draw back from being a part of my life to become just the observer in it? The dying leaf caught in the back-eddy?

This is not the life I want. How have I failed to see that before now? Time to shake it up and toss out the extraneous pieces once more.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Many Blessings

Been in a funk today. Understandable.

Focused a little too strongly on those things that are the negatives. Trying to shift it back toward those places that are wonerful. Keep my eyes on target so to speak. Will be adding to the list daily as things come up.

I live in one of the most affluent countries in the world. Anything I want, think I want or think I may ever want is available at the local store or a mouse click away. And I dont have to wear a burqa to go get it.

I got a great education. Learning is like crack for me. That allowed me a good job that I mostly like that allows me to indulge my every whim. OK not every whim. But a lot of them

I am truly blessed to be surrounded by great friends. Every one of them is someone I could turn to, spill out my heart and know it would be held lovingly.

I love words. They are what flow thru my veins.

1000 Journals

I have kept a journal my whole life. Sometimes writing every day. Sometimes weeks giving way to months where not a single word is written. Generally the happier I was, the less I tended to write. And what I wrote when I did was often whining and sniveling. Stuff I can't or won't look at these days.

Just upside down to how things are now. Writing creates happiness. Creates peace. Creates healing.

So when I spied a movie on Netflix called 1000 Journals, I had to watch it. It is the story of a man, known only as Someguy, who decides to create and send out 1000 blank journals into the world. Dropping some in phone booths, park benches, coffee shops and others being mailed across the world. Each is numbered and stamped with a website to which people can post which journal they have, where they are in the world and even upload images of the journal pages. The story is absolutely compelling to me as a writer. Each journal becoming a traveling window into the lives of whoever held it.

I love this idea. Have actually had a similar thought years ago and bought a journal. I am a sexual abuse survivor. That journey has been hard and I have learned so much. And I imagined what it might have meant to me to hear other women's stories about their own journeys along that land mind ridden path as I tried to navigate it. Writing my story and then being able to release it - let it go. What would it mean for someone to hold that small book that was the window to my healing, to the healing of many women? How that book would travel from survivor to survivor, hand to hand creating a bond between us that made us all collectively stronger and more whole.

I did not act on this then. But think perhaps I will.

i have discovered how strong i am.
not angry strong like a fist.
that one is easy.
but the vulnerable strength it
takes to uncurl your fingers
and allow the world to see
that your hands are shaking.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Not That Woman

I left the corpse to rot upon
the steppes of Russia
bitter cold
quickly lost to
the snow
unable to bury it
unwilling to carry it
any further

Left it behind
With the unwanted
horse dung,
broken yert stakes
pot sherds
and burned out lucky strikes

knowing in the melting time
the wolves
would strip the flesh
to the bone
would crack the bones
to the marrow

that ravens
would gorge
on the bounty
and then disgorge
themselves to their

knowing that by summer
only the bleached bones
would remain
to tell of her passing

the wind blowing thru
the broken
and hollow bones
whistling a faint
funereal dirge


Mama Speaks

It's been weeks since I have had a dialogue with Mama. I was so happy last night when she stepped back in to talk to me.

Mama and I are sitting on the rough wooden steps of the porch outside her cabin. She hands me a flower and tells me Dat a rose. I tell her 'No, it's a daffodil'. She laughs and tells me Dat right chile. Iss a daffadill. Jus cuz we call sumpin one ting don make it dat ting. It kno' iss a daffadill. Us namin it a rose don change dat. Don hurt de flowa none t be call a rose. Waste our time do lookin fer thorn where der ain none. She gives me a penetrating stare. I know I am supposed to see something here, but it escapes me. She puts her hand on my chest. What dat? My heart I answer. She raises her eyebrows as if I have missed the obvious once again. Dat right der, dat love chile. Pure n simple. My heart explodes outward under her palm. Warms and opens beneath her hand. It feels wonderful. Yo ken calls dat frienship, 'fection, sex. Yo calls it mos anyting yo want but fer you, it still be love chile.

I see the truth of her words in her earth-wise eyes. Smile because I get what she is trying to tell me. It seems so clear. So approachable here sitting in the sun with her. The question is can I be this thing she has asked? Can I stop looking for thorns and simply bloom love like I am called to do? Can I do that even when I DO get shredded by the thorns? I KNOW I can do it sitting there with Mama. I am much less sure now that I am back here in the wintery snow.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Winter Fucks With Me

Winter has always been a hard time for me. Only recently have I begun to understand that what I experience is a type of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Brought on by decreasing amounts of sunlight, my mood generally tanks around Christmas and reaches its nadir around the Winter Solstice. It has become much more obvious to me in the years since I stopped drinking to soothe things over. In retrospect, I was almost always sick during the holiday break even as a child. So, I suspect that it has been going on my entire life.

This year has been a stressful one. As was last year. Last winter was the pits. This winter looked to be shaping up to be more of the same. I have great friends and a marvelous support system. But, at this time of the year those people pull back into their own small family groups to nestle against the cold - leaving me like the proverbial cheese - standing alone. Normally, alone is not a problem. But at this time of the year it is not what I am craving. I could do what the rest of my friends do, but too much time spent in the bosom of my family makes me want to carve their hearts out with Sherry's rusty spoon.

About 4 weeks ago I mentioned this to my family doc during a routine check up. She left the room and came back with some sample packs of something. Conversation ensued.

Mary : What is that?
Doc : Lexapro
Mary : Again, what is that?
Doc : It's an anti-depressant
Mary : Why are you handing them to me
Doc : I want you to take them
Mary : Why?
Doc : Because I think you are depressed (this based on a conversation of less than 10 minutes??)
Mary : But I didn't ask for those
Doc : Still I think it would be good for you to take them (said fairly emphatically)
Mary : What kind of side effects might they cause
Doc : None

At this point I realize it will just be easier to take the pills with me than to try to leave them. So I do. Then I go home and do what any thinking person should do - research them on the internet. First thing is - side effects. Obviously Doc needs to brush up on her Lexapro package info bc the website for the pharmaceutical company that makes Lexapro lists a crapload of possible side effects like - weight gain, various sexual side effects, blahblahblah.

