Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fade to Black

Blank page. Clean slate. Refreshed and ready to start anew. Don't you just love that about slate? The fact that it can be so easily wiped clean?  Not true by the way, in reality slate is a mother to clean.

I realize the expression, clean slate, refers to more of a writing tablet than a metamorphic rock; however for the purposes of this story, I want to focus on one particular aspect of slate. It is essentially created by layering brilliant color with brilliant color, yet it ends up gray, especially when seen en masse covering roofs.

My identical twins love to paint.  I can see their not so identical personalities each time they present me with a piece of pottery. One is articulate, minimalist, true to her conception - her art reflects her vision in vibrant colors.  The other wants to paint the world with every imaginable color. She can't help herself. It's red, blue, yellow, purple, orange, green, all the colors she loves until the colors mesh and fade to black. Dark gray, at best.  I have a collection of black baskets, ashtrays, pencil holders and the like from her. I love these pieces of art and I will save them for her forever because I get it. I can see the colors within her black.

As I continue to process the startling end of my relationship, I am wondering if maybe we had too many colors or at least one brilliant color mixed with another brilliant color, which was indeed brilliant, right up until they went all the fuck gray. He was red and I was yellow and together we were the ultimate shocking orange. When did all those other colors arrive and splatter the shit out of our orange? What kind of a metamorphosis took place and why wasn't I able to see it? To further pound home the slate metaphor, was it over my head the entire time, or did the transformation really happen overnight when he simply disappeared?  Looking back, I think it was his true colors that eventually splattered our orange.

I am sitting still with a pain that runs so deep, every time I think of him, of what he is doing, how he didn't skip a beat before turning to another woman. I feel black or blue, black and blue, like I've been beaten with a bloody big stick. It's mourning the loss of what I thought I had, before the true colors showed up. My yellow is gone. All of my colors are gone.  And I was as bright as Dinah Shore when she rocked a yellow chiffon number. That's who I was but I am not that anymore.  There is nothing left but darkness and shadows. Darkness can't dance, shadows can't date or make love or even smile. They sit in corners and listen to water, alone and still.

It's been a month now. There is a voice telling me it's time. For life has its seasons, a time and place for everything. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. I have been torn, ripped to shreds this time around but the time for mending has come. Going through the hurt, sitting still with the season, instead of distracting myself in the arms of another, has brought healing and understanding and most of all, picture perfect clarity. It's as clear as that blank slate, on which I'm about to write a new chapter.

This chapter, I think, will begin with a beautiful sunset. And this time, I will be orange on my own.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Good Man Project - More Than Eye Candy

On Vacation in Puerto Rico
My friends know of him, they ask me to tell certain salacious stories on occasion, because you know, well, I can spin a pretty good tale. And with this kind of material to work with, it's not too difficult to spin. However, what my friends don't know is the bond that exists between us to this day. We sometimes joke that we will find ourselves available at some ripe old age and finally be able to walk off into the sunset together. Not a bad way to go.

He is a friend who will never desert me. He was there at the end of my marriage and the first call I made when my heart was broken by Chris.  He was there to pick me up and hold me at the St. Louis airport when I returned from burying my mother and  he is there to this day to listen to my tears and confusion when I tell him of my current state of sad affairs. 

First trip to Washington, DC
I first met him at a conference in Chicago, summer of  2004. He had been sitting behind me, watching me, but I had not yet seen him.  When it came time to give our group presentations, he and I were both selected as presenters. He came to the podium, confessing his table had nothing to offer. Their  idea had been stolen by the group just before theirs. With that said, he gave it anyway, entirely in Spanish. I literally swooned at the sight of his deep brown eyes, full lips and dimples that could have been chiseled my Michelangelo himself.

As the conference attendees gathered for dinner later that night, I mentioned to my girlfriend, I was happy to see him on the other side of the room, with four or five much younger, much hotter ladies, all vying for his attention. Because, if he were any closer, he could spell trouble for me. Then almost as if I had willed it to happen, he excused himself from his fan club and made his way to my corner of the room. He knelt behind my friend and I and announced his intentions. "Where are you ladies going after dinner"  he said "because I don't want you to leave without me." 

Christmas in Chicago.
Of course, I thought he was attracted to my petite blond friend with the sparking blue eyes, perfect smile and fit, runner's body. I was sure it was not me in his cupid's cross hairs. But as we made our way from the restaurant, he came up behind me, letting me know, he was not about to leave me unescorted in this big city.

True to his word, he kept a close eye on me, in typical Chicago style, until four in the morning. We stayed with the large group from the conference and soaked up all the city had to offer.  At one point, he lost me to a long line in the ladies room.  I had finally made my way to a stall when I heard a voice from the door beckoning with the sexiest of accents, "Anhela, Anhela, are you here?"

Nothing of a sexual nature transpired between us at that night. I was flattered, enchanted, damn near out of my mind but I held to my beliefs and he to his. A perfect gentleman. The next day, class ended at noon and we were to go our separate ways. He escorted my friend and I to the hotel parking garage and pulled me aside as we waited for the valet to retrieve our car.

