Thursday, March 31, 2005

The greening of my world

It has been several few weeks since I've been able to walk Cheyenne in the mornings. We've been at the park daily but I've driven there, and it's not at all the same pleasure as the walks we used to take before all this went sour. This morning we set foot into our neighborhood world again. It was delightful! Although not quite yet April, this morning had April's fingerprints all over it. The home gardens tended and planted, the redbuds in full bloom, the dogwoods. And, my favorite, the confederate jasmine has begun to bloom along the fences, including my own. The small pinwheel shaped flowers of white have appeared and are dangling on bright green stems of growth, loaded with that sweet scent. Had I noticed yesterday? Like the new growth everywhere around me, this day is also new. And this morning I was fully in the present. It has been a while since I could say that.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Undesirable secondary effects

For the past couple months, I have been taking Prednisone, a corticosteroid, for medical reasons. It’s pretty powerful stuff and it takes care of the problem but it also comes with a crowd of side effects. And something about my physical/chemical make-up invites the whole throng to come on in and hang their side-effecting hats for a while. Seriously, every one of these has been keeping me company lately:
  • stomach irritation
  • insomnia
  • fatigue
  • restlessness
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • easy bruising
  • weight gain
  • blurred vision
  • rounding/puffiness of the face
  • night sweats
  • personality changes

Does that sound fun to you? It's not. But looking at the list itself provides me with some amusement. My favorite is the last item. It’s as if the person who scribed the list was actually reading it and thought, that would piss me off, so they added the list up and put the result at the end. Experience all of these things and your personality will change too. It's a side effect of the side effects.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The end of the innocence

There are three words I want to hear: Happy Easter, Alison. I've heard them today though, so perhaps I should be more specific. I want to hear them in my father's voice.

I have been counseled by well-meaning and generous friends about the holidays and how they are different to experience for the first time after a loss. I thought I understood, but today I learned that I understood intellectually. I mean, of course the holidays are hard. That makes sense. But we don't have logical hearts.

This morning I awoke early, enjoyed a hot cup of coffee while reading the first few sections of the Sunday paper, and then pulled two eggs from the fridge and put them in a pan of water on the stove with the intention of having hard boil eggs for breakfast. But when I took them off the stove and began to peel them, to my surprise they were not hard-boiled, but soft. I like soft-boiled eggs, but couldn't help myself from thinking about my father liking them as well. And with that thought, I couldn't breathe. Okay, so I expect that. Emotional ambushes are going to crash through. But the tumbling began there. I was going to talk to plenty of people today: mother, brother, sister, niece, nephew, friends, and say, Happy Easter. But not so my father. And I suddenly felt that I'd taken a turn onto a familiar street, only to look around and see nothing I'd seen before. It felt like hearing a train in the distance, a dog barking in the distance, a child crying in the distance. Everything in the distance. It felt like being 500 miles away from my own heart.

I know that nothing ever remains the same, a time comes when we follow new paths, have new experiences. It's a full life I'm living and I know that when I was born, I could not walk or even focus my eyes. And I learned. And I learned because I was taught. All through life, we continue to grow and learn and develop our identities. And we learn because we are taught. And as we are taught, we learn to trust not only ourselves but also our teachers. We see ourselves connected to them and we see ourselves as part of a circle. My father was an integral part of my circle. He allowed me to be free to learn, free to achieve, free to live, and at the same time, accountable to the circle. But starting my day with soft-boiled eggs, and hearing and speaking Happy Easter, while familiar and pleasant, still has me arriving at the feeling that my circle has been broken. I find myself reaching for the hands that are not there. And my hand is left open and missing his. My heart is broken and missing his. I miss his mighty roar. I miss his gigantic tail. I miss my rascal, Puff. This is my new circle. I miss my old circle.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Here comes Peter Cotton Tail, and there go his ears

When I was a child of Easter egg hunting age, the Easter Sunday morning routine would actually begin the night before with Mom hiding all the chocolate and eggs throughout the house while my sister, brother and I slept. Come Sunday morning, we'd grab our empty Easter baskets and run through the house in search of the best haul of goods. And by run through the house, I mean RUN THROUGH THE HOUSE LIKE CHOCOLATE-ADDICTED MANIACS. I'm sure that our movement would have rendered us out of focus to even the sharpest eye. We were terrors on a mission, lifting up couch and chair cushions, flinging back curtains, diving under tables, tripping over each other and stepping on each other with absolutely no care beyond our pure chocolate-driven greedy goal. Animals in the wild, we were. Ultimately, it was not the colored foil wrapped eggs or malted milk eggs that we were after. Somewhere in the house was hidden a chocolate bunny rabbit for each of us. That was the holy grail of the morning. Usually they were hidden in plain sight, atop a picture frame or lamp, but year after year we failed to remember that, caught up in our own frenzy. And we also failed to remember that our bunnies came without ears. Every year, without fail, no ears. Well, maybe they were made with them but our bunnies arrived to us without them. The teethmarks in the chocolate were definitely those of my very guilty looking but highly amused father's. Mom would be exasperated, trying to console us because of course we'd be wailing about it as if it were a complete surprise (chocolate addition can lead to dramatic behavior), and on the other hand, wondering out loud, when Dad did it, had he followed her when she was hiding them, and why would he do this to the kids? Dad would give us his what can I say? look, a very wide-eyed-to-the-sky sort of look accompanied by shrugged shoulders and hands upheld palm upward. Eventually the tears would dry and we'd step into our eating frenzy, trying to stuff as much chocolate in our greedy mouths as we could before being told it was time to dress for church, and to leave our baskets downstairs. Some things don't change. Last year he ate the ears off the chocolate bunny I brought Mom. It' one of those things that just is, and it's not something that I ever remember thinking I'd always remember, likely because it was repeated yearly. I am remembering it now though, and it's making me smile. Happy Easter.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


