Monday, December 30, 2013

THE WORD

In the beginning was the word - John 1:1

There was a lot of chatter among my friends this week about resolutions and master plans for 2014.  I tune those sorts of things out.  Oh, I used to try to squeeze myself into that box of calendar year end resolutions, but it always failed.  Change for me is sometimes a challenge.  Change for me during the longest nights of the year, during the darkest days - ain't happenin.  I know this because I forced myself to prove it year after year, only to end in a goo pile of resolution failure sometime in mid-January.

Resolution picking requires a bit of self-examination, or delving into deep closets and discarding mismatched mittens and such.  It is not work for the deep of winter.  That is work for late spring or summer.  So I set some goals, fluid, flexible, fun-filled goals, to begin around my birthday in early July.  You know at the beginning of MY year, because the world DOES revolve around me dahhhhling.  That makes complete sense to me.  And the success rate is much higher.

So don't be looking here for any dietary or exercise resolutions from hell.

Nope.

What caught my eye this year among the chatter was - THE WORD.  People kept talking about THE WORD.  THE WORD.  THE WORD.  THE WORD.  It was everywhere.  What was this word?  I must know!  Do they know that unknown words are torture to me?  I set out to find out THE WORD.

Only to find that no one could agree on THE WORD.  Everyone reported THE WORD differently.  And none of them were words that I was unfamiliar with.  Hmmmmmm......  Maybe there was data I was missing.

Turns our THE WORD is really just A WORD that people have chosen to explore for the year.  Some chose it.  Others intuited it.  It made sense to me in that weird way that things sometimes do.  So, I set out to discern MY WORD.  What had been my word for 2013?  Was there one?  What about 2014?  How could I commit to just one?  UGH!  Drove me crazy.

After a week of trying to force a word, of trying words on and runway stomping them around a while, I ended with a big pile of discarded words.  MY WORD of course would be FIERCE, except when it was not.  It would be SMART, FUNNY and SLIGHT OFF KILTER.  It would be BRIGHT as the sun, and DEEP as inky blue-black space.  Mostly it would be MINE!  I would keep it like the Precious and love it.

That approach seemed doomed.  So I sat and waited for the word to come to me.  It was rather like waiting for a bird to perch on your outstretched finger.  But I was patient.

I beckoned.

I made space.

And I made it OK for THE WORD to take its time.

One afternoon, I looked up and there was WORD 2013.

GRACE.

GRACE and I had a long chat.  I got to see how the word had been integrated into my year.  The thousands of times I had allowed GRACE to work through me.  The times where I had shuttered GRACE out and turned my back.  I am not exceptionally proud of those moments, but I will not feel bad about them either.  One cannot explore the far reaches of GRACE and not comprehend that GRACE applies to oneself too.  GRACE will always be with me.

Not long after meeting GRACE, I met THE WORD 2014.  EASE.

EASE.  That sounds pleasant, slow and Southern just the way I like things.  It comes just in time.  The challenge is how to make one maximally stressed out, life grinding, creatively bankrupt woman slip into EASE.  Guess I will find out.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hello Mrs B.

My mom's bestie passed away right before Thanksgiving.  She was an amazing person that I wish I were more like.  Kind to the bones.  I miss knowing she is on the planet.  I know Mom misses her daily conversations with her.  I miss knowing she has that other person to help me hold up her sagging memory.

This week my mom's memory cleared enough for us to talk about her moving to an assisted living/memory care unit.  One of her fears is that she will be alone there just like she is now and she will be in unfamiliar surroundings.  I try to upsell it, talk about how nice it will be to have meals made every day, to have someone clean and do laundry for her.  But those things don't seem to cut it.  She is talking about being lonely.

I start the "It's going to be amazing" speech about that when all of a sudden I just know.  I don't have to speechify about anything.  I know that Mrs B. is going to continue to help out in spirit and I know that she is going to nudge someone toward my Mom to help her adjust and be her friend.

Don't ask me how I know.  Not one clue.  I believe Mrs B. came through to reassure us both that things would be OK.  Like I said.  Kind to the bone.

Love you Mrs B.  Grateful beyond words or measure that you are with us still.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Resonance

I've been a lurker, and sometimes commentor, in a Social Media group that uses words like superpower, transmission and resonance to describe the next quantum leap in marketing.  In fact, it's so far away from marketing that I hate to even link those two things in a sentence.  But I did, so sue me.

I toy with these notions in an abstract-observer-from-another-planet kinda way.  They are little puzzles for me to assemble, take apart, and reassemble.  I didn't think I had any use for most of this, it was after all targeted toward helping independent artists and business people create success, not little nerdy girls in research.  Wasn't it?

Now that I've explained that, I'm going to digress a bit so stay with me.  I promise to close the circle.

I have been looking at facilities where I might move my mom who has Alzheimer's.  It's not critical, but we're getting close.  Sometimes we dance right over that line and I step up the looking.  Usually things settle back down and the need becomes less pressing.  The last couple weeks, we haven't really danced back into the Land of the Sane, so I've been hitting the pavement hard.

I've learned the distinction among Assisted Living, Personal Care, Memory Care and Skilled Care.  Each has its own criteria and rules that most facilities are either quick to explain or to hide.  Ditto the costs.  (Don't even get me started about how fucking ridiculously priced these places are).  Lots of hidden upcharges or one big bundled price from hell that you have to ask for - which makes you feel douchy that you just had to make it about money.

Enter appointment number 2 of 3 yesterday at a local religiously affiliated facility.  (I was prepared to hate this one going in).  The Sales/Marketing person was waiting for me and chatting with a resident.  She not only introduced herself, but the resident and told me they had been waiting for me.  Smiles and handshakes all 'round.  Compare and contrast to appt #3 where the same person was late, passed me off to someone else midway even though I had an appointment.  #2 took me into her office, made me comfortable and then began by asking about my mom starting with her name (#3 didn't bother to ask).  She did not ask about my mom's financial means (this was a high priority in #3's mind) and costs were clearly defined and available in the printed material.  She offered to help us run the financials if we needed it, pointed out a few pieces of alternate funding we might try for if/when we needed to, and told me they have a benificent fund for residents of more than three years whose finances get low that sliding scales their payment to match their income.  (It is an all too common thing that these kinds of places eat all the available money and then kick the residents to the curb and I'm pretty sure #3 would have no hesitation to do exactly that).

As we toured I found myself more content than I had been since this whole shitty process started.  That was when Nancy (the fact that I remembered her name should NOT be underestimated here) turned to me and said -

"Our philosophy here is to ask ourselves if what we are doing is in the resident's best interest. If it isn't we don't do it."

Pretty sure I had my mouth hanging open because my brother and I ask ourselves this CON-STANT-LY around how to move forward with my mom.  It has become our mantra of operations.  Here was a total stranger echoing my own words back to me.  It was a transcendent A-HA moment (and no I don't mean the 1980's musical group).  I asked Nancy if she could expand on that after I regained my power of speech.  What came next was the most elegant, kind and heart-centered philosophy of elder care I had ever heard.  There was talk of sound, aroma and textural therapy instead of just shoving some pill into a gawping mouth when the residents started to act out to make them stop.  She pulled out baskets labeled with each resident's name, the contents equally well-labeled with things like Works well when upset about family and Works when want to go home. (Picks jaw up off the floor AGAIN).

This was too good to be true.  I probed for the 'catch'.  I asked about dismissal policy, drug handling and other things I had been warned to ask for.  She looked at me and said

"Oh Mary, we don't believe in any of those things.  There are very few policies and every decision is made with the resident's best interest at the heart."

"So you wouldn't kick her out if she slapped someone?"  (Physical violence is a dismissable offense in most facilities)

"We would work with her first and see if we could determine what made her do that."

"What if she needed to go to rehab?"

"We have rehab onsite and we hold her bed until she is able to come back"

"But we would have to PAY for both beds"

"No Mary.  You pay for the rehab and she gets a bed there and we hold her bed here."

WTF!?!  That sounds like bad business practice.

And that's when it happened.

I felt something shift around inside me, like a ship that has been listing to port for a long time that suddenly rights itself.  After months of traversing the slanty deck of Alzheimers and wondering how long before I ended up in the drink, or my mom did, or we both - it felt decidedly odd to navigate straight and true again.

