Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Wen: A Shameless Product Plug

Some of you know that I have been fighting to keep my hair.  The hair loss began in my forties and is one of the lovely side effects of polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS.  It's caused indirectly by excessive hormone production.  In the diagram below, see that arrow with the little dot over it?  That's the one that converts testosterone into estradiol.  A wonky enzyme or too much stuff getting shunted into the pathway backs that enzyme up like a toilet in a frat house.  End result - TOO MUCH testosterone. 

I include this for my nerd science friends

Every woman makes testoterone.  It's good for you.  Too much is not.  Too much leads to a whole host of secondary sexual characteristics associated with being male:  lower voice, facial hair, body hair, heavier jawline and.....wait for it.......male pattern baldness.  YAY!  The longer the disease goes undiagnosed, the worse the symptoms can get.  For women my age, late forties and older, who have gone their entire life without a proper diagnosis, that means we generally have the joy of all those things and more.  YAY!  Dark skin patches, weight gain, and cancer.  I can check all those boxes.  Grrrrrr...... If you ever wondered how I ended up studying all that holistic stuff - there's your answer right there. 

Even after I was FINALLY diagnosed correctly, even AFTER I had all the mommy parts removed, I still am struggling with the symptoms.  I paid a great deal of money to have my face lasered free of hair (OMG - why did I not do that years before?).  I understood that weight loss for me would never be as easy as it was for my friends and that I could balloon up forty pounds in a couple weeks if I ever let it go.  But at least the enemy had acquired a name. 

The thing that bugs me most these days is the hair loss.  I used to have thick glossy chestnut brown hair. It grows fast and is straight as can be.  A little less straight as more of it turns grey - underneath the Miss Clairol, I know it's grey.  Used to, I could barely get a standard pony tail holder around it.  Now I can get it in easily and have to wrap the band numerous times around the thinning and sad hank of hair.  Every morning when I comb through it, more of it ends up in my hands.  I'm not talking about the few hairs you lose every day.  I'm talking about a chemo patient worthy amount of hair. 

But I am a scientist dammit and I never give up!  I started with Nioxan, a shampoo designed to stimulate blood flow to the scalp.  It was tingly which I liked as a wake up in the morning, but it did nothing to stop the cascade of hair onto the bathroom floor.

About 2 years ago I read about the effects of SDS or SLS on the hair follicle and switched immediately to a sulfate free shampoo.  FYI - SDS is a chemical used to degrease machinery.  Your hair may be naturally oliy, but good gawd no one needs THAT!  I noticed immediately that my hair needed shampoing less often which is just damn ironic that removing the DEGREASING component made my hair less greasy.  I could shampoo every 2-3 days with the SLS-free stuff v every day with the standard shampoo.  Bonus.  And the hair loss slowed a bit, but hardly stopped. 

Last week I bit the bullet and ordered WEN to try it out.  This is the weirdest shit.  Sulfate free - check.  (I will NEVER put that shit in my hair again).  Suds free.  That takes some getting used to.  You lather it on and it feels more like conditioner than any shampoo I know of (and I will fess I am a shampoo hooker and have tried them all!).  In my head as I massage it around, I'm thinking no way is this going to clean my hair.  I will end up shampoing it out with my SLS-free stuff and a significant amount of money will be wasted.  But my hair seems to love it.  Shinier and softer than it has been in a while.  And it is clean without machine degreaser, without a single bubble.  Weird huh?

I am still able to go 2-3 days between shampoos without it looking a hot mess.  So that's good.  No better than my SLS-free stuff but also no worse.  I am most curious to see how the hair responds and if this one will slow the hair loss.  I would love someone forever if they invented something that did that. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Small Goals

This week at writing group (I can't really say class anymore as WWfaC:class::Lamboghini:transportation) the facilitator, Diane, read a poem that she created by lifting some of her favorite lines out of her journals, then rearranging them into what was a remarkable poem. I was ecstatic to get a chance to hear it again in small group. 

I can't even begin to say how much I loved this idea.  Yunno how you write in those damn journals every day religiously and get mostly a lot of brain drivel with a sentence here and there that sings that you can't do anything with?  You try to use it as a writing prompt, but get bupkiss for all your effort.  Well this is the perfect way to upcycle those sentences into something marvy. 