Mardi Gras in St. Louis, riding in a limo.
His St. Louis crowd was waiting for him, they had a flight to catch, but he wanted to hug me, say goodbye and wish me well.  Why me, I asked him? I have to know, why did you hang out with me when you had your pick of countless beautiful women here? He explained that he had been watching me "own the room" that first day. He could see my spirit and said that I was, in fact, the most beautiful woman in the room. Well, okay then.

I returned home only to wake up the next morning and find another woman's panties in my bed. The day after that,  I called him.

Now, he's a big shot or something!
We began our love affair as I was working my way through my divorce. From Nashville, to DC, to Chicago to Scottsdale, Indianapolis and St. Louis, we made love to each other, taking our time to deliciously taste, smell, see and feel but we also strolled hand in hand, touring museums, going to the movies, sightseeing and spending hours sharing the most intimate details of our lives. We even liked shopping together.

In Scottsdale, he insisted upon buying me a Coach handbag. 

But I don't like expensive purses, I told him. I like to switch them out and a pricey, designer bag would make me feel guilty for tucking it away in the closet when I grew tired of it.

That's nonsense, he said. Pick something out or we're not leaving this store.

I noticed one of the sales girls was wearing a sterling silver Tiffany heart bracelet. So I said fine, I'll take one of those.

It arrived in the mail a few weeks later, with a note simply saying, "forever". 

We were both becoming single parents, both rising stars within our industry and while we were desperately in love with each other; we always knew our love affair was meant for this time and place. We would not be able to move our children. We were allowed to exist in an ethereal dream state where real life could be set aside and pure pleasure could be experienced during a time when we needed it most. We were both broken, needing to heal our souls and mend our wounds.  We were, as they say, good medicine for each other. 

Our last night together, cheesecake, wine, dancing and happy tears.
When I wrote my "Good Man Project" series earlier this year, I did not include him. Mostly because I was in a relationship and I felt it would be disrespectful. But now, more than ever, I want it made known that of all the relationships I've had in my life, this was the only one that ended without hurt. Looking back, I realize it is because we stayed true to who we were, even in the most difficult of times and we remain true to ourselves today. Sexy as hell and loving each other forever.

Oh, I did I mention he's a model? Eye candy for sure. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bad Day at the Office

This is where the HH-1 Huey Naval helicopter finally came to rest on March 26, 2002 just after a passing civilian aircraft reported a large explosion. She was precariously perched in her usual position as a spotter, helping the pilots navigate their way around rocky terrain in order to allow her to repel down for a mock rescue. This was part of her training to hopefully, one day, use her skills to save somebody's life. She was attached to the craft via a gunner's belt.

When the helicopter started to spin out of control, she said it did exactly what you have seen them do in any number of war movies, whipping around in desultory spirals. She was bounced from one end to the other, helplessly flung forward and ripped back again by the very belt she had worn for safety.

I have imagined her back breaking each time she was thrown violently, like a rag doll against the hard, heavy metal surface of that helicopter. Twice, she said her goodbye to this life. Twice, she stared straight into the eyes of death.  The first time was when she braced herself for the initial impact of crashing into the side of a mountain and the second was when the wreckage began to dislodge from the peak of the Split Mountain area of the Sequoia National Forest. As it started to plummet downward, knowing there was a 6,000 foot drop beneath her, she quickly made her peace with the world, but then it came to rest and she was still alive.

Unfortunately, two of her mates on that mission were not so lucky. They gave their lives that day.

I asked this beautiful girl, my cousin, my newly adopted niece if she ever sits at her daily office job in the oil and gas industry and laments the exciting, yet obviously dangerous life she left behind?  After all, she had traveled the world and now she's in Oklahoma, having been back for three years since she first left at the age of 17. Here's what she said:
Yes! I miss that life every single day. I miss being part of something bigger than me. Going to work, not knowing what I would be doing but knowing I could go out and save a life. It was exciting and the camaraderie you have working in such a close knit group is really one of a kind.  I loved putting on my flight suit every morning and just remember the thrill and pride I had each time I walked across the flight line to head out for a flight. Always hoping for a chance to use my skills and training to save someone. I knew what I was doing was dangerous and that not just anyone had what it takes to go for it, yet I was never scared. Sure in the back of my mind I knew each time I went out on a flight could be my last, but I never actually really cared or feared that.
Beyond all the fun and crazy search and rescue stuff, I also had the opportunity to be the one to take the school kids around the squadron when they came over on career days. I would take them to the F-18’s and let them get up in the cockpits and pretend they were fighter pilots. We would climb into the helicopter and set them up in our harnesses and rappel a few feet from the cabin to the ground just to get a small glimpse of what we did.  What was really cool was seeing the little girls realize they could do something like that and it wasn’t just a boys world with them there just for decoration.
I am happy with where I am now. I’ve experienced so many different crazy things that most people can’t even dream about. Although I’m sad my navy life was cut short…I know it all happens for a reason and I’m happy with where my life has led me to this point. I’m glad to be close to family again even though I miss traveling. It’s nice to know that if something happens or family needs me for some reason…I can be there no problem. My body may be a lot worse off, but I know I am stronger and can make it through anything. They didn’t give me the call sign OTB (One Tough Bitch) for nothing. I also know that a bad day of work at the office….is never really THAT bad and we make our minds up to be happy.

