Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Leaders of the Free World Unite

In just a few short weeks, I will be spending two days with a group of girls, most of which, I have known since kindergarten. Within our group we have a college professor, a dentist, a lawyer, two teachers, a deputy sheriff, a retired Air Force officer, a Physicians Assistant, an office manager, a barrel racer and a state champion baton twirler.

We are all mothers with 13 kids to watch over, most of which are mine. One of us has endured the loss of a child. We have all been married, some divorced, some divorced more than once - well, okay so only I have been divorced more than once but whose counting really. Damn, I counted.  There are thirteen current and ex husbands in our lives and again, most of those are mine.

We didn't think we would see each other this year though we do stay in touch on a near daily basis. Some of us have buried our mothers, fathers and brothers (spoiler alert: yes, most are mine) and one of us is presently watching over her mama as death has been lurking about, taking its time and taking its toll, as it always does.

Two of these women have recently broken free from long term marriages to 1) a crack head and 2) a crack pot. They are both doing well and we are awestruck as we watch their old spirit come back to us - the girls we remember from high school. All of their love and beauty popping back out like the first tulip of spring. We didn't stop loving them when they were in the midst of all that chaos and ugliness. We loved them right through it but we also told them exactly how we felt about it. See, when you have as much history as we do, we can say things like, "what the fuck are you still doing there?"

We are fiercely protective of each other, willing to cut a bitch who might dare to hurt one of us. And most importantly, we are all going through this thing called menopause - time and distance may vary - but we all feel it. We all understand what is happening to our bodies as we age. We joke about going through "the change". Exactly what are we changing into?

So the stars lined up for us, doors were opened that had previously been slammed shut and all eight of us will be there to laugh and cry, to expose our outer beauty and our inner demons. If you feel the earth shift a bit in mid-July, don't worry, it's just Tina giving everyone a good hard mushing.

I need these women like a horny dog needs a leg to hump. I want to grab on and never let go (figuratively of course). Don't worry girls, I'm not planning to hump your legs, that is, unless you ask.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

If Not For Our Addictions - Part Three

You know, you really don't have to give me that look, I tell the figure staring back at me on the other side of the big yellow teeter totter, I know what you're thinking. You must think you're real smart, figuring me out like that. But if you're so fucking brilliant, then tell me why you're stuck up there at the top of this ride.  Your feet can't even reach the ground. You're hopelessly suspended at my will.  Only I decide when you get to come down.

"I can jump off".

Shit.  I hadn't thought of that. Oh, the memories of those days on the John Glenn Elementary playground from years gone by. Nothing, and I mean nothing was worse than placing your full faith and trust in your teeter totter pal, only to have them jump off and send you flying like the ugly second cousin (twice removed) in a Romanian circus act.

So, it is to be a power play, is it?  Touche.

With a quick thrust, I bring myself to center while locking my gaze upon my adversary. I have been waiting for this moment my entire life. We are here, we are now, we are both steadfast and firmly planted with our feet on the ground. None can move unless the other decides to let go.  Unless the other recklessly loses balance, or abandons focus or falters or physically exhausts themselves beyond reprieve or mentally checks out or just to be clear, simply lets go and walks away.     

And so begins the dance. I recognize this person now, the one holding my life here in this balancing act. I have dreamed of her, painted vivid pictures of her in my mind, envisioned her life in such intimate detail I even have a book with pictures of her home, her patio, her vacations, the grand piano that sits in front of the large picture window.  Her home is warm and inviting, full of friends and kids and her kid's friends and their friends and on an on. I have never been there but I know it exists because she is me.

There is a light surrounding her - it is bluish in color.

She is the one who finally gets it. She has grasped for all that should be hers and it came to her. She is healthy, at peace and strong enough to withstand all that life wishes to teach her. She is that which she is. She is me and I am that. And together, we can stand in the center of our life - not on opposing ends, fighting against one another.  I will not stop her out of fear or ignorance or complacency, not even for a big ol' plate of enchilatas.

