“I’ve got nothing on my mind, nothing to remember, nothing to forget…..

….  and I’ve got nothing to regret”

Another year older as of yesterday, or more accurately the last 364.25 days; I am in my late 50’s, far past any medical expiration date and even farther past any expectations of certain teachers, counselors and nay sayers.

“But I am all tied up on the inside, no one knows quite what I’ve got, and I know that on the outside, what I used to be I’m not anymore.”

I am another year older, with the weight and wrinkles to show for my journey once again through the valley of  “I’m Not Dead Yet.” I tire easily and breathe with too little exertion. I am walking and swimming and keeping track of what goes in, effort out, stretching and rolling and seeding and making step after step and breath after breath towards my  goals.

“You know I’ve heard about people like me
But I never made the connection.
They walk one road to set them free
And find they’ve gone the wrong direction.
But there’s no need for turning back
Cause all roads lead to where I stand;
And I believe I’ll walk them all
No matter what I may have planned.”

I am still so far from the person I want to  see in the mirror, the soul reflected clearly in the mirror of meditation and just as far from the person I would be for my patients, my friends, my family and lovers. So another year begins…

My next guided spiritual journey is through Buddhism, brought to me by Pema Chodron’s “No Time to Lose,” and my current life coach is “The Book of Forgiving.” I am back to “Thrive” and “Your First Triathlon” for my physical training.  I have a greater yearning to travel, not just the far away places still on my bucket list like Australia and Antartica, or even Alaska (what’s with all these “A”s), but a stronger yearning to go back to Noank and Mystic, to touch my ocean and on the way hug and connect with the few people who did not so much remain through my life as periodically  resurface.  Each person I chatted with or thanked for my birthday greeting in real time or FB is a reminder of how gifted I have been with people to both love and by whom to be loved.

“Can you remember who I was?
Can you still feel it?
Can you find my pain?
Can you heal it?

Then lay your hands upon me now
And cast this darkness from my soul.
You alone can light my way.
You alone can make me whole
Once again.”

So many people, so many different times, so many ways I have been broken, or fallen down, and every time life has placed a hand if I would reach, not so much to pull me up, but to walk beside me as I faced the challenges. We all get broken sometimes. It is up to us to make a new and beautiful mosaic, or sit in the ruins and throw the shards of our life at every body else’s art.

“We’ve walked both sides of every street
Through all kinds of windy weather;
But that was never our defeat
As long as we could walk together.
So there’s no need for turning back
Cause all roads lead to where we stand;
And I believe we’ll walk them all
No matter what we may have planned.”
To my children and friends, those especially who care enough to follow my blog, I am grateful that you hold my hand even if from miles and miles away.  From old friends I have not seen in decades like Serein (well one decade), and TC, and my own Donny to the friends who have been there as I fulfilled my life long dream and became a nurse like my sons, Sara, Gil, Pat, Regina, Jennifer and the whole wonderful Videan Clan, to my newest friends and joys like Saja, BAM, TAM, Archer, Stephanie and Brian, I can only say thank-you and I will do my best this year to be the woman you deserve!
Todays Blog is brought to you by “American Pie” by Don McClean. There isn’t a bad song on the album. And I can lend you the vinyl or the CD if you live nearby!
Also cannot recommend enough “The Book of Forgiving” by Desmond Tutu.
Now who is up for a vegan smoothie and a 5K walk?

 

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy, fish are jumpin’

So sipping some coffee I may or may not get to add to my long term caffeination while listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong perform the most sublime Porgy and Bess.  Someday I will have an awesome pair of headphones to put on and lay on the floor and listen to this 2 disc classic LP set, but my turntable is blissing me out just fine right now.

My bodies clean up crew is apparently having some kind of competition, not unexpected, but this is the part of the process that is always the hardest, whether illness or accident or death of someone I love.  The crisis is over and re-actions are complete, in this case the last treatment available done, and follow-up scans and blood work taken, but the real work is just starting.

Now comes recovery and learning what the new reality will be and shifting myself to fit that reality in a constructive way.  Everyone has challenges. Even good things like the birth of a perfectly healthy new baby, accepting a new better paying job, or the completion of a long time creative venture have this piece of limbo – the summer of the cycle, where everything holds its breath waiting to see how the wheel will turn. Nothing is familiar and there are no more familiar rhythms leading you to the next note or word. Forging forward is tiring when I cut a new path, whether the journey is a chosen happy one or a necessary rough one, for some reason this is the part of the journey where I am most likely to implode emotionally. (I am great in a crisis, its later I need two baskets to carry me cuz one won’t even due.)

