Thursday, December 31, 2009

One Wild and Precious Life

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
--Mary Oliver

I can’t remember the first time I read Mary Oliver’s question but this week when I rediscovered her poem I remembered how much I love these lines. What do I plan to do with my precious and wild life. It’s a little overwhelming to think about it in the big broad sense of years and years so I think that’s where I get hung up and then paralyzed. Maybe the way to the paralysis is to focus on tiny increments of time. Like the AA “one day at a time“. I can attest the One Day…One Minute…One Second at a time thing works because it’s the only reason I’m not puffing on a Marlboro light (that and it’s no degrees outside and smoking in the house was absolutely verboten).

All of this “life what does it mean to me” naval gazing I’ve been doing this week has vividly remind me of a pivotal moment in my early twenties. The summer just after college graduation was an amazing time in our lives: some of us had just graduated from nursing school and were beginning to negotiate what it meant to be a Nurse; others of us had just graduated from medical school and now after years of school Real Life was about to begin. We were poised on the edge of everything and when you are that young and brash The Edge Of Everything was so terribly Important and everything we thought and felt was so Terribly Important. I can still see myself that evening, sitting next to my friend Cliff--the one of us who was actually working and engaged in a Real Life--we were sitting close to one another, intwined and if you came upon us we would be mistaken for lovers. I remember pulling away from him and looking squarely at him as I intoned my fervent desire: “I want to lead a remarkable life.”
I’ll never forget the amused look Cliff shot at me with his wizened twenty-eight year old eyes when sagely remarked: “Shit, June of course you want a life like that. No one wants to be remembered for banality.” Fabulous, I was actually ordinary in my striving to be out of the ordinary. In the moment I hated Cliff for his remark; now it makes me laugh because his retort was dead on. I was a pompous git.

My life has had it years of banality but the last decade has been anything but banal. Now that I’ve got all the growing up and putting on and throwing out bits over with, it’s time to do something with this person I have become. But I am is dangerously close to becoming complacent as I simply place one foot in front of the other. I’m not discontent. Yet. If I allow myself to become existentially stuck I will become complacent. The complacency I speaking to is when I do what I’m supposed to do because I’m supposed to do it because that’s just what I do even if it makes me miserable and feels like my soul is being sucked out of the side of my head. I don’t mean a sort of Peter Pan reaction: “I don’t want to grow up! I always want to be a boy!“ I’m speaking to just keeping my head down and doing what is deemed right and correct by others rather than what my heart is asking after. When I get to points like this in my life I picture myself walking down a sidewalk, my head down; missing the houses and buildings and flora off in the distance because I’m concentrating on my feet. But it’s equally tempting to look way way off on the horizon and I forget to notice the cracks on the sidewalk forming their own microcosmic road map. The key is changing my gaze every few steps; remembering to look at the horizon and then down at my feet. Rob Brezsnky addresses this in Capricorn’s horoscope. Not my sun sign but it’s just damn good advice. (Most horoscopes are just that: sound advice)

"I am a man of fixed and unbending principles," said American politician Everett Dirksen, "the first of which is to be flexible at all times." That's the kind of playful and resilient spirit I urge you to aspire to in 2010, Capricorn. I think you're most likely to have a successful year if you regularly explore the joys of improvisation. The more empirical and less theory-bound you're willing to be, the better you'll feel. Practicing the art of compromise doesn't have to be galling, I promise you; it may even turn out to be more fun and educational than you imagined possible.

It’s impossible to plod along staring at one’s feet if you improvise now and then. A spontaneous act now and again always serves to enhance my contentment.

Luckily I’ve stopped beating myself with a stick for taking so many years to figure out that a principled, stable life doesn’t equal a banal life. Mary Oliver’s sense of the word “wild” has more to do with the “amazing or incredible” sense of the word. My favorite definition of wild is: “to grow unchecked: and I think “fanciful” is the most evocative for Oliver’s ideal of “wild”. This past year, I’ve come dangerously close to allowing my old friend Fear and her henchman Indecision to limit my growth. I picture fear as a bully who comes up behind me and grasps me by my coat collar, preventing me from running away until I can slip from my coat and stumble forward. Life doesn’t have to be scary in it’s uncertainty. I believe it’s the Zen Buddhists who believe uncertainty is an absence of faith. And didn’t C.S. Lewis attest when there is a lack of faith there is a lack of joy? Fear is certainly the big buzz kill in my life. I love to blame a lack of time or money or intellect but that’s a handy excuse for fear.

Brezsny’s predictions for my sun sign made me wince and squirm a little because “deluded rationalization” is another expression of my fear.

The philosopher Nietzsche said there was no middle ground: You either said "yes" to life or you said "no." You either celebrated your vitality, enjoyed your power, and thrived on challenges, or else you practiced constant self-denial, hemmed yourself in with deluded rationalizations, and tormented yourself with indecision. I'm not so sure it's always as clear-cut as that. While I'm usually in the "yes to life" camp," I've gone through "no to life" phases, as well as some extended "maybe to life" times. What about you, Pisces? Whatever you've done in the past, I hope that in 2010 you will take maximum advantage of the cosmic rhythms, which will be encouraging you to give life a big, resounding, ongoing YES.

It’s time to say yes. Time for me to live like I’m dying. My ipod gave me this song yesterday while I was thrashing my knees running on the treadmill. Tim McGraw’s song is sound advice even if you aren’t staring 49 in the face or shaking hands with a dire diagnosis. He sang to me about a man who discovered what it meant to live each day like a special gift and all the things he was doing with his life as a result of knowing he was dying. This man was going to “love deeper. . .speak sweeter. . .gave forgiveness I’d been denying. . .“ And he jumps out of an airplane, climbs a mountain and rides a mechanical bull (it’s a country song, of course there is a mechanical bull involved, duh) If I had been given a dire diagnosis I can assure you the chorus to my song would not include healthy activities like mountain climbing or fishing. Nope it would be a ballad to smoking cigarettes, dropping acid, maybe eating mushrooms and a sex club in Manila. (Ok, maybe not a sex club in Manila) Because a lethal prognosis calls for outrageous acts of previously unforeseen stupidity and danger. Because really? What‘s the worst thing that‘s going to happen? You might…I don‘t know…die? (you all think I’m joking don’t you.)

When McGraw got to the last few lines I had to stop running on the treadmill because I was about to cry and about to make an ass out of myself in the middle of the gym. I do not want to close out 2010 kicking myself in the ass because I’m not any closer to having the life I want simply because I am afraid to articulate and then act upon my heartfelt desire.

"And I took a good long hard look,
"At what I'd do if I could do it all again,
"And then:

Like tomorrow was a gift,
And you got eternity,
To think about what you’d do with it.
An' what did you do with it?
An' what can I do with it?
An' what would I do with it?

The question isn’t really all that hard; allowing yourself to act upon the answer is the challenge.

My resolution for 2010 is separating the can’ts from the won’ts.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"I Will Not Fear. Fear Is The Mind Killer" --Frank Herbert

My title is a quote from Herbert's Dune. I wish I could say I've read the Dune novels but I prefer my fantasy and SciFi up in my face on a screen. But I love that quote and I have to revisit it every few years. One of my imaginary chums linked this yesterday and I haven't been able to stop pondering these questions. Some of them are no-brainers but some of them made me stop and think. Hard. Really really hard about the state of my life.

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? 25

Which is worse, failing or never trying? Not trying

If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do? because so many of the things we don’t like are those things we “should” do either for our own perceived well being or for the perceived greater good.

When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done? Unfortunately up until this point it will be said unless I get off my ass in 2010 and Do.

What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world? I wish everyone had a positive outlook and a fully developed sense of self then it would completely unnecessary to use force to change another group’s mind about what “god” is or isn’t and war would become a bad memory.

If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich? owning a little ex-pat hang-out bookstore/coffeeshop/laundrymat, writing, gardening, swimming in the ocean, reading, laughing and eating really beautiful food.

Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing? settling

If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently? I would have never remained in nursing this long and I wouldn’t have had children.

To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken? 100%

Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things? Doing the right things as they are set forth by others I deem to be “in charge" or "an authority”.

You’re having lunch with three people you respect and admire. They all start criticizing a close friend of yours, not knowing she is your friend. The criticism is distasteful and unjustified. What do you do? Respectfully disagree, saying something how it’s not appropriate to talk about someone who isn’t present. This is a mote question because the people I respect and admire don’t openly criticize others without being asked by the person for input.

If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be? Just be yourself and tell everyone to FU if they don’t like it

Would you break the law to save a loved one? yes

Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity? Yes, I wish I could tell you about some of my patients, they are brilliant, creative and undoubtedly insane.
What’s something you know you do differently than most people? Tie my shoes

How come the things that make you happy don’t make everyone happy? Fortunately we are all different and different things make individuals happy which is why being a human being on this plain of existence is so remarkable and wonderful.