Just noticed that all three posts today, and now four, contain some form of the word pink. Easy enough to do when talking about fingernail polish and springtime but the bit about the Civil Engineers and the pinky rings, well, that's just kinda funny how that fit right into the theme that I wasn't at all noticing I'd set. I think that's all I have to say for now. Well, one more thing: Pink!

One my father would have liked

Got an interesting e-mail this afternoon from my number one pen-pal, the suitcase-missing friend in Canada. He tells me a story about his noticing over the past couple days that several of the men he's working with wear a ring on their pinky finger. He found this a bit odd, not only that these guys who he assures me are manly men would be wearing rings on their pinky fingers, but that it's not just one guy, rather several. His curiosity leads him to ask the significance. What he learns is that the rings are made from the material of a bridge that failed due to poor engineering. Several lives were lost in the collapse. The ring serves as a reminder to these men (Civil Engineers) that civil engineers have a responsibility to the population they serve to be diligent in their effort to construct in such a way that protects people. That a bunch of manly men are living and working in Canada with pinky rings on their fingers that serve as their professional and ethical compass, now that is a good story.

Pistol Packin' Pink

The color on my toes is Pistol Packin’ Pink. It’s an OPI color and while OPI makes a good polish, I really gotta hand it to them for their names. They are clever, and pure fun to read. In the pinks alone, there’s:
  • Pinking of You
  • Not so Bora-Boring Pink
  • La Paz-itively Hot
  • Italian Love Affair
  • Cha-Ching Cherry
  • Arginteeny Pinkini
  • A-rose at dawn… broke by noon

You get the idea. I don’t read polish names except for OPI. And I’m not alone. There are loads of us who walk up to the fingernail polish display in salons all over the country and we turn the OPI bottles over just to read the names.

I’ve spent more than a small amount of time wondering about the naming process OPI might utilize. Is it someone’s job? And if it is, I just know that it's a clever job title. Or is it a group effort? Whose idea was it to incorporate Geography? Are names scribbled on charts like brainstorming ad concepts? Are the names tested for appeal with their target audience? Every scenario I can think of has fun written all over it. I do not know, but if there is a job naming OPI nail polish, well I think it just has to be one of the coolest jobs out there. Assuming, of course that it paid well and offered good benefits.

Pretty in pink

I went to sleep late last night. Got up late this morning. My skirt is wrinkled, my shirt is wrinkled. My shoes have scuff marks on them. My hair is in a ponytail. I am, once again, a mess. During lunch I'm going to get a pedicure - my nails will soon be painted a seasonally appropriate pink. Hey, I may be wearing wrinkled clothes and scuffed up shoes, but I'm still a girl reveling in Springtime.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

First Quarter 2005 - Most Valuable Players

I’d like to take this moment to recognize those people on my team that have really given it their all lately. And by “given it their all,” I mean they have been there for me with support or laughter or a kind word or a strong shoulder, and consistently so. I am thankful for these friends and I feel blessed to know and love them. (Except for the last two who I do not know or love but have appreciated from a distance.)

For instance:
My number one brother looking out for everyone’s interests in the family, including my own, to the point of exhaustion, leaving no option unconsidered or phone call not made, and exhibiting an extreme patience towards our mother and our nephew, even though he’s also extremely concerned. And frustrated. And hurt.

My number one sister-in-law for always answering my telephone calls and talking with me in a frame of mind and tone of voice that’s understanding and supportive.

My friends, J&C, for their open door policy with me. Yes I can stay there, recover there, help myself there. My dog – with or without me – has been welcome there as well. And also for the supply of champagne at their house. Which they maintain anyway so I should say the supply of champagne that is always offered up with a ‘help yourself to…’ or “would you like?”

My friend, S, for hours and hours of her listening to me work out and through every thought or feeling that I could identify. Patient girl, that one. And for picking up Cheyenne or stopping by and feeding her on evenings I would be late.

My friend MB for meeting me at the park last night with a bottle of champagne. And for three hours we sat at a picnic table beneath the sun and then the stars, all the while a nice breeze. We chatted and laughed and I, for one, had a fantastic evening. Extra kudos her way for coming home with me and helping me flip my mattress and make my bed because a girl just cannot flip a mattress by herself and it was way past its time to be flipped, and that was bothering me. Most importantly though, because it made me wake up laughing because I had the words “Flipping the big white mattress” playing in my head to the rhythm of “Tripping the light fantastic.”

