Real Paper Notes

Here I am at my coffee shop, sipping on a non-fat latte with an extra shot, or moosed, as our local chain likes to call it.

The damn dog woke me up at 6:30am on a Saturday morning. Lucky for him, he raced out to relieve both his bowel and bladder. It’s the mornings he goes out to bark at the birds that I could just as easily cut him loose. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people who can effortlessly go back to sleep, and so like I said . . . here I am.

There was a time when I used this blog as therapy. I must have worked through several of my issues, because I just don’t seem to need it like I used to. This morning brought back memories of rising early,sneaking off for coffee and writing before Bubba wakes. And so it seemed only natural I should log in and click “Add Post” while the sun slides up in the sky.

A friend sent a note a week ago. Not electronically. She made it with real paper, with a hand-drawn fish on the front. She wrote a few words, not many. “How’s it going?” “What’s new?” but the card said so much more. It made me think about her. She lives on the coast, and fish are ever-present on her mind. Big fish. Like whales. Drawing a fish on a real paper card is so like something she would randomly do, eagerly dropping the envelope into a mailbox on the way to the rocky shore to look for shells, or jellyfish, or whatever the sea rolls in.

I can’t say for sure, but I imagine her finding the little oval cards with their matching envelopes at a humble second-hand shop or old-fashioned drug store. The price was right, and she knew she’d find some way to make someone’s day brighter; the thought of their smile involuntarily igniting one of her own. She has this crooked little grin when there’s something she’s thinking but not saying.

Perhaps she stared out over the waves when she decided what to do with the notecards, or maybe she was pulling weeds in the garden. But I know she spent some time contemplating. I know she thought about each person who would be on the other end while she drew. She undoubtedly laughed at her illustration of a fish swimming through the weeds. And she sent it anyway. Because that’s who she is.

And in this age of email and text messages, what kind of person does this random act of drawing a fish on a plain pink card and sending it in a matching envelope through the mail? It reminded me of how much I miss her unapologetically real and honest soul. If we asked her, she’d laugh and say she is quite unremarkable. And perhaps she’s right. Maybe we want to believe it takes a certain someone to make time for this simple deed. Maybe we’re afraid of learning that if we slow down for just a minute, we, too, hold the potential for honesty, love, following our dreams, and sending real paper notes through the mail.

This little card reminded me just a bit of who I want to be. When was the last time an email did that?

Peace . . .

Check out my friend’s Instagram Account to know her better:

IMG_3648

 

Advertisements

I’m Talking Colonoscopy Here

At 16 we get our drivers license, at 18 we receive the right to vote. At 21 they allow us to legally drink. After that it goes downhill. At 26 you’re kicked off your parents insurance and at 50, well, they prod you to get prodded. I’m talking colonoscopy, here. Yes, I did turn fifty some time ago, and my doctor’s been lecturing me ever since. She gave me a pamphlet and presumably sold my number to the gastroenterologist. After they realized I wasn’t picking up, they stopped calling. I held out for five years.

It’s not that I’m afraid of the doctor or the embarrassment or even pain. I delivered four babies vaginally without meds for Christ’s sake. It’s the principle. They aren’t looking for polyps. They’re mining my intestines for gold.

The colonoscopy is the poster child for American healthcare run amok. It’s the most expensive test most of us are prescribed. Like other hospital procedures, a colonoscopy in other developed countries is a fraction of the cost we pay in the US. Here, the procedure accounts for the lion’s share of most gastrointestinal physicians’ income. Using less invasive, less painful, safer procedures would also be less expensive, but who wants that?

Sure other tests may have to be done more often, but at the cost of my prep kit (or less), some of them can be done at home and with no disruption to work or life for those of us who are at low risk.

I was told it was no big deal. Well, it was a big deal, albeit temporary. And the argument is that cancer is a bigger, potentially more permanent deal, right? And because we all know someone who has suffered and lost to cancer, we let them win that argument.

Here’s the thing. You knew I was going to tell you the thing, right? I have health insurance. It makes it easy to go to the clinic every year whether I need it or not, and order up smears and cultures, and scans and scopes whenever my doctor deems it necessary. I have a primary physician and even a phone app that will tell me the results of every test I’ve had in the last ten years. And while they go to the effort to make it all seem free it indeed is not. Healthcare is costly, and is not getting any cheaper or accessible for millions of good, hard-working Americans. If, by some miracle, they can afford the colonoscopy, it won’t matter because they can’t afford cancer treatment.

