Category: Uncategorized

The Truth Hurts Sometimes

I have seen it everywhere. Social media, coffee mugs, t-shirts… “LIVE YOUR TRUTH.” Almost always, it is in the context of supporting someone whose identity has traditionally been marginalized: Gays, Lesbians, Trans, etc. And that is a wonderful thing. People waste far too much time forcing themselves into boxes built by and for the average community at large, whether for their safety, or just because the human need to be loved is so strong that we are afraid our true nature would leave us connection-less. Stop trying to be someone you are not. The world will adjust.

That’s not to say that everyone will like or love you if you do. But really, do they all like and love you now? Probably not. I mean, there are people out there who hate Hugh Jackman fer gossakes. What chance to the rest of us mere mortals have? But even tho you will still have some who aren’t happy with you, are mean to you even, you are likely no worse off than you were before, only now you don’t have the stress of a lifelong masquerade to add to it. Look to the others already living their truth for proof.

For example, there are people out there whose truth is that they are misogynistic, racist assholes. And they have no problem living that out loud every day. They know people disagree. They know some people hate them for it. They don’t care. They just keep on being true to themselves. Why should they get have all the fun? And on the opposite end, there are those who have no problem living large as ancient Jewish Democratic Socialists. They know there are haters. They don’t care. The rest of us should be just as determined to be true to ourselves.

Maybe your truth is that the spirituality of your African roots saved you, and wearing a dashiki helps you honor that. That is awesome! Do it! There will be some who look at you strangely or make rude comments, but plenty of us will be eager to hear what it means to you.

Maybe your truth is that your soul is a patchouli loving, bra banning, clove-cigarette smoking earth mamma. Some will make snide remarks, call you names. I’m not going to be eager to stand downwind of you, but like most people, i won’t hate you for it. I will still be respectful of you, even as i continue wearing pretty much anything but patchouli oil.

Maybe your truth is that you are a nudist, polyamorous vegan. Good for you! I hope you are able to find a group of people who share your same culture and values so that you can live your truth every moment of every day…. I may even come visit… But don’t show up nude for work.

Because here’s the thing…

Sometimes, being a good citizen means knowing when living your truth is detrimental to the populace at large.

I have heard people say that “gay behavior” is bad for the populace at large because it goes against Christian values. This, to my way of thinking, is incorrect. Public displays of blatantly sexual behavior are bad for the populace at large, but that is not a “gay issue.” No one should be having sex in the street. Downtown Springfield on a random Friday isn’t Mardi Gras… People aren’t expecting to watch your carnal exploits, and most would probably rather not. Consensual sex in private, gay or straight, causes no such issue.

I’ve heard people say that tattoos and weird hair colors and men who wish to wear skirts are a detriment to society. I have a few tattoos, and i fail to see how they harm anyone. That being said, if you have “Fuck you” tattooed across your forehead, there is an issue. Not with the tattoo, but with the sentiment. It’s just flat out rude to everyone. Hair colors? The definition of “weird” evolves over time – Hell, when i first stopped dying my hair, i caught flack for letting it be grey and white! But it is hair, and fashion trends wax and wane. Hard to regulate that. But again, if you work for a boss who has warned you not to dye your hair green, and you do it anyway, you should not be surprised if you get called to the mat for it. Same with the men in skirts, i suppose – tho i understand that one less. A woman can wear menswear, and no one bats an eye. Why is it allowed in one direction and not the other?

I think, what it boils down to is just learning to accept that no matter how any one of us lives, there will always be naysayers. Every choice in life has consequences. And even if i think it’s stupid for someone to be fired because they wore eyeliner to work, and the company has a rule about men wearing makeup; the fact of the matter is that you now have two adult choices: You fight it in the correct way – with arbitration or a lawyer – or you find another job. (I hope you fight it, because that really is stupid. ) Choosing to scream like a banshee on social media without taking any real steps to change things is juvenile and pointless. Trying to make a policy where the rest of the men also have to wear eyeliner just because you like it is also juvenile, and it is disrespectful to others’ truths.

Be an adult. Advocate for the freedom of individual choice. Stand up straight, speak clearly and with civil words. Make your voice heard. If necessary, protest and boycott. But do not set out to do deliberate, spiteful damage. I know that lately our country has seemingly forgotten how to have meaningful discourse and come to compromise. We also seem to have lost the ability to live and let live. But on the flip side, there are others who have forgotten that, while being civil to your neighbors and fellow citizens should be expected, as should the certainty of personal safety, there is no promise that they will all agree with you, nor can you expect them all to join in your bandwagon. The best we can hope for is that we all learn to play nice.

Which we all know is a pipe dream. There will always be Christians who aren’t very Christ-like. There will always be civil servants who aren’t civil. There will always be free-love hippies who aren’t very loving. We are humans, first and foremost, after all. And humans can be really mean and hateful.

But keep living your truth, if for no other reason than to offset the schmucks. It will be difficult at times, but keep at it. Because even tho we can be assholes, humans can also be supportive and loving and giving. We can be kind. We can extend the hands of brother and sisterhood. We can become friends with those who look, act, pray, dress differently than we do. We’ve done it before. Remember, there was a time when a woman could be arrested for wearing pants. But we grew past it. We opened our minds and grew.