Even after I read that I thought what if she is right and a simple pill can make me breeze thru the winter without the doldrums? I ask myself that question for days. Weighing it carefully against those side effects. Conversation with myself ensues:

Mary 1 : The doctor told you to take them. That they would make you feel better
Mary 2 : She also told me they had no side effects which makes me question how smart she really is
Mary 1 : This winter looks like it is gonna be worse than last year. You could use some help
Mary 2 : But I don't want to take any more drugs than I already do.
Mary 1 : Do you remember the crying jags last winter? Wouldnt it be nice not to have those again.
Mary 2 : Do you remember the struggle to drop 100 pounds? Wouldnt it be nice NOT to gain 30-40 quick pounds?
Mary 1: The doctor wouldnt tell you you need to lose weight and then give you something that would make you fail at that.
Mary 2 : WTF - She didnt even know about that.
Mary 1 : (changing the subject) Wouldnt it be nice to smile and be happy all winter?
Mary 2 : Yes it would. But how much smiling will I be doing if I lose my ability to orgasm?
Mary 1 : Oh puuuhlease. That doesn't happen to everyone and it probably take years to produce that effect.
Mary 2 : Really?
Mary 1 : Absolutely. So how about we take them for 2 months and see what happens.

And just like that Mary 1 won out and I started taking the pills. Even though I knew the side effects. Even though every time I put one of those pills in my mouth I KNEW that it was not the right choice. Not even 2 weeks into it, those side effects became apparent. And I stopped taking them. GOOD DECISION. RIGHT DECISION.

So how am I gonna combat those blahs without those magic beans? By taking better care of me. Indulging myself a little more. Exploring more homeopathic remedies. By laughing. Relying on my Reiki healer friends more to help me keep emotionally balanced. By meditating and exercising a bit more. By telling my friends what I need and asking for their help. By getting tattooed. By doing the one thing that always helps - by learning some new things. Perhaps some outrageous things. And finally by thoroughly enjoying every fucking orgasm that I have knowing that if I had listened to the Doc those would have gone the way of the dodo.

Friday, December 4, 2009


So, I am at my friend Patricia's last night enjoying my post purple sammich torpor and sipping tea. There on the coffee table are always an assortment of magazines, books and divination tools. For quite a while its been The Goddess Oracle deck. Like any self-respecting Tarot card whore, I just have to look. Even though I have seen the deck and Patricia uses it all the time. Divination tools are like crack for me so give me a break.

I always just draw one and live with the msg of that card. Perhaps Spirit spanked me early on for trying to know to figure it all out by adding more cards to the pile. Perhaps they messed with me when I drew too many by making the msg increasingly murky with every card. Regardless, these days I stick to one card/day. Lately I have been feeling all rebellious and shit so I have been thumbing my nose at Spirit and drawing 2. I know. I AM a WILD WOMAN!

So last night I pick up the Goddess deck and draw a card I HAVE NEVER DRAWN BEFORE. Which is quite odd as I own this same deck and used it for over a year. One card per day. There are 44 cards in this particular deck and odds are that I should have drawn any given card about 8 times over the course of the year. So, not to have seen it before last night - well.....that kinda got the girl's attention. ISOLDE.

Shit not that star-crossed lover crap again. How many times is Spirit gonna yank my chain with a promise of true love? Discounting it (yeah, bc that always works when Spirit is trying to give you a msg). I pulled a second. ISIS past-lives. I think this is related to a current realtionship which is both loving and has a past-life feel to it but also has its own set of issues. (Note the use of the word THINK). I just dont wanna hear any more about it. It is what it is. Nothing more. Nothing less. I get a little pissy w/ Spirit who arranged the whole thing to begin with for not doing better by me.

But curiosity gets the better of me. Spirit knows that about me - always curious. And I know it really has nothing to do with anything going on right now. There is something else They want me to see that I am missing. Patricia remembers a bit of the legend of Tristan and Isolde. Boy goes to woo girl for uncle. Boy falls in love with girl and vice versa. Girl weds uncle anyway. infidelity ensues. Boy is banished. Both die tragically. Altho she did not remember how they died. Why I wanted to know that then with an OCD like manner I have no idea. Spirit works my brain like that and I have gotten used to it. Anyway, we end up looking it up on Wiki. What we read there takes my knees out for a moment. The setting for part of this legend is Cornwall, altho they die in France. The very same Cornwall that called to me when we began plotting our escape to Clapton in London. And not just any part of Cornwall, but Tintagel. The very same Tintagel that freaked me the fuck out! Let me start by saying that I loved Cornwall. It is a place I could see myself being quite happy. Tintagel. Not so much. LOL.

I haven't really written about my experiences in Tintagel. They were so raw and created a kind of pants-peeing terror I didn't want to relive. Guess now is the time. The ruins of Tintagel are perched on a little point of land along the Cornish coast. Part of it is only accessible by a footbridge out onto an island. Our entire trip thru England was full of sun and blooming country everywhere. Everywhere except Tintagel. The day we were there, it was overcast, windy as hell, and, oh yeah, it was raining. I had on a poncho to cover me and my camera from the rain and the sea mist. The wind kept grabbing the poncho and whipping it around my head obscuring my vision. Of course that wasn't the worst - not even close. Despite wearing brand new running shoes with very grippy soles that squeak the linoleum when wet, I cannot keep my footing. Everywhere I put my feet out on that headland, they slid and slipped from under me. Every step it was as if the very land rejected me and wanted to throw me off into the sea. No one else had this experience. Toddlers and dogs navigated the steps and walkways with ease. Why did this space hate me so? I don't really have an answer to that. But given my 'ability' to see past-lives, my intuitive guess is that in this space in some past era I was not a very nice person. So not nice that the land or its guardian remembers me still many lifetimes later in this new form. Well that SUX. Not Tristan. Not Isolde. But King Mark. Or someone of his ilk. The villain. The oppressor.