Once I booked my appointment, I had to put in for my day off of work. Not only do I have the luxury of taking a day off of work, I know someone else who is also able and willing to take a day off of work to drive me to and from the surgery center.

Four days prior to the procedure I went on a low-fiber diet. Not everyone can indulge in changing their diet for four days on a whim. They access their food from a food shelf once a month, or clean out their cupboards at the close of every week. Heck, I’ve been there — and not so many years ago. They can’t afford the $18 for the prep kit, or the two quarts of electrolyte beverage.

No one told me I should have considered taking the day before the appointment off of work, too. I was disoriented from fasting, couldn’t think or make decisions. I was ill from overdosing on mega-laxatives. When Bubba apologized for eating dinner in front of me, I told him I couldn’t eat if I tried.

However, by the time we arrived at the medical center, the illness of the power-lax had worn off and I was starving. A woman in scrubs took me to a tiny room and instructed me to change into a gown. When she came back she slapped a pressure cuff on me, inserted an IV needle in the back of my hand, and said goodbye before closing the door. That was the last person I saw for an hour and a half.

I sat in that room after not eating any solid food for 36 hours, while the staff talked audibly outside my door about who was going to lunch, and where. When finally someone came to get me, I was just about at the end of my rope. I made her wait while I slooooowly coiled my phone cord and placed it in my bag. I sauntered down the hall at my own pace, watching her surprise at how far behind her I’d fallen. You’re on MY clock now, bitch.

Apparently I get mean when I’m hungry.

No less than four people made conversation out of how to pronounce my last name. Yeah, that never gets old. The nurses complained about how cold it was and that the music had frozen. What kind of music is appropriate for a colonoscopy anyway? Dirty Deeds? Send the Pain Below?

When the doctor asked me where I’d been hiding for five years, I was thinking, “You know what? The faster we do this, the faster I can eat.” But you don’t argue with a guy who’s about to put a 6-foot tube up your backside. Mama did teach me not to say anything if I can’t say something nice, so after an awkward moment of silence he replied, “Okay . . . !”

Thanks to plenty of sedation and pain meds, the memory of the next twenty minutes is dim. I do remember the doctor asking for more Versed and the anesthesiologist telling me if I let go of her she can get me more pain medication. I remember them showing me the monitor, as if it could distract me like an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Okay, okay . . I’m done going over the details of my colonoscopy like Gramma at the Thanksgiving table. In the end (pun intended), I got a clean bill of health, a free ticket to come back in 10 years, pictures — yes, pictures! — and a blue tote bag out of the deal.

Powerade

Hey, be happy I didn’t post pictures of my colon.

Let me be clear. I’m not saying that colon screening is unnecessary. I’m saying our health system needs a good thorough check-up. If they really wanted more people to get screened so that less people would die, they would offer more convenient and less disruptive and less expensive options more readily. Healthcare would be for everyone. But then they wouldn’t have all that fun money, would they?

We are aphids blindly sucking nectar off the tender plant while they farm our backsides for the sweet honeydew.

Also, that metaphor is kind of gross.

Peace . . .

Colon Cancer and Rectal Cancer Screening: What Are the Options?

The $2.7 Trillion Medical Bill
Colonoscopies Explain Why U.S. Leads the World in Health Expenditures

How colonoscopies illustrate America’s cost problem

SaveSave

SaveSave


Queen for a Day

When my kids were little, it was very important for me to be the best mom. Not the best of all the other moms, but the best mom I could be. I read parenting books. We made pilgrimages to the Red Balloon Bookstore and the Children’s Museum. I made chore charts, and schedules, and potty charts. I made meal plans, and after-school snacks. We went camping and sledding and hiking. And we sang in the car on the way to them all. This was my full-time, less-than-minumum-wage job and I was going to be the best. I was a crazy lunatic Supermom.

And every Mother’s Day, with the guilt of motherhood itself on my shoulders, my grandest wish was to be left alone. Spending that day with the family was like spending Christmas at the office. Without cookies.

Tradition dictated that we go to church and stop at the greenhouse on the way home. It was torturous. The kids were hungry, loud, and plucking buds off all the plants. I saw all the pretty things we couldn’t afford. Someone always left in tears — usually me. One year we had the car in reverse before we noticed an employee holding our second-youngest by the hand outside on the sidewalk. I felt like the worst mom in the world. Then we’d go home where I’d cook, clean, wipe butts and open cards that said I was Queen for a Day.

