Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Gates, Girlfriends, and Nature

What an exciting few days ending with a somber canceling of a date with Angie and a simultaneous message to my client, “Microsoft, oh, Microsoft, it’s a good thing Bill Gates started a foundation, or I'd be really upset with him.” Why does Word have to be a necessary evil? Cannot all their social-disease-like bugs be vanquished, and can they not cease their busybody, ADHD upsets, aka upgrades? What a misnomer upgrade is for them.

I might be a geek, but is a person’s ingenuity continually required when using a single piece of software? ’Twould be cool to use something for a spell without a glitch. Que será, será. Let’s start with some fun.

Friday I escorted my down-in-the-dumps neighbor to my favorite towny pub, Johnny’s. Johnny Nolan is a guy who’s been serving me since 1989 at the Ritz. Though Rebecca had never been to Johnny’s, she knowingly greeted a fellow parent, whose child attended the same school as my now-social, maybe-not-so-shy-after-all girlfriend’s daughter. I then introduced her to a lady whom she’d seen walking her dogs. We were on a roll. The iced tea flowed and so did water from the heavens.

Wild ’n’ fun was the remainder of the eve, when alas! Saturday greeted me six hours later with slime. Good thing for two carpet shampooers, since dog puke was what I saw. Yippee, I thought, this is why God sent me to Earth, so I can clean up others’ messes. Sometimes I wonder.

During my morning therapy session, my daily check-in with nature, the reality that keeps me sane (my hike), I talked with my galfriend in Tacoma. This friend of 26 years went to high school with sculptor Dale Chihuly, famed glass blower (vs. some gas blowers I know). Quite a renowned artist herself, Nola vindicated me through our conversation about recent events that had left me underwhelmed. She reminded me of the hardworking, responsibility-taking, always-there human being I am, which, in this time of amnesia, was quite helpful and restorative, as justice ought to be.

After our conversation, I’d felt as if I’d dropped a 10-pound shit and was ready to start taking sustenance again. That afternoon after having read and listened to two books, I made a vibrant, colorful mahimahi dinner with pineapple, red pepper, and mango, intuitively appropriate for my next caller—from Miami.

Again, the heavens opened and cleansed the parched earth with heavy rains.
My sister, Cherri, rang from Florida, where the nightlife is hot, as are the Brazilians, Venezuelans, Dominican Republicans, and she. Known in Breckenridge for her unusual hats and bare feet, this girl needs to be rediscovered, and not just as the creative artist she is.

Comfortable in her own dark skin, you have to wonder why Oprah never found Cherri and her deep, warm voice speaking deeper, warmer words—unless she’s taking on a preacher’s role. Though we didn’t have a sleepover night when we’d fall asleep talking, we ended the night in peace, together.

Sunday’s puke free, sunny day refreshingly opened its arms. I developed a new set of greeting cards then set off on my explore. A hungry female coyote and red-tailed hawk being bullied by smaller species were my entertainment, less formidable than what I will see Wednesday morning.

My former high-tech-company colleague soon rang to wish me a happy belated and to impart news of her moving back to Colorado to share space with her daughter and grandson. I recalled little Stephanie groaning and whining as we scaled to the top of Mount Rosa 20 years ago.
I recalled Geri, our personnel manager, watching me vomit when I was pregnant, thinking I was dying of divorce. Friends. Good times and others, and always transitions.

After we ended our conversation, lightning shared time and space with heavy thunderous clouds drenching the receptive ground with water. At 10 p.m. a great horned owl hooted me to sleep from the southwest corner of my property. Ahh, nature.

A few hours after the robin pooped on me Monday morning, saintly Anita came over to help hem my new drapes—day two of her devoting life and talent to me. Long-time friend Joe had given me these enormous, new, burgundy window coverings after the Air Force Academy rejected them. Finally getting some of my 401(k) rollover tax dollars back. Thank you!

That eve, no storm, no owl, but a kind neighbor with a cold beer. Ahh, life.

Tuesday brought updates from Kelly in Wisconsin, Patrice in Virginia (soon to be Montana), and Bob, my old hiking bud. For the first time in 19 years, my life seemed normal in comparison. At 11 p.m. Thor reacquainted himself to those below in a fury. Torrential rain, lightning, and thunder pummeled those things earthbound. The household canine, whom I bought for protection and companionship, became a frightened lap dog and kept me awake all night bumping my bed. Try to move a 100-pound, growling Lab when he’s glued to the carpet. Just try.

Wednesday before therapy, my iBook powered itself off. I was as scared as Shiloh was last night but with no one to rescue me, as usual. The geek in me troubleshot four times until I hit the target, of course, then excused myself for a hike.

Halfway across large, open lower Bear Creek Park, I saw a juvenile cougar sprint across my path. In the two decades that I’ve hiked this vicinity, I’ve never seen, nor have I wanted to see, a mountain lion. I stopped, did an about-face, and walked, watching behind me for quite a stretch.

