Thursday, December 31, 2009

It's 19 Degrees and I'm Hotter Than Ever

Full of good intentions, I sat down at my computer this morning to catch up on some work, pay a few bills and organize my life a bit. I've been here for a few hours now and I'm happy to report, I have done none of the above.

Instead I found myself thrust into the blogosphere, now a familiar place, reading some of my favorite bloggers - who all seem to be writing about the same thing. They are sweeping me up, summarizing the glorious drunken highs and the inevitable sobering lows of the year that was, while offering some fantastically brilliant shards of wisdom for me to ponder in the coming year.

Keeping within the spirit of my bloggy soul mates, I too shall endeavor to reiterate the year that passes before us and prognosticate the year that brings forth a new decade. 

As I write this post, I notice it is the 46th post for 2009. I am 46 years old. There's really no significance to that, just thought I'd mention it. What is significant is that in 2009, I became a blogger. I tested the water in May, creating a template and visualizing what it was I thought I had to say. I took June and July off because I was too busy being in love to be bothered with blogging.

I came back at the tail end of July with the full force and fury of a woman possessed. Don't worry, I was still in love. I have changed my template at least 56 times while writing my 46 posts. I have picked up 49 followers (c'mon, just one more today and I can close the year at an even 50) and I have "met" some seriously supportive fellow bloggers, which has been like finding an unexpected savory side dish I now want served at every meal.

Most of all, what blogging has meant to me is this.  I can now say, "I am a writer".

The other significant happenings in the life of Zen Mama 2009 would be:

Connecting with friends who were lost to me through the time warp portal known as Facebook.

Watching my children blossom into regular little people who are discovering and embracing their own God-given talents as well as their individual, unique challenges.

Completing a ten year commitment as a leader in my industry by chairing a national conference in Hawaii. Nice work, if you can get it.

Noticing I can't sneeze while standing up anymore.  Well, I can but it's not pretty or ladylike.

Growing even closer to the closest of my friends.

Entering into peri-menopause with my usual flair for "if you're gonna do something, do it up really big". Oy vey, can we talk? The emotions, the mood swings, the out of control bursts of violent, sado-masochistic urges to run people over with my car then pick them up, dust them off, hug them, kiss them, love them, then run over them again. And that's just on any given Tuesday.

Toward the end of the year, my body broke but luckily I had a good mechanic and he fixed me right up. 

Figuring out if you right click on a word that has a red underline while you are typing, you get a whole list of possibilities to correct the spelling, check the thesaurus (not that I ever would), use a different language or find a laugh. Try misspelling a word on purpose. I tried the word "robust" and was given the option of "broncobuster". That's funny shit to me. It's also significant because I'm fairly certain I was the last person in the universe to understand how to use the red-underline-right-click maneuver. I just misspelled maneuver and was offered to replace it with manure. The fun never ends.....

Speaking of fun and frivolity, I have four numbers for you 2 0 1 0. I am envisioning significance in the dawn of a new decade. Think of it as New Year's on steroids. You're not to sit there as usual, eating your black-eyed peas while planning out the next year.  Rather, you should frame up the picture of your life, as you see it, or as you want it to be for the next ten years.

If I take a look at the next decade of my life, all of my kids will be grown. I have such a short time left to either successfully equip them with the skills they need to achieve their dreams or to drive them to climb the clock tower where they will henceforth be known by their first, middle and last name. The choice is mine.  I choose option A.

I am ending my 46th post in the 46th year of my life by proclaiming the coming year and the coming decade to be whatever I damn well feel like it being. I think I shall choose to embrace my inner menopausal woman who suffers from hot flashes and define her as a brilliant, prolific writer able to influence the world, or at least her little corner of it while being hotter than ever. Even if it is frickin 19 degrees outside.

Happy New Year, Cheers and L'Chayim (pronounced using the flem in the back of your throat) to you all!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to Me!

Joyous noel to you. I am happy to report I got the two things I wanted the most this year - furry black boots and a clean bill of health. My surgery went exactly as planned on Monday. I clearly remember going to sleep while muttering to the Anesthesiologist......"why do doctors always say it's only going to hurt a guys should really be more honest.....just tell us it's going to......"

When I woke up, the recovery nurse was at my side, fully stocked with copious amounts of morphine. She was awesome. She didn't hesitate to shoot me up again and again and again until I stopped flinching and drifted off to the land of rainbows and unicorns.

Sent home with more pain meds, I was essentially knocked out the rest of the day. I remember waking up to eat a grilled cheese sandwich, compliments of #1Son. My throat was so dry, it was difficult to chew and swallow. Then I heard him laughing. I had fallen asleep, sitting up, grilled cheese in hand and half a chewed bite still in my mouth.  Ahhhh, the glory of pharmaceuticals.  I told #1Son, this was foreshadowing things to come - when I'm old and can't chew my food any longer. He gave me a drink of water and a little nudge and I was out again.

The next day, I experienced a true Christmas miracle.  For the first time in six weeks, I woke up with no pain, no gushing enormous clots of blood and feeling awake, excited and energetic. I had forgotten what that felt like - to wake up as myself. I called the doctor to thank him and I cried. He had given me my life back. For the last three days I have been an obnoxiously peppy Christmas energizer bunny. I'm certain it has been annoying to everyone around me; in fact, if I wasn't so darn happy, I'd make myself sick.

I am awash with positive energy, the joy of Christmas, the happiness in my children's faces and the love of a wonderful man. I am blessed beyond belief. I'm going to put on my black furry boots and conquer the world.  Or maybe I'll just clean up the assortment of Christmas wreckage and rubble scattered throughout the house. That's a good start.

Peace, love and calm to you.
Zen Mama

It must be mentioned, I am tempered by a heavy heart, which bleeds for my good friend Robin. She has put Christmas aside to care for her mom who has been hospitalized, very weak and undergoing painful treatments. She is on my mind always, as are my other friends who are dealing with aging parents, spending their first Christmas without loved ones, cancer and other diseases and divorce. In other At 8pm tonight, we will all stand in front of our Christmas trees and raise a glass of wine to each other. For we are each other's strength in times of weakness. Please join us at 8pm (CST) - with enough people raising a glass of goodwill, maybe we can conquer the world.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened To Me While In Stirrups

While I easily could write an entire post filled with all things disturbing and unnatural about stirrup pants, this particular post is not going to delve into that.  I am not going to discuss how many days in a row I wore my favorite black stirrup pants with the massive accumulation of cheap cotton fabric ballooned out at the waste in homage to MC Hammer.

I refuse to indulge in the equal parts luscious and frightening memories of the decade that was the eighties. Not to mention the requisite accessories that accompanied your stirrups. You know the ones - the scrunchie socks, the over sized sweaters, the Doc Martin hiking boots and of course, the side pony tail.

Instead, I am endeavoring to discuss the other kind of stirrups; as in, put your feet here and slide down to the end of the table. No need to worry. I am not going to discuss any gory details such that my male audience would blush. Remember the post title -A FUNNY thing.......

Arriving at the doctor's office on Monday morning, it was my second visit in less than a month for the same damn, bloody problem. Infer from that what you will. This time, I am pleading with him, "Doc, I can't go on like this, you HAVE to do something, do you hear me?" It had been an unbearable three months of nonsense, daily pain, draining me literally and secondarily draining me of all energy.

He mentions a minor surgery we could do to fix me right up, give me a fresh start so to speak. Of course, I am all in - let's get this baby over with.  Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way, he tells  me.  We have to run a few tests, eliminate other possibilities.  We need blood work, we need ultrasound, we need a biopsy. In other words,  "Put your feet here and slide down to the end of the table."

People who know me know I have an extremely high tolerance for pain. One who has lived my life gets used to certain amount of discomfort. Nothing much will phase me. Childbirth was a piece of cake - even with twins.  A little breathing, a little pushing, badda bing, badda boom, welcome a new life into the world.  The only time I can remember truly feeling hard core pain was the first time I had a full-on, no hair left behind, Brazilian bikini wax.  "Son of a mother fucking bitch!" But that's another post.