Imagine how flattered I was when she read my blog and told me she admires MY strength. She was 21 when she crashed in the line of duty, serving her country. I don't know if I could ever compare my fortitude with hers. I have been referred to as one tough bitch at times, but it was survival of a different kind. My hope is that this brave girl and I will learn from each other. Maybe one day, she'll even teach me how to swim.

With her back broken in four places and multiple other injuries, she climbed her way to the top of that mountain peak and rescued herself. She dusted herself off and came back to a life where she still challenges her limits with triathlons and mountain climbing.

She will never have a bad day at the office like the one she did so many years ago and she has made up her mind to be happy. I love her style and I love this last photo of her as she is heading toward the starting line of her first triathlon. Sure, she is nervous but do you think a little nerves are going to get in her way?

Walk tall my precious Megan. I simply can't wait to see how the rest of your life unfolds.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Match Dot Comedy

Being a blogger or is it a bloggist(?) can be challenging. There are days when you might worry that the well has run dry. What if I simply reach the end of my stories? What next?

Fortunately, there is always something to write about straight from the pages of my daily life. This is not however, always, a good thing. Now that I'm back on the dating scene, I'll be set with material that could take me past year end. Let's talk for a moment about Match.Com. Shall we?

Match has gone mainstream, gobbling up lesser sites such as Yahoo Personals and boldly advertising that one in five relationships have been created by them. One out of every five couples you know have met on Match.Com.  I have previously disclosed my online dating horror stories and the realities that exist when you're stuck in the tall, tall grass that must be weeded through in order to find a single blade worth pursuing. It's daunting at best.

Match does a good job at keeping you focused. If you don't check your home page, they will email you with their hand picked selections. And how could you resist? These potential suitors are presented to you with catch phrases such as, "like you, he enjoys bowling and performing arts."  Oh boy, that settles it. I simply must meet this man who violates every one of my pre-set requirements. He's 5'8, smokes daily and is not yet divorced.  Three things, that's all I'm asking for people, is three things.  Tall, non-smoking and available.  Is that so hard?

I've only just stuck my little toe in this large pool of un-chlorinated water. I'm not willing to actually date anyone yet; choosing instead to watch throngs of hopefuls filter though my profile in the off chance that somebody does catch my interest.  I know that sounds horribly conceited but trust a girl on this - there's a lot of riff raff in the virtual dating world, much more riff than raff. You get jaded quickly lest you end up wallowing in the disappointment of one bad date after another.

Which brings me to the comedy part. Apparently, I don't have to experience any real life bad dates when I can close my eyes and dream about them. Last night I met my 'dream' date at the beach. I hid myself from his view so I could observe him for a while. Once I determined he was okay, I paged him, yes - I PAGED him. See that way I could make sure it was actually him because the little paging beeper thingy was going off - duh.  In the time it took him to approach me from, oh lets say 30 feet away, he transformed from a hot man to a hot mess.

I'm fairly certain he was wearing dark blue eye shadow and his hair was wrapped around three beer cans. One in the front and two on the sides. A large sheet of Saran wrap secured the beer cans in place.  In the back of his hair, underneath the Saran wrap, he had tucked what looked like that packet of dried cheese that comes in the Kraft macaroni and cheese box.

Now here's where you'll understand how jaded I am.  I was not shocked by any of this. I seemed to understand that this is what I'm gonna get so I might as well get used to it. In a deadpan voice, I asked him if those were beer cans in his hair.  You know, as opposed to Diet Pepsi or something. He said, of course they were beer cans because he's a dude and dudes don't wear curlers.

Oh yeah, good point. Well then dude, do you want to go bowling or see some performing arts?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Come on, Vogue

My friends, The Leaders of the Free World, like to tease me about how well I photograph. I'm not sure how I figured it out but somewhere down the line, I learned how to address the camera. It's a bit of a chin tilt and suck maneuver, while making love to the camera with your eyes.  I tried to teach this to the group last weekend on our girls trip but for some reason, when they tried it, they ended up looking like confused fish who suddenly found themselves on dry land. 

Truth be told, my girlfriends photograph well without tucking and sucking. They are beautiful just as they are. I should not have attempted to mess with those natural gifts. 