By the time we had returned to her office I knew half a dozen residents and a handful of staff members by name.  Everyone smiling and genuinely happy.  I found myself smiling.  No, more than that I found I was happy here and could easily imagine my mom happy too.

I gritted my teeth against the oncoming talk of pricing.  I would be heartbroken if we couldn't make this happen.  I almost puked when she told me it would be SIGNIFICANTLY LESS than #1 or #3 (no hidden upcharges, everything clear, concise and fair)  My heart stayed intact.  I had found it.

I made myself go to appt #3, which only served to point up everything #2 did right by doing it all so monumentally wrong.  All money, cost, disorganized, dirty, unhappiness and generally yucky.  I texted my brother and tried to get him to fake emergency me from his deer stand so that I could bail without finishing the tour, but he was out of range.

It was only when I got home and was puttering in the social media group that I realized this was EXACTLY what the facilitator is trying to convey.  One really fucking big and megawatt LIGHT BULB.  Facility #2 is the same size as #3.  It doesn't advertise (I only knew of its existence because someone in my support group has a parent there) and still the facility is wait listed, whereas #3 had many beds available.

I never expected to find the principles of BOOM! so clearly illustrated in this industry - coherence, resonance and superpowers galore.

I am blown away.

Happily drinking the Kool-Aid and signing her up knowing all will be the best that it can.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Simpler

I ask her for the millionth time “Are you picking?” 

She looks at her lap, sheepishly lowers her hand from her forehead and says “Yes.” 

I look at her.  Her forehead is scaly and aggrevated from the attention of her fingers.  I know I will have to stop her another thousand times over the next few days we are away.  Each time I will feel like a schoolmarmy turd and each time she will look guilty.  I wish that there were another way to make her stop. 

My mom has Alzheimer’s.  It sucks.  Sucks hard.  She has developed an almost OCD like habit of picking any and all rough patches on her 85 year old skin.  Once she picks the offending blemish to the point of bleeding she will quit on that spot, at least until it develops a scab and then she will start again.  The result is a kind of cycle picking from spot to spot, such that she is either scabby, bleeding or an unpleasant combo of both.  I try to be gentle, try to still her hand as it probes the usual places, but I can’t be with her round the clock.  The potential for infection looms always in my mind as I try to keep her from proceeding.  This once Emily Post etiquette fiend will pick anywhere anytime, including a public dinner table, disposing of the scabs to the floor.  I know that’s a stomach turner – right?  If I ask her to cease and desist at least until I’m done eating, she cannot.  Moments after agreeing, I will see her hand wander back to wherever it was removing offensive scabs when I asked her to stop.  Sigh. 

When she first started this behavior, I attributed it to all manner of things.  My mom is full of deep self-loathing as the result of feeling unloved by her mother.  She never has discovered that she is worthy of being loved.  I can still see it in her eyes - that expectation that I will leave, that I will find her unlovable.  As if that were even a remote possibility.  I saw the picking as a self-punishment for that, or as a way to make the external world match her interior dialogue – that she is ugly and unlovable.  As if she could be anything but beautiful.  That thought made me feel sad, made me more determined to demonstrate that she is both beautiful and lovable regardless of her inner dialogue or exterior damage.
 
After that I told myself that she picked because she hated what was happening to her (until recently she has had an amazing self-awareness about her disease) and that on some level she hoped to pick herself out of existence piece by piece.  She wouldn’t be “a burden to anyone that way and people could go on with their lives”.  It pained me to think this might be true, that she somehow didn't feel entitled to be here or to my time and attention.  So I lavished more attention on her. 

It didn’t help.  Nothing did.  The picking continued.

In my efforts to understand where she is and what to expect in the future, I am learning a lot about AD.  That desire to understand has brought me face to face with many of my own demons.  AD patients become simpler in their thinking.  Not more complex.  Those thoughts above?  Those are pretty complex and twisty thinking.  They are mine and not hers.  It’s my BS, my projection, my observer nature filling in imaginary details to gloss over the fact that I don’t know diddly squat.  Observer run amok.  Ouch. 

Her picking vaguely reminds me of a friend whose daughter suffered from  trichotillomania – a disorder that results in pulling out one’s own hair, generally eyelashes or brows.  Her daughter was absolutely normal in every regard, charismatic and smart, except for this one thing.  She outgrew it, which is good because she really is quite gorgeous.  It’s an anxiety disorder, which makes me wonder if the picking is some kind of anxiety disorder as well.  That there is some kind of self-soothing that happens while she is picking - like giving in to a tic or checking to see that the oven is off for the third time.  Who hasn't done that?

Maybe it’s even simpler than that.  (One thing I am learning to accept is that with AD it’s all about simpler.)  If asked, she will tell you she doesn’t like rough things.  Her entire palate and habits have changed so dramatically in the last year that I can no longer predict what she will like or no.  So maybe the picking is related to textural perception, one of the most rudimentary ways that we experience the world from our infancy onward.  We develop relationships to textures we like and those we don't.   

That I understand.   I have a friend who falls in love with handmade cups because of the way they feel in his hands, because of the texture.  I too have textural preferences.  Unlike my mom, I love fluffy, hairy, fuzzy objects.  Peaches, dogs, angora yarn is all delicious.  I don’t mind rough skin which is her bug-a-boo.  But I do mind bumps - ingrown hairs, zits, boils, whatever - and have been known to attack them with a sharp object.  Is that really so different?  Probably not.  The biggest difference is that I can imagine the possible negative outcomes from my behavior, infection, MRSA, other nasties.   She seems only to understand that it feels good and so she does it.      
The truth is I don’t know why she picks and I never will - not really.  It's all just me trying to unravel the riddle of why she behaves as she does and that particular puzzle has been ongoing since birth.  I doubt I will solve it, so it's more a gentle musing than active puzzling these days.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

10.23.13

It was one of those generic elevator conversations.  This one happened as I kept pace with a young woman between the parking garage and the hopsital.  Both of us a little tired.  Both of us expressing a desire to have stayed home in bed on this cold an rainy morning.  I explained how our employer would be better served to send around a group voice mail on Wednesday encouraging people and letting them know they could do it.

Fast forward 5 hours. I've totally forgotten the aforementioned conversation.  I'm returning from lunch on the elevator.  I hear a small voice say from the crowd "You're almost there.  You can do it."  I look around.  I see her smile at me conspiratorially and I say "How perfect."

But what I'm thinking is HOLY CRAP!  She not only remembered the inconsequential conversation, but remembered enough about me to distinguish me from the other seventy-leven employees who might have gotten on the elevator.  Most amazing.  She gave me exactly the kind of encouragement I said I had wanted.

Big fucking smile.  Belief in humanity, not only restored, but soaring.  There are no actions so small as to be inconsequential.  Take time to really listen and be present.  Absolute and radiant gratitude for today's messenger.

I CAN do it.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Economic Meme

There is a meme being passed around about an econ professor and his college class re:Obamacare (see below).

After reading this I was kinda pissed off.  It isn't a good analogy for what the writer intended and I'm sure, at its roots, is just some pro-Republican BS.  Part of me thought 'how stupid are these people?'  They could clearly see that it was not going to work if they all maintained the status quo.  Did no one think to help each other out?  To form study groups so that everyone could at least pass?  Perhaps that's the thing that bothers me about the meme most.  That there was zero problem solving.  There was just dogged persistence along a path of destruction.  A path where no one wins.

I wondered if the outcome were tied to the age of the alleged participants - younger people sometimes having a different skill set than older ones.  Would older people with more life skills behave the same way?  (Hey, if you hang out with a scientist you gotta be prepared for questions like this).  So I started to think about other scenarios like this.  Enter : the government shutdown.

It seemed very similar.  Neither side wanting to let the other have a clear 'win'.  All of us paying the price.  In light of that fiasco that lack of problem solving seems even more key.  I saw zero problem solving on this front either.  Zero working together.  Zero Fucks TM given about dragging the entire country down.