So i don’t care if your truth is that you are a Kenny G loving woman who wants to live as a meercat. Do your job, be nice to your neighbors, and don’t make anyone else live as a meercat. If anyone tries to hurt you for your choice, lots of us will be here to defend you. (Ok, we’ll defend the meercat thing. I can’t promise about the Kenny G.) We don’t have to understand it. But if you aren’t hurting anyone, we will do out best not to let them hurt you. We might not defend your right to work as a brain surgeon, because, last i checked, they weren’t allowing meercats into medical school. But we will defend your ability to exist as a free citizen. It won’t be easy, and lots of people will balk. But sooner or later, things will level out, because the vast majority of people are decent.

Most of us learned in the sandbox to play nice and keep our hands to ourselves. Then we grew up and moved on, remembering the lesson. Others are still in the same sandbox, biting, throwing sand, peeing in the corner… And they wonder why no one will let them out or play with them. But their truth is that they are tantrum-laden toddlers. So the adults will respect that and treat them as such.


Maternal Wind

In honor of Mother’s Day, a favorite story involving my Ma. It was from her that i learned to take things in good humor …

For a short while, i dated a guy in the British navy. His fellow sailors called him “Taff”- some kind of geographical nicknaming convention based on a river where he grew up. He was tall and lanky and funny as hell. Even better, he thought was funny as hell. A sweet, boyish face with a mess of dirty blonde hair that would have gotten him written up in my Navy. On my pier watch, he would come stand with me, and we would talk about a million things. When watch was over, we’d hit the break area of his vessel, his chief would issue me a beer chit, and we’d talk and sing and drink with his mates til morning.

To this day, when “The Lady in Red” plays on the radio, i remember him singing it to me one night, wax nostalgic, and wonder where life has taken him.

It was bliss, being with him. He felt (or at least made me believe he felt) that i was the most beautiful, smartest, wittiest woman in all the world. And he never hid that fact from others.  Not even his friends. Until that point, i’d never had a man show affection for me in public. Vulgarity, yes. Unseemly sexual overture, yes. But not affection. It was a wondrous thing to me, to have someone so outwardly pleased to be with me. Real magic.

Once in a while, we’d get a chance to run off. In my p.o.s. Datsun, i’d drive us to the beach in hopes of finding a secluded dune, behind which we could tumble and make trouble. Well, it could have been trouble… If we’d ever gotten caught.

It was one of those beach trips that i was thinking about today.

Taff and i had spent most of an evening rolling naked on the beach. Long enough that we had lost track of the tide. While we were running amok like a couple of playful rabbits, waves slopped our pile of clothes with seaweed and saltwater. By the time we were ready to pack up and head back to the pier, everything was soaked.

It was an hour back to the ship, but only a few minutes from home. So we wrung out what we could and then headed to my house, where i could put on some dry duds and loan him some sweats so we wouldn’t freeze in the night air. It was the wee hours, so we tried hard not to make much noise.

Leaving Taff at the kitchen table, i quietly stole up the staircase and grabbed the clothes. A few moments later, i was supplied, and we dried off and changed. At some point, we started giggling, which must have woken Ma.

The tall, narrow staircase led to a landing. While we were shushing ourselves and trying to stop the giggles, the landing light switched on. We looked up, and through the slight opening at the top, there stood the whitest, skinniest calves ever produced by God, at the bottom of which were what had to be the rattiest, shaggiest, pink slippers in all of New England. That was all you could see… My Ma’s signature stick legs and those awful, but favored, slippers.

She yelled down, “Is that you, Hol?”

“Yes,” I replied, “Just grabbing some dry clothes.”


My Ma cuts a loud, mean piece of gas that should have lifted her right off the floor. For real. It was at least a 4 on the Richter scale. The National Weather Service could have given it a name.  It was gloriously horrific. I was mortified.

“Ma!!!!!!! Taff is here!!!!!!” (His eyes are bugged out in shock.)

Silence for a couple seconds, then, as she shuts the light and heads back to bed….

“Oh, like they don’t fart in England!”


And starring *???* As The Mad Hatter!

Man, people are angry! Presidential elections always bring out passion in people, but this is getting ridiculous. Otherwise reasonable people hurling insults at their friends because they have voiced a dissenting opinion. And the people who aren’t generally reasonable, well, they have totally gone ’round the pipe. Watching a group of people have a beer on a pub patio yesterday, i was surprised to find myself thinking if this is what gatherings were like at the onset of the Civil War.

The debates? I admit, i only watched one in its entirety. The rest i picked up from clips. They make me feel like a lunch room monitor at middle school. The insults, the finger pointing and name calling, the personal digs… Are they presidential candidates or contenders for the Beer Pong Cup? You know it’s a messed up election year when the Democrats seem more austere and focused than the Republicans. And they have certainly been more respectful of each other. Not that they are perfect. Far from it. Rhetoric is rhetoric, even if it comes dressed for dinner.

The third party candidates could really ascend the staircase this year if they televised a debate and acted like educated adults.