My old colleague, J, who is my number one pen-pal. We let the emails drop a while ago, both of us busy. But they've picked up again and it's always a pleasure to read his thoughts, his stories, and to see the pictures he sends me. Ours is always a good conversation and I am really enjoying having it again.

My number one girl, Stevie Nicks, for sending this fan an e-card invitation to spend $125.00 on a ticket to see her perform on one of four nights at Caesars in Las Vegas in May. Though it’s unlikely I’ll be going, it’s good to know that she’s still going to do solo gigs.

The guy in front of me at the coffee shop drive-thru this morning, who apparently said he’d get my coffee as well, so when I drove up to the window, I was told to put my wallet away. Nice treat! Tomorrow morning, I’m going to pay it forward.

So thanks, all of you. I wish I had a minivan so I could take the whole team out for a post-game pizza party. (Or, hey, maybe the guy who stole the Hummer would be willing to drive?). After we ate our pizza, I’d give everyone a whole roll of quarters for video games. And Stevie could sing. Oh yeah, what a cool pizza party that would be!


Someone stole a Hummer from the student parking lot of my niece’s high school today, and when she told me, she was laughing and so was I (our anti-Hummer feelings are mutual, we just do not understand the need for suburban folks driving around town or to school in military vehicles that start at $50,000 and get 13 miles to the gallon). The stolen Hummer happens to belong to Koby Clemens, as in son of Roger Clemens, so it has been BIG NEWS here. I’m not supporting auto theft, understand, but neither do I support giving a Hummer to a high school kid, no matter who you are, and in particular one who is not going to lock the doors of the vehicle. (You wanna bet that he heard wait until your father gets home?) I know it’s an unfortunate incident and I shouldn’t derive pleasure from it but what can I say? There’s a state-wide, all points bulletin that's been issued, and a $10,000 reward for return of the vehicle. Um, yeah, the exact same treatment we all can expect.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

This doesn't look familiar

My friend emailed from Canada this afternoon. He's there for work. His suitcase on the otherhand jumped ship, er, plane, and took vacation. While the airline has promised to return the deviant suitcase on Thursday, that's going to be too late as he returns home that day. He went shopping, and he wasn't exactly thrilled. I'd do the same, but I think my lack of excitement would be due to it still being cold in Canada and they are no doubt NOT featuring spring sales with brightly colored sandals and capris pants, so I'd have to buy dark colored wintry things to wear one time and then wait another 7 or 8 months to wear again. Nonetheless, that's all conjecture on my part.

His story reminded me of a different story and I got a kick out of returning to the memory. When I was 5 or 6, the family traveled to Wisconsin to visit my Aunt Nancy. My sister brought her horned toad along with her in a shoe box and that has nothing to do with anything except that I remember it and I remember he did not make the return trip, as he escaped in Wisconsin. But there was concern on my part that he wouldn't live through the flight at all, so upon landing, all was well and good in my mind. That is, until we got to Aunt Nancy's ranch and Mom popped open my suitcase to find a grown man's toiletries and business clothes, and apparently a very tall man. I can recall mom holding a pair of this strange man's pants up in the air and saying, "Oh my, he's very tall" (as if his height was the clincher that there was NO WAY that she could dress me in his pants?). Anyway, the poor guy got to his hotel room and no doubt opened the suitcase and thought, "Oh my, she's very small." Mom called the number on his identification tag and I believe his wife gave us his hotel information. Dad contacted the hotel and the two met the following day to exchange the suitcases. I remember Mom saying that he must be very relieved since he was on a "business trip."

And so business trip man and vacationing little girl returned to their respective worlds in proper attire. I question how relieved he was though, and actually think he might have been a bit disappointed. Because let me tell you, there is no way you could have seen my hand-tooled red leather cowboy boots and not coveted them for yourself. No way.

The apple did not fall far from the tree

Like my father was, I am an early riser and I appreciate the gifts of nature. It's not a stretch then to say that I think of him every morning when I'm walking or at the park with Cheyenne. Some mornings my thoughts are as aimless as a stroll, mild and pleasant recollections. And other mornings, as this one, I have stronger or more purposeful thoughts, building in a direction.

There is a list that has planted itself in my mind, and it's growing. The list is of the things I learned from Dad, sentences he spoke to me over and over again so that they became my own thoughts, or things I garnered from observing him and the examples he set. Not huge patentable secrets of knowledge but small solid beliefs he imparted upon me and now I find are my own. Beliefs such as plant trees, and fly the flag. I've been jotting them down and this growing list is now taking over two pages in my notebook. I don't think it's a list that can ever be finished because I keep recalling more with each day. Is this part of grieving, I wonder? A step in the process where the mind culls through all the memories for solid pieces on which to grab hold? I'm not sure but I do know that, although not earth shattering knowledge, these solid pieces of recollection are enormously comforting to me. He may no longer be here, but he left so very much behind.

