Saturday, March 31, 2007

Now with sparkling

When I woke up this morning, I looked at the phone number I got from last night and had a good laugh. The waitress' number was written in pen. On my arm. I got it for my hurricane.

All the elements combined in just the right measure to make it a classic hurricane night. Him, me, friends, beer, champagne, a pretty waitress. Lots of laughter, jokes, flirting, the whole lot of us happy to be out in the night. Somehow we all became fluffy and pink, and were referred to as the fluffy pink table. Our waitress added sparkling, which of course I loved.

I'm not at all sure what a fluffy pink hurricane would be, exactly, but I think we've taken it up a notch by adding the sparkle. To be fluffy and pink and sparkling on a Friday night is good fun. To have my personal hurricane back to being his hurricane self and getting all the girls stirred up and even the waitress involved is also good fun. Good, pink, fluffy, sparkling Friday night fun.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hurricane season

Hurricane season begins the first day of June but for me it started early this year, early as in last Saturday. That's when my personal hurricane returned to Houston.

In the past couple months, my hurricane has been a shoulder for me. While he's been on his boat in St. Martin, St. Barts, Guadalupe, St. Lucia and elsewhere through the Caribbean, he's also been on his phone and computer, texting and emailing support. In the past couple months, he's been a good friend and we've kept the focus there.

And let me say that when a big love leaves you and cuts you out of his life to leave you picking yourself up from the floor and learning to walk again, well, when another man says, You can talk to me, and means it, that is something and that is healing. That is showing up.

And so it has been over the past weeks. He's shown up, if not at my door, then on my phone and computer. He's sent texts and emails that start with, I'm so sorry, babe, wish I could be there to hold you, and he checks in again and again. Through that we've become the friends we were meant to be.

And then he did show up at my door. In fact, he's sitting across the table from me as I write. Several candles flicker between us, on pillars, in glasses, on trays. I look up from my screen at him, wait a moment, and he looks up at me. Love you.

He got his hurricane moniker because he used to blow into my life on very short notice, turn everything upside down and then be gone before I knew what happened. It was usually quite a storm. This trip has not been like that. This trip has been more constructive. He's helped me with the leak from the air conditioning, he's fixed the non-surrounding surround sound. He's helped fix the sheet rock damage in the bathroom and closet. We've had dinners on patios, rented movies and will do some shopping tomorrow. We've had fun, the kind of fun that runs across fields of grass, tumbles, looks back to be sure you're there, and laughs. That's good stuff for me, the laughter. It has been Pink and Fluffy, meaning it's all good.

Fluffy pink hurricane?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

We both know there's something happening here

I stand behind her, my fingers moving through her hair, lathering the shampoo, moving across her head, trying to massage all confusion and pain from her mind. Looking at the color of her gray hair curling around my fingers, I am struck by time and, for a moment, lulled by the simple scene before me, that of lather bubbling across the contrast between her hair and my skin.

She shudders and screams, Stop this, let me GO!

I move my hand to her shoulder, step around her chair so that I look into her eyes, It's alright Mom, I'm here, it's alright.

She is not one to be fooled; she knows better, I know better. It's not alright. Where we are is not alright. She deserves more; something needs to be rigged to accommodate this exercise so that she can keep her dignity. I voiced it to no return; it's up to me. I put it at the top of my long list.

Still, the present is now and I ask her to tilt her head back. Cautiously she does so as I pour a cup of warm water over her hair, watch the suds weaken and rinse down in streams of change flowing across her hair and my hands.

This is gentle and fragile. This is love and caution. This is tender and pure, this cleansing of her body and her hair, this very basic need of hers, to be clean.

This is also hell. For her, for me.

I bring the washcloth across her back, gently raise her arm and slide the cloth from her shoulder to her hand, her fingers, wrist, and upwards again.

She yells, Stop it! I don't want to be here. Get me OUT of here.

Where do you want to go, Mom?

She cries, I don't know, anywhere but here.


She laughs, Yes, Timbuktu.

It's a joke between us, one she started a few months ago, one I do not understand but know it's something and comprehend enough to know I've bought a minute of peace for her. At most.

I'm in the bathtub, her hands washing my body, my hair, her voice telling me to lean back. I'm afraid to do so but hearing her voice soothes me and I trust her hands to support me. She tells me to close my eyes -- Honey, it's okay, close your eyes -- and I do so and feel warm water falling over my head, my face, my shoulders. I am safe, loved, baptized in her love, in our faith and trust. This is all there is; this is everything. And I stay leaning back into her arms until she gently pushes me forward again and wraps her arms and heart and a towel around my shoulders. I open my eyes, look up to her face, find the comfort waiting for me there in her eyes.

I want her to feel that. I want her to feel the same that she gave to me, the love given and the promise made, and the trust hung between the two. The strong arms from mother and daughter, and now daughter to mother.

Her nurse and I struggle to get her from the shower chair to the wheelchair. She screams for us to leave her alone. She is cold and wet. She is afraid and shivering. I circle her with the towel, patting her body until every last drop of water is gone from her skin. I lean across her with my life and warmth, and whisper in her ear that I love her and I'm here and she's okay.

