Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Oleaginous Desire

I think it was on his birthday, but my spirit sister, Carrie, called to wish her former, lonely beau if he’d like to go out and grab a bite to eat—her treat, since he usually picked up the tab. Although he wasn’t sure he wanted to go out, being a reclusive type, David welcomed hearing Carrie’s voice, ’cause it had been months, maybe a year, since they’d last spoken—he’d worn her patience matzo thin. 
After some verbal foreplay, he figured eating Swanson’s every night wasn’t his cup of Mogen David and that, perhaps, dining out would be nice. Returning the favor in advance, he asked if there was anything he could do to help her around the house. 
My sister, not one to speak without deliberate hesitation—a Southern custom—nor beat around the bush—perhaps an only-child, get-to-the-point trait, considered and slowly said, “Mmm, I could use a little he’p trimming my trees,” having a stand of mangoes, papayas, oranges, and other fruit trees on her Florida property. “But I’d pay you to do that,” she drawled, not wanting any obligation from this past on-again, off-again relationship.
They’d met at the Dade County Department of Social Services almost a decade ago, and, as with many work relationships, Carrie and David’s began with the typical sarcastic humor about their employers’ lack of foresight and operational inefficiencies. Both being higher intelligence for that environment and leaning toward obstreperous, they cultivated a friendship that grew like Carrie’s veritable jungle in her cubicle, frequently causing a stir in this multicultural Miami mix. Plus, their obvious similarities and differences made them two peas in a mutated hot, damp pod.
Eventually, David and Carrie’s fun exceeded the boundaries of that building, and they started experiencing the Miami scene together—dining in new restaurants, hiking on the beach, flying in small airplanes, stargazing on big boats. The thought of reliving their adventures helped motivate them to return to Monday morning tedium. 
At one of their department’s events, all personnel received T-shirts boldly displaying the agency’s name and logo—an agency that helped those in need, often more assistance than they could efficiently handle, including many newcomers coming onto the mainland. The idea of actually wearing these shirts, however, seemed absurd to Carrie and David. So one fine, two-glasses-of-wine evening on Carrie’s front yard adjacent the Dixie Highway, my beloved big sister and her Jewish boyfriend hoisted his shirt on top of a broomstick and lit it on fire.
Yep, right there at dusk for all who drove past to see was a very black woman and a very white man burning a very bold social services shirt. I’m sure a few passers-by still wonder if they might have had one too many at a local watering hole before seeing Burning Shirt and driving into their driveways that eve, wondering if maybe they should drive by again on Saturday morning to see if evidence proved they really saw what they think they did.
But time, events, and a variety of less-merited experiences altered Carrie’s opinion of David, and their relationship waned. Still, there they were, olive branch in voice, talking on the phone.
“You don’t have to pay me for anything,” David responded. “I’ll come over with my saw.”
“Mmmm,” Carrie cautiously pondered. I’m sure she slowly tipped her head, curled one side of those big, juicy lips, and recalled the past. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea. Tell me, if you don’t want me to pay you, what’s in it for you.”
“Well,” he longfully, wishfully paused, “maybe you could just rub some of that hot oil on my ‘gentles,’” as Carrie heard David say.
Without hesitation, she said, “Uh-uhh. I ain’t doin’ nosuch thing, so you just stay right there at home.”
“Well,” David waxed hopeful, “maybe you could just think about it.”
“I don’t have to think about it,” she said, hung up, and mindfully poured herself a warm glass of Courvoisier.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Impoverished? Just give us music

Statistics are reported weekly about poverty levels around the world. In my little world, from late 2008 through early 2013 my household reported at 99 percent po’.

On October 15, 2013, NPR* featured a land of long-term poverty—Appalachia. The story, however, didn’t focus on lack of income. 

A bed of a cappella gospel music comforted like a thick, luxuriant blanket beneath reporter John Burnett’s voice. Not all singers stayed on key nor harmonized perfectly, but that wasn’t the point. Accompanying video showed many suit-donning, gray-haired folks deeply and solemnly sharing soulful hymnodies with God and one another. None seemed poor in spirit.

Burnett lightly brushed over the statistic that 25 percent of Appalachians live below a government-specified income level, but these folks gathered together to enjoy music, not commiserate. Gloom would have dissipated with every note anyway, even though some bluegrass lyrics dealt with troubled times. Every time has a song.

Music is a language I understand. Even when casual musicians start making music, the sun shines a little brighter and the air feels a little warmer just being together and playing our instruments. Bob tunes, then retunes his guitar (and anyone else’s that doesn’t sound quite right) before I start laying down chords on the keyboard and singing.

Terry, wearing cowboy boots and thick leather gloves, places a small wood block under one side of this washtub bass, allowing the deep, resonant thumping to escape as he secures the other side with this boot and plucks the rope fastened to a broomstick.

When Bill finally traipses in, he plucks his banjo or resins his bow and plays fiddle or breathes his energetic concertina, harmonizing perfectly with the other instruments.

Money might be able to buy good health, but sometimes music is better. And maybe those Great Recession years weren’t as poor as they could have been.

Can I hear an amen?