So now I've assumed the position and my precious little doctor, who looks exactly like Larry David, is safely hidden away behind the paper sheet thrown over my knees. I know they put that there for modesty purposes but honestly; is it really necessary?  I realize he's there, I might as well see him. It's the adult version of peek-a-boo.

Before he begins, he mentions to the ultrasound technologist how uncomfortably warm it is in the room. He asks her to make a note to check into purchasing a supplemental air conditioning unit. This prompts me to launch into forty questions concerning his office lease. Does he have a full service, gross lease? Has he called his landlord to repair the problem? Is he aware of his rights as a tenant? I'm talking business while he's just getting down to business.

Now, there are two things a woman does not want to hear when a doctor is holding a speculum and a collection of sharp implements.
  1. You might feel a little pressure here.
  2. You will feel a little pinch.
Emphasis, in both cases is on the word "little", which generally translates to - hold on to the edge of the table because you're going for a "little" ride.  

Meanwhile the entire time, through the pressure, the pinch, the pain and the out of body experience, we're continuing to talk business only now we're talking about the chairman of my company. What a great guy, super reputation, everyone knows and loves him. I adore him too but I'm finding it awkward, bordering on annoying to discuss with him at this particular, shall we say, moment. Thinking it couldn't get any worse, it does. Doc realizes his accountant resides in my office building. Now we're talking about a man I'm not particularly fond of. Gheesh, do I really have to think of him NOW?

The good news to come from this experience? I have received the "all clear" for the surgery. I'm going in on Tuesday morning and I'm so excited, I can't stand it. Yes, you read that correctly, I am elated and overjoyed to be having a surgery. Yeah me! Sing it with me, I'm gonna be a new woman, I'm gonna be a new woman......

Wish me luck on Tuesday morning and especially think of me during the recovery. I've already been told to expect a "little" discomfort for the rest of the day.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Time to Die (Part Two) - Unraveling Addiction

The first brother, Mark, who was actually the youngest of the three and the closest to my age was already gone. The  oldest brother stood with us in the hospital room during one of the more brutal moments of Mark's slow and painful death slide, turned to the remaining brother and said, "I will never let this happen to me, but if it does, please put a gun to my head and kill me before I have to suffer like this".

Within three years, he too was gone.

I have struggled with writing these words because I can offer no reasonable explanation for it. There are two beautiful girls who lost their father; in spite of the fact I know he would have given his life to save theirs. He couldn't save his life to give to them. The pain he had endured was much too great to overcome the demon possession, known as addiction.  

Just a few short years before their deaths, we had all endured the loss of our father. After weeks of waiting and woodstocking in the pseudo concentration camp conditions beset by the hospital, we knew he had left us. We could easily tell the difference between a body with life and a body that was void of it, an empty shell.  My brother and I gave them the okay to shut off the life support.  Mom couldn't do it. She could not issue the  order; yet, she knew he moment he had slipped away because she had "felt him pass through her body".

Unless you've been there, and witnessed it first hand - you may not be able to fully grasp the certainty of it but there is no doubt as to when the spirit leaves the body.  I have seen it three times now with dad, then Mark, then mom. I have previously written of my mother's death experience. She was afraid, yet she was not alone. Her people had come to get her. She asked them where they were going. It would be her last words.

After dad died, Mark began to escalate his drinking. He had married a dentist and followed her to a real life "Northern Exposure" assignment in the furthermost outreaches of Alaska.  He was isolated, saddened and without any means to brighten his day; literally no sunshine.  He could not wander around on his own as transportation was limited and exposure to the elements was deadly.

The people of the area still participated in traditional Eskimo customs. Outsiders, white people with green eyes, especially were not welcomed. He had chosen not to return home for dad's funeral. We didn't understand why but would later learn he had relapsed from 12 years of sobriety. Another thing we didn't know is that his wife was a long time, practicing alcoholic.

He began to get sick and the sickness escalated remarkably fast. He came home with drunk wife in tow and sought medical attention immediately. Unfortunately, he was already too far gone when he was told he was carrying the Hepatitis C virus. All three of my brothers had participated in serious drug abuse in their younger days. They had gone as far as sharing needles and they would later learn, they all carried the incurable and potentially fatal disease.

I was on bedside duty the night Mark passed away. I sat in his room, watching the monitors. We knew the end was near but he had surprised us so many times before. This time seemed different. I didn't grasp it fully then, what had happened or why I reacted, but I knew I needed to call for the rest of the family camped out in the waiting room.

I sat on his bed and spoke to him as he passed.  He was peaceful, he did not appear to be afraid and he too, was not alone.  He was gone before mom and the others could make it down the hall.

It was after Mark's death when  Mr. Sunshine offered up the possibility of a move to Wisconsin. I knew my oldest brother, the one who swore he would never let himself succumb to the disease, was already well on his way.  My mom and remaining brother were determined to heal him, to find a liver for him, to save his life. I couldn't take anymore.  I ran as fast as those infamous Oklahoma winds could blow me.

This one was by far the most difficult to understand. Robby was the home coming king, good looking, athletic, a talented musician and  family man. To look in from the outside, one could say he had the world at his feet. I didn't know him very well as our age difference had taken him out of the house when I was young, but I adored him from afar.

He had the same sweet gentle spirit and quiet reflectiveness as Mark. His senseless death angered me. I wanted to make him responsible for everyone else because he was the oldest and I wanted to wake him up from his death and scream at him because he had so much to live for.

My oldest brother drank himself to death.

When the question arises as to the forces of addiction, the truth of disease vs. lack of willpower, I know the answer. It is a heavy burden, a rope tied around your neck, a nightmare that suppresses you until you can no longer see beyond its walls or hear the cries of your loved ones as they struggle to pull you from the fire.

But what is the reason some will succumb to this antagonistic tormentor while others treat it like a bully on the playground--running away screaming or choosing to fight back and win the right to have their lives back?

Is it a hereditary trait as most would suggest or does it run through families because one fucked up generation fucks up another? I suspect it is both. It is tied to pain. When we are hurting, we take things to make our hurt go away. We place band aids over open wounds, we massage sore muscles, we fight off illness and treat infections. But some infections cannot be treated with antibiotics.  Some infections run so deeply within us, they infiltrate our spirit.

George Carlin was famously quoted as saying, "Just cause you got the monkey off your back, doesn't mean the circus has left town". I am afraid the monkey has jumped back on for a wild ride on the back of my remaining brother. He and I are a lot alike. I would think that damn monkey would be tired of trying to hang on by now.

What is this bizarre, unexplainable three-ring circus full of people whose strongest desire is to temp fate with a death wish?  The lion tamer, the man shot from a cannon, the addict?  How did I manage to avoid becoming the high-flying, death defying trapeze artist in the center ring?

I do not know the answers to these things but I do know, more than most, the lessons we learn.

I know if one generation does not seek to heal themselves, to not only face their bully but to kick its ass, they will pass the proclivity for addiction on to the next.

I know that some do not have the knowledge, understanding or awareness to do this. This does not make them weak, just disadvantaged. They are or were engaged in an unfair fight.

Most importantly, I know the next generation can overcome the burden as well as the gifts of inheritance because I have done so, or have I?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Oklahoma - A Time to Die

Coincidences, happenstance, bizarre outrageous behavior - I consider all of these to be signs from the universe. Sometimes I am tuned in, paying attention to the warnings placed in my path - the flashing beacons that are there to keep me out of the woods.

Yet at other times, I am sleeping at the wheel, letting my own convoluted thoughts steer me in the wrong direction, veering off the road until I crash into a tree and wake up slapping myself upside the head in grateful disbelief.

Right now, at this very moment in my life, I am so highly tuned into these divine signals - the frequency, pitch and tone of the messages I am receiving are along the lines of having the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in my head serenading me with a multitude of  HAL - LE - LU - YA's.

This brings me to the most recent soul awakening conclusion revealed to me during my Thanksgiving trek back to Oklahoma - the place of my birth, my home for the first 37 years of my life. My beloved red dirt wearing, tornado flying, flat as a pancake, peaceful, low tax, friendliest-people-on-the-face-of-the-earth Oklahoma is not my home anymore.