What one thing have you not done that you really want to do? What’s holding you back? I want to live in a foreign country only I’m afraid I couldn’t support myself and realistically I can’t leave my fifteen year old son nor would I expect him to uproot his life to serve my dream.

Are you holding onto something you need to let go of? Most of what I hold onto is unnecessary dross both in a literal and metaphoric sense.

If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why? I would move to Mexico tomorrow because I love the culture and the people coupled with where I would live in Mexico has the benefit of my ideal weather.

Do you push the elevator button more than once? Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster? Yes but no. Pushing the button twice gives me a false sense of control and I find this a metaphor for much of my life.

Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton? Joyful simpleton. At this point I’m a worried simpleton.

Why are you, you? I am me because I am part of the largess called humanity and I have a place and a role here. I will never know the extent of the place and role but it is necessary even if it is a single monumental moment touching one other life.

Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend? Only since about 1987 before that time I stomped all over people.
Which is worse, when a good friend moves away, or losing touch with a good friend who lives right near you? Losing touch with a good friend who lives near

What are you most grateful for? My Self

Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones? Never being able to make new ones would signal the end of my life. The End is just another stage and I would rather progress forward than lose what I have in the past. At the end of life--when I am unable to make new memories I will have my old memories to relish and relive those beautiful, precious moments before death comes for me.

Is is possible to know the truth without challenging it first? No. How do you know something is true if you don't challenge it, turn it inside out, upside down and test it.

Has your greatest fear ever come true? Thankfully not.

Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset? Does it really matter now? Yes it actually does because I was right about someone.

What is your happiest childhood memory? What makes it so special? It’s a combination of several: playing in the Big Thicket, collecting black berries and wild flowers completely oblivious to the dangerous animals and snakes living in the forest. I was without fear of the unseen and safe from my family’s dysfunction.

At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive? Three weeks ago when I was contemplating what grace looks like in my life.

If not now, then when? 3.5 years
If you haven’t achieved it yet, what do you have to lose? Only more time

Have you ever been with someone, said nothing, and walked away feeling like you just had the best conversation ever? Never except during intense lovemaking.

Why do religions that support love cause so many wars? Because humans are dualistic creatures and have both light and dark. Dark is dominated by ego and despite the fact we are trying to teach one another to love we believe our message of love is “better” and want to convince others of this so we do it by way of force once our ego is in control.

Is it possible to know, without a doubt, what is good and what is evil? Yes. But I don't believe this human construct "evil" exists: to believe in evil minimizes the omnipotence of the being which see as infinitely merciful and loving that I call “God”.

If you just won a million dollars, would you quit your job? In an instant

Would you rather have less work to do, or more work you actually enjoy doing? More work I enjoyed.

Do you feel like you’ve lived this day a hundred times before? No thank goodness; not that today hasn't been perfectly swell.

When was the last time you marched into the dark with only the soft glow of an idea you strongly believed in? I’m not sure I’ve ever had that sort of courage but I very recently I am flailing in the dark with a lovely idea which makes me ebullient.

If you knew that everyone you know was going to die tomorrow, who would you visit today? Diane

Would you be willing to reduce your life expectancy by 10 years to become extremely attractive or famous? Oh hell no

What is the difference between being alive and truly living? I have up until very recently been only alive and my resolution for 2010 will be to truly live no matter where that takes me or what it looks like. Being alive is going through the motions doing what is expected despite or what I’m supposed to do versus what makes me feel passion.

When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards, and just go ahead and do what you know is right? Now. Now. Now.

If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake? Mistakes hurt and have created a lot of pain for me in the past.

What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you? Some days it feels like I would do everything differently. Other days it is as simple as quiting my job and taking something which pays much less so it necessary to have total faith in the Universe to care for me in light of my best efforts to care for myself and my family.

When was the last time you noticed the sound of your own breathing? This morning, I noticed it was too fast and I needed to be more mindful.

What do you love? Have any of your recent actions openly expressed this love? I love to create with words and I write daily.

In 5 years from now, will you remember what you did yesterday? What about the day before that? Or the day before that? I doubt I will remember what I did yesterday even one year from now.

Decisions are being made right now. The question is: Are you making them for yourself, or are you letting others make them for you? I make my own decisions much in the same way I disallow making decisions: out of fear. I suppose I don't make my own decisions, do I.

Humor me: I'm suffering from a bout of blogarrhea this week because I have a lot on my mind and want to get it all off my chest. I'm calling this Part I of III (Do I get an award for the worst extended metaphor like in the history of the internets?)
Happy New Years Eve Eve!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The War On Everyone

A few weeks ago one of my invisible friends shared an email her aunt received from a minister's wife. It's a letter from Jesus and it's brilliant.

Letter from Jesus about Christmas

Dear Children,

It has come to my attention that many you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. Maybe you've forgotten that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year and that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate My birthday on what was actually a time of pagan festival. . . although I do appreciate being remembered anytime.

How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1-8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. Not just during Christmas time, but all through the year. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing the president complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sends out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family? Then follow up. It will be nice hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.

7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families

8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary-- especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.

9. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.

10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions and words that you are one of mine.

Don't forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember:


If that doesn't just shut up everyone from the ACLU to James Dobson, I don't know what will. Because really, isn't it enough someone smiles and is pleasant to you and treats you like a human being and not simply a transaction? And I've been re-reading my New Testament and NO WHERE does it say in any of the gospels: "And lo' thou shall go out amongst strangers and speak unkindly if they do not recognize you as my follower" Nor are there teachings about becoming a "Bully For Jesus". But my New Testament left out a lot of the crap these hypocrites spew. (Why yes I am as intolerant of them as they are me but I don't want to throw them in jail or take their kids away from them, I just want them to STFU)

So who's more Christlike? The overworked clerk behind the counter at the post office who smiles for the 500th time that day and says: "Happy Holidays!" or the smug church lady who delivers a lecture about what a devote Christian she is and how dare someone take the Christ out of Christmas.

So now store clerks (particularly at Walmart, yeah I shop at Walmart because I'm evil and a bad liberal like that) are afraid to offer a generic greeting. Twice in as many weeks I have had two shy and timid but friendly and smiling queries if it's OK to wish me a Merry Christmas. Now that's just sad. It would be ok if you told me to have a Happy Hanukkah and we discussed the miracle of the light and the oil after a terrible and bloody war. It would be OK if you wished me a Happy Kawanzaa. And then we could smile and remark together the importance of all the principles but how Imani--the collective of the best of our traditions--is really what should be at the basis of the winter holiday season in this country because rumor has it we have religious freedom here.

I wouldn't mind if you chirped at me to have a really cool Chinese New Year. The point being we looked one another in the eye and smiled while sincerely wishing the best for the other bridging anonymity for a few seconds. Because let's face it some days life is really hard and some days the best thing that happens to me is a stranger smiles and hopes after my happiness.

Just be happy during this dark and often cold season, k?

Friday, December 18, 2009

My Oldest Son Should Have Been Named Pinocchio

I know I’ve mentioned this before but I must say it again: I really wish I had been given a practice boy to make all my stupid parenting errors on; say the wrong thing to and subject to poor judgement calls. You know like the little ‘droid in AI. To hone this point of how terrible my judgement is sometimes, I must confess, as “Mother Of The Year”, I took the boys to see AI a few short months after I left their father and became Disneyland Mommy. Let me refresh your memory about this Spielberg vehicle: a couple has a son who is injured and in a vegetative state; the bereft couple buy a robot boy and the robot boy bonds with them just about the time the real boy wakes up and returns home. Mommy doesn’t have enough room in her heart for both boys and takes the robot boy for a “ride” into the woods. The robot boy is dumped and must fend for himself against all manner of bad robots and bad humans until he drowns and is left to eternally mourn his lost mother. Real feel good stuff. Because my kids weren’t screwed up enough by having a depressed mother who left home; I had to take them to a movie which depicts parents getting rid of a child. WTF was I thinking? I deposited a theoretical ten grand into each of their theoretical Therapy Accounts on the way home from the movie. On top of a completely inappropriate plot line, the movie was terribly long and unforgivably dull. (Today when I reminded Wally of this movie, I got a sardonic “good job, mom!”)

I was reminded of my need for a droid kid the other day when I took Beav out for his first driving lesson. After the lesson, I picked up Wally and he asked me how it went with Beav. I sort of shrugged my shoulders and told him it was easy. “Yeah, it’ll be easier with the smart kid,“ was his heartbreaking response. Fortunately, Good Mother kicked in and I launched into my oft delivered lecture of how just because someone does well in school doesn’t assure they will do well in life or are really all that “smart.“ I wouldn’t be delivering the lecture if the Cybertronics people had given me my own little Davey.