Still, I was allowed to pass thru. It took all of my will and a serious amount of patience on Duz's part as I death-gripped every rail to get thru that afternoon up on the cliffs. But, I walked the entire ruins. I made it by sheer determination. Whoever I am now, I am not that person any more. No doubt I learned a lot in that lifetime of being a dominating schmuck and created a lot of karmic 'debt' (altho I hate that concept). What else did I learn in that lifetime that is maybe relevant to where I am now? To let go the need to control. To let go the need to have things fit into tidily organized and labelled boxes. To let things be whatever they are and to enjoy them in their wildness. And sometimes to give over to the wild and unpredictable part of life that Tintagel embodies. I can keep my footing even when conditions are against me. Would I go back. Not in this lifetime. Maybe not in the next either. But I will remember it always.

The Avatar - part 1

Lots of trailers showing right now for James Cameron's new CGI mega masterpiece called Avatar. Nope the blogs not about that. As I'm watching the trailer though, I get to thinking about avatars - especially their increasing usage online. According to Wiki an avatar is defined as "a computer user's representation of himself/herself or alter ego, whether in the form of a three-dimensional model used in computer games." Suddenly, I have a different and weird understanding of myself here on planet Earth.

That my body as I know it, as I know it, as I experience it is just an avatar for my higher consciousness which is the larger better part of me. When I look at it that way, why fuss about anything that is done to that avatar. It isn't happening to me. Not the part of me that is eternal anyway. Allow the avatar as many various experiences as possible - as long as they do no harm.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Little Goddesses

I found this photo on Yahoo or NPR. I can't remember which. Loved it on sight.

I have always loved little statues like these that have surfaced across central Europe. Am a fan of Neolithic art of all kinds actually. Unpretentious. Honest. Powerful. But my love of these little, sometimes headless, and always round female statuary was particularly intense.

Why these little statues? What was it about them that intrigued me? DUH!

My path diverged from that of modern Western Society a long time ago. As a woman it seemed there was no place for me to be heard, or seen or valued for what I am. Constantly under pressure to fit in by dumbing down, squeezing my curves into breath-stealing spandex torture devices, and hiding any part of me that was outside the 'norm' as defined by society. Turns out that is pretty much all of me that exists outside that narrow view. Well I say FUCK THAT SHIT!

It has not always been this way for women. These little goddesses are from a time when women were powerful and beautiful in their skins. They enjoyed as much power in their Neolithic tribal society as the men. Not in competition with the men, but complementary to them. Maybe I like them because they remind me that this is possible. Even before I knew about them, i "knew" about them and loved them.

Ladies, it's time for a revolution. Time to stop yearning toward the unattainable Victoria Secret model perfection and just be the beautiful women of all sizes and colors the Creator made us to be. To forget all that Madison Ave bullshit and step into our own authentic power, our own beauty. Our sometimes BIG and CURVALISCIOUS beauty. That's right. Curves are beautiful. They are part of who we are. We are all little goddesses.

BTW - I particularly LOVE this little goddess and want to have my body painted EXACTLY like this. No idea just seems superbly powerful and beautiful to my eyes. Especially the double spiral forms on the ass cheeks. Perhaps it is my way to capture that power and beauty for myself. For me to see this body as beautiful and powerful - and to love it just like it is.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Scientific Observation #2 subcategory - Anatomical Science 11/30/09 9:34

In the process of tongue brushing, it is important to mind the depth of aforementioned activity so as to avoid overstimulating the glossopharyngeal (IX) and vagus cranial nerves (X).

End result - Hurling and having to repeat the entire procedure.

For future reference this experiment should always be conducted in a fully caffeinated state so as to avoid this.

Scientific Observation #1 Subcategory - Kitchen Science

Scientific Observation 11/23/09 14:24

That black beans and rice left in the covered steamer at an ambient temperature of 68'F for appx 48 hours when uncovered will give off an aroma not unlike that of ass. really really funky ass.



I have been working the VIctory of Light Festival for the last 5 years, first as a healer and then as a Tarot reader. Every festival I do perhaps 20-30 readings over the course of the 2 days. It wasn't long before I noticed certain themes emerging in the readings in any given weekend - empowerment, control, job transitions, family issues. Given the suck-onomy this year, I was mentally prepared for financial issues. So I was mildly surprised when the theme that emerged was not about money at all, but about relationships.

From the scared 16 year old trying to get pregnant to keep her boyfriend to the beautiful transvestite, most of them were looking for some help/advice about getting, keeping or changing their romantic situation. This is definitely outside my bailiwick. I'm 48 years old and my longest LTR is a year. So what do I know about relationships? Truth be told, I have struggled with many of the same things I heard them say, albeit less these days. If it were me giving the advice - those people would be probably be fucked. Luckily I am just the mouthpiece for Spirit in this. They are told what they need to hear. I have learned to get out of the way and just let it come through exactly the way it is said to me. I am often surprised by the things I hear myself say because "scientist Mary" would never say that. 

Spirit also has a way of multi-tasking messages. There are things they want me to hear and they will arrange for me to read a number of clients in a row and deliver similar messages until I notice what that message is. They can get kinda snarky if I am too oblivious until they are forced to give me what amounts to a spiritual bitch slap in the head. Once I do notice, the overall theme is expanded in every client after that. Sometimes it is just a word, a sentence or a phrase but they stand out from the background. And so I collect these random thoughts and mull on them. I don't think it's like this for every reader. 

Spirit and I have an agreement. I wanted to write. Spirit wants certain thoughts brought into the world. It works for me. So this year the theme of the festival was relationships......hmmmmm. And I wonder to myself - Why do we make something so fundamentally good for us so hard? In my own case it is probably the entire train car of baggage I have been tugging along behind me. I spent a lot of time back there in the baggage car. That kinda got in the way of every relationship I tried to build. I like to figure stuff out and I thought I needed those experiences in order to do that. Turns out that isn't true and that mostly I used that shit to create drama and problems. OOPS! So I uncoupled that car and let it be the trainwreck that it was. It was totally liberating. Letting go and forgiving all those owie places that my previous partners and I have created. I wont profess that I am totally free of it, but things have improved dramatically. 