Eventually the kids grew up, got jobs and made their own schedules. They went camping with friends, sang their own songs, and cooked their own meals. Parenting grown-ups requires a whole different set of skills, like holding back tears of joy or unsolicited advice. Mostly it’s just easier. My daily tasks are self-centered. The days are quieter. The only butt I wipe is my own. TMI?

Mother’s Days are different, too. I’m sitting with my feet up, a lazy dog on either side. My tummy is full — a disgusting mix of processed fried carbs accompanied by a hot cup of coffee — a breakfast Bubba retrieved at my request. The sun glows in a warm spring sky. The hammock and a good book beckon. Some of the “kids” will be here later and we’ll slap something on the grill and crack open a cold one. It’s the Mother’s Day I always dreamed of.

The gifts are better too. We won’t be picking them out together in chaos at a greenhouse. No, once the kids are grown the gifts are simpler and more profound.

The other day I text-congratulated one of my children on her last day of college. Her response was, “I couldn’t have done it without you.” It’s a reply most parents receive at some point with a hug and a thank you card. But there was more packed into that text than ever could have been said by Hallmark.

The tale is hers to tell, and I won’t divulge it here. There were some rocky years there, with many lessons learned by all involved. Some leave me angry like a mama bear, some are painful to recall. But I believed in her. I went out on a limb knowing it was about as far as I was willing or able to go. I stuck by her when other people who loved her had given up most if not all hope.

So this Mother’s Day I have something to show for the financial, emotional, and social sacrifices I’ve given through the years. Being a mother is knowing how much you have to give, how much each of them needs, and when to hold back. It’s about letting them live their life, make their own mistakes, and find their own solutions. It’s about knowing what they’re made of, and letting them prove it to you.

I have immeasurable pride in all my kids, but there’s a bond that happens when you fight in the trenches next to someone; when you save their life and then watch them make something of it. It’s a gift that you just can’t buy in a store and wrap up in a bow.

And for that, I’ll be Queen for a Day. In my hammock. In my frickin’ pajamas if I so choose. Now where did I put my scepter?

Peace . . .

34274090700_419bfb411c_o


Parental Form

school-457839_960_720

When I was a kid, no one used backpacks. We just carried our books in our arms. So it wasn’t unusual to lose stuff on the way to or from school, or for parental forms to come home with wet dog-eared corners. On one such day, I handed a piece of white mimeographed paper to my mom, the top of the kitchen chair reaching just under my chin as I stood looking up at her hopefully.

She read the form and looked down at me. While shaking her head from side to side, she said, “Girl Scouts. You don’t want to do this, do you?”

That was my first experience with extracurricular activities.

The next was orchestra. Like I said, we didn’t have backpacks, so if you didn’t want your parents to find something, you couldn’t crumple it up and hide it in the bottom. My mom discovered the notice as I was doing my homework at the dining room table. Her face turned dreamy as she said, “Oh, Orchestra! Wouldn’t you like to play the cello?”

Indeed, I had never given a passing thought to the cello. Suddenly, I was getting the vibe that this would make my mother happy, and so I nodded yes.

The cello made my life a living hell. Firstly, unlike the Girl Scout form that I handed to her the minute I arrived through the door, this one had been in my math book for a while and, as such, was the last in my class to be turned in. The orchestra director was a little disappointed at the late submission, but when my mother assured him I could already read music, he accepted my form.

The school was able to find one last cello, presumably from the thrift store, riddled with scratches and graffiti from previous orchestra drop-outs. I wish I had a nickel for every kid who asked me in horror, “What did you do to your cello?”

My social life needed all the help it could get. Sitting on the bus next to a 4-foot instrument didn’t do me any favors. I envied the girls with the cute little flute cases, their hair impeccably braided. Not only did I suffer the slings and arrows of mean-hearted boys, and the sidewise glances from flute-cased girls, no room remained for my closest defenders to sit next to me. Alone in my seat, arm draped grudgingly around the awkward luggage, I intently engaged the changing landscape out the frosted window.

Practice was torture. I knew my parents were out in the living room laughing. I could see their stifled grins when they stopped in to my bedroom to tell me how good I sounded. Even as a kid I recognized a snow job. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star never screeched so bad. Forced to form new unwanted callouses, my fingers burned.