However, I couldn't resist showing them that even eight year old girls can pull off the look. I snapped these today after my daughters attended a spa diva party. They like to be photographed and they love being frilly. Combine that and the result is two photogenic mini divas and no, under no circumstances did I ask them to make love to the camera with their eyes.  But really, I just wanted to show off these pictures because I'm a proud mama. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Deep Peace of the Running Waves to You

And just like that, I was at peace. It sounds so pathetically simple; yet, it has taken me close to a year to come to terms with this unbridled rage. I have been dragging it around like a piece of furniture. A useless piece of furniture I can't sit on or store things in but I have been lugging it behind me just the same.

My ex and I had enjoyed a blissful divorce for nearly four years. Joint custody, joint expenses, joint family gatherings. We even made trips back to Oklahoma together. Then last September, it fell apart in a way that resembled another divorce, only this time, it was to be ugly.

I had learned about his slip of moral consciousness at work and that he was being pursued by a federal prosecutor in July of last year. That didn't phase me much as I had suspected something was going on when I saw him pulling in all that cash. I later broke when I was literally broke, financially. I had paid for all the school fees for the kids. It was a considerable out of pocket expense. I trusted him to pay me his share.  Why write two checks for all this?  I'll cover it and you can pay me back.

But that was not to be. I barged into his house one night in late September and insisted I would not leave until he paid me. I was mean, vile really - because I did this in front of our kids. I pleaded with him, insisted he was a horrible father for not paying for his children's most basic expenses. He refused to pay me, saying he didn't agree with the charges for The Commando to have counseling. Of course I knew it was a stall.

Fast forward to January and our daughter is in his care when her appendix ruptures, spilling poison into her belly and damn near killing her. He didn't see it. He knew she was sick but he assumed it was a stomach flu - for three days, he assumed and assumed and assumed because honestly, I think in his world, in the world of a tender loving dad, he couldn't bring himself to imagine something awful could happen to his daughter.

Within hours of  her being at my house, I called him to escort us to the hospital. I needed his help to carry her because the pain prohibited her from walking. He insisted we make a stop at the all night clinic. Still not able to embrace the gravity of the situation. The clinic nurse took one look at our child and sent us directly to the hospital. I spent a week ushering my daughter through this nightmare. With each scream in the middle of the night, my hostility grew. At some unknown point, during the course of that ordeal, I was possessed by the most hateful, rancid, malevolent, caustic and vengeful thoughts that have ever coursed through my brain. And ya'll know, I've been through a lot.

Now we are facing the cold, harsh reality of their dad being sentenced to some portion of time in a minimum security federal prison. He agreed to come to The Commando's counselor with us and he did an exceptional job telling them what had to have been the most painful words a father could ever say to his children. Daddy made a mistake and I'm going to have to pay the consequences.

Yet my hatred persisted. He wanted to continue to join the counseling sessions. The very sessions he used as an excuse to withhold money from me. I haven't been able to look him directly in the eyes for months now.

He's going to jail and I have no idea how I'm going to support our kids full time on my own. He still argues with me about his financial obligations to them, which sets me on fire because the mortgage will need to be paid at the end of this month and I will not have the funds to pay it. It didn't take much, once you add a $3,000 deductible for the hospital stay onto the rest of the expenses I have paid and well, let's just say my savings is pretty much gone. It would be safe to say, I was standing at a crossroads and both roads were pointing me in the direction of wanting him to die and burn in hell.

But Friday morning, just this past Friday, I woke up and was immediately struck with two words, "forgive him". Before I could gather my senses and wipe the sleep out of my eyes, I was being pressed to make amends. I wasn't sure why. I had spoken to a friend the night before, someone who had surfed these waves of anger with me and I had been visited by my dad in a dream.  Perhaps it was those conversations or maybe it was just time.

Maybe I can see the road ahead of me and I know I am being beckoned by the universe, by God to let this go. One cannot proceed to a new life to dream the dreams they wish to come true while dragging a heavy piece of furniture behind them. We have been through tumultuous waters, rough waves, possibly even a tsunami and yet it does me no good to sit amongst the rubble and weep, for it is done. The waves landed upon the shore, sweeping my feet from underneath me once again but I will remember the Celtic prayer that lives within me.  Deep peace of the running waves to you.

Messages are pouring in to my head - be still, stop thinking, feel, take action, visualize, repeat. Be still, stop thinking, feel, take action, visualize, repeat. Letting go of the anger that crept up on me and seized my sensibilities will allow me to lunge past being still and stop this incessant thinking. I am set to feel, take action, and to visualize my way to my destiny.

And it is a destiny that includes peace, for the sake of these children. I am at peace, a deep peace of the running waves.

Cause I've Seen the Dark Side Too

Admittedly, I have begun to share not just my personal history but my present mindset here on this blog, which is more often than not, filtered through some music playing in my head.

This one takes me back to New York City and a wonderful man. I was crumbling from devastation, emerging from my shell and awakening for the first time to see myself as a fully realized woman. It was after the Oklahoma City bombing when the earth had opened up beneath my feet and I had fallen into they abyss.