My body got that memo and seems to be trying to expedite the process.

Knowing how hard this part is for me, I made myself a brief social commitment for the afternoon, and agreed to give someone a ride so I couldn’t cancel.  And because of really special reasoning that very possibly only Miss Laurie might understand (cuz MY Doctor is brilliant and well informed but NOT in any way attractive or personable!), the social engagement I picked today is a Sci-Fi Singles Meet and Greet.

Hey, if anyone asks me on a date today, they are definitely worth saying yes to, LOL. I look awful, I can’t shave cuz I might nick myself and bleed everywhere, I can’t get rid of my nice Italian facial hair (sparse mind you, but that doesn’t actually make it look more attractive, pubescent boy beard on an old lady is just not sexy!) because well, the chemicals; aand my hair is coming in greyer this time and making my adorable cut have a mind all its own. Hee hee hee. I am at my worst appearance wise and totally bringing mints cuz sure my breath is well, chemo special. But i am going. And dammit, I AM having fun!

And I am wearing my T-shirt. It says “Being a person has become too complicated, time to be a unicorn.”

Cuz, my own private joke and truth today, and well, my nose, think Despicable Me’s Gru.

I will be back later and report on my new friends and any Prince’s I meet.

For now, just thanks for all the love and support.

And Hey, still looking for links in the comments section to other Blogs, good deed doing, or other like minded people and places.

And Porgy, I is your woman now……..

If you can get this vinyl, do it! If not and you live nearby come on over sometime and I will share!

 

Gotta Find my Corner of the sky…..

Music once memorized is just waiting for a chance to reawaken in my brain. Music from the original Pippin is back on rotation on the inner soundtrack, maybe not as catchy or memorable as other Schwartz compositions, it still makes great earworm.

I picked up the latest Broadway recording and am glad I heard the new arrangements sung first by the live cast at Phoenix Theater or my change avoiding brain might have dismissed it as unworthy.

Thanks to Sara R for wanting to attend the Phoenix Theater production as a birthday treat and Paul Stovall for nailing the vocals and choreography with such deliciousness, I can relish the revival as well as I did the original. I had a bit of a relationship with the Fosse run in ancient times and I have to say chipper little Anthony as Pippin never felt quite right, nor did a few of the sexy siren scenes played with all the Mormon chasteness possible with Fossiesque choreography. Still think the incest momma plays better with a more born again blonde look, but all in all this pop musical look at the eternal question of “to be or not to be” managed to make me hum through a very tough day yesterday, and wish I had the time and money for seconds.

Pippin is playing one more week at Phoenix Theater so if you have a chance, go see it!

Crowfae gives it:

“Pippen” as staged by Phoenix Theater gets a solid 7/10  Shepard Pies!  (This is a flagrant abuse of Oberon’s rating system, I am certain, (although it is quite quotable so Oberon would watch it per his own statements in “Hunted” by Kevin Hearne) there was neither sausage, bacon nor significant peril warranting  time away from belly rubs, hunting or naps.)

It’s a Contest!

Prizes and all the nitty, gritty particulars will be forthcoming but here is the down and dirty! To enter this contest you must comment here or on my FB adding one author and which book by them you would have me read, under 500 pages, fiction or nonfiction, poetry, etc just no technical manuals. I am picking 12 I have not yet read, or do not remember. If I explain anymore now, it will make it less fun for all of you later. So go recommend!

After the apocalypse I get all the Oreos I want!