And with this, a new journey begins.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

If Not For Our Addictions - Part Two

As far as alcohol goes, this should have been enough for me - right? We all survived, we didn't get caught with the whole underage drinking thing and we, or at least I, certainly had been subjected to an all night barrage of compelling reasons why drinking can suck, or more appropriately.... blow.

I didn't drink with any significance again for many years. Oh sure, we had our parties in high school as the Leaders of the Free World will tell you. Those parties have become legend, the parties at Shelley's house, the raiding of our hotel room on a band trip in Daytona Beach, my surprise 18th birthday party at the Holiday Inn banquet room.  I drank beer with the best of 'em. But I never really enjoyed alcohol. That is, until I moved to Milwaukee, where required drinking may be a city ordinance.

I'm pretty sure if one can find a silver lining to the fact that I removed myself from my friends in order to obsess over my high school boyfriend who would later become my husband, the gambler and murderer, it would be this.  I never drank much during those years. I skipped the college parties in favor of Mr. Personality who was much too busy with all his other addictions to involve alcohol. Plus, it was part of his sociopathic disorder to maintain a squeaky clean persona in order to perpetrate his many crimes. He would flash that beautiful smile of his and proudly denounce drug and alcohol use while simultaneously betting our home and belongings on college basketball games.

We all have our addictions, i.e., that which makes us feel high or numbs our pain. Some can be healthy like an addiction to tennis while others can destroy our lives and devastate our loved ones. I spent some time with a girlfriend earlier this week who has recently divorced after a ten year marriage to an alcoholic. She shared some of her more shocking stories with me. Like the time her husband showed up after a night of drinking looking like Telly Savalas. Someone had shaved his head completely bald, then threw in the eyebrows for good measure.

Or there's the man who traded in a twenty plus year marriage, a blessed life with a beautiful woman and two successful young boys for a crystal meth addiction. His life now consists of double wide trailers, a real life crack whore and what will ultimately end up being an early death or jail.  Oh, and did I mention, he's a small town doctor?

Tobacco, alcohol, drugs and gambling used to be the primary scourges of modern society. Now there is much attention directed at sex and porn addicts, shopaholics, tv-internet-video game addicts, success junkies and risk jockies who get their fix through life threatening pursuits. Many times, we carry more than one of these monkeys on our backs. For example, the eyebrow missing man mentioned earlier also gambled away $100,000 during the early years of their marriage.

Then there's the food addict. The addiction to that which also happens to keep you alive. Tell me those people on The Biggest Loser didn't get there because food was their drug of choice.  Go ahead, tell me.  I dare you.

I've been gaining weight as I get older. Yes, it's partly a function of slowed metabolism but primarily, at least in my case, it's more a matter of comfort. Attack of the perimenopause hormones? No problem, make a large chocolate sheet cake, insert fork and viola - you can fall into a sugar coma and wake up hating yourself for doing it, but now if you cry, it will be because you have a valid reason to do so.

Stressed out over work, kids, money, ex-husbands going to jail? That can all go away with a large plate of Mexican food or a fat burger smothered with bleu cheese and fried onions. If that doesn't work, then I pull out the big guns -  some good ol' southern deep fried soul food.  I swear fried okra can cure what ails you. Unfortunately, it can also get you a stern warning pertaining to the potential onset of hypertension, which I received yesterday while at the doctor for a nasty sinus infection.

I have a friend who has the opposite relationship with food.  During times of high stress, she cannot eat.  She has to will herself or literally be reminded to eat. She has been under an enormous amount of stress lately.  At the peak of it, we were all begging her to eat. But secretly, I was wishing I had her particular brand of coping mechanism instead of my own. 

Sometimes I feel like Elizabeth Gilbert in the first section of her book, Eat Pray and Love. She had come to Italy "pinched and thin", in desperate need of sustenance to feed her body and her soul. She immersed herself for four months in two things - Italian language and Italian food. In the end, she recognized that she had put on weight but not just in terms of numbers on a scale. She had expanded and magnified her life. She grew to love herself just a bit more. She allowed the pure pleasure of a decadent slice of pizza paired with the perfect bottle of wine to minister to her; yet, she also recognized one cannot live like that forever. There must be balance. In all things, there must be balance.  And there's the rub.