* http://www.npr.org/2013/10/15/234606252/before-church-songbooks-there-was-lined-out-singing

Minnesota Nice

Flying low on a two-lane highway that connects a succession of small farming towns, I looked up from reading CD covers in the passenger seat, saw 25 mph, and heard, “Crap!”

Oh geez.

The sheriff approached my new husband’s car from behind as Tom rolled down his window. 

“You were goin’ a little fast there,” the sheriff observed. “What brings yeh tö MinnesOta?” he asked, brandishing a chubby, friendly smile.

Always nervous about what might fly out of Tom’s Irish, drinking mouth, I leaned forward, securing eye contact with the sheriff, and answered, “We’re on our honeymoon! In fact, yesterday we visited the folks who bought my family’s farm in Montevideo, where I grew up, and now we’re on our way to St. Paul to visit my friend whose husband is a cop,” I said and nodded reassuringly.

“Congratulations,” Sheriff Keith said, smiling and nodding in return. Staying on course, he refocused on the driver, never losing momentum. “Have you had any citations? Or is your record clean?”

“No, it’s clean,” I heard, as Tom handed over his license and I prayed, since Tom has a habit of stretching more than his gut. 

“Thank you,” Sheriff Keith said. “I’ll be back in a bit,” and strolled to his car.

“How fast were you going?” I asked.

“Fifty, maybe sixty.” Only double or more the posted limit. Oh boy.

Apprehensively, I shuffled CDs around, tidied my two cubic feet of small-car space, and waited, all the while wondering how Tom would look in orange and if we still had cash left after our over-the-top-for-old-farts wedding.

A shadow moved toward the car. “Well, it looks like everything checks out fine,” Sheriff Keith confirmed. “So you said you were headed to St. Paul? Gee, you’re gonna be runnin’ into quite a detour, so just remember to keep your speed down and enjoy the country.”

As late would have it, the primary highway, US-12, leading from Willmar into the Cities was blocked for construction—all two and-a-half-hours’ worth, so we kicked our plans down a gear, texted Katharina to say we’d be late by who knows how long, and enjoyed the green, green grass of home.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Simple Way to Lose Weight

A gal I work for bought all of her employees and me, her dutiful editor, Fitbits.

I’d never heard of the product before she mentioned it, so as Ellen was enthusiastically describing the wristband device, she directed me to the Fitbit site. She said it daily monitored the wearer’s steps, the amount of time engaged in exercise, and sleep patterns. The sleep monitoring feature hooked me, since I’ve had sleeping problems all my life. “Cool,” I edged in.

“If you’re competitive with yourself and others, it’s a great incentive to get in shape and lose weight,” Ellen said. However, when she added, “And we can all connect online to let others see how we’re doing on our goals,” I became skeptical, given privacy concerns and not wanting advertisers to stare through my computer’s camera at me scarfing down pizza. Nor did I want anyone capturing my data and proving I’d grown an inch around my chewed-pizza holder. Nothing makes me hungrier than not eating to lose weight.

But having lumped through this past winter of extremely low temperatures—one that felt like the longest and coldest in my 30 years in Colorado Springs, and during which time I missed many days of hiking but never my mouth—I’d found some weight I’d lost many years ago and wrapped it around my middle to keep warm. I’d also developed an eating style that mimicked that of Shiloh the dog’s.

Cringing at a flashback of recently trying to maneuver my marbled meat into my pants and hanging from the chinning bar to get them zipped and buttoned, I decided to accept Ellen’s generous offer. A week later, a gal pal down the street who also works for Ellen knocked on my door and handed me my new black Fitbit Flex.

Once the measuring instrument was charged, set up, and inserted into the smaller of two wristbands included in the package, I fastened the clasp (the most challenging step of the operation), and dashed off to church*—not for confession; it was Sunday.

The next morning, I inserted my Fitbit dongle into my MacBook Pro, synced the Flex, then checked my dashboard. Incredibly cool.

Graphs showed my activity levels, steps, number of active minutes, calories burned, and the number of times my gut slapped against my breasts when I jogged and jiggled. Most intriguing were the number of moments I’d slept and was restless or awake, graphically illustrating that my behavior is not because I’m blond. (The graph below isn’t typical of most nights.) Generally I’ve been restless 172 minutes, and my average sleep duration is 4 hours, 43 minutes, so I’m frantically focusing on sleeping.

Now for the best part!

Since all my Biosyntrx friends are keeping an unobtrusive eye on my stats, I decided to put the pressure on and set a weight-loss goal of 11 pounds. According to my very old bathroom scale that I’ve stored in the garage, far enough away from the temptation of weighing an excess load, I weighed 129. Not too bad for an old lady; however, not too good for slipping into my old clothing.

Almost every morning, I stumble into the garage where the scale rests, holding its breath, take off anything weighing an ounce or more, and set it on the counter. Then I jump onto the scale. In less than a week, I dropped three or four pounds. But this morning I couldn’t see nor focus on the dial’s verdict. The garage was dimly lit due to thick cloud cover outside and bad eyes inside, but it looked like the dial hovered around 125. Excitedly, I moved the scale two feet north, closer to the freezer, and hopped on again. (This is the best part.) I weighed 123 pounds!