It is not my place to advocate for any particular candidate. I’m a firm believer that in any election, one should do their research and vote for who represents them best, regardless of whether i agree. I respect and support your right to vote your conscience. Your view doesn’t have to be the same as mine. After all, i’m not Mother Theresa or the Dalai Lama. Hell, i’m not even Donny Osmond. I’m probably more of the Danny Bonaduce type. And lord knows, we don’t want him deciding the election. We are a collective and diverse people. Our votes should reflect that. And, as that same collective, we will live with the results.

All these people who say they will move to Canada if so-and-so gets elected? You know they won’t. For all our flaws, we are an awesome nation. Jacked-up, controversial, contradictory, and flat out illogical sometimes… But still awesome in our own dysfunction. We are like a massive adaptation of the Mad Hatter’s tea party. And the position of the Mad Hatter himself is up for re-election every four years. The actors change, but the party goes on. Ain’t it grand?

Ok, not perfect. As a nation, we have a lot of work to do and problems to solve. But i’d still rather do it here than anywhere else. We have discrimination and poverty and addiction and disparity and climate change and a million other bad things, just like every place else. But we also have opportunity and variety and expanse and beauty and freedom. And, singularly, we have Broadway and New Orleans Jazz and Eleanor Roosevelt and Glacier National Park  and Toll House cookies and oh-so-many other things. Not perfect. But definitely grand.

In any case, as the momentum to the election builds, i beg of you to be kind to each other. Don’t throw things at your neighbor because he likes Trump. Don’t belittle your coworker because she likes Bernie. Dig deep into your memory and think of a time when you thought you had the right answer, went with it, and discovered you were wrong. You have one. I know you do. And you might have one again, this election. Or they might. And won’t it suck if you are no longer friends and can’t have a beer and say, “I told you so.”

In the end, it’s just politics. Regardless of who gets elected, our day to day will change very little. We will get up, suck down some coffee, go to work, come home, walk the dog, make supper, play with the weedlings, take out the trash, watch some tv, get lucky (if we’re lucky), then go to bed…. And wake up the next day to do it all again. On the weekends, hopefully, we’ll be grilling some burgers in the back yard with those same people who didn’t like our presidential candidate. So be nice. And allow for the possibility that other opinions aren’t stupid. In return, maybe they won’t laugh in your face when you lose.

I promise, i won’t.

Doo Doo Doo, Da Dah Dah Dah

It’s a beautiful day! Sunny, breezy, open-the-windows-and-air-out-the-house weather. I am loving it! So is SiriDog. I clip on her leash and off we go into the tame green yonder that is our apartment complex. Lots of other people are walking their dogs, too. This is one of the few truly pet friendly complexes in the area. We have a fenced in dog park, a few wooded areas for exploring, and doggie waste stations scattered around the property. Basically, short of being able to let your dog run loose on your own property, it’s as good as it gets. So it really bothers me when people are irresponsible. Like the lady today.

She has what appears to be some sort of pitty mix. They are walking on the other side of the street from us. Her dog  assumes the log-drop stance and leaves his present. I notice she has no bags, so i yell across, “Do you need a bag? I have plenty.”

“No,” she replies, “I’m fine.” She starts to walk away leaving the dukey behind.

“No,” I tell her, “It’s really NOT fine. We have to pick up our poop.”

“Easy for you to say. You have a small dog!”

“Listen, sweetheart, if you didn’t want to pick up big dumps you shouldn’t have gotten a big dog!” I walk over and give her a bag.

She huffs and puffs, but picks up the poo and tosses it in the waste station.

This isn’t the first time i’ve had this conversation. It happens a lot. People can be very lax on their dogkeeping if they think no one is looking. Which means anyone out walking can end up with dirty shoes if they aren’t looking. And i’ve had it.

Where have all the manners gone? Forget the fact that (regardless of the party) we are about to elect bombastic rhetoric to be our leader. Forget poverty and corporate greed and environmental ruin. Forget homelessness and hunger and riots and war. As Heinlein once wrote, “Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners,  is more significant than a riot.” In his view, and mine, a sick culture has riots and war, but a dying culture is identified by an absence of common courtesy. Leaving your dog’s excrement for others to step in definitely falls into that category.

And not for nothing, using the excuse that your dog leaves bigger logs than mine…. Well, as i said, it was your choice to buy a big dog. The fact that you weren’t astute enough to realize that big dogs make big shit is fairly unbelievable. The blame is squarely on you. You were not victimized by a dog shelter. They never promised you a dog that didn’t poop, or a poop scooping fairy that would clean up after the dog for you. You knew. You just don’t care enough about your fellow man to do what’s right.

Now before anyone starts warning me about my blood pressure or saying that it’s just poop… Well, if a person won’t do anything as easy as picking up after their dog, what is the likelihood that they will do the harder things, like reducing their footprint, or promoting peace, or raising responsible children? Pretty close to nil, i’d wager.

So there you have it. Our society and it’s path to destruction, represented iconically by a pile of dog crap in the middle of a manicured lawn.

I do have hope, tho. Not all of us are discourteous. And we raise our children to be responsible. We want to make the world a better place for ourselves, each other, and the future. I see good things every day. Young people holding doors for the elderly; the elderly giving positive attention to the young. People giving food to the homeless; the homeless reaching out to those in even worse circumstances. Boys’ and girls’ groups cleaning up rivers and roadways. Church and social groups doing regular turns at soup kitchens. Whole foods has fruit and healthy snacks at the front of their store for children to take. Heck, my tattoo artists keep extra bottles of water and sodas for the less fortunate who stay nearby. Things like this abound.  Would that they will spread. I pray they will. And overshadow the poop.