 

I hated them, and began, last and worst degradation, to hate myself. I clung to my ferocious habits, yet half despised them; I continued my war against civilization, and yet entertained a wish to belong to it.” from “The Last Man” by Mary Shelley.
Triple Double Stuff Oreos are proof that vegan food can be totally unhealthy; it is this non-food food that have, with the demise of the Hostess Twinkie, become my first choice for post-apocalyptic binges. Yup, I think about those things even while eating cookies and tea. I have been sort of obsessed with apocalypse and isolation since childhood. Anybody else remember “On the Beach” the Kramer movie that saps up and dumbs down the Shute’s book of the same name (with still pretty spectacular results I must add but as usual, the book is better.) I do. I was much too young to understand all the relational nuances I got watching it as an adult, but I got it, and it stuck with me the same way Hitchcock’s “The Birds” did.
Apocalypse and isolation, people living outside the structures of civilization, oh and dystopia; these are always my favorite stories even today, but as a child and adolescent, even more so. From Robinson Crusoe to Swiss Family Robinson, the tails of Captain Nemo, “My Side of the Mountain,” or the truly apocalyptic ones like “The Scarlet Plague” by Jack London, “Earth Abides” by George Stewart, or “A Canticle for Leibowitz”, “Alas, Babylon,” “Shadow on the Hearth” or in its own way “Planet of the Apes.” these and the fantasy stories were the works I could not get enough of, weedling the librarian to get me copies to check out (not available in the children’s section my card was valid in) or reading them behind the paperback shelves in the 5 and Dime. (They never kicked me out, although I rarely bought more than my 10 cent weekly milk money worth of candy; in return, I never stole a book from them, or anything else for that matter.)

When I was still pretty young and on a car trip to My Grandma Clegg’s; my little brother was on the way because we kept having to stop for Mommy to pee and Roxanne always got to hold the baby who couldn’t quite stand, so I’d say maybe 5; I told my family that when I grew up I wanted to go live on an “uninhibited” island, I meant uninhabited but my vocabulary often got ahead of my pronunciation. I didn’t realize why they were all laughing so loudly, until my oldest sister felt compelled to explain the difference in the most shaming way possible, however I did understand that they were illustrating why I wished to live away from everyone and why I have always been certain the apocalypse would come.

I still don’t get meanness; I still believe in love, compassion and kindness. In fact one of my loves of classics like Verne’s tales of Nemo and Shelley’s “Last Man” stems from their humanist faith that love can change and redeem a hard and angry heart, however both authors having moved past their era’s romanticism know that a rescued heart can still cease to beat inside an old or battered body and the delineation of good/bad/right/wrong is not as simple as birth, power, money or spiritual affiliation. In their books science is both friend and foe, the problem and the answer; just like many of my favorite modern novels.

They say “Last Man” is the first post-apocalyptic novel, but I posit it is far from the first apocalypse story. I suggest Gilgamesh and Noah are both stories of apocalypse, and any well read geek will realize I have also skipped over the writer’s we all read in school like Vonnegut and Bradbury, or any of the external act ends of the world, or the “cozy” ends of the world. Pandemic or nuclear holocaust or environmental destruction/infrastructure failure are my obsession. Man ends through his own inattention and acts of unkindness; and begins anew if any beginning is allowed (not all books allow our species to survive) because of the heroine/hero’s ability to see possibility and practice compassion.

And always, always the story is accompanied by the Cerdd Dant harp of isolation.

If you are one of the many modern readers who are a bit obsessed with zombies and plagues and isolation and the end of the world, go read “Last Man,” you will thank me later. Also if you are unfamiliar with any other titles here I can thoroughly recommend them.

What is your favorite post-apocalyptic novel? I always can use another good book!

By the way, if we both survive the apocalypse, I still get all the Oreos I want, but since there will be many Oreos and only us left, no worries, there will be some for you as well!

Thriving…

So I can honestly say that “thriving” is not the first word that came to mind when I put blogging on my list of things I choose to do today, but “Thrive” is my “word of 2013”.  My first word was actually “overwhelmed.” “Overwhelmed” was also my first conscious thought upon waking,  I almost rolled back over, snuggled with my dogs and went back to sleep; running back into my less than restful dreams, running away from the miasma of sadness, pain and responsibilities looming within that cloudy word. Key word is “almost”; instead I got up and put on my running clothes. If I was gonna run, it was going to be toward something, two somethings actually. I cut two carrots with one knife when I run in the morning. My dogs get some much needed exercise and attention, and I get healthier heart and lungs (as well as firmer thighs, so OK 2.5.)

I made my list of things to do today in my head as I started to walk. Like tangled yarn, I pulled the unusable pieces of my life apart and neatly wound tasks back up on themselves looking for the thread that would begin this day in a pattern with which I could live.  Organizing and prioritizing kept me from focusing on the pain in my hips and feet.  I know this pain, and know it is the kind I have to run through (as opposed to the kind I get in my knee or lungs that say walk awhile). I set my Endomondo goal as 3 miles (5K) and started to trot  with Cozi. By half a mile I was in my zone, no longer hurting or planning but just loving the sound and smell of the infant day.  “I can do this easy,” I though, but Cozi had other ideas.