There I was up on my high horse and finger pointing from Olympus about the faults of others.  That's when I got blindsided. That's usually when it happens, right as I hit my preaching stride.  That little voice whispered read #5 again.  Which I did.  Groan.  That one hits closer to home as it directly applies to my work situation.  A situation where I am doing most of the work and someone else is receiving most of the benefit.  I have been watching myself slide toward the edge while balancing a sizable I-don't-give-a-fuck-chip on my shoulder.  I am doing EXACTLY what those college students did, exactly what Congress did.  I am staging a work slowdown.  Not consciously, but I am still doing it.  Failing to see that the long term effect of my action is bad for the lab and bad for me.

I don't want the lab to shut down.  I don't really want to be the one carrying it either.  I don't want to be the tool that someone uses to further their career.  I don't want to be just a cog in the machine of churning out terrible science that I am embarrassed to have my name on.

Maybe the lab will shut down.  But I want to walk away with my head held high knowing that I did my best and making it clear that failure should be laid at someone else's feet.

Some days I really hate that little voice.





An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama's socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama's plan".. All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A.... (substituting grades for dollars - something closer to home and more readily understood by all).

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

The second test average was a D! No one was happy.
When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.

As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed. Could not be any simpler than that. (Please pass this on) These are possibly the 5 best sentences you'll ever read and all applicable to this experiment:

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!

5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

Zero Fucks TM - my friend Fabeku who is a stellar wordsmith.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Small Stone 10.17.13

One palm in shadow
one in silvered moonlight
fingers clasped
I integrate both

Aya

A couple weeks ago while my mom and I were out driving about (Yes, I know it's bad for the environment, but it's better for her and right now that's what matters) when we passed by two huge ferns resting on the curb.  I noticed that there were two small scraps of paper attached to them and their position suggested they were giveaways.  I circled back and sure enough, they were free to a good home.  

They looked much smaller sitting on the curb than they did in my car or in either my house or my mom's.  I'm sure these graced the sweeping victorian porch of the house where I found them and that the owners did not have room inside for two such gigantic plants to winter over.  I was ecstatic to have been gifted these by someone who no longer wanted them.  

Mom found a home for one.  I took the other, larger one back to my apartment.  Recently, I have been adding to my plant collection and this beauty has a place of honor.  She is regal on her stand soaking in the sunlight.  I try to remember to water her and love up on her as often as I can.

In the morning, while I'm waking and slowly sipping coffee, I examine her closely.  I fall in love with every little unfurling fiddlehead I see.  Truly, deeply loving this gift that came my way.  Grateful to someone anonymous who let her go so that I could share space with her.  Please know I cast gratitude every time I pass your home.

This morning as I look at her adoringly, I am reminded of an Adinkira symbol/word and I scoot over to the computer to remind my aging brain what it represents other than fern.....which is the obvious and less interesting thing.  

This feels right for where I am now.  Struggling to keep my head aloft and my feet under me.  No respite.  Stuck in the mother of all log jams.  Scrambling.  It is good for me to be reminded that endurance and resourcefulness are what I need to thrive, even here.  

I have weathered worse.  I will survive this too.  I am Aya



   

AYA

"fern"

symbol of endurance and resourcefulness
The fern is a hardy plant that can grow in difficult places. "An individual who wears this symbol suggests that he has endured many adversities and outlasted much difficulty." 






Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cup a Joe.

This morning while I stood in line to make my coffee, I got hung up by a couple of faculty members standing in front of the coffee and just talking shop.  They were done getting coffee and were blocking the entire coffee station from use.  (This is a VERY DANGEROUS practice and I do not recommend that you try it.  People have died from blocking access to the caffeine here in the research building).  I tried not to be annoyed by their lack of awareness, but my default these days is annoyed or just below it.  I stood and waited and waited and waited.

Then I waited behind them to pay.

And that's when the spark of magic showed up.  The young Indian (India Indian to clarify - as if it makes a difference) man insisted in paying for the gorgeous French supermodel/researcher (Yes, I'm sure she is both).  The gorgeous woman got flustered and actually blushed.  NB here - there was not one iota of smarmy, sexual, i-want-in-your-superskinny-sexy-pants in play.  It was a genuine offer made out of camaraderie.

When I ran into the woman five minutes later and said hello, she was STILL noticeably flustered by this small gesture.  She sheepishly admitted that no one had ever bought coffee for her before and seemed embarrassed by all of it.

And I caught myself slack jawed at the thought that no one had ever sprung for coffee for this gorgeous and smart as hell woman before.  Really?  Did I mention she's French?  Um yeah.  Like French Vogue French.    I found her blushes and flustration (yes, that's a word) genuine, so I didn't doubt she spoke the truth.

All of it made me smile and forget how annoyed I had been at two people I didn't care to wait behind.  If I hadn't waited, I would have missed this exchange and the spark would have died right there.

What spark you ask?

The spark that landed on my tinder and caught fire.
The spark that burned up my tedious impatience.
The spark that consumed the hard knot of judgment I carry re: beautiful women and how their lives are inherently easier than mine (Yikes - scary to admit that) just because they're gorgeous.
The spark that encourages me to do small gestures for people who don't expect it.
The spark that made me smile to be so wrong on so many fronts.

Cup a joe anyone?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Work of Writing

My friends, family, co-workers all know that I am writing a book.  Actually it's two.  Ping-ponging between them trying to keep both stories spinning.  A good general knows you can't win a war fought on two fronts, and yet I try.

Pushed sometimes by the threat that the Alzheimer's demon is just marking time with me, that he has tattooed his mark on me, called his dibs and soon I will fall to him.  Just as she is falling.  And so I write.  The idea of living with stories locked inside me that I can no longer tell and infuriating one.

My friends cannot understand why the book isn't done.  Haven't you been working on it forever?  I don't know why they care.  But yes, I have been working on it for years and will continue to work on it.  Their idea that I am transcriptionist to the muse, that the words are dictated and I type and type and type.  I won't lie.  Sometimes it's very much like this.  Or like closed captioning a fine movie.  Chided to move faster and faster.  Counter chiding to go slower.  Afraid to say that too emphatically or often for fear that the movie reel will sputter stop and the muse move on.

Mostly it's like wrestling a bear.  I'm pretty sure I will lose if I keep going and be bloodied in the process.  Or I can just lie down and let it be quick over.

But then she is there, knocking on the inside of my eyelids of a Sunday.  Demanding open.  Demanding pens and paper.  Mostly I concede.  I am not one for giving up.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

9.17.19 FW Abracadabra

I have been thinking a lot about words and the power they convey.  This is hardly a novel thought.
The word abracadabra is derived from an old Aramaic phrase, avra kehdabra, that translates to I create what I speak.  (You may all now be excused from learning anything else today - unless of course you would like that).  Seems people been thinking about this a looooong time.

Sometimes, I am reminded, like to day, to look at what I speak objectively and see what I am creating.  Mostly what I'm speaking about right now is ugly, limiting and making me unhappy.  My outer world definitely reflecting that, making me feel at odds with the entire world, misunderstood and taken for granted.  It's not my best moment.  But I recognize some of the things I can tinker with to improve how I feel.

I catch myself engaging in full head dialogues about how much I miss my life, how as my mom has needed additional help, more and more of my life has slid away.  Describing in gory detail my sadness and cataloging every disappeared friend or empty engagement for future head arguments.  (This is required so that if subsequent head arguments break out, I will have the facts to win said argument).  Subtly blaming her for every encroachment.  There is deep grieving for what was.  Nothing wrong with that.  But at some point, it seems excessive and time to change it up.  I have been looking right over my mom, looking for those bits to still be circling waiting to come home.  They are gone.  Not coming back, most of them.  There are a few things that linger because they were so well nurtured.

So this week I am going to to try to find a place where I accept that this IS my life right now, to enjoy the moments that present themselves as fully as possible and to stop mourning what I no longer have at the expense of what I do have.  I have walked this line before.  I know I can do it.  All I need to do is be a little more on top of my words.  And then........abracadabra...........better days as if by magic.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Naming the Muse

So a couple weeks ago I got it in my head as I was talking about the Muse that the term was too generic.  That as a modern day person with shamanic training I should perhaps develop a more intimate relationship with a specific writing helper.  

Naming the Muse

I whisper ask
Tell my your name
She whisper tells - Sylvia

Oh gawd.
Not HER
Please not her

Why not Kerouac
or Ginsberg
Why not Kooser
or Keats
even the overly loved Mary Oliver

But she stands there before me
staring at her shoes
blonde curtain of hair between us
and I know better than to refuse. 