When I first moved to Wisconsin, it was not easy. Yes, it was exciting and necessary to move in order for us to begin our new life; but leaving my home state was immensely troublesome. I was often homesick. Whenever I found myself with a travel layover, I would seek out the gate with the departure to Oklahoma City. I remember sitting at those gates basking in the Oklahoma that surrounded me. I would soak in their warmth and drink from their accents, feeling completely at home with them.

People from Oklahoma have a certain look about them. You can see a softness, even when they are abrasive-- it's still there; the gentle, familiar, cushy undertone.

This trip was different. Something was not right. I wasn't recognizing them anymore. Had they changed or was it me? It had been almost three years since I had buried my mother. Dad was gone, two out of three brothers are dead and the remaining one has checked out. Seeing their children, my nieces and nephew, was a joy and a privilege.  It made me want to see them more. I have extended family and many friends who always welcome me with the kind of love that can only be found at home; yet, I felt myself longing to be back in Wisconsin.

I wanted to go home.

Perhaps it was the trio we encountered at the hotel swimming pool. I refer to them as Gansta Dude, Crack Whore and the Prostitute they brought along for some "adult" fun while my kids were playing nearby. Crack Whore sucked, no chewed, on a pacifier while Gansta Dude wore an overstuffed parka inside the moist heat of the indoor pool and Prostitute was asked to perform various duties ranging from fist fights with Crack Whore to sex in the hot tub.

My kids were kept busy with assorted forms of lifeguard/shark/victim role-playing, Marco Polo, etc. They didn't notice. My mother bear instincts were telling me to play it calm and ignore them (while keeping one eye glued to them), to not engage in a confrontation and to not report them to the front desk. They left after a half hour or so.  I think we were spoiling their ambiance.

I wanted to go home.

There was a beggar or two or three or four at every major intersection, all holding various cardboard signs explaining their plight. My children wanted to give them all money.  As I drove along, they kept shouting for me to stop as they read aloud from the dilapidated placards, this one was a former Marine, this one is old, that one is homeless, mom, mom, mom, we have to help this one, look mom, look--he's holding a sign with a happy face on it.

I wanted to go home. 

The signs were everywhere, pointing me in the direction of Wisconsin; but perhaps none more-so than my shock and disbelief at the condition of my last remaining brother and his house, our house, the house I grew up in had begun to fall into disrepair. My brother's wife is a hoarder. She doesn't have any dead cat carcasses, piles of human feces or goats eating through her walls but she is well on her way.

My brother is drinking again and he will die soon, just as the other two had done, by slowly drinking themselves to death. The Hepatitis C will make certain work of it. I've seen it before, it is an appallingly monstrous way to die.  This is why I was so easily convinced to leave Oklahoma over nine years ago. The first brother had died, with me at his bedside and the second one was well on his way.

(To be continued...) 

Art Credit: Bouguereau Girl in the Cross Timbers of Oklahoma,by Margaret Aycock

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Shit Creek - It's Not Just a Tourist Attraction

I suppose I should give you fair warning at this juncture.

Because we are irreparably, irrevocably and irreversibly tied together through our kids, there will NEVER be a conclusion to the Mr. Sunshine (with much more than a chance of pain) postings.

There seems to be no end to the insanity, or as I like to call it exceptional blogger-fodder.

There is no and has never been any child support between us, we share joint custody. I'm certain that's why we get along so well. However, there are bills that come which need to be shared. These are expenses relating to education, medical, extra curricular activities, etc. For the most part, we have always reconciled these balances and paid our equal share to the other.

About a year ago, I noticed Mr. Sunshine was experiencing a sudden change in his financial status. The kids were talking of these awesome, amazing and quite expensive things dad was buying them. I was hoping he hadn't fallen back into the old habits of spending on credit and pretending to be something he was not.

Then the really big purchases materialized - a $90,000 lot to build a home, paid in cash, an engagement ring and a car for the fiance, paid in cash, and a three week cruise to the Mediterranean, you guessed it, paid in cash.

Mr. Sunshine couldn't have reestablished his credit by that much, that fast. The dude must be pulling in some ginormous chunks of moolah. When I asked him, he told me he was running an Ebay business on the side and had stumbled upon a great opportunity. Within six months or so, he left his "real" job, once again to pursue his dreams of being the proprietor of his very own entrepreneurial enterprise.

This was not unexpected, who would work if they didn't have to? Good for him.  You go, Mr. Sunshine!

Then that freakish little devil that occasionally appears on my shoulder thought - I could be a greedy, money-grubbing ex wife and go after him for child support since he so obviously far exceeded my level of income but it was just a fleeting fantasy.  The better part of me, the chubby, diaper-wearing, cherub that has to counter balance the devil gave it a resounding "Nah".

Good thing I didn't. Turns out, that "great opportunity" he had stumbled upon involved taking inventory from his employer and selling it to a wholesaler overseas. Apparently HIS freakish little devil was a better negotiator.

As the story unfolded, or as he tells it - he left the employer, stopped running the Ebay operation and started his new Ebay business, which is similar to the other one but without all the stealing, fraud and stuff. He left without being caught and thought all was well and right with the world until he received notice that he would be facing federal charges, damages in excess of half a million and possible jail time.  Oops.

Now Lord knows, I'm a reasonable woman.  When he came over to tell me all this - out of fear it would hit the press and I would find out anyway - my main concern was for him. Nobody wants to see the father of their children go to jail. When he was pulling in the big bucks, I was happy because I knew the kids would always be taken care of.  I was equally as devastated to learn - he was now so far up shit creek, he might never be found again.

Mr. Sunshine's confession had occurred in late summer, just before the kids were to start school.  In an effort to ease his burdens, I covered all the back to school expenses along with paying some medical bills that included counseling for The Commando. I told him he could pay me in increments if it would help. If I had enough money to cover all those expenses without hurting my own cash flow, I would have done so, but alas, I'm blogging for free, ya know. Girlfriend hasn't been optioned for a book, well at least not yet anyway.

Last week, needing money to pay some bills, I asked him if he could just pay me something towards the balance owed. He refused to pay me anything, saying he did not agree with the counseling charges.

In his opinion, The Commando is fine, doesn't need any counseling.

Okay, then just pay me for the educational expenses and we can deal with the rest later.

No.  Unless you agree to drop the other charges entirely, I won't pay you anything.

Look, if you're hurting for money, I understand.  Just give me $200, less than half the educational cost.

No. Listen, AN- GE -LA, I will not pay you anything!  I made you an offer and you turned it down so you will get nothing. No soup for you. Next!

I then reminded him of all the health insurance premiums I had been covering at no cost to him, along with tons of other things I've let slide all in the name of sweet peace and harmony.  I told him if he forces my hand and I have to take him to court, it would be a substantial amount of money. If you will simply show me you are a man of your word and you will honor your obligations to your children, I will continue to work with you but you gotta give me something.

I don't think I need to tell you his answer.

I met with an attorney yesterday and we're moving ahead. The total amount he owes me exceeds $8,000.  I am hoping to receive a judgment and then attach a lien to that expensive piece of land before the court orders him to sell it for remuneration to his employer.

I am broken-hearted over the loss.  We have lost our ability to hang out together and show mutual respect and appreciation in front of our kids. We are taking that precious gift away from them. I am saddened but I believe all will prevail.  One day, everyone will know what went on and each of us, Sunshine and I, will have to be accountable to our children for our actions.

I do hope for the best and I pray everyday that he won't go to jail. I hated it when he pretended to be something he was not in front of the kids. "Daddy is going to get elected and change the world", he would say as he headed off for the results of another failed election.  Like many other 11 year old boys, The Commando still believes his dad has super powers.

Now, I wish he truly did too.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mr. Sunshine - The Epilogue

Mr. Sunshine and I, aided and abetted by father time,  worked through the whole gambit of emotions after our divorce. I know it seems odd, but on the very DAY of our divorce, we walked from the courthouse into the parking lot and decided to spend the rest of he afternoon together, sitting, reflecting; talking about past, present and future.

It took him a long time (my viewpoint) short time (his viewpoint) to come to terms with the reality of us not finding a way to reconcile. During those agonizing months, he did not handle himself well in front of the kids. The girls were too young to be affected but The Commando was tuning into his dad's pain and turning into his dad in so many respects; including, but not limited to, holding me accountable for the cause of it all.