Because, lets face it, there will always be dog shit. We just have to pick up as much as we can or we risk us all slipping in it.

The Cutting Edge of Fashion

I should probably be writing about Valentine’s Day (Or as i like to call it, “Single Awareness Day”), but screw it. I want to talk about clothes.

Last night, while snuggling under the covers with my ersatz valentine, my SiriDog, i was reading the latest edition of InStyle. And no, i don’t read it for the articles. I like to keep up on the latest fashion, both the couture art and the stuff that people can actually wear. I won’t spend $2K on a dress, but i will use the latest trends to alter something i found at the thrift store. It also is a good way to gauge if i’ll be able to find t-shirts in the colors i like (For those of you unfamiliar, the fashion illluminati gather at the beginning of every season and determine which colors are “in”, and woe to the shopper who wants something in a color that isn’t on that list!) Plus, let’s face it, the couture stuff is sometimes a great source of chuckles. Also to note,  i have a bit more of an interest this year, as i actually can wear clothes to work now.

So anyway, perused the whole thing yesterday. Then checked the websites.  It’s colder than Delores Umbridge’s heart outside, but in the fashion world, it’s springtime. And apparently, this year, that means the seventies are back with a vengeance.

Normally, in any given season, i can depend on my favorite designers to put out, if not something i actually covet, at least clothes that are pleasing. Then, to top off, there are usually a few other labels that hit a mark with me. Shoes, well, i’m picky, so there will be fewer. And maybe one bag strikes my eye.

I in no way imply that i am a fashion icon. Tho my personality is the lovechild of Mae West and Cher, my wardrobe godmothers are Fran Lebowitz and the lesbian poets of the mid 20th century. I like jeans with blazers, tailored slacks, tank dresses in the summer, and tuxes without shirts underneath (Scandalous!). I will never be on the cover of Vogue, even if i looked like Charlize. But i’m ok with that. My style works for me. I’m comfortable in it. It makes me feel pretty and strong and sexy and badass. Isn’t that what clothes are for?  But even tho my style isn’t as common as some, i can still appreciate fashion that i wouldn’t wear, but would look beautiful on the right person. A gingham bikini on a girly-girl with a sweet face is the sexiest thing in the world, even if that girl isn’t me. I can dig it. Aesthetically, it pleases. But i saw very little like that between the pages last night.

Lots of architectural and sculptured creations. Squared collars. Straight lines. Ruffles you could spread pâté with. As a museum piece, quite striking. As clothing, not so much. Who wants to wear a dress that will cut your arse when you sit in it? This isn’t the Victorian era – There is no need for women to suffer for appearances.  Not that i think Valentino should be invoking comfort law and dressing everyone in mu-mus and pajama pants. Structure is nice. Steel beams in my blouse are not.

Another big trend seems to be the reemergence of the 1975 palette. Burnt orange, avocado green, harvest gold, samsonite blue. It’s as if the discovery of skin tone never happened.  Seriously, do you know anyone who looks good in pepto pink?

Jumpsuits. Really? Only for people who never go to the bathroom.

Shoes and bags? Sharp edged, impractical, and not foot or wallet friendly.

Pompoms. On everything. I’m sorry, but i am not an Airstream.

On a positive note, i do like the return of the airy poet’s caftan. More than one designer had them updated in shorter lengths with beautiful watercolor painted fronts. A perfect thing to pack for the beach-side bar and grill or the first pool party of the season. I may even take a bash at making and painting one myself.

Another bright side, the makeup this season is very light and pretty. Hair, other than the couture shows, very wearable. And the coolest part, a lot of the older houses who have been quiet for a while are putting out some great collections. Brooks Brothers is gorgeous this season (Ok, yes, this is the one case where my fashion sense actually matches a fashion house.) Ralph Lauren has some great fresh takes on Americana. Versace has some amazing choices for the bold and unafraid. On the retail end, White House Black Market, Talbots, and H&M are all showing smart, flattering, wearable clothes. So in spite of my discontent with the majority, there is still a lot to choose from.

Granted, in the magazines and on the web, all these clothes are shown on stick figures. Sexless baby dolls pulled to six feet tall a la Stretch Armstrong. Olive Oyl with expensive makeup. Women of modeling perfection. I wish a magazine would take some of the season’s offerings and put them on real women. Show us how those knife-sharp pleats look on a pizza-fed ass. Most women my age can afford an occasional fashion splurge of some sort, so why not help us find one? That Versace tux with the bandeau top that i am salivating over… Let’s see what it looks like on a woman who weighs more than a prize Thanksgiving turkey. The buttery soft WHBM blazer, would it clear the hips? You can’t tell from the ad because the model is too small to have any. There are more full-figured women, and women of that certain age, on the red carpet than ever before, so we can see what those offerings look like on curvy and gravity-tamed bodies. Yes, real women are sometimes rail thin. Yes, real women are sometimes 20 years old. But not most of us. There is a veritable buffet of body types out there. Can we see your couture creations on them?