This man with the soft brown eyes and the picturesque life pulled me out of that hole and proceeded to swallow me whole. He sat me down one afternoon and played this song. He told me he thought of it the first time he had spotted me across the room, with tears welling in my eyes. He wanted to take the burdens from my soul and heal me in that short time we had together.

Sitting beside him, holding his hand, our eyes locked, and the song played:

Oh, why you look so sad
The tears are in your eyes
C'mon and come to me now
Don't, be ashamed to cry
Let me see you through
Cause I've seen the dark side too
When the night falls on you
You don't know what to do
Nothing you confess
Could make me love you less
I'll stand by you, I'll stand by you
Won't let nobody hurt you
I'll stand by you.

So, if you're mad get mad
Don't hold it all inside
C'mon and talk to me now
Hey, what you got to hide
I get angry too, well, I'm a lot like you
When you're standing at the crossroads
Don't know which path to choose

Let me come along
Cause even if you're wrong
I'll stand by you, I'll stand by you
Won't let nobody hurt you
I'll stand by you, take me in,
into your darkest hour
And I'll never desert you
I'll stand by you

And when, when the night falls on you baby
you're feeling all alone
you won't be on your own
I'll stand by you, I'll stand by you
Won't let nobody hurt you
I'll stand by you
Take me in, into your darkest hour
and I'll never desert you
I'll stand by you, I'll stand by you
Won't let nobody hurt you
I'll stand by you.
~ The Pretenders
Today, I no longer think of the man who gave this song to me, for it is mine now. I play it for that scared girl from fifteen years ago. I comfort her.  It's as if I can pick up a seashell and speak with her through oceans of time. I won't let anyone hurt her and I'm not ashamed of her because I have been with her, to her darkest hour.  I was there when her world tumbled and I am here today, standing by her and she is not now, nor will she ever be alone. Not ever again.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Blessed Are We Who Can Laugh at Ourselves.....

......for we shall never cease to be amused.

I have received many smarmy messages from my friends who took such pleasure in seeing my 13 year old self with that gray hair and bangs feathered to oblivion.  I thought  it might be fun for you/them to see the whole picture.

First of all, let me lay it down for you.  I don't care what you think of it; I adored that dress. I was Bohemian even though we didn't know what Bohemian was on the south side of Oklahoma City. I usually wore it with boots. Yes, it looks like drapery and yes, the vest could have been a matching bedspread but that dress made me feel pretty on the inside in spite of the mess that obviously prevailed on the exterior.

Also important to note is how I didn't have any eyebrows. I used to pluck them, much to the chagrin of my mother. It was many years later before I discovered I had been born with a near perfect brow line. People pay good money to have their eyebrows shaped like mine. What was I thinking?

Finally, it was my idea to have the photo taken with my two dogs. Prissy, the portly poodle and Ted Lee, our chihuahua, which was named (by my brother) in honor of Ted Nugent. Prissy was calm and accepting because, well,  she couldn't have jumped off if her life depended on it.  Ted was thinking, ay caramba what the hell did I do wrong that I'm on top of a mock Grecian column wearing this ridiculous red sweater?

And so there it is. A moment captured in time. A girl who could seriously never get her hair right and a dress that I would wear today if I only I could be lucky enough to find it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mother, Sister, Daughter

Mother, sister, daughter. I am all of these. Growing up as the only girl, behind three brothers, was not always easy. Add to that the chaos that comes with the living, breathing addictions and depression that inhabited our souls and well, it pretty much sucked ass most of the time. But there were moments of escape. Reading, writing, always writing something. Watching TV only made things worse. I mean seriously, how could a family have eight kids and nobody's punching fists through the walls? Eight is enough to make me want to throw up. It just didn't make sense to me.

But then there were the times when I got to pretend I was part of a different family. I had two older cousins that would indulge me; allowing me to be their bratty little sister for a day. They let me go through their make-up drawer, listen to their albums and occasionally sneak a peak at one of their trashy romance novels. I said sneak a peak - they really didn't allow it. I have always wondered if they knew how bad my life was and therefore took pity on me. 

Betty Sue, crazy Betty Sue had a nickname for me. She never once called me by my real name.  I was Tug Boat to her or Tug, for short. She was a hair dresser, as they called them back then.  She is responsible for frosting my hair at the age of 13, making me instantly look 45. Don't believe me? Check it out. I took a bus to Kansas at the age of 15 to stay with her for a week. In the middle of the week, I received a phone call that one of my best friends had been gunned down at the Sirloin Stockade. He was forced into the meat locker with five other workers and systematically shot dead. That woman, who was known for pure, unadulterated silliness, sat me down and let me cry while she somehow found the words to ease my pain.

"It doesn't make sense Tug, I'm so sorry but it never will". That, I could understand. That made sense to me.I guess you could say I've always been able to grasp the essence of senseless absurdity.