Rehearsals were embarrassing.  Anyone knows that the better one likes a thing, the easier it is to learn. Mom was right — I did know how to read music. But reading it and applying it to an instrument takes devotion. I was more determined to find a way out of it than to learn it. It didn’t take long for me to realize I couldn’t blend in. The director had a keen ear for the kids who played the wrong notes. Lucky for him, I learned how to fake it.

After our first concert, Mom said, “You sounded so great!” I replied, “You couldn’t hear me.” “Yes I could,” she encouraged. Another snow job.

“No, you couldn’t,” I explained, “because I wasn’t playing.” As it turns out, it was easier for me to learn how to move my bow left and right at the same time as everyone else than it was to play the thing. I’d hold my bow just above the strings, so as not to make that awful screeching sound. And being able to read music, I knew when to turn the page, further corroborating my own personal performance. I may have failed at the cello, but my acting performance was remarkable.

The next week she asked if there was something I’d rather play than the cello. I wanted to be in band. I wanted a clarinet, or maybe a flute. “Really?” Mom asked in disbelief. I nodded emphatically and my mother went to the school office and asked for the appropriate paperwork.

She dropped me off early the next morning with the completed form and signed check in hand. The band door was open, the teacher rustling through papers with his back to me. I handed him the envelope buoyantly. I still remember my excitement.

But it was too late. The other kids were a year ahead of me. There was no way he’d let me join unless I was able to take private lessons and catch up to the rest of the band. Even then I held out hope. I had taken private music lessons before. It was hard work, but I thought I could do it.

Unfortunately, it just never came to fruition. Whether my parents were too busy, or I found other interests, or they distracted me by signing me up for bowling and golf and more organ lessons, it just never happened.

Some memories make your heart warm. Some make it weep. We live them and then learn from them and then go on to choose what today will be. We do our best as parents and hope the love we spent was enough to balance the times we broke their hearts. Fortunately for me, the abundance of love I received more than made up for any misdirected parental form.

Peace . . .
acoustic-1853573__340


speechless

I imagined starting off this post with all the reasons excuses I haven’t been writing. My computer broke. I’ve been crocheting. I have more. If you’re interested, just let me know. But I highly suspect you aren’t.

The truth is, I’m speechless. At a time when I feel like I should most find my voice, I’m embarrassingly mute. It’s not that I’m disconnected; quite the opposite. I’ve become a news junkie. I go to bed at night wearing wireless earbuds and wake up in the morning wondering what I missed after I fell asleep with them in. It’s that bad.

I’ve always maintained that I can’t change what goes on in the vast world, and so I’m just going to pay attention to those things that I can change. Someone’s day. My outlook. A corner of the garden. That worked for me because I believed, and still do, that the majority of people in the world are good. I believed things would all work out in the end because good conquers evil most of the time.

So now I’m a news junkie and I can’t claim blissful ignorance anymore. I understand that the good majority is poor, and that money buys the world. And what does one do when her voice is small and peaceful in a world that is screaming injustice at the top of its lungs?

I became speechless.

It’s not that I have nothing to say. It’s just that there are others saying it so well and so loud with all the best words. (That’s funny, right?) I can’t compete. Nor should I. Just because I have opinions on the news doesn’t mean I ought to write about it. That’s like somebody who admires and critiques art feeling guilty for not painting.

In the words of one of my favorite millenials, I need to do me. And if my voice is small and peaceful and speaks of wholeness, balance and love, there’s room for it. And maybe someone will hear it and smile. Because if all I do today is make someone smile, that’s enough.

I’ll never rid the world of injustice, prevail over all evil, or move millions to march. But I am enough. For that one person who just needed a hug or a smile or to be seen, I am enough.

So maybe you’ll be hearing more of me again. But you may need to take out your earbuds and listen closely over the roar of the protesters.

33510704345_fa6938f705_o

So proud of the women my daughters have become. They love deeply. They think critically. And on this day we became not just mother and daughters, but women standing as one with millions across the globe against injustice, fear, hatred, and bullshit.

Peace . . .


Santa Can be a Real Jerk Sometimes

452535925Every year as I dug through the gifts and candy in the red felt sock that hung from my bedroom doorknob, I hoped against hope that the last gift I hauled out of that thing was not going to be an orange. I could see the orb-shaped something filling out the toe of the sock. Pulling out the little cellophane-wrapped sweets that had dropped to the bottom, my nails must have scraped the bumpy texture of the peel. The fresh citrusy smell must have wafted past my nostrils. But I held out hope that it was a ball, or a pair of really pretty mittens, or anything . . . but an orange. Yet, every year it was an orange. Either Santa had a messed-up sense of humor, or he was just a big dick dressed in red.