I have been neglecting my four legged children as seriously as I have been neglecting myself and everything else, and his old dog body had had enough at 1 mile and Cozi began sitting down and staring at me about every half block. Cozi is one hundred and seven pounds of very adorable, very stubborn giant golden retriever  so I called it good and took him home. I then put Yeager on leash. Where neglect makes Cozi drag, neglect makes Yeager lunge. He and I spent 20 minutes walking circles (if you have ever leash trained a labrador retriever to heel, you can relate to this) and almost making it to the end of the block.  I fell short of my 5K, but I did my morning run. Achievement unlocked. Next it was time to physically write my list.

My list does two things, it helps me remember and it helps me focus.  I start the list with my word of the year. That is my focus. Focus is what makes plans and goals form from that miasma of “overwhelmed” into a restful sleep of I am achieving. I struggle each day to remember to not trade what I want most, for what I want in the moment, hence my word, “Thrive” at the top of the list.  Then I write everything I think I need to do, or want to do today. Also to help with focus, if something comes to mind as I am doing something else I add it to the list and go back to what I was doing until it is completed.

So “Thrive!,” I write. What that word means to me would be a whole blog in itself and today’s writing time is almost over so I can’t go into it now, just suffice it to say that for me thriving encompasses a particular picture of health, my religion of kindness, a commitment to building connection, a new commitment to integrity and to intellectual growth.  Blogging is my brief ode to connection today, as today is my first day home without any outside obligation in more than two months and I plan to recharge my seriously depleted introvert battery by not going anywhere or talking to anyone if  I can help it.  I need time alone as much as I need social connection to thrive, once again, two carrots with one knife

Anyway, Back to thriving, having a word for the year is something I borrowed/learned from one of my favorite genre writers, Debbie Maccomber. A romance writer of that kind of  book I generally refer to as a bag of verbal potato chips, where the vocabulary requires no dictionary. A reader can always spot genre fiction because the plot is interspersed every third page with sucking wounds or sucking face.  Like potato chips, genre fiction is addictive, I keep reading just five more pages until the whole book is devoured in one sitting. It amuses my slightly snobbish mind that Ms. Maccomber’s mental snack food has also been the source of two of my more useful self-help skills, that of the 20 Wishes Book and the Word of the Year. Maybe snacks of the right quality, consumed in moderation do have a place in my diet.

THRIVE. 

I could digress here into a hundred things that have been weeds in my garden of thrive, and why I am here a week into April, finally writing about it, but that would not help you or me, or anyone really. What we give energy to grows stronger, so instead I will talk about thriving.

Tomorrow.

My timer has gone off and another thing “thriving” around here is a mess of weeds in the front yard so I am off to pull them. Will check back later with my crock-pot recipe and any updates on this SOFT (Slow Old Fat Try-athlete) training achievements today. And FTR, I have been to the gym Monday and Wednesday and lifted weights!

 

Looking for a little creative insanity for myself….thoughts on life and Don Quixote

I have drafts all over the place on this site and so few new posts. I will admit to being in a blue funk. Death has been house sharing with me, or so it seems the last couple years. Family members and close friends, and now my young patient have all stepped out of life, leaving small rents in the fabric of my heart and universe. All this has happened while I have survived against the odds and I have been given a new lease on life.

So many times, when the news of another death has reached my ears, have I questioned why them and not me and tried to bargain for a do over. “It should have been me,” I tell my deity  “I have had a great life, pretty much done my bucket list so thoroughly I had to make new lists. No one’s life would be as impacted by my absence as the large hole this death has left.” Of course, I may tell my gods that, but I don’t know that for sure either. “Truly,” I say,  “no one really depends on me these days with all my children grown and independent; I have no significant other, no one sharing my heart or bed or paycheck, sometimes I go days with all my conversations work or retail related.”

That is what I tell them.