Monday, March 21, 2005

An evening in the park

Arriving home in plenty of time for spending time outside in daylight hours, I gathered Cheyenne, a blanket, a book, her ball, her water bowl and some water and we took off for the park. Though I'm most fond of my early morning hours spent at the park, the evenings have a beauty all their own, coloring and shading the grass and trees. The air is warming but mercifully without humidity so there is a pleasant cool breeze that's good enough to keep my Springtime enthusiasm. I sat on my blanket and watched the changing colors around me, everything giving way to the last bit of light, the velvet hour. There is a quiet in the dusk hours that I enjoy, it's a surrender of time, light, and volume. A slow fade-out that welcomes the night. Peaceful.


Tongue-pierced guy to nose-pierced girl: Why would you want to get your nose pierced? I don't get it.
Nose-pierced girl [snaps back]: Why would you want to get your tongue pierced?

Innocent bystanding ear-pierced me: ???? Okay, SOMEBODY answer the question, either one of you, I don't care. But an answer would be nice.

The guy is my nephew; the girl is my niece. I didn't get an answer to either of their questions. It makes me feel, and I am going to say it... old... to think that my rebel piercing days consisted of two holes in my left ear.


Sunday, March 20, 2005

A Spring Sunday

Today is the first day of Spring and personally I couldn't be happier for the official change of season. Adios Winter. It's a time of change for nature and it's comfortably fitting to the changes within me. I enjoy the breaking point between Winter and Spring, the budding flowers spreading their fragrance, the morning shadows becoming longer and more distinct. It's a slow start, a gradual awakening. It is with the same eye that I see myself blooming with health, healing and change.

As I write this, the windows are open and coming through are the sounds of songbirds, neighborhood sounds, a car starting, a door shutting. It's otherwise quiet in the house. My niece is dozing on the sofa bed in the livingroom, with the little space the dog is allowing her. My nephew is upstairs in the shower. I spent an hour early morning at the park with coffee and the newspaper, and of course the dog. I've visited two friends, who happily welcomed me because I came with breakfast in hand. I've done the work that needed to be emailed for tomorrow morning. And now we are contemplating where we should go for lunch. This day has been and is so very simple and unscripted. I like it. And I'm pretty sure I need it. Happy first day of Spring indeed!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Song sung blue

This song weaving through my mind this morning when I awoke. It's Rickie Lee Jones and I've not heard it in years. Likely it will be in my CD player by this afternoon.

On Saturday afternoons in 1963

The most as you'll ever go
Is back where you used to know
If grown-ups could laugh this slow
Where as you watch the hour snow
Years may go by

So hold on to your special friend
Here, you'll need something to keep him in:
"Now you stay inside this foolish grin ... "
Though any day your secrets end
Then again
Years may go by

You saved your own special friend
'Cuz here you need something to hide him in
And you stay inside that foolish grin
When everyday now secrets end
Oh and then again
Years may go by

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Here kitty, kitty, kitty

I am someone who has been known to put one or two personality identifying stickers on her car. Used to be that these stickers were music-related. Yes, years ago when they were cutting edge rather than cookie cutter cute, I had an Adam & The Ants bumper sticker on my station wagon – you know, just to add some spice to my oh-so conservative wheels. A year after that, when gifted with a hand-me-down Mercedes, the first thing I did to make it my own was to slap a Siouxsie & the Banshees sticker on the bumper. Looking back, I’m sure my parents cringed but they said nothing at the time. At one time, I had “Cowboys – Food, Fun, Firewater and Dancin” affixed with love on the back window of my Oldsmobile ’98. Cowboys was a nightclub that I frequented. Often. Only in high school did I display any politics. In the back window of my Suburban, I had Mickey Mouse flipping the bird with the word’s Bomb Iran beneath him. Timely. Reflective of the fact that I am no longer in high school or college, I currently have a sticker of my company’s logo on my car’s bumper, and a Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) Red fish on the back window, a nod to a cause important to my father.

So, I can justify or at least explain the past and present stickers on past and present vehicles in my life. But never have I been one to cover my bumper, back windows or most of my car with all sorts of “this is who I am” stickers. Like the girl beside me this morning on my drive to work. As I passed her multiple-personality, sticker-laden Celica, I was able to focus on only one: “My kitty can beat up your kitty.” What does that mean exactly? What does that tell me? Why did she buy that sticker and why did she put it on her car? I’m left to draw my own conclusion. Which is this: My dog can EAT YOUR KITTY. Do you really want to play?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Parenthetically speaking [here's my bracket]

Ha! What started out as such a glum day has indeed proved to be evidence that there's always a surprise waiting around the corner. Although I am sad and missing my father's voice, and nothing can change that, there are experiences out there, even small and otherwise meaningless ones, that I cannot draw the shades on. He wouldn't want that, and I'm not about that. So I put myself where I was comfortable tonight and I got caught up in the moment of a certain excitement - and I let myself be swept up in it all. And in case you're wondering, I am talking about [March Madness].