Just as an aside - I LOVE spell check. Every time I have typed the word relationship for the last 6 months or so it has pointed out to me that I have actually typed realtionship. That typo was their message too. We are all looking for a REAL-ationship. IN order to find that we have to first be that - REAL.

THE Note

I got up today and just felt out of sorts. Not sure at all what I need to feel better. Its been this way for quite a while. 

So as I sat at my desk and worked my way thru the phone calls, paperwork and crap that have collected there, my eyes fell on the corner of a tiny slip of paper. I wondered "What is that?" and why is it on the wall. I shuffled the postings, directories of DB employees, my short list of experiments to get done. When all of those things were out of the way what I saw made me smile.

A tiny slip of perforated paper containing a child's scrawl in hot pink ink. It simply said 

I love you Mary Dusing. 
Jackie Dusing. 

I have had that note for 15 years. It getting a little yellow. The ink is starting to fade but I can still read it. It has moved with me from lab to lab. One of the few desk 'decorations' that has. The girl who wrote that at 4 and left it in my purse for me to find has long since disappeared, transformed as if by magic into a beautiful confident young woman. I know she loves me still, but for a moment I could see her radiant little 4 year old face and feel her tiny hand slide into mine. 

That is all it took for me to feel better. To recognize that I am loved. Love is magic. It knows no limits of time or space. 

I love you too Jackie Dusing


avra kehdabra “I will create as I speak”.

i write because i must

writing my soul exposed. 

i inhale thoughts out of the ether

wrangle words and

create beingness

with every exhaled syllable. 

v1 11/27/09

The Fauxyote

My eyes scan the roadside while I am driving. I don't know what I expect to find in doing this, perhaps an errant herd of pachyderms ready to explode from the verge and trample me. It’s is a survival skill deeply entrenched in my human DNA from a time when things like that happened. Today I see something odd there in the tall grass next to the pond. What is that? Is that a dog? Or is it.....a coyote? After almost rear ending the car in front of me, I wisely decide to pull over and see if I can determine what exactly I am seeing. I pull out the tiny binoculars that live in the glove box, train them on the canine in the grass. What I see makes me burst out laughing. It is most definitely a coyote allright. Not a real breathing one, but a faux coyote - a faux-yote if you will. As I scan around, I now see these fauxyotes stationed everywhere, undoubtedly an effort to frighten off the Canadian Geese population - or more accurately the poop-u-lation - those of you with previous goose experience will understand. Seems to be working because the pond, normally raucous with goose chatter is silent today. Not a single goose in sight. I smile at how silly that is and how easily the geese were fooled. 

Coyote is a good fool. I should know. Coyote is one of my major totems or teachers if you prefer. I can still remember the evening he wandered in, sat down on his haunches tongue lolling out and made me aware of his presence in my life. In Native American mythology, coyote is a hapless fool - which sounds about right when it comes to what I expect guidance-wise. Coyote intends well, begins fearlessly, screws up phenomenally,but in the end ultimately does do some good things.

It often takes me a lot of attempts before I get where I need to go, sometimes I will have to try EVERYTHING only to collapse in exhaustion and find that the answer has been right behind me or under my bum all along. It used to frustrate me to have to continually go thru all that chaos to arrive at a solution. I sometimes resented Coyote, his energy and his ridiculous way of teaching me - because it is rather like teaching your child not to stick the fork in the electrical outlet by allowing them to do exactly that. To learn for themselves the consequences - if they survive. Like I said tough teacher. Coyote makes me laugh and has taught me that when things feel frantic to stop trying so hard, to relax and let the answer come to me or I may discover myself slammed into the opposing wall still holding the fork and twitching. 

So what in the world am I to make of all the fauxyotes? It wasn't long before the geese became used to them. They didn't fool the geese for long and they aren't going to fool me. I think they are just to remind me to laugh amidst the chaos. And maybe, just maybe, to put down the fork. 

Go To the Woods

"Go to the woods", she says.  
And I do. Making the trek down the hill on the trails to the river and then back up. Choosing to wind it backwards from my usual way. To approach the steep climb at the end knowing it will be harder. Hoping that it will change the energy of the hike, the day and this chaos-containing part of my life. 

I start down the hill sloping gently, covered with dry leaves that shoosh as I meander downward - inward. I stop at bench #4 and plug myself into the space and myself in the space. Annoyed at the leaf blowers that I can hear. Understanding that the leaves when they are green soundproof this space from those kinds of human acitivities and that lying dead on the ground they provide me no protection - makes me feel exposed and vulnerable. The squirrels chatter and scold me as I sit there intruding. I cannot hold the meditation and decide to just move on.

Down, down, down. There is no joy today in the deer I meet. No deep connection to the ground I tread. I am merely here. Even the river, MY river, normally hidden that I see peeking thru the branches is not consoling. I stand a moment at the bottom. Hoping for......for what?

I get nothing but frustrated. I start the long climb up. Moving faster and faster as I go. Sweating in the cool November sun. Til I am almost running. I want OUT. And I want out now. 

I arrive at my car panting and dripping with sweat. WTF! I have never had that reaction to the woods - ever.

It isnt until I get home that I realize I did not come out empty handed. Today I learned that whatever I get out of the woods is a product of what I take into it.
Sno' hiking under the cliffs

Possessive Pronouns

She dreams herself into existence
From the inky black of the cosmos
She wakes
To a warm world of comfort
Of muttered cooing – of OURS.

She flutters toward the strange 
Muffled sounds
Presses her ear outward
But they remain far away
And indistinct

She sleeps
Her room grows smaller
The sounds closer now.
No longer always melodic
And cooing
She plants her foot against the wall
And pushes
Pushes against the YOURS.

The sounds grow more distinct
Her room tightens
Her pulse pitches forward 
Away from the OURS and 
Toward the WHOSE.