When Sunshine finally came to terms, to grips, to reality, we were able to begin to reconstruct our friendship and respect for each other as parents. Parents of these three fully functioning, beautiful, astoundingly cognizant souls we had ushered into this world  Our relationship continued to recover, ever so slowly; one day he's good, the next day he's the spawn of Satan. Finally, he seemed to get his own slap from Cher and he snapped out of it.

We have since enjoyed one of those seldom accomplished Bruce Willis/Demi Moore type post divorce harmonies. Holidays, birthdays, teacher conferences, kid's plays and concerts - all done together. Most recently he came over unexpectedly with his girlfriend/fiance and sat on the patio with my girlfriend and I talking for hours. Later my friend commented how unusual it was to have such a close relationship. Sometimes it has been too close, as in, watch yourself or he will take advantage.

Nonetheless, my position has always been - let's do whatever it takes to let go of our personal agendas and do what's right for these remarkable kids of ours.  With few exceptions and the occasional flare up here and there, it has mostly always worked. We speak respectfully, willingly trade days, plan vacations and other deviations from our court appointed schedules - all with little to no discord whatsoever.

We would often sit down and talk like old friends, sharing stories of family, knowing the other can understand from the historical context in a way that new people in our lives cannot. My favorites were always when he would update me on the continuing scams involving The Anti-Christ. Mr. Sunshine seemed to be doing financially very well. He spoke of paying off debt, saving money, planning to build a home. I was so proud of what we had accomplished.

I was thrilled to learn about the proposal to his girlfriend. The kids spoke highly of her, she seemed to be educated, dedicated and most importantly not a crazy, psycho, fatal attraction kind of bitch. I was happy for them. I embraced them and let the kids know of my acceptance and joy by demonstrating a welcoming atmosphere. 

This is the way I envisioned the end of the Mr. Sunshine chapter of my life. It all seemed to be conclusively, definitely and properly solidified. It was, for all practical purposes - a happy ending.

While I have been writing of this chapter of my life, I was elated to know I could end one of these Mr. Whatever series on a high note, with some semblance of hope - letting you all know, anything can be overcome if you keep your priorities straight.

Five years of happily un-married accord. Until just one week ago......

(Artwork entitled, "The Leaving" by Angela Hayden at

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mr. Sunshine (Part Five) - The Reformation and Resolution

He came back to me, changed and seemingly broken. He appeared to be coming out of his self-imposed delusions and moving toward the honest, somewhat shocking realization of who he really was. He would not consider himself a failure but he had failed, in so many, many ways.

He no longer wanted the hot, sexy young sales girl. He wanted a life with me. He wanted to be a father. He wanted to start going to church, to get a "real" job, to finally be a man and oh by the way, in order to accomplish all of this, we would need to move to Wisconsin.

While the thought had certainly never entered my mind that I might one day be living in Wisconsin. We were losing the house anyway. I had shut down the business and filed bankruptcy on the remaining debt. I didn't really like my new job and I was restless. We had visited Milwaukee many times to see his mom. It seemed like a city on the verge of cool; well at least much more on the verge than Oklahoma City was at that time. Why the hell not, let's do it!

We moved in August of 2000. It was glorious, fresh and new. It smelled clean and crisp; fall, my favorite season, was already in the air. Those first few months were exciting as we searched for a place to live, settled #1 Son into his freshman year of high school and began to explore our new surroundings. Mr. Sunshine had landed that "real" job for a national company, no less.  It took me a few months to find work back in my field. We were on our way, at the dawn of a new life. Time to rebuild.

When December rolled around, we had our first big snow storm. I had seen snow before, but never anything as beautiful as that. The entire place looked like a giant Christmas painting or Hallmark card. I bought snow boots for everyone and it continued to snow. We frolicked around in it and it continued to snow. We made snowmen and had snowball fights and it continued to snow. We went sledding and it continued to snow. By month end, we had received an all time, record breaking snow for the month of December - a whopping 52 inches.

It is the perfect metaphor for how my life with Mr. Sunshine evolved and eventually ended. Some snow is good; in fact, it can be great - a helluva fun ride but 52 inches in one month can put a damper on things.

Sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself.

The reformation of Mr. Sunshine With a Chance of Pain had begun. He started to dabble in politics, his first love and perhaps his only true passion in life (besides his children).  Within two years he was heading up statewide committees, running for county and statewide elected office, volunteering for national senate campaigns, pursuing a Political Science degree at night and making a name for himself among the most conservative of the ultra-conservative-elite.

Taxes are three times as high in Wisconsin as they were in Oklahoma so I was proud of him for his fiscally conservative position; however, he couldn't hang with the big dogs without drinking from their water bowls, much like those poor souls who drank the Kool Aid in Guyana. (Yes, I intended to portray it in such a shocking context.)

Our fundamental belief systems began to sharply contrast. Soon, I found myself on the receiving end of many a diatribe over such things as abortion, gay marriage and family values, you know - things like infidelity and divorce, which a few of my friends were going through at the time.

"You shouldn't hang out with them" he would say, "They are a bad influence". After a long pause the only thing I could think to say was:

Excuse me, but have we met?

In November of 2001 I found I was pregnant again.  He was, believe it or not, a top notch partner during the pregnancy. He had to be when they put me down to bed rest. But after the babies came and the stress of two premature infants became apparent, he was again skipping out the door for work, night classes and political commitments. When someone suggested he run for office, he had to go back and fix an itsy, bitty, teeny, weeny little mistake.

I will never forget the shock and romanticism of it all when he came home from work on my birthday, handed me a gift box and said something to the tune of well, we've had three kids together, we might as well get married now.

The son of a bitch bought me an engagement ring on my birthday to get out of having to buy me a present.

The girls had been born in May, this was August.  We were married the following June.  There I was in the bathroom, crying so hard, knowing I didn't want to be married to him, knowing I would have to wait many years for him to truly grow up, but telling myself - I want to put the bow on this package and make it legitimate.

I wanted to share the last name of my children and I didn't want to have to explain why mommy and daddy were never married.  I walked down that aisle. If you look closely at the photo of me from Mr. Sunshine-Part One, you can see my red nose and red, squinty eyes, swollen shut from the profuse emotion; yet also, perfectly matching my red dress. Does anyone still question why I selected red as an articulation of my bridal bliss?

There were many interesting things that happened from June of 2003 to November of 2004 when I decided to leave him for good. At the height of his political involvement, he was spending most of his time volunteering for the Tim Michels campaign for the U.S. Senate seat held by Russ Feingold. I was invited to attend some events for the staff and volunteers at the Michels' home. It was difficult for me to sit and listen to them go on and on and on about abortion, knowing the man sitting next to me had paid for the abortion of the drug addicted whore he had knocked up.

Let's suffice it to say, I wasn't invited to many more events.  They could smell a social liberal at fifty paces.

Then there was the time they all went out after some rally or something and one of the young paid staffer girls got so drunk, Mr. Sunshine brought her home, carried her into our house, while she was kissing on his face and neck and put her to bed on our couch.  That was a tough one to explain to the nanny the next morning.  "Oh, don't mind her, my husband brought her home last night."

After that, I checked Mr. Sunshine's email on a regular basis and found he had quite the emotional affair (that's all I can prove) with a another young volunteer who was incensed that he had stood her up at a fund raising event he had promised to attend.  As I recall, he missed the event because I forced him to accompany us to my annual company picnic. I didn't feel comfortable keeping up with two babies and a four year old by myself.

It didn't make sense to me why he said he couldn't come with us. Why was a campaign event more important. Then I understood, he wasn't just showing up to support the candidate, if you know what I mean.

In late October, I came home from an overnight business trip to Chicago and woke up the next morning to discover another woman's panties in my bed.  Actually, I didn't discover them, one of my toddler twins had picked them up and placed them on her head.  I grabbed them, checked the size (small, not me) the label (Calvin Klein) again, not me and the smell (most certainly used and NOT BY ME).

Twin was immediately scrubbed down similar to that of a potential hazardous waste exposure.