And when I finally reached home, I found that the only thunder was, well, think “scared ——less.”


Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Shiloh’s a poop-on-demand dog. Granted, after seven and a half years of living with him, I know his schedule. But if I’m leaving the house for a few hours and want him to feel relieved, he senses some urgency and will produce the desired results at an alternate time.

Monday morning Shiloh went out at 6:30 before his breakfast—a meal that looks the same as his dinner, raw or canned meat with a dry food chaser. In recent weeks, an overprotective doe with a freshly birthed fawn has kicked, chased, and harassed Shiloh even when I position myself between the two, so Shiloh hasn’t been relaxed enough on his first trip out to muster number two. Although we haven’t seen the doe in a week, Shiloh’s recall is pretty good, and this morning he only wet the ground and returned for rations.

By 9:30 I figured all systems would be go, so I said, “Shiloh, do you have to go poopy?” He knows the word, so by my inciting his memory, I hoped his venture outside and back into the house would be a short one.

After we stepped onto the back patio, Shiloh conducted his normal surveillance to ensure he wouldn’t be in the midst of a personal moment when another creature interrupted his concentration. Once he determined the deck was clear, he moved forward.

While he sniffed every sprig of green, I tossed leftover cat food to the other side of the fence into my back forty. “Shiloh, go poopy,” I reminded him twice, pitching my request as if to a higher being. “Good dog,” I encouraged hopefully.

As if some cruel answer to prayer, I felt two dollops fall from the heavens onto my fresh, clean white robe. I looked skyward and saw a happily relieved robin swinging on the wire overhead. With a smile and a wink, he flew away in a hurry.

From now on, I’m going to think about the old adage and consider the consequences of my request when I’m in nature’s territory, because the fulfillment of my wish might come from a different angle than expected.

And as for looking toward the heavens and asking for a miracle, next time I’ll take an umbrella.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


The New Oxford American dictionary on my iBook defines gravity as “the force that attracts a body toward the center of the earth, or toward any other physical body having mass,” or maybe just parts of a body. I’m still trying to figure out how gravity found my negative-AAA breasts, which by now could be called belly nipples.

I recently turned 52—yes, finally playing with a full deck—and discovered that, though somewhat slender, I’ve not been able to hide from gravity. For my birthday, I drove to Breckenridge, Colorado, in an attempt to defy gravity by ascending one mile in elevation, but climbing those peaks every morning still made me feel gravity’s embrace, particularly when I collapsed under the ski lift. My friend helped me up and remarked how I resembled a smashed bug on a windshield.
“You can’t escape me,” I heard Father Gravity murmur after John brushed the dirt from my negative-AAAs.

“Well, try this on, you ol’ FG,” I shook my fist at the ground. “I might be old, but I can reverse your bulge-inducing effects by standing on my hands.”

Standing on my hands. It all began during my grade-school years in a Montevideo, Minnesota, summertime. While my parents were at work, I watched Lunch with Casey, a kid’s variety program on WTCN-TV based in the Twin Cities. Casey Jones was a railroad engineer and Roundhouse Rodney acted as his sidekick.

A former Ice Capades skater, Roundhouse would occasionally walk around the set on his hands. I was impressed with his balance and decided to give it a go. I was hooked. From that time on, I could rarely just watch TV. I stood on my hands, did the splits, reverse-curved my spine to make a bridge, did front and back walkovers, and exercised whenever the tube was making noise. If I were to watch TV today, I would probably fall back into the same habit.

Fly forward 10 years and two cities later. I was living in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and still going to university. Rich, a college friend from Chicago, had graduated and moved to a Minneapolis suburb. He frequently invited me to visit on weekends, so in sunny or snowy weather, I’d tootle in my yellow-orange geometric form (Opel station wagon) two hours west.

One day while Rich was in the bathroom, I found a wide, open space in his apartment to secretly drop my hands onto the floor and sling my fuzzy-black-socked feet up to rest against the wall. A while later after he emerged from the loo, Rich glanced up at his wall and said, “What is that?!”

“What?” I asked.

“Look at these black marks on my clean, white wall!” Voiced raised, he appeared to be turning red.

Being insecure, and at this point, scared, I sheepishly looked up into his eyes and said, “I was standing on my hands,” and when he couldn’t calculate the connection, I hesitantly demonstrated.

Rich exhaled an exasperated sigh and handed me a lint remover, so I could pull sock fragments from the popcorn-finished wall.

These days I’m more conscientious about where I place my feet, but ol’ Father Gravity is going to have a tough time keeping them down.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mr. Boot

Have you ever been having a lovely time socializing when someone booted you into a tailspin? If so, while you were spiraling downward, did you catch yourself midair and realize that the object sticking out of your behind was actually a soft leather moccasin, so you asked for the other?