At present, I feel as if I am stuck at the bottom end of the big yellow teeter totter from the playground of my youth. I am holding myself here with food, wine, stress, uncertainty and to a certain degree, comfort. I am expanding my body to keep it down here because I know this place. I am afraid of what will happen if I push hard against the earth and rise up from the ground.  What if I push too hard and I end up at the top? What if the top of the teeter totter is in reality, the full manifestation of my addictions?  Or what if I'm not on the teeter totter at all.  What if I'm really on the rainbow colored merry-go-round, spinning out of control in a viscous circle of self destruction?

Hello, my name is fear.

I have to find a way to push up from within, to find that center place where I can remain because the other half of my life is holding me flush, perpendicular to the ground, not too high or too low but happy to be suspended in the middle with my legs dangling in frivolous freedom, trusting my journey while perched in this peaceful place of purpose.

Meanwhile, what is that siting on the other side of the teeter totter and why is it looking at me that way?

(To be continued.....)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Who Are We, If Not For Our Addictions?

I had my first taste of alcohol at the tender age of 14. I had been invited to a sleepover at a friend's house. Her parents let all the other parents know they would be there but instead they blew out of town, leaving us with unfettered and pre-approved access to the freakishly large bar which inhabited approximately two-thirds of their family room.  It was stocked with a veritable cornucopia of liquor, in mass quantities.

We took turns behind the bar, taking orders, mixing drinks, pretending like we knew what we were doing. Most of the girls were drinking the ever popular slow gin fizz or Texaco tanker sized glasses of Reunite White Zinfandel, the signature drink for young girls on the south side of Oklahoma City. I opted for a blend of Coke and Jim Beam Bourbon. Boys were there too. My friend was new to the school but apparently had wasted no time in getting to know people. She was, shall we say, experienced beyond her years.

By 8:30 in the evening, people were puking in her front yard, boys and girls were kissing in closets and our hostess was, I kid you not, calling local radio DJ's and asking them to come over when their shift ended to have sex with her.  She promised them sex and a box of donuts, you know, just in case the sex wasn't enough.

As was usually the case for me, I placed myself in the parental role. It was an inebriated version of a parent, doing the best I could to make sure my friends were all safe and protected. I had witnessed first hand what drugs and alcohol can do to an already fucked up kid and I wasn't about to let anything happen to my group of unsuspecting friends.  When the boys introduced drugs and fights to the evening's itinerary, I took steps to remove the boys and the drugs from the property. I can't remember if I threatened to call the police or my three bad ass big brothers but suffice it to say, the boys left.

One by one, we all piled into our girlfriend's bedroom and systematically passed out. By the time I got there, it looked like a scene from the civil war.  Bodies were thrown about, contorted into unnatural looking positions as if they had  been gutted and left to die. I found an open spot in her bed, crawling in and burying myself under the covers, hoping I too would be blessed with the gift of unconsciousness. But it was not to be.

The room began to spin out of control, closing my eyes made it worse. I tried to focus on an object across the room.  "Make it stop", I pleaded with God - promising to never, ever allow liquor to pass across my lips again.  Just make this go away so I can get some sleep.  Then the wave of nausea hit me so hard, I barely had time to react. Like one of  those cartoon characters who turn to gel and ooze across the floor, I made my way to the bathroom where I would spend the rest of the night with my head propped against the cool, white surface of  my new best friend.

At some point, the wrenching did stop but to this day, I can't smell Jim Beam without feeling a little queasy.

(To be Continued.....)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dear Commando

This is an open letter to my #2 son, known affectionately as The Commando (to be read when he's at least 25). Your journey through this life has been fraught with challenges, some of which have yet to occur. So on this cusp of what could be a time of enormous difficulty - that is coming into puberty and potentially watching your dad  fall from superhero to man behind bars- I want to provide you with some protective clothing to ease the soreness that inevitably comes from the prickly thorns and jagged rocks known as life's lessons.