All of that nonsense aside, I still wasn't totally done until I realized the guy was never going to work a real job, live real life, be a real husband - no matter what I did.  He had been laid off by the big national company when they noticed his head was in the political clouds instead of with them. He had not found a new job, opting instead to start his own consulting firm and supplement his income from county or state elected positions.

All of this cost money. He had cashed out everything from his job, borrowed money on our house and put us in debt, again to the point where we didn't have enough money coming in to cover the bills. When there was no more credit to be extended, he went to his mom and asked her to finance some home improvements, selecting the colors and fixtures behind my back.

I came home from work one night to see carpet torn out, cabinets demolished and new items slated to go back in, which I had previously objected to.  Said objections were not solely a cost issue - I hated the idea of pedestal sinks when you have no cabinetry - where's a girl supposed to put her shit?

It was a life changing moment. I sat at the edge of my bed, looked at the debris around me and felt as if Cher had suddenly walked up to me, slapped me across the face and said, "Snap out of it".

Thanks Cher. You were right. I am 41 years old, I make a good salary.  It was a revelation, a resolution and a glory hallelujah, I was unquestionably resolved. I could support myself and my children without him, I had to if I wanted to survive.

Just as I felt on my wedding day, I was done, so very, very done. However, this time it was "real".

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mr. Sunshine (Part Four) - Diapers, Dirty Deals and Denial

It's been one day in blog time but two years have transpired for the protagonist of our story.

The Commando had arrived, in spite of a tough pregnancy replete with daily shots of heparin to prevent another blood clot, preclamsia near the end of the term and a sudden drop in his heart rate during delivery, forcing the doctor to slap an oxygen mask on me while manually repositioning the bun by means of inserting his entire arm into my oven.

It would be too difficult, too drawn-out and too much life to accurately epitomize if I were to write in copious detail of all that had unfolded, or perhaps unraveled during those two years. I feel I must abridge and again, edit the hell out of it, in order to avoid a Mr. Sunshine (Part Twenty-Six).

We sold one house, designed and built a new one and then gave it back to the lender when our business was failing. Mr. Sunshine and his brother-in-law (The Anti-Christ) had convinced me to quit my job and finance a start-up home improvement operation. Wait, that sounds too legitimate. It was actually a window and siding company, a tin man operation with Mr. Sunshine handling the marketing, the Anti-Christ heading up sales/production and me, bringing considerable cash, excellent credit, accounting/business savvy and my baby to work with me every day.

At first, all was as advertised. The business pulled in ridiculous amounts of profit. Within three months, my two partners were each requiring new cars, cell phone accounts, gasoline credit cards and cash advances on jobs they had sold. Mr. Sunshine needed it to cover our household expenses while the Anti-Christ was feeding his ever present, ravenous gambling addiction.

Within six months, we were falling behind - taking profit from completed jobs to buy materials for new customer's homes. I would express my concerns. I would show them the books, the projections, the bills, the supplier accounts that had been shut off and in return, they would walk me to the large white grease board in the office and point out all the thousands of dollars we had coming in. "You worry to don't understand how THIS business's not like the work you used to or two more jobs and we're back on top", they would say; and then, the Anti-Christ would tell me he needed another cash advance.

At one point, I clearly remember having no money and no diapers. Mr. Sunshine sold a job that day and asked the customer for a $5,000 cash advance. He told her it was standard operating procedure and would be used to purchase the supplies needed for her work. It was really used to catch us up on our mortgage, buy food and stock up on those ever important diapers. Desperate times, they were indeed. 

We clung for life, managing to complete our jobs, keep the customers happy and somehow stave off that ever present wolf at the door. We were in deep, or more accurately, I was in deep, to the tune of around $350,000 in business credit/supplier accounts that had been extended. I was scared but with each walk to the while board, I would manage to pull from my strength and fight. After all, we were building a life for our little makeshift family and we were in it together.

I trusted Mr. Sunshine to always be at my side, to battle with me, to be my shield against the fear and my net for the inevitable fall. I never trusted the Anti-Christ. I knew he would one day run us into the ground and seal the coffin with one final bitter nail. The person I should have trusted, didn't yet have my trust. I knew exactly how this scenario was about to unfold and yet, I didn't trust myself.  I ignored my instincts.  Call it survival, call it denial, call it impetuous, reckless and mad. Go ahead, I can take it.

When we had been in business for nearly a year, I suspected some of Mr. Sunshine's late night sales calls were not what they appeared. I checked his voice mail and intercepted a lengthy, gushy message from his girlfriend, the hot, young, sexy sales girl who came to our office one day to sell us, you guessed it, advertising, of all things. Sounds vaguely familiar.

She had enormous fake boobs and a tight, slim belly that hadn't recently given birth. I gathered up his things that night, placed them in the foyer and told him he had one week to be out. Then the next morning, I went to the office.

Word had spread and the news was out before I got there. Mr. Sunshine's sister had been working as our receptionist, she was the first person I saw as I walked in the door. I said nothing, choosing to go straight to my office and begin the end. The end of everything. The sister tried to talk to me, the Anti-Christ tried to talk, Mr. Sunshine even tried to open a discussion. The only person I listened to that morning, finally, at long last,  was myself.

Later that afternoon, I made the mistake of listening to our Telemarketing Manager as she bared her soul to me, telling me of other infidelities she witnessed and even aided by allowing her home to be used as a place for Mr. Sunshine to have sex with an underage employee, high school drop out, druggie (but hot) girl he had knocked up a few months before. Sunshine, of course, denies the baby was his, noting how this girl had slept with loads and loads of guys.

"Let me see if I've got this right, you slept with a drug addicted whore, did not use a condom, paid for her abortion, then brought your stinky ass, infected-with-God-knows-what penis home to me?" Wham! That's the sound it made when I slapped him with all of my pinned up forbearance. I must be the luckiest girl alive to have made it out of that without a permanent STD or HIV reminder. Thank you sweet Jesus. On second thought, I don't think Jesus was having any part of this.

I know, I know, at this point you're thinking - this is the abridged version? But wait, there's more.

(To be continued.....)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mr. Sunshine (Part Three) - Impervious but not Impregnable

All frolicking, cougar antics and underage drinking references aside, I embarked upon my next journey. After our infamous night out, we began to flirt while simultaneously conducting business. I opt to refer to it as multi-tasking.

In short order, Mr. Sunshine was booted out of his brother's house for arguing with the live-in, pregnant girlfriend-in-law. I don't know exactly WHAT he said to provoke the violence but I do know she socked him a good one, breaking his watch as he put his arm up to defend the intended target, his face.

He advised me of the situation and told me he was sleeping on the floor of the "office", which essentially consisted of the space next door above the garage in the eclectic low rent neighborhood in which they lived.

Being the compassionate, somewhat outrageously amorous, most certainly older and thereby more experienced divorcee I was - I obviously invited him to rent my spare bedroom.

Sing it with me.....

And here's to you, Mrs. Robinson
Jesus loves you more than you will know (Wo, wo, wo)
God bless you please, Mrs. Robinson
Heaven holds a place for those who pray
(Hey, hey, hey...hey, hey, hey)

Honest engines - I willingly admit, I am editing out the imprudent details and freely using the creative licensing bestowed upon me when I became a blogger, purely for the sake of a good blog job; whatever, however, whenever, oh my God never, the deed was done. He became my roommate, my lover, my business partner and eventually, the father of my children.

After nearly a year, we had developed what I could only refer to as a relationship clinging to it's life by means of artificial life support.  Yes, when my dad was dying, he overcame his fear of hospitals and rescued me from the Woodstocking vigil our family had insisted upon by taking me upstairs to look at the newborn babies.  Yes, when my dad died, he overcame his fear of funerals and arrived in support of me - seeing a lifeless body for the first time in his life and yes, he was too young, too inexperienced and had too many fears to overcome to be with a woman like me.

Getting kicked out of his brother's house for provoking a pregnant woman to a state of insanity and malevolent fury should have been a sign. I was exposing #1 Son (now between the ages of 10-11) to a person of questionable influence. I had a professional career to consider, as well as family and friends who were interrogating me as to who/what this thing, this presence, this young man who was obviously beneath me, was doing in my life.