She hangs her head, whimpers, Timbuktu.

After we get her into her cotton gown, and in her soft cotton sheets, she relaxes in shifts I can measure. She feels her familiar, she feels safe again. I feel safe again. I climb onto the bed and place my body beside hers, my cheek against her own, and curl my breathing into the pace of hers. I shut my eyes and imagine I can finger paint the curve of my breath shadowing hers. We swirl through all the colors together, moving in curves and circles and each other. I dance my fingers along her arm, across her shoulder, through her hair. She is warm and loved. She is tired and does not resist sleep. I watch her, protect her, rise above just enough to feel her own warmth and love. I too am safe. Mother and daughter; daughter and mother.

Her breathing shifts into slumber. I kiss her cheek, whisper into her ear, I love you Mom, Timbuktu.

Tonight, my life is filled with the voices of the women in my life, strong, poetic and beautiful. My Mom's voice, her nurse's voice, and a handful of well-chosen CDs. All of them grabbing my heart. At home, I listen to a Stevie Nicks CD (thank you C&J!). Track 11 is another version of that song, the one that has accompanied me through one love two times, through the life and death of my father and now my answering the call of my mother's needs. All the while, through each love and age, the song that both crucifies and soothes the giving, losing, growing. And the loving. Always the loving.

Oh mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
And can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
I don't know.

I've been afraid of changing
'cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
children get older
and I'm getting older too.
Yes, I'm getting older too.

The lyrics timeless and familiar. Somewhere there is a circle and I sit upon the base, swinging, kicking my legs back and forth, my hands on the sides, back and forth, forth and back, my bare feet in the air, stretching forward, drawing back, higher and higher, more familiar and trusting and free with each arc. This night is that. Back and forth, higher and higher, returning lower, climbing higher again, returning lower, climbing higher, and higher still.

It's no more, no less, this circle. Round and round the wholeness of it. This is gentle and fragile. This is love and caution. This is tender and pure. It is what it is.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The short of it

I was struggling to wrap up a long post about the horse show I went to this weekend when it dawned on me that the reason I was struggling was because it was a rambling piece of crap in which I was unable to decide whether or not I wanted to write about when I used to dream about competing in the show, when I did compete in the show, or how it felt to return to the show over the weekend. And in being unable to decide where to focus, I was all over the place, weaving in and out and back and forth, yet saying nothing.

That in mind, I've deleted the entire wandering and wordy mess and instead present here the Cliffs Notes version:

Pin Oak Charity Horse Show, Houston, Texas

1) Pin Oak horse show is an A-rated horse show with a multitude of equestrian and under saddle events, the only ones of interest to me being the Hunter and Jumper classes.
2) At one time, the show was rather posh, a see-and-be-seen sort of societal charity event.
3) Mother used to bring me to the show when I was a young girl. She made me dress up. And wear white gloves.
4) I had big dreams of one day getting out of that outfit and into riding attire, and riding my own horse in the show.
5) One day arrived and my dreams came true. For several years, my horse and I competed in the show.
6) Happy Days!
7) An expanse of time passed between the last year I exhibited at the show and last Saturday night when I returned.
8) Where it felt great to be back.
9) And where I took these photos.
10) The end.

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This is so much better than what I had originally written. You should thank me.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sunday, Cheyenne Sunday

I think she's going to be the theme for Sundays around here.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

This might be the reason I don't watch much television

I never thought I'd see the day that one of my favorite bands from my college days, The The, would be promoting anything for mass consumerism. Why would I think about it? I was 19 when that band came into my life, and didn't think about anything beyond how in the world I was going to pass College Algebra if I still couldn't fully grasp fractions, or how I could schedule my classes so that I could go to Fat Dawgs for 75-cent pitchers of beer every Thursday and Friday at 3:00, or to state the obvious, how I could figure out the exact meaning of priorities. Stuff like that.

It's forgivable that in youth, you never really think about your music one day being the background for a commercial. My first surprise moment was when Volkswagen chose Trio for one of their commercials. Though Trio wasn't a life-defining band for me, my eyebrows still went way up the first time I saw that commercial.

When I heard Led Zeppelin pushing Cadillac, my eyebrows went up even higher, and I turned my head to see if anyone else thought this to be at the very least, very odd. Though I am all about Zep today, I admit that I really ventured into them during high school as they were a little before my time when they broke out onto the scene in the early 70s. And I can't say that the band served any real backdrop for me growing up, though I did harbor serious fantasies of Robert Plant (let me say right here that, next to Roger Daltrey of the Who -- whose poster I had hanging above my bed at the age of 12 -- Plant had the best hair in rock, and I was one of many, many female Zep fans too young to grasp the music but not too young to be immune to that hair). Still, I think the band in its entirety is undeniably genius, the essence of rock and roll music, with few true contemporaries, and, given their now legendary status, find it sadly ironic that their music was sold as a jingle promoting Cadillac.

Led Zeppelin and Cadillac? Icons in different industries, I admit, but if the pairing doesn't furrow your brow in confusion, then you were born after 1980 or you've listened to country music all your life. And if you lived your teen years or early 20s in the 70s and that Zep commercial prompted you to run out and buy a Cadillac in effort to hark back to your free-living hippie days, all I can say is that you need to face the mirror and drive something more sensible because your neighbors, if not your children, are embarrassed. Of you and for you. Seriously, they are.