You came into this world against seemingly insurmountable odds. It was defined as the persistence of a powerful spirit who would not take no for an answer. Sending me to the hospital with a blood clot to my lungs was a clever way to get me taken off the birth control pills I had taken for hormonal relief. I get that. But how in the name of all things sacred and holy did you manage to circumvent seven years of infertility? I was as barren as my flowerless hydrangea. Not only that but you out swam all the competition and nestled yourself within the very first follicle my body produced only one month after my near death experience.  Does this mean there is hope for my hydrangea?

When you want something, you don't like to wait for it. Would it have killed you to have given me a little time to adjust and prepare? God must have been sick of listening to you. "Okay, okay already, geesh, I'll let you be born if you'll just leave me alone." And with a thunderous clap of his mighty hands, God sent you to me. But not before hundreds of celestial beings swept you up in a frenzy of freckled kisses.

You have the tenacity to propel your dreams and not settle for anything less.

Once you arrived, you nearly killed me again. Your first two months were spent without sleeping more than an hour at a time. You woke up screaming, not in hunger or in need, but in pain. You couldn't hold down your bottles, refused to breast feed and kept me up all hours of the night worrying about why you never pooped. It wasn't until your two month check-up when the doctor spotted the trouble in the form of a hernia. She told us you had been suffering long and hard. One surgery later and you were a whole new set of trouble but honestly, what a horrible way to be welcomed into this world.

You have the tolerance to bare great pain and emerge whole.

Baby boy, you suffered our divorce harder than anyone, myself and your dad included. Our marriage and the anger that spewed from its dying mouth was heaped upon you; yet you steadfastly fought against the idea of our family splitting apart. In the aftermath, you witnessed the suffering, you were manipulated against me and you grew to deeply resent me for leaving your dad to lie prostrate on the floor, wrenching with emotional regret. You came out of it fueled with anger, rife with hate and ready to tear me apart limb by limb. 

You will always fight to protect yourself and those you love.

You have come back to me. My little baby who wouldn't crawl on his hands and knees; choosing instead to hobble about on hands and feet like Mowgoli making his way through the jungle. My precious toddler who had to sleep directly on top of me when he was sick. My spitfire who insisted he should be allowed to drive at the age of four. You are working through all the anger and uncertainty and you are seeing the truth with your eyes wide open. You are struggling with your dad now, trying to come to terms with his causes and restrictions. He is scared baby love. He is afraid you will do the things he did as a young man coming into puberty. And, he is preparing you in case he has to go away for a while.

You are smart enough to trust your instincts and believe what you see then decide for yourself.

You are a delight. A young man who knows what is expected of him as you approach the mouth of the river that will guide you through your life. The many branches lie before you, tempting you to follow the bitter, dried-up path you knew or perhaps to choose a new stream. One that runs calm and beautiful with tiny waterfalls along the way to wash you clean of anger and allow your spirit to surge past the rocks, past the fallen trees, past all obstacles placed in your way.   When you channel yourself with love and allow us to love you right back, there will be no stopping you. These lessons are yours, chosen for you to understand, not now, but to one day look back upon and realize......

You are so much stronger than you know.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Follow - 40 and Over - Bloggy Love

I'm all about supporting my fellow womankind, especially those that are over 40 because those bitches understand hot flashes, chin hairs, happy tears and random bouts of incontinence. So I thought I would sign myself up for the Friday Follow - 40 and over blog hop through my friend Leiah over at A Southern Belle Trying Not To Rust. If you don't know what a blog hop is, cause I sure didn't, it's explained below. Looks like I'm going to have some blog reading to do this weekend. I'm excited to visit the blogs listed below.

And for those that may be hopping over to my blog this weekend, here are a few random offerings from my world.