Sylvia Plath
beloved poet of goth children
and angst ridden teenagers
superhero of the suicidal
I read you and yawned

Now I resist you
How I hope you are but a bad CSLewis joke
or an Amy Tan misfire giving me indigestion

But a gift is a gift
even if you do not understand it

I say
Come Sylvia
Walk with me

And so it begins.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11

There will be a ton of posts today about 9/11, most yanking at already bruised and war buffeted nationalistic heartstrings.  I will not look at these.  My heart remembers the sadness all too well.

Twelve years after the fact, I am more interested in what I learned that day.

I learned about a world that existed "out there" in places like Israel, Afghanistan, Korea in a way that made out there suddenly much more in here.  Over the last 12 years I see there is no difference in those places.  What happens out there, happens in here and vice versa.  I can't control out there, but I can garden in here and know that it is reflected outward.

I learned that you should listen to a little voice that says "not today" that some will call chance, but I believe to be intervention.  That sometimes you are late or sick or need to be somewhere else and it's OK.  It may even save your life.

I learned about randomness.  Unpredictability.  Those things remind me to live in the moment.  To tell people that I love how I feel and not wait or think that they know.  They might, but who doesn't like to hear that?

I learned to see the US from a place outside my 1960's upbringing, began to see it the way someone in a different country might.  That we are not always right.  What we are is stronger, better equipped and louder than other countries.  12 years later, I'm not at all sure that the Jeffersonian thoughts that worked so well for us, are translatable to other countries.  I'm even less sure why we aren't letting them figure out what works for themselves.  Helping, yes.  But directing/funding/sending soldiers, ummmm no.

I learned that there is a hero in each of us.  And that there's a coward in each of us.  Which one am I?  Like the story of the internal wolves - whichever one I feed.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Elephant Dreams

Normally on Sunday morning I would be at my table at the Dawg writing.  But I have cleaning to do for an inspection on Tuesday and can't afford to give up that much time today.  Note to self:  You WILL recoup those three hours sometime this week.

Last night I had a dream in which I was on safari in Africa.  Africa has been on my bucket list since age 6.  I was absolutely thrilled to be jounced down potted roads wearing my pith helmet and laughing.  One must wear a pith helmet on safari and being in Africa, one must laugh.  Dreams.  

We are watching a herd of elephants and I am taking pictures.  Just in awe that I am finally here and in the presence of wild elephants!  The herd begins to turn toward us and the driver slowly takes us further away down the road.  A particularly big bull, charges toward us his massive ears spread wide.  We accelerate and take off down the road increasing the distance between us and them.  

That's when it happens.  We hit a particularly huge pot hole that rattles my teeth.  The camera strap is bounced off my neck and the camera goes flying out the open top of the vehicle.  It lands squarely in the middle of the road where the bull elephant, still charging toward us, steps on it.  

I'm never scared.  Never fussed.  Not about the charging bull.  Not about the loss of my camera.  I'm only slightly less ebullient.  

Thinking about this dream, many pieces make so much sense.  My love of Africa and me desire to safari.  My interest in photography.  So why did my brain kick this out and why now?

Hmmmmmm......

My occupation is research scientist.  Yeahyeah, it's less sexy than it sounds.  Mostly this means I set up things to happen and then sit and watch.  I am a paid observer.  That's right.  I get paid to notice stuff which is perfect for my personality.  That's right even in my own life I have a tendency to hang back or around the edges and watch as things unfold, trying all the while to decipher the underlying pattern.  I'm an out and out introvert.  Or should that be an in and in introvert?  That reinforces the observer pattern.  Left to my own devices I would be quite happen watching life unfold all around me and scribbling in notebooks like Proust.

What's that got to do with my dream?

Even in my dream I am the observer.  Happy.  Traveling.  Fulfilling my dreams.  But still in a way that doesn't engage me fully in the action.

I am the critic not the actor
I am the watcher not the watched
I am the passive voice not the active one

I have fallen into a place where I am distanced from my life.  Distanced from my feelings.  Watching it all unfold, but not really in there.  The reasons for this are many, I won't bore you by listing them.  But many of them are quite good reasons.  I will just say that "in there" is a place where I get bruised up and knocked around, where my emotions tumble and churn in my belly, where I am scared shitless.

In that safe place of observer, none of that touches me.  I can operate without engagement.

That is until the big bull elephant charges sending me down the rutted road.
That is until the pot hole that jars my internal organs to new locations.
That is until the camera flies out of my hand.
The camera that is the way I record and document.
The tool that keeps me distant
That keeps me observer bound
The camera is destroyed
And I am left to figure out life from this new place

A new place of churning emotion
of rutted paths and overgrown trails
I cannot be the observer here.
Good thing I dreamed the pith helmet.

I think I'm gonna need it.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Small Stone 8.28.13

Staring at mystery bruises
knowing they are a reflection
of how black and blue I feel inside.  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Small Stone 8.15.13


sun-stroked shadows
brushed upon the wall
sum-i skeletons
dance and are gone.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Miller

A miller rises with the sun
No namaste
No sun salutation

He checks belts and pulleys
flywheels and fasteners
Finding them sound,
he opens the sluice.
The stones groan in low voices
against their inertia
but move
giants slow to rouse

He pours the grain
and waits
air full of rushing water, whirring belts
grunting stones and unwanted chaff

and when it's time,
he collects the words
he has ground down this day
into story.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Thong's the Thing

An ER doc and I were talking one day when he started to tell me about an obese woman who was admitted to the ER wearing a thong in lieu of whatever granny panties a woman of size "should" properly wear so as not to offend him.  I hate these conversations. They always feel like a breach of doctor patient confidentiality.  You see an ER doctor on the worst days of your life.  The last thing you need to add to that horrible mix is to feel like they are going to gossip or judge you.  So in this story he is telling me how his patient is wearing a thong and how "fat women should not be allowed to wear a thong - EVER."

Really?

Why was this an OK thing to say to anyone?  Or even out loud?  Why was it OK to say to your fat friend?  How could you not see the irony of a fat dude telling me this story?  Why did you think it would be funny to me, or anyone really?  How did you not see the barb buried in that?  That somehow as a person of size, I/she are not allowed to do something that makes us happy for fear it offend someone who might, on the worst day of my life, see it.  I say FUCK THAT!

Why should she not wear a thong?  Maybe it makes her feel different?  Sexy even?  Given the ten zillion things that our culture does to make people of size feel invisible, she is entitled to do something that counteract that, to wear whatever the hell she wants on her body WITHOUT BEING JUDGED FOR IT.  I'm sure she didn't get up and tell herself that today was the day she's going to the ER so she better snap on the thong.  And even if she did - so fucking what?

If I said this, he would tell me that he meant it to be a funny story and that I am basically a humorless bitch for calling him on it.  I can be a humorless bitch.  But in this case, not so much.  There just isn't anything funny there.

The thing is, he's far from alone.  I have gay friends who will rip someone to shreds over their weight then turn around and complain about people who treat them poorly because of their sexual orientation.  I have friends pursuing an alternative spiritual path that will denigrate organized religions one minute and then complain in the next about how they are treated for their own religious/spiritual choices.  Yet, no one seems to see the absolute irony in their behavior.  They don't feel inclined to step up and show the way.  We have become a world full of victims demanding the bullying stop, but unwilling to stop ourselves when we are the bully.  Because "Hey, I didn't mean it to be anything except a funny story so stop overreacting."

I'm not sure when it became OK to tear people apart for their clothing choices, to photograph them and laugh about it.  Under that wifebeater with the man boobs strolling the aisles at Wal-mart, under that thong wearing fat woman in the ER, under the young woman with the severe muffin top are human beings.  I wonder what we might do that would support and include them rather than berate and bully them?  How might I feel better if I didn't have to worry about the gossip of my ER doc about coming in commando?  How might I try to remove judgmental bullshit from my own language?

I know the two things are linked and that the bullying won't stop until we all learn to stop judging others by our imaginary yardstick and finding them wanting?  So this week I am going to stand up to this kind of thing when I hear it and I am going to work on changing that in the only place I can - inside me because I can be just as bad as that ER doc.

I invite you to join me.




Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What about #4?