The person I was then would say: None of it mattered because my heart, mind, body and soul had ascended into his pretend world, believing he was some sort of intellectual savant who would one day transform his words into reality, his Anthony Robbins inspired goals into reality and his reality would one day be a reality - for real.

The person I am today would say: I was craving attention from someone who was exciting, challenging, aloof, distraught, salacious, perplexing, decisive, resourceful, hungry, ambitious and everything else one would want after coming out of a marriage with boring Mr. Dependable and a sexual awakening with Mr. Plentiful. I wanted more. But, I momentarily lapsed and forgot to stop, reflect and take a look at what I actually desired and rightfully deserved.
    I was beginning to awaken from the delusion, question the reality and apprehend the absurdity of it all when I was given a healthy dose of  "Surprise, guess what, you're not in charge here". I had collapsed in my office, unable to breath, pulse and blood pressure weakening - I was rushed to the hospital. They couldn't get an IV in my arm as my veins had started to collapse. I had experienced a pulmonary embolism or blood clot to my lungs. Most people simply fall over and die - but not me, I was wheeled to the emergency room while hearing and seeing my dad in a way that is difficult to explain.

    I didn't "see" him like he was standing in front of me in a visceral sense.  I saw him inside of me, while I was outside of me. He told me to relax and not be afraid for I would not be with him now, i.e., I would not be dying today.

    One month later, I conceived my second son. The doc had told me I would be off the birth control pill immediately. It was the only plausible explanation for a blood clot in a woman of my age who didn't smoke. My apologies doc, sorry you wasted all your time and resources on that medical degree. For you see, this one, you will never be able to explain. He didn't know what was supposed to happen in my life, what was going on behind the scenes - so to speak. He wasn't aware of the second son, who was preparing to come to me. He didn't know there was a powerful soul who created this blood-clot-ruse that threatened my life.

    I am comfortable calling it a ruse or perhaps a manipulated destiny.  I had previously been diagnosed as infertile after seven agonizing years of yearning, pining and praying for a baby with Mr. Dependable. The myriad of tests had soundly concluded, they all said it. They all agreed. It was not him, it was me.  Regretfully, the likelihood of you getting pregnant would be about the same as electing a black man to be President of the United States. Enough said........that will never happen.

    The birth control pills were later recommended by the gyno purely as a measure to lessen the emotions, length, intensity, cramps and other accoutrements that hobnob with a woman's menstrual cycle.

    I was impervious to reason, impervious to judgment, impervious to influenced or persuasion. But, as it turns out - I was not impregnable after all.  The Commando was on his way. Now what do I do?

    (To be continued....) 

      Wednesday, November 11, 2009

      Mr. Sunshine (Part Two) - Balls, Beers and Cougars

      I suppose one could say I was a cougar before cougar's were dernier cri. Though technically I don't think you can be a cougar while still in your thirties, I was more likely a Puma.

      I was 33 and recently divorced from Mr. Dependable. As you might surmise, the pendulum, known as my love life, is swinging back from the boring, predictability of my last marriage, rendering me susceptible to seek out a thrill this time around.

      The thrill arrived in the form of a tall, dark haired, articulate, disarmingly optimistic salesman who called on me to pitch advertising space in a local business publication owned by his brother. I had been snarky with him when I agreed to the appointment, apprising him of my tight schedule and granting him a mere 15 minute audience with me. I honestly don't know why I was so brash and nervy but the confidence had intrigued him.

      Our 15 minute meeting promptly became an hour and not once had he mentioned the impetus for our get together. There was no sales pitch, no polished presentation, no glossy subscriber stats or rate sheets tucked nicely into an embossed folder. We were too caught up in our rapport and mutual attraction to notice. Lunch time came to pass and I was hungry - for food - and for more conversation with this well dressed, handsome peddler of advertising. I invited him to join me for lunch wherein we continued to divulge our life stories over the next two hours.

      At the end of this prolonged business meeting-turned-date, I agreed to purchase ad space sans the presentation. Apparently, I was sold on much more than advertising.

      The following Friday he stopped by at the end of the day to drop off a proof of the ad I had purchased. To this day, he denies the conspicuous, intentional timing. I knew he was coming so I had worn a tight fitting sweater, shortish skirt and flirty sandals. Mind you, I managed to maintain my archetypal professional flare with this ensemble. Mama didn't raise no trollop.

      So I'm thinking, get on with it already. Gheesh man, you obviously came here to ask me out. What's wrong with you? Maybe I should drop a hint, tell him I'm free tonight or maybe I should take off one of these flirty sandals and club him over the head with it. He begins to wrap up the meeting and I realize he's not going to do it. He doesn't strike me as the shy type; in fact, he is bursting with the very confidence that would later become our unraveling. I'll be damned if I'm going to waste a perfectly sexy, yet demure outfit. I've been looking forward to this all day, so here I go:

      Zen: Listen, I don't have any plans tonight - would you like to grab a drink with me?

      Sunshine: (pause, insert sound of cricket here) I am embarrassed to admit this but my brother hasn't paid me yet, I am basically working for him for free to help him get this publication off the ground, I don't have any money to go out.

      Zen: Oh, is that all? Whew, what a relief - I thought perhaps you might be gay.

      Sunshine: Yeah, a lot of people think I'm gay - I think because I dress and groom myself well and I have this peculiar accent from Wisconsin.

      Zen: So, you are straight and available. I can live with the accent. Do you want to have a drink? It's my treat, I asked YOU out.

      Sunshine: (pause, insert sound of cricket here

      Zen: Now what?

      Sunshine: How old do you think I am?

      Zen: I don't know, I hadn't really thought about it. I would guess around my age, late twenties, early thirties. Are we playing a game, is it my turn? How old do you think I am?

      Sunshine: I figured you to be mid to late twenties.

      Zen: I like that answer. Let's go get that drink now.

      Sunshine: I can't. I'm not 21 yet.
      My birthday is next month, I will be legal then.

      Zen: (cricket)

      Zen: (more cricket)

      Zen: (plague of locusts)

      Zen: Now I really need that drink. Grab your things and follow me.

      We walked a few blocks to a local trendy bar/restaurant/pool hall. I knew the owner and was therefore able to get past the front door without a check of our ID's. Once inside, we made our way upstairs to play a game of pool.

      Zen: I'll go grab the balls and the
      beer junior. You wait here.

      Sunshine: What do you want me to do while I'm waiting.

      Zen: Why don't you just stand there and look cute.

      That's the story of a lovely lady,
      who was busy with a child of her very own.
      Her life was full,
      but marriage had been in vain.
      The last one was annoyingly dull.

      Till the one day when the lady met this fella,
      and she knew that he was somewhat of a mess.
      Her heart had overruled her brain.
      She didn't yet know about the excess,
      or the life of Mr. Sunshine with a chance of pain.

      (To be continued....)

      Monday, November 2, 2009

      Strike Three - Meet Mr. Sunshine With a Chance of Pain

      This time around I stepped up to the plate knowing I was going to strike out, thus I chose to go down looking - scoring a backwards "K" on marriage number three. I watched the ball whiz past me without one consideration of taking a swing at it. Actually, I knew no matter how good the pitch or perfect the swing, this was not going to be a home run, double, single or even a fielder's choice. Perhaps I could have connected for a sacrifice fly but I didn't; for when you hit the ball on a sacrifice, you are still out.

      I locked myself in my hotel bathroom to avoid making eye contact with my girlfriends. These two had traveled from Oklahoma and Texas to support me and I was hiding from them. I didn't want them to see I had cried off my carefully applied wedding makeup. I didn't want them to hear me and bang on the door. I didn't want them to realize how much I didn't want to get married that day. I was afraid they would encourage me to suck it up, get dressed and get out there. After nearly seven years with this man, I was done, so very, very done on the day we got married.

      This is the story of Mr. Sunshine with a Chance of Pain.

      Mr. Sunshine seemed to have his feet planted firmly upon God's green earth but as I began to really know him, I realized his head was spending far too much time in the clouds and his vision was always marred by the bright, golden sphere he so often seemed to be chasing. As interpreted by this rendering, he would clench his fists and don a briefcase, preferring to make his mark by making a million or making a name for himself rather than making a living.