I taught Wally how to drive a few years ago and if I say so myself, I did an excellent job. He’s a pretty good driver for an impulsive 19.5 year old man. But getting him to this point wasn’t easy. It was sort of similar to…I don’t know…The Eighth Circle Of Parenting Hell. To say sitting on the right side of a teenager when they are learning to drive is scarier than crap is an understatement. My outings with Wally would go something like this:

Me: ohmgawd ohmgawd ohmgawd…slowdown slowdown slowdown…don’t brake so hard…look both ways…LOOK BOTH WAYS…SHI---Jesus! Don’t do that again!

I’m surprised the Oh My God strap is still attached above the passenger door after being repetitively yanked and grasped for about a year of student driving. But just like breast feeding, potty training, and the seventh grade I got through teaching a kid to drive and I’ll get through it again. Only this time. . . Don’t you love getting to say that with your second child? (Don’t you wish you could say it after you fuck up the droid kid, as you are pulling away from the rest stop where you dump him?) Only this time, I’m going to be more patient and relaxed. In fact, I was so relaxed and smug as Beav pulled away from the curb for the first time with me riding shot gun I could have taken a nap, mixed some cocktails , paid bills or blogged. I was even laissez-faire when he told me he had never driven before. Relaxed but incredulous. Wha? His dad had never let him drive? His brother hadn’t let him drive? What is it with my kids? They are both so goody two-shoed they never snuck their dad’s old Jag out for a joy ride. If my dad had had a cool car, he would have needed new tires for it by the time I was sixteen. As it was my friend Melody’s dad had a sporty vintage Volvo which sat in their garage like a temptress, begging us to take her out for a spin. Which we did. And we got caught but it was worth it because when you’re fifteen the moment is always worth it. Ask Wally about this, you can see it in his eye when asked about the two unsanctioned parties he had at Ward's when his dad and step mom were out of town.

Anyhow, my self-congratulatory lassitude lasted about a minute (just long enough to get the checkbook and the cocktail shaker out) before the internal dialogue started:

Me: ohgawdmovetotheleft movetotheleft ohgawd ohgawd herewego please don’t hit the parked car. Oh crap, he’s going to take off a mirror…LOOOK BOTH WAYS. Slow down…stop…NOT SO HARD DON”T BRAKE SO HARD…SHI-- Jesus why do I have to do this again

I’m very proud this go round the dialogue was internal and I graduated from clinging to the Oh My God strap to putting a grip of death on the right arm rest thingie. I just hope it doesn’t fall off over the next few months of driving lessons.

image is from and is a shot from AI
As a PSA addendum to this very digressive and rambly piece I want everyone to know how extremely proud I am of my oldest son. Wally didn’t make it completely through his AIT (Advanced Infantry Training) this fall and while he was disappointed he has to start over in six months, he is taking it like a man and placed the blame squarely on his own shoulders. A first for him. I think I’m proudest of the way he is moving through a tough life lesson with grace and dignity. My son left home August 31st a boy but just like all that Army hooah literature said, he returned to me a confident capable young man. I can’t imagine what he would have been like if he had graduated. Probably 19 going on 40 like Beav is 15 going on 45.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Reporting In From Sick Bay

That's a picture of a rhinovirus from the CIRI website. It looks like cheetos sprinkled with bits of dried chive, doesn't it? Which is amusing because that's exactly how my brain feels: like cheetos sprinkled with chives. I blame Wally because in October, I was in four airplanes (two of them cross country), trudged four days in cold rain; when I wasn't in the rain I was in crowded subway trains; not to mention October was a big month for H1N1 at work. I came home from my travels, healthy as a horse. Not even a sniffle. Six weeks later, Wally comes home and I get sick. My guess is the pod or barracks or whatever they call where he was living makes the toddler room at a day care center on any given day in January look like an OR suite just before a heart/lung transplant.

It's pitiful how this little virus has reduced me to a whining pile of mucusy goo. It's not like I have cancer or a ruptured appendix or Swine Flu or a brain tumor or even a psychotic episode--just a really bad cold. It's the sort of cold that makes you think God has you on the naughty list, right next to the Israelites when they were condemned to wandering the desert. But instead of wandering in a desert you are glued to your bed surrounded by snotty tissues, old soup bowls, cough drop wrappers and empty tea cups. Monday evening when my cold had reached it's nadir, wandering around a desert with a few scraps of dry bread sounded a lot better than suffocating on my own body fluids. Because I was quarantined in my bedroom the only audience I had for my whining were my invisible/imaginary friends. I was going on and on about my cold and woe is me and whine...whine...whine to the fifth power when one of my friends linked me to this hilarious video. I'm not smart enough to embed it so follow the link to youtube. I was almost this pitiful and if we had national health care I probably would have called 911.

I'll be back next week and maybe my brain won't feel like cheetos and dried chives.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Putting It Out There

Friday, The Beav could barely disguise his unmitigated joy when I announced to him the sad news I had to put down the Honda. God does answer prayers because I know that kid prayed to Jesus the mechanic would tell me the Honda was terminal so he wouldn’t have to drive it. (I wonder how Jesus is doing with that PS 3 cuz I know how June is doing with it) When I got the news my first reaction was a panicky feeling in the pit of my stomach: Wally was coming home for a few months so how in the Hell were we going to coordinate two work schedules without killing each other. But I’m getting pretty good and taking deep breathes and pushing away the panic and invite hope in an effort to overwhelm the fear. This worked for about a nano second before my monkey brain took over and within about thirty minutes of spinning on the situation I had a picture of myself walking eight miles home in a foot of snow because Wally wasn’t answering his phone to avoid picking me up. I worried about the car all weekend, and vacillated between buying a hoopty, a new car for myself or just making do with sharing a car. All of the possible solutions irritated me because euthanizing the Honda wasn’t my idea and I hate unhappy surprises and I really hate not being in complete control of a situation. I was already concerned about the shape Wally was going to be in when he came home this week and dealing with stupid car issues was just One. More. Thing.

Once upon seven years ago, I would have looked at this situation as proof God really hated me and wanted me to suffer because that‘s how He rolls. Nowadays after I’ve become bored with worrying about situations I can usually hand it over to the Universe to do with it what it may. But I’m terribly impatient and if my Requests Of The Management aren’t answered with the answer I want to hear in a few hours I start to lose hope. And worry all over again. It’s like I’m sitting at a table with God and I slide a festively wrapped package towards him. I’ve wrapped up my worries with lavish wrapping paper and a large festive bow because I have spent so much time worrying about what’s inside, the box should look extra special. I slide the box slowly towards him, proud I’m giving a gift as big as the one in the box. But just as God starts to pull at the ribbon I hold my hand out and stop him from unwrapping it and snatch it away from him. I do this every time I ask the Universe to help me with something. I pull my lovely package or worry over the car back to my side of the table where I can unwrap it and rearrange it. I haven’t learned to leave the burden on the table. Like I’m as big as God and really what does he know I can manage this so much better? Ego much? Last week I was re-reading Plan B by Anne LaMott and one of the essays is about her son Sam‘s desire to meet his father. After they find him, she prays he will reach out to Sam and when it takes a long time she becomes angry with God. One thing leads to another and LaMott realized the lag time between asking and receiving was necessary. She says something so simple and so remarkable about this waiting, God needed time to work on it. Yesterday evening as I was leaving the parking garage at work I passed by my dream car which led me to think about the car issue and I was about to pull the package away from God again when I stopped myself with the words: “He is working on it.” And then all alone in the car, I prayed out loud (something I thought only crazy people did) “I don’t know what to do about this stupid car situation and I’m not expecting a car to fall out of the sky and hit me in the head but if I’m supposed to have a second car, point it out to me in a very concrete fashion, like with a sign on it: “Here’s the car June” but nothing opaque or woo-woo, so I don’t miss it. And could you make it before I’m walking home from the hospital after a long shift or Wally can’t take a job because it’s not on a bus line? Thank you”

This afternoon I was talking to Wally while he was waiting for his airplane very far from home and we were discussing the poor old Honda and I realized I hadn’t worried about it all day. As we talked about it, I realized I wasn’t starting to worry about it and I was aware of how good it felt to really let go of something. For the first time in a very long time I had really walked away from a burden without turning around and picking it back up again.

Tonight I received an email message: “I need to talk to you. Please call.” I responded to the message and I was offered a car that I can pick up in January it is neither a Hoopty or a Beater but a perfectly respectable and well cared for car. But because I am my own worst enemy, I almost didn’t accept the gift. I even wrestled with why the gift was given to me. Was it offered out of pity because I was whining about having a car payment? . . . What if I had guilted someone into giving me something. . . Could my pride allow me to accept the gift?

The Girl’s simple words were: “Just take it.” But I had to wrestle around with the idea of this gift a little longer until I realized not accepting a gift freely given is like denying someone’s compliment. You know how it is, someone tells you your shoes are cute and you say: “Oh these old things, I’m kind of sick of them.” It makes the other person feel sort of bad.