Something strange
Something new 
Something HIS.

She rests little now
The room unbearably tight
Unbearably small
Unbearably loud.

The room clamps down on her
Forcing her where?

She arrives in a wet gush
Shakes an angry red fist
At this world
At her world.

And claims it

v1.0 11/11/09


I resist, like one too many sheets of paper under the stapler.
Staples made of pure gold.
The papers combust in a dry heat scorching my skin.
Their ashes smell of old mimeograph ink
Remembered so damp and cool to the touch.
I hear the hushed classroom of my childhood
And taste shame and chalk dust in those ashes
Where John Bardo held my attention in 7A.

I flow into the memory like water from a garden hose.
Then stall and stagnate in the heat.
A heat where memory evolves like protozoa
Dying to live.
They don’t know the difference between love and in love either.

The salty taste of freedom weighs them down
The chains of liberty bind them together
Supporting them as they learn to walk upright
out of the primordial ooze.

Where Antimony is there to link hand in pseudopodia
So that they can dance their evolution
Together over days and eons
Their barking laughter playing over the Mesozoic landscape.

They know where they are going
But cannot name the destination.
La vie dancee.
Led from the primordial ooze and followed by all

The brave, the lonely, the simple, the golden, the shamed, 
even the resistant evolve in love.

Taking One

A short but interesting observation. In the last couple weeks I have gotten some out-of-the-ordinary compliments for me. Yunno not the usual ones that I can handle. Not things like - Wow! What a great idea. You are so smart. I can't believe you got that to work! Did you really make that? Specifically, in the last couple weeks I have been told I was as cute, thinner (obviously someone who needs to have their eyes examined STAT), funny, beautiful, sweet or *ackgasp* desirable. Each of these unsolicited and genuine. My reaction: 

1. Confusion - perhaps even turning around to see who they might be talking to. 
NOT KIDDING. I DID this - even knowing there was no one anywhere around us. 
2. Dissembling and changing the subject
3. Laughing it off as if you just told me a great joke.

But each time the response from the complimentor has been the same. ::Head shakes:: 'Just say Thank you Mary'. 

Still confused but always obedient, Mary mumbles 'Thank You'. 

So why is it so much harder to accept one compliment and not another? ::Mary mulls for a moment - engages alliteration mode:: Some things fall easily within the purview of how I see myself. I have been the smart kid my whole life (in case the use of the word purview did not immediately key you in to that) so of course I know how to handle compliments around that. I have had a lifetime to practice accepting those graciously. And I have no doubt about my own intelligence. I know I am not Nobel prize smart, but I can think my way out of a paper bag if I have to. 

So why are those other compliments like Kryptonite for me? Hmmmm.....

Because they fall outside my understanding of myself. (Owwwwwww). In fact, they land a little too close to that soft underbelly where I feel most vulnerable and rather than allow someone anywhere near that I will laugh or change the subject and tell myself they didn't really mean it. Because to graciously accept those compliments means I have to shift my perspective of myself to see myself the way that they do. 

Yeah - and there we are back at the crux of it. Same shit issue. Growing up, society, my friends, my family told me I was smart - alot Even rewarded and reinforced that over and over and over. Somehow they NEVER got around to telling me that I was also beautiful though. If I apply the same logic as before, I am not Gabrielle Union beautiful, but I am not the Elephant Man either. So why does one thought bring me comfort and the other just kinda make me cringe? 

Because in order to see myself as beautiful, I have to let go. Let go of every airbrushed perfect woman's body that has ever been held up to me as the ideal. Let go of my mom's voice in my head telling me how that one cookie will make me fat. Let go of the hurt from any lover who has moved on to someone thinner, younger, more beautiful (and generally stupid as a box of rocks). Let go of my own shortsighted story/vision of myself.

Bc let's face it, I am too smart to believe that shit any longer. Backed into the corner by my own logic. How amusing.

The point of this piece is NOT to have people respond by assuring me that I am beautiful. That would be embarrassing, wrong, and kinda self-serving. The point IS to make you begin to look at those compliments that you accept easily about yourself and those that you do not. And to begin to move toward a place of embracing those things you have previously shut out and begin to tell a different story about who YOU are.


It amazes me how much stress one human body can hold and still function perfectly well. Layers upon layers. One layer no more than removed and another evolving to take its place like the teeth in a shark's mouth. There is a lot going on for me right now. I could choose to ignore it - my usual MO. Or allow it to own me - my backup MO. Today I just accept that it is there. Nod cordially in its direction. What I will not do, is invite it in and give it a home. 

Last night I got to peel off one of those layers - reading my Greenbook. For those of you not familiar with that, at Women Writing for a Change there are a couple nights set aside for one woman to read her writing to the entire group for about half an hour. I loathe public speaking even in this safest of environments - perhaps it just makes me feel too visible. And given that the nature of my writing is sometimes slogging thru the deepest, darkest and ugliest of interior spaces - a spritual Mike Rowe if you will - that sense of exposure is even more pronounced. But, I signed up anyway, knowing I "needed" to do this. The preparation dinna fash me. (LOL I threw that in for Suz). I know that my writing is a gift and that part of the dealio is that I am to share with others my process and my journey no matter how badly I fuck up, resist, flail or succeed. The writing pieces fell into place easily and quickly. Then all I was left with was the actual doing....and the nerves.

I got a lot of great suggestions and support from my friends and the women at WWfaC. Homer and Sherry both took time out of their own busy to let me practice on them even tho' Sherry has already read almost all of the pieces. At Suz's suggestion I called in a couple of my favorite authors - Thoureau and Poe (it is his time of year after all). 

As I sat in the circle last night waiting for my big moment, I reminded myself to breathe deeply. Inhaling the calm of the circle and exhaling worry. Any doubts I might have had evaporated when I felt a large hand settle onto my shoulder. I turned and saw Mama's radiant smile and behind her a legion of other women who are my ancestors also smiling. It has taken a lot of work on both sides of the veil to get to this night. I acknowledge that and my face splits into my own crazy grin. I blinked back the tears at my amazing fortune, took a deep breath and began. My name is Mary........