Hey, there’s a thought! Let’s take one ubiquitous outfit of the season and put that same outfit on a bunch of women: Thin, thick, boyish, curvy, young, old…. Different sizes and colors… And see how it translates. That would be cool! Sociologically interesting and consumer useful. That Battenburg lace Malandrino sheath dress… What does it look like on a woman like me? Or you? Or my Aunt Julie? Or the woman next door? Because none of us looks like Gigi Hadid. Hell, our names weren’t even mentioned in the socialite pages, never mind nominated for model of the year. But we like pretty dresses, too.

Even those of us who wear tuxes.

Disco Inferno

Oh, the sting and burn of a sarcastic observation! I don’t care much for the ones that leave scorch marks; but the ones that sizzle like a Texas barbecue sauce are another matter entirely. Gotta love those. And while it’s fun to watch someone poke a political bear, or William Shatner, sometimes we have to suck it up and take the roasting ourselves.

I love making people laugh. It makes me feel good. And then, there are those times where it’s someone else’s quip that gets the laugh. Very often at my expense. It used to mortify me. Now it makes me laugh as much as everyone else. A good zinger is a good zinger. I admire anyone who can pull it off. But i  really admire someone who can pull it off while being nervous and scared in the middle of a medical procedure. That takes a real gift. Or comedic intervention. Channeling the comedians of times past. But you’d be surprised how often it happens.

In the middle of a case, an invasive procedure, we are getting to the “easy” part. The patient has been silent for a while now and appears to have fallen asleep. A favorite song comes on the radio. I start to sing along. From under the sterile drape comes a deadpan and drugged voice, “You’re ruining it!” Commence full-on belly laughter. From then on, whenever any of us in the lab start to sing along with the radio – usually me – someone shouts out, “You’re ruining it!”

As we are preparing a patient for a procedure, he says, “Oh, and if my eyes start to water, i’m not crying. I’m….. I have allergies.” I respond with a sly grin, “Oh, i thought you were going to say that i was so beautiful it brings tears to your eyes.” He turns to me with a leprechaun smile and says, “You wouldn’t want me to lie, would you?” One coworker covers her mouth. The other says, “Ouch!” and laughs.  I responded at that moment with a snarly face and a laugh. But “You wouldn’t want me to lie, would you?” is becoming a standard response to any statement that remotely resembles fishing for a compliment. 

A non-English speaking Latino patient is coming out of anesthesia and begins to thrash. Worried that he will cause himself to fall off the procedure table, the nurse anesthetist calmly reminds him in Spanish that he is still in surgery and needs to not move, which does absolutely nothing. Knowing that when we are sedated, sometimes it takes a momma voice to bring us to our senses, but having to rely on languages i speak, i stick my head under the sterile drape and yell, “Basta!!!” The physician, who is Latino himself, calmly says, “Holly, that’s Italian.” I peek my head out from under, “It isn’t the same in Spanish?”  “I have no idea what you are trying to say, so i’d say no.”  Everyone cracks up. Now, whenever any of us is being impish or silly, another will yell, “Basta!!”

Most of the time, i don’t mind looking silly. Life itself can be pretty silly. So if i slip on a banana peel and slide into a pile of honey and chicken feathers, i’m going to laugh. Ok, that’s never going to happen. But if i am dancing around the office and a loud toot escapes during a Grand Jeté, i will laugh. Yes, that has happened. And it was funny. Or rather, it was funnier than it was embarrassing. Everyone laughed. Including me. I couldn’t help myself. Besides, as someone once told me, “You had better learn to laugh at yourself, because everyone else has already learned how to laugh at you!”

So go ahead. Take your best shot. Zing me. Parody me. Bring it. Tease me. Mock me. Make me laugh. Heckle me. Roast me. Do it. I can feel the sting of humor already. “Burn, baby, burn!”

Yeah, i know. I’m ruining it.



Giving Chickin’

Sometimes our workdays run very late. Lately, more than sometimes. But every now and again, during those late cases, we get to see something that makes the whole day worth it.

A couple weeks ago, a coworker and i went to pick up a patient for a procedure. It was way after hours, and the poor woman was just so relieved to finally be getting it over with. As we are unhooking her from all her bells and whistles, she tells us that she can’t wait to get back. She hasn’t eaten in two days, and a friend brought her some chicken from her favorite place so that she could have something really yummy after her procedure. Then she looks around. There are a few of her kids in there. Well, i call them kids, but they were all adults. And she begins to panic.

“Don’t you go eatin’ my chickin’! That’s MY chickin’! I haven’t eaten in two days, and i really want that chickin’ bad! Please don’t mess with it!” Her kids all agree that they won’t touch it. She doesn’t seem convinced and has me bring her the box so she can count out the pieces. “I got three pieces of chickin’ in here. Three. I counted. (She shows me.) See? I have proof. Now that chickin’ better be here when i get back! Don’t you go eatin’ my chickin’!”

“Yes, Momma, ” they respond while rolling their eyes.