I’ve come to the conclusion that magnetism is key. When you want to lose weight fast, move your body closer to the North Pole or the freezer, and the magnetism pulls the weight clean off you. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it, just as I am my stretchy pants.

* Broadmoor Community Church, United Church of Christ, aka Congregational

Monday, May 26, 2014

Blame It on Michael

I can't believe it happened again. Soggy clean tissue pieces clung to my freshly washed clothes. Although he didn’t seem to be present, I knew Michael was still here, because he always leaves tissues in his pockets.

Years ago I fell deeply, obsessively, insanely in love with a guy called Michael, Mr. GQ, tall, dark, and handy. It was dreadful. I would have been better off falling out of an airplane without a chute. Within a couple months, I deduced he was using me financially. Yet after he confessed my list of suspicions to be partially true, I kept him around anyway. Not only was he a gifted musician who could play any instrument (any instrument), he was a skilled handyman who had built a house, and I had a house that continually needed repair.

Like a feral cat always looking behind for a possible threat, I found myself being paranoid that he’d leave with something in his dexterous, scrubbed hands. Being intuitive, I was right. He left, and with him he took my heart.

Now granted, my boot was still stuck in his sweet, tight arse when he flew past the new, woodgrain front door just before his bags hit the ground. And I knew I was going to miss him, but not for the things you might imagine. I needed Michael for reasons quite practical. I needed him to blame when things went bad, because that is how he made me feel. Very bad. For that reason alone, his name would suffice.

Allow me to share some recent examples, and please understand, if you, your husband, brother, father, or friend are named Michael, this is not about you or them. I have a very specific Michael in mind, and I doubt he remembers how to read since he landed on his head.

1. As I gathered ingredients from the fridge to make fettuccini alfredo, my cute, little nose swept over the cream that smelled slightly past ripe. I knew immediately Michael had slipped into the house and exchanged my fresh cream for his soured. Just like him, the stinker.

2. Then on Wednesday morning when I arose to find the dog’s prior meal regurgitated on the carpet, the signs all pointed to Michael.

3. Before church on Sunday, I cranked the bathroom lights to spotlight intensity, hoping to awaken in a flash, when pop! the switch blew. The burning odor clearly indicated Michael had lit a fire in my circuitry. Fortunately, I knew Michael could easily replace the switch—a different, nicer Michael model.

4. Then the long-haired cat I call Piercing was overcome with diarrhea. Proof again, Michael had given him chocolate or a bacterial infection.

5. And when the water heater no longer heated water, I swear I heard Michael chuckling and clearing his throat in the lower level. I raced down the stairs and, sure enough, wisps of his energy still hovered around the gurgling, now-defunct appliance.

Now you see how the system works and can use the technique yourself. When the car breaks down, or the toilet overflows, or a bird poops on you as one did upon my cousin, or the IRS chooses you as its next audit victim, or your favorite lover becomes afflicted with dengue fever, blame it on Michael.

I’ve never agreed with the phrase “Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” but then again, having done so sure takes a load off.

Monday, April 7, 2014

After-Church Reverie

Sent from Michael Lowery: I awoke early, as usual, and was searching for the perfect word for the experience of yesterday, some word that would describe the experience without venturing too far from the truth, a descriptive that would be unassailable by those of the literary mind. Every possibility failed the context test. Finally I invented a new word:

Transluminous. It was simply transluminous.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A New Kind of Religion

A friend and I have gotten together most Friday afternoons since 1985 to solve the problems of the universe. Although we haven't had a high rate of success in that endeavor, we've enjoyed a lot of fun on our journey.

One lovely June day when sunlight streamed through the large living room window, we were feeling quite ethereal with spirits easily emanating past the confines of the house. Everything was glowing.

So we decided to start a new religion—Samgaleah.

Let us know if you'd like to join : )

Sam•ga•le•ah [ såm gå 'LEE ah ]

a member of one of the three principal sects of faux Jainism, which was formed as a result of stimulating conversation and libation on Fridays, whose origin is not a part of the doctrinal schism c. AD 80 and survives today in parts of Colorado. The sect’s adherents practice asceticism, except in some pleasures, and are cosmically acceptable to any spiritual destination of the soul and can wear any color clothing.

Samgaleism [ noun ]

ORIGIN c. AD 2009 American English Sam-and-Leigh-ahh, literally ‘somewhat tainted,’ from Friday afternoon dialogue or tête-á-tête (“head-to-head”) conversations.

See also Svetambara and Digambara.

Why Do People Steal: the Headline Thief

After being robbed or violated in some way, I’ve wondered Why me? and Why do people steal? Another incidence happened to me in November, so here I am taking my inventory, wondering if I provided fertile ground for theft and why a person would choose to become a thief. Some thoughts:

  1. The thief is broke, impulsive, mentally challenged, unprincipled.
  2. He’s not resourceful and doesn’t believe he can achieve something on his own.
  3. Stealing affords the exciting, adrenaline-coursing risk of being caught.
  4. Mr. Crook is too lazy to earn money and pay for products and services.
  5. Señor Weasel feels entitled to take another’s property.
  6. Herr Swindler cannot find his car keys to drive to the store, so he liberates things from folks next door.
  7. My pastor suggested, people who steal are evil and derive pleasure from hurting others.
  8. My attorney, now friend, said, “The guy can’t make it on his own.”