There was a marked decrease in stress this time through and although I was nervous, there was no head-in-the-trash-can kinda event. YAY! I won't say that I enjoyed it, but I also didn't freak the fuck out like usual. I'm chalking this one up as a total WIN for me. I voluntarily chose to do something that scared the bejesus outta me. That's twice this year....I think that's enough for a while. 

Now on to that next layer.......


I have written a lot about my own life. OK. Mostly about my own experiences and how I have handled them - both when I succeed and when I go down in flames. (Maybe I am just that ego-centric). People who have read my stuff may remember mean girl Connie - the perfectly groomed but spoiled little princess in my neighborhood growing up. She plays a big role in those stories and is often the focal point for the 'moral' of the story.

This weekend I was out eating with my mom when Connie's mom walked by. I said hello and we began talking. Connie did indeed go on to the perfect life her mother had helped her start. Married BIG money (I mean major BIG money). Had 4 kids. Seemed to have the perfect life. But her mom then surprised the shit out of me when she told me that Connie had been diagnosed at 36 with breast cancer and died 5 years into her struggle.

As much as I hated Connie growing up, I could see her mom's pain still seven years after the fact. And I wondered about a 4 year old daughter who will never know her mom. In that moment, I felt my heart shift to a more open place where Connie is concerned. I felt ashamed that I had held on to that snarky child's view of this person long into my adulthood. Don't get me wrong, Connie was a very mean child - deliberately cruel even. But I suspect she didn't know how to be anything else. Perhaps she was even a mean adult. I don't know. And it isn't important. It never was.

Today I am grateful because I have learned to see someone with my adult eyes instead of always thru the mirrors of my child's eyes and in doing so have found a place of compassion. There wont be any more stories about Connie - at least not like those in the past. I simply choose not to remember her that way. 

And to all my women friends - go get a mammogram dammit!!!

Is That Lori?

I just slipped out for coffee. My afternoon Starbucks run to the Rainbow Cafe. When I walked in a woman at the table by the door smiled and waved at me like she knew me. She looked familiar, but I did not know her at first glance. I smiled and waved back, wondering who she was.

Only as I walked away did I realize who she was. SHIT! Was that Lori? For 10 years Lori worked around the corner from me. I saw her every day. Not exactly a friend, but more than an acquaintance. The woman who had waved at me had close cropped brownish hair. Where was her trademark mane of long blond hair? The smile was the same - beautiful and sweet. I cut my eyes to look at her from the coffee pots. OMG. It is her. She looks thinner and I realize I haven't seen her in a while, which is not too surprising. I see very little of her since the big shuffle of labs that sent her to floor 6 and me to floor 3. 

In one brief flash, I understand everything from her thinness to her shorn mane to the ginger ale she is sipping. Lori has breast cancer. FUCK!!!!!!!!! I just want to walk over and put my arms around her. Find out if she is OK. I want to cry with her. I want to laugh until we both pee our pants. Mostly I want this disease to leave the people I know the fuck alone!

Arguing With St. Theresa

For the last week I have been arguing with St Theresa. Not arguing so much as resisting her even trying to talk to me.

I first became aware of Teresa of Avila in HS in the AP Art part of European Studies my senior year. I was talking to my friend Toni and paying very little attention to the slides that Sister was showing us of European Baroque art. The dark needed for the slide show was deliciously conducive to note-passing and giggling which is exactly what we, and most of my fellow classmates, were doing. Toni and I were discussing our plans for the weekend, where we could score beer, and what boys we were interested in hanging out with. When Sister flicked on to the next slide I found myself in thrall to what I saw there on the screen. Bernini’s The Ecstasy of St Theresa. It bored its way directly into my brain stem where it still resides such that I can recall in perfect clarity that moment when I first saw it. Over the next few weeks, I looked at that statue over and over again. I don’t know why. I did wonder why talking to God had never made me feel like that. If it had, I am pretty sure that I would still be a very devout Catholic. Even so, I credited Bernini with that intrigue and gave little/no thought about the subject that had inspired the sculpture. I fell in love with Bernini’s St Theresa and added her to my growing bucket list of art I want to see in person. 

It would be many years before St Theresa percolated into my consciousness again – about 20 - and my Catholic roots would be all but forgotten in the intervening years. My friend Patricia (formerly known as Pat) is a huge St T groupie. The stuff she knows about her is truly amazing and PhD –worthy in its scope. I got front row seat for all kinds of weird stories about St T’s mystical abilities and self flagellation. Pat even went so far as to loan me her copy of the Interior Castle when I was looking for one. A very beat up, well-loved book if ever I have seen one. I will admit I was terrified that I would fuck up or lose her favorite book as I am not known to be exactly gentle with my books. So, I kept if for a week, pretended to read it and then reverently returned her copy. Then, I ordered one from Amazon and treated it much like St T treated her physical body. Reading. Dog-earing pages (yes I do this). High-lighting passages that spoke to me until my copy didn’t look all that different than Ms Patricia’s. 

Patricia likes to hold lengthy arguments with St. Theresa over her self-flagellating ways. Arguments that neither of them win, but that are interesting to be privy to. I will start by saying that while I find Interior Castle to be one of the most amazing piece of work that I have ever read, that has nothing to do with my Catholic upbringing. In fact I struggle quite a bit with the whole structure of Catholicism. I don’t like it when people want to relate to me spiritually solely through Jesus or angels of saints. I am willing to allow you that belief as long as you are willing to allow that I may choose differently. I still resist having people tell me that Mary in ANY form is there for me. as a guide, teacher, helper, even though she is powerful in that role. 