      My mom, God rest her soul, was the first person to see this. She came to visit us the week we got married. She watched him practically skip out the door one morning while whistling a happy little tune. He was leaving us with three young kids and a house full of boxes. We had just moved into our new home days before. There were projects everywhere, babies crying, madness and mayhem; yet, off he bounced to his sales job saying something about making the world a better place one sale at a time.

      Mom turned to me in her dry but always pleasantly blunt tone and said, "who's he think he's foolin' with that shit?" God how I miss that woman's way with words.

      She was right. I knew it and eventually even he came to admit it. It was all an act to cover up one scared, insecure young man who seemed to suddenly wake up and find himself with three kids, a wife, a house, an enormous pile of bills and not a chance of sun in sight.

      (To be Continued)

      Sunday, November 1, 2009

      Halloween Post Mordem

      The Ex was not happy with me for incorporating half of a devil into one of the twins costumes. She was told to say, with a coy, sheepish grin (while twisting one index finger to her dimpled cheek and cocking her head ever so demurely to the right), "but Daddy, you know I'm MOSTLY angel."

      Meanwhile, he felt it was perfectly appropriate to dress our ten year old son as a psychopathic killer, complete with a bloody machete. This was disturbing to me on so many levels but mainly because I've caught the little dude with a hand full of my good kitchen knives recently.

      WTF?! What are you planning to do with those young man?
      Nothing mom, just sharpening them for you. Muwhahahahaha.

      * Cricket*

      Nothing quite says scary like a ten year old with a knife fetish.

      Meanwhile, the other twin selected something of a sexy bat girl/saloon girl costume. She would now allow me to cover her neck with a warm sweater underneath in spite of the 40 degree temperature here last night so I decided to work with her. When I couldn't find her pumpkin basket from last year, I handed her a canvas wine tote.

      I think she liked it because she was able to organize her candy into sections. Finally, one of them is acting like me.

      The Psychopathic Killer wasn't feeling well. He only went to a few houses, then came home and curled up on the couch with me waiting to hand out candy. I may have a chance with this one yet.

      I want to know who or what sick, twisted mind invented War Heads?

      I am also wondering what happened to all the kids last night? I think we might have had a total of 15-20 trick or treaters.

      I know a group of kids from the neighborhood were going to church to avoid the pagan, ritualistic tradition of dressing inappropriately and begging for candy. Thank goodness somebody is paying attention to the long term damages being inflicted upon these children. I think the ADA may have sponsored the church party.

      Perhaps the scariest costume of all was yours truly. It transcends the present and takes us on a journey, back to the days of national championships, beating the hell out of Texas and proudly donning our OU memorabilia. I am the ghost of Oklahoma Football past.

      Thursday, October 29, 2009

      Random Thoughts from a Feverish Mind

      I have been sick with the flu. I forgot how much a fucking fever hurts.

      I read my last post and realized it was quite a downer. I sound like a woman waiting for someone to come into my life and rescue me from household chores. This most assuredly is not the case. My girlfriend Robin explains the malady this way, "PMS Squared (perimenopausal syndrome, pre-menstrual syndrome, bastards)".

      I don't wish to frighten the young women who regularly read my blog, perhaps by the time you reach the perimenopausal time of life, they will have found a cure for the random bouts of insanity.

      The uncontrollable loss of sensible thought and ability to reason worsens in your late forties. It seems to be God's way of torturing us one last time before we are permanently released from the curse - as if cramping, bloating, bleeding and child birth weren't enough.

      The Leaders of the Free World have confirmed this for me. Thank you sweet Jesus for girlfriends.

      I have a wonderful boyfriend. He's okay with meeting a new, less confident, more emotionally volatile girlfriend each month. Angela is not here right now, I'd like you to meet my alternate personality. I call her the Mistress of the Damned.

      He said he can handle it because I warned him about it in advance. Men can be so wonderfully simple and logical. Their minds don't seem to be as cluttered as ours. I think he may be charting my monthly cycle.

      In all honesty, PMS Squared might be worse than the painful aching, sweating, shivering, delusional fever I've had for the past few days. It's a toss up.

      Bottom line, I can handle the raking of leaves, thank you very much (except for this annoying blister on my right thumb).

      Saturday, October 24, 2009

      Falling Fast

      Today was a beautiful fall day spent raking leaves, repairing down spouts, trimming trees and clearing off the patio furniture in anticipation of the deluge of snow lurking just around the corner. As far as my crew goes, one child was helpful, one was indifferent, one was working elsewhere and one was positively bad. As bad as he could think to be.

      As I was raking, I imagined all the years gone by doing this particular chore. I like to rake, mainly because I love the smell and feel of autumn; however this year, something felt off about it. It wasn't happy raking, it was contemplative, introspective raking. Not a good thing.

      Even with the help of my one little trooper and her sister who popped in and out to keep up the "appearance" of actually helping, it felt overwhelming. In spite of all my friendly neighbors who stopped by to chat, I had this unshakable sensation of being alone; perhaps more lonely than alone. I am tired of being alone - to be responsible for all of this - just me.

      I am strong, I know I am, but household chores are more fun with two. It's been five years on my own now. I am ready for a leaf raking partner. Any volunteers?

      And so go the thoughts of a contemplative raker.

      Friday, October 23, 2009

      Happy Birthday Bert

      I am fortunate and richly blessed to have a protective circle of friends in my life. I have different groups of friends which have been acquired during the many seasons of my life. The ones who know me best are the ones I've known the longest; though, we did lose touch for around 15 years after high school.

      Robin comes as close to having a sister as I can possibly imagine. Even though, turns out I do have an actual sister we didn't know about. Apparently dad was a naughty boy right after I was born. My sister was born exactly one year after me. Just found out about her earlier this year - but that's a whole nother post!

      Back to Robin, my soul sister. Today is her birthday. Happy Birthday Bert!

      At the age of 19, I was one confused, scared little puppy. I was writing things in my journal about Mr. Personality, the criminal I wanted to marry. It was some sick shit, trust me. But, in the middle of all that pain and angst - there she was. On January 9, 1982 I wrote, "I don't see many of my friends anymore. Robin is the only one I keep in touch with. She was always the one who understood me." Then I went on to explain how our friend M had become a whore and was single handedly starting a VD epidemic in Oklahoma City and the outlying regions.

      But I digress.

      Robin is sewing right now. She keeps her head down and sews the most amazingly, brilliant original collection of dolls, quilts, ornies, you name it - the girl can sew it. She also knits things that hug your neck and make you look elegant. She has a husband, a beautiful home, an ex, a daughter, a charming lake house, stepchildren, a mother and a sister to watch over. Oh, and now she's a Mobin (grandmother, without sounding old).

      She has buried a dad and a brother.

      I know why she sews.

      She is smart and funny in a sick, twisted kinda way. She can diagnose patients, write prescriptions, design original cards, take amazing photos, teach zoology to impressionable college freshmen and still have time to make witches and pumpkin head dolls for fall. The one pictured above gracefully adorns my kitchen table. I like to have a little Robin around me at all times. I miss her.

      In high school, she designed the logo for our pom pon squad uniforms, taking the W.H. and making it look like the Van Halen logo. Not these uniforms, I think we borrowed these from the boys basketball team because we forgot it was photo day.

      Robin has always had a style I admired. Her clothes were all from Dillards while I was still wearing the Winnie-the-Pooh collection from Sears. We used to sit on her bed and hot roller our hair. She came out looking like Farrah. I was hoping for Jaclyn Smith but I'm afraid I looked more like Janis Joplin.

      Crazy hair or not, I was always at peace with her. We carried each other. We still do. We wake up dreaming about each other when we sense something is not right with the other. They are powerful dreams and they are usually amazingly accurate. Pretty scary for two people who get to see each other maybe once every three years.

      This photo was taken a few years back during one of our reunions. It was held at Robin's lake house. She made dolls for each of us. Mine came with a hand knit scarf to keep her warm in Wisconsin. She named her Burrrr. She has a puff of crazy, red hair and she's a bit aged. Sounds familiar.

