Saturday, July 15, 2017

Can't Help Falling. Again.

I've always been a girl on the go. Little did I realize that sometimes I need to stop. Safely. Without falling over.

While vacationing in Key West a few weeks ago, I decided to join the younger set for an afternoon of calm, easy-going cycling out to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. I mean, I can ride a bike, right? The only thing concerning me was that I might not be able to keep up with the rest of the group (I am getting on in years).

Turns out, keeping up was a problem, but not in the way you might think. The problem wasn't keeping up horizontally moving forward; the problem was keeping up vertically when coming to a stop. It was as if I'd lost total muscle memory when it came to braking, putting my feet down on the pavement, and keeping myself and the bike upright. See? I know how it's done, but my legs and feet weren't getting the message from my head.

Now, I didn't fall every time. A bike lane with a curb to step on to was a big help. That extra 5-7 inches made a difference, I reckon. But without the benefit of something easy to help brace my stop, I just couldn't manage it without some kind of calamity.

It just got crazier and crazier. Once I decided (it was a decision, right?) that old-fashioned muscle memory wasn't working for me, I tried everything I could to forestall the inevitable. I tried not thinking about the stopping process (hoping my body would do the right thing - er, no). I tried repeating the steps in my head before approaching a stop (push down on pedals, get feet to pavement, hold bike and myself upright). Nope.

So I'm wondering, is this what getting old is like? Disappearing muscle memory? The body forgetting how to do simple things that have always come naturally? Or maybe not. Maybe I just had a bad bicyle day. Maybe the bike was too heavy or too big for me. Maybe I needed hand-brakes, not the old fashioned pedal-brakes. Time will tell.

Do I rush out and get back on a bike as quickly as possible, or admit my biking days are behind me? I'm pretty spooked about it. I love riding a bike. Let's face it, it's the first feeling of flying and freedom that you have as a kid. But the pain and embarrassment are still fresh in my mind, just as the bruises are still fresh on my knees.

What would you do if it were your knees?

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Why Life Isn't Fair

Life isn't fair. We say it to our sweet toddlers, surly teens, frustrated 20-somethings, and anyone of any age confronted with perceived injustice. We say it with a shrug, as if that's the end of it. Move on. Suck it up. Too bad/so sad. Life ain't fair.

But why? Why isn't life fair? Why are we resigned to such a lame, depressing notion? At what point did civilization give up on the idea of fairness, of justice? I've wondered about this a lot lately. Sign of the appalling times, I reckon. So why isn't life fair? OK, I'll start:

Human beings. However adorable, noble, or holy folks may appear (and I do believe - probably naively - that people are basically good), every single human is, well, human. We lie sometimes. We cheat a little here and there. We convince ourselves that our opinions are superior to others. (No use saying you're not guilty of these things. You know you are.) And we all have a drive to get as much as we can - education, money, success, chocolate, whatever. There's nothing wrong with that until we use underhanded ways to achieve our goals or tip over to "I got mine, to hell with you," which happens more often than it should. Ego and that wild streak of personal survival is a part of our DNA. Some folks just have wider, deeper streaks than others.

Nature, also known as: shit happens. Accidents, disabilities, earthquakes, floods, famine, scarcity of chocolate. Granted, some of these things are directly caused by human actions (see above), but often it's just nature doing its thing. Fairness and justice have nothing to do with it.

There you have it. Life ain't fair because of humans or nature or a combination of both. One of those reasons needs to try harder, do a better job on the justice-equity thing. Fewer lies. Less cheating. More compassion. More attention to those who look and think differently. Work harder at living-and-letting-live. Though we may not all be equal physically, mentally, financially, we should work harder at being compassion-equal.

And stop saying "Life isn't fair" to that person who needs and deserves a better response to the situation than a sad old platitude. Practice making life more fair.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Diary of a Meh-body

When I was living in England in the mid-1970s, I was given a copy of George and Weedon Grossmith's The Diary of a Nobody as an example of humorous (humourous) British writing. The book's "diarist" is one Charles Pooter, who has the brilliant idea that in a world of famous people's diaries, what was really needed is the diary of a regular guy. He takes it upon himself to step up to the challenge. And while the Grossmiths' characters are hilarious, the takeaway is that the lives of us normal slobs just ain't that exciting.