My parents were strict Catholics, my grand parents uber-Catholics. By either nature or nurture I should have been one too. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about my mom on Holy Friday, which for Catholic kids was always part of spring break, would make us come in and kneel on the linoleum floor and pray with her from noon to three. She told us those were the hours Jesus hung on the cross and we believed her. It didn’t escape my notice that my friends, also Catholic, did NOT have to do this, but got to continue playing out in the Spring sun while I shifted from knee to knee for those 3 hours. My grandparents used to expect us to pray the Rosary with them on car trips. My grandmother had an amazing talent of spotting when your mind began to wander and would often startle whoever was daydreaming by asking them to lead the next decade. Shit I hated that. I certainly started off skipping happily down that well-lit path with the rest of my family in my Communion dress and patent leather Sunday shoes. As a small child, I could feel God and knew him intimately. Going to Mass was a mystical experience that I loved even if I understood none of those Latin words. 

I am not sure where the wheels fell off of my Catholic self. Maybe it was being force fed religion for 12 years and expected to follow like a sheep. Maybe it was that no one could explain it so that my logical brain could understand (and my spiritual brain had yet to develop). Maybe it was that I received a great education that encouraged me to question everything – everything except what I was taught in Religion class and that always bothered me. Maybe it was that there was no role model for me there as a woman. Unless you were willing to choose martyr, virgin or mother. The older I got, the less appealing any of those options seemed. Maybe it was that so few of the people around me really lived those things that Jesus seemed to be talking about. I am pretty sure though that Father R. played a pivotal role with my dissension. Weekly confession was part of the rigors of Catholic School. I didn’t really mind. It always made me feel better. Like God have just given me a clean slate. But I knew it was not clean, not really. There was always that white elephant that lived right behind me. The one that I pretended not to see. The one I knew God could see being omniscient and all. And one day, I slipped into the dark and velvety confessional, screwed up my courage and using the only words my nine year old self knew, I told Fr. R. that I had committed adultery. His response was to laugh, tell me I was wrong and ask me to leave his confessional - unshriven. In that moment God died for me. He no longer spoke to me. Because I was a sinner and now a hopeless joke. I like to think that Fr R. thought I was yanking his chain or being a wise ass. I wish that were so. Perhaps that small voice hit too close to his own sins as he was later rumored to be engaged in a torrid romance with one of the married women in the parish. And I hope that a priest today might ask a few more questions about what I meant by that. Might get to the truth rather than dismiss it. There were no words in my nine year old Catholic lexicon for what I was trying to confess. And by the time I knew the words, I no longer had the courage to try. 

I don’t blame Fr R. for those words. He is a human man prone to reacting out of his own garbage. I am not angry at the Catholic church which is a rich and beautiful tradition that I was grateful I had been part of for all those years. All those circumstances simply combined to set my feet out ito seek a different way than the one I had been taught. For many years if anyone asked what religion I was, I would answer “I am a seeker”. I don’t know why I said it, but it felt like the right words to describe the process in which I was engaged. I attended Pentecostal snake handlings, Jewish Seder, Pagan Samhains, watched Baptists testify, listened as people argued the merits of sprinkling versus dunking, and went to synagogue. While my friends found God there, I did not hear his voice. Not the way that they did. 

In the 80’s I ducked into a tiny store on Main Strasse in Covington called Victory books to get out of a sudden rainstorm. I was a poor graduate student with no money to spend and had been window shopping to entertain myself in this interesting neighborhood of shops. I avoided the clerks eyes bc I couldn’t buy anything really. I ducked into the back room full of books, mostly used by the smell. I chose one and curled up on a couch in the back and lost myself. I worked my way thru a lot of Victor’s books that way. More like I devoured them. No one seemed to notice me back there. No one said anything. And I never felt anything but love from the staff even though I rarely bought anything. But it was there in Victory books that the seeker found what she had been looking for. I remembered how to talk to god. 

What I am now does not fit neatly into any box and I like it that way. I don’t know that I can define it or if I even want to. It’s simple, yet delightfully layered like a good torte. I stopped arguing with St Theresa, reisisting her Roman Catholic origins long enough to hear what she was trying to say. I am traveling deep thru paths within myself, walking toward those rooms of the soul that she described all those years ago. Walking thru them one by one and allowing the crystal to shatter that separates me from you, me from god, me from myself. 

Turns out St T is one smart chica.

Shoe Ramblings

I spent a lot of time when I was younger staring at my own shoes. Documenting the changes in my external world by always looking down. Sandals, Red Ball Jets, Buster Browns (he lives in my shoe), black patent leather "church" shoes, thongs (what you now know as flip flops - a thong being something quite different). Deliberately scuffing my new saddle shoes every fall that pinched as I walked to the first day of school. It took an entire school year to break them in just the way I liked and every fall brought another new pair to torture. 

Those shoes gave way to green hi-top Chucks. My mother and I went round and round about my getting and wearing these "boy shoes". But teenage girls have nothing but time and whininess, both of which I used. I can still remember the smell of those as I reverently pulled back the tissue paper. The smell of rubber and victory in dressing the way I wanted. Clogs, espadrilles and learning to balance myself on top of the 4 inch wooden platform heels for the first time. 

College brought the chunky hiking boots with the red laces that were a pre-requisite for any biology major who was not pre-med - all three of us. Cowboy boots, a Cardinal red pair of hi top Chucks for football and bball games and my one and only pair of CFM shoes with their 5 1/2" heels that I bought one Halloween. (God I loved those. There is a power in being a woman over 6 feet tall that I absolutely enjoyed.) 

Grad school and work has led to more practical footwear made for standing all day on the linoleum-covered concrete floor of the lab. A bubble gum pink pair of hi top Reeboks in the 80's still stands out in my memory among the countless unremarkable pairs of gym shoes worn out in the miles I seem to walk every day from my lab bench to the fridge, my lab bench to my desk, my desk to the departmental office, my desk to the cafeteria, my lab to the Radiation Safety Office, my desk to the Vivarium. Well you get the picture. Today I am wearing a pink trimmed grey pair of Asics whose fit is amazing. I do wish they were a bit less pointy toed and more squared off. Yunno shaped more like my foot. But they are a good pair of shoes and they serve me well. 