We wheel her away, her supper reboxed and placed on the counter for her return. Thru the hallway, she continues to go on about her chickin’. She can’t wait. She’s been so hungry. And that’s her favorite chickin’. We get her into the procedure suite, get to working, and she is still talking. She is gonna have some chickin’! This whole wait to get this pacemaker thing is worth it because, as a prize, she gets her chickin’ after! She LOVES that chickin’! It’s her favorite! And it smelled so good when her friend brought it! Oh, there ain’t nothin’ better than some good fried chickin’ when you really hungry!

I am not exaggerating. This woman was truly in rapture about this chicken.

After, when we are wheeling her back to her room, she is getting really excited. Like, six-year-old-on-her-birthday excited. She can almost taste that chickin’! Mmmmm, all the greasy-crunchy skin! It’s gonna taste so good after being starved for two days! I can’t wait to get my hands on that chickin’! I’ve been lookin’ forward to this so much! MMmmmm mmmmm! It’s gonna taste so good!

You see what is coming, don’t you?

We barely get her hooked back up to the tentacles of her room before she asks if she can have her chicken. She knows she can’t have it quite yet, but she just wants to smell it. Her mouth is watering. I am smiling as i go to grab her pot of extra-crispy gold… But all i find is an empty box in the trash and her children are gone. At first, she thought we were kidding, but when the truth set in, the look on her face… Well… I don’t think there is a word for it. Some combination of anger, shock, disgust, sadness – all wrapped up in that iron-weight foil that only real disappointment can bring. I want to cry at first, but then anger builds. What kind of kids are these? What kind of people are these? The anger starts burning. By the time i am at the nurses’ station giving report, i am royally pissed. I want to find those kids and kick their selfish little asses.

While i am infused with venom, my coworker is infused with Spirit. As he passes me talking to the nurse, he gives me the sign that he’ll be back in a couple minutes. While i rail on about the actions of those rotten P.O.S.s who should know better than to do that to their momma, my coworker is downstairs in the hospital food court buying her some more chicken. Without pomp. Without circumstance. Without flash or banner. He just goes and does it. And he brings joy and healing to that woman that no pacemaker, and certainly none of my burning fury, could ever bring. He just brings it to her and leaves.

Later that night, and many times since, i have dove into the ocean of what it meant.

I often get angry with the injustice, speaking my mind to friends and readers about how the world is going to hell, without even the benefit of a handbasket. The times when i let my anger pass thru, tho, and allowed a spirit of Love and Humanity take over my action are less common. Honestly, it didn’t occur to me to just go buy the woman some chicken. A simple act of kindness. Of Love. Of Humanity. The thought never crossed my mind. But it should have.

I can be the street preacher, waving my fist and gathering winds of discontent. Or i can be vessel thru which a spirit of love and generosity flows. I want to be less of the former and more of the latter. And the example i saw that night proves it. My coworker is a regular Joe. Just like myself. Just like most of us. Not a wealthy benefactor. Not a martyr. Not a saint. Just a guy who allowed his soul to be a conduit between all that is good and all that is not. My instinct was to get angry. His instinct was to bring Love. In the form of chicken.

Angels in Joes’ clothing. That’s what they are. These people who have already found it. Who put it to use. Many spout the words of their faith. The rules. The expectations. But it is these angels who have the bigger impact. Because their actions transcend any specific religion. They represent the tenets of Humanity and Love.

I am not a church goer. But i am a person of daily prayer and meditation. To God/Goddess/Universe. To the spirit of all things good and loving. To the one Saint Francis beseeches in his quest to become a better person. Perhaps it’s time i revisited that prayer. It is the sentiment of that prayer that i am lacking. Needing. Wanting. No, i’m not a totally selfish woman. I do good for other people. But not enough. So many are suffering. And while it’s true that i can’t singlehandedly bring about world peace or end world hunger or vanquish evil; i can keep my eyes open for opportunities to be that conduit. I can spend less time preaching and more time doing. I can make a difference. I can buy some chickin’.




“These marks were made by a 1966 Pontiac Tempest”

I can’t believe that it’s almost Thanksgiving. This year has flown by. It’s been a year of learning for me. Of adjusting. Big, honking life lessons, and smaller just-as-important ones. This is some of what I have discovered:

Your weedlings will never cease to amaze you. When my middle child left to start at West Point, I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage without her. She was a teenager and certainly had her share of fun, but she also helped me around the house, played chauffeur for her brother, cheered me up when I was down, encouraged me when I was exhausted, got me moving when I was depressed, and could cook up a mean meal when it was her turn. Losing her from the household was hard, even outside of the emotional upheaval that comes when one of your brood leaves the nest. Even as I was full of pride for her accomplishments, I was worried about managing. I knew my oldest, who has always had more than a bit of caretaker in her, would be there to help me if need be. And she hasn’t let me down. What surprised me was the fact that my barely-teenage son has also stepped up. Getting his chores done without much complaining, sometimes even without asking. Doing for himself and taking meal duty if I am working late. Being as empathetic as a 13 year old boy can. Yes, he still leaves his smelly socks under the coffee table sometimes. But I have been pleasantly surprised at what he has taken on to help without cajoling from me.