Which brings me to my latest failure as a diarist. Daughter Kate gave me a lovely daily journal for Christmas, so my New Year's resolution was to write a bit in it every day, as one is supposed to do. I made it through January 5th (sorry, Kate). I even mentioned it was sounding like The Diary of a Nobody on Day 4. Trouble is, all my happy throughts/worries/thanksgivings sound alike, day in, day out.

With one solid resolution-failure under my belt for 2017, I vowed to take it up again for Lent. Before turning on the computer and starting work, I'd make a cup of tea and settle down with pen and journal to, yet again, try to mine the depths of my experiences and inner self(ves). I've managed 6 so far. A little better, yeah? Still, reading back over the pages - boring. I have no special insight into who I am from these pages. At all.

Truth is, regular folks live regular lives. Lovely things happen. Exciting things happen, Tragic things happen. Sad things happen. The results of writing about those things can be phenomenal or just a list of . . . things. Alas, while writing has always been a big part of my vocation, I am flat-out lousy at turning a normal day's events, anxieties, and routines into an engrossing read. I'd need to embellish it. Come up with witty retorts to demoralizing circumstances. Add more color. Paint a stronger, funnier, more poignant picture.

So, truth - a journal or true diary - or embellishment - a good story?

Reading back over various journals I've started over the past 40 years, they all tell the same story: love of family, love (mostly) of work, worry about money, and rage at the ways of the world. Any really juicy, indictable, true stuff I write is destroyed immediately after it's down on paper, usually by setting fire to it in the sink and washing away the ashes. (Yeah, don't go looking for stuff after I'm gone.)

I'm at a crossroads. Do I continue my rather boring daily diary of a nobody? Or. do I write for some alter ego, journaling the life of a fictional me?


Sunday, March 05, 2017

Why I Don't Give Up Social Media For Lent

Well, it's that time of year. Time to give up or take on. Lent. My least favorite season (except for late August, which seems to go on forever). I know I'm supposed to love it in some spiritual way. I just don't. It's a season for me to feel guilty for not feeling spiritual about the whole thing. Ah, well.

Anyway, since the invention of social media, one of the most popular Lenten disciplines seems to be giving it up. Eschewing Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Instagram, whatever seemed to be all the rage last Wednesday, as friends bid adieu until Easter. I get it. It soaks up time. It makes you mad. You (can) become a different person by engaging in the various posts and comment.

I honor my friends who give up social media for any period of time. Go. Be at peace. And, yeah, we'll talk about you while you're gone. *wink*

But giving up social media is probably the last thing I'd do for Lent. Here's why:
  • It's my job. My wage-paying work involves planning, scheduling, and posting about The Episcopal Church on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, and a variety of blogs. Timely information is essential to sucessful social media, so I can't wall myself off from it. And I'm not sure it's possible to do the professional part and ignore my personal accounts at the same time. For good or for ill, I can't give up social media for Lent.
  • I can't imagine doing something that takes me out of relationship with family and friends. Facebook, especially, keeps me close to far-flung family, old school chums, and colleagues that I don't often - if ever - see. I intentionally keep the number of "friends" there small - for folks I really want to stay connected with. I love the pictures. I love the silly posts about food or cats or politics. I love watching children grow, relationships blossom, and both happy and sad events unfold. I love going on vacation with y'all and following careers. Why would I give that up? Seems the opposite of what Lent should be, but that's just me.
  • If I give up social media, how would the world keep turning without our Friday Virtual Cocktail Party? Civilization would be fractured. The world as we know it would end. I cannot in good faith be responsible for that. 
So I'm still here, Lent or no. Never fear - our Friday Virtual Cocktail Party shall go on whatever color the season. Cheers!