So that is my goal for the weekend - to upcycle some of my favorite sentences into a poem. 

That and to fill in my small group questionnaire.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Part of my day at work is spent in the barrier, a germishly-free mouse facility.  To get there one has to change out of their clothes and into surgical scrubs, gown, gloves, bouf, shoe covers, etc.  My favorite part of the day is the entry once you are garbed through the air shower that blows air furiously at me for a minute or two while I hold my hands in the air.

I love this thing!  And I wonder if I could get one installed in my house? 

I close my eyes and pretend I am flying.  The simulation is very convincing.  Bonus it makes me laugh.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Blue Sheets

I bought new sheets.  I sometimes do this to stir the energies.  I couldn't help myself when I found the impossibly high thread count Egyptian cotton sheets in a sale bin for $20.  They could have been any color for that price and I would have bought them.  For those of you who have never experienced sheets with a high thread count, all I can say is DO IT!

I will admit I have a fondness for the color blue, but no more so than my fondness for lime green, ballet pink, cadmium red, payne's grey, pure yellow, and many more.  Loving one color is not enough for me.  But I do like me some blue and the new sheets turned out to be an unexpected gorgeous shade of blue.

They whisper against my skin
in the most amazing way.

Spectacular blueness, delicate as fairy wings.
The specter of a Tiffany box that never came.
All the potential of the first robin's egg.
Floating to sleep on a cloudless spring sky.

Friday, March 16, 2012

I had some kinda nasty flu bug this week.  It lasted 24 hours.  It started with some olympic quality vomiting in which I regurgitated everything I had eaten that day, everything I had eaten the day before and perhaps everything I ate last week in Alabama.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I saw a piece of gum in there that I swallowed in fourth grade to avoid being busted by Sister Theresa.  While, I was surprised to see it, I was also kinda relieved since scuttlebut in fourth grade was that you do NOT digest gum - EVER!  I was never so happy as when the projectile portion of the show was over and I could sleep. 

Well, sleep for fifteen minutes anyway.  That's when the virus moved beyond my Herculean powers of regurgitation and into, shall we say, the other portal.  I have had a colonoscopy and done the prep for that.  Let's just say this was worse.  Way worse. 

That as it turns out was just the prep for the next part aka Welcome to HELL.  Despite an ambient temperature in my apartment of 74, I felt the need to crank it to 84 and pull out not just the spare blanket, but the down comforter I use only in the coldest part of the winter.  I had visions of pirate lord Sao Feng pulling on his chain and saying "More heat girl" and I dutifully piled on blanket after blanket.  I ended up under the down comforter, a regular comforter, a fleece blanket, a cotton thermal blanket and flannel sheets wearing the famed penguin pants, wool hiking socks and a thermal shirt.  Still I shivered and Lucifer himself laughed.  Hell isn't hot at all as it turns out.  It's stone cold and soulless. 

I must have finally drifted off and that's when the phase started which I think of as the Salvadore Dali on Acid phase.  The fever induced visions would have made Hieronymous Bosch sit down to take notes.  I can distinctly remember starting off sanely enough having a panel discussion with Buddha, JC, Captain Jack, and Muhammed Ali.  I guess the prophet Muhammed was otherwise engaged and couldn't make panel.  Then I am in the middle of the Gobi desert watching what I think are two camels run toward me - btw camels running is very funny even when one is delirious.  Turns out they are really deer with mountain lines on their backs, jaws clamped agains their windpipes.  They skid to a stop right in front of me and thrash their death throes.  A forest of trees with knotholes like mouths singing opera.  Trees that turn into middle-aged dudes in a white van in which I am riding.  Dudes with sapphires where their eyes should be.  I jump out of the van onto a sea of glass shards and swim up to a beach panting and puking up pieces of sea glass.  I have done shamanic training and am used to visions.  NONE of that prepared me for this.  So intense were the visions that I registered neither the thunderous hail-filled storm raging outside nor the guy sanding the newly installed hardwood right above my bed in the upstairs apartment, an apartment with notoriously thin walls and floors.   

