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