It doesn’t matter the reason, stealing is just plain wrong.

In mid-2010 I mailed a marketing piece promoting my writing and editing skills. On it, my headline read, “Picky, Picky, Picky,” because I am. “Being accurate and paying attention to detail are my strong points, especially when details involve correct grammar, proper word usage, and precise punctuation and spelling.” You can see it here (click) toward the bottom.

I chose to market to companies that presented well online, but, nevertheless, had errors on their sites—errors they may never notice because, figuratively speaking, we usually don’t know when our fly is open. But prospective clients investigating their services for future hire might consider them substandard. Hence, I considered these ad agencies, PR firms, publishers, and site developers my target market and mailed my Picky piece.

After the initial response, business stabilized. Then in early 2013, my piece drew an ad agency owner to ring. “Hello, this is [Mr. Ad Man], and I’m looking at your marketing piece. ‘Picky, Picky, Picky,’ said he.”

The following day I presented myself to first meet the account executive who had viewed my Picky, Picky, Picky piece, then the rest of the team. I looked at the project, then immediately started working. Throughout the year, I worked on various writing and editing projects, when suddenly his emails ceased. My writing work was above average and praised, and my charges were below average due to anticipated repeat business, but I think I wasn’t young and cute enough.

After two months of agency silence, I received an 11" x 17", four-color, self-mailer marketing piece for a high-end jeweler wearing a very clever, albeit unoriginal, headline.

“Picky, Picky, Picky.”

“I wonder who produced this,” my friend said, eyebrows raised with a tip of head. Upon review of the direct mailer, it contained the same Error Signature, as I call it, that appeared on the agency’s site.

In an effort to verify the intellectual-property-lifting assumption, I viewed the jeweler’s Web site source code to see if the same company who produced some of the agency’s sites had done theirs. The research was inconclusive, so I set the mailer aside and went back to work.

During the day, the beautiful, expensive jeweler’s piece held a lower priority than a current project, but at night, dreams would haunt me. God I hate it when folks are dishonest. So when nighttime restlessness overtook me, I set my project aside and conducted more research to absolutely ascertain the culprit. I researched, sent emails, made calls, and indeed, it was the suspected ad agency. The silent one had spoken and boldly produced the triple-fold mailer for tens of thousands of residents.

Of all the words in the American English language for the agency to use, they chose mine. I could have considered this action a compliment had I been asked for permission—and paid, but his lack of professionalism, self-respect, and creativity smacked me, and ultimately him, in the face. Why buy the cow…? Why wouldn’t he call and say, “We really like your headline and would like your permission to use it. We have a client with a nice-sized budget and could offer you $500 for it. Would you be willing to sign a document of authorization?” or something like that.

Am I that scary? Well, maybe. Am I that easy to bowl over? Probably.

A designer friend of 25 years who had been with the largest ad agency in our village, said, “Gee, this is a sticky situation. What I’d do, uh, it depends. If he sends you a lot of work, let it slide, let him use it, and just add twenty dollars to each bill thereafter. He’ll never know it. Now if he doesn’t send you a lot of work, it’s just a fleeting thing, what you gotta do is send him a bill for the headline, and then have the proof so you can back it up when he retorts.”

Since the ad agency hadn’t sent business my way for two months and I sensed cessation, I rang my attorney who advised me to “wait a month and see if the guy contacts you and does the right thing. If not, send him a friendly letter stating facts, proof of plagiarizing, and a copy of your thing. Let’s see if he walks the high road.” My attorney isn’t fodder for jokes. He’s bright, honest, and writes well. “But if he submits it for a ‘Best of’ contest and takes credit…well. Call me in a month.”

I drafted my suggestive, non-accusatory letter, based on the two friends’ advice and guided by an entrepreneur and investment specialist who’s a lot smarter than I am, and mailed it via U.S. Post.

To my astonishment, one week later the agency owner sent his response acknowledging that his account executive, the one who’d initially met with me, used my headline. But then he lied, he wrote that he did “not know how he came to use the phrase or if he ever saw your postcard.”

Then he included eight online sites that used “Picky, Picky, Picky,” proving he could conduct an Internet search. Original. If he had one of his employees do the search, they are now advised of his integrity standard.

“Anyone can go online after the fact and find the headline. It does not exonerate him,” said my IT friend, formerly in printing. “Plus, would he have come up with the phrase on his own?”

Probably not.

In conclusion, Señor Weasel wrote that he’d “contacted their trademark attorney and confirmed you don’t have ownership,” and they’ve “been advised not to provide payment for use, time or stress.”

Probability was also strong that he had not contacted an attorney nor been advised.

“In graduate school,” my math-doctorate friend wrote, “students took a problem-solving course. We often talked with each other about different approaches we might take. Some years later, one of my colleagues told me she thought I didn't give enough credit to the people I had interacted with before turning in my results, [even though] I had come up with my particular approach through my own thinking.

“Fifty years later, reading the footnotes in Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis, I realized my colleague had been correct. I had not properly grasped the academic standards for crediting everyone who had even remotely contributed to the work I had done. I sent her a note of apology.”