I spend significantly less time these days thinking about and looking at my shoes. I gave up that shy habit years ago. I heard a yoga instructor talk about Westerners as a "head forward" culture vs a "heart forward" culture like India or a "hip forward" culture like much of South America. Meaning that posturally we tend to lead with out heads versus those other parts of our body. Being around a lot of foreign nationals I had plenty of time to observe that to be true in general. And western researchers are the most head forward people I have ever seen which kinda makes sense for a crew that makes its living thinking. Almost comical. I wonder how we do not just tip over? Anyway, I am determined to live a more heart-centered life, so I try to remind myself to lead with my chest/heart and not my head. To do that I have to stand up to my full 5'7 1/2", align my head with my spine and kinda push my chest out there (yes that makes me very self conscious). That postural change though changes me. I look people in the eyes. I say Hello. I smile more. And I find that I just have no desire to look at any more shoes.

Got 20 Bucks?

Today i found $20 in an old winter coat pocket and began to imagine what I could do with it.

For $20, I could catch a movie with popcorn and a drink - no really the small size will do just fine.

For $20, I could cruise thru Borders and get a new book. 2 if I shop the sale table.

For $20, I could get a new long sleeve graphic tee at Kohls.

For $20, I could treat my friend Pat to purple sammiches from What's For Dinner.

For $20, I could download a legitimate copy of Dave Matthew's new CD to replace my bootleg copy. 

For $20, I could go to Krogers and get milk, bread, eggs, TP and Ben and Jerry's

For $20, I could buy a copy of Like Water For Chocolate off the sale table at Blockbuster.

Or for $20, I could shoot one of 450 Montana wolves today.

Photo by Jim Brandenberg

Wishing 20

I followed a very beautiful 20-something woman in to work today. Long shiny black hair, flawless skin, and all swaying curves. Oblivious to her own power. Or maybe not. And I caught myself for just a moment wishing I could have that again - even for a moment. Not that I want to be that girl (I will keep the baggage I know, thank you very much). Not that I would trade my 48 year old life experience for ANYTHING. But to be able to inhabit my 22 year old body for just a moment. To savor its firmness, it's genuine unwrinkled state. To marvel at the long and shapely legs, the firm breasts and and the sweet derriere. To dance naked and unselfconsciously one more time before I check out. To appreciate fully what I took for granted then. My 48 year old self knows what's coming. Knows what's gonna happen to that body over the next 24 years. It will take its toll from which there is no going back. 

Alas, there is no going back anyway. Instead, today I am determined to find a way to love my 48 year old body as much as I imagine that I would that 22 year old one. Actually more, since I didn't really love it all that much then either. This body with all its scars and wrinkles and flaws. I imagine that when I am 70, I will look back and think how little I appreciated the body I have now. Which is just funny to me. This body is my home. It is all I have. I shall love it more.

The Chagall Windows

Quite a while back, I went to Chicago with some friends to take in the Monet exhibit which was an absolute visual feast. These large shows issue timed tickets as a form of crowd control. We arrived with moments to spare and rushed to the wing that housed the exhibit so we could make our assigned ticket time. On our hurried flight, we passed so many amazing things that I couldn’t catalogue them all and finally just contented myself with telling myself that I would come back and spend some time at the Art Institute discovering all its wonders.

One thing in particular though still stands out – the Chagall Windows. These made me stop my running feet and just stare slack jawed. The windows transformed ordinary everyday sunlight into luminous cobalt pools of light there on the marble floor. Hypnotized by the beauty of that light, my feet made their way closer. I knew that if I could just be in that light I would be content. I imagined myself lying on the cool marble floor bathing in Chagall’s magic blue. However, before I could get there one of my compatriots grabbed me by the arm and pulled me away. I have never forgotten that moment. And, yes, I still tell myself that I will get back there on that mythical someday. 

Some people want to shop the Miracle Mile. Some want to take in a Cubbies game. Some want to press their nose against the glass in the Sears Tower. I want to lie on the floor and bathe in Chagall's Blue windows

The Journey That Kicked My Ass

This weekend I had the pleasure of beginning a year long class with my friend Toby Christensen about using shamanic tools for personal healing. GREAT! Toby taught me about the shaman's journey years ago giving me a framework and a language to understand something I had been doing for years in an undisciplined and as it turns out very dangerous way. For me this is THE most powerful tool for personal transformation that I have. It is a place of absolute honesty where you are forced to meet yourself again and again. I love that aspect of it and have grown from every one of the encounters. The shaman's journey has helped me develop a real relationship with "god" (deliberate little g), has plugged me back into writing, has taught me to hold my own power and has brought a beloved friend back for me to interact with. In fact, there are so many folks over there that I no longer doubt that I am loved or powerful. 

So yesterday Toby gave us an exercise - do a journey to meet with your higher self. KICKED MY ASS!!! This is the first time I have ever not been able to do what I intended - well not completely anyway. Because in doing this, you meet yourself as you truly are - beautiful, intelligent, loving and way bigger than we imagine ourselves to be. I was faced with a sudden and overwhelming truth: that my higher self is radiantly beautiful. My ordinary reality self struggles with this to the point of frustration. Last summer while writing for Toby, I got hung up in this same place - understanding and seeing myself as beautiful. In order to finish the journey, I asked to only have to deal with this one aspect - that of beauty. We worked together to help meld those two visions together until I could see that both are equally beautiful. See it, but not integrate it. This has been the sticking point for quite a while. So long, that as I am telling my friend Pat this story later that night, she looks at me and says "Oh, so you learned that you are beautiful". And that was before I had told her any of the details. Am I really THAT transparent??
The solution came today quite unexpectedly in a memory from someone I love: I heard Homer talking about re-defining OK until it encompassed wherever he was on that day. THAT was IT!! The answer to holding that place of seeing myself as beautiful comes from expanding my definition of what constitutes beauty until it holds me too. Easy Peasy. Now I can try that journey again....with better results and as Toby is fond of saying effortlessly and delightfully hold my own beauty.

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...