I woke up one morning in my early thirties and found my stick straight hair had suddenly and without assistance become naturally curly.

I quite possibly could be the most talented wii avatar creator on the face of the earth. Sometimes I’ll sit and create avatars for celebrities like Dr. Phil, Bono and Oprah so I can run into them when I’m working out on wii fit.

I will go out of my way to see a marching band perform.

I have never been able to get away with wrong doing as I was cursed by my mother with the propensity to get caught.

I passed this curse down to my children. My oldest son obtained a light porn video around the age of 14. I innocently ejected it from his VCR, popped it into a Blockbuster movie case and returned it along with our other rentals. Not only do we get caught but we are caught in the most outlandish, publicly humiliating ways imaginable. Busted.

My friends and I believe we have to sit still with the dark times that sometimes invade our lives, believing that we must go through them to clear out the debris and make way for new growth.

Speaking of dark times, peri-menopause sucks. I hope they find a cure for it one day.

Hormonally yours,

Zen Mama

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Does My Family Know About My Blog?

I don't generally subscribe to memes but this one came from someone I adore as a writer, fellow southern gal, philosopher and  recent co-conspirator in a plot to whack a mole. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. I mean, what if she came after me next? I felt obliged to participate, even if it meant I had to meditate with my laptop.

If you haven't met Here in Franklin, you have to pay her a visit. Added bonus that she was tagged by none other than The Unbearable Banishment  with whom I have a bit of a crush because from the back, he kinda looks like Richard Gere and he has that whole NYC vibe that makes me all a flutter. I'm from Oklahoma and all but New York is my city. So I read his stuff and I live vicariously.

Here's how it all unfolds.  I answer 10 questions HIF wrote, then I write ten questions of my own and tag six other people. HIF crafted the following questions for me.  Damn girl, #2 is keeping me up at night.

1. You have magical powers and can go back in time to the concert of your choice. Who is it?

Elvis Presley circa 1976.  My mom and I met Elvis on a private runway in Oklahoma City just before he became really large, as in girth, not in popularity. I was too young to understand what was before me. Now, I wish I could see Elvis, and have my mom with me to watch what happened after.

2. You must choose between two candidates to be Ruler of the World. One is a cat. One is a dog. Who do you vote for and why?

The obvious choice here is so obvious I almost missed it. Everyone would choose the cat; thus, it is imperative I must root for the underdog, or in the case, simply the dog.  I could envision this particular breed of canine to be loyal, fiercely protective, i.e., willing to chew Obama Bin Laden's houses shoes and cunning enough to surround himself with cats to actually run the damn world.

3. Mountains or beach?

I live in Milwaukee so it is beach because mama misses her some sun. And please, I'm not some dumb hillbilly who thinks the mountains have no sun. If you offer me mountains or beach, I immediately reference snow skiing vs. nestling my toes in the sand (yes, perchance a slight bit hillbilly).  However, if you were to offer me a summer trip to the mountains that involve observing the interesting rock formations surrounding my margarita glass as I lounge by the pool, then I might consider a higher altitude.
4. Are you interested at all in the local politics where you live, or do you only pay attention in national elections?

Not only am I not interested but I go out of my way to avoid political discussions, CNN, Larry King, my ex-husband, Drudge, Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly, Coulter, Beck, the dude on the corner who holds up a sign and most recently, all the important emails begging me to blindly agree with their ignorant doctrine and then hastily forward to everyone in my contact list or be burned at the stake.

5. You have the opportunity to tell off the person you most despise without any repercussions. Do you? Who is it?

Every single frickin' time in my life I have told somebody off, I live to regret it. That is, unless of course, they had it coming.  How do you think I got to be a Zen Mama? I have spoken my peace in hardship and made my peace in this world. There is no more to be said, but a helluva lot to be written; hence, this blog.
6. Do you have too much stuff or not enough stuff?

I am the opposite of a hoarder.  I sometimes question myself as to why I so easily discard things. I think it's because I've seen so many people die and ultimately that drives the message home. You can't take this shit with ya. 
7.  The house is on fire. What do you grab first (excluding people and pets)?