When the clock finally clicked over to that 24 hour mark, the hobgoblins packed up their sideshow and left with nary a backwards glance.  The fever broke and sweat began to gush out of my already dehydrated husk of a body.  I might have stumbled to the kitchen for some Gatorade before returning to bed, tossing off the thousand and one blankets and falling back to sleep.  The sleep of the dead.  It lasted 12 dreamless hours. 

I got up this morning, showered and went to work.  Sick days are so over rated.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Every dream has its waking

....or does it?

My time in Little Green is at an end.  Nothing left but the cleaning up and leaving.
My heart rebels against leaving, not just here but everywhere.
This leaving is harder than most.  I am more myself here than anywhere.

So close to the sea

No more sunset communions taken with strangers
No more fierce wind to twist my hair into delicious knots
No more startled flocks of herons
No more shambles down the beach and around the point
No more mornings sipping coffee and watching the Sound
No more palette shifting Gulf with its indigo, gold and mossy green

I want to fold these things and take them with me in my bag
But I cannot for those things have already been gently woven into

the cloth of me

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Pelican

.....his bill holds more than his belly can.  - Dixon Lanire Merrith

I had to google that to find the original attribute.  It's from a limerick written by Merrick, a newspaper editor, way back in 1910.  To me that phrase is and always will be associated with my Grampa who had a very strange sense of humor that a number of his grandkids seem to have inherited.  Anyway, I heard him pop off with that a lot.  Growing up we spent part of every summer with my grandparents in rural Minnesota on Pelican Lake near Pelican Rapids - home of the worlds largest pelican.  No lie people.  See postcard.  If there were more boys in that postcard it could almost be us.  Same 1960's vintage.

Grampa was full of stories and twisted little word play sayings like that.  For years he called my younger brother Phillip McCann.  I failed to hear that what he said was Fill up ma can such that 40 years later I finally get the joke and laugh even harder for being so obtuse.  I think he had little sayings like that for each of us, or maybe it was just us younger two.  Don't remember.  I was always Mary Mary quite contrary.  Thing is I was anything but contrary.  I was compliant as hell.  And that was probably what he found funny about it.  On good days he would give me the next line 'How does your garden grow?' and then he would wait for me to answer.  Somedays I would give him the next line of the poem 'with silver bells and cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row'.  And on other days I would just invent something else to slide in there if I had grown bored with the proper response.  As I grew older, I tired of the game and would just give him that patented teenager shrug of noncommittal-ness.

To this day, when someone says that to me, or much more likely in this post Run DMC age, sings it to me it always brings him in clearly and immediately.  That is the way of things for games played in your childhood.  I have been seeing a lot of pelicans, have been spending large swaths of time watching them feed out there in the sound.  Ever curious and nerdly about such things I found out that these are the coastal browns.  Those I remember seeing, ever so rarely in Minnesota and later in Montana were the white variety.  So pelicans have been around me my entire life.  They are intimately linked to my grandfather and his strange wordplay humor, to the beautiful strangeness of being somewhere else, to water (OMG to such waters!), and to safety.  Nothing bad ever happened there on Pelican Lake and for a few blissed out weeks every summer, I was safe.  I could unpack and get comfy.  I could breathe and I could laugh with my grandfather.  What I wouldn't give for that today here with these pelicans.  Oh I feel safe and as for unpacking, pshew I used the Jackie method of unpacking which resembles nothing so much as a mini explosion.  Nope.  It's the laughter I miss most and the silly play on words.  But I am content to be reminded of those things by these other pelicans here on this water.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Celebrate the Day

People are walking by in ones and twos, seldom more.  They are headed west and I join the flow.  We congregate as strangers to observe, to watch something that happens every night in our varied little lives.  Off island we rarely notice.  We gather to watch the sun go down, to bid it a fond farewell.  For this one moment we are bonded together.  It grows enormous, then sinks dusky rose beyond the horizon, the group exhales and separates again.

I turn to walk home those three houses down, the moon rises pale and round.  A perfectly timed contradance to the setting sun.  But only I stop.  Alone I greet her as she sets to make her arc above me.