I realized I’m not good at receiving gifts. Part of leading a life of gratitude is accepting the gifts we are given and not turning them away. I’m all about offering thanks for the stuff that looks like a goodie and a treat but these last few weeks, I have been given disguised as bad things. My gut feeling tells me Wally’s return home is for a reason so big I can’t imagine it. Weird Hormone Boy I mean Beav’s attitude made me realize I was once the same kid and it‘s ok to be self centered at fifteen because he will grow out of it with a little guidance and some boundaries. This whole car situation helped me realize for the millionth time I have only first world problems. My poor sweet ailing dog has made me realize how close we are as a family despite the divorce. Finally, as a result of the insanity at work I have been given a clear picture of what I’m supposed to do with my career. Maybe I’ll get to a point of saying “thank you” rather than “help!” when I hit a bump in my road.

I also have seamless evidence God has a sense of humor because the car I will be driving this spring:

Mini van.

Verrryy funny God. But thanks.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Teenage Mutant Ninja Karma

In the middle of all the angst over Wally and what happens next Beav has decided it’s time for him to regress back to Weird Hormone Boy. I thought we had left WHB behind at the Crack Shack but I guess I was wrong. WHB is not welcome here because there is not enough room for more than one moody person in this house and by default of my age it gets to be me! Seriously, didn’t the kid get the memo? I’m the only one allowed to be grouchy. Beav has also reverted back to his previous incarnation of The Boy Who Won’t Get Up For School. Hells bells, the kid who hated school always got up on time and this one? He loves school Loveslovesloves school. Fortunately, the only person nagging is me because back in the day it was a chorus of me and Wally which would lead to Beav crying in grades 2 through 5 and yelling at us to leave him alone in grades 6 and 7. I’m not sure how much he actually hears because if I had to listen to my whining nagging voice I sure has hell wouldn’t stay in bed because I would welcome a chance to go to school and get away from it! And it’s not as bad as it was when he was in the second grade and I had to hold him down and force his shoes on him, carrying him to the car. Once he went to school in jammies. Because I‘m just that mean. This morning, he managed to get dressed and hopefully brushed his teeth and was sorta kinda awake he comes into the family room where I’m doing something emergent on the computer like checking in to see if my Fb friends have purchased sheep dogs for their farms or they have managed to “ice” someone in Mafia wars when I hear a very terse young man voice bark at me: “Let’s go.” Not, “hey mom I’m ready” or “Mom can you please drive me to school now?” And certainly not: “Mom, sorry you will have to speed on the highway to get me to school on time but it’s time to leave. I should have rolled out of bed when the alarm went off.”

I ignored the terse command because I’m usually not the friendliest person in the morning, either.(I know everyone is reeling with the shock,, I’ll wait here until you gather your senses) I come by my morning nature naturally but my father makes me and Beav look like Little Mary and John Sunshine. He was like the meanest grouch in the world before work. I always hoped he would wake up to a civilized state by the time he got to work. When I say mean, I don’t mean he would start the day out by beating us or hurling insults at us. No. He would sit and glower at the Today Show and offer monosyllabic comments in Jane Pauly‘s direction and grunt at me and mom. When I was in high school I would sit at the breakfast table with him; mom would putter in the kitchen and I would try my level best to be conversant with them even though I was half asleep and the 36 electric rollers jammed into my scalp didn’t help elevate my mood either. Besides that I had HEAVY things on my mind like…should I have lunch with Donna or Paul because if I had lunch with Paul we could watch All My Children at his house and his mom would make us something really good…but if I had lunch with Donna we could go to the mall and skip fourth period but that would involve lying to the attendance secretary and just how afflicted with menstrual cramps can one girl be…would anyone notice my new blouse and did my jeans make my ass look cute or flat and was Keith really interested in me or was he interested in me to get to Amy because everyone was interested in Amy anyhow and why should I bother because it was all going to end in a big explosion of heartbreak like everything else had ended this past summer ... So given my mood state any given morning of my senior year why not bait the hell out of my dad with incendiary remarks about how I thought Jimmy Carter was doing a great job .

I was poking a sleeping dog with a stick. An old sleeping dog with a sharp stick. An old sleeping dog who had been abused by mean people when it was a puppy with a stick. An old sleeping dog who had been abused by mean people when it was a puppy left in the cold to starve with a stick.

Poke poke poke…I think Jimmy Carter* is cool and what he is doing in the middle east is cool.

GRRRRR noises, comments about Southern Baptists as president,…hick farmer…democrats…ruined the economy…

Pokepokepoke I think Israel is wrong…”

“GRRRR… can you think that…it‘s their land”

PokePOKEPOKE“The cold war is stupid and pointless. No one is going to nuke anyone. It‘s just a waste of money.”

Have you ever seen someone breathe fire? I know my kids have seen me do it. Beav saw me do it yesterday after he auditioned for The Most Ungrateful Teenager Of The Year Award (the boy nailed it too, he made Wally look like the Dali Lama and Sister Theresa’s love child) Anyhow, it was at this point I would make some sort of peacenik dove remark completely uninformed by any reality other than knowing I would get my dad’s attention and he would breath fire at me.

By the time we were finished establishing which side of the aisle we were one; my dad had me burning the flag and I had him lobbing missiles at Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan. My mother started referring to breakfast as World War Three. What she didn’t realize is I always started my early morning diatribe against the war machine just to see if I could get him to string a sentence together first thing in the morning. Just to see if he was paying attention because when I was 17, I was three.

So now when I hear Beav say in his barky little man voice: “Let’s go!” I hear my father and instead of getting upset with Beav, I laugh, because I would rather the commute to school not resemble Breakfast Wars 1978.

Dad and I still go at it. In 2003 I almost asked him to leave my house because he was going on and on and on about how great George Bush was. Just like an old dog that had been poked with a stick one too many times and exacts Cujoesque revenge on his abuser. Karma’s a cruel bitch sometimes, isn’t she? And this summer I almost put the old man on my email filter because he insisted on sending me emails about how Obama wants him to sit before a death committee because the Neurontin he takes for his terrible neuropathic pain is costing Medicare too much money. Looks like I’m getting poked with my own stick.

The other stick I’m getting poked at is The Messy Room stick. My mother would threaten me with the Front Lawn Humiliation. We would go around and around like Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin on the way to Camp David because I had not developed the fine motor skills necessary to hang up my clothing after I had had it on for three minutes and decided it was what I wanted to wear. I was threatened with all sorts of things, mean notes about taking my clothes to Goodwill or never sewing for me again or--her favorite threat--putting everything on the front lawn. Now I was clueless and thoughtless when I was seventeen but I wasn’t stupid. I would have to be so dumb it burned if I thought she was actually going to take the time to move all that crap on my floor to the front lawn. Really? It would be easier to just hang everything up in the closet. Yesterday, I was cleaning the house and audibly groaned when I saw Beav’s room. He’s normally relatively tidy. When me and Ward went to our first parent/teacher conference for Beav his tote was perfectly arranged. Scared the crap out of me, I flashed on a picture of a boy with blistered, bleeding hands from compulsive hand washing (oh don’t I wish that now) Of course the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and I considered leaving the “front lawn” note but then I stopped a minute and thought about it. Screw the front lawn, I could take a picture of his room, post it on my Facebook page tagging it as a picture of him so it would show up on his wall. The shock and awe I thought this would inspire continues to make me cackle like an evil genius. Can you imagine? Much better than the lawn. Much. I may just file this away for future reference. Feel free to use this with your messy teenager or messy spouse. But I’m not sure this would be a great idea because Karmic justice could be served all over me if the kids took a picture of me screaming at them about something and posted it on their walls. Yeah…no.

The “My Parents Hate Me So They Bought Me The Crappiest Car Ever” karma is living at my house, too. Beav won Most Ungrateful Teenager Award yesterday when he got huffy with me about the 1990 Honda I will be giving him. Obviously, I’m giving him this crappy beater because I don’t love him. Why else would I ruin his life? It couldn’t possibly be because I can’t afford to buy him a car with the magic checkbook that makes all his dreams come true. (I think my checkbook is magic because without fail there is always enough to provide what we need with a little left over for what we want. But that is a subject for another blog entry) The Honda has been a source of consternation since last winter; when Wally decided buying the Honda was all part of my diabolical plan to ruin his life. The Girl suggests we keep it forever and give it to Wally or Beav’s kid as a present. The grandkid would point out what an awesome relic it was and be grateful--tearful even-- as I cast a withering stare with my filmy and rheumy eyes towards the once thankless boy who is now a middle aged man with his own unappreciative son or daughter. Besides that? Every teenager needs to start out their driving life with a crappy car. The car at the top was my second car and it was nice compared to the first car: The Stupid Death Machine Pinto who’s only claim to fame was a decent 8 Track tape deck. I’m still not completely convinced that car is why I wasn’t the most popular girl in school my junior year.