You can enjoy things you never thought you could. This is a recent discovery. Coworkers asked me to join them at a haunted house. I can say honestly that I’d have rather rubbed a cheese grater on my face than pay good money to have rubber masked clowns jump out and grab me, but they were so excited, and I didn’t wish to be a party pooper, so I went. And it was fun. Yes, I screamed myself to near-laryngitis. Yes, my jaw is still feeling the sting from being clenched so forcefully. Yes, I’m sure I horrified some people with my repertoire of vulgarities and curse words. Yes, my abs (or what passes for them) are still sore a day and a half later. Yes, I wet my pants. More than once. Stupid animatronic dinosaurs. And no, I doubt I will go again. But I’m glad I went. If for no other reason than to prove to myself I could.

Punting is a viable option. I’ve been in this apartment a year now. In all that time, in spite of dozens of tricks and tries, I haven’t been able to keep my dog from peeing on the landing. Anger, frustration, disgust… These things are not good for one’s blood pressure and peace of mind. Finally, last week, I decided to stop running plays. I punted. Scrubbed the carpet for all of its worth and laid down plastic carpet protector. The first few days, she wouldn’t step on it – she jumped over it to the first stair. Then she tried peeing on it. Apparently that was unsatisfying because now, a week later, she is sticking to her weewee pads like a good little doggie. I’m not a big fan of plastic on the floor, but at least my budget for rug shampoo can be cut.

Letting go of worries gets easier as you go along. This time last year, there were people and things I allowed to consume my thoughts. Finances, exes (OK, really just one of the exes), the pets, the weedlings, the job, aging, change and OH-MY-GOD-THE-FUTURE… My blood pressure escalated, my depression worsened, and I alternated between sticking my head in the sand and letting my head explode like a dead possum in the sun (Yes, that visceral image in your head is exactly what it felt like). I’m not sure what happened. My emotional IQ reached its peak. My therapist started hypnotizing me during sessions. Bath and Bodyworks started replacing my wallflower scents with perfumed Haldol. God/Goddess/Universe intervened. Something. But one day, not too long ago over a cup of afternoon tea, I realized I wasn’t nearly as worried. All the things that normally kept me as tense as a cat hanging from the curtains were starting to lessen. Things slowly but surely were starting to even out. Not that I don’t still get concerned over my bank account or the future of my weedlings, etc., but somehow, in my heart and gut, I know it is going to work out. I know it is getting better, or at least coming to an end. My blood pressure is on the wane. And I feel hopeful. Really hopeful. What a gift!

Don’t get out of the habit of reading and writing. I already knew to keep up my good habits of eating well and exercising. But I had forgotten to keep up the habit of reading. Books provide escape, intellectual stimulation, focus, and a break from technology (At least for me, as I prefer paper books). I may never learn to effectively meditate, but I will always be able to bury myself in a book and turn off the outside world. It really does help. And I often learn something in the process. Not a bad result for a habit that shouldn’t be hard to cultivate. As for the writing, that is a little harder habit to maintain. It requires both intellect and imagination, and stress has a tendency to turn off both in me. But doing it is like leaking a pressure valve. Tension and thoughts that have built up exit my fingers and end up here. Far more effective and beneficial than them staying retained in my jaw. And, hey, someone might get a laugh out of it.

I can’t stomach commercial meat in my house. It’s been coming on for a while, but I have finally gotten to the point where I can’t stomach the thought of something that lives its entire life in terrible conditions and then gets killed for my benefit. I have taken to buying free range eggs, local and/or free range meat, and far less of both than I have before (Which is somewhat a function of economics). I suppose there will come a time when I can’t even stomach that and will give up meat entirely. But for now, I still crave it sometimes. I just eat less of it. Maybe it’s a justification on my part to say that the lamb had a happy life romping around the pasture before slaughter. Maybe it isn’t true that the local farmer doesn’t slam his pigs to death like the videos I have seen posted about large scale farm corporations. If so, don’t tell me. I will work my way there. At least I am making progress in my attempts to be less of a selfish human. I don’t have to be a super human.

Tho not there yet, I am getting closer to being comfortable with my appearance. A little while back, I took an offer for a free consultation with a plastic surgeon here in town. My sagging face really bothers me, and I was curious what it would take to fix it. Apparently the answer to that question is $18,000. Either I am far worse off than I thought, or I am unreasonable in wanting to have my jowls cut off. I mean, I know I am looking my age, and I know my age is getting older. But $18,000 older? That’s at least 3 kick-ass vacations (more, if I go alone) – and I’m thinking the vacations might make me just as happy. Really, it’s all a moot point since I don’t have $18,000 lying around anyway. But still. Time to make peace with my face. I am 49 years old. Obviously, so is my face. New England winters, southern summers, beaches, coffee, a short smoking career, various other ingested chemicals, kids, hormones, a life as fully lived as I could tolerate… These things have left their mark. And tho I spackle and Bond-O and paint and detail every day, it’s still a Tempest and not a Mustang. And that’s ok. No one will be clamoring to restore me to my former glory, but at least I’m forever memorialized by Marissa Tomei.