Forgive the brackets but I'm sort of into them at the moment. Because I have filled out my own [bracket]. In fact, right now, I'm ALL ABOUT IT [my bracket]. I'm sitting here and beside me is a print-out of my selections, which weren't easy, understand. But God, to make a mindless, nothing-to-do-with-my-life decision, that was nice. To make 64 decisions, well, call that temporary nirvana.

And who in the world have I chosen? Based on absolutely nothing except that they beat Texas Tech on Sunday, and I've been to the campus one time, I'm picking OSU to go all the way. And while I'm fairly sure that I won't be winning onemilliondollars on CBSSportsLine, I have nonetheless coughed up $10.00 on behalf of my confidence. So, hey, Illinois, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia Tech, Duke, Kansas, Syracuse, all of you, back off... It's OSU. Hear me? [OSU!]

For my friend

Why judge yourself by what someone else is saying? You know better. Can you fit your life into the oh-so-narrow confines of there's? Do you want to? I don't think so. And why should you? You can search your soul and you'll never find their language or maneuvers - that's what makes you who you are. And most likely you will find that you have professionalism that is all your own - deeper in many ways than those with whom you'd like to be in accord. But there's no way you can be whipped into being like someone else. Understand? You're not that way. Don't change. And don't fall into this rut they're happy to have you land in. Regardless how this past year has panned out, you know right from wrong. You're honest and you have integrity. Don't suffer that, be proud of it. It speaks; it does. The only thing that's keeping you from standing up is the clamoring of their voices and the wearing on you that takes place from it. Don't bother with it. Refuse to be part of it. Step up for yourself. It's time. Trust me, it's time.

Voices in my head

Something unexpected happened this morning. It came in the early hour, while walking the dog. For a variety of reasons, not in themselves all that mysterious with the grey wet weather and all, my heart stopped its progress and became heavier. For one thing, I suppose I am tired from the physical pursuit and recovery of health, drained from climbing my way through full days again. And after several bright and clear days, the skies this morning were low-hung grey ones, motionless in their dampness, no sun, no breeze. And suddenly at the very moment when so far I’ve been better, I became worse. I stepped into a pocket of mourning.

I remembered my father’s voice and heard his voice in my head. And I was hit so hard and fast by the realization that his voice is a memory now. It no longer exists. And the idea that I won’t hear him again, and cannot speak to him, is grueling to consider. I’ve never gone this long without speaking to my father and I yearn to call him, yet know that I cannot. Not in what was our ordinary discourse, not in the here and now. Such is a fact. I can only imagine his end of conversations in my head. And of course I can make sense of it, it’s not as if I just realized this, but you can’t see anything clearly when there are tears in your eyes, and the thought flattened me this morning. It is the intensity of my longing to speak with him that draws a curtain around me, puts me in a vacuum, and in a desperate and dark voice makes me say if only I could talk with him. And I say it out loud, in a pleading whisper, though I'm not sure who I'm speaking to, or who hears, or what it would solve. This only serves as evidence that awareness settles in slowly, like light and tiny snowflakes that appear throughout the night, settling over plants and lampposts, softening their shape, changing their appearance but not what’s beneath. It is the intensity of knowing that this is one more thing that I have to accept.

Monday, March 14, 2005

It’s the little things

...that piss me off. Whoa, today is a surprise. I'm healthy enough to go to work today, to actually wear real clothes and be in my office, but apparently it's not enough to keep my mood happy and appreciative. Nope, instead, I am in a foul mood today. F O U L. And I have no idea why. But little things are getting on my nerves. Seriously, today I am sweating the small stuff. Which would be comical to me, if it weren't pissing me off so much.

  • Even though it was right there on the counter beside my keys and my purse, I forgot my cup of coffee at home. There goes the day.
  • Please do not drive 40 miles per hour in the far left lane. On a normal day, this is frustrating but today I had the very real desire to run you off the road.
  • Note to Mom: Go to the bank. And write your thank you notes. Enough time has passed already. You'll get around to it? How about now?
  • Today's Aha! moment just realized: I started my period yesterday - sorry if that makes you cringe to read but it's produced cramps something fierce today. These cramps are residing in the same general area of my body that has been cramping and giving me pain for the past two weeks. It's difficult to decipher between the two, but not difficult to want a break from both.
  • I've had my fill of whiners and complainers. I do not believe in either, and since that's the case I don't have tolerance. But since I've been out of the office the past two weeks, apparently my return also means I have an invisible to me sign on my door that says complaints heard here, by all means, come on in. I do not want to hear about it, understand? And the reason why is simply because I do not care. Period. Figure it out, find a solution, try something, anything at all but wallowing in it because if you don't change your attitude and spend some time figuring out a solution rather than bemoaning that the issue exists at all, well, trust me when I say it's going to wrap around you like a snake and choke you before you know what hit you. So, deal with it, okay? The challenge is not about our problems, it's about how we choose to deal with them. Step up to the plate.
  • And just because I'm on a roll, not because I've seen one today or anything, but I know they're out there. I hate Hummers. Hate them!