After discovering I was ruining his life via the Honda, Beav told me what he wanted for Christmas and It’s a good thing Beav didn’t see my face when he assured me the PS 3 is no longer $700 but a paltry $300. But he assured me he doesn’t need 120 gigs of gaming memory, just 80. What a magnanimous boy I’m raising. And what a relief it’s NOT as expensive as it was this summer! Too bad it’s what I spend on both boys each Christmas. I guess I’m going to have to live with his Whoville like disappointment when he wakes up and imagines The Grinch stole his PS 3 and left behind crappy gifts. Please excuse me while I pat myself on the back because I had a What Would Jesus Do moment versus a What Would June Do moment after he gushed his great news of all the money I was saving this winter. Instead of setting fire to his dreams, I simply mouthed to the back of his sweet dear head: “Oh. My. God. Where is the pod you crawled out of and why don’t you find that nice kid Beav and bring him back here because I don’t like this current boy who claims he is my youngest son.” If I had allowed June to respond, the verbal flash fire would have destroyed our family room. Feelings would have been hurt and Beav probably would have run away from home. Or worse. He would have been completely oblivious to my ire and asked for some other crazy expensive shit. Like a rocket ship or a pony.

My final crime against He Who Is Self-Entitled was the audible gasp over his eight hundred dollar camp dream. Eight. Hundred. Dollars. For camp. One week of camp. Not a month of camp. Young Life Camp. Jesus camp. I don’t need to dust off my New Testament to see that Jesus didn’t charge more than my share of the mortgage to be a member of his flock. Now some of his nefarious priests did in the late 15th century but we live post reformation and it doesn’t cost 800 bucks to love the lord. That’s free. And for a tank of gas I can drive him up Floyd Hill to a lovely trailhead where he can take a walk and bask in the glory of nature for about 20 bucks. Fifteen bucks if we drive the Honda.

*in the Old Man's defense: he volunteered for Habitat For Humanity over the last few years and thinks Jimmy Carter has done great things since his presidency.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Breaking My Heart Open So My Eyes Can See

Ten years ago this month I made a decision to leave Ward and within a couple of short months later not only had I left him but I left my kids too. I gave him custody because I was sick of fighting with him about it and I thought--as boys--they would be better off with him. But the real REAL reason is because I was absolutely convinced I was a terrible mother. I had suffered from not one but two episodes of depression. The first one was a mild post partum depression but the second bout was a doozy. I couldn’t leave the house for a month and Ward had to take full control of the kids. I barely made food for them those long weeks. Poor kids. Poor Ward. I still see their sweet faces looking at me with a mix of puzzlement and sadness because Mommy was dressed in a sweat suit in July and about 100 degrees outside and I had to hire a babysitter to take them to the pool and to the park and the rec center for activities because I simply couldn’t leave the house. I’m still not sure exactly why I couldn’t leave the house; I mean I don’t fully comprehend even now after years of therapy which monsters lived outside the door of the Fabulous House in Stepford and why they went away as quickly as they arrived. I do know I had to leave Ward if I was going to survive and if my children were going to survive and grow to have any sort of meaningful life they belonged with their fully functional father. They could hire their own therapist when the actions of their mother, foisted on them at the tender ages of nine and five began to muddy their abilities to cope in relationships with others. In essence, my well-meaning but sick actions fractured my relationship with them a decade ago because I was convinced I was a terrible mother because I suffered from two bouts of depression and was pretty sure I was gay. Let‘s not forget to add I was unfaithful to Ward to this list. I was depressed, confused and a liar. I was a BAD person to the tenth power and didn‘t deserve those children. In hindsight, I can see the life I was leading was sucking the life out of me. Of course I felt like I was drowning in an ocean with a plastic bag over my head. Shit, who wouldn’t? Don’t answer that because I know plenty of wonderful mothers who put up with WAY more than I did from Ward and they aren’t leaving their husbands and their kids.

When I say I left my kids, initially I saw them every other weekend and a night a week. I was Disneyland Mom. But a couple of years later, my children wanted less and less to do with me. For a long time I blamed Ward for poisoning them against me. But now I blame myself because I stopped trying to have a relationship with them and for two years we were like amiable friends who would get together a couple of times a week but each visit felt forced and everyone was miserable. Of course it didn’t help I was in the most dysfunctional toxic relationship of my life which, in the end, left me broke and broken. In AA terms, I hit bottom. (there by God’s unboundless grace go I)

But God’s hand was always just right there and as much as I hate to admit it; The Most Toxic Woman On The Planet had a role in all of this. Did I mention after I left her I was not only broken but financially broke? The only place I could find to live was a tiny little rental house in a neighborhood riddled with meth heads. I hadn’t lived in such a bad neighborhood since I was in college but the rent afford my paying off hideous debt and my landlord, an angel on Earth, didn’t give a shit if my credit rating was in the toilet. “I don’t check those things, I see in your eyes I can trust you.” And I didn’t let him down. We lived in that little house for three years. The 750 square foot house was our little port in the storm. I was able to put myself back together with the help of Jesus, Wayne Dyer, my therapist/reiki practitioner, Landlord Bob, and my boys. It’s a good thing I got my shit together and rebuilt my relationship with my sons because it was at this point Ward decided he was tired of being the custodial parent and lost interest in his children. But despite the neighborhood and the tight space our home was generally a place of peace and joy. Yeah there were hard times because Wally was such a challenging kid and Beav wasn‘t a walk in the park, either. But I figured (still do) the tantrums (theirs) and the aggression (Wally‘s) was bad Karma I had to work off. I made new friends, too. One of them shares The Girl‘s name and I met her first but eventually she became my “Spare”. I can‘t count the number of times me and TSG have been out and people will say: “Oh, this is The Girl.” And I have to explain but I’m always flattered by the confusion because The Spare Girl is an awesome woman. TSG has been a cheering section for me in ways I‘ve never told her and has been there for me in ways I don‘t think I can even explain. Her oldest son and Beav are a few months apart and very alike in their natures; while her youngest son-- seven years younger than Wally --is just like Wally. We can commiserate and compare notes on lots of things because in addition to our children, we have feckless ex-husbands who are hit and miss with financial and emotional support to their boys; plus we came out in mid-life. Rather, we finally came out in mid-life. One of us--not TSG--had a false start in the eighties.

So when TSG called me early on Thursday morning and her first words were: “I can’t do this anymore. I want out and I don‘t want to be a mother anymore.” I knew exactly what she was talking about. Because I feel this way about three times a week and know without a shadow of a doubt if I had to do it over again, twenty years ago I would have told Ward I didn’t want to go out with him much less sleep with him because if we started dating, one thing would lead to another and it would spiral out of control until I was locked into a life long relationship and a role I would spend most of my time resenting and quite frankly hating. I hate being a mother because I’m so bad at it. Like I hated being a waitress because I sucked at that, too. I don’t hate my children so don’t call social services or my ex-husband. I just really don’t like being a mother because I am emotionally lazy. I am sick of having to be thoughtful and strong and forbearing and patient and wise and wonderful and listening and coping. Because just now it seems like the only thing these kids do is break my heart and drain my bank account and ask me for a ride somewhere I‘m not invited to go . So I knew exactly where TSG was coming from. The week before I had spent the day helping her--pre and post op--with her boys when they had their wisdom teeth taken out. Wally-the-Younger (WtY) was tuned up and I knew he was going to be a handful waking up from anesthesia. He was but TSG is a saint (I really want to hate her but I can’t) and she talked him off the cliff and he calmed down. What I didn’t count on was he had been acting like an asshat for a few months and was moving my very dear friend to the brink of her limitless patience. When she told me what was going on I wanted to march over to their house and spank that twelve year old menace. (More evidence I’m not much of a mother) How DARE he treat his mother, his hardworking single mother like that. I at least have an ex-husband who shares custody of Beav (for the moment until his stepmother, Alexis Carrington, gets bored and doesn’t want him around) so that’s a gift compared to her ex-husband and his fucked up games and issues. But instead of spanking the boy she set some stern boundaries with him and he has respected them for several days now. God’s hand was clearly in this because I was supposed to work and if I had been at work, I would have missed her call.