Attribution and an apology—two things I’ll experience the day I get paid. What ever happened to honesty and professional etiquette?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Feeling Your Way Around with Vision Anomalies

Twenty years ago I wrote in my holiday newsletter, “I’ve decided that 35 is the age of the unwanted hair.” You know what I mean, and it’s not just a dark-haired female matter. How many guys say, “I’m growing hair where I don’t want it and losing hair where I want to keep it.” Aging bodies. Wha’cha gonna do?

Another thing I wrote in that newsletter was, “Declining vision makes us more attractive to each other as we age,” which explains why I always liked older men. They were more accepting of my many imperfections. I thought I was pretty funny back then, but here I am 20 years later thinking, These statements are not so funny anymore. Getting old smells bad.

Now, I know declining eyesight is not just an old-age issue. Many of us started wearing glasses in grade school. It’s just more difficult to see as we age or when our eyes behave differently from each other or they become myopic, then, many years later, become hyperopic, but not to the same degree. First, though, I shall share an old eye story.

Imagine hearing a four-year-old boy shrieking, “Mama! He shot an arrow in Arnold’s eye! Mama! Help!” And the mother running to the door to see her horrified, sobbing seven-year-old bleeding profusely from his left eye.

That four-year-old became my uncle, the mother became my grandma, and the seven-year-old became my dad. One hot, humid July 1941 day in a small Wisconsin town, neighborhood boys were playing cowboys and Indians. Arnold played a cowboy. All I know about the “Indian” is that he was older and should have known better than to be aiming an arrow at anyone. What I don’t know is how he felt, nor what happened to the relationship between my dad’s parents and those of the boy, if there ever was one. What I do know is how important vision is.

My dad's prosthetic left eye.
As a child, I didn’t give a second thought to my dad taking out his artificial eye at night and placing it in a glass of water by the bathroom sink. Eventually when grade-school girlfriends started sleeping over, they found creepy what I believed to be normal. It wasn’t until then that I realized not all dads took an eye out at night. [For that story, see "Here's Lookin' at You, Kid."]

To test what my dad must have to live with, I used to cover or close my left eye. Seeing the world in two dimensions, without depth, caused me to misstep, nudge objects I was trying to pass, and feel off balance. My experimentation was prescient.

Talking with my age-fifty-something friend Kent in Minnesota recently, he said, “I’m scared. Since my car accident, I’m scared to drive. If I take a new job, I can’t drive too far, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to do what they want me to do. I just can’t see very well. My floaters are so bad, I sometimes don’t know what’s real. I’m afraid I won’t be able to pay my rent because I can’t get a job that accommodates my vision problems. I’m just scared all the time.”

To some, his complaints might sound like excuses, laziness, or irrational fears. All I could say is, “I can relate.”

Understandably, vision problems can also lead to depression. The disability can make a person feel incompetent, ugly, worthless, unacceptable, off-kilter, even paralyzed. Do I see a show of hands here? Side effects, such as confusion, fatigue, eye- and headaches, and a foreign-body feeling in the eyes, cause a person to withdraw from social situations. A feeling similar to autism, IMO. You simply do not want to be seen. There’s always discomfort—with or without glasses or contact lenses. Uneven, lopsided vision, in which one eye sees better than the other, though neither sees well at all, makes a person feel discombobulated, as my neighbor said. Sometimes you don’t even want to get out of bed, Kent felt, because you’ll have to open your eyes and see the out-of-focus, dispiriting world before you.

Not only is it difficult to see from inside your head outward, some people don’t want to look at you, particularly when people recognize that you can’t focus. I fielded a question from a man I had just met, who asked why I was looking at him so strangely, as if I appeared incredulous of his words. Sorry, dude, but it’s what God is doing to me. Of course, the dolt was a judge and would probably run over someone using a white cane.

Folks might think, Just get your eyes fixed. Get glasses or contact lenses. Did that. Got ’em.

Kent has worn glasses as long as I’ve known him (more than 30 years) and has had corrective surgery for his hyperopia, or farsightedness, and astigmatism, but still must wear specs.

In 1994, to correct my myopia, I had radial keratotomy, eight pie cuts into the cornea of my left eye. When it didn’t correct my vision, I went back to the surgeon three months later and received eight more slices. At night, even before I take any hallucinogens, I see a 16-ray starburst, making night driving a circus ride. And now the acuity in that eye is low resolution due to aging’s progressive hyperopia and is at times so blurry, I cannot see out of it. My right eye has been legally blind since I was in sixth grade, so on days of relative comfort, I wear a contact if I want to see or work or drive. If I can’t wear the lens, life is severely off balance.

Another neighbor and I share the Distrust Disorder. We sleep with one or both eyelids open a crack. Aside from the advantage of being able to watch the ghostly spirits making their nightly rounds, the practice turns eyes into repositories inviting dust, hair, and dryness into our eyes. It’s no wonder mucous membranes work overtime leaving their residual sign. Luckier for me than for my neighbor, though, I wake up alone. I can’t imagine someone getting used to the way I look now, at this age!