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Crazy Woman's Guide to the Perfect Day Off

After a busy couple of weeks involving tending a sick grandgirl, fighting off a cold, travel, booth-tending, and grandboy's birthday party, I was glad for a day off with no plans and obligations. Relaxing, however, is not one of my natural gifts. I was determined, though, to recharge my batteries today, and I think I succeeded. Here's the recipe for a perfect day off:
  1. The night before, stay up reading as long as you want. I recommend, say, until 1-1:30am.
  2. Sleep in as late as you want (for me, 9-ish am).
  3. OK, OK, do a tiny bit of work that just has to be done because if you don't, it will bug you all day. Then turn off the computer and don't answer the work phone. 
  4. Watch old episodes of Perry Mason (I am my mother's daughter - she loved her some Perry Mason) or whatever goofy thing lets you sit with feet up in your pjs. 
  5. Order lunch from Uber. Do not leave the house, even for food. No need.
  6. Take an afternoon nap. Just because you can. And it might be raining, so . . . 
  7. Get up just in time to drive to a 90-minute massage. Try to fall asleep on the massage table. 
  8. Go back to watching Perry Masons (did I mention I'm my mother's daughter?) or catch up on Bates Motel. Whatever.
  9. Eat junk food.
  10. Go to bed. 
So there. The perfect day off. Now, back to work tomorrow, you lazy chick!

Wednesday, February 08, 2017


Reading over my scared but hopeful post of January 1st, I realize that I have completely failed to live up to those feathers of hope. Instead, I find myself angry. Tired. Still living in a state of disbelief that we seem to be living in some strange, 19th century alternate universe after November's appalling election results.

What I thought was a pretty solid values system hammered out after the atrocities of two world wars and the civil rights/women's rights/LGBT rights movements of the past fifty years appears to have evaporated.

People shouting in praise God and Jesus and the literal interpretation of the Bible are also shouting in hatred against the poor, the stranger, clean air, food, and water, and the basic health, education, and well-being of fellow human beings. Excuse my scepticism of your personal understanding of living the way of Christ.

Every morning I wake up determined to make the day positive, light-filled. I pledge not to let anything rattle me. Shun the news. Keep things on the sunny side. But it doesn't take long before some word of an unbelievable injustice seeps through an email or phone call or, yes, a social media post, and then my sweetness-and-light plan evaporates.

Despite my stuck-ness, I manage to put up a good front. I get work done. Have a few laughs. Take walks. Read. Plan and carry out stuff. Manage to keep my home clean and stocked with food. But something still has hold of an arm or a leg and keeps me from moving forward, outward, onward.

The only truly unstuck time is when I'm with Liam and Charlotte. They make me laugh and look at things in new, fresh ways. They ask impossible questions with impossible answers. We get messy and tired and artsy and silly together. There's no time to be stuck if really in the moment with funny little kids.

But without them, I find myself in quicksand again. Angry. Unbelieving. Appalled. Despairing.

Folks remind me that love will win in the end, and, yes, I believe that. But in the meantime . . . what? How much damage gets done, how many lives lost and broken in the meantime, before love finally shows up?

So here I am. Stuck.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

For 2017, That Thing with Feathers

“Hope” is the thing with feathers 
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops - at all
And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm
I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest Sea
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.
~ Emily Dickinson  
I start this year discouraged. I'm discouraged that smart is dumb, and dumb is smart. That saying and doing hateful things is right, and checking your mouth and actions out of common decency is wrong. That looking backward to some fantasyland bygone age is where we should be headed, but looking to the future with clear-eyed understanding of how the world functions in the 21st century based on scientific knowledge (and I'd say, God-given scientific knowledge) is ridiculed. So, yes, the start of 2017 finds me deeply discouraged.

What I'm left with on this first day of a new year is that thing with feathers, hope. A cardinal-in-the-snow type of hope. Hope exemplified every day by the little children in my life, by colleagues, by family and friends near and far, by mere acquaintances - all loving and living out the good. The true good.

My New Year's plan is to keep my eyes turned toward the good that gives me hope. I'm going to hang on tight to the folks who reach out to help, not hurt. Who speak with respect and love, not hate and bigotry. Who foster understanding, not humiliation. That's the best I can do in these times. Maybe if enough of us do that, then that thing with feathers can flourish and give us a better song to sing.