And nine months ago, in an interview with someone I still hope to ghost write a memoir for (on hold due to me, not him), one simple phrase knocked me to the ground and made me realize that I had some serious work to do again. That is when the crying really started. I made myself as small and as distant from everyone as only a compassionate person can, and in doing so had somehow stopped really living my inner life. I was Sancho not Don Quixote. I was outwardly still tilting at windmills in hope of an outcome, but knowing they were windmills, so I tried to find ways to avoid the bruises, the pain and the tears.

Commitment to a dream is a special kind of creative insanity. An important feature of all the happiest characters in Cervantes extensive literary work is their adherence to a path that has little or no reason to it. Another important feature of their paths is the number of times they are beaten, bloodied, robbed or otherwise betrayed before just as randomly rewarded. Joy (survival) is merely the acceptance of their having survived another day to pick up their lance and shield and golden helmet (shaving basin) to again serve that which they love.

Two weeks ago today, a smile and a laugh that was worth getting up and getting dressed for (on even the worst day,) was permanently taken out of  life.  I don’t know if I will ever be able to sing “Eeesny Weensy Spider” again dry eyed. I miss him terribly and my heart breaks for his mother and family. Ironically it was the chain of “bad” things happening in my life 2009 and 2010 that led me to this home, this job, and that young man and his brother and their amazing family.

I dreamed about him last night. We were all going to someplace, they sent me ahead to set up the oxygen and equipment, the family was told they had to travel in their own vehicle. (FTR, their mom would never have let them out of her sight like this but it was a dream) and when they got there both wheelchairs were empty. The chairs were being pushed through the mall to the facility by two attendants (my youngest sister and oldest sister, a whole other story). I freaked out and ran back to find them, the little boy who just died was on the floor, and stood up, he was a little taller than me. He hugged me, and then pushed me away, “Go find T****,” he said, “he needs you now, I don’t.” Then he laughed and said, “Thank you,” winked, and sang with hands “and the stupid little spider went up the spout again.” He strolled away tossing over his shoulder “Find T**** and then get back before my Mom kills somebody for losing us.”  A little further on I found T**** and started yelling for someone to help, for someone to go to the nursing home at the end of the mall and get a wheelchair, get the family, but everyone had an excuse for why they couldn’t help, and he was laughing but he had no oxygen so time was of the essence; I picked him up and started carrying him. Each time I thought I would drop him, a chair showed up for us to rest in, and then as I came around the corner I found his sister T******, and his Mom V******* and they said there were no wheelchairs but they had an office chair, the rolling kind.  I sat in it and held him and they rolled me up the stairs and to where his bed was. It was hairy but he was okay. I told his mom and sister that D***** was out walking in the mall, and they set out to find him as I settled T**** and told him we wouldn’t be seeing D***** again, that he was all better now. I woke up crying. I cried a few times writing this.

I don’t know how long this pot of Tear Soup will need to stew, and I don’t know what other losses I will face. I do know this year will continue to be challenging as I deal with the sad of multiple losses and legally address some of the things that have broken me in the far past.

What I do know is that I am singing for the dragons again, and this may look like a broken shaving basin to you but I can see that it IS the Golden Helmet of Mambrino.

In more pedantic terms, I will choose to hope and dream as I pick up the tools I acquired in PCT and grief therapy, recommit one meal at a time to healthy, kind diet; train for another race; serve as a nurse where the universe sends me; use my gift of words and laughter when opportunity permits; and most importantly, be open to the risk and love.

I would not trade a single moment I had with any of those I have lost, to avoid the emotional carpeting their death has brought.

Today my house is hairier and messier than ever, my Wednesday lunch containers are in bits about the yard (yes I forgot my lunch again, and the dogs managed to unzip the lunchpack and pull everything out while not destroying the bag, I need a video camera for when I am gone!), I have dishes to do, costume completion and knitting calling my name, as well as some cooking and baking for Fairhaven to fit in my day. So I will set this pot on the back burner for awhile, soup can be ignored for hours. I know it will call me back for a stir or two today, and there are many pots more to be made before it becomes just a seasonal dish again, but for now I am done with my Tear Soup. Thank-you for listening and sharing a dish if you read this whole blog, and I promise a better offering tomorrow. I have not yet done my annual itinerary for Fairhaven visitors and I have some lovely recipes just waiting to be shared.

 

If you have never read “Tear Soup” by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen, it is a children’s book I recommend for all ages dealing with loss, or dealing with someone who has had a loss. You can buy your own copy at http://changinghands.com/.

Namaste.