I get a visceral feeling of musical betrayal when I see the M&Ms commercial and hear The The. It's a personal issue with me. The The? That band was from a period in my life where I was discovering that there was music outside of what was dictated to me through my radio. That discovery was monumentally liberating for me. And that song in particular. This is the Day? What are they trying to say with it now? This is the day I become an M&M? This is the day I become an M&M with a mohawk? This is the day I become an M&M sitting on a copy machine making copies of my little M&M butt? I have to change the channel. There was a time when the Soul Mining album was the soundtrack to my life and that one song was the highlight of the entire journey, the song that told me things can change and that might be today.

In all of my angst of growing up and figuring out who I was, Soul Mining was a journey of validation that I was not alone in my questions of definition and desperation to fit in somewhere. I played that album over and over and I crawled inside the lyrics and peered out at the world from the perspective I understood there. The single line, Can you still walk back to happiness, when there's nowhere left to run? resonated with me.

Having said all that, I'm sure it's not difficult for you to see that it's a bit much for me to accept that I now watch an animated piece of candy taking butt shots on an office copier with The The playing in the background.

Something has gone horribly, horribly wrong with music and commercials. What next? Nina Hagen promoting Dannon yogurt? Siouxsie & The Banshees promoting Cover Girl mascara? Will some plucky young advertising executive soon find Front 242 and Hummers to be a good match?

Seriously, it's one thing that Bob Seger sold Like a Rock for Chevy Truck commercials, but something else altogether creepy and unnerving when real people morph into animated M&Ms as The The sings about this being the day my life will surely change.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

T'is the season

Light and refreshing, fruity, citrus, pears and peaches. Golden yellow, a harmonious succession of sensations. Finesse. Clean and edgy zest. Lively and spontaneous.

Earlier today I read these words as a review of my favorite champagne. But as I read them, they seemed to be describing this morning, this first morning of Spring. The season that takes our hand and leads us out of the dreary grey of winter and into the sunny life of summer. The season that tickles every living thing into bloom, that brings to my world bursts of green again, of flowers again.

Of cute strappy sandals again. Oh yeah.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Mellow Lellow

It's not that I wake up each morning with something to say. I have so little to say, really. Sometimes I have an idea, have been working some emotion around from my heart to my head, or worse, from my head to my heart, trying to figure how to say something, anything, that has some meaning. I awake with it, or it will develop during the day and come to me at one moment and evolve days later. Sometimes, it's the day itself that brings to me my words. Today is like that.

This morning on my way to work, I stopped by my friend's house, the friend who is heading back to Vermont tonight after being here for almost two weeks. Her presence here has been familiar, healing, and fun.

Standing in the garden this morning, her youngest daughter held out a yellow flower to me that she had previously plucked from its green stalk. She flashed her big eyes upwards and said, Mell it, it's lellow.

I leaned down to smell the yellow flower and exaggerated my smelling a bit, so much so that a petal went up my nose. Remember that next time you want to make a little girl giggle.

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As I drove from my friend's parents' driveway, I thought about how nice it has been to have her here, and how much I'll miss her. Then I thought about the plans we've set in motion for July, and smiled knowing I'd see her again soon.

An hour or so later, I found an unexpected comment here that knocked me to the ground with sadness. I've removed it because it's personal, but I could not remove the feeling it left me, the feeling of wanting more and less at the same time. Wanting something... different.

Then I became reaction. The heat of sadness, the emotion, the desire to respond, or in my case, since I won't be heard, to put my fist through anything at all that would make me bleed, or at least punish me enough to make me feel that whatever pain I was feeling was pain I deserved.

I decide to pause instead. Breathe. Forgive. I know this is necessary for me to be at peace, to free myself from resentment.

Around mid-afternoon, a friend forwarded an email to me. It was an email with a story, the gist of which being that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes things don't seem as they should, the story reminded me, but we need to have faith that the reasons are there whether or not we are able to see them.

She wanted me to be comforted by the story, and I was. But it was at the end of the story that I discovered what I needed. Just words, but knowing how much I care about those in my life, words that I have faith are also true for me.

Somebody is thinking of you.
Somebody is caring about you.
Somebody misses you.
Somebody wants to talk to you.
Somebody wants to be with you.
Somebody hopes you aren't in trouble.
Somebody is thankful for the support you have provided.
Somebody wants to hold your hand.
Somebody hopes everything turns out all right.
Somebody wants you to be happy.
Somebody wants you to find him/her.
Somebody is celebrating your successes.
Somebody wants to give you a gift.
Somebody thinks that you ARE a gift.
Somebody loves you.
Somebody admires your strength.
Somebody is thinking of you and smiling.

Reading those words felt good. Good enough to get my knocked-down self back up, dust off my duff, and move on.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Lessons from dog

My life is filled with miracles. So is yours. Have you seen them lately? Are you paying attention? Witness that the sunrise is always perfect. Stand beneath the whisper of the breeze tickling the new green leaves on the trees. Share laughter with a friend. Remember something you'd forgotten, something that warms you. Reach out and scratch your dog, right behind her left ear.

Simple stuff. Simple joys.

Before the sun rises, I stir. She stirs. I think, Not so early, don't wake her up so early.

Too late, she's licking my nose. I know better than to wrap myself backwards -- we are up. I open the garage door, take her collar and leash from the hook. She dances around in circles. I can't help but catch her enthusiasm.

We take each other out into the breaking dawn, bring it into our lungs -- she sniffs, I breathe in deep. I look east, pause for a moment to watch the blooming colors of the emerging daylight. I shut my eyes and realize that for every negative in my life, positive is there, right there, just waiting to be invited, realized.

Cheyenne takes her time. I stand on the other side of the leash as she sniffs about. I tug, she resists, I unhook the leash. She reminds me not to hurry. She reminds me to take now and wrap my grip around it with my smile. She has no caution, that dog. She puts one hundred percent into her present; she has no awareness beyond this morning, this scent, this now. Later, I look at her going after that bone of hers and realize the lessons she has to show me. She's not waiting for tomorrow, not looking back to yesterday. She's so darn happy to be in now.

In the moment, me too.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I am from

I am from cotton, from Purina brand food and Tiffany's brand decoration.
I am from a promise made, hesitant and hopeful.
I am from the dream of cloud shapes, the story in the wood grain on the side of a barn.
I am from Thanksgiving dinner and blond hair, from Edward and Elizabeth and Mary and Catherine.
I am from stubborn and hope.
From Winnie the Pooh and Magnolia trees.
I am from faith.
I am from ritual, blue, and toenails painted pink.
From the headwaters of the Guadalupe river, where a little girl reaches for a leaf, tipping the canoe on Sunday morning.
I am from a red woolen suit, kicking my shoe through a pile of Fall leaves in her front yard, from folded hands gripping strength, from fallen tears resisting Good Bye.
I am from framed photographs in the hallway, whispering, echoing, we were here.
I am from there.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Just wanting to be sure

At five minutes after 9:00, he agrees.

At five minutes and five seconds after 9:00, I breathe.

Through the hours, through dinner, through the drive home, through the park with Cheyenne, I never lost focus. I managed to pull out every word, every argument I know, every angle, every bargain, every ounce of reason. I begged. I brought up the dedication of the past, the promise of the future. I held tight to the reasons.


I could not reach him, could no break though his wall.

And then I broke.

It's funny what comes out of you when you break, funny what words, what truth I heard coming from my mouth. I didn't know that I needed him, but there went the words. What came out of my mouth was that I needed to believe in him because I needed to believe in a man. I told him that I needed help. And those words came out of me from the bottom of my raw heart and the top of my lungs, beneath a flood of all-too-familiar tears. As I screamed and cried, he heard me. And I heard me.

I scared both of us.

Finally, he said that he'd stay. I looked at the clock; it was five minutes and five seconds after nine.

You might think that I'm writing about the man who broke my heart, and if you're thinking that, I imagine you are all up in arms and seeing red at this point, but let me calm your nerves by telling you that I'm writing about my nephew. His part is to stay in school for the next ten weeks even though he does not want to because he's so burned out that he hates every minute. What works against him is that the desire and language of self-sabotage and quitting are in his pattern. But he needs to stay, understand. And I need for him to stay as well.

What I want to admit here is that at the midst of my top-voice breakdown, I burned my heart with the realization that I don't have a man in my life who I can believe in, rely on, trust.

My lessons include my nephew, but where does that leave him? This should not be his problem but it is his burden. I realize that the belief has been ripped from me. I realize that I'm saddling my nephew with that. It's not his fault or responsibility, what has been taken from me, nor is it his fault the bruises both familial and romantic, but I look to him to be different.

He falls asleep tonight regretting the pain he's caused me and I fall asleep relieved that I could talk him down from his Crazy Tree. I fall asleep tonight with a different awareness of me, and as I write these words, I remember the words I read to my mother earlier in the day:

Piglet sidled up to Pooh. Pooh, he whispered.

Yes, Piglet?

Nothing, said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw, I just wanted to be sure of you.

I think sometimes he just needs to take a paw, to know he's not alone. I think sometimes we all need that.

Madness takes its toll

During the summer of my 11th or 12th year, I befriended a girl who had moved with her family to Houston from London. Melissa was her name. I met her at the stables we both boarded our ponies. Her pony's was named Clicquot, which meant nothing to me at the time but I will say now that whenever I have a glass of Veuve Clicquot, I think of her.

Melissa was a living doll with her accent and her proper ways. She wore jodphurs to the barn daily; I wore jeans. She always rode with her riding hat on; I pulled my hair into a pony tail. I had never before known anyone the likes of her. Or her parents. I remember their house always being very orderly and very quiet, so quiet that I can still hear their Grandfather clock ticking in the hallway. All had a place and a schedule. Dinner was at 6:30, homework at 7:00, bed at 9:00. That included weekends. Period.

On weekends, Melissa and I would have sleepovers, though it was me always sleeping over at her house since her parents did not think it appropriate for her to sleep away from home. We were the same age, mind you. British rule.

One particularly challenging Saturday at the barn was, as it goes, attached to a night I was to stay at her house. I remember her mother asking me at the dinner table how my day was. I hesitated for a minute, listening to the ticking clock breaking through the silence waiting for me to fill, and then confessed to her that I was mad because I was having trouble with the new jumping course that was set up that morning. She listened to me until I was finished and then -- and I will never forget this -- she set her fork down on her salad plate and in her very tight British accent, said to me, Alison, you are not mad, you are angry. Animals go mad. People get angry.

Maybe my issue with anger started there? Not sure. But I comprehended that madness was somewhere you went, and anger, something you felt. Still, if Melissa's mum were here today, I'd call her up and ask her if she remembered that night. And then I'd ask her if she still believed that, and if she said yes, I'd ask her how to explain March Madness.

Because March Madness is among us. Like the bird flu. And I've caught it. I have three brackets in three different groups. Soon I'll be getting update emails from CBS Sportsline. Earlier this week I sat at a restaurant with team history sheets scattered about the table, brackets before me, pen in hand. When I wondered aloud about Texas Tech versus Boston College, my friend said, Well it all depends on whether Bobbie Knight can get his boys to show up or not, you just never know, and I shook my head in agreement. Which is madness in my own DNA because I have no idea what the heck she meant and no business agreeing. But it sounded sensible. That's all the research I needed, so I penned BC on the winner's line.

And where will I be tonight? Before a television, no doubt, personal brackets in hand, swimming in March Madness. Well, not until after I've had dinner with another friend from my horse days. One equally proper, though lacking the British accent. We'll be on the restaurant patio, sipping Veuve Clicquot. The proper calm before the madness storm, if you will.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Doctor Doctor

I think I've mentioned here once or twice before that I see a doctor on a fairly regular basis, a doctor who helps me make some sense of what goes on in my life, my heart, my mind. Speaking in general, he's a mental health professional. Professionally, he's a psychologist. Literally, he's the calm voice of still waters in what is oftentimes the storm of my emotional life.

Never have I been a blue calm sea; his task is no small one.

When I first started seeing him, it was because my self-esteem was in the dirt, or, to be honest, completely missing altogether. I had re-introduced myself to a bad pattern on my behavioral menu options from younger days -- self-abuse -- and that's a dangerous thing at any time but especially, I believed, when I was at an age where, if I was not healthy, I had to take it upon myself to stand up and find a way to get there. No one was going to do it for me and I was real tired of not trusting that woman staring back at me in the mirror. So I reached out. At the beginning, I was given homework, a book to read. A book that I went after with a pink highlighter in such oh-my-gosh-this-is-me recognition that more pages than not were covered in my pink reflection. The book and the sessions helped me understand not only where my lack of self-esteem came from but also understand and address the issues that were uniquely my own.

That was the beginning of this journey.

As we went on, other issues revealed themselves. Issues like my believing I could and therefore trying to reach the goal of doing it all, being it all. My roles. My responsibilities. My battles. My trying to be everything to every one who shares the same last name, and juggling that with the heart-wrenching awareness of all my Father took care of that, even though I thought I was aware of when he was alive, I was discovering I only had the slightest clue. Mix into that the slow unraveling of my mother's physical and mental health, the needs of those two younger family members who count on me, and the full-on demands of my job. The realization that unfolded from those sessions was enormous. Though it sounds simple, I had to adjust to the basic fact that I could not do it all. And I had to not only accept that but make peace with it, really be okay with it. Meaning, I had to let go the guilt and set realistic boundaries, I had to cease translating the pressure and inability to do it all into meaning I was flawed, and -- here's the circle of it all -- taking that out on myself.

Six months ago I could not have written those sentences. I did not know what was going on inside of me well enough, could not decipher the meaning, only feel the pressure. I did think that I was dealing with it all, until it caught up with me. Six months ago, I could not have imagined seeing the other side of that thinking.

I've been seeing this doctor since mid-September, sometimes weekly, sometimes every other week. I can tell you that I think he is worth his weight in shares of real estate in Dubai, gold bars, and ExxonMobil, CocaCola and Harley Davidson stock put together.

I've learned through the process that when I reach a plateau of self-awareness and comprehension, unexpected emotions, or emotions that I hadn't previously allowed, can bubble up. From low self esteem and self-abusive behavior, we're now looking at my oh-so-recently-discovered anger. Anger is a tricky one for me. I've never been comfortable with it, not even been sure I had a right to it, much less known how to express it. I've even prided myself with what I thought was good work at keeping anger away when in reality was the poor choice to shove it down into silence. My role in this world, decided I, was to be understanding, patient, flexible, to say nothing. I took a certain comfort at not being the other half of the disagreement. Which is an acceptable goal, one I still have, but not to the degree that I took it. Anger did not fit into my picture, so too it followed did standing up for myself.

Come to find out, self-esteem, guilt and anger are braided together in a dysfunctional way of thinking inside my head. Separating them has been hard and focused work. Feeling anger that I do not twist back onto myself is as if I'm walking on new legs. New as in trying to speak a completely different language that I've never studied but am asking myself to speak nonetheless. Like so many other changes I want in my life, this will take a considerable amount of time and focus on my part to trudge through and get to a place where I have acceptance, and peace of mind.

Right now, my anger is circular and I crave it to be linear, to give it a voice and an outlet, one that doesn't involve my past pattern of taking it out on myself, although my subconscious mutilates me nightly with dreams and nightmares that leave me baffled, confused and exhausted when I awake. I am told by my doctor that this is normal, that the past six months, combined with the events and loss of the past month, have unearthed a multitude of emotions and challenged positive patterns that we've been working to put in place. I'm told that the dust must settle before I can fully make sense of what I feel.

Are you exhausted yet by reading this? I am too. But I'm not quite finished yet. Have heart, I'm almost there.

I learned tonight that my allowing myself to feel anger is part of that settling dust, a step that will take time for me to sift through and understand, but one necessary for me to give voice to so that I can move forward in my thinking, my behavior, my life. I have mentioned, have I not, that this is hard work? The important thing is that I am taking the step. And that step is progress.

Do you know how incredible this path is? Do you know how fortifying this awareness is? I've been told countless times throughout my life, and in particular the past two years, how strong I am, and though I knew on the outside it appeared to be that way, I've never believed it because I knew what was going on inside, what it was costing me, that the price of pretending was increasingly getting to too high for me to pay. But now, now I believe it. Bit by bit, step by step, I'm learning and I'm changing. If for now the stranger of anger is going to be my dance partner, then so be it. Because strength is at the spine of these steps I'm taking. And that woman I see looking back at me in the mirror these days? I'm starting to trust her. And like her.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Second thoughts, seconds too late

The Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo has been an annual occurrence in my life for as far back in my life as I can recall. I was taken there as a child, patted cow noses, ate cotton candy, walked among goats and piglets at the petting zoo, and rode the ponies. Later, I graduated to the concerts and the actual rodeo, bucking broncs and barrel racers, ad nauseum.

For the past several years I've had colleagues in town for this Houston event. Colleagues from London or Sydney, Paris, where have you. When they hear rodeo, they have to go. Because in their minds, they have to see it in real life. Which is to say that in their minds, this is what we do with our free time in Texas, we gnaw on Turkey legs while riding our Quarter horses through our back 40 and counting the dollars spewing from our oil wells. And if those horses are bucking sky-high, well then, since we're Texans and by boot-scooting nature, uber-cool, we just calmly sit back in the saddle and holler out for a friend to toss our way another Lone Star beer. Because that's how life is here in Texas. Bring it on.

This year, I attended from a different perspective. This year, I went with locals, so to speak, to the Longhorn Sale. Um, excuse me, I should have written, The Texas Longhorn Breeders Association sale. Don't mess with that name. No matter where you live, or more importantly your long-horned cattle live, the breed is still Texas Longhorn. We love our state, we do. And if you let us get away with it, we'd love to put our name on your state as well. It's serious, this Texas Longhorn stuff, serious enough to show your colors through buying a Longhorn (ahem, Texas Longhorn) pendant and wearing it around your neck in a spot where many women wear a heart or a cross or whatever, but pendants less oops-I-just-gave-myself-a-tracheotomy (aka, horn-less) all the same.

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I was there Saturday night, but for the first time, did not go to the rodeo. Which is kind of cool. Because there is so much stuff going on outside of the broncs and barrel racers, the concert and ridiculously expensive beer stands, so much activity behind the main attraction, that when you are invited to witness it and get to enter Cowboy City via a side entrance and a screaming yellow Exhibitor pass hanging from your rearview mirror, you start to feel as if you belong, even though you had to dust your boots off since you haven't worn them since you went to the rodeo last year. After watching Lots 11, 14 and 22 auctioned off, our lots, mind you, we walked through the complex and petted Llamas, Alpacas and a wonderfully large-headed, fluffy-eared donkey named Jackson. Then we went to the Carnival, which is to say that at that moment, I left all my sense and sensibility back with a donkey named Jackson who has if not the good sense to lock himself up when the sun goes down, then at least sense enough to let someone else do it for him. To save him from himself, you follow me?

This picture here, this is of my friend and me, taken moments before our carnival ride started and I found myself in a chair spinning around and around at the end of a mechanical arm that was also spinning around and around, and shooting us forward at each turn, which since we were going around in circles, was every second. The ride is called Remix. When we walked up to it, I thought that from the music that was playing, it sort of made sense in an 80s music scene sort of way -- Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty, Missing Persons, etc. -- and I was all for a loop around the music. But soon enough I realized that the name had nothing to do with music but instead meant remixing my insides, as in my heart moved to my throat and my lungs below my bladder, and my stomach, well that left the picture altogether. This smiling, ignorantly blissful and happy photo was taken just moments before we were launched into spinning circles of hell above the crowd, circles spinning so fast and around that all I could think or say (okay, scream out loud with all my lung power) was BAD IDEA! OH MY GOD, SUCH A BAD IDEA!


When the ride was finally over and we were able to get out of the torturous bindings, I stepped off the platform with very unsure foot. I thought about my family and my home and my dog. I thought about the clean linens on my bed. I pictured Jackson in his stall, safely munching his hay. And I realized how happy I was to be alive.

You probably think I'm kidding.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

La dolce vita

Today is lazy. Today is of breezes and fragrance. Today is the change from bare limb to new leaves. Today is new life and flowers in my hair. Today is that dog of mine getting a treat at the coffee place up the road. Today is my own, a rare and open stretch of hours with no demand or expectation of me, hours in which I intend to fill with whatever I please. Ah, the sweetness of the gift.

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Friday, March 09, 2007


There's something about her familiar face, her familiar life, the long line from our history to our present, the witnessing, the love, the knowledge. There's something about the comfort and the trust, something about sitting across the table from her that soothes and calms every single thing within me.

She opens the door, opens her arms. I hug her and she holds me tight. She won't let go, though her girls grab my legs and her mother joins us and wraps her arms around ours. This moment, this right here, this is ours and it lifts me, high. It steadies me and I realize the smile beneath my dreamy closed eyes is alive.

At dinner, she pulls the demons from my head, the pain from my heart. There were times in the past month that she carried me, across the miles that separate us she managed to connect and carry me. She reaches for me now. Her belief in me reminds me of the feet on which I stand, of my strength and from where it came. She allows my heart. It's hard to be broken by a love you believed in, but it's easy to be healed by a love you believe in. That's who she is, celebrating, healing, understanding, pushing, pulling, trying, and always loving. That's who we are. Always the love and solidity of this friendship. She reminds me I'm still learning how to live, that we all are.

She gives me logic, understands my own. She undoes my fears, heals my suffering, unlocks the door and sets me free. It's a two-way street, she'd tell you, equal parts giving and receiving. Different times of need, different needs, different giving. But needing and giving, equally devoted. Lately, I've needed more than she, but we trust the pulse of our path.

Sitting atop the feed bins at the polo club -- me in my teens, she barely there -- we had no idea then what seeds we were planting, that our conversation would never slow, never end, that the damp smell of hay and oats and horses would that day swirl across our bodies and through our hearts and be the cement of our bond. No idea the long journey we'd begun to unfold, the experiences and lessons we'd share, weather, mourn, celebrate. No idea then the ribbons of the gift we were unwrapping, the promises we had begun to make. And keep.

Her friendship is my ritual, my satisfaction, my pride. She's the one person I've loved so long and never lost. She is here now and I don't mind admitting that I need her now. I need the energy of her life, the love in her heart, our knowledge of each other. I need her girls. I need to experience something I can trust, someone I can wrap my arms around and know. That's her. My girl, my friend. She loves me and she heals me.

There's something about her that tells me I need to thank the good Lord again for the gift of her, for the blessing of this friendship. What a gift it is; how blessed I am.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

What a day for a daydream

A light fog hung over Sacramento this morning, thin and low. My 6:00 a.m. flight departure would have gotten me up early enough, but because last night I brilliantly forgot to transfer onto my laptop the files I needed from the office's local server, I had to get up even earlier. Earlier as in 3:30. I'm a morning person but that's really the middle of the night, isn't it? Bleary-eyed and fumbling with codes on keypads to get into the office building, I was trying to spin the positive, telling myself that at least I could make coffee before getting on the road to the airport (the hotel's coffee bar, I sadly learned, does not open until 5:30). When you start your day at 3:30 in the morning, you need coffee. You do. That cup of coffee was good and hot and perfect.

My Vermont friend and I were on opposite ends of the country this morning. I called her from the airport as I waited for my flight and she was on her way to catch her own. This afternoon, we’re both back on Texas soil, sharing the same time zone once again. This evening, I’ll meet her for dinner and time. In a few hours I’ll smile at that familiar face of hers, and I’ll hug the friend I’ve known for so many years. We’ll sink into the ease, trust and comfort of our friendship and I’ll feel home once again.

As my southeast bound flight headed for the sunrise, out my window a cloud bank spread across the horizon in a sweet red and orange blur. I smiled at the idea of flying into the sunrise. It’s like being so happy that you run into the arms that were reaching for you anyway.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

And one more

Why am I in Sacramento? Work, of course. If I were seeking the big trees on my own dime, I'd have flown into SFO, rented a convertible and taken a drive north. I'm here with a team of five who are working 15+ hour days developing our response to a request for a proposal for a large scale project across the country. It's an enormous opportunity for my company and, of our competition on this effort, we are the most qualified, hands down. But we have to show it. This is the part of my job that brings out all my heart and the best of my skills. I don't mind the hours, what I love is being on the team, developing our approach, and pulling together the information that shows a client or potential client exactly why we are the best choice for the particular project or program for which they are seeking our company's qualifications.

Promoting and selling this company I believe in is the best part of my job. Working for a company I believe in is the best part of my career.

Being sent out here and getting to take morning walks among trees like this? That's just the icing I drag my finger though and taste along the way.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007


They say Everything is bigger in Texas, and that might be true for a lot of things, but I can tell you now that having seen with my very own eyes, it's not at all true of the trees.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Double exclamation point news!!

A little over a month ago, I wrote here about her boyfriend and the hit and run accident that left him in the hospital with breathing tubes and feeding tubes and casts and no consciousness. His progress has been excruciatingly slow, and for a bit of time there, touch and go. His mother had stopped calling or answering her phone unless there was some change or progress to report, and that wasn't very often.

On Saturday afternoon we sat on the grass in a ray of sunshine and I looked over at her to see tears in her eyes. I put my arms around her and we talked about him, about her sadness and how challenging this time has been for her. She's had to focus on the demands of school, and of adjusting to being away from home for the first time, while her boyfriend was miles away struggling for his life. She's been brave and amazingly strong during this time, but on Saturday she was afraid, unsure and unsteady. I could give her no answers, promise no magic. All I could do was hold onto her and love her, tell her how important it was that she keep her heart open to the positive and not focus on her fears. That's the only thing I could come up with that was honest and applicable because Everything will be okay, was not in my power to say.

This afternoon, I received an email from her. Today he started talking. His mother called her, and she spoke with him on the phone. She called the conversation normal, which speaks volumes towards his progress. He still has a long road to travel but this is a milestone step in his healing. Hope and prayers? Realized.

Little Brown Mad Dog

I'm off to California in a few hours. Hey, that was a pretty fun sentence to write. I'm going to write it again... I'm off to California in a few hours. Specifically, I'm going to Sacramento, a city I've not been to before. In addition to being the capital and all, the city is known as the City of Trees, which if you've known me for longer than five minutes then you know sounds like my kind of place. We'll see. My hotel is next to a park and on the banks of the Sacramento river. My camera is in my suitcase.

Two friends are keeping the girl at their house while I'm away. They like to dress her up sometimes and send me photos of her looking miserable in beautiful scarves tied around her neck, or her head. They also enjoy tickling her feet, which generally pisses her off good.

Which brings me to this photo, the other face of my little brown girl. She's all bark and no bite but would you look at that face. Just look at how seriously she takes herself. Mess with her feet and this is what you get. Still, I look at that face and my heart melts. And then I laugh. Because she does take herself that seriously.

Mad Dog

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Every day is like Sunday

I took this picture yesterday, before the church on St. Edward's campus. I was walking Cheyenne around the campus while letting my niece sleep in a bit longer because it was only 11:00 and if it's a Saturday morning and you can sleep until then, then I think you should be able to do so. Especially if you're a college student.

While she slept, I discovered Live Oaks with their branches spread wide and low, water fountains pouring over Limestone, wooden benches in quiet areas of shade, and this cross. It was a peaceful morning, very much like blessings.

Friday, March 02, 2007

On the Southside (which means nothing to you or me, but cracks them up)

Sunny day, open windows, furry brown companion, long drive on wide open Texas roads, my niece, the park, the lake, dinner with some faces familiar and some new. Laughter always warms the same.

All of it good stuff. Really good stuff.

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On my pillow at the hotel, a folded card. I open it to read these words: In the world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it." That, from Oscar Wilde.

Let's talk about sex, shall we?

Just kidding. But it got your attention, didn't it?

My bag is packed, and the leads, collars, food, treaties, bowls and bed of Cheyenne's life are also packed. We're heading to Austin in a few hours. We're going to see my niece. I found a hotel near the campus that will not only take Cheyenne but will give me airline miles for our stay as well, which to me is pretty much the only way to travel. With my dog, and getting something in return. Not bad.

This weekend is about her (niece, not dog). It's about looking for the apartment where she'll hang her hat (if she wore one) during the summer months. It's been so long since I've looked at apartments. Fair to say our expectations are going to be different. I'll have to remember that we're not looking for a granite-counter-spa-tub variety. She'll be happy with anything that's clean and has running water on a regular basis. Our budget is more closely related to her taste, not mine, which as Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing.

That little exercise is for tomorrow though. Today is about fun. Today is about parks and cameras and exploring. That's who we are and I love sharing that with her. This evening I'll be hosting a dinner for three of her vegetarian friends, one I know and two I look forward to meeting. I remember when my parents came to Lubbock and took my friends and me out to dinner. It's a good memory of a nice evening where we all dressed up and practiced our manners for Mom and Dad. We were so successful that I recall looking around that table and hardly recognizing a few of my friends in their Yes Sir / No Sir Eddie Haskell posturing.

I sort of feel that I'm about to take that particular baton from my parents this weekend, that I'll be walking in their shoes. I feel good about that, like I'm in good company.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


HeLLO March! It's you! Welcome back. I'm so happy to have you here. To know your Redbud trees, Tulip Trees and Azaleas will soon be popping up in color everywhere. To hear your songbirds, and to be in your time where all your new life buds and springs upwards all around me. I know your longer days of sunshine are just around the corner, as is the official change from gloomy Winter to sweet Spring. And, of course, your March Madness -- a frenzy which I always get caught up in. I even look forward to your St. Patrick's Day, because just the idea of green beer makes me giggle.

I was so relieved to turn the calendar page this morning that I gazed at your days and rubbed my hand across your weeks, closed my eyes and took a deep breath that was actually more a deep sigh of relief than simply the intake of oxygen. Being out of February is an enormous comfort for me. I feel stronger just by being able to now refer to February as last month. If I could do cartwheels, I would do them today. Often, and in public.