Then there was cousin Debbie.  We looked alike. She used to take me to work with her, finding things I could do to earn money. Sometimes we would just run around together, take our Granny to the grocery store or go shopping. She was only eleven years older yet everyone who saw us thought I was her daughter, which gave us both a kick.  She would laugh and I would revel in it. Yes, I am her daughter, I truly wanted to be. She was always funny, beautiful and blissfully calm. She didn't scream at me or belittle me and when I was with her, I had her full attention.

Their mom, my aunt Sarah, my daughter's namesake, was also there for me when I needed her. After Betty Sue and Debbie were long gone, living their own lives, I would beg aunt Sarah to let me spend the night with her. Maybe that's when I was sneaking a peak at those trashy books, I can't remember.  I had a few hours last week to stop and see Sarah, Debbie and her daughter Megan before I had to catch my flight back to Milwaukee.  I asked Sarah if she could tell me anything about the grandfather I never knew.  Her father, my dad's father, had died when they were 13 and 11.

She told me he was an alcoholic who would rage when he drank. She remembers having things thrown at her. As she spoke, you could tell by the look on her face she had been injured both physically and emotionally by this man. She remembered protecting my dad and my other aunt.  My granny spent the rest of her 92 years as a widow. When she became infirmed and had to live in a care facility, aunt Sarah visited her every single day. After a long day of work, she was there - day in day out - every day for years. I don't remember ever seeing my dad visit, though I'm sure he must have. I loved my Granny dearly.

My dad and Sarah suffered the same shitty childhood but she chose normal. She chose healthy. She chose to not suffer addictions, other than those damn cigarettes, and she is still alive when my family are all all dead or currently dying. 

Can you see the juxtaposition here? Is it any wonder I tried to will myself out of my family and into theirs? Seeing them last week was wonderful beyond words. We made the adoption official. I am conclusively their daughter, their sister, their mother - as I begin to make myself a part of Megan's life. She looks like me, they have always said so. I am flattered because she is breathtaking. That's her in the photo above.

And did I mention, she survived a helicopter crash when she was training to be a rescue diver for the US Navy? Her back was broken in four places yet she was able to scale the side of a mountain to safety. Two people on that mission died. Oh yes, she and I will have much to talk about. She is strong and I'm not gonna let her make the same mistakes I did. For just as I was with her mother, she is a part of me.

Mother, sister, daughter. I am all of these. Again.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Natural Disaster

There's an Eminem song in my ears. 
It makes sense, you know. 
He was the volcano and I the tornado.
Hurting each other so,
not with our fists, but with our fears.
And when he erupts, I gotta blow.
I had to watch him burn 
cause that's where he goes when he's
sliding down that pole
But all the lies, tell me it ain't so
Guess I believed the surface wouldn't crack
and we'd be back but I gotta blow.
Still, I don't know cause I'm a tornado
  I come and I go, that's what I do
when the wind blows.
Stirring you up until you can't see me
or the debris that is left when I go.
I've been here before though so I gotta blow.  

~Zen Mama

Just gonna stand there and watch me burn?
Well that's all right because I like the way it hurts.

Just gonna stand there and hear my cry?

Well that's all right because I love the way you lie.

I love the way you lie.


Tornado Painting by: Marilyn Fenn

Night of the Iguana

We spent our first night together, sitting in a tight circle in the crowded living area of our hotel suite catching up on life, throwing down our cards and having hot flashes, one after the other, after the other. You can not cram eight menopausal women into a space like that and expect good things to happen.

Reminds me of an opening to a sick joke, eight menopausal women walk into a bar..... Consider this a creative writing challenge and offer me your conclusions in the comment section.

We generated some heat all up in there, in our air conditioned room.  Because good Lord, it was hot outside.  I had forgotten how scorching mid July can be in Oklahoma.  I can't put it any better than Kim when she said in her soft voice, "ya'll, it's a hundred and fuck out there".

Sex, parenting, ex-husbands, death, aging, grandchildren, current husbands, peace, rage, hope - we began to talk and it all came pouring out like a bag of Gardettos when you pull and pull and pull and it explodes in a shower of snack mix (sorry Lori). We came with our ugly, we brought our confused, we exposed our dumb-ass mistakes and shared our proudest moments. And there was love to be found in the midst of that steamy room. The chaotic, disorganized snack mix scattered all about the floor was picked up, piece by delicious piece.

The next day, we had breakfast and then promptly planted ourselves at the pool. We encountered a red neck chick who discovered it is not prudent to mess with the aforementioned eight menopausal women by attempting to steal one of their noticeably marked lounge chairs. Bert gave Ernie a swimming lesson, even though I didn't have my rubber ducky, and we observed a married man flirting and posing with a group of twenty-something girls who were there having a girls trip of their own.  I couldn't resist telling his friend to remind him in a few years when he is tempted to post that photo on Match.Com, it is not a good idea, no matter how hot he thinks he looks.

Sorry to interrupt this post but here are our shoes from the night before. Which one of these just doesn't belong?

