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.

Monday, October 12, 2009

We Interrupt this Blog.....

I am writing to let everyone know I haven't disappeared or gone undercover after posting such inglorious personal details of my life. I am simply being pulled back into that other part of my life - you know, the one that writes the most prolific of all modern literature, my paycheck.

I have been cramming two weeks of work into one to prepare for a business trip/vacation to Hawaii. I am the Chair of a large conference so I have had to be on my game with respect to speaker notes, be here at this time, don't be late, etc. etc.

But I've also had to make arrangements for my kids, beyond all reasonable details and finish everything at the office that would have normally been due next week.......whew~~~~ I'm exhausted just thinking about it but I'm keeping my eye on the prize.

I will be in Hawaii for ten days. Enough said.

I am hoping to channel some deep, introspective, Hawaiin, hey dude, really cool blog entries while I am there.......stay tuned. Could be great, could be a bad reaction to the macadamia nuts. You be the judge.

Oh, and I pledge to return with no tatoos, of the islands, or otherwise. Pray for me.

Zen Mama out.....

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mr. Dependable (Part Five) - Out of the Ashes Comes New Life

This is the how the Alfred P. Murrah federal building looked on the morning of April 19, 1995, prior to 9:02am.

This photo could also easily represent my life at the time; neat and orderly, shiny and functional, everything happening according to plan.

But sometimes, the unexpected happens.

This is how the Alfred P. Murrah federal building looked after 9:02am of the same day. The unexpected had happened. The most unthinkable, unexpected happening anyone could have possibly imagined. After that day, nothing would be the same.

This is also what happened to my life. It blew up. I spent six months feeling as if I had been gutted. I encountered the unexpected and I faced the winds of change, taking me from the person I thought I was to the root of the person I am now and nothing would be the same.

This is the site of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building today, fourteen years later. It is a peaceful place, as calm as the waters of the reflecting pond. It represents those we lost, those who survived and those who came to help, to rescue and to recover.

Hearts were broken, blood was shed, our home was invaded by terror, lives were forever changed. But out of the devastation came humanity, out of the destruction came strength, out of the chaos came charity and out of the ashes came a kindred fortitude to not let this insidious act prevent us from once again finding peace and new life within our hearts.


Mr. Dependable was devastated when I left him nearly two years later. We had continued to work hard to put the pieces back in place but no matter how hard we tried, the pieces simply didn't fit together anymore. A few years later, he found the perfect woman for him, he found his Ms. Dependable.

#1 son visited them one summer when he was around 15. He returned home telling me how alike they were, two big recliners, a large screen TV and a massive movie collection was all they needed. Then #1 son asked me why/how I had married him. You are so different, he said - I can't imagine how that could have worked.

Mr. Plentiful's wife eventually found out about our affair. They went through a rough patch but managed to pull it out. His daughters, who were preschool age at the time are now both in college. Our paths occasionally cross. He seems to be doing well.

I had an opportunity a few years back to ask him what it all had meant. A part of me retrospectively viewed him as a predator. He seized an opportunity, noticing an impressionable, vulnerable, somewhat naive, easy target. He assured me that was not the case, promising his words and actions were from his heart. He confessed having loved me then and continuing to love me throughout the years. I share the same feelings for him and probably always will.

As for me, I am free and I am not afraid. My hair went from stick straight to curly, seemingly overnight, as if to usher in the person I would eventually become. I am unconventional yet traditional, wildly abandoned yet grounded, sexy in a natural way, self-supporting, self-loving and self-taught. I have risen to the top of my industry and now I am imagining and pursuing a life I have always known would be my destiny.

I am a writer.

(Just to keep you begging for more - up next: Strike Three - Meet Mr. Sunshine With a Chance of Pain (Part One)!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Mr. Dependable (Part Four) - We're not in Kansas Anymore

I flew to Houston, a married woman, to be with my impending lover, a married man, two months after meeting him in New York. His letters had continued to arrive, sweeping me out of my reality and into his world, a world awash in ethereal colors and sensual pleasures.

The letters were innocent at first but gradually increased in intention and intensity. When the wind blew across his face, he would imagine it had just arrived from Oklahoma where it had blown through my hair. He wrote about business and baseball games but ever so delicately, interspersed throughout, were the carefully planted seeds, waiting to take root in me.

A month earlier, I had given a detailed account of the entire experience to Mr. Dependable. I told him of feeling vulnerable and having this man with a strong shoulder and tender, compassionate heart reach out to me. I told him of all the savory new tastes that seemed to still linger on my palate. I spoke of being enraptured by the city, the people, the excitement but mostly by this man who was able to cry with me.

I felt I was withering away, twisted, calloused and dying like a knotted vine, never to be unraveled again. I had set my sexuality aside, trading it in for a stable life. And yet, after New York, after the bombing, I could imagine new life; efflorescence was possible.

I pleaded with him to understand how the experience had changed me. We desperately wanted our marriage to work and we both felt this was going to be the catalyst for our new life. We could start taking small trips together, figure out what's wrong with us - see a counselor, go out to dinner, read some books, show some emotion, drink wine, be angry, make a decision, do something spontaneous, have sex for more than five seconds.

While he had declined my previous attempts to get him away from the TV and out on the town or to visit the much needed limp-schnoodle doc, he now seemed to understand our marriage depended on it. Keep in mind this was before all the hubbub concerning E.D. There was no Viagra or Cialis. Bob Dole had not yet made commercials about it. It was on the down low. A man was on his own to figure such things out and a wife was expected to be supportive and understanding.

Suddenly wife was awakened and horny so off to the counselor and Urologist we went.