I need to remember this whole God works in mysterious way thing because that evening I got the other big phone call; Wally had failed his PT test because he quit in the middle of a run. I’ve already chronicled in full internet blog vomit my initial reaction. Last night, as grief would have it and my nature will predict I landed full on in the Anger territory and sit here. I mean I was really angry. I wanted to scream and rave at him: “What the fuck were you thinking?! When are you going to stop this behavior????!!!!” Then I got angry at myself for ever giving birth. (now that’s getting to the root of the problem) TG thoughtfully decided we should go out to dinner last night, to cheer me up and to celebrate her recovery. She had progressed from laying in bed with ice on her shoulder and under the influence of prescribed narcotics to being able to dress in real clothes in the span of a few days because she is from Polish stock who all believe if you can survive post WWII Germany and refugee status under the tyranny of the USSR you can survive anything, including shoulder surgery. I know everyone will be stunned to learn I wasn’t very good company. It’s a good thing I had to drive because if I had the option of not driving I would have had eight too many drinks and probably puked all the way home from the passenger seat. (Hey, I’ve come a long way in five years but I’m not perfect) Not only was I angry at Wally but I was resentful I had to try and help him through this hiccup and not only was I angry about the whole thing my heart was broken for him because he has to live with the consequences of quitting. I was also angry because I knew this about myself--prone to freaking out and quitting midway because of ZERO self-esteem--and went ahead and had children. What the fuck was I thinking twenty years ago.

As luck would have it a young couple were sitting just across from us in the uber chic uber hip restaurant we were in last night and as luck would further have it they had their brand spankin’ new baby with them. “You know it’s a good thing I’m driving because if I weren’t I would probably get drunk and tell those people it’s not too late to take that baby back to the hospital because all that baby is going to do is grow up and break their heart” The Girl looked askance at me, worried I was going to do it but her worry was quelled when I started to cry and go over and over all the the bad things I did to my children and the many ways I have sinned against them. I do believe in my heart of hearts our children choose us but why on Earth would anyone be as masochistic as choosing me for a mother and Ward the ball-less wonder as a father. She let me rehash the things she has heard me confess about a hundred times and then she said this:

“Those boys love you. You are the one they depend on.”

As much as I was enjoying the pity party, I realized she was right. Wally called me first this week and when he tried reaching his father; his father “missed” his call. (Oh for the love of God you don’t miss calls in this day and age. His asshat father didn’t want to deal with it. Gah, I just wish he would disappear!) Beav knows it’s pointless to ask his dad to do something for him because it won’t get done and it’s doubly pointless to ask him for money for his activities because Ward simply won’t have it because he never has money for them but has a wine cellar. As she reviewed these things, I realized she’s right and I fought becoming smug because everyone knows how much I can’t stand “teh smug”. Smug is also a sin of pride and that’s just one more thing for the long list of transgressions I commit so I chose to not add it. Instead, I changed the subject and we talked about her. What a relief for everyone when the whining stopped.

This morning at the early hour of two at 0200 I awakened with a headache which I was happy to blame on stress rather than alcohol abuse. Because worrying about stuff you don’t have control over is so much healthier than drinking to excess. (myth number 2373 I tell myself) I took a few Ibuprofen and tried to go back to sleep but of course I couldn’t. I lay awake in the still half light which gave the impression it was not early winter but mid summer because it had snowed. For a few minutes I tried to pretend it was really an early morning last June. After playing the time machine game, I ran my tape about how much I hated myself for hating being a mother and how I hated having my heart broken by Wally again when I remembered something I read in The Power of Intention exactly five years ago which was one year after I had found shelter in the Crack Cottage and began my amazing spiritual journey which led me to the sweet life I have today all made possible because I couldn't leave my house July 1999. Dr. Dyer shared a letter a woman wrote to him which said the following: “When my boyfriend broke up with me, I thought my heart was broken but you helped me discover my heart was broken open.” I realized I needed to turn pull my finger off the self-loathing button and take a second look inside this broken heart. My heart is broken open to all sorts of possibilities and lessons in faith and trusting the Universe or God or Jesus or whoever things because do happen for a reason. Like the whole messy business of involving myself with The Most Toxic Person on the Planet so I would have to live in a terrible neighborhood in a tiny poorly insulated house that was either too hot or too cold so I could learn what was really important.

"So God, I’m ready, bring it on. Show me what the purpose of this Fresh Hell is all about and if it’s about giving you everything I worry and fret about and then taking it away because I’m a big control freak. Fine. I can deal with that but can you leave my kids out of it because I think they have suffered enough at my hand." Thanks, Me.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A letter To My Son

collage by Tim Lukeman

It’s so hard to stay out of our own way, isn’t it? I have been in my way most of my life. It is my fervent prayer your reaction to the pressure of the test today will help you see the value of staying out of your own way. Usually the biggest stumbling block is ourselves. It is not the size or the length of your arms but thinking something is wrong with the size and the length of your arms. Remember your cousin is taller and just as thin when he went into the Marines and talked himself into being able to do the push ups necessary to graduate. I think you have yourself psyched out and have convinced yourself you can’t do this. I believe with conditioning you will be able to do these push-ups. But you won’t find out if you quit in the middle of the test. I know this won’t happen again. I think the price of this self-sabotage was so great that you learned a hard but very important lesson.

I talked to Beav this evening and then your dad. Don’t worry about the Beav not being proud of you or disappointed in you. He was so sad for you he was about to cry. He understands how much this means to you. Your dad took it well and has a lot of questions I tried to answer. Questions about graduation in January, what happens next, that sort of thing. I tried to answer them the best I could.

I’m humbled you called me first. I’m so thankful you trust me but I am so terribly sorry my first reaction was one of dramatic panic. I hate that part of my personality. It wasn’t what you needed, what you needed to hear was how I know you are disappointed but you also realized what a stupid mistake quitting in the middle of the run was. You needed to hear what big medicine this is and what a transforming situation this will be for you and how you approach challenging situations in the future. Remember how I have always told you I believe things don’t come to you as easily as other people because you are learning what it is like to work really hard for something and therefore you will appreciate and hold dear all you achieve? This kind of perseverance is the stuff great men are made of. My guess is you won’t quit in the midst of a race or a run, ever again. You took this setback as a man, too. You didn’t blame anyone else; you took full responsibility for quitting without mentioning how muddy it was or cold or whatever like you would have about nine weeks ago. I am so proud of you and how grown up you are and I am blessed to be your mom.

Your graduation is simply delayed by a few weeks. You can come home at Christmas, we can fatten you up and you can work out everyday to strengthen you upper body. I have no doubt you will graduate in January because I know whenever God closes a door, he opens a bigger door. Two others in your platoon, but they also will get 24 hours off. Vermontmom is still coming for the weekend and if you aren’t too embarrassed she has a message for you from me. I‘m glad you have 24 hours off. You can eat a meal and linger over it as long as you want.

Please don‘t beat yourself over this. Just pick yourself up and keep training. That you didn’t quit and ask to come home during reception or when you were in hospital with pneumonia tells me you ARE Army Strong. You just need to prove it to yourself by continuing with your training. OMG do you realize that on Aug 31st you couldn’t even do five proper push ups, your running time wouldn’t pass, you didn’t know how to dismantle, clean and fire an M whatever-it-is you carry around. You hadn’t jumped off a 35 foot tower (that I know of) climbed a big wall, ran five miles with 70 pounds on your back; nor did you know how to start an IV, dress a wound and identify someone going into shock. That’s a lot to learn in eight weeks! It makes my head spin and I’m used to multitasking with things falling apart around me.

The Girl and I discussed what we would make for you while you are at home. Christmas dinner will be pot roast, garlic mashed potatoes, the usual vegetables and carrot cake. I’m off both Christmas Eve and Christmas day; I’m so excited about this, too. It will be good to be with you and spend some time together as a family. Beav has missed you more than he will admit. I can‘t wait to see Kipper‘s reaction when you come home.

Please take care of yourself, your heart, your soul and your body. Have a wonderful day off on Saturday and laugh a few times. The laughter will free your spirit.

I love you.


Today’s Inspiration:

With all that is going on in our lives at this time, I'm sure at times
we all feel a little like this. Read all the way to the end.

The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited
island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him. Every day he
scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming.

Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of
driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few

One day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little
hut in flames, with smoke rolling up to the sky. He felt the worst had
happened, and everything was lost. He was stunned with disbelief,
grief, and anger. He cried out, 'God! How could you do this to me?'

Early the next day, he was awakened by the sound of a ship approaching
the island! It had come to rescue him! 'How did you know I was here?'
asked the weary man of his rescuers. 'We saw your smoke signal,' they

The Moral of This Story:

It's easy to get discouraged when things are going badly, but we
shouldn't lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the
midst of our pain and suffering. Remember that the next time your
little hut seems to be burning to the ground; it just may be a smoke
signal that summons the Grace of God.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Only Way Does Not Exist

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” Fredric Nietzsche (image from

I'm not sure where to begin purging all the ideas, thoughts and feelings I've had over the last week or so. In fact, this blog is only going to touch the surface of what I’ve been feeling; a feeling I wasn’t able to isolate until the other day when I posted a well thought out “status update” on Facebook and received flippant replies. Yeah, I know, it’s freakin’ Facebook, so get over it. It's not like I was blogging on Open Salon. And my friends aren’t mind readers so they didn't know I wasn't being light-hearted. The replies didn’t upset me as much as it pushed in my face something that has been bothering me a lot lately. The malaise this country operates under. It’s a malaise of cynicism and bitterness. A malaise I am prone to suffering. And I know it’s all chic and hip to be morose and gloomy and malevolent and snaky but really? Enough! The political left bitterly blames the right for the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (ok, then all you folks on the left, stop driving your cars, riding trains, planes or buses and buying manufactured good because then we won’t need so much petroleum for products and gasoline.). The political right blames the left for the out of control debt and plague of terrors called health care (alright then all you folks on the right you can stop driving on the public highways and while you’re at it, if you’re 66 or older can we have all that money we put into Medicare back?) Yeah, the country--if not the world--is in a big mess and yeah, religious zealots and greed and capitalism is to blame. So don’t participate, go find a cave and be bitter and angry and cynical there. BUT YOU CAN’T TAKE ANY OF YOUR STUFF WITH YOU.