We began to discuss dinner plans and as always, these lovely women defer to me. They know how much I crave Oklahoma food.  They want to see me satisfied, nay indulged.  I told them I wanted to eat at the Iguana Lounge, the new one I had driven past on my tour of the city the day before. But it was not within walking distance, we wanted to drink but there is a Deputy Sheriff, an Air Force officer and the General Counsel for the State of frickin Oklahoma in our group, plus we're all moms, so driving was out of the question.

Then it struck me. This is what I do. If something needs to happen, I can make it happen. In Milwaukee, I can generally charm my way into anything by pulling out the southern accent. Here, I am rendered useless. Here, they can detect the ever so slight Midwestern, harsher inflections in my tone and they immediately identify me as an outsider. How could I possibly use THAT to my advantage?

Suffice it to say, the Iguana Lounge sent a limo to pick us up, gave us the best table in the house, satiated us with salsa made by the fairy nymphs of cilantro and offered us up a signature sangria swirl that, by comparison, equals nothing. My contact was the executive chef/manager, a wonderful man by the name of Lee. He greeted our limo by saying, where's my Angela? When all was said and done, he paid for our ride back to the hotel, provided us  with a complimentary shot of Tequila and said to me, if you're ever back in town, come see us again. No strings. No expectations. Just pure Oklahoma hospitality.

The girls were suspicious. What in the hell did you promise that guy to get him to do that for us?  Gina insisted, "from now on you are the official group negotiator.  I am in awe of your ability to so easily talk people into doing things for you (and us). Amazing talent!! And funny as hell to watch. I bow to the master, Obi Won, please teach me your Jedi mind trick so that I too can control the Force!! :)"

I said girls, this is what I do.  I negotiate. And I had better be pretty damn good at it cause I got a lot of mouths to feed. But what was in it for him, they persisted?  Didn't he expect to come back to our hotel and get a little something for his efforts? And there it was. My chance to tell these women what they, me, we all forget at times. The Iguana Lounge hosted us because we are a formidable, powerful group of women, the fucking Leaders of the Free World. We lit that place on fire and NOT because of our hot flashes.

Lest we forget, we must raise our expectations to beckon the universe to ascend to meet our demands. Or as the Bible says, ask and you will be given, seek and you will find. Please, do not assume I am using the Holy Bible to justify a night out on the town. I am simply saying in this life, the one we are living right now, it is up to us to make the choice to live it well, to ask for what we want and to settle for nothing less. If somebody tells you no or they turn out to be something less than you expected, either walk away or negotiate your way to a better life.

At the end of the evening, we went back to our hotel and took over the breakfast area, turning it into a makeshift disco. The girls were talking the staff into anything and everything we desired.  Turn the music up, turn the ice and soda fountain back on, do you mind if we dance?

The night ended with Robin dancing for us. There is nothing, not anything you could ever fathom that is more satisfying or captivating than watching this woman dance, because she dances not for herself, but for us.

Fear not, for mother Mary was watching over us. I'm not Catholic so I'm hoping I won't be cursed or struck down for writing this but I have always believed a young woman who would be impregnated by the holy spirit as a virgin would be strong enough to understand why we, The Leaders of the Free World, do what we do.

There is power there. We may not understand it right now but one day, if we allow ourselves to believe, we too will change the world.

Last photo provided courtesy of Robin Thomas, dancing queen.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Word About Family

I had the opportunity to visit with my nieces and nephew before my foray with The Leaders of The Free World commenced. They had Mexican food with me. I meant to take a picture of those fresh, hand made flour tortillas but was too busy soaking them up, along with soaking up the company of these three lovely young people.

Nick and Amanda are the bookends in this photo. They are my soul surviving brother's kids. Nick is an exceptionally smart, poetic, prolific writer and openly gay in spite of the fact that he lives in a place where gay is not well tolerated.  He has suffered at the hands of ignorance and prejudice but continues to make his way in this world, surviving with his wits and strength. He has a heart as big as an Oklahoma chicken fried steak and is honest beyond measure.  One day I hope he will allow me to share some of his writings with you.

Amanda is centered and ambitious. She is cramming her schooling in so fast, she does nothing but eat, sleep and homework. She will graduate with her RN next May. I couldn't be more happy about that because I've seen good nurses and bad nurses. The medical profession will be blessed to have her. My brother has always called her "little Angie" because she reminds him so much of me - especially when you get on her bad side. I like that. She stands up for herself, makes her own decisions and is carefully designing the life she wishes to lead. I love her boyfriend as well. What a cool guy and an extraordinary guitar player. They are so good together, it makes my heart sing.

That soulful-eyed beauty sitting next to me is Lacey. Her dad was my oldest brother. She has been surviving pretty much on her own for a long time now. She is 24 and has two rambunctious yet extremely smart and loving sons. She works hard to make a home for them along with her beau. She struggles with cars breaking down and utility bills but she will always find a way to come out on top. She knows she is living a crazy life with lots of stories to tell. I'm going to design a blog template and send it to her as I think she may be the next big thing to hit the blogosphere.