I feel better now, thanks.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Wind chimes

The last gift I bought for my father, he never received. Friends and I were at the cabin (see January's Art of Nothingness entry) and I left the cabin that Sunday morning for a 20-mile drive to a non-descript little Texas town for some item that we had to have that I cannot recall at the moment. On the way home, I noticed a store on the side of th road, a sign in the window was lit up and said, Sale, and I had to pull over because this teeny tiny town on the Texas Gulf Coast does not have stores beyond the one gas station/grocery store and restaurant (right next door) and a few shops hemorrhaging with sea-shell art and coastal scene t-shirts. This store was not that. It was housed in an eye-catching single-standing old brick building with antique flower pots on its sidewalk and when I saw that Sale was accompanied by Open, well, I had to pull over. Time was mine, and in all the times I've driven this highway, there has never been a store like this before, so why not?

I walked in the store and was pushed back to the wall by the sound of the windchimes, the entire quivering inventory of them. Metal chimes, bamboo chimes, the whole square-footage of the place covered from the ceiling in chimes. Incense was burning as well. Perfect for a Sunday January morning in what was once was the fourth largest city in the state of Texas (in the 1800s). On that morning, this shop and these wind sounds were the absoutue sound of church to me. I was in a daze, and wandered the store's cluttered space, tables with candles and platters and vases, enormous paintings on the walls, boxes, lamps, every inch of space covered. And I commented to the attendee what a lovely inventory. She, with time on her hands, invited me back to the artist's studio where I stood bathed in the morning light through the east floor-to-ceiling windows on the east wall. I wanted to be an artist, a painter, sculpter, anything at all, but to practice what I was and to practice it there, with all the dust particles dancing through the light and tickling my eyes. I wondered then if Dad knew about this store but quickly shut that down with the awareness that he wouln't really care. Not his deal.

I checked out with a lamp and a candle holder. The wind chime that was in my future was not at all threatened. It hung from the ceiling, enormous, made of bamboo, about three feet in length. When I was purcasing the lamp, someone walked into the store, and the open door allowed the breeze to catch the wind chime's voice. I turned when I heard the deep tonal sound of it, and I thought of Dad, and I thought that he would like that sound. The cashier caught my eye and I told her, I have to get that as well. I was thrilled, if not a bit off kilter for buying my father a wind chime. What would he think? No matter, I knew he'd like the sound and I knew he'd like that it was a gift from me.

I hung the windchime before returning home that Sunday. Nervous to put holes where they shouldn't be, I found a hook just beneath the balcony of the upstairs bedroom, and hung it there so we could hear it whenever we sat on the porch. Visually, it was as if it had always been hanging there. I heard the wind blow through it and knew it was perfect for the cabin. When we got home, I called Dad and told him about it. He was sure that he'd like it, that it was made of bamboo was a big plus. He died two weeks later.

Today, when we arrived here, I walked outside and heard the wind blowing through the bamboo and that deep hollow tone it made. And I thought of Dad. And I realized that he will always be the wind that tickles the tone. Even as I write this, I can hear it right behind me, just over my shoulder, the deep tonal tickle. And I realize, whether or not he received it, this is the best gift I've ever given my father. He will speak to me through the wind.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Invisible changes

I cannot see the changes that are taking place within me. But I feel them. Today, I feel them. At last. Feeling like a proud parent of a newborn, the words slept through the night are giving me great joy this morning. Ah, the little things that mean so much.

It seems such a long time that I've set out in the early morning, but this morning for a short time I returned, with the car, the paper and Cheyenne. I was so excited to get outside, to feel like being outside at the hour. Sitting at a picnic table in my neighborhood park, I breathed it all in, watching the sunlight cut a broad gold path across the wet grass, and seeing all around me the bright green leaves breaking out of the bare tree limbs. I could not see the wind, could not see the fragrance of the flowers floating on the air. I cannot see what exactly is changing in me. But I see the evidence of these invisible things, and its enough to make me know they exist. The substance of life within me and around me is so evident, so real and beautiful. Being outside this morning was like receiving the greatest help available to me; invisible, but more real than tangible.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Mine's revenge, what's yours?

When I was about five or so, I set about a fairly lifelong mission to destroy all ant piles. You might think this born from childlike curiosity, but you'd be thinking wrong. In fact, it's a dark little story that has absolutely nothing at all to do with satisfying curiosity. It's a story that involves Mom leaving me alone in the backyard when I was still just a crawler, I turned my head for just two minutes, which was apparently all that was needed for me to fall asleep, placing my head squarely onto an ant pile just before drifting off to slumber. Briefly, no doubt. Alcohol baths and I'm sure a night of screaming were in the immediate picture. It's a painful story for Mom to tell but it's amusing to me. On that day was born in me the desire to destroy all ants, or well, to at least disturb their homes. I still do it. Not all the time, just some. I find something to poke into the pile and I watch the ants pour out of their world, and I stare in absolute wonder at how busy and organized they are. And seemingly pissed off. And a very small but clear voice inside of me says, take that.