And in that moment between the sun and moon I have perfect balance.  I belong.  Right here.  Right now

losing the light

the end of the day comes 
quickly on the island

like a quarter sliding off the 
plate of a carnival game,
the sun rolls off the flat earth

and darkness slips thru the 
crack of her leaving 
landing with an almost audible 


Izat a Parrot?

Birding is one of the major things to do here on Dauphin Island.  There's an Audubon preserve down at the Eastern end of the island.  So I have been keeping my amateur eyes toward the birds.  So far there have been an incredible number of pelicans which feed all day in the sound (more about them in another post), lots of gulls as one expects at the beach (yes, I fed them.  Don't judge.  I just love to watch the aerial acrobatics too much to pass), a kestrel and a Parrot?  A parrot you say?  Let me 'splain.

I walk down the beach in the morning to kinda say boy howdy to the water.  It's a tough go and somedays  the soft sand kills my knee, but hey I'm at the beach right?  The beach is empty this time of year.  I see maybe 5 or 6 people all day out there.  Too cold to swim.  Too windy to sun.  Too rough for fishing.  So that leaves me, the surfer bois, and a few other people seeking the quiet.

Lots of dogs.  I like that.  I always stop to say hello.  A habit I acquired from my friend Homer.  I meet lots of cool dogs this way.  This morning I met an Australian shepherd and an English Spring Spaniel.  The spaniel has a soft spot in my heart.  The dog we had growing up was an ESS named Lady.  Inventive little people weren't we.  Anyway this little girl is just a puppy and she's carrying a huge piece of driftwood down the beach so very proud of her 'kill'.  Her people were mostly talking to each other and failed to notice what a good job she had done.  I laughed and bent down to meet her.  She dropped the stick at my feet and wagged her stumpy spaniel tail as greeting.  Such a pretty girl.  I threw the stick, which landed near her people.  She raced down the beach all ears and feet, overshooting the stick by a mile, although she did try to catch it as she ran by.  I applauded her effort.  It was then that her people turned to talk to me.

A soft Alabamian drawl came floating toward me over the sound of surf.  "She hasn't figured out how to bring it back yet."  That voice sounded vaguely familiar and when I looked up the dude smiled which looked really familiar too.  Ball cap pulled low.  Tanned skin.  Big wide smile.  Maybe twinkly blue eyes.  Maybe not.  I shrugged, turned to go and in the turning thought OMG is that Jimmy Buffet?  I turned to look at him again.  Could be.  Right height.  Right build.  Right sunny smile.  Right accent.  The rest of the way back to the house I mulled this possibility.  OK maybe I carried it down the beach like that little dog with a big stick.  As a parrothead (don't be a hater), I know JB is from Mobile and if I were coming to Mobile to say.....visit family, I would certainly prefer to stay somewhere like Dauphin Island where my beach lovin ass could be at home.

That would be when that logical asshole jumped up and tried to squelch it.  He does that a lot.  When I tell myself that was surely a dolphin out there.  He always snorts and says You wish.  It was just a wave turning.  Most of the time I think he's right.  Why?  Even when I see flukes he makes me think I am somehow wrong.  So now he's nattering on about this was NOT Jimmy Buffet, calling me mean things like crack smoker.  Thing is - I don't care.  Maybe it's Jimmy Buffet.  Maybe it isn't.  Maybe it's a dolphin.  Maybe it's just a wave.  What possible difference does it make to anyone but me?  What if it was essence of dolphin and Buffet?  If it makes me happy to say dophin and Buffet then I will.  Phfffflllt.  Maybe it was Buffet RIDING a dolphin.  Take that you judgmental a-hole.  Now 'scuse me I got some Buffet to spin.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Dauphin Island

Sitting on the west end of Dauphin Island.

I'm not sure why I chose it among all the places I searched.  Why not Destin, Gulf Shores, St. Augustine or a thousand other places.  I started with what I didn't want - odd how that is sometimes an easier place to start.  I didn't want a pool, or a gym, or a shit ton of people.  I didn't want to live stacked in some matrix of a condo megaplex or big view-obstructing megamansions.  I wanted the Gulf Coast of the 1940's with its small bungalows scattered down the dunes.  I didn't want noise or traffic.  I didn't want a thousand distractions.