There's been so much twisting through my brain these last few days.  I hardly have time to recognize a delicious thought I want to devour before it slithers on.  They're coming at me pretty rapidly and I feel overwhelmed in my lack of focus.  I guess I hope somewhere that they are registering and will get coughed up later, a cud for me to re-chew.

Yesterday one of my deep friends posted #4, something to the effect of - when you are in your groove and shooting out vibes to attract people on a similar wavelength, you are also repelling those not on your wavelength.  Sometimes that can make people feel yucky and lash out.  Cutting ties is the best way out.  Sometimes we get the clean surgical cut.  Sometimes we have to saw at it with a busted pop bottle until it finally frays and snaps.

Recently, this has come up with my family more and more.  My mom has Alzheimer's.  I try to make choices based on what's best for her and not what's easiest for me.  Certainly NOT what's easiest for someone else.  Or prettiest.  Or least emotional.  I make every decision based in love and love is a beautiful messy emotion.  If I can't handle what needs done, I have the equivalent of the Avengers superheroes to back me up.  These people are here for the same reason, operate in much the same way and we trust each other's judgment implicitly.  Outsiders may never understand why things are this way.  They don't have to.  Only I have to deal with the person who lays their head on my pillow at night and reviews the parts of the day that were done well on and those that could use improvement.

I have a SIL who's a crazy, extroverted, bully and isn't afraid to shove you repeatedly into her one-size-fits-all mold no matter how much of you she has to slice off to get you in there.  Usually verbal angry slicing, the kind that leaves scars.  For years, I have let my introverted self be herded by her, but something has changed and I can't stand that anymore.  My usual laidback nature gets all FUCKYOU in her presence.  I let it be that way for a while, but that FUCKYOU energy is a hard one to hold onto without being consumed.  I am trying to let it go.  I no longer feel connected to her or her family.  And I like it this way.  I'm happier for it.

The irony is that the more I let go, the harder she tries to shove me back into her OSFA mold.  She can't seem to see how she's destroying things.  She doesn't recognize that her goal is destined for failure.  It can be annoying, but it's no longer scarring.  I hold on to me, to who I am and I feel good.  She drifts further and further away.  And that's OK.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Things That Get Trapped in the Tar

Walking in to work every day, I cross a busy street.  I look down a lot when I walk it seems and am paid to notice stuff.  In the tar of that street, I have noticed that things collect.  A penny, a pair of sunglass frames, a large washer. 

I grew up on the leading edge of sprawl in a suburban '60's house on a reclaimed pig farm.  Every house that broke ground was an olfactory insult.  Our house was the first in our subdivision.  Oh, these weren't the tract houses of today that get vomited out overnight at the expense of every tree and green thing.  At this point, a house was still a point of pride for the builder and less about profit margin.  It had real plaster walls and was solid enough to withstand being struck by lightning.  In that neighborhood, concrete joins were sealed with tar. 

Summers there were slow.  No school.  Pickle.  Swinging Statues.  Barefeet.  Red Rover and lightning bugs in an old mayonaise jar.  Flying down Rossford hill on my bike.  Jumping through lawn sprinklers and sitting on the curb popping bubbles that the heat made in the tar.  It should have been perfect.

It wasn't finished when we moved in. My dad finished the entire upstairs including a sprawling dormitory room, a full bath, a small office, and a master bedroom with built in cabinets and tons of storage. It was a glorious space, but one that still makes anger and fear creep over my heart. I hated that house and what happened there.  I hate the way it broke me.  I hate that it silenced me for most of my life.  Like one of those sabre-tooth tigers they found in La Brea, part of me got trapped in the tar of that house.  The wild part.  The innocent part.  The strong part.  The best part.



Things that Collect in the Tar

An old penny
twisted aviator frames
a large washer
a busted pen

lightning bugs in mayonaise jars
spent ammo from a berry war
children laughing
relentless sunshine

cracked heart
twisted memories
spent innocence
busted dreams

I sit quietly and
pop the rising bubbles
I release them

Friday, July 19, 2013

Read the Signs

I had to run an emergency errand this morning - gift and potlucky thing for a retirement party at work.  On my way to work, I passed a throng of kids, each walking with their buddy, holding hands, grownup in the front and bringing up the rear.  Guessing it was a field trip of sorts.  Anyway, the kids were walking along a fairly busy road.  All were pulling their imaginary air horns and trying to get the motorists to honk as they drove by.  No one did. 

I laid on the horn and jubilation exploded on the sidewalk.  There's nothing quite like the jubilation of a five year old.  After that I heard them receive many more horns.  Each time ecstatic dancing broke out.  I had to smile.  Who doesn't love a good horning?  It's such a better way to use that particular feature than I generally do. 

As I drove to work, I wondered why no one else had honked.  Did they not recognize the universal gesture for Honk Your Horn?  Were they just not paying attention? 

Either way it was a reward paid out just to me for paying attention, reading the signs and acting.  It was a pretty fucking fantastic reward actually. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What Happens at the Nail Salon...

I got my nails done yesterday, part of the save-me-from-killing-someone therapy.  Nothing special.  Just the usual.  An hour in which to pamper myself and turn the phone off. 

While they were drying, a woman sat down opposite me.  She was older.  Her face both smooth and wrinkled in a way that absolutely fascinated me.  Her energy was palpable across the nail dryers.  Sweet.  Nurturing.  Mama.  She struck up a conversation and I couldn't help but stare enchanted by this being.  She grew in beauty as our conversation progressed.  About 15 minutes into the conversation, she sheepishly admitted that she had left her teeth at home.  Only then did I notice that she had no teeth.  But she was still just radiant to me.  I told her as much and she smiled.  I smiled back.  It was a secret exchange between two pixies masquerading as old women. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Bear & Peacock

If you had asked me, I might have told you that I see peacock energy as mean spirited and beautiful but in a vain way.  The mean girl equivalent of energies.

Yesterday I was encouraged to look a bit deeper when a peacock appeared randomly sitting on a headstone in Cave Hill Cemetery and then much later I happened across a headstone with the name Mary Peacock.  OUCH!  Spirit doesn't get more direct than that.  So, today, I'm trying to tease out what that might have meant without getting all airy fairy and over interpreting what might have been a coincidence.  But wasn't.  (I mean how many times do you see a peacock anywhere outside the zoo?  How many people do you know named peacock outside the game of Clue?)

I am the least peacock-y person I know.  I don't care about my clothes as long as they are clean and fit reasonably well.  I hate them when they are tight or reveal too much or they are made out of strange fancy fabrics that wrinkle and require special care.  I don't really dig wearing make-up.  I don't think I look any better for all the tricks and artifice.  Nor do I feel better wearing it.  I feel completely fake, like an overly waxed and shiny used car with a bad oil leak.  I don't fuss with my hair and am pretty much a wash-n-go kinda girl.  What you see is what you get.  Perhaps there's been a little slide in this area of my life.  Not a big one mind you.  Certainly not big enough for peacocks in cemeteries.

The peacock on the headstone sat there in the rain, bedraggled and missing quite a few of his tail feathers.  The word that came to mind was beaten down.  THAT feels like me these days.  Beaten down by a job I don't love anymore.  Hell some days I hate it.  Beaten down by caring for an aging parent with Alzheimer's and the ever smaller loop of her thinking.  Surrounded by crazy drama and irrationality on all sides, I am sinking.  Bedraggled just like that damn peacock.

But still, the peacock had the energy to jump up onto the headstone rather than sit in the mud.  And when I sit with him, I feel like he is a message to my inner peacock to not give up.  The sun will come out again soon.  I definitely have an inner peacock.  The energy that helps me know that I am beautiful from the inside out, most beautiful when I am just being me.  The inner peacock making the outer show unnecessary.  My inner peacock could definitely use some shoring up.  I am not being me, my tank is so low that I am constantly tired and irritable, lashing out, and having problems with my boundaries.  BAD problems with my boundaries.

I have talked about the boundary thing and why they were lacking in my life in other posts, so I won't rehash it here.  Boundaries are a very recent acquisition for me - recent as in sometime in my 40's.  Before that, they did not exist.  Not at all.  I did everything that was asked of me and spent my entire life trying to origami myself into shapes pleasing to those around me.  Shapes I instinctively hated.  I was never angry at myself for throwing everything aside to become this other thing.  My life hinged on maintaining the fakery.  No, I lashed out instead at the person who seemed to make the demand that I be, do, say, think certain things.  Relationships failed.  Friends moved on.  Even family became tarnished.