This afternoon, I put on sweats and a t-shirt, put the dog in the car and drove us to the park. I figured some fresh air might do me good and I know Cheyenne needed it. On the way, I spotted an old man slowly ambling along the sidewalk with his cane in hand. Didn't think much about it, just noticed him. On the way back from the park, I saw him again. Standing on the sidewalk and poking his cane into an ant pile. I watched him for a bit. He'd poke the pile, grin, back up a bit, stir the pile, tap his cane on the sidewalk, lean over the pile for a closer look. I drove home with a certain feeling that I had found a kindred spirit.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Special delivery

The US mail and Federal Express delivered two surprises to me today. In the mail, I received a note from a friend’s mother, filled with kind words and support. Years ago, I gave her a book. Today, she sent that same book to me. It’s unclear from her note if she remembers that we’ve shared the book already, or if she’s passing it to me at a time that she believes that my discovering it will be comforting. Either way, I am pleased to receive the book, sent from her hands to my own.

Federal Express delivered a package that my friend Pete put together for me. She put all sorts of things into a beautiful woven leather box: two beautiful cards filled with love and supportive words, two bottles of champagne, chewing gum, chocolate, English biscuits in the shape of champagne corks, bubble bath, and a book, Richard Bach’s Illusions. This is a book that she and I read years ago in college, back when the boyfriend was cheating on us, each against the other. Had I not been reading this book at the time, I might have gone off in a direction other than I did, a less-evolved direction. But at the time, and from new ideas I was learning in the book, I was open to Pete and found that I liked her and wanted to give our friendship a shot. She felt the same, so we pursued it from there. Together, we’ve shared our pleasure over the years, our certain shared pride that we were able to rise to that occasion and discover the gift of each other there. By sending me the book today, she sent me on the journey of that memory, as well as launched me into some new thoughts.

From page 5: And he said unto them, “Within each of us is the power of our consent to health and to sickness, to riches and to poverty, to freedom and to slavery. It is we who control these, and not another.”

Isn’t that a bit like the Serenity Prayer? It’s realizing the power of our consent. I’ve learned that the serenity prayer is braided with the steps of grief and recovery. You know, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and hope. Around acceptance, emerges the second portion of the serenity prayer. What can you change? What can I change? I can change my perspective, my attitude. I can decide what is best for my physical body, my emotions and spirit. My life is within the power of my consent.

I sit here and realize that my feelings, epiphanies and actions have been absolutely predictable, almost as if someone could narrate my course on this site, tapping the screen with a lecture pointer, “ … and here, she’s obviously entering the depression stage…” and oddly enough, I’m comforted by the whole normalcy and predictability of the stages I’ve traveled through. I trust that what I am supposed to be doing with my grief and my life will be shown me. I trust that I will be granted the serenity, the courage, and the wisdom. In time.

Sunday, March 06, 2005


Hello? Is this on? I'd like to announce that I realized something this afternoon. I can do this. How about that? It's not going to be easy, but who said it would be, or should be? I am not going to be without pain, but how in the world would I ever be excused from the pain? It simply does not work that way. I do have a long journey ahead of me, health-wise, and I do have a plate full of problems that have to be tackled and resolved when it comes to my family. But I am able to do these things. Nothing at all is going to change in the next five minutes. It's going to take time. I have that. And I have all the lessons I've ever learned, all the advice I've been given, all the love ever handed over to me with encouragement. I have it! I was not left without the guidance. And I have faith. It occurs to me that this is the time to use these things. I have realized this and in that epiphany, I realized the tiniest light burning within me and it may have been there before and I way too up in it all to see it, but I do see it now, and I feel it burning. And it's good. It's a start, a first step. And here my journey begins.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Craving, dreaming, really wanting this

What I want right this minute is to be cradled in Maurice Chevalier's arms. And while I'm there, I want him to sing this song to me (Smile), in the sort of spoken lyrical way that was his. Although I'm not sure he ever sang the song, I can hear him singing it in my mind, and it's as nice as a jacket over my shoulders on a cool day. And when he's finished the song, I want him to hold onto me for a while. Impossible, I know, but to imagine it is nice.

Smile, though your heart is aching.
Smile, even though it's breaking.
Though there are clouds in the sky, you get by

If you smile through your fears and sorrows.
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come
shining through.

If you just light up your face with gladness,
Hide every trace of sadness.
Although a tear may be ever, ever so near.

That's the time you must keep on trying.
Smile, what's the use of crying?
You'll find life is worthwhile
If you'll just smile, come on and smile.
If you just smile.

Hold on honey, there's a new dawn coming

Honestly, this past month has been the [insert here every sad adjective known] month in my life. I'm not still stunned but I want to be. Tomorrow marks one month to the day and date that I lost my father. I can't help but notice that I refer to his passing as if I've somehow misplaced him and it's only a matter of time until I find him again. I'm aware of that, it's on my list of things to deal with. I also can't help but notice the day and date. I'm wired that way - and February is wired that way as well. When 28 days are in February, March's calendar dates will follow the same steps. Mine is a mind that notices things like that, and I am not excused from it even when I wish it weren't present.