At May’s end, we threw a high-school graduation party for my daughter to celebrate the end of an epoch, the beginning of another—for Ivy as well as me. I’d looked forward to this day all Ivy’s life. We were blessed with good food, wonderful friends, an ex-husband, and Mr. Boot.

Mr. Boot is of failing health and aiming at gene therapy for his fix. A cigarette smoker since about 1961 and recent cigarillo puffer, his congestive heart failure and peripheral artery disease has steadily worsened. In years past, his lying-embedded-in-soft-skin Device that Injects a Cardio Kick (lessDICK) has on three different occasions shocked him as he fell toward the asphalt during tennis matches, scaring other players into the hospital.

For decades Mr. Boot has also enjoyed pot, made easier these days via marijuana’s legal, more lethal form that turns a cough into a lung-reversal procedure. But a deep inhale after lung expulsion draws them back into the chest cavity. (Another friend who smokes legal MMJ promised me he would quit after I mentioned his painful cough.)

So back to Mr. Boot. He seemed to be having a quiet, conversational time at the party talking with my ex, his former classmate, and meeting others. Eventually, though, I saw him move into the corner of the sofa, perhaps hoping he’d slip into the cracks. Soon after when I left the room, Mr. Boot slipped out of the house without a cough.

Upon my return and seeing neither him nor his car, I wondered if his premature ejection meant he had fallen ill—or worse. He could be going to play tennis. Researching, I didn’t find him between the sofa cushions, and his car hadn’t careened into the bush. My daughter said she saw him go outside to have a cigarette.

I immediately rang his number. No answer. I left a message for him to call me.

For four days, no call. No announcements in the obituaries. No word from his relatives. Had he really become debilitated or was he playing dead again? A couple weeks prior, he’d said, “Your number didn’t register on my iPhone.”

The more I stayed awake nights contemplating his vanishing act, the more memories I choked up, never swallowing again. In the 13 years of our acquaintance, he wouldn’t tell his longer-term galfriend that he spent time with me on Friday nights. I was treated like the paramour—by a single man. He’d toss chewed gum and lit cigarette butts out his car window. He could only perform on his guitar.

So on that fourth day I awakened rested, ready to tackle a procrastinated project: fixing my very large window blinds. This five-hour task was in the category of performing one’s own surgery without anesthesia, so when a friend of 25 years called to ask if I’d like to stroll around the Broadmoor Lake, I said yes, as long as he’d help me snap the blinds into place.

Within an hour, I was seeking solace, opening my guts to Ed about Mr. Boot. “He’s got you where he wants you,” Ed stated matter-of-factly.

“Where’s that?” I asked.

“He’s got you thinking about him. He’s got your attention,” without actually having to talk, I thought.

I realized that playing dead seemed most viable as Boot’s game of choice. He was really a zombie (pictured below). And just as Ed and I sat down in the hot sun to enjoy a cold brew, the clouds opened and a hailstorm of beeps pummeled my mobile phone—nine texts, six calls, plus two more at home, I later counted.

The departed’s feeble fingers finally pushed, pressed, and punished. Suddenly I became the only person Mr. Zombie wanted to talk to, and just when I was enjoying his silence. Why is it when someone wants to talk, he expects you to be ready and willing?

“Good beer! Refreshing. Lovely view.” I thanked Ed for being nonjudgmental through 25 years of friendship and my two marriages—one legal, one lethal.

At five o’clock we headed home, where Ed checkmated me three times. I steered him where I could win, outside into my backyard’s silence. Eyes closed, relaxed, I sensed a peeping presence. As I opened my eyes, there stood Mr. Zombie back from the dead, gazing accusingly, if not defeated in a small, weak way.

He was ready to talk but obviously not to listen. He coughed.

After realizing that the friend sitting with me was alive, Zombie man spewed pieces of his hardened heart toward me, missing every time, then he stomped to the front of my house and happened upon my daughter returning home. Blessed with a receptive audience, Zombie retched chunks of vile about all of my qualities from his dead perspective. She, in her teenage emotional tumult, swallowed his entire vomitous mass.

Feeling empowered because Zombie man had become her hate buddy and they shared a common enemy, she moved into her dad’s house and I haven’t seen her since.

Every opening creates space for something to take its place, hopefully something better. I love my daughter more than anyone and have given her 19 years of education, support, safety, love, and my life. She, I miss.

Filling the space left empty are focus, stability, peace, and people I’ve not seen nor really known well in my 26 Colorado years. I’m growing, sewing, reading, writing, and enjoying an adult life.

The morals of this story:

• If a person sees an imperfection and criticizes you, especially to your children, waste no time and excuse him or her from your presence.

• Enjoy life with those who like you.

God is good. There are plenty of wonderful people to share time and a cold beer with on a hot day. Ahh.