I wanted a place where the beach was still the major activity.  I wanted wind.  I wanted to see the water, to taste it in the air.  I wanted communion with sand, with water, with sky.  I wanted hours that stretched out empty in which to write or walk the beach alone.  I wanted to travel light, the way I used to, to accept that there must be things left behind.  In this case a functional camera which grates on me from the beginning.

Watching the gulls spin like a white ferris wheel, the low end dipping into the sound then looping out like thread from a spool.

I saw this little green house and just knew - THERE!  I could find what I needed - THERE!  Not aware of that entire list of wants when I spied it.   Even though I knew it suited where I was and what I needed, I was afraid, so afraid to leap.  Was I afraid I would find myself there?  Was I afraid I wouldn't?

Just before I left,  a friend mentioned the word wildness.  And I thought - yes.  I need wildness.  Oh not the kind that most people think of when they hear the word.  I blame Girls Gone Wild for that.  I am not talking about misbehaving party monkeys here.  I'm talking about true wildness, a place where your spirit communes with something outside of you, something larger than you and yet still of you.  A place where you get swept away, where you give over.

Even as I write this, my eyes are continually drawn back to OUT THERE where the sound is full of whitecaps on impossibly blue water.  I know I will join them soon and smile.  

Driving down I am listening to Stephen King's Dumas Key in which one of the main characters, an old woman, has Alzheimer's, a fact that surprises tears from me when it touches a place similar to my mother's.  The protagonist stays in a large salmon beach house he calls Big Pink.  I start to think of my place as Little Green, start calling it that in my head and I wonder who I will meet there.  For I have come to meet someone that much is clear

I think I see someone out there hunkered on the dune, but when I put on my glasses it turns out to be just a large chunk of charred wood.  I feel them out there circling, see their shadows dart between the dunes and think what are you waiting for?  I'm right here.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Impossible Purple

My tiny green beach house
is the third from the end.
From there I can walk to the
end of the island along Gulf
and return along the Sound.
Pony blown back like a flag
then around and into my mouth
on the way back.
The wind blowing the white
sand into ripples whistles
stops just short of singing.
And my long shadow crossing
the ripples is an impossible purple

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Beautiful Boy

I remember, he was born into the darkest part of winter when ice and wind become a knife edge to the heart.  He was so eager to be here that he broke a collarbone and had to be swaddled extra tight.  The tiniest of blue bundles.  His arrival coinciding with the anniversary of my dad's death.  How I wanted him to carry part of that legacy or at least his name to reclaim that day for a joyful purpose.  But no.  Naming was not my choice and his mother insisted on cookie cutter sameness such that he would always be one of many with the same name.  Such is the way of things. 

This amazing ball of energy and charisma was branded an instigator and troublemaker by that same mother.  But, I think it more likely that she never really understood this charismatic, happy, active little boy.  Nor did she give him adequate room to express all of who he is.  He was not compliant and quiet like his older brother, a child she understood only marginally better.  He was the scapegoat for anything that happened and he bore this all stoically only to ask me later why it was like that.  To that I had no answer, but a shrug. 

This child, this broccoli-pault inventor, could have been anything.  The visions of his possible futures swirled about him in his infancy like cotton candy.  President...CEO....Fireman.....Cattle rancher....Entrepneur....Banker.....Athlete.  Eventually most of those would sink back into the mist until one was predominant - Soldier.  I mourned the loss of those other possibilities from the world.  I hated the danger that choice would place him in from its inception.  But my brother cultivated ONLY this possibility until it became inevitable.  The Beautiful Boy would become a soldier. 

The Beautiful Boy is happy in this regimented life, has honed his body into a weapon of war and has marhsalled his sizeable charisma and intellect toward leadership.  I am happy that he is happy.  This week the Beautiful Boy landed in Afghanistan with his men and I hit my knees to pray to any and all goddesses that would listen to keep him safe, to keep all the Beautiful Boys and Girls safe and end this wretched senseless thing. 

PS - Why goddess and not god you ask?  Simple.  Because a male god is willing to sacrifice his beautiful children in a way a mother goddess never would. 

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...