I'm tired of being sad. Seems selfish to say but I am. I want to go back to before and change the course of this picture. In four week's time, I've lost my father and my health. One I have to accept and the other I'll have to regain. Slowly. And both will require a strength from me that for the first time in my life, I'm wondering if I have. I know I do, I must. I am exactly who I am, and who I was before. I'm just laden with a different experience now, a loss that colors me, wounds me, but it's still me.

The journey is one that I wish completely forgettable. The sleeplessness replaced by the desire and ability to only sleep. Eating has gone from something I had to do to keep up my strength, to something I eye warily as whether or not this particular banana or piece of bread is going to rip through my system and make me bleed. Being out of the hospital is like being on the other side of this month. I have been pushed down, run over, chewed up, poisoned, and now spit out. Here's the challenge: Deal with it. Can I deal with it? I don't know. There have been moments today that were torture. I thought I was past the torture moments. There have been moments today that were naive - me thinking I'd wake up, stretch my arms and set about a normal morning. NOT the reality of waking up, grabbing my stomach and taking a pain pill (but not after serving up for myself the internal battle of being weak versus that's what the doctor gave me the pills for in the fist place, to abate the pain. Demon thoughts.)

And there was one moment today, that I reached out to my dearest friend from childhood, now living in Vermont, dialed her up, asked her to take some time, and we talked. That's not easy for me, the reaching out, saying I need. But I did. I said out loud how afraid I am, how disappointed, how challenged I feel. I wondered out loud if I could climb out of this, if she believed that I could. In addition to a heap of love and compassion, she told me that I am strong and that I can heal and that I will get through this. This is basic stuff, I know, but it's where I am, and it's what I needed to hear. She's known me so long and well that when I start to doubt, I'm just going to have to remember that she believes it, and lean on that for a bit.

Friday, March 04, 2005


Houston is a city apparently crowded with sick people, needing to get a room. So on Monday when my doctor looks at me and says need to admit you but all the beds are full here so you'll need to go over to such and such hospital (which, by the way, is across town and it's 5:15), not only did that thought enter my head, but I started crying as well. Out the office, down the hall, down the elevator, and across the parking lot to my car, blubbering with every step. I did not want to go to the hospital, didn't want to go alone, and sure as heck did not want to drive myself in 5:15 traffic, feeling like hell and knowing there's no way to get there before 6:30. Not to complain, but CAN A GIRL GET A BREAK? was very much on my mind.

At 7:00 when I arrived, special Admit Now papers in hand, no one seemed to know where the special paper holding people should go. Not Emergency, and not Admissions. Much gratitude to the elderly gentleman I found while wandering through new construction. He informed me it was on the 10th floor but to take the staff elevators because the new elevators don't go there. I would not file this under intuitive, or helpful construction detour signage, just dumb running-into-a-stranger luck.

This whole special admissions gig is set up to expedite matters and get you to a room. It's a long room, 24 beds separated by curtains, a blur of nurses, vital sign machines, and activity. While the staff is getting your information, you're also getting the I.V. prepped and so on. It seemed to make sense, and as I was tucked into Bed 11, was told by my intake nurse, Ruth, that this method took a lot of the pressure of the floor nurses. What RN Ruth did not tell me was that I might find some amusement that would take some pressure off me. Nonetheless, a bit from the intake session Ruth next had with the woman in Bed 10:

Ruth: In your immediate family, has anyone been diagnosed in the past with diabetes?
Intake Patient: Well, I think my Great Grandmother had it.
Ruth [not missing a beat]: In your immediate family, FatherMotherBrotherSister, has anyone been diagnosed with diabetes?
Intake Patient: My Uncle, on I think my father's side, he died from it.
Ruth [God bless her]: Has your father ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
Intake Patient: No.
Ruth: Has your mother ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
Intake Patient: No

And so on. I missed the rest because I got wheeled to my room. On my way out, I tried to catch Ruth's eye and give her an appreciative wink, but clearly her hands were full. So this post will have to serve as that wink. She's gentle and patient, and she knows how to get what she's after. And that made me smile.

With a nod to Blackberry fashion, this post sent from Bed 655.

Cuba libre

Martha Stewart gets released today. I am hoping for the same. Crossed fingers and well wishes both accepted here.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Reasons beyond her control

Due to the above, I won't be around here for a few days. Apparently, when a bacteria infection is mixed with grief, the results can land you in the hospital. I wish I had the energy right now because I'd like to write a conversation I overheard when being admitted. That was yesterday, and I'm still smiling. It'll keep. For now I'll just say how amazed I am with hospital tvs. I'm typing this on a touchscreen tv, which offers music and games, in addition to internet and of course regular and cable tv. The whole thing pulls down from the ceiling right in front of me. The word Cool comes to mind.