There is no reason to be afraid. I may not have Underdog, but I still won’t fear. With all I have done, even in cases where my actions and hopes didn’t pan out, I survived. Even if it left me a step or two behind, I was still upright and walking. GGU has blessed me with resilience and resourcefulness. And I am grateful. So why have I kept worrying about the future? Changes in family, in physicality, in work, in life…. BRING IT ON! I may not win the game, but I’ll keep playing til the end. And if it becomes evident that even my best skills aren’t going to win this quarter, well then, I’ll channel the Harlem Globetrotters and play for style and fun. But I will play. I will keep playing. No more bench time for me, and no more forfeited games. I’ll be the most tenacious team in the league, even if I don’t make the playoffs. So bring it, world! BRING IT!

And on that happy note, I wish you all a wonderful day, and I encourage you to look back and see what you’ve learned this year. You just might surprise yourself.

Pregnant Pause

The words are within me, just waiting for birth. Growing. Taking on visuals and spins. Gaining personality and momentum until the day when they fly out of my fingers and onto the keyboard. The afterbirth, a mess of teacups and biscotti wrappers. But then, there it is. My baby. Yet another fruit of my mental loins. Yet another legacy of my expressed, or occasionally unexpressed, genetics. They very rarely look like I expect. And I have stopped trying to name them before they are actually born. I must let them reveal themselves and see how and where they choose to land. Then I name them. I groom them with spellcheck. I perform APGAR for word choice and grammar. I swaddle them in the cradle of my blog. (When I was a new parent and young, in lieu of a cradle, I had a Moses basket of a composition book.) I sing to them and rock them by virtue of introduction on social media. And, eventually, they take on a life of their own.

I have created a rather large brood. And most of my offspring are happy-go-luckies with no aspirations further than a smile and a chuckle. But some are rather dark and broodish, as if I were part Sylvia Plath. Some are the quiet, philosophical types, playing Dungeons and Dragons in the attic. Some are angry, poster children for social disorders. Some are fragmented and broken, needing a therapist to sort them out. And some are mischievous, horny little goats. I love them all: The good, the bad, the temperamental, and the just-plain-mental. Some children are easier to deal with, but they are all rewarding and loveable in their own way.

I have spent whole years pregnant with essays and poems. And I have spent times barren and childless, fawning instead over others’ offspring. I have held gatherings with friends’ children. I have spent lifetimes alone with my own. I have celebrated their victories, cried over their defeats. And I have spent time defending them from bullies and people who cannot see the soul within. I am inordinately proud of them, as all parents are of their children.

It’s a real commitment, this choice to be surrogate for verse. And as I watch each child board the bus for school, where they will be subjected to the opinions, prejudices, and actions of others, I pray that they remain true to themselves. Standing tall amongst the other stories and poems. Even if they are never as recognized or celebrated as some of their peers, I know they are important. I know what they represent. I will read them and love them and cheer them on.

That’s what a mother is for.

Mums The Word

It slipped out.

I didn’t even know it was coming, and “Pop!”, there it was.

My daughter wrinkles her nose.

“Ma, did you fart?!”

“Damn! That is pungent! My eyes are watering!”

I am mortified. We are in her flower shop, fer gossakes, and I am overtaking the roses, carnations, and freesia combined. I can’t come up with anything to say as I watch her wipe tears from her eyes and back away. I mean, what COULD I say? I could apologize, but really, the damage is done, and I’m sure the color of my face conveys a heartfelt “mea culpa”.

She is waving herself with a palm frond.

I’m looking around for a can of Lysol, but, DUH, it’s a florist! I’m the only one who could need Lysol in a flower shop. There aren’t enough gardenias to cover my accidental fumigation. I’m pretty sure the lilies are wilting. The cooler fan sounds like it is coughing. Great. Just great.

This is as embarrassing as the day I broke the camera at the DMV.

Hold up… Two young guys headed toward the shop. Holy shit! Literally! Short of burning sage, I don’t see how the stench could be vanquished. Now I have tears, as I realize my tail pipe is about to be the talk of some trendy bar tonight. I am running around, fanning the room with two big, waxy leaves. I know they can see me thru the large plate glass window, but the discomposure of being seen doing such an awkward dance is still preferred to them whiffing my indiscretion.

My daughter is laughing at me as she pulls out the arrangement that she assumes they are coming for.

I drop my green fans as the door tinkles open.

I put on my best smiley face, hoping to God and everything magical that the Brick Wall of Sulfur had disintegrated before they entered. As we welcome them and talk about the flowers, I am acutely aware of their facial expressions. I search for wincing. I look for bared teeth. I peek fervently for their eyes to cut sideways with looks of horror or nausea. None appear.

The transaction complete, they turn for the door. As I exhale a sigh of relief, I hear the cork again. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

They turn. “Sorry. Did you say something?”

“Just have a good day!” I say with a smile. Now please hurry up and leave before it hits you! Please, please, PLEASE!!! In the name of everything Holy, go now!

As the door tinkles, I turn to my daughter. An explosive bark of laughter exits her mouth like an untied helium balloon. She runs for the flower cooler, yelling as she goes, “I’m not coming out til it’s gone!”

This sucks. I fan the room once more. Wave the door open and closed a few times. Toss around the aged flower heads in the trash bin. Then I head for the car, where I will be sure to open all the windows before driving off.

It’s true. Everybody farts. And sometimes you just can’t control when. But if you can’t hide one in a flower shop, then it’s the devil at work. Or the kielbasa. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.