Her sister, Meghan couldn't make it. I missed seeing her. She is tiny, delicate and sweet with the biggest eyes you have ever seen. She was a daddy's girl. I know she continues to suffer, trying to make sense of a senseless loss. But I also know she has chosen to live a healthy life when she could have just as easily turned to addiction to ease the pain.

Here's another photo of the girls. I had one more shot of Nick but promised him I wouldn't publish it. If he were straight, I would have done it anyway but I would never expose a gay man who felt he was having a bad hair day - well, except for the one above because his hair looks good there.

I am so proud of these kids. I just can't stand it. Here is my favorite Celtic prayer for you. It is a part of your heritage. Just imagine some bagpipes playing in the background as you read it.

 Deep peace of the running waves to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the son of peace to you.

 Peace and love, my angels.

A Word of Thanks

I'm still stuck in Okie speak. I hope it lasts a little longer this time before my vowels start to shorten and I lose the soft roll of a long, drawn out Heeyyy Therrrree. I just noticed I have surpassed 15,000 views of my blog. Thank you to all who have supported me in this mission of love and what some would say is stunningly wreckless honesty. 

This photo was taken on our girls trip a few days ago by my dearest bird so I'm floating her that look of love and adoration because I love and adore her, you know.  Now I am sharing that look of love and adoration with you for reading me, following me, building me up with your comments and making this blog endeavor satisfying enough to sustain me, even in the dark times.

Big kiss coming your way. Ker-Blam!

Remember what Ms. Angelou had to say on the topic: There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. I will continue to bare it all for you, my faithful readers and friends.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Word About Oklahoma

In spite of the excellent Mexican food, the last time I visited Oklahoma, I left with a bad taste in my mouth. It was last Thanksgiving and I was letting go of family. I felt disconnected and uncomfortable there and I couldn't wait to get home, here to Milwaukee, because this is my home now.

Or so I thought.

Spending this past weekend in Oklahoma City was like being in recovery. I submitted myself to the city and to my friends and family to let them heal me. I will be writing detailed posts about the friends and family part; but for now, let me tell you a little something about my home town.  For we have mended our fences.

It is amazing what a little oil money can do for a town. Do you know of any other downtown in the United States that is currently building a 50 floor skyscraper? I saw the cranes in action with my very own eyes. New retail developments are popping up like daisies. The Oklahoma City Thunder is the most beloved team in all of the NBA and a homeless man waved at me while crossing the street because even the homeless people are friendly in Oklahoma. Here's what the tower will look like when completed.

Or how about a $140 million dollar redesign of the downtown streets, plazas, sidewalks and parks?  They are even moving a part of I-40 to create a gateway to downtown via a large boulevard. If a major east to west thoroughfare is in your way, no problem, let's move it.  Is a river walk in a restored warehouse area enough for you?

The girls and I floated by Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill, saw old Doc Blues singing on a patio, snapped a photo of Sonic's corporate headquarters, skipped right past Coyote Ugly, because well, you know we wouldn't have been able to keep Tina off the counters, and saw the most beautiful mosaic and waterfalls along the banks of the river walk.

Or perhaps sailing, rowing or kayaking is more your speed. Imagine a river so dry it had to be mowed twice a year. Dam it up, develop the hell out of it and viola, you have this.


Or you can drift away on Lake Hefner, found in the middle of the city with fully developed harbor frontage, restaurants, office buildings, walking trails and sail boats galore.

Did I mention housing is incredibly cheap, taxes are ridiculously low and the people are darn friendly? Oh and they have recently completed construction on not one but two state of the art Proton Therapy cancer treatment centers. Too bad they don't have a state of the art heartburn treatment center because here's an Oklahoma classic, chicken fried steak with fried okra, courtesy of Mr. Toby Keith. Pay no attention to the boob in the picture. It was there for proportion but it wasn't big enough so she had to use her hand as well.

My girlfriend Dolores escorted me on this whirlwind tour of all that Oklahoma City has to offer.  We drove around in her Saab convertible so I could pop up and snap photos. We stopped at this place and had a quick beer, which was free because, did I mention, people in Oklahoma are friendly.

We ended our morning at Big Truck Tacos where their motto is, "saving the world, one taco at time." It was so packed, they had to hang signs to remind people to be friendly. It can get a little pushy when a hungry mob is jonesing for one of those things. It was like Taco Crack or the best thing I've had in my mouth since, well since the last time I was in Oklahoma. Thank you Dolores for a wonderful morning; one that might very well change the course and direction of my life.

I guess it's safe to say I'm leaving this time around with only good tastes in my mouth. And good feelings for my hometown. My home. Where friends and family are plentiful and even the politicians aren't afraid to let it all hang out. Literally.

This did not leave a good taste in my mouth.  Sorry, had to go there, you knew I would.

Here's a little tease for my upcoming posts.  The Leaders of the Free World were in rare form during our "Night of the Iguana".

Bye for now ya'll.