I don't know how or when those things changed.  There was no a-ha, born again moment I can point my finger at.  It was more a gradual thing, with soft edges and low tidal changes.  I shed those personas and people either adapted to those changes or moved on.  I got OK with that too.  I knew that when I was Velveteen rabbit real, those around me would be too.

When I hit the goggles looking for images of
peacock or bear for the post,
I never expected to find something like this.
Isn't it absolutely charming?
More here http://bearsofbath.blogspot.com
So how did the girl approaching asymptotic realness fall off her line?  She allowed the folding to start up again.  New job, new co-workers, new pressures.  Good daughter, compassionate caretaker, unselfish child.  Allowed the folding until I am once again angry and unhappy.  Grateful for rain and cemetery peacocks to help me realize how far off the line I have drifted.  Time to push my little coracle back into my own river.

So what about the bears?

I did a journey the other night asking for help.  A certain hawt-as-hell Viking vamp called me over to him, pointed at something tiny and black just lying on the ground unmoving.  "I can't pick it up.  It belongs to you" was all he said.  I scooped the small form up.  It was neither limp nor rigid.  It was alive but barely.  The outer covering felt like the cheap velvety felt that covered a bank I had had as a child.  I turned it over to see if it might be the bank and found it was the tiniest of black bears, barely the size of my palm.  I was instructed to carry it with me from now on, which I did, I do.  It has grown much over the past few days.  The coat is more true velvet and less the slubbed velvet it was when I picked it up.  It scratches at my liver.  One day it will scratch through and insert itself back inside me where it belongs.  Until then, I will continue to nurture this little piece of myself.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

TEDMED

There have been a firestorm of interesting coincidences these past 24 hours that I am just going to chalk up to Jupiter entering Cancer.  Fortune and compassion as allies.  Within the first day, we see the repeal of DOMA - at last.  Did that ever make sense to anyone? Other more personal, but no less meaningful, events beginning to cluster around this Cancer girl.  All of that brings me to a place that feels strange to me, a place I haven't been in maybe the last 5-6 years.  Hope. 

Today feels decidedly different, not because some big giant red-eyed planet swung around into the geocentric constellation of the crab.  It feels different for smaller less tangible things.  For waking and feeling rested.  For the clearing breath of rainstorms that pass in the night.  For a short TED video someone posted to FB that moved me.  It's this last thing I want to talk about today.  Not because it is better or more important than those others, just that it sparked something in me. 

I am 51 almost 52 years old.  During my life, I have never encountered a physician that felt as if they cared about my well being.  Not really.  It is so rare that when I did encounter it in the realm of my mom's caregiving, I was rendered speechless (a momentary phenomenon).  Why isn't care part of health care?  For that matter why isn't health?  But those are questions for a different day kiddiecakes. 

For the last 20 years I have been steadily gaining weight until I am classified as obese.  No diet works for me.  No exercise regimen either.  My body is super adaptive and conserves fuel at all costs.  Twelve years ago, I was diagnosed with PCOS and this became the evil culprit for all my woes.  I started to learn everything I could about diet, metabolism, etc.  I lost weight.  Quite a bit actually.  The 2-3 hours a day I spent at the gym became my life.  I became obsessed with moving that red bar on the scale ever smaller.  Thing is, eventually, even the long workouts with a trainer didn't keep the weight off.  Slowly it crept back on.  Super adaptor! 

So, we have established that I am fat.  Big whoop.  Chances are so are a lot of you.  It's not like I don't know that I'm fat.  Puhhllease!  Girl has a mirror.  Even if I didn't, I would be reminded CON.STANT.LY that I am fat by every media outlet and every pair of judging eyes that turn my way.  I have consulted numerous physicians.  Every doctor I have ever seen either ignored my biggest health risk or has fallen back to the tired "You need to lose weight" comment with exactly zero instruction about how to do that successfully.  The equivalent of being patted on the head and dismissed like Cindy Lou Who.  In those many overly bright offices, I have been judged over and over and over again and found wanting.  Most people will stay in the place of judgment.  They will label me as fat and lazy and move on.  (In an absolutely delicious irony, someone who will get all up in your bidness when there is a whiff of judgment around their own issues will still call people fat....RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.  Ummmm...excuse me butt munch, you can pedal that bullshit somewhere else today.)  A few will get to know me.  All will be surprised to realize that I am not fat because I am lazy, or because I spend my day mindlessly pounding down DingDongs. 

Unlike the medical profession and a few of my very vocal friends, I don't see obesity as a 'fork' problem.  I do want to stab you with the fork when you tell me that for about the billionth time.  So I think it's worth repeating.  OBESITY IS NOT A FORK PROBLEM.  (not always anyway).  This kind of thinking is no better than that of the medical community.  IT'S A JUDGMENT BASED ON A FALSE PREMISE.  It just looks prettier because the people who are most willing to expound on it are blessed with thin genes that make them feel privileged enough to look down on the fatties AND to tell us how to fix ourselves.  FUCK OFF!  If you aren't fat and never have been, you should pretty much keep it zipped on this subject.

I am fat because something in my body stores food rather than burns it.  This means that I am almost always tired because my body has chosen to store lunch rather than burn it to get me through an afternoon of hiking.  That means to make myself hike anyway is the equivalent of the average person trying to make themselves hike when they are starving and bone tired.  Yeah - you wouldn't really want to either.  It is a biocehmical process gone astray.  I have known this for a while.  Maybe that's why you got the eyeroll when you recommended I try yet another juice diet or colon cleanse or whatev.  I really don't listen anymore. 
The thing is, that almost no one cares to discover the cause for obesity.  Why?  Because fat is very lucrative.  Lucrative if you have a book about some crazypants diet you invented where you subsist entirely on gum you strafe from the underside of high school library tables.  It's lucrative if you are a pharmaceutical company making the next big diet magic pill.  It's lucrative if you are in bariatrics or any part of the health care industry.  It's lucrative if you're a shrink.  It's pretty much lucrative for everyone except us - the fat people who pay for it in every way and in every moment of our lives. 

So this morning when I encountered the TEDMED talk by Peter Attia, MD I found myself simultaneously cheering and crying.  Someone in the "health care" industry finally gets it.  That the patients are not at fault here, at least not always.  That we come to you for real answers, not that condescending pat on the head and certainly not your judgment.  We get plenty of that out in the world.  Your bad attitude makes us trust you less, share less, come to see you less.  It is the very antithesis of what you PROMISED when you took that oath.  You do remember that - right?

Hippocratic Oath: Modern Version [excerpt]

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.

Pretty sure they forget that about the same time the caps get thrown in the air. 

This video stirred something in me that made me feel odd.  FINALLY someone is asking a better question.  That makes me hope.  It's been a long time. 

For anyone interested here's a link to his TEDMED talk

http://www.tedmed.com/talks/show?id=18029

And just when I thought the TED thing was getting stale.....

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Ghosts of Old BF Past

In my professional life, I cut a lot of tissues into thin sections suitable for microscopic evaluation.  These bad boys get stained a kaleidoscope of colors, hot pink, purple, bright blue and red.  Sometimes they are even fluorescent green.  It really is quite beautiful in a Jackson Pollack kinda way.

So last night, I have this crazy dream in which I am sitting in an Adirondack chair in front of a farmhouse.  All of my ex-boyfriends, or anyone I ever even dated for that matter, are queued up waiting to talk to me.  Trust me, as a 51 year old person who has been single her entire life, that line is a loooooong one.  One by one, they are each coming up to me, kissing me on the forehead, apologizing and then each is handing me something.  I don't look at what these are until later.  In that moment, there is deep connection with each of them, there is remembering the best and sweetest thing about each, and there is forgiveness from both sides for any slight, real or imagined.  The interaction with some is very short, with others it is quite extended.  It's not proportional to how long we dated, or anything else that I can determine.  Each is simply as long as it needs to be.  No one gets pissy for having to wait.  No one starts a fight with anyone else.