Some of my friends will call this a crisis of faith (I heartily agree, and will click the “like” button) but other friends might say it’s because we are at the “end times and Jesus is coming” (I would have to push the “meh” button on that one because we won’t know when the end is because that’s just how God rolls) And then I would have friends who would snark at me because I’m ignorant enough and unsophisticated enough to even believe in God much less the idea of Jesus.(the dislike and ignore function would be activated) And you know what? That kind of snark is just sad. I’m sick of snark. I’m sick of defending my faith to my acquaintances who are atheists. Fortunately, I have been vocal enough that most of my friends who happen to be agnostic or atheists just leave me alone and let me have my “Invisible Sky Friend” Actually, I love this moniker for God, and it makes me giggle and feel warm and cozy all over. Probably not Keith’s intent when he was sneering about evangelical Christians and let that lovely gem drop.

I’m guilty of sneering at evangelical Christians. But the one’s I sneer at are the judgy media whores and the judgy gay bashers who get caught with male escorts and their pants around their ankles. But then I’ll sneer at anyone who queer bashes because chances are they are and it’s too scary to contend with so they pour on the hate. I also sneer at people who refer to themselves as “Christians” when they protest at Veteran’s funerals with ugly, hateful signs claiming God hated their loved one for serving in the military because God hates fags so that’s why we were attacked on 9/11. Just thinking about Fred Phelps and his church makes my blood boil and my heart sad all at once. Because in some very small liberal minds Phelps is your typical Christian. Uh huh, just like the Palestinian who blow up cafes is your typical Muslim and the dumb mo’ fo Israeli who thought it would be an excellent strategy to take Muslims hostage in a Temple so the PLO would force everyone to start shooting--and the Jews could call foul--is your typical Jew.

One of my favorite people I get to share this Earth with is a very devout born again Christian. God only knows what she thinks of my foul mouth and my lifestyle and my ribald sense of humor but she loves me anyway and I know she prays for me because that’s what Jesus would do. How lucky am I to have a friend like that. Anyhow, K went to Israel a few years ago, with the intent to convert Jews to Christianity. I bristled when she told me she was going to do that but I told her I hoped she would have a safe and meaningful trip and I was (truly) looking forward to hearing her stories when she returned. K was supposed to travel with another woman but it feel through and she ended up alone and depending on a network of strangers, some Christian, some Jewish and some Muslim. Her daughter had a friend in Israel and they had friends and so on and so on and everyone, no matter what flavor of God they worshiped, welcomed K into their homes and hearts. She never got a chance to witness to them because they witnessed to her through their actions. She came home transformed and even more Christ like. My guess is K transformed their lives in ways she will never know because she is just that sort of person. K had a front row seat and experienced the futility of war and told me everyone she met just wants it to stop and feel the governments--all of the--are the driving force feeding the crazy on either side.

Our national past time of Beating Down Those People We Don’t Understand Or Agree With feeds the crazy here, too. It also feeds the malaise of fear and the malaise of anger and the malaise of anxiety we are suffering globally. But with our information explosion, it’s hard to turn away from the train wreck. At least, I’m having a hard time turning away. But I must turn away because I strongly believe my psychic vibration can affect my life for better or worse. God gave me this force but it is I who must tap into it and create my positive existence. But I can’t do it if I’m a partake in the Train Wreck Slide Show. In short, The Net is harshing my mellow. So what am I doing to stop--what feels like madness--in my plain? There are snaky blogs I’ve stopped following and sites specializing in doom and gloom and blatant scare tactic journalism. I have left a community I’ve been a member of for many years because I was sick to death of defending my spirituality which is accessorized in believing that Christ is my particular religion’s son of God. (Dude, it’s all God. Flying Spaghetti Monster, Loki, Allah, whatever) All I know and care about is my belief in God’s limitless and boundless grace is what gets me through most days. I was also sick to death of the malevolence directed towards any member of a particular political party. Finally, I had had enough of the smug, self-serving tone most of the participants had and their predilection to thinking they were the smartest, wittiest people on the planet. I beg to differ, they are actually some of the most mean-spirited and culturally bigoted people I’ve ever run across but it took me about ten years to figure it out. (Some of these people I love and will continue to keep in contact but that’s a handful) As an effort to take the high road, and walk the way of peace talk, I’m not mentioning the name of the community. Rather than fight it any longer because I’m not as well educated as the most vocal and erudite in the community, I’m pushing away from the table and declaring the relationship over. But it wasn’t without getting angry about it a few weeks ago. I was letting my anger seethe and boil but I gave it one more go yesterday and all my lurking prompted was my status update someplace else who’s ill timed and not thought out responses further flamed the fire of a marvelous egomaniacal fantasy.

Yesterday, I imagined shouting loudly enough so even earthlings whom were asleep would awaken, those who were fighting in wars would hear over the chaos of death and those who were working would listen:

“ stopSTopSTOSTOP bickering and just live and let live!!”
“Use the next five minutes to breath deeply and think about whatever it is that makes you the happiest, be it Jesus, Zeus, your dog or gold or opium crops. Just stop whatever it is your doing and take five minutes to contemplate what makes your heart soar.”

And the erudite left is not the only guilty party in this game. Another place I frequent has a mix of ideologies; one of the members--in the middle of a discussion of the Fort Hood shootings--had the audacity to blame Obama for them. Whatever, dude. Sheesh crazy is as crazy does. But this is typical of the hysteria coming from the right. I can’t whine too much about the right because I pointedly avoid most US news outlets because of the fear mongering. (I have enough fear conjured up in my head, thanks, I don’t need any flavor of wing nut telling me what to fear or think.) And frankly, I am more left leaning so I don’t know of many right leaning publications. But the crap The Huffington Post spews out could tip me over to the other side. No wonder the right hates the left. We act like a bunch of know-it-all-assholes because they act like Holier-than-thou-demagogues who hate everyone else in one breath but tell us we need to all be more like Jesus who didn‘t hate anyone and probably would be happy to have dinner with just about anyone who would have him.

But isn’t that the beauty of the human condition, this duality, this flawed-ness. We are all so deeply and beautifully flawed. The Girl blames Adam and Eve but I think it was all part of God’s divine plan and he would have found a reason to kick us out of the garden anyhow. Because God was like that in the beginning, pretty much impossible to please and quick to anger. It wasn’t until he calmed down somewhere after Jacob and started thinking about giving Earth Jesus who could be his mouthpiece for peace since he hadn’t done such a bang up job before then.

So if you name yourself a liberal, shake right-winger’s hand. And if you are right wing, shake a bleeding heart liberal’s hand and after that, don’t forget to breathe and let your heart soar for a minute cuz it’s a great feeling.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Big Flakes

Last week, we had our biggest snow of the year. And because I suck at paying attention to many adult responsibilities I didn’t realize just how bad my tires were until I drove Beav to school. My SUV became a lethal weapon on those streets yesterday morning and I found myself driving much like I once skied: almost at the brink of complete loss of control, any misjudgement would result in a specatacular yard sale and a flalling tumble leaving gloves and hats behind me on the hill. So my first stop after dropping Beav off was not my crack dealer or a coffee shop but the tire store. Luckily, despite my procrastinating style, the people at the tire store didn’t see me swirve into the parking lot and skid to a stop because if they had, they could have charged me oh maybe a thousand bucks for tires and I would have said, “Ok, I‘ll take them.“ Because spending a grand on tires was better than driving anywhere ever again on the tires I had. And I must be living right because the price was actually under what I had saved for this shopping trip. It wasn't like I was completely clueless to the state of my tires, I had actually saved money for them and I put it off because I like seeing the over inflated balance in my account. That extra cash made me feel as if I really could walk into Sundance and buy the cute $200 blouse without a second thought of: “Dude, what about tires?.“ So I waited until the situation was critical--three inches of snow on the ground with maybe eighteen more coming--and bought tires. I have a tendancy to forget things like buying school supplies and school clothes. I am alwaysalways, ALWAYS stunned it’s the end of August and everyone needs new shoes and backpacks and pencils and crap. I blame absolute denial on not having winter clothing unpacked in October because I hate winter that much. Or when the kids were little, summer would roll around and I would be STUNNED I hadn’t signed them up for swimming or replaced their summer clothing or laid up pool food and extra beer for me (the afternoons, they were long with a three year old and a seven year old, just sayin’) And how dare that cute little oil can light be on, I just put oil in the truck, what, six months ago? But yesterday morning, I knew the Universe wasn’t going to send me out the door and onto the street with protection and blessings so I wouldn't kill, maim, hurt or distroy anyone or anything in the SUV Of The Bald Tires. Once I crawled to the tire store, I was truly surprised to see I wasn’t the only person who had waited until the first big snow was actually hitting the ground to do something about the safety of their vehicles and I felt lucky the store had the tires I needed and came in under budget. I was so pleased about these things I didn’t mind the--I kid you not--four hour wait.