Some of my spectaculars.
With all the daily changes affecting eyesight, life becomes more of an adventure. Differing sleep patterns, solid and liquid intake, bright or dim lighting, sunny or cloudy sky, windy or calm weather, high or low barometric pressure, dry or humid conditions, and stress all affect how a day will be received and, therefore, perceived. The more you stress, the worse your acuity.

And though language provides a method of describing your vision experiences and self-diagnostic perceptions to physicians, even the most articulate patient can suffer medical conditions that cannot be thoroughly understood nor sufficiently treated. Ophthalmologists may have never met, diagnosed, or treated patients with specific problems. So the patient goes home with their affliction and without answers. Until an answer is pinpointed, life isn’t whole. It’s diminished, duller, less flavorful, with reduced color and sharpness.

As for my dad: his profession of banking moved into the computer age many moons ago, so he had to retire early because his remaining eye grew tired looking at a screen for even brief amounts of time.

And until Kent and I can finally see, we’ll have to rely on feeling our way around. Now really, that’s not all bad. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Effects of Disorders on Others

Until you spiritually embody and are in the energy field of another’s disease or disorder, you don’t fully comprehend the impact your own frailties can have on others. Disorders of the mind are the most tricky and, as we read in the news, the most devastating. Who today seems normal, even if a bit troubled, may become inconsolable, incapacitated, or evil the next, sometimes without their own absolute knowledge.

As written in the Gospels, demons can live in our minds, causing our bodies to act in absurd ways. Whether through faulty circuitry or the intake of simple substances—alcohol, cigarettes or pot, prescription or other drugs, eating too much or too little—slumbering demons can awaken and cause the body to act in abnormal ways. Prescription meds, however, could be a healthy choice in certain circumstances.

The following story helped me better understand the impact my behaviors have on those close to me.

At eight o’clock one cold, early January, new moon night, Shiloh the Lab and I thought we heard faint footsteps on the front wood deck. He rose from his bed, looked at the door, and gave a pitiful, low-energy woof. When the doorbell rang, he glanced back at me lying on my sofa and uttered another plaintive woof, then walked back to his bed and lay down.

I didn’t answer the door. I didn’t even move. The day had been stressful, and, after tubbing for a half hour till night cast its dark spell, I’d fallen asleep watching a movie called Waking Life. In addition, I simply did not look good. The idea of facing a human being, even one who totally accepted me, was beyond my comfort zone.
Had I been in healthy form, no matter what my appearance, I would have answered the door. But following two weeks of an unhealthy condition that sucked all my energy into a deep, black hole, I felt like, and looked like, a leper. Earlier that Friday I’d treated myself to a long-overdue ophthalmologist appointment for my eye and eyelid condition. Nights from two till four a.m., my completely desiccated eyelids would itch, turn redder, and no matter what lotion, oil, or butter I would slather on top of my eyelids, they would still feel like crisp bacon and itch like I felt—crazy. I surmise Eli, the long-haired, feral cat who lies upside down on the living room floor in the sun licking his paws, has something to do with my eye problem, given the number of protein strands seen flying around and that I’ve pulled from my eyes. Or maybe I wasn’t smoking enough medical marijuana.*
Photo courtesy of Bob Groat © 2002

By the time I plopped into Dr. Ophthalmologist’s chair, I’d been using prednisone eye drops his associate prescribed over the phone on New Year’s Eve three days before. Despite the racing-heart feeling after dripping the steroids into my eyes, the drops had diminished my elephantiasis-of-the-eyelids appearance. My doc said, “You have allergies. Didn’t you have this problem last year?”

“Allergies to what?” I asked.

He couldn’t say, but strongly shook his head to my thinking it could’ve been wine out of a box I’d consumed on December 13, some of which I could’ve used after he offered no specific reason for my misery. Sure it could be the severe wind and cold during my daily hikes, or makeup (though I opened a new tube of mascara), or dryness in the house (and I gave my Lennox a new 3M Filtrete filter), or using the wrong skin-care products (did someone say “cheap”?), and yes, of course it could be animal related (knucklehead). “You should see a dermatologist,” he suggested, furthering the physician network.

Argh! I’d recently seen my dermatologist, who took off more cancer cells. I was beginning to think by the time they threw me into the furnace, I’d be thinner from all the scraping. ’Course there’s never any scraping off my grotesque belly.

When I left Dr. Ophthalmologist’s brand new building, lighter of credit but happy to have received a 20 percent discount for having no insurance ($84 for 15 minutes), I headed to the mall. I’d not visited the Citadel in five years due to my mall allergy, but I needed to expose myself because it was one of the only places to buy Clinique products locally. Any activity involving too many people and spending money, particularly at the same time, such as a mall, Catholic church, or courthouse, causes severe reactions from my peace and tranquility pathways. Pubs, however, don’t elicit the same effect.

At Dillard’s Clinique counter, I met a kind, lovely lady called Margaret who provided me with hypoallergenic, fragrance-free skin solutions for my eyelids and other areas of exposure, the cost for which I will review upon receiving my inheritance in heaven from Obama. After thanking her sincerely and asking her if we’d become friends would she offer a me discount, I went to Walgreen’s, bought eye drops ordered by Dr. Oph, and left lighter of credit still.