Happy New Year, all!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

When Cultural Icons Leave Us Behind

It's been a tough year for those folks who crisscrossed our childhood and teen years. Those who inspired us, made us laugh and cry, set us singing or dancing, Those whose posters plastered our bedroom walls. Those whose album covers (yes, LP record album covers) were strewn around our dorm rooms. Those whose movies and TV shows we've watched a million times. Those whose books we've read. Those no-longer-earth-bound spirits we've loved and admired from a safe distance for a myriad of personal reasons.

Certainly, any given year robs us of a few culturally important people due to old age, illness, suicide, or just plain crazy living, but this year has been particularly hard on Boomer and GenX touchstones.

Now, lots of folks like to be old poo-heads and throw out that we shouldn't mourn and carry on for people we don't really know. Except we do know these people - at least, we know their individual impact on our lives. Depending on when and how they crossed our paths, we often feel a closer connection to them than we do with colleagues, acquaintances, or even family. (I'm not talking stalkers, here, just regular fan-type stuff.)

When we lose John Glenn, we lose the physical representation of the excitement and nervousness and fear we felt as we sat in our classrooms watching Friendship 7 orbit the earth in 1962. When we lose Leonard Cohen, we lose the person who gave us Hallelujah and Suzanne at the very times in our lives when we needed Hallelujah and Suzanne. When we lose Harper Lee, we lose the actual person who dreamed up Scout and Atticus and Boo and changed our minds about a lot of things at the very point in time we needed our minds changed. So it doesn't matter that we didn't know them personally. It's what they brought to our lives over the arc of years.

David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Patty Duke, Gene Wilder, Prince, Ali, Merle Haggard, Arnold Palmer, the Garrys Shandling and Marshall, Pat Summitt, Elie Weisel, Pete Fountain, Gwen Ifill, Florence Henderson. And now Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. And so many more. In one year. We must be content with whatever words of wisdom, acts of courage, and fabulous performances they've already given us.

Cherish your cultural touchstones while ye may. It'll probably get tougher for the next few years since many of the fabulous people who taught us to laugh and sing and dance and appreciate art, literature, and sports are aging out of our world. And as they go we're reminded of our own position in the line-up. Indeed, we all are shuffling our way toward the end of our mortal coils.

Go ahead and feel sad and nostalgic. Watch the old movies. Play the old songs. Re-read the books. Replay the news and sporting events. We've lost people who made us feel, who brought us joy. Thank you, brave talented souls, for adding to the brilliant colors of our lives. We salute you.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Unaltered States

OK. I tried it. I spent 90 minutes in a dark room floating in gallons of epsom salted-water in an effort to flush my brain. A friend suggested I try it after her experience in the tank had helped her after a recent accident. I've found myself increasingly stressed and angry of late and am looking for any kind of relief that doesn't involve hours in talk-therapy, something I've never had any success with (it would require another blog-post to explain). Sensory deprivation sounded like it might be useful to someone like me, who is in constant sensory overload. I could use a really cathartic sob session or a chance to listen to my brain create its own sounds.

I went into my floating experience with high hopes, positive and excited. Just let go, see what left, what remained, what was born anew inside my head. Perhaps adding float-therapy to my monthly massage sessions might be just the ticket for getting me back in balance. It was not to be.

On the positive side my pool cave was roomy, not the least bit claustrophobic. The water was fine. And, yeah, I floated. There was a line of little blue lights that I could leave on, or turn off. It's suggested you turn them off to, you know, deprive yourself of light, and that's what I did once I felt comfortable being suspended in water in total darkness. And I was given earplugs - the gummy kind that work fabulously well - to keep water out of my ears and provide more sound-proofing. OK. All fine.

Here's where it didn't work for me. First, I have an overly developed sense of smell, and the little room smelled like dirty feet - like a steam room at a gym (not the spa kind). My nose was not sensory deprived. Second, I'm hot-natured, and the space was uncomfortably warm and close. My internal thermometer was not sensory deprived. And third, well, my brain just never shuts down. Take away people, work, books, a slew of electronic devices, food, and light, and my brain just fills in the spaces. Seems my head cannot be sensory deprived.

How did I spend my 90 minutes? Something like this: listening to my breathing, prayer, worrying about work, wondering how long I'd been in the pool, listening to my breathing, wishing it were cooler, worrying about money, going to my happy place - a cabin porch on a rainy day with a good book and tea, wishing it smelled better, listening to my breathing, doing a little (shallow) water aerobics, wondering how long I had been in the pool, a lttle more prayer, going to my other happy place - a snowed in cabin with a roaring fire in the fireplace with a good book and tea, listening to my breathing, wishing it were cooler, worrying about everything else in the world, and wondering how long I'd been in the pool. In short, sensory overload. For 90 minutes. In a dark, quiet pool. Sigh.

I know you're all thinking - wow, this girl is in deep need of a psychiatrist. But I guess for now I'll stick to my massages. And books, old movies, grandkids, autumn (if it ever comes), and food. If I'm going to be in sensory overload, it may as well be with the sensory experiences I love. But at least I gave it a go. And I did learn something about myself: there's no such thing as sensory deprivation where my head is concerned.

Of course, there's always hypnosis . . .

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Terror in the Sink

I hate having to be brave first thing in the morning. Or any time, really, because I'm your basic Monty Python-run-away! kind of gal. And this was procrastination-brave, since the battle started last night.

Well, it's the South. It's summertime. You're going to come across the occasional giant flying roach in the kitchen or bathroom ready to make a sudden move and scare the shit out of you, no matter how Clorox-ed and Pine Sol-ed your home may be. OK. I'm a Southern girl. I get that. But somehow that doesn't prepare you for the sudden appearance of a sci-fi creature when you nonchalantly walk into the kitchen for an evening snack.

There it was. Huge. In the sink on the right with a slotted drain, not the disposal sink. Shit! (Sorry, but, yeah, shit!) I deftly reach under the sink for the Raid. To hell with environmental concerns, there's a giant roach in my sink. I spray it like crazy, and the Godzilla-like roach heads for the drain.

Now, roaches seem to be able to squeeze even their most ginormous shiny brown selves though cracks in baseboards, sealed doorways, or tightly packed books. But this guy just couldn't manage to make it through one of the drain-slots. Wiggling, flipping. Flipping, wiggling. Nope. Just a big ol' nasty glob blocking the drain. Why, oh why, couldn't it have landed in the disposal sink? But no.

If you have any experience at all with roaches, you know it takes forever for them to die. Honestly, You can come up on one that's been lying in the sun with curled up legs for three days, give it a nudge, and it flips over and skitters away. Knowing this, I was definitely not going the valorous route last night. These bugs have a way of crawling off and giving up the ghost elsewhere. So. Forget the snack. Try not to inhale too much Raid-fume. Turn out the light. Check on it tomorrow.

On this fine, sunny summer Saturday, I awoke with a sense of dread. If that critter hadn't managed to slink off somewhere else to die, I was going to have to dig it out of sink before I could get anything done today. Yes, I was going to have to be brave first thing in the morning. Shit.

Hoping against hope, I walked into the kitchen and, with one eye squeezed shut, glanced toward the sink drain. Still there. Big old brown blob. So I do what any brave soul would do in this situation and pulled off 14 paper towels, wadded them up and dug into the sink - trying to stay well-protected but agile enough to grab it. No luck. Still there. This really was calling on more strength than a Saturday morning afforded me.

What to do? What to do?

Necessity. Mother. Invention. Or. Whatever works. Chopsticks. The original plan was to sushi-it and drop it outside. Alas, my chopstick skills were not coming to the fore for this particular delicacy, so I just started poking. Poking, poking, poking into one of the drain slots. What on earth are roaches made of? I stood poking - hard, hard, hard - for what seemed like forever. Finally, it started to break up and with the help of lots of water, disappeared to the netherworld of wherever sink drains lead. More soap and Clorox and paper towels to get the roach-aura out of the sinks and off the counters.

Welp, I feel as though I've slain ten dragons. On a sunny summer Saturday morning in the South, knowing that while the battle may have been won, the war is far from over. But I live to fight the roach-king another day.