Worth every second of waiting because I love my new tires and they have the most remarkable feature called "tread". The grooves are deep and symmetrical with small grooves interlaced around and next to the crevices. I was offered spikes for the little holes but that was pushing this whole driving in deep snow thing so I opted out on the spikes. Which, in hindsight would have been a nice butch BDSM touch to my Big Ass Tires. Now snow is my special Bitch. Driving home yesterday afternoon I was enraptured with my new toys tires. Even Beav noticed. I had to stop on a dime behind someone and his comment was: “Oh yeah, this morning, we would have hit that guy.” And then he looked up from his endless text messaging to tell me: “Mom, you didn’t skid to the right that time.”

I’m still having a Near Dyke* Moment about these tires. I think I’m in love with them, too. Which is completely unlike me. I fall in love with lipstick, blouses and chairs. Cars aren’t that important to me, I see cars that catch my eye and I have a secret crush on these guys and their cars, so I’m not a complete idiot but I’m not terribly keen on driving . My parents had to force me to learn when I was seventeen and I still don’t have a lot of confidence in my abilities. But these new tires. Wow. I’m almost cocky behind the wheel of my truck. Uh oh you are thinking, watch out for the old green Mitz, June is one of those SUV drivers. You know the type, owning the road, following too close, going too fast on snow and through water? Fortunately, Mitzy still reins it in and moves like a little old lady in the snow but she moves like a little old lady wearing killer snow boots.

It's a good thing they cancelled school last Thursday because Beav was up banging around until about midnight or so and 0600 wouldn’t have been pretty if there had been school. Wally’s Honda was almost buried and too bad it melted before I could dig it out because I love snow so much. (/sarcasm) Nothing I hate more than being wet and cold. And please don’t tell me “you just need the appropriate clothing and then you would enjoy it.“ I have such clothing and nope, don’t enjoy it. If today is any indication it's going to be a long winter. Usually, this sort of storm saves up it’s wrath for March, and this storm is making a March dump look like a dusting which is why I'll be in my room weeping if anyone needs me.

We leave for Mexico in ninety two days. Not that I’m counting.

*being a Dyke is not a bad thing, I mean this in the political sense of the word.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Faded Photographs

Even though I have a lot of blog worthy ideas swirling around in my head; I promised myself this week, before I launch back into the world of nursing, I will finish Wally’s scrapbook. It’s about time isn’t it? I thought it would take maybe six months of diligent work but it took me eighteen months! I kept hitting creative or emotional walls and then came summer with the advent of my other writing project and gardening. The picture on the blog is the last image in the album. It was a very weird picture of him standing next to my dresser in my messy bedroom when he was two. Why I took his picture at that moment I’ll never remember. What makes this picture strange is it is triple exposed and in the shadows you can see Christmas as well as a fragment from an image on a deserted highway outside of Taos. Even in the 90’s with point and shoot cameras it was hard to double expose film. This film was exposed three times. I remember talking to the guy at the camera store who told me chances are the film didn’t advance in the camera and it was a small miracle any images were visible.. Much less a collage of images which capture our busy life, and at the time, happy life as a family. The Beav came downstairs Tuesday night when I was laying out the last pages and asked me if this was Wally’s Christmas present. I laughed the idea off because, please, would a 19 year old really want a baby book and scrapbook of their school years as a gift? Beav assured me that Wally has changed so much over the last two months that he would probably think it was “cool” I had finished the book. When I finished this afternoon, I was a little choked up like someone who had finished their first marathon. It was a relief to have completed the task but at the same time I was really saying good-bye to the little boy.

One boy album down, one to go.

I think Beav is secretly hoping I start on his book this winter but I’m a tired of looking at little boy pictures so I think the next project will be to put the very old and very fragile family photos Dad recently gave me in an album. Just a simple acid free album, no embellishments and the journaling will be limited to identifying (if I can) people in the photographs. Some of these photos are unspeakable funny and sweet: my cousin and Sister playing with Hula Hoops, baby me pulling Sister’s hair, my mother and her sisters over the years grouped together, the body language apparent which sisters had just fussed with one another. Many of the photos I’ve seen over and over again but one picture was a surprise. It’s a candid snapshot of my father and mother standing together, he is standing behind her and his face is almost shadowed by her hair blowing back. They are bundled up and probably huddled close against a chilly Kansas wind. Their hands are gently intertwined one with the other making this beautiful candid photo sweetly intimate. I love stealing glimpses at the past before I was born. I also have a set of photos from a particularly rowdy party my parents had when I was about two. Who knows where I was that night, probably locked in my room with my eight year old sister supervising me, giving me Kool-aid and animal crackers when she wasn’t trying to convince me to stick my head between the very wide slats. I’m kidding I was probably not in a playpen but playing with a screwdriver and an electrical outlet [wink]*) Anyhow, those crazy kids were having fun, drinking their very strong cocktails and smoking their strong cigarettes. Those were the days, weren’t they when you could put your two year old in a play pen, get drunk and smoke. Damn, I was born too late.

*for the record, I was at my grandmother’s house and was no doubt being indulged by her and teased by my older cousins.

Friday, October 16, 2009


We walked the National Mall today. The whole thing. From the Smithsonian to the Lincoln Memorial down and around the Jefferson Memorial and back to the Smithsonian. It was a big walk for these old legs and it was rainy, windy and cold. I'm so glad I did it, too because it was one of the most humbling and moving days of my life. Beav and I saw all of the memorials and I cried at three of them. Which is sort of melodramatic and ridiculous because I've never lost a family member to war. My late uncle was a decorated WWII soldier, my cousin was married to a medic in Vietnam, I have multiple cousins who were in the service, my ex brother-in-law ran the officer's club in Germany in the late sixties (Hooah!). So it isn't like my loss is extreme. I can't imagine the emotions running through people as they saw this and there were people looking for their loved one's names and they wept and prayed over them. There were too damned many names:

If that wasn't enough we stumbled onto the Korean memorial and the artist explicitly depicts a look of betrayal and loss in each of the statue's eyes.

But more evocative is the wall running along the statues with faces which aren't visible until you are very close. At first I wasn't sure I was seeing faces and I thought it was an optical illusion but then I stood very close and I could see the faces which still weren't really clear until I reviewed today's pictures and they are very clear. You only notice them later in the form of memory. Which is exactly how we have noticed the Korean veterans. But they are from the generation that survived the Great Depression and later watched older brothers march off to WWII so it wasn't like them to speak up and say they suffered in Korea and didn't come home whole. It is perhaps the most poignant statement I've ever seen in a work of art. Our shadow veterans.

By this time on our long long walk in the rain, I'm trailing behind the Beav because I'm about to cry and I don't want to embarrass or upset him. Again, I've not lost anyone to war and I barely remember Vietnam. We are plodding along the path when I see a cluster of people gathered and it took a minute for me to realize why they were stopped: The Vietnam's Nurse's Memorial. As crazy as my calling can make me, I am deeply proud to be part of this brave sisterhood and I remember how hard women fought for this memorial to be a part of the National Mall after they have been passed over for medals time and time again. I urged the Beav to follow me as I almost break to a run. I was wet and I was cold and the urge to just find a cab and go back to our hotel was strong but I was graced with standing next to a memorial for my sisters who volunteered to fight in a war most didn't understand and many protested. Aesthetically, the bronze statue is unspeakably beautiful and the tenderness of the nurse's touch is unmistakable. The artist gets to the heart and art of being a nurse. I felt the tears well up and spill onto my cheeks, Beav wasn't sure what the statue was all about and I tearfully explained to him it was hard fought but a well deserved tribute to nurses in war. He had the good sense to walk ahead of me while I sobbed on the path behind him. Had I been alone or with TG, I would have sat on the bench and wept for all the lives lost and the disrespect and discount of the sacrifices made. I doubt I would have been so brave to fight in a misunderstood war. Or any war for that matter.

It was a memorable day.