So because I rarely leave my house, except for daily hikes, nor do I drive more than 1,100 miles per year, Friday was stressful, though it was also an ophthalmic relief, but not enough to rise from my sofa to answer the door on a dark, new moon, Friday night.

As I lay in bed that night wondering who might have stopped by and rung my bell, I thought of all my boyfriends, and their nationalities, and their professions, and why I’m not married, and well, you know how wondering minds can wander while a head rests on a pillow. But the last person my brain stopped on before falling asleep was my neighbor, Hannah.

Twelve hours after my doorbell had rung, a fire engine was at Hannah’s place, then an ambulance, then, shockingly, they carried Hannah out on a litter. I crumbled inside, felt negligent. Why didn’t I answer the door last night? What happened to her between ringing my bell and now? I was privy to a lot of history, but seeing her on a stretcher was not what I had expected. I held my breath and watched them drive away with her in the back.

I called another neighbor, Dee, who is equally close to both Hannah and me in knowledge and spirit. I told her I felt like excrement, that I should have been there for Hannah. Dee told me not to worry about not answering the door because I didn’t know who was there, no one called in advance, and it was dark. “People have their problems, and you can’t be there for everyone all the time,” she offered. I still felt no better. People know they can come to me anytime for anything.

For the first time in weeks, it snowed throughout Saturday, eventually accumulating four lovely inches of fluffy powder. Around noon, I talked again with Dee who asked if I’d received word. Without news, we both headed outside to shovel and sweep our walks and driveways, then headed into our respective houses. Right afterward, Hannah’s husband came out to shovel their walk. Dee went back out into the cold and spoke with him, then called me with the report. Hannah had experienced a seizure, her first, due to an adverse chemical mixture and was recuperating quietly at home.

Relief swept over me. Knowing Hannah was safe, alive, and home, I could finally exhale. I realized I’d been holding my breath, worrying, and wasting time all day. I bid Dee adieu and cried. Carrying a burden for eight hours made me emotionally raw. I picked up the phone and asked Dee if I could come over and talk for a few minutes. Unloading the day’s stress and suppressed tears helped—it awakened me.

Until we deeply embrace another’s pain and experience the emotional repercussions of his or her psychological or physical disabilities, we stand on the outside shaking our heads. And when we care about someone, really love that person, it matters not which of you is actually going through immediate agony. The secondary and tertiary effects can be equal to or greater than the actual experience itself.

Radiating that concept into the energy field, I wonder how many are affected by only one person’s affliction, be it addiction, a physical disability, a mental disorder, a nervous habit. Any behavior that goes beyond moderation for an extended period of time can be included here and emit a profound negative spirit that others feel as if it were their own.

My friends, this is life.

I am a little wiser today. I see more clearly the impact that my complex-PTSD and its associated behaviors has on others, and I am working to become a better me.

* I really don’t use marijuana, but I’m not against it.
Thanks to RJM for listening and helping.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Getting a Dog for Your Child

In November 2003, a friend offered to buy my 10-year-old daughter a real, live dog for Christmas, versus the stuffed variety or a cat that only requires an occasional hot fluff cycle in the dryer. I’m certain the idea was mine, because I’m female, emotional, and, therefore, don’t thoroughly think through things.

Owning that, I believe children need to be raised with pets, particularly a dog, through whom they learn responsibility, a precursor to parenting, and reciprocal, unconditional love and companionship. Inevitably, a parent will disappoint a child, and in a dog, a child has someone he or she can rely who offers a wagging tail and a warm, furry body and belly to rub. Dogs smile and groan with satisfaction. Their ears go back and head goes down when they’re apprehensive about a situation. Essentially, they are like children, so kids can relate.

It had been three and a half years since my son, the sweetest yellow Lab in the world, had passed. I honestly believed I would never have another dog, because Alex was amazingly humanlike and I knew no other would be like him. His passing was a devastating tragedy. To this day, I can’t talk about his final months without feeling deep despair and a heavy heart.

After Alex’s passing, my daughter’s dad bought our little muffin a kitten from the Humane Society. Autumn was a gray, striped shorthair, the type I always called a tiger cat. Autumn had a feral nature and would slip outside and chase foxes, a strange and courageous act first reported by my neighbor across the street. Though hard to believe, the day after she told me, we looked outside to see Autumn chasing a fox that was carrying a wriggling squirrel in its mouth.

Autumn the cat even baited a fawn, enticing it to come closer to her by pretending she wasn’t at all interested, turning her backside toward the little ungulate, flicking her skyward-directed tail back and forth, encouraging the fawn to investigate. When the fawn was close enough, Autumn pounced and chased the fawn out of our yard. I have the photos to prove it.

Eventually, Autumn started urinating on my waterbed, my double papasan, and my daughter’s bed. We tossed the mattress and papasan, and I continued to wash and rewash all my bedding several times until one day I made the decision. Sobbing as I approached the Humane Society’s intake receptionist to relinquish Miss Autumn the Micturator, I was flabbergasted when the gal asked me for a $60 disposal fee. I looked up from my soggy tissue in astonished disgust. “We paid the Humane Society for this thing, and she ruined a quarter of our furniture. No! I will not pay you any more.” I garnered some attention from onlookers, setting precedence for the next patrons.