My purse and my back up drive - see answer to #6 for clarification.
8. What place in the world would you visit again and again?

South Salem, New York
9. Do you ALWAYS answer the phone, or just let it ring?

Let it ring baby, let it ring.

10. Does your family know about your blog?

Oh, hell yes. My oldest son reads my blog somewhat intrepidly but I want him to know the things that are not easy to say. I have only one brother left that was there to see my childhood and he has an opposing view about how things went down. Such is family.  I have nieces and a nephew whom I ardently and fervently adore from afar. And I have my sisters, my real family, the ones I have chosen to see me through.

This could come across as a somewhat anticlimactic ending and for that, I do apologize, but I don't have the wherewithal to pass this torch, this meme along, by creating 10 questions of my own. Perhaps I will start it up again at some point in the near future, but for now, I am tired. Too tired to think.  Too tired to hand off the baton, too tired to post about everything that is unfolding in my life at this very moment.

My basement flooded today and I was thankful, for it was the least of my worries. Yet, also thankful because it could have been worse, and because I had help and because my kids thought it was cool and because I am enough and family knows about my blog.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Gemini Hearts - Gracious One

I love this photo of my sweet little Gracious Tenacious.  She's the older half (by four minutes) of my identical twin girls. The photo just screams Happy Memorial Day to me. Perhaps it's the flag in the background or more likely; it's because this Memorial Day marked the 8th birthday of my girls.

I've been doing my best to remind them to stop growing. To freeze in their current state since they were around 4 years old but much like an cocooned butterfly or a perfectly formed rosebud, they just continue to move, change and grow; opening up to reveal a little more beauty that lies within.

I was invited to bring the kids to a Brewers game last week. With Zen Boyfriend, we are a group of seven. It was one of those business events where your contractor invites you to join them in their luxury suite complete with food, drinks and a smoking hot view just over the third base dugout. Our host would later comment how he thought we had roughly 43 kids at the event and 40 of them were mine.  He also noted how well behaved they were. I think he was being polite.  They had their moments.

Two of my children are like a fire and gasoline. While a moth seeks out a flame, gasoline generally doesn't; however, these two children delight in it. It's the Warrior Princess with her new found strength and opinions versus her brother, The Commando. Quiet little Gracious sometimes get's lost in the ensuing fray or rather I should say, she chooses to remove herself from it.

Hence at some point during the game, I noticed she had been missing for quite some time. When I polled the other kids, they all said the same thing, "oh, she's been up there taking to some strange lady all night". Say what?

I looked behind me and there they were, sitting in the suite's luxurious lounge chairs, each with a hand tucked  under their chin supported by an elbow resting on the arm of their respective chairs, leaning into each other looking as if they were discussing the various philosophies of Eastern religion. I let them be.

When the fire and gasoline had reached maximum combustible potential, I began to round up the troops to leave. We had made it through the famous sausage races, stood up and sang for the seventh inning stretch and had a comfortable lead with a score of 5 to zero. It was time to go.

I approached the woman who had been so enthralled with my daughter and thanked her for keeping her company all night. I told her this little girl was my introspective, shy one and that it was uncharacteristic of her to speak with someone with whom she had just met. The woman then explained that she herself was painfully shy. She came to these business events with her husband but dreaded the random chit chat required.

The woman thanked me for sharing my daughter with her. She said it was a delightful privilege and one of the  more intelligent conversations she had encountered at one of these stuffy, unnerving business events. In that crowded room of overstuffed lounge chairs and even more overstuffed personalities, egos and agendas, two people with quiet hearts and sweet, thoughtful contemplations found each other.

To my Gracious one - I want you to know you may not always get all the attention but I see you.  You are an old spirit, filled with many lifetimes of wisdom, at peace with the present moment and bursting with an inner beauty that draws people to you like a moth to a flame - a gentle, warm, non-combustible flame that will flicker and shine for your entire lifetime.