The results came in with nothing permanently broken, thank God. Mr. Dependable simply had a wee problem with P.E. (and I'm not talking about 8th grade gym class). Both head doc and penis doc recommended the same protocol. He needed to desensitize himself by buffing the bat, you know, chafing the carrot, often, at frequent intervals, repeatedly.

Oh, that's all. Piece of cake, right?


Apparently when you're raised in Topeka Kansas, you are taught not to do such things. In his defense, I suppose it must have been really hard (or lack thereof) for him. While he seemed to embrace the opportunity to take our marriage to the next level, he must have been feeling rather emasculated by it all. I mean what husband wants their wife to essentially say, I want you to be more like him. He tried, God love him, he tried - but it was not to be. The course had been set.

Please don't think I did what I'm about to tell you because Mr. Dependable couldn't satisfy me sexually. This is a blog, there is not enough space in all the blogosphere to adequately explain why it happened. Further, I am not going to go into all the flowery details of the encounters because I am choosing not to glorify them and because I don't want this blog to turn into some pseudo paperback light-porn romance fiction.

I questioned myself, my God, my best girlfriend and Mr. Plentiful extensively before deciding to meet him in Houston. His reply, "I love witnessing the emergence of the total woman inside you. It is a most exciting and beautiful thing, and just thinking of it makes me yearn to see you fulfilled. If we are careful and thoughtful, I see only good coming from our having met. If it is at times frustrating or even torturous, that is to be expected, is it not? Would we all be better off not having been born because we knew someday we would die? I would love to continue our relationship within the constraints of our current situations until one of us decides that the pain outweighs the joy, if ever that should occur. I doubt, and certainly hope, it never will."

So, the little Okie girl flew off to Houston and began a six month affair. Before it ended, I would travel to see him in New York, Dallas and finally, in Boston. All the while, I remained twisted up inside that volatile vortex, thrust violently about, hoping to be thrown but then getting sucked up again. Like some floating piece of matter, I was an inhabitant of two worlds, side by side, each breathing a life of its own, their boundaries blurring and overlapping occasionally. One inhaled, the other exhaled. My reality was defined as I zoomed into one of them, that world becoming paramount, then logic was turned upside down as the other world expanded and engulfed me, defining a new reality. be continued (for the last time, I promise).

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mr. Dependable (Part Three) - The Answer is Blowing in the Wind

On my first day back to work in Oklahoma City, I received a letter from him. Yes, it was an actual letter. He had an email account but as yet, I didn't. He recounted how emotional it was for him to meet me, saying he had a "wonderful memory, as fresh as spring, and as full of promise as the bud on his tulip plant, but the next thing he knew, the bud was gone". He went on to tell me how my "gorgeous smile was burning a hole in his mind" and how pleased he was if he was able to make my life just a little better, as I had done for him.

I had arrived home from New York feeling as if I had returned from a finishing school meant to usher me through adolescence into womanhood. I had tasted the best New York had to offer in food, wine and a remarkable man who seemed to know no emotional constraints when it came to me. After our night together, sleeping in his arms - I had awoke feeling awkward, confused and out of place. He sensed this and knew I needed him to go.

Class that day seemed to drag on beyond any reasonable tolerance of pain and all I could think of was what the hell I had just done. Mr. Plentiful insisted we have lunch, just the two of us, cutting LA Girl out of our plans. I can't resist the obvious connection to symbolism when I tell you we went to a deli and I ordered chicken noodle soup.

Oh great power of chicken noodle soup, please give me comfort as I attempt to sort this mess out.

This beautiful man then took my hand, began to cry and subsequently pour his heart out to me in a way that even chicken noodle soup couldn't protect me. It was all about how much he loved his wife life, but meeting me had shifted the ground beneath his feet. Sound familiar, yes?

The rest of our week was spent dutifully finishing our work, continuing our (my) education in culinary edification and enjoying his gentle nudges to bring me to his bed. My convictions were strong and in spite of the seemingly surreal urges to devour him, I stayed true to my beliefs by remembering my happy, simple, (yet becoming aware of) incredibly boring life back home. Truly, the only thing that saved me at the height of desperation was remembering, "I'm not that kind of girl".

His letter closed with these thoughts, "It hurt me to think about what you were going through those first few days. I hope that now you're back home you can carry on with renewed strength and perspective. I'll be thinking of you as the leaves unfold." I called him and left a message on his pager (sounds so funny to say that now), thanking him for the kind thoughts.

Over the next four weeks, I received many letters from him, sometimes one per day, sometimes two or three per week, sometimes less. Meanwhile, I was staring down the barrel of my marriage and questioning what was happening to me as the winds were beginning to blow.

Anyone who has ever lived or visited Oklahoma knows a little something about the winds. Rogers & Hammerstein had it right when they wrote, "the winds come sweeping down the plains". On a normal day, you can't wear a short, pleated skirt; unless of course you want to invite your neighbors to the promised land. On a windy day, you are unable to host a backyard fete without engineering a devise to fasten your guests plates to the table.

Then there's the really impressive winds that occasionally whisk through. The 70 mile per hour, blow your windows out, winds. The winds that were gusting up inside of me, changing everything I knew to be true about myself, were more on the scale of those produced by an F5-Gary England-"Folks this is serious"-Tornado.

I was inside the vortex of that mother fucking tempest, swirling about tumultuously, trying to remain a good girl, a good wife. Hoping this was just a flirtation, a phase, an innocent, tender twister that would gently touch the earth, blow a few leaves around, then pick up again, leaving no damages or even a trace that it had been there at all.

I decided the only way to free myself was to tell my husband what was happening. be continued