Santa left my other gifts unwrapped under the tree. That worked, because my next oldest sibling was ten years older than me, and by that time, was most likely helping to perpetuate the storyline. So any unwrapped gifts under the tree were From: Santa; To: me.

Like any kid, sometimes Santa brought exactly what I wanted, and some years he hadn’t a clue. The year I got my pixie haircut, he brought me a long, blonde wig. It was exactly what I wanted, and I tossed my head like the girls in the Prell commercials swinging it sensuously in slow motion.

49929aThe year he brought me a fire engine pedal-car, he lost some of his magic status. The box featured pictures of all the models, and my parents asked me which one I wanted to be in the box. I imagined it was a magical box that would change whatever was inside to be exactly the model you wished for. I wished hard and pointed to the Tee Bird, but what they pulled out of the box was a fire engine, complete with a bell on the front for announcing emergencies. The toy was my first encounter with independence because back then little kids just pedaled around blocks unchaperoned for hours at a time.
320856568024So that was cool, but I knew somewhere there was a little kid who pointed at the fire engine and got the blue Tee Bird. That was my second clue that Santa wasn’t all he was cracked up to be.

Eventually I learned the harsh truth that my parents were just filling in while Santa sat at the North Pole consuming dubious amounts of cookies and Amaretto. I couldn’t believe it was them putting that damned orange in the bottom of my sock all along. And while it might have been forgivable for Santa to make that mistake — after all, he had millions of socks to fill — I could not say the same for my parents. They had only one job that night, to place a few unwrapped gifts around the tree and fill my sock with toys and candy, saving the obvious best gift for the bottom of the sock.

I don’t mean to say that I harbored ill feelings over the faux pas of my parents. Christmas was and is still something I hold dear and find magical. I wish joy and peace to all in the new year, and in the grand scheme of things, I think I’ve turned out alright.

But for the life of me, every time I see a big, round, juicy orange at this time of year, I remember the disappointment of finding one in the toe of my sock on Christmas morn.

And I am reminded of what a sick jerk Santa really can be.

Peace . . .


Yesterday We Argued

Yesterday morning, we argued. It was the oddest thing. For a year we were on the same side. Preaching to the same choir.

Then we elected our next president of the United States, and suddenly we were at odds over how to move on. One of us was in despair, and the other was angry. One of us wanted to protest peacefully, and the other wanted to burn some shit.

Didn’t America know this wouldn’t end? There was too much division. Too many issues still at stake no matter who we elected .

Yet, this division in our own home I hadn’t expected. It didn’t last long, but it was a little like this:

Bubba: All I’m saying is don’t be surprised if I end up in jail.

Me: Well don’t expect me to bail your sorry ass out.

There are more elections to come. No, not the one in 2020. I’m talking about how we elect to move on. To re-weave the violently broken threads that held us together. Emotions are high.

Excitement. Rage. Pride. Sorrow. Anxiety. Validation. Elation. Intrigue. Apprehension. Hope. Apathy.

Add to that list whatever you’re feeling. It’s valid. And so are the ones you aren’t feeling. That is to say, him — over there, on the other side — his feelings are as valid as yours.

Just because you don’t feel it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, isn’t true, doesn’t matter . . . doesn’t hurt.

I argued that all this division comes back to fear. Bubba disagreed. He restated that it was anger. I raised my voice and told him it’s because we’re all afraid. Some people are afraid of those who are different. Others are afraid of freedoms being lost. There is fear of lost jobs, or being deported, or emails. The media preys on our fear for viewership. Both campaigns were all about fear of the other side. It’s all fear!

Bubba said this is what attracted him to me, this glass half-full, sun-shiny for-the-people way of looking at the world, but that I was dead wrong. It’s about hatred and anger.

So I interrupted him and said, “Wait a minute. Didn’t Yoda say something about anger is fear?”

And as he walked away from me throwing his hands up into the air, every word coming out louder and faster, he said,

“Yes . . . Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. Goddamit, you’re right!”

And because in our household, there is no greater authority than Yoda, I won this one.

yoda

 

 


%d bloggers like this: