Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Walking with their shadows

I hear her voice. I hear his voice. I see them young, in woollen clothes warming their bodies against the cold and snowy background in photos with scalloped edges that framed the promise of their future, of a lifetime of love and togetherness, a lifetime of who they were before me. A lifetime that today has me gliding my fingers along those edges and wondering where their time went. A box filled with photographs I touch, photographs I absorb and yet swallow questions I have, questions I never asked, never can. I think he'd never seen the likes of her before, and she, well she fell in love with the twilight of his eyes.

We all did that, fell in love with the likes of her, fell in love with his eyes. We could not help ourselves.

Their shadows frame my life today. I have their footprints on my heart. I am still tumbling over losing them. There is a harmony I'm part of, and yet I'm the only voice singing out loud. You might think it's been years, enough time has passed, and you'd be right. But for me, for me, losing them is losing my voice. It's a silent scream in a deafening mist, a misty ghost in a frightening fog, a startling bell ringing in the silent dark.

Every morning the sun rises and I open my eyes and blink at the wonder of the light and the shadows and I try so hard to find them there. I wonder if I can pick up the pieces of them and place myself in the spaces between the edges of the losing and maybe, just maybe, float there for a moment.

I'm walking through a tidal pull between their lives and their deaths. But every morning, my faith in them and my faith in the light gives me my footing. We did the best we could, we had the best there was, and all the music in the world holds us in the high notes, the long notes, the magnificent and slow-moving pauses between lessons and knowledge, between a beating heart and love.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The results

Holes in my ear that weren't there a week ago: 2

Cancer: 0

Winner: Me!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What's that you say?

While my husband Anderson Cooper has been busy tonight on Anderson Cooper 360 fighting the Mexican Drug Cartel, or The War Next Door, I've been equally busy supporting him and his efforts.

No, wait. Do over.

While my husband Anderson Cooper has been busy tonight on Anderson Cooper 360 fighting the Mexican Drug Cartel, or The War Next Door, I've been completely oblvivious to his voice and images coming into my living room because I have been in a drug-induced sleep on my couch, with my arm draped over the side and Cheyenne viewing that as a fine opportunity to lick me clean me until I finally awoke.

Did I mention to you that I had a doctor appointment at 11:00 Thursday morning? There had been a funny feeling in my ear for a couple weeks, a feeling that my ear was plugged by something, a feeling of hello, I think there's a brick in my ear and I cannot hear a thing.

Four hours and thirty minutes later, I walked out of Methodist Hospital with bandages on my ear and a prescription in my purse. In the three and a half hours longer than I thought I'd be there, I'd been poked and scoped with a tube up my nose and down my throat, been sprayed through my nasal cavity with something powerfully numbing, been told I had callouses on my vocal chords and erosion on the back of my vocal chords due to acid reflux that I had as much idea that I had as I have an idea of anything else that happens while I am in deep sleep, beyond Anderson Cooper investigating the big threat that will make your blood run cold. Oh, and I also had minor surgery.

My cold blood ran warm as it dripped down my neck when the plastic surgeon took a knife to my ear in not one but two suspected places that screamed to my doctors Basal Cell Carcinoma. I didn't feel a thing beyond that dripping blood because eight shots in your ear will numb you right into the middle of your head and straight into tomorrow.

Two point eight million pounds of marijuana were seized from the border in 2008 and that's equal to the amount of completly grosse stuff seized from my ear Thursday morning. Two point eight million pounds lighter, I could hear again. I could hear my doctor ask me why my voice was as deep as it is and I could hear his lack of laughter when I told him it was because I am the secret love child of Kathleen Turner and Stevie Nicks. That doctor needs his own ears cleaned because instead of hearing me, he sprayed that seriosly numbing stuff in my nose and put a tube through there and down my throat to discover callouses that I only thought existed on my heels and erosion that I only thought existed on the Rio Grande's border patrol ethics. We're going to address that in two weeks but the mole and the brown patch on my ear screamed now to him and he sent me on my way with my new and growing chart in hand to an office in the building across the street and up 17 floors from where I sat in the only doctor's office I thought I was visiting. That office, 17 floors up, is where I met with the shots and knife.

Two hours later, that second doctor sent me on my way with two sample jars of removed bits from my ear. I had to post register at the outpatient surgery pre-registration desk so that my samples could be processed. Post registering at the pre-registration desk of Methodist Hospital is a bit confusing to the staff, not to mention the person who only recently had an entirely different set of plans for the day. Still, I convinced them that I was pre-registering for something that had already taken place in the recent past. Like Anderson Cooper, I had overwhelming evidence to prove my case, See, take a look at my ear. The underwhelming evidence of my growing sense of vertigo with the day was the wristband the registration nurse handed me with my name and date of birth printed on it, the wristband that was to safely identify me through my surgical procedures and recovery, the wristband that I handed back to her and asked her to throw away for me.

I left the building hours later than I'd anticipated when I first walked in, with cotton stuffing in and bandages over my throbbing ear, a prescription in hand and receipts for checks I'd written for medical care, checks that had big dollar amounts on them since my COBRA is in effect but details have not reached my mailbox yet so on the house means sucking my bank account dry.

And that, my friend, is how I found myself waking up on the couch a couple hours ago, which can also be called the middle of the night. No one awake but me and my husband, Anderson Cooper. He's talking but I can't hear him because even though I am 2.8 million pounds lighter in my right ear, that ear is also stuffed with post-op cotton. I'd like to apologize to my husband Anderson Cooper because I don't mean to appear that I'm ignoring him, and I don't mean to be shutting the television off while he's speaking but seriously, it's been a day of unexpected events and, my own little war behind me, I need to take myself and my still non-hearing ear off the couch and into bed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The List

Things I want to do while I have the chance to do them (in no particular order). The first 25:

See Led Zeppelin in concert
Dedicate a bench in Central Park to my mother
Write a novel
Drive from San Francisco, CA, to Seattle, WA
Use my hands to help others (community gardens, Habitat for Humanity)
Attend the weddings of my nieces and nephew
See the cherry blossoms in bloom in D.C.
Witness the flooding and harvesting of a cranberry marsh
See the northern lights
Step foot on all seven continents
Find the one
Build photography studio
Find a job I love
See the salmon run in Alaska
Transform my little yard into a place I visit and enjoy
Have a completely organized closet system
Be completely silent for a day
Have a good dream come true
Sky dive
Stand on the Great Wall of China
Learn to compost
Travel on the Blue train across South Africa
Take a cooking class
Make a pillow out of my father's famous Orvis Christmas pants

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A list

I'm working on a list. It's a list of things that I want to do in my life, places I want to go, things I want to experience. Because I am in a pause between careers, I've been doing a lot of taking stock of my life through musings and activities. The most obvious is the cleaning, organizing and repairing I've been doing around the house. The less obvious are my thoughts and the direction they are going. I'm making the best of this time I've been given, this rare break from the race. I see it as a gift as well as a huge nudge from above that there is something else I should be doing. I haven't found that thing yet but I believe, truly believe, that I will.

Anyway, the list. In no particular order, it starts with seeing Led Zeppelin in concert. And it's growing every which way. I'm going to post it on my side bar and when I've accomplished something on it, I'll cross it off. Of course that first one isn't entirely up to me, now is it?

List will be posted tomorrow. Do you have such a list?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday, charitable Sunday

Sunday afternoon, Humane Society Non-Competitive Fun Run/Walk. We walked. Cheyenne's strappingly handsome boyfriend, Isaac, and her friend Abby, also were there. Walking with friends not withstanding, her reward was just after the finish line.

Fun run 002 Fun run 005 Fun run 014 Fun run 016 Fun run 023 Fun run 025 Fun run 028

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The moments of that girl

Since I have been a rodeo queen this past week, busying myself with promoting a friend's business, Cheyenne and I have not had a whole lot of time to spend together. I did buy her a new collar instead of buying myself a new pair of boots and I did spend a couple of beautiful mornings with her at the park. I also caught her making herself completely at home on the new couch, with a look on her face that challenged what I planned to do about it, because moving was not something she intended to do.

Cheyenne March 006
Cheyenne March 004
Cheyenne March 002

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Content with what remains

This past weekend, I once again drove roads as familiar and comfortable as my favorite jeans, roads that take me to my family's cabin. The cabin is a special place in my life, a forever place in my life. Just entering its doors makes my memories there alive again. I can feel the heat and the cold of past seasons there, I can smell the aroma of past meals shared there, I can hear the music of songs sung there. People are the most part of the memories there, people living within my thoughts and heart like the wind I can feel but cannot see. The cabin keeps yesterday in the past while making the most of today, of the present. The foundation of the house was built in yesterday but the house itself stands in today and being there, spending time there, reminds me of life's wonderful order.

Some pictures from the weekend:

Cabin March 2009 016 Cabin 018

007 Cabin March 2009 001 025 023

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~ Thornton Wilder

I am alive here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Will I ever learn?

A couple times a week, I drive about 50 miles northwest of Houston and into the country. I exit the freeway and head south along winding roads and rolling hills. I pass miles and miles of fenceline, an occasional tree, wide open fields. Cattle grazing, horses grazing. The road takes me to a friend's farm where there are more cattle and horses grazing, along with chickens and turkeys and seven Great Pyrenees dogs who lounge and lumber around the property by day and fiercely protect the cattle by night.

On the nights before the mornings I drive out to the farm, I tell myself as I'm falling asleep, don't forget your camera tomorrow. And when tomorrow comes and I'm halfway there, I realize I forgot my camera.

Today, it rained. And around every bend, there was a photo waiting to be taken. The grass was dark green beneath the moisture, the fenceposts were darkened and dripping, gray clouds rumbled across the sky. Drops of rain clung to the long lines of barbed wire. A play of dark and light reflected off the wet land. Everything of the hills and grounds and animals was saturated and moody.

I wish I could show you.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Oh the joys!

My morning and evening walks are good medicine for me. I like to give pause and listen to the sounds going on around me: the ever-busy birds, sometimes the breeze. I like looking at the details. On Sunday, these leaves were not there. This moring it was too dark for me to notice. But this afternoon, they were everywhere, tiny bursts of green exploding all over the branches that just yesterday were brown and bare. This afternoon, the newness, the bright color green of young leaves surrounded me, not only in the two trees in my yard but the neighbor's Sycamore trees and the Wysteria along the fence in the yard down the street. The sudden change is so wonderful, so mysterious and life-affirming. Everything, every little thing is changing, growing in a new direction. It's an awesome season approaching, an amazing time of year, and even though all is in the midst of metamorphosis, nothing is out of place, not even the walker.

Spring! 001 Spring! 005

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Top it off with two Advil

To look at this picture, it looks like all I did on this little patio was plant some flowers. My back would like to tell you that it was so much more than that. It started with my unexpected venture into fence repair since the fence company I hired after Ike completely ripped me off by taking my money and only doing half the job. When I took a close look, I realized that I had to get the hammer and nails out. I like hammering though, it's a good way to get out aggression. After securing the boards, I had to build up the washed away earth beneath that table in the back and pour and level the gravel. Finally, I cleaned out the pots and replaced the old soil with fresh, and planted the plants. Then I hauled all the clipped twigs and raked leaves and plant containers out to the trash, gave everything a good soak and patted myself on the back.

I love the feeling of accomplishment when I complete a project. My back, however, does not love that feeling so much.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Oh the things to get done

Since I've been laid off, I've been busier than I've been in a long time. I didn't figure it would be this way, but it is. There's the freelance work I've been doing and then there's all the projects around my house, projects that not only require my presence (having the carpets cleaned, and the cable and internet service repaired, something that has taken countless phone calls and two days of Comcast being here to accomplish) but also those that require my time and energy. I've been tackling them on weekends for the longest time but the to-do list of a single home-owner grows faster than the kudzu vine.

So, I've been taking advantage of having the time and I've been busy working away on that list. I have cleaned my front door and applied conditioning oil to the wood. I have cleaned closets and the pantry, rugs and dog bed covers. I have cleaned the shuttered doors of the laundry area, and those I finished off using Q-tips on the sides of the slats, every slat of slatted doors. It took over an hour but looks very good - I'd forgotten those doors were white.

Right now, I'm tired of being inside and I'm taking my projects outside for the rest of the day and weekend. The first project I'm taking on is the little side patio that I have barely acknowledged since Hurricane Ike blew through in September and rearranged everything when it took the fence down. I tackle this patio in a major way twice a year but after Ike, I didn't have the heart to get it dressed up for the winter, so now I have double the work. I have to pull weeds, then refill the uneven ground with the bags of rocks I purchased the other day, rake six month's of fallen leaves, pull out the dead plants, cut back dead bits and add soil to the pots, find and clear the drain, pot new plants, fertilize, and sweep up all the mess I'm sure to make while doing that. Since it's such a small area, it's only about two hours of work, work that is very gratifying since there's a definite start and finish. Take a good look at that "before" photo because when I'm done it's going to be a complete makeover.

Tomorrow I plan to take on the garage. Perhaps Sunday I should book a massage session.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Repeat daily

Every morning, our routine. After making the bed and changing out of my nightclothes, Cheyenne and I excitedly head downstairs where her collar and leash and my tennis shoes wait to be filled. And we step out into the morning for our walk, she sniffing and discovering and me observing and watching, being uplifted by the changing morning sky.

When we return home, I pour a cup of coffee and read the newspaper while I wait for Cheyenne to cool down before feeding her.

After she has eaten, she'll roam around my feet for a while, and we'll go through the back scratching routine and then she'll get bored with that and retreat to her bed in the kitchen. And there she waits. And what she waits for at this point is for me to leave so that she'll be fed a treat. Look at that face. The impatient look says Go on, leave already so that I can have a treat. And then I'm going to run upstairs and jump up on your bed for a nice long nap.

Cheyenne March 2009 009

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Sunday morning

With each morning, I feel more alive, better, full of promise than I felt the day before. I never thought I'd lose my job, never thought I'd work for another company; I'd fully planned to retire from the company which laid me off two weeks ago. But after the shock and the sadness, the complete upheaval, I find that to my complete surprise, I am happier than I have been in years. Happy! Oh, I'm a bit sensitive and a bit afraid of what's next but I'm also opening my eyes each day and setting out with an excitement for the unknown.

I had not realized how much my job and my boss of the past two years had slowly eroded my confidence and my outlook. I had not realized how much of me was pretending to be happy because I wanted to be, really wanted to be, and how draining that effort was, that effort of constantly wanting to be but not really being. I had not realized how much my positive attitude and pretending was costing me. I would not have quit though, I would not have left my job on my own. And I wouldn't have done so because I just did not identify the cause of my overall unhappiness to be my job and my boss.

It's as if I was wearing my underwear backwards and thinking the problem was my pants.

But now that I know, now that the burden has been removed from me, I see that this was a blessing. I feel good.

This morning, I woke to the sun coming through my windows, took a deep breath and excitedly dressed and set out for a morning walk with Cheyenne. Springtime and hope were everywhere I looked. Budding flowers, bright colors of purples, pinks and oranges popping out against the greys and browns of winter. I feel like those colors are me, bursting out of the burdens of my past and into a renewed life, a bright future.

My underwear is on right these days!