There is Michael, my college flame.  Someone who made me look at life in a quirky way that has persisted, someone who made me love foreign films.  There is Mike, the Marine, who threw me over his shoulder one night and carried me up two flights of stairs in a way that made me feel all Scarlett O'Hara.  Oh my!  There is my sweet Ben, my star-crossed lover boy, the one who came to me when I needed him most and then slipped away.  There are Bob and Homer.  There is Steve aka the date rapist.  There is my magic man Frank who blew the lid off of Pandora's box of my heart in the best of ways.  There is Kieran.  There are James, John, Peter, and Paul (perhaps more of the apostles if I cared to look harder, which I do not).  They are translucent white, earth red, blue black and beautiful caramel brown of skin.  I loved each of them in different ways and to different depths and for different durations.

After the last person walked away and disappeared from view down the dirt drive, I finally looked down at my hands and saw that each has handed me something like a microscope slide.  One of my peeps came over, took the lot of them, and started sliding them into a curved metal frame of sorts.  As she continued, I realized it looks rather like a zoetrope where each slide formed part of a complex Tiffany-on-steroids pattern.  She gestured for me to follow her into a dark, cool, dry place.  My brain says cave, but it was more like the Cerebro device used by Dr.  X.  She got the device installed high above me and activated it so that light poured through these little slices of glass they had given me.

If you have ever visited a cathedral when the color of the windows traveled the beams of light and stood in that glowing bath of color, you may understand this part. If you haven't ever done this, go do it. It is all together magical.  I recommend the parquet floor beneath the Chagall windows at the Chicago Art Institute. 

I lie on the floor under whatever this is as it begins to turn slowly and the colors spark and simmer all around me.   The colors that shine through these slides are palpable in a way that color isn't here.  The purple is a deep dark amethyst that transmits luxe and elegance.  It is smooth to the touch and rich tasting in my mouth like dark chocolate.  It smells of things I don't have words to describe.  The golden new gamboge yellow is rich and tangy tasting, warm to the touch on my skin as it skates across it.  It induces joy.  My beloved blues, the deepest sapphire hue reminiscent of those Chagall windows, bring with it deep stillness.  Cool relief like ice in August.  It tastes spritely.  I lay there a long time engulfed in the experience of the swirling colors moving slowly over me.

And when I wake up, all I have is gratitude for the gift each of those people gave me.  I understand that each person, each experience was part of this lovely, lovely whole. 


Chagall Windows

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Small Stone 9.9.13

I open the door whisper soft on oiled hinges
unsure what will emerge
poetry or anathema

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Dawg Days

Sunday's I spend at a local restaurant that's cool with my occupying a table for most of the day.  They don't chivy the customers along even at their busiest.  So, folks linger and discussions have time to ripen.  The food is local, organic and well done.  The Muse meets me in my favorite booth when we can get it, another one when we can't.  Most of my novel has been written sitting in that booth.  Hopefully many novels will be birthed there.

I also like to people watch to give my brain short breaks.  Sundays often have themes.  Screamers/Spitters, Great Glasses or Beards or Hair color, Fashion Icons of any age.  Today is my least favorite day.  The TC Clone day :(

TC is not one of my favorite people on the planet.  Much unfinished business between us.  Business in which he basically stole $8500 of words from me.  When I tried to collect he tried to charm me with what must work on other women.  Didn't work on me.  I have never found him even remotely attractive.  When I tried a second time, it just became clear what a fucktard he is.  He tried to claim all the words as his.  Right (said like Dr. Evil).  He has gone so far as to PUBLISH some of the words as his own.

That made me furious - for a moment.  But I believe these mal-actions carry energy and that the energy of his actions, of not being in his integrity (ironically something he speaks of often), will have a return effect (See Newton's Third Law of Motion) that is equally - well - mal.  This is not something I wish or am doing to him, it is something he himself set into motion with his falseness so I feel not one iota of guilt here.

But today is TC Clone day at the Dawg and half the dudes in here could be mistaken for him.  I always just cut the TC Clone day short.  But today I am going to stand my ground.  I will take a stand for what is right for me.  And that begins with not caving to the clones.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Food Demons 101

So, been thinking about that demon that popped up during the workshop.  How much I'd love to Whack-a-Mole his ass with Mjolnir back to whatever hole it crawled out of.  Except I'm pretty sure I have sent him back many times only to have him reappear.  Where did that little shit come from and how do I send him back - PERMANENTLY?

I spent a bit of time gently probing the edges of this particular thought and discovered a wealth of trash-tastic stuff.  Like black hole of my existance trash. 

Here are just a few of the things I stumbled upon:

I don't like to eat with people I do not know. 
I feel vulnerable when I eat.
I often feel tremendous angst around food and eating.
I hate food.
I love food.
I am completely disinterested in food.
I am afraid of food.
Food is the enemy.
Food is the only friend who always "gets" me.
I make better food choices with other people than I do alone.
My self-control around food is very small. 
Eating sometimes makes me sick to my stomach.  Thinking about eating ditto.

Those were just the things that cropped up in the first few minutes of probing.  I'm sure it's the tip of the proverbial iceburg under there.  Truthfully, touching even this tiny pinprick of junk made me queasy and I shut it down with a quickness. 

So over the next few weeks/months I will be blogging about my discoveries both big and small around the issue of food.  If you're not a fan of deep self-evaluation then you might wanna skip these next few months. 


Food and dinner have appeared in a very few pieces of writing previously, but they always whisper darkly at things best hidden.  Here is one from 2009

Many of my childhood memories have been lost. Jettisoned from a sinking soul to lighten the load and survive. Sometimes it comes back to me in dark moments flickering like the Bell and Howell projector in my elementary school, the sprockets catch and the movie stutters into motion. I am captive to this movie, a movie I wish I could unsee.

Opening scene : a 7 year old sitting in a neighbor’s kitchen chair, head down, face invisible thru the long brilliant curtain of auburn hair, watching as the long wisps and chunks of hair fall silently onto the cool checkered linoleum forming perfect ecliptic paths for her eyes to follow. She looks up and for a moment there is something feral in her eyes, but it is quickly shuttered behind vacant pupils. And the film slips.


A sturdily built athletic 8 year old child, sitting at a family dinner table. The dad is absent, so it must not be Sunday. She is wearing shorts and a cotton hand me down T-shirt advertising a local knothole team that she knows nothing about. Her chestnut hair is cut short, uncombed and to the casual observer looks no different from the other boys around the table. I catch her eyes. They are vacant. She is practicing being invisible trying to blend in with the predators who would destroy her. Hoping to pass for one of THEM.

As is customary, her mother is serving plates for all of them. She is so hungry she can hear her stomach, feel it gnawing at her backbone. Plate after plate is passed, the recipient destination carefully and quietly named by her mother. Each plate heaped with lasagna, corn and garlic bread. Her mouth waters in anticipation of her own plate which arrives, as always, with scant portions of everything and no possibilities of seconds. Her mother admonishes her to eat slowly. All the while encouraging her siblings to eatEatEAT. Dishing out seconds as they punish the silverware to shovel it in as quickly as possible. There is belching and hiccupping all around her, but it doesn’t quite drown out the growling of her still hungry belly.

The film ratchets forward and I see the same child, older now, who has learned to self-sufficiently forage quickly snatch a cookie from the jar.  She has learned to be stealthy because to be caught is to be punished and to go to bed hungry yet again. She will stuff it into her mouth later hiding in her bedroom to quell the hunger without even tasting its sweetness. 


How many times have a played out that same scenario - mindlessly stuffing cookies into my mouth.  Compelled by the demon to continue stuffing them in even though my stomach has long since been full.  Failing to taste their sweetness.  Failing to be nourished.  Just failing. 







Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mindfully Eating an Orange

Yesterday I attended a workshop about writing and meditation.  Neither of these is a new thing to my life, although I will admit the meditation has been MIA a while now.  There is almost no part of our culture that honors silence, slow and still.  And I'm afraid I fell back into those old ways of working too many hours, being too busy and always in either motion or vegetation.  Deliberate stillness, that's been gone a while.

I expected lots of meditation and writing and hoped that it would spur me to add a meditative practice back into my own life.  I think it will absolutely do that.  What I did not expect was the added bonus I was given.  Phebe, the facilitator introduced us to mindful eating.  The mere mention of this was enough to send my demons screaming into consciousness.  Oh Fuck!  Eating?  This is gonna be bad they warned.  I told them to shut up, but not very emphatically.  Interesting how quickly they take root in me.  She wants you to eat an orange.  You hate oranges.  But you're such a pussy, you won't refuse.  Fat ass pussy bitch.  Mindful eating.  Right.  Guess what you're gonna be thinking about during that?  That's right. Food.  The size of your ass.  Your love affair with food.  How you breathe it in by the acre without a single thought.  I began to dread the upcoming orange segment.

When we finally arrived at this loathsome place, the demon made a reappearance.  But by then I had a few good meditations under my belt and was able to tell him to fuck off.  (Note to self - Good meditation results in easier demonic banishment).  And even though I'm not a fan of the fruit, I committed myself to the exercise of bringing my awareness to every aspect of eating that orange.  Turns out peeling and eating that orange was sensual beyond any experience I have had before.  Definitely more so than any food experience.  I wanted to linger, to draw out the delight and let it fill hours.  Caved to the pressure of time (Note to self:  Caving to time pressures short circuits delight).  When I was finally done, the demon was no where to be found.  Interesting.

People shared writing about the orange mediation and I heard lots of my own thoughts in their pieces.  It had been the most powerful moment of the day.

So fast forward about 24 hours.  There's been a couple meals since then, inhaled American style.  Sunday morning is MY time, to write, to visit with friends, to just check out.  You can find me holding court with my computer or a friend at the Dawg.  This morning, however, I can't just wolf the food in a way that leaves me hungry like I usually do.  I am reminded of that orange.  So my omelet no tomato and coffee are taken in slowly and mindfully.  The freshness of the ingredients palpable through my taste buds.  The chevre and coffee both spreading creamily across my tongue.  Aware of my tongue as it move food amongst my teeth.  Laughing to myself because I was not even aware of this carefully choreographed ballet in my mouth.  I let the food fill the time.  Pushed the writing to either side and focused in those moments on the delight of the food.

I feel full long before my omelet is done.  But push the last few bites in as I was trained to do.  I NEED to be part of the Clean Plate Club.  When, at last, I push the plate away I am full.  Not overly so.  Just enough.  I am content.  I am full.  I am nourished.  I do not want another single bite.

That's when I start to examine that feeling (Science nerd - remember).  I begin to dissect it.  The understandings come fast, almost too fast and I know I will be dissecting these over the next few weeks.

I love food.
I also hate it - like really hate it.
I have no idea what I eat most days.
What I eat is rarely about nutrition, it's about gratification.  Or it's about comfort.  Or it's about filling the hole.

I know none of those are novel thoughts in the world.  I'm sure I have read a book about every one of those topics.  OKOKOK I have read many books on those topics.  But reading and knowing are two very different things.  So as I sit at my booth at the Dawg mindfully eating my omelet they are an epiphany to me.  They feel the piece I need to make the leap of change.

Today I am grateful for a single orange and the courage it took to eat it.



Friday, April 26, 2013

A Papa

My dad's birthday was this week.  I have honored that date with a piece of writing every year - until this one.  Things with my mom just too time-consuming to do more than think and wave at this annual tradition. 

So I'm a few days late.  Which sucks.  Part of the energy of this ritual is doing it on a particular day.  Sitting.  Being quiet.  Maybe lighting a candle.  Waiting for him to come in and say hi.  After 29 years of this particular ritual none of the dressing is required anymore.  He is always there if and when I need him.  I do need him, more now than ever.  And I have never been so glad to have him near as I am this year. 

So we didn't do the ritual.  Neither of us minded to awfully much.  He still came in and spent some time with me while I was sleeping.

Untitled.

He walks in
Calls me Jane

I stop and think
is that me?

Decide it is not
and move on
a person in search of
a name

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Lace Patterns

She fingers my hair
tells me wistfully
"It's getting so long"
in the hopes I will let it continue.

Somehow that one sentence
makes me want to grab the shears
leave it in ragged clumps on the floor
ruffle what remains with my fingertips

But for the fact that
     I have done this before
     She has done this before

We have done this before
this old pattern

One laced with what I should be
what I should look like
how I should have long hair

The other, open rebellion
me choosing career
me eschewing makeup
and me leaving my hair to be what it is

I don't rush to that place of against
not this time
Instead I feel how she loves me
below the tired pattern
and simply reply "Thanks."

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Taken (A Sunday Kind of Small Stone)

The kettle moves to boil
a mournful sound escapes the spout
and I am transported
to a beach house in Alabama
where a deep channel marker
in Mobile Sound echoes the same note.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Small Stone 4.4.13

Somedays there's nothing for it
but to vomit up the shit
and hope for better doings tomorrow.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Fast Write Friday!

Watching a small pod of dolphins herd fish toward a sandbar. There are a lot more fisherman too who tell me the whiting are running (imagining little trout-size fish in nylon shorts and running shoes fins a pumpin) So maybe the dolphins are also fishing for whiting. Their strategy is different. They herd the fish into a ball using teamwork. It's not hard to spot when they get a tight ball going because the gulls and pelicans dive bomb the shit out of it. When they get the tight ball, that's when they strike and feed.

Mostly this morning, I wonder how the dolphin feels to be the one who does all the work, whether there is shame or guilt on the gull's part for coasting off the work of someone else. As a human being, I want the gulls to do their own work. I want the dolphins to reap the entire reward of their labors. It's hard not to draw certain parallels between the dolphin and gull situation and the way corporations are structured. The craftspeople doing the fish balling while the middle management and CEO's grow fat off the work of someone else.

As a biologist, I just laughed at that paragraph above. They are dolphins for gawd's sake, not a symbol of the hierarchical corporate structure. They will make the fish balls to feed themselves, perhaps reckoning a certain loss to the gulls in the process. They can't eat the entire ball anyway. I'm sure they don't feel anything other than territorial about the fishball.

As for the pelicans and gulls - it's survival of the fittest baby and these birds have figured out a way to get more food in their bellies with very little work, thereby ensuring a better chance of their own genetic pool being passed on. In biology, that's considered smart strategy.  

The drive of both the dolphin and the birds is strictly instinctual survival. The drive to live, breed and pass on their genes. Only we humans make it more complicated.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Small Stone 3.26.13 Taking the Red Wafer


They gather in twos and threes
Not sure why they come
Just that they must

And another sun is bid farewell
The red communion shared in silence

We move on

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

On Tree Knowing

I walked today in the Audubon Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, AL.  It is a quiet little place where you can go to get away from the hubbub of springbreaking families that choke the few businesses on the island.  Most I guess wouldn't be caught dead back there on *ackgasp* hiking trails.  The trails are really more like walking trails.  Easy on the feet and wide enough to land a small aircraft in places.  I find it quiet back there even on very crowded days.  I'm not a big birder, but I am a Zoologist by training, so I do like to identify a few of the birds I see.  On todays list:

Hooded warbler
Blue Grey Gnatcatcher
Red headed woodpeckers
crows
Osprey (easily ID'd by the bent wings in flight)
Some pale reddish bird I think might have been a tanager of some sort

Birds pop in, say hello and bolt before you can even introduce yourself.

Trees are not at all like that.  You have to know a tree a long time before you may hear its name whispered by its leaves.  Some never do.  You have to build a relationship with a tree  over your lifetime, come every day to visit.  Get to know what it's like in rain, in winter, how it stands out in the fog, how impossibly green its first leaves of spring are, what the dead leaves feel like beneath your bare feet.  Then and only then they may notice you there and speak.  Very few trees have spoken to me in 51 years....the Burr Oaks at my grandparents house that were our tree tag safety, a small Chinese Maple I coddled to a height of eight feet, a maple that grew impossibly in the crack of a sidewalk that I transplanted to better ground that now is fifteen feet tall.  The only tree to speak to me in a quick manner was the Angel Oak (St Johns Island, SC).  I had pilgrimmaged there twice and loved her from afar since I saw her for the first time.  Maybe it was that love.  Maybe it was my great need.  Maybe it was the whim of one so beloved and elderly as herself to do so.  She changed my life entirely.

I have a deep love of live oaks, maybe because they are about as far removed from perfect straight and statuesque horticultural specimens as one can get.

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...