      This group of women represents my closest childhood friends, though one important one is missing (Tina). Through email, we "talk" every day. We cry, we laugh, we worry, we support, we get tough, brutally honest, we will allow doubts but only for a moment before we build each other up again. We are the Leaders of the Free World because of the influence we wield as a group. We are a force to be reckoned with, an unstoppable, unflappable, immensely powerful union.

      Many times, it feels as if Robin is the heart of our group.

      In case you are wondering, I'm on the bottom left of the photo. Robin is sitting next to me. She's the one with the good hair.

      Robin and I continue to revel in our Bert & Ernie characterizations: She - a tidy, organized gay man with a unibrow and multiple collections and me - a happy-go-lucky goofy character who can be content with a bubble bath and a rubber ducky (as long as I have Bert in my life). However, Robin was quick to point out that gay man and unibrow is in fact, an oxymoron. Touche, my dear friend.

      Side note - there is some truly disturbing shit on the internet. I googled images of Bert & Ernie and found one with a stripper using B & E as part of her act. It was just wrong, bordering on muppet abuse. Then there's the one of Bert doing Ernie from behind. Clearly Ernie would never be Bert's bitch. Shocking.

      Happy Birthday chica - see you next month!

      Thursday, October 22, 2009

      Wally and the Watermelon

      I had the pleasure while in Hawaii to meet Wally Amos. He was substituted in as one of our keynote speakers when a hot shot former COO of Wal Mart canceled one week prior to the event. I shouldn't sound so so smarmy - the Wally World guy did claim to have a family medical emergency. I hope it wasn't anything serious, really I do. Because his emergency turned into our blessing.

      Instead of being regaled with all the insidious particulars of a mom-and-pop retail killing machine, we were inspired by a 73 year old man with a love of watermelon and a thirst for life. He walked into the room looking exactly like the photo, watermelon hat, big smile, cool shirt and baring baskets of cookies. Perfect!

      He is a man with a mission, having had a difficult childhood, he rose to fame by creating the Famous Amos cookie brand, then due to mismanagement and financial difficulties, he lost it. When I say he lost it, I mean he lost the cookie brand along with the right to use his name. When you buy Famous Amos cookies now, you are purchasing a Kellogg product.

      Undaunted, he marched on. He tried several new products using "Uncle Wally" as a brand name. Later, he created an "Uncle Noname" (pronounced no-nam-ee) line of products with some success. You have got to love the guy. He saunters up to the convention center stage carrying a plastic container full of watermelon, interspersing his pleasure to be there while munching down on the melon. Dude loves him some watermelon.

      He proceeded to enlighten us with his Watermelon Credo, explaining each line with a story from his life or illustrating a point by reading a children's book. We were captivated. I share it with you here.

      The highlights that really stuck with me had to do with his belief system. Most all of us seem to get the whole Law of Attraction, The Secret philosophy but sometimes it slips away from us when we're busy wallowing in the day to day doldrums. What we believe, we achieve - or as Wally says, "Whatever you believe creates your reality".

      Go on now, get busy believing up a life for yourself.

      I was also particularly moved by his take on enthusiasm, love, respect and attitude. It's all very basic stuff but when you hear it from him you sorta sit there thinking, "oh, I get it now", figuratively slapping yourself on the head with a great big duh!

      Without these traits, you will wrinkle your soul. Fierce, huh? They don't make any anti-wrinkle cream for the soul.

      It is fitting that he closes his credo with the thought of never giving up. This from a man who could have thrown in the towel when he lost the right to use his own name. He has a new retail venture called Chip & Cookie. He has two locations in Hawaii, has been in business for just over four years and hasn't made a profit yet. But you won't see him giving up anytime soon.

      Never give up on your dreams.

      I think I'd like to write my own credo. I'll have to think of something I love as much as Wally Amos loves watermelon. All I can think of right now is wine and chocolate. I don't think either of those would make for a good credo. Though they do definitely improve my attitude.

      Thanks Wally, I'm very happy to have met you.

      Please visit Wally Amos at his website. You can order your very own free Watermelon Credo poster, sign up for his inspirational e-newsletter, order from his Chip & Cookie product line, find out about his involvement with literacy and so much more.

      This post is dedicated to a friend who seemed to need a little Watermelon inspiration.

      Wednesday, October 21, 2009

      Blue Hawaii

      I named my blog Stalking Sunsets. I write about the chaos of my life and intersperse moments of clarity when the truer, deeper meaning unfolds itself. I nicknamed myself Zen Mama, thinking I have a remarkable ability to transcend the minutia, to live in the moment, to feel the subdued yet firm grasp of the universe and to find the peace and tranquility of a simple, eloquently silent sunset.

      From this one could surmise, a ten day part business/part pleasure, trip to a beautiful resort on the beaches of Waikiki to be just what the universal shaman ordered for me to further my journey. Correct? Yes? Do I hear an "Amen Sista"?

      Then perhaps one could explain why I snapped the above photo, a view from my window, the same view I had rejoiced upon when first beholding; only this time, I am photographing the awesome splendor of it all while crying like a starving baby, feeling sick and lonely and wanting nothing more than to be home. Back to that place, my life, known for all it's frantic chaos.

      Is this some sorta fucked up paradigm shift? Am I really seeking chaos among the calm?

      Am I a metaphysical masochist, a spiritual glutton for punishment, unable to sink my feet into the warm sands of serenity without secretly yearning to hear screaming kids and demanding clients or could it be, I had just had enough of me? I mean, one can only take so much of what goes on inside this head. Had it come to a point where I needed a break from myself?

      No doubt, I was missing my boyfriend. How can you be in a place that invites visions of succulent shell fish, dripping with butter and not want to be with the one you love. Throw in a touch of red wine and I wrap myself around a very good girlfriend, looking half in the bag and half way prepared to play for the other team. Interpretation - Me: horny - Friend: slightly apprehensive.

      I am happy to report, with the help of a $15.99 in-room purchase, I was able to get through the trip without exploring any latent lesbian tendencies or throwing myself at one of those hard-bodied, fire spinning, loin cloth wearing, Gods of the luau. There is nothing quite like a moving documentary to put things in perspective for me.

      In all, I had wonderful moments where I shined, carrying out my duties as chair of the conference, teaching a course I had developed, accepting the accolades of a job well done. My year long efforts were well rewarded and I was proud.

      But when it was all over and it was just me and a few friends left to enjoy ourselves, I withdrew from any and all offers of social interaction. I was beginning to hurt inside, like the mother of the bride just moments after she realizes the wedding is over and her precious baby girl is gone. Not only was my ceremony officially concluded, but my time with this organization had also come to an end.

      I had immersed myself, in typical fashion, into the role of a leader within my industry at a time when I needed a diversion. I was leaving "Mr. Sunshine with a Chance of Pain", whom you haven't heard about yet (but will very soon, I promise). It had been a six year pilgrimage into the world of corporate volunteerism. Many people wondered why I was that devoted or perhaps that crazy, to spend so much of my personal time on "work stuff". It is true what they say, for everything you give, you get much more than you can imagine in return. I am a skilled, confident public speaker, lecturer, board member, committee planner and industry insider.

      It is hard to walk away from something that supported me so steadily when I needed it. What woman going through a painful divorce wouldn't want a presidential suite with men at her feet? Yet, much like that mother of the bride, I know what I'm leaving is better off for having had my influence. My convictions, concepts and dare I say, my spirit will continue to take root in that which I have given so much. And it will thrive, prosper and become more than I could have ever envisioned without me.

      Meanwhile, here I am back at the beach, longing for home - processing the pain of letting go of yet another one of those chapters, or sunsets, of my life. I took this photo during a fireworks show. I don't know what that clouded image is, which appears in the upper right corner. My photographer friends can no doubt explain it, but I hope they won't. I choose to believe I know exactly what it is.

      It is that which follows me always, full of my favorite colors yet blurred around the edges. It lives on the inside and outside of me. It is my soul - colorful and slightly indistinct, like an eloquently silent sunset. Or, it could just be the glare from that annoying light pole.