A young pup with its infant needs seemed minimal compared to paying trash services to crush our ruined furnishings and having a home smell like urine. What I’d forgotten was that some dogs and men are like children that never grow up.

For weeks I made calls to Labrador breeders in Colorado Springs, attempting to divine a trustworthy one, whose canines had admirable AKC lineage, lineage I would quickly nip in the testicles with a timely visit to the vet. Once I finally felt firm in a decision, Ivy, the gifting friend, and I drove a diagonally long distance from our home to the breeder’s. After a half-hour visit inside their house, then some chilly puppy play in the early December snow, Ivy chose her new companion—a romping, fuzzy, gold, kumquat-on-steroids-shaped puppy with six appendages.

Because he was too young to be separated from his mother, we agreed to return the week before Christmas when he’d be eight weeks old. My friend and I split the $400 cost since he suddenly and surprisingly couldn’t afford a whole dog, and we excitedly and expectantly drove toward home to prepare for the fuzzball’s arrival. Ivy and I purchased books on natural nutrition and training, leashes, food and water bowls, alfalfa, kelp, salmon oil, vitamins, food, and a bright red collar to complement his beautiful gold fur.

Anyone who has chosen a child for adoption knows how difficult it is to wait all those weeks anticipating the new life in their home, so four days early, I called the people many miles diagonally from me and made my way to retrieve this newly named retriever. On the crazy return drive southwest, Shiloh wailed and leaped around in the back of my Trooper like a cat in the dryer.

At the elementary school, I parked in my usual place, carefully opened the back of the Trooper to leash the Euphorbic* jumping bean, then bounced him on the sidewalk to go and greet his fifth-grade sister.

Children and puppies. They aren’t much different from each other. Both get really excited to see the other and wet their pants like my new boyfriend does when he sees me. Ivy took one look at Shiloh donning his Christmassy collar and let out a little yelp. Shiloh, not really recognizing Ivy, felt he needed to emit an obligatory “hey!” then all the other kids heaped over him like a scrum of soccer players.

Children and puppies are also different. Children eventually go to the bathroom on their own and not on the floor, feed themselves, walk without a leash (except one guy I know), and essentially, grow up.

Canines don’t. They become adults in their own right, but good, caring humans still need to assist them with potty breaks, twice daily feedings, fresh water refills, lots of exercise, almost constant attention. Unlike a cat, you can’t leave a dog or teenager for the weekend and hope to find the house in the same condition you left it in. Essentially, dogs don’t grow up. They grow older and, eventually, even more dependent on their caregivers to determine the locations of their aches and pains and other ailments, for which the caregiver has to pay, or pretend not to notice till death do you two part.

It takes a lot of work, time, and money, more for some dogs than others. Shiloh is the former.

Not that admonishments steer the emotionally blinded in a different direction, but I am here to advise anyone who is thinking about adopting a dog to seriously consider and write down all the possible consequences.

The excitement of having a puppy can certainly replace sanity, sleep, and ever having a clean, puke- and excrement-free home. And if you truly believe you are getting a pet for your child, you’re wrong. Don’t ever, that means never, believe your child will rise to parenting until he or she is married and becomes a parent.

I honestly didn’t think I’d have to handle most of the dog-ownership responsibilities. Ivy was healthy and capable of handling any chores associated with Shiloh. When I was 10, our family had a dog, 40 head of cattle, multiple cats, ducks, and horses, and all needed our entire family and hired hands for care, and believe me, I worked all the time, in the home and on the ranch. But just because I’m industrious and a hard worker does not mean anyone close to me is, which is quite an unfortunate thing.

And although I was good at addition, I hadn’t mastered subtraction until 2011 when Ivy was about to dash off to college and Shiloh was almost eight. Labs live to be about 12, so, right, I will care for him all by myself for another four years, a total of 12 years of my life. Trapped. Can’t leave home. And I can’t bring people here, because Shiloh’s a puker.

Alex was more human than canine and was little to no work. Shiloh’s another animal. He pukes all the time, for years, anywhere and everywhere. I sometimes spend weeks sucking up vomit with one of my two shampooers, then redoing each spot the next day and often the next, which can number seven huge spots each day. All upheavals coming from a 100-pound dog and the expensive food such an animal can consume. An ultrasound revealed no cancer, no blockages. Blood tests showed nothing too unusual for a Lab his age. He eats too fast, and sometimes puts stuff in his mouth that doesn’t belong there, then swallows, which is one of the reasons I cannot leave him outside.

Once he had a major mishap, causing me to go into shock. Fortunately Ivy’s dad came to the rescue, physically, emotionally, and financially, or I’d have had to put Shiloh down. And there are days I wonder what would be easier.

And since Labs are socialites, he’s alerted us to two kittens in the backyard who needed a home, asking if we could keep them. Yep, more testicles to nip.

So if you still want a dog, remember this long story and send me a note. And if someone offers to buy you a dog, or even half of one, go with neither. It’s just my opinion.

* Originally I’d used “Mexican jumping bean,” whose definition is (usually) a Euphorbiaceae seed containing a moth larva that grows and moves inside the seed. Therefore, meshing this seed with Shiloh’s anthropomorphic characteristic of